I have just discovered a wonderful place for a European City Break. Budapest in Hungary is quite magical and very much worth a visit. I am ashamed to say that before I booked the trip I wasn’t aware that the City is actually split into two. The ‘Buda’ side which is more historic and hilly and the ‘Pest’ side which is flatter and more modern.
We had booked a 3 night weekday break with Broadway Travel. We were flying with Wizz Air and staying at the Soho Boutique Hotel in the Pest side of the City. (For ’boutique’ read ‘small’!) but despite this the hotel was very centrally situated and the staff were very friendly and helpful. Broadway Travel were great to deal with (our contact, Lucy, actually works from home and I spoke to her in between her putting her children to bed!) She was extremely helpful and even printed off our boarding cards and posted them to me when I had trouble with my printer. Wizz Air were much better than I had expected. Their planes were comfortable and the flights were on time and the staff friendly. However, beware the luggage confusion! As we were only going for 3 nights we decided to save money and just take cabin bags but on checking the size that Wizz Air allowed we discovered it was little bigger than a matchbox! We had to pay extra to take on what they called a “big cabin bag” (and what other airlines just call a cabin bag!!) But once that was sorted we were all set.
This city has so many beautiful buildings and so many statues. Every street corner and every square has statues in it but they also have them on the tops of the buildings and even over the doors of most of the buildings. (If you take children there you could keep them entertained permanently with a game of “I spy another statue”!)
To see all the City we bought a Big Bus Hop On Hop Off ticket. This was valid for 48 hours and the 25 Euros charge also included unlimited cruises on the Danube and a night time tour and also two walking tours which we didn’t get round to doing. The bus went to all the main sights. We visited the Royal Palace up on the hill of the Buda side and you can take a funicular ride up to it. We also visited the Parliament Building which is an incredible building, even more impressive and bigger than our Houses of Parliament! (In fact, on the Night Tour it looked like a fairy tale castle with all its lights). We also went to Heroes Square which has a massive colonnade of statues and a high column with the Arch Angel Gabriel atop it. Behind Heroes Square is City Park and the Zoo. We didn’t visit the Zoo but we had a walk in City Park. In February it was looking a little bleak and the lake had been drained but you could see that it would, no doubt, look quite pretty when spring came. On the Pest side of the City our Hotel was near the Jewish Quarter so we had a wander around the old buildings and reading about the horrors that the Jews suffered in the past was very moving and interesting.
There are lots of shopping areas and numerous coffee bars and restaurants. You must try a Langham (a type of fried bread with your choice of topping). We were there on Pancake Day and had this Hungary snack instead of pancakes.
Hungarian food is very meat orientated and being vegetarian we had a slight problem but we found Italian and Mexican Restaurants and one night we visited a very popular restaurant called The Trofea Grill. For 20 euros you can eat or drink whatever you want for 2 hours. We had an assortment of vegetables, salads, cheeses, cakes, soups and there was fish and meat as well. We had unlimited champagne with our meal so luckily it wasn’t too far for us to get back to our Hotel afterwards!
As we headed home we decided we would have liked a couple of extra days in Budapest. There are numerous Thermal Baths in the City (some of them are on roof tops) but we hadn’t taken swimsuits unfortunately! There is also a place about 6 miles outside the City called Memento Park which is supposedly filled with statues that were removed from the City after their liberation from the Russians. It sounds an awesome place to visit and there is a shuttle bus from the City but we didn’t find enough time.
Hungary has a long history of occupation and war but the people we met were all very helpful and friendly. Most of them spoke a little English and they were more than happy to direct or help us. Definitely a place I want to go back to…and I am packing my swimsuit next time!