7 must in Budapest
Recently landed in Budapest, the Pearl of the Danube, we enter one of the most romantic cities of Eastern Europe with countless opportunities to enjoy our stay. If you’re asking yourself where to start, we have 7 essential sights to see during your visit:
1.- Admire the most emblematic monuments
The stunning Hungarian capital is full of important monuments that you cannot miss.
The worlds third largest Parliament, a symbolic landmark of Budapest rises imposingly on Kossuth Sqaure, boasting a neo-Gothic style. The latter, together with the Buda Castle, an old residence of the kings of Hungary and Budapest’s oldest Chain Bridge define the personality of this city, which was indeed a major power during the Austro Hungarian Empire.
2.- Discover the Art Noveau
Budapest is known for its numerous examples of art noveau architecture, a slightly peculiar style that intertwines elements of nature, asymmetrical shapes and sinuous curves, which decorate the facades of the buildings in the streets. The architectural merit of such exaltation is largely attributable to Ödön Lechner, also known as the “Hungarian Gaudí”, whose most famous work corresponds to the Royal Postal Savings Bank, which is full of floral patterns, colourful mosaics and some components of popular culture. Villa Balázs Sipeky and the Institute of Geology are other notable samples of the work of this brilliant architect. Our favourite example of art noveau is Walkó House, because of its facade, decorated with eight different varieties of animals.
3.- Relax your body in the Széchenyi Baths
Budapest has numerous thermal spas and baths for whenever you want to take a day of rest and revitalization after a long walk around the city. Széchenyi is the most majestic and largest spa in Europe, with fifteen indoor pools, ten saunas and steam rooms and three large outdoor swimming pools. It is common to see locals enjoying the spas, as they are a nice meeting point to chat.
4.- Go for a drink to the Bars of the ruins
If you want to immerse yourself in the most modern and happening Hungarian underground scene, you cannot escape from Budapest without going to one of these bars, which are located in old buildings, with a slightly worn out and decadent look but decorated in such a way that the vintage kitch look makes them very special. The best atmosphere in the city is definitely found in these bars, which are decorated with all kinds of Antique furniture, extravagant paintings and curious objects. We recommend the legendary Szimpla Kert Kazincy Street; the Instant bar, decorated like the wild west movies or the chaotic Púder, where there are also theatre performances and dj sets at night.
5.- Visit the Muvesz Mozi Cinema
Budapest is known for its rich film culture, so it is definitely worth stopping by to visit one of their alternative cinemas. Intellectuals and big screen lovers residing in the capital visit Muvesz Mozi, where they show a large variety of movies- from old films that where made five years ago to recent independent films made by new and upcoming directors. In addition, this special cinema has a very cool café, decorated with different atmospheres to fit the different spaces, making you feel like a traveller through time and space.
6.- Visit the Sziklakorhaz museum, a hospital and secret bunker
This spectacular museum housed in what was once a hospital adjacent to a nuclear bunker in Budapest during World War II shows, in an extremely real and almost scary way, what was once experienced within these underground walls. The various facilities and rooms for the wounded, wax mannequins, medical devices and even the possibility to activate the emergency alarm at the end of the tunnel give you an idea of what happened, even if it mean getting goose bumps!
7.- Try the cuisine
The Central Market is one of the greatest culinary references in the city, where you can taste the typical traditional goulash or buy fresh groceries to cook at home. Kosher sweets are also a Hungarian specialty, we recommend the ones at Cukrászda Fröhlich. Last but not least, you must try the bread and butter with paprika and onion, which is served at any bar or restaurant. If you like spicy food, Budapest is the perfect place for your palate.
Why not take a trip to Budapest? Have a look at our flights here!
Picture by teofilomore info
Gastronomy and restaurants in Budapest
Highly influenced by the culture from the neighbouring countries, Hungarian gastronomy is mainly known for the intensity of the dishes and spicy flavours. From meat (chicken, pork, beef, goose), vegetables (potatoes, celery, beans, peas, cabbage) and paprika as main ingredients, we can find a wide variety of typical dishes you should know and some of the restaurants where you can try them.
Gulash: Spiced soup with beef cattle tacos, potatoes and, sometimes, dumplings. This is, no doubt, one of the most famous dishes in the Hungarian gastronomy.
Dobostorta: Hungarian cake invented by local baker Jozsef C. Dobos, in 1884. It is made of five fluffy layers collated by chocolate cream with a caramel topping.
Újházi tyúkhúsleves: One of the most popular soups from traditional cuisine in Budapest. It is made of pasta, carrot, chicken and peas or mushrooms.
