Budapest

I went to…

Buda + Pest

I stayed at:

Iberostar Grand hotel (5*) (£££££)

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Mini Review:

I went here because…

I was celebrating my birthday and wanted to spend it somewhere different

The best thing was…

Great weather at end of August/beginning of September and therefore beautiful time to admire the city

I’d like to change…

Went for two nights (3 days) but could’ve done with a third night

I wish I’d had time to…

Have some more time to wander

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FACTS:

Split into the Buda and Pest sides by the River Danube, Budapest is busy city with historical baths, gothic architecture and a choice of well reputed restaurants. There is a bustling bar scene although this is mainly limited to the summer months as some of the outdoor ‘ruin’ bars remain closed for Autumn and Winter.

THE OPINIONS:

Budapest has been on my ‘list’ for some time and it definitely lived up to my expectations. In fact it may have pipped Barcelona to the post as my favourite European city in terms of architecture and things to do.

A really wonderful, fun yet relaxing 3 day break which felt like longer, so clearly a good sign.

We arrived in the morning following a short flight from London. The sun was shining, and it definitely felt like late summer, in fact it was sun block weather. The hotel on the Pest side was ornate for a city hotel, and staff were helpful and courteous.

We spent the first day wandering around taking pictures of the sites and generally trying to get a feel for the city and our bearings. The buildings are beautiful, and by looking carefully, you can note some interesting intricacies. There were quite a few tourists around, but this never felt over bearing. Prices for drinks are very reasonable especially away from the main tourist squares. We had lunch at a well reviewed Italian place. The setting and food was good but the restaurant was so quiet for lunch, it felt like we had to whisper. However, I often feel like I’m too conscious of my surroundings, and I’m reminded of this often. I should’ve just focused on the company and food instead of darting my eyes round the room with any sign of movement like a scared squirrel.

In the early evening we went to a large ruin bar. I had read that one needs to be careful at some larger bars as they have a tendency to add more to your bill- we experienced that at one place and I was glad this was our first drink spot, otherwise I wouldn’t have noticed. The atmosphere was buzzing and relaxed, and it was clear the ruin bars are meeting places for tourists and locals. We had dinner at Nobu, cheaper than the London equivalents. Service was good, the restaurant was busy, and food was up to the standard expected. I saw in my birthday at Urimuri bar, a very nice outdoor courtyard with a DJ. Relaxed yet busy.

The next morning for a birthday treat we visited The Four Seasons for breakfast. Although rather imposing, it wasn’t pretentious as other similar hotels can be. The rest of the day was spent exploring the Buda side, visiting the church and then utilising the amenities of Gellert baths. Of course some parts of the baths were divided by gender, however I’ll never get used to seeing naked women in baths. The funniest experience I had was in a Turkish bath in Istanbul a few years back where I was bathed like a baby by a middle aged woman, alongside my friends, completely starkers. After that experience, nothing is quite as weird. The baths are lovely, especially considering their history, however I did find that they weren’t very clean at all. I was warned of this in reviews though.

We then went for coffee and cake at a stunning place. The front of the shop reminded me of Waterstones (British book shop chain) and I completely did not expect to such a beautiful coffee shop. Simply stunning and highly recommended. Very reasonably priced too (under £1.50 for a large slice of cake and £1 for a coffee). The whole experience would’ve been doubly more pleasant if I hadn’t shut my pinky finger in the taxi door on the way in, and then fainted at the sight of the blood.

We had our evening meal at Onyx, a Michelin starred small restaurant. Good food if not a little on the quiet side. Again I felt the need to whisper even though there were many guests. Service was good and the price was to be expected given the reputation and accolade. We visited more bars after, the favourite being Ankert- a disused warehouse space with a DJ.

More sightseeing followed the following morning, followed by Hungarian wine tasting at Faust’s wine cellar which needs to be pre-booked. A lovely intimate experience leading to a slightly tipsy flight back home.

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Restaurants:

Fausto’s Italian

Four seasons

Tea @ Alexandra Könyvesház, Párizsi Nagyáruház.

Onyx

Bars:

Ruin bar: urimuri, andrassy ut 8

Outdoor bar: froccsterazs, Erzebet ter 13

Negro cafe n bar on Szent István tér 11.

Trafiq , Hercegprímás utca 18.

Ankert, 1061 Budapest, Paulay Ede utca 33.

Sites & Places of Interest:

Matthias church

Gellert baths

Parliament

Faust’s wine cellar, Hilton hotel

St stephen’s basilica

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