Budapest

As it’s getting closer to Christmas I thought I’d get around to posting about last year’s trip to Budapest. This is somewhere Han and I had been looking forward to visiting at this time of year. Mainly because of the Christmas markets but also to fill the gap between Christmas and New year. Here are the best bits…

The Hotel

Lánchíd 19 Design Hotel Budapest

We stayed in the Lánchíd 19 design when in Budapest. This is situated on the Buda side of the river, about 200 meters down form the Széchenyi Chain Bridge. It is also a short walk from the Buda Castle so was in an ideal location. I guess the only way to describe the hotel is a modern pop-art type hotel. The design and decor is modern and all pretty up to date.

You’re looking at around ¬£200 a night for two people in a standard room. At this time of year in Budapest that’s not bad and like I said, the location was brilliant. There’s not a great deal outside of your standard facilities I.e. Bar, restaurant, but we hardly spend any time in there so this wasn’t really an issue.

Budapest hotel
The view from our hotel room

We asked for a river view (they have 2 options; castle or River) and I would recommend this as the Castle view is fairly restricted.

We find for shorter city breaks the hotel is less important as you try to see as much as you can in a short space of time. Therefore, this means that you are out and about more than you are in the hotel. Overall, it was a good stay and somewhere we’d consider if we went back.

The Eats

We ate in a number of different places and grabbed food on the go. However, some of the best places we visited are below…

Costes Restaurant

So, Costes was a treat. Before I go any further, I should say that the good thing about Costes is that they have two restaurants. Costes restaurant where we ate and Costes Downtown. The restaurant we ate in is Michelin star so on the more expensive side but it was a great experience. This is not our normal type of restaurant, however we wanted a treat so booked a table. It was a Christmas present to us both.

Costes restaurant
Image source: viamichelin.com

Costes restaurant was special, the menu was like nothing we’ve eaten before. It was alternative, however, still tasty. The head chef is in her 20’s which is incredible but has spent time across Europe taking the best bits from her travels. As a nice touch they give you a signed menu when you leave which it nice.

Their menu is quite unique, you can choose from 4-7 courses (prices vary accordingly) and then pick your favorites for each course from a main menu. On top of this there are apéritifs and digestifs so unless you are feeling hungry, air on the side of caution where volume is concerned!

The food is quite modern, each dish and it’s identity is fully explained by the waiter prior to serving. The service levels here are beyond good. The attention to detail is incredible and the atmosphere is nice and chilled out making the experience enjoyable.

In summary, a treat for us both. something that is on the more expensive side but a one-off experience that we won’t get the chance to do again. Definitely worth a visit.

New York Café

New York¬†Caf√© was special. This place was like nothing I’ve seen, grand probably describes it best. It really was like stepping back in time when walking through the doors. Basically, the building has been around for centuries and has taken many forms such as a coffee-house and sports shop. The current owners bought it with the intention of turning it back into one of the best coffee/breakfast places in the world.

The Boscolo Group has reconstructed it in a way which reflects the tendency to regain its old patina and reputation ranking it as the ‚ÄúMost Beautiful Coffee House in the World‚ÄĚ

New York cafe

The caf√© now forms part of a hotel and has been brought back into the Italian Renaissance-style¬†building it once was. They’ve got it right in this place as you do actually feel like you’re eating in a place from a 1940’s film. For breakfast you can choose from a wide range of individual dishes or buffet style. They¬†also do afternoon tea. We went for pancakes with eggs done to our liking with bacon. The food is really good, we love a good breakfast and New York¬†caf√© didn’t disappoint. Portion sizes are generous so you won’t leave wanting more.

No matter how long you’re in Budapest for, the New York¬†caf√© has to be on your list of places to visit.

ZONA

Zona was one of the two restaurants we found next to our hotel. The road next to our hotel is really cool and quite quirky. This was actually quite a modern, contemporary restaurant with a really good bustling city vibe to it.

Zona restaurant
ZONA restaurant

It has great views of the river via the flor to ceiling class windows and the food is good.

We ate there after being out all day so wanted a good feed and had one of the best starters we’ve ever had. It was a pumpkin and butternut squash soup. I know soup is pretty standard but this was amazing and did just the job.

Zona also has a cool bar area that you can chill out in before or after your meal for drinks.

The price wasn’t bad at all for what we god, Han had some wine as well as the meal and it wasn’t more than ¬£30 each. If you’re looking for a modern, relaxed but good place to eat then Zona is definitely a recommendation.

Meat Boutique

This place does exactly what it says on the tin, meat. Meat Boutique was the second restaurant we visited along the strip of bars and shops next to our hotel. We went for lunch one day after a walk up to the castle.

Meat Boutique Budapest
Image source: tripadvisor.co.uk

For obvious reasons, if you’re a vegetarian this place¬†may not be the best choice.

You have an array of different cuts of meat to choose from as well as more standard dishes on the menu. If you get stuck they have chalk boards dotted about outlining all the different cuts which is a cool touch.

