Those of you that know me well, will know that my best friend lives in Wales. As we only see each other a few times a year we like to make one of our get-togethers a trip away somewhere abroad, so we can travel to a new city and experience the delights whilst catching up. This year our destination was Budapest.
Hungary’s capital city is broken into two parts which straddle the glorious River Danube: the old castle and the 13th century Matthias church are nestled in the Buda Hills on the one side with amazing views over the river and beyond; and the wonderful (much flatter) bustling city of Pest on the other with the Parliament Buildings, ancient Opera House, St Stephen’s Basilica and second largest synagogue in the world, along with shopping streets and the fascinating Jewish Quarter.
It can be difficult to know where to stay – some people prefer the peace and tranquillity of Buda to the hustle and bustle of Pest, but if you visit you should try to sample both because they each have something unique to offer. The local transport is mostly trams and buses, which I’m told are relatively easy and inexpensive to use, however since we only had a few days (and lots of catching up to do) we opted for a trip on the open topped tourist bus. There are different packages on offer, we chose one which included a river cruise down the Danube and our ticket cost around £18 each and covered a couple of days travel. The bus takes the same route to all the major attractions, you can hop on and off as many times as you like, and you get a little history lesson on the way to give you a flavour of the city. Plus it also travels around some of the residential districts which is nice if you are nosey like me!
Budapest’s 2 million population is exceeded by the number of tourists it attracts per year and I can totally understand why. It offers culinary delights to satisfy practically every palate, hence the many dishes I posted on Facebook for my chef daughter to see, in the growing number of bars and restaurants that line the streets and river banks. I would certainly recommend sampling the local goulash soup served in a bread bowl overlooking the river at night time – it’s a magical experience. Others recommendations would be one of the ‘ruin’ bars in the Jewish Quarter of Pest; we visited Szimpla and it was certainly a unique experience, as you can see below! Also, there are a number of thermal baths dotted around the city, some of which are open until 2AM if you fancy a dip after dark.
Temperatures in Budapest are generally warmer than in the UK. We enjoyed warm days between 20-25 degrees, so lots of opportunity for sitting outside cafes and soaking up the atmosphere. I did notice that the restaurants and bars leave pretty coloured blankets on the backs of their chairs so if you visit in cooler climes you can still eat al fresco if you wish – a nice touch I thought, especially when the temperatures drop in the evenings.
Needless to say, I loved Budapest. It’s steeped in history and there’s certainly plenty to keep you occupied for a short city break. I’m looking forward to taking my husband back to visit the Opera House and some of the many museums it boasts.
I would like to thank Kat Gordon (author of The Artificial Anatomy of Parkes) and the lovely Ann Black for their top tips on Budapest which certainly helped to make this trip all the more special. Also special thanks to my dear friend, Stephanie for being such a great companion and providing many of the photos you see here. I’m already looking forward to our trip next year.