Mákos rétes: A typical cake, very typical and popular among estrudel (it can be made of cottage cheese, cherry, sour cherry or apple). This is the star cake at the bakeries in Budapest.
Pörkölt: Cooked meat with onion, chilli and tomato, sometimes it is considered a variant of gulash.
Dumplings: Balls of flour, potatoes and bread, filled with meat or fish and completed with the “cispetke”, a pastry made of flour and egg to accompany the soup and the meat.
Paprikas csirke: Main course made of fried chicken with onion sauce and paprika pepper with a little bit of tomato and bathed with a creamy herb sauce right before it’s served.
Borjúkotlett magyaróvári módra: Veal cutlet marinated with tomato sauce and herbs that is put in the oven among a layer of mushrooms and cheese.
Halaszle: Fish soup highly spiced up with Hungarian paprika, very spicy pepper.
Menza: One of the most fashionable restaurants in Budapest. Decoration from the ‘70s, young public and a menu that mixes classic and vanguard food, at an affordable price.
RemizRemiz: This place is known for serving huge portions of Hungarian food. The place is frequented by both, locals and tourists, and has a big dinning room and a terrace outside, great if you want to have a long meal you're your family on a Sunday or to have a business lunch.
Kőleves: Located at the centre of the Jewish neighbourhood in Budapest, here you can find affordable prices anytime on the day. Monday to Friday there are two menus, one with meat and one for veggies. You should also try one of the desserts.
Vadarspark Étterem: a modern restaurant, with a terrace and a folk band entertaining the diners. Here you can also enjoy a typical Hungarian folk dance show while eating some of the most typical dishes in the city.
Gundel: Legendary restaurant in Budapest that is open since the 19th century, serving great food following traditional Hungarian recipes. The dress code is formal, men should wear a nice coat.
Image from Sarah Stierch
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Budapest – The Gastrohipster Mecca
Where Hipsters Converge – the Jewish Quarter
One of the liveliest areas of Budapest, where you come across a smashing eatery at every step, whether classical or hip. One of the most charming restaurants offering traditional cuisine is the Spinoza Café, with its intimate lighting and walls bedecked with vintage illustrations. The menu features Jewish specialities such as hummus, and the essential Hungarian dishes like goulash, a popular beef stew usually accompanied with spätzle, an unevenly shaped type of noodle. Dinner ends with one of Hungary’s most typical liqueurs, pálinka, a potent but digestive spirit which is here displayed in a priceless giant bottle on the bar counter.
If you prefer something more contemporary, there is no dearth of options. Like the Street Food Karaván, a concentration of dedicated food trucks and kiosks where you can grab a bite at their shared, open-air tables. The homemade hamburgers of Zing Burger will not disappoint either. Other options with a roof over your head include Situ (Kazinczy, 32), with a French touch, Vintage Garden, feminine and romantic, 3, Három, Three (Kazinczy, 3), informal and cool, and Doblo, a cheerful wine bar.
End off the night with a drink at one of the “ruin bars”,one of the most unusual concepts in Budapest. They are located in derelict buildings, reclaimed by young people and turned into bars with a hint of the underground and a big helping of imagination – creativity has taken over where funding reaches its limits. The most famed ruin bar is Szimpla Kert, with its entertaining, enveloping atmosphere.
Where To Eat In Buda: Baltazár Grill
While Pest is more dynamic, don’t leave the city without visiting Buda Castle and its stunning views. Here we recommend you eat at the Baltazár Grill, a hip bistro with its striking painting by Basquiat. They serve modernised Hungarian dishes (their paprika chicken and goulash soup are excellent) and marvellous hamburgers made in a Josper grill. The other side of the restaurant is a cosy wine bar where you can try some great Hungarian wines.
Where the Beautiful People Go – Menza
This restaurant is all the rage now. A blend of retro and futuristic aesthetics featuring an eclectic, contemporary and international menu with room for pasta, sandwiches, various meat dishes and even the odd fish dish – bear in mind that Budapest is a predominantly meat-eating city.
Where To Delight In Bistros With Charm
The bistro formula is in vogue in the Hungarian capital. After Costes and Onyx, the third restaurant to be awarded a Michelin star was the Borkonyha bistro, with a relaxed ambience but impeccable cuisine. Alongside the priceless Central Market stands the splendid Borbíróság, offering modern market cuisine and over a hundred quality Hungarian wines served by the glass. Highly recommendable is the duck and cherry ragout with potato and Cheddar cheese, and their foie gras beef with ratatouille and roast potatoes. Other bistros you will enjoy include Terminal, sited in an erstwhile bus station, and Zona, with beautiful interior design and Hungarian dishes with an international flourish.
