A blog about travel, books and navigating your twenties in one piece

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Budapest 2016 Travel Diary Part i | Exploring Pest

Budapest has become *the* European city to go to over the past few years. More and more people are visiting and raving about it (or so it's seemed to me) and have been telling me that I absolutely must go! After a time, it becomes hard to ignore so many people recommending you visit a place and so it's been on my mind as somewhere I've wanted to visit for a while now. Flights there in mid August aren't so much on the cheap side but everything once you're there is unbelievably inexpensive. I was quickly sold on it and so, on the 16th August, myself and my friends Lish and Emma flew to Budapest for four nights.

I only found out a few months ago that Budapest is actually split into two cities, Buda and Pest, that are separated by the Danube river - cool huh? We arrived at our Airbnb in Pest in the early evening, went to a supermarket to stock up on water and supplies (read: Milka and M&Ms) and changed some money before heading out for dinner. If you're travelling to Budapest yourself and thinking about where to stay, I'd personally suggest staying in Pest over Buda. While you should definitely explore both when there, Pest seemed to me to be much more alive in the evenings and  there's much more stuff in Pest to do/see. Also, don't change your money before you get there or even in the Budapest airport. There are so many change places where you can get Hungarian Forint around the city for a much better rate than anywhere else.

Anyway, after sorting ourselves out at the apartment, we went to Kiosk for dinner on Abi's recommendation. Kiosk is one of the most beautiful restaurants I've ever been to. In the evening it's stunningly lit inside by more candles than I think I've ever seen and often has live music that really adds to its amazing atmosphere. It's a fancy restaurant but still very cheap and worth going to if you want a nice meal out. It seems that Hungarians are obsessed with the spice paprika and so I tried Kiosk's paprika chicken which was really good, along with a huge cocktail. We were so full from our dinners after this that we couldn't eat dessert but planned to come back on our last night to try one as they looked so incredible. Instead, we went for a walk along the river which was practically right outside the restaurant and admired the view of Buda at night across the Danube.

The next morning, after sleeping through a massive thunderstorm, we headed to Hungary's Parliament which was only a ten minute walk away from our Airbnb and decided to go for a tour around it. It is an incredibly, incredibly impressive building. One that will take your breath away the first time you see it for sure. We found out that it's actually vaguely based on our Westminster Parliament with its gothic style, but is much brighter in its colours. The tour was the perfect length - we were engaged and enjoyed the entire thing but had it been longer our concentration might not have held up so well - I'd really suggest going on one if you're even vaguely interested. You can buy tickets here in advance if you don't want to risk queuing on the day.

Having stopped at a cafe for lunch and a quick nap back at our apartment because Lish and I couldn't keep our eyes open any longer (I blame the heat!), we mustered up the energy to go and see St Stephen's Basilica before going to explore the Jewish Quarter of Pest. As a side note, we walked everywhere on our trip and it was a really good way of getting to see everything; you definitely don't need to get cabs or public transport except for to/from the airport so, if you have the energy, I'd really recommend seeing everything on foot. 

We were all a little underwhelmed by the Basilica. It is amazing but we'd heard such incredible things about it that it didn't quite live up to our expectations, although it was lovely. Right by the Basilica, down the street, there's a gelateria which makes the beautiful rose-shaped ice creams you can see pictured above. Considering how pretty they look, they are incredibly cheap and I think one with three flavours cost me the equivalent of about £2. In most places in England you couldn't even get one normal scoop for that amount of money so you've definitely got an excuse for an ice cream stop or five if you're ever in Budapest!

After this we walked to the Jewish Quarter and had a look around at the incredible synagogues, one of which is the largest synagogue in Europe. We ended up having dinner in this area before making our way to the Szimpla Ruin Bars in the same Quarter. Everyone we knew between us who has been to Budapest had told us we needed to go here. You walk in and there are around three floors of different bars in an old abandoned building. We went to the cocktail bar, got one each to start with, and sat down to soak up the atmosphere. It's a really cool place that I'd love to go back to and well worth going to see for yourself!

The following morning, after we had a lie-in, we walked to our last pitstop of Pest that we wanted to see before venturing over to Buda: The Great Market Hall. I absolutely love exploring big European markets. When I went to Barcelona last year, one of my favourite things was going to the market every day, looking around at what they had and getting something for breakfast or lunch. They always have such great atmospheres, and the Budapest one lived up to this. It was really nice to walk around it and see all of the produce, fresh fruit and souvenirs you could buy. What most excited me though was that, after a lot of searching I found a place that served traditional beef goulash which was a reasonable price. And OH MY GOD, it was amazing. It's traditionally accompanied with some type of pasta thing that I can't really describe but which you can see in the photo above; sounds weird, but tastes great!

After lunch we walked over one of the bridges into Buda, and, so that this post doesn't become an actual book, I'm going to hold off and share that part of the trip as well as our visit to one of the bath spas Budapest is famous for, in a few days. I hope you're having a lovely bank holiday weekend!

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