I spent 36 hours in Budapest and I think I would need as many to write about all I have done, seen and experienced there. Let’s try to keep it short.
I planned this trip quite randomly: my husband was travelling to Sweden to visit a friend and I didn’t feel like staying home alone, so I started checking for options and ended up booking my first solo trip.
As a slow-at-being-social person I thought it would be a quite weekend of almost meditative silence and border-line lonely meals. I couldn’t be more wrong. I ended up with two new good friends, loads of positive stories and a new understanding of who I am. No need to say that I loved it and I highly recommend a solo travelling experience to everybody. Budapest might have played a big role in being the perfect fit.
I didn’t know a lot about the city, just about the contrasts between Buda and Pest and its thermal bath fame. I had heard so many different opinions about it that I wanted to create one of my own.
After reading a couple of blogs and the highlights from the Lonely Planet guide book, I had a short wish-list:
- Bathing in a beautiful thermal bath
- Try all the possible pastries that are so highly recommended
- Overlook the city from the top
- Trust my judgment, rent a bike and discover whatever I wanted
I am the first one to think that travel itineraries are boring, but I think that my visit was so efficient that I modestly want to brag about it.
I arrived in Budapest in the late afternoon and grabbed the bus to the city center to reach my hostel, Maverick Lodges. I got out of the bus by the Synagogue and walked the busy Kazinczy utca to check if Bors was open; I had read that they serve the best soups in town and when I found it open I didn’t hesitate and decided to grab a to-go pork soup.
By the time I had done the check in and enjoyed the delicious soup, I had already spoken to a couple of other travellers who offered to go out together, but I decided to decline and explore freely the neighborhood with nobody following or to follow.
I wanted to check Mazel-tov, a restaurant-bar-café with beautiful interior and just a couple of blocks away. When I arrived I realized there was a queue to enter and for the first time I really didn’t mind, I just waited while starting some people watching and instead of feeling odd it started feeling extremely empowering and freeing.
After 15 minutes I was seated in the beautiful courtyard and after checking the menu I decided to order cheesecake and lemonade cause I felt like it and I could. The super friendly staff kept me from needing to check my screen for interaction and the delicious treat was just what I needed.
Satisfied and a bit tired I decided to walk back to the hostel and enjoy my little wooden nest in the shared dormitory.
I didn’t manage to get a proper night of sleep, but still woke up with the right amount of energy to decide to rent a bike and start exploring the city at the pace I like so much lately.
I headed out in search of breakfast and stopped at Bluebird, a bright and happy place in the ghetto. I ordered an espresso macchiato and a cinnabon with fresh custard and pomegranate; it was delicious, infinite, but delicious. High in sugar and with a bike I decided to cycle up the hill to the Castel. To get there I passed in front of the beautiful Hungarian State Opera House and crossed the Széchenyi Chain Bridge.
The ride to the top turned out to be easier than expected and once on the top I really could enjoy the beautiful view over Pest and remembered that one of the most famous pastries in Budapest was around the corner so I went to Budavari Retesvar for souvenier strudels and went downhill towards the newly renovated Szel Kalman Square.
I know normal people won’t understand why I went all the way there, but if there is a bit of an urban planner inside of you, you surely must check this place out. It’s a great redesign of a transportation hub with perfect benches, nice greenery and a beautiful metro station building.
After this nerd digression, I went back to normal tourist stuff and cycled toward the Parliament. The weather was too good and I decided that I had rather keep of exploring around so I didn’t enter it, but surely took the chance to enjoy its beauty from outside.
From there I decided that I needed a second coffee to keep up with the day and stopped at Espresso Embassy for an iced coffee and discovered where all the hipsters had gone.
Because I felt like I needed a second break but the cinnabon was still working, I decided to go for a drink at the High Note Sky Bar. I love overlooking cities from above and rooftop bars make the experience perfect. This one is right next to the Cathedral and it gives an amazing new prospective over it. I ordered homemade lemonade and set in the sun on one of the chill couches, it was simply very enjoyable.
By then it was early afternoon and I decided to check the Central Market Hall that would have been otherwise closed later on or the following day. Its structure is surely impressive, but I wasn’t too amazed by the products for sale or the bar and restaurant on the upper floor so I decided to have a look and search for food somewhere else.
I had in my list Szimply as a popular brunch spot, so I decided to head there passing by Molnar’s for a souvenir chimney cake.
When I arrived at Szimply I understood why it was recommended to stay away from popular hours, this tiny place seats not more than 20 people and arriving at 3 was the perfect option. I set on the terrace in this pretty courtyard and I was super happy to place the strangest order: a raspberry-cauliflower sandwich and rosewater. Everything was delicious and I when I left I noticed the cute little shop next door, Rododendron. The sell a collection of products made in Hungary and it surely is the best place where to buy a small memory of the city.
At this point I felt like having a small break and went back to the hostel to take a nap and recharge camera and phone. While there I met a very cool girl and very spontaneously decided to go together to a bathhouse in the evening time, the two of us and another girl I had met the day before. We made a plan to meet at the collective wine tasting organized by the hostel and go together after that.
Since the wine tasting was starting only a couple of hours later I had enough time to keep on chilling and explore a bit more in the neighborhood.
I had read that Budapest is full of street art and decided to go check the one in the ghetto. Being commissioned by the municipality it is far from being rebellious or authentic, but all the pieces are very beautiful and poetic.
After this small tour I passed the House of Terror and arrived a bit too late to enter, but got there at the right time for the massive lettering on top of the building to cast heavy shadows on its façade. It was really impressive.
I hadn’t originally planned to reach the Varosliget Park from there, but got a bit lost and ended up at its gates. It was such a beautiful area of the city, I felt a bit ashamed to be there by chance. I took a stroll in it and then went back to grab another soup at Bors, check Szimpla Kerk and meet the others at the wine tasting.
This time I ordered a gazpacho soup and ate it while walking towards the crazy complex Szimpla Kerk is. It was not busy when I went and it surely was a cool spot to see.
I was back on time to pack for the bath and meet the others at the wine tasting. It was a very nice initiative organized by the hostel and when everybody was leaving for the rest of their evenings we headed to the Rudas bath as well.
I can’t tell how much I loved it. It was the perfect treat after a long day and the best way to get to know two cool women. We staid till 2am and went back to the hostel in a light rain. Needless to say I had the deepest sleep ever.
I woke up fully recharged and I knew I had enough time before my flight to check another bath and put my experience into prospective, so I packed my bag and headed out for a quick breakfast at Fekete on the way to the Gellert Bath.
It was a great idea. The weather had turned chilly and hot coffee followed by warm baths in such an outstanding bohemian décor was the perfect solution.
While the look of Gellert Baths is just outstanding and it feels like going back to the 20s, I still preferred Rudas Bath more raw look. Its solfur baths in combiantion with the saunas are the most perfect combiantion and the night experience might have added a little extra magic.
Anyways, from the Gellert Baths I went back to the hostel to give up my bike, pack my bags and check out and because I had a couple of extra hours till my flight I decided to check the farmers market at the Szimpla Kerk and the solet food festival in the street.
I bought fresh raspberries at the first and istraeli solet at the second and enjoyed a very good meal while going back to my favorite activity of people watching.
In all calm I headed to the bus station to go the airport and I then realized that not only I had survived this solo trip, but it had been one of the best experiences ever.