The restaurant has a modern feel to it but also quite an industrial feel.

I’ll admit, I thought the food may be quite quick and easy and not the best quality. However I was wrong about this. The food was really good and the meat brilliant quality. As the restaurant is a bit more casual it is a good choice if you don’t want to get too dressed up and a chilled evening. The friendly atmosphere also made this a really cool place to eat. If you’re visiting Buda Castle it is a good stop off for some lunch or an evening meal.

 

Things to do

The Markets

The markets where one of the main reasons we came to Budapest. In simple terms, they make the markets in England look amateurish. They wind their way around the entire city centre and have multiple centre points such as the main square and cathedral.

Budapest market food

The food stalls throughout the markets are amazing! The food is like true homemade, winter warming food. There are the traditional Hungarian dishes such as Goulash, but also more common market food such as good cuts of meats. One favourite was a bread bowl of goulash and a pork roast.

Budapest Christmas market food
Budapest Christmas market food

The light show near the cathedral is also a main attraction and has some really unique craft stalls. These, like in the UK, have hand-made products to buy. The other bonus to the markets in Budapest is the mulled wine. You can either buy standard mulled wine or mulled wine infused with local spirits. The latter will make sure you have a good time pretty quickly. Han didn’t realise she was drinking it until she started to feel drunk after a few.

Christmas market light show
Christmas market light show

The markets really are next level compared to those in the UK. They are worth the visit alone and almost provide a backdrop as you walk around this city. They are always there for a quick stop off or browse and just seem to be a part of the city!

The Castle

Buda Castle is located on the Buda side of the river (right behind our hotel) and can be accessed by a short walk or cable car. It is worth the trip up and it offers some of the best views of Budapest city that you can get. The castle was first built-in 1265 and to this day is an impressive building. It always blows my mind how a building of this stature could be built so long ago.

Budapest castle in the background
Budapest castle in the background

Once up there, there is a mix of original castle buildings and also buildings that have been built throughout the years. The walk around the castle is impressive as it is so big. Once at the top there is also a sort of village feel to the place. You can wander around freely and walk though the village centre at the top which has a few bars and coffee shops in for a light lunch.

If you stay on the Buda side of the river and walk North from the castle you will eventually end up at the Houses of Parliament. This is possibly one of the most famous buildings in Budapest and is best viewed from the Buda side. It is so impressive and if you aim to get there at dusk, you can go for a coffee and come back out to see it lit up at night. This is one of the best photo opportunities you will get in Budapest.

Parliament building
Parliament building

The Baths

Another one of the main reasons we wanted to go to Budapest was the thermal baths they have dotted around the city. There are numerous thermal baths dotted around the city, more detail can be found on Lonely Planet. We went to Széchenyi Thermal Bath which was built-in 1913 and is the largest in Europe. The baths are supplied by thermal springs so visiting them in the winter is a unique experience.

You walk out into the low single digit temperatures in your swimming shorts freezing cold and then walk into what is essentially a very warm swimming pool. The buildings are still made up of original architecture which adds to the atmosphere. These can get quite full so if you have a phobia of being in crowded pools then they may not be for you.

Széchenyi Thermal Bath
Széchenyi Thermal Bath

They are pretty relaxing and make for a good day out. The¬†Sz√©chenyi Thermal Bath’s are located in a park with many more things to do. It has an Ice rink and zoo believe it or not! In addition it has more Christmas markets where you can get a bite to eat. Budapest is known for its thermal baths and if you don’t visit them it’s almost like you¬†haven’t done Budapest properly. They are cheap and easily accessible so a good way to spend a chilled afternoon.

Ice rink
The ice rink just next to the thermal baths

Getting About

Finally, one of the most important aspects to consider is how easy it is to get about in Budapest. We found this fairly easy. We bought a city map as soon as we got there and used this as our go to guide for the week. I would recommend this as it makes planning routes and finding recommended places to visit easy.

Walking let us find some pretty cool places
Walking let us find some pretty cool places

Furthermore, we walked EVERYWHERE. I really do mean everywhere. The only taxi we got was to and from the airport as this is a bit of a way out. This normally forms part of how we get around cities. We find walking a good way to take in everything around you and discover new places. Not only this, but it is flexible, cost-effective and generally healthier. Plus you can do things at your own pace and aren’t dependent upon the taxi man or other transport links.

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Arguably some places may be too far for some to walk. The thermal baths and¬†New York Caf√© being a coupe of examples. These were more towards the outskirts of the city and took us a good few hours to walk between. We didn’t mind this, however, if you did want a faster route, there are tons of buses and a good train network. Furthermore, if you are in a pinch then taxi’s are readily available and are pretty cheap compared to what we pay in the UK.

So, there you have it, a whistle-stop guide to Budapest. This was one of the best city breaks we’ve been on and I would recommend it to anyone, especially at Christmas. Hopefully you’ve got a flavor of the city and if you haven’t yet been are considering a visit. If you have been, or have any questions, please let me know in the comments below…

Graeme

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