Straddling the Danube, the towns of Buda, Pest and Óbuda merged in the Nineteenth Century to form the capital city of Hungary. With over a thousand years of history separately, the cities coped through much turmoil, and the Magyar people emerged with a lightness of spirit that echoes through the streets. Now often known for the litany of stag parties, as the Paris of East or the Pearl of the Danube, Budapest is a city that we fell in love with. At one point I think I even grandly declared it my favourite city break ever - you can simply spa and sup, or get all culture vulture, or mixture of everything thing you love the best.
We wandered as far as we could over almost 3 days (managing to clock up 12 hours of walking one day and 6 hours of nibbling the next). It was one of the least planned breaks on my behalf (bar some serious Pinterest and Instragram stalking) but with Sam's meticulous notes, leaning on technology and just following our noses, we saw more than we could share in a month of Sundays and whetted our appetites for a longer revisit. We can conclusively say Budapest is not a one day city.
On our seriously luxurious girls weekend (more to follow I promise) some of our favorite spots and things to do were...
1 ¦ Spas
Sitting on a patchwork of 125 hot springs, visting the nearly 50 natural thermal baths is often prescribed by the city doctors for helping a litany of ailments. Honestly, we could almost start and finish this list right here. Sadly we only had time to visit the infamous Szechenyi Baths, but a morning spent floating in the healing waters was essential for our weary London souls (and tired soles for that matter).
2 ¦ The sunsets are pretty ok, I guess
3 ¦ Fisherman's Bastion
Full of tourists taking selfies and glorious buildings, Fisherman's Bastion is another 'tourist must do', but look. Just look. Perched on the historic Buda hill, Fisherman's Bastion overlooks the funkier, more modern Pest and appears to be a Disney castle on steroids. Named after yesteryears when the fishermen protected this area, something they were told to do in case the Mongolian army would return again (as they first did in 1240-1241).
4 ¦ Eat sour cherry ice cream
Every corner seems to have a serving case full of dairy delights, overseen by a scoop wielding ice cream maiden. Full of an incredible array of flavours from classical chocolate and vanilla, to olive and lavender we simply let ourselves indulge. Calories don't count in foreign countries, right?
5 ¦ Hungarian humour
Just these. Ampelmann eat your heart out.
6 ¦ Even the roof tiles are breathtaking
Yes, we have now recommended booking a 2 or so hour flight on the basis of pretty roof tiles. It simply doesn't get any more rock and roll than that.
7 ¦ Watching the Buda and Pest simultaneously light up on a sunset cruise
During the day the UNESCO protected Danube shores are beautiful on their own merits, but seeing them light up as the sun sets made my weekend. Both of us just sat quietly (on the top deck of the boat which we booked on spec) and took in the changing landscape.
8 ¦ Climbing the steep Buda streets to look back over Pest
So good it makes the list twice.
9 ¦ Ruin bars
Everyone says you have to visit one, and it's for a good reason. We wandered the seemingly labyrinthine streets one evening, and just before we gave up hope, we wandered through the bar district to find one of the craziest, coolest places ever. Trotting into Szimpla both in the evening and the following morning, our eyes just couldn't stop. Originally meant to be temporary bars in dilpidated buildings whilst the owners tried to sell them, ruin bars have become a entire glorious sub-section of the entertainment scene.
10 ¦ Perfect for every budget
With Michelin starred restaurants, quirky boutique hotels, a fairly weak currency (all notes fronted with stern looking blokes), kebab shops for *those* moments, a love of good bars, music everywhere and of course the beautiful thermal baths for every kind of pocket, what isn't to love?
How does a particular destination lure you to their distant shores? Is it history, personal recommendations, budget, instagram or simply curiosity?