Afternoon Tea – Cafés With Character
Tradition rules in one of the cities with the greatest pastry expertise. Before leaving Budapest, make a point of having afternoon tea in the stylish New York Café, housed in a 19th-century neo-Baroque palace where you will find it difficult to stop taking snaps… until you try one of their pastries, of course! Also classical but more sober is the Gerbeaud, one of the city’s most acclaimed pastry cafés. Make sure you try one of the local specialities, which are of exceptional quality here – the Dobos cake, made of fine layers of sponge, chocolate cream and a caramel topping.
Where To Sleep – Eurostars Budapest Center
This four-star Spanish hotel chain has an unrivalled siting on the edge of the Jewish Quarter and a stone’s throw away from the Danube. Housed in a Communist-era building, the rooms are spacious, bright, functional and elegant at affordable prices. The self-service breakfast is copious and varied, and the common areas comfortable, but the best thing is the service – they are helpful and, if you require a booking, they do it for you… and they speak Spanish!
Text and photos: Isabel Loscertales (Gastronomistas)more info
Budapest The Spa City
Budapest is said to be one of the most beautiful capitals in Europe, and with good reason. The rise of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1867 and the subsequent union between the cities of Buda and Pest turned the newfound metropolis into one of the continent’s leading magnets. Aside from its grand avenues, luxury palaces and bridges over the Danube, its appeal lies in its 118 springs spouting 70 million litres of water a day, at temperatures that vary from 20°C to 78°C.
The Spa City
Budapest has more thermal and medicinal water wells than any other world capital, earning it the title of “Spa City” in 1934. However, the properties of those waters have been known since ancient times. The Romans built thermal complexes during the period they settled there, as did the Ottoman Turks. Vestiges such as the Turkish baths have been preserved until today and are still operating at full steam.
However, the real boom in spa resorts took place in the early-20th century, coinciding with an upsurge in the city’s development and the foresight behind the decision to harness these waters for treating all kinds of diseases.
Planning Your Visit
Nowadays thousands of Budapesters and tourists from all over Hungary and the rest of the world come to delight in the city’s waters. There are obviously more spa guests in summer, but any time of the year is suitable for having a dip.
Each spa has its house rules, but most of them hire towels, have lockers for storing your clothes, and provide swimming caps. Check out the website of each establishment when planning your visit. While most resorts are mixed, some have different days or times of the day for men and women.
Here are the five thermal baths you simply cannot fail to visit:
Remember that famous Danone advertisement from the early nineties, in which some hard-bodied models were swimming in a dream pool? Well, the pool in question happens to be the main one in the historic Gellert spa baths. Built in 1918, it is one of the city’s most elegant. It boasts 9 therapeutic pools, including a thermal bath, a bubble pool, a paddling pool and even a wave pool, flanked by statues and adorned with mosaics and stained glass windows.
It is also one of the more expensive baths. Admission varies from 3,800 to 4,200 forints (€13.20 to €14.60), but you simply can’t leave the city without visiting it.
Inaugurated in 1913, it is one of the largest thermal bath complexes in Europe and the most popular one in Budapest among tourists. This does not, however, detract one bit from its charm. Bathing in one of the large outdoor thermal pools at Széchenyi is a wonderful experience. And, as it is the only spa in the Pest side of the river, you can sightsee this area before heading to the baths.
The admission fee depends on the services you hire, varying from 2,900 to 3,750 Hungarian forints (€10.10 to €13.05).
Built by the Ottoman Turks in 1550, the Rudas Baths feature an octagonal pool covered by a dome, transporting one to A Thousand and One Nights. This spa is open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for men only, and on Tuesdays for women (wearing a swimming costume is not required). Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays are mixed. One option is to visit the spa baths on Friday or Saturday evening and extend your stay into the night at the Romkert, open from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. It is an open-air disco where you will be dancing at the foot of Mt Gellért.
Together with Rudas, the Király are the most famous Turkish thermal baths. Opened in 1565, they resemble the Rudas Baths, although on a smaller scale, so you are advised to book ahead and take your own towels with you. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are set aside for men and indeed this spa has become one of the major gathering places for gays. Király is also among the more economical baths in Budapest: 1,300 HUF (€4.50).
Specialising in digestive disorders, the Lukács are famous for having been a meeting place for intellectuals in the 1950s and for being one of most popular resorts among tourists. With its seven pools set in a beautiful park, this is one of the best spots for coming into touch with Budapest society.
Now all that’s left is to pack your swimsuit and get ready for a dip. Check out our flights here.
Text by Aleix Palau for Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS