First of all, let me say that I am so glad I already have another weekend trip planned to this exciting city! My travel bestie RWH and I ran, ate, drank, and escape room-ed our way through Budapest for a quick trip, but there is so much more to see and experience here.
Our first order of business was to complete a walking tour to get our bearings and learn a thing or two about the city. Lucky for us, we made friends with a super fun Aussie, AR, who helped us make the most of the rest of the trip. Dinner was traditional and hearty- goulash and steak, followed by drinks at a random pub. We sat at a window and enjoyed laughing with/at the collections of people that would sit outside our window.
I headed out for an early morning run and crossed two of the main bridges over the Danube. Budapest was traffic heavy, but has a good network of bike/running paths all along the river. After breakfast, we wandered over towards Parliament, which was completed in 1902 and is the third largest Parliament building in the world. My favorite part might have been the soldiers guarding the flagpole who were wearing sunglasses. The shoe sculptures along the river are a memorial to the (mostly) Jewish people that were murdered along the banks of the Danube during World War II.
After meeting up with AR, we had lunch at a hummus cafe (yum! not pizza! not pasta!) and then wandered around town. Tons of cool little cafes, bars, and shops line all of the streets. We wandered into a funky bar with tons of different spaces and crazy decor, and found out afterwards that it is actually one of the most famous “ruin pubs” of the city. Called Szimpla Kert, it is a huge complex with open air rooms and a steady line of drinking tourists coming through. Right down the street is Karavan, which is a food court picnic. Who does not want to sit down and people watch while drinking wine from a plastic pitcher?
Want to know about something else that everyone wants to do? Ok good. The answer is- go to a Cat Cafe/Pub. AR and I stumbled upon one on the way to the wine shop, and it was everything I dreamed it could be. Cat themed decor and menu, complete with resident kitties to snuggle!! Too much fun.
AR and I were set on tasting Hungarian wine, and chose to check out CultiVini for our tasting. This place has tons of wine “on tap,” and you use your pre loaded debit card to sample tastes or glasses of whatever you like. An iPad helps guide you through the varietals and regions, and the staff is on hand to assist as well. Let me just tell you- the cheese plate was awesome! The wines… were less awesome. Don’t worry, I still drank my debit card’s worth but it wasn’t as easy as you would want it to be.
After wine tasting, RWH peer pressured us into doing an escape room. It was actually really fun/nerdy, but I would not recommend it for my personality type in a group of more than 3-4 people. Seeing how different people approach problems is interesting, but I think that the “too many cooks in the kitchen” phenomenon is a great possibility which is just irritating to all involved (or maybe just me? whatever). Our team almost made it, but we were missing one tiny piece of a puzzle that we thought we could out maneuver. Whoops. Also, maybe next time two of the three people should not have just completed a very thorough wine tasting?
For our final morning’s adventure, we decided to get up early and check out one of the famous thermal baths that are scattered all over the city. Budapest is seated on top of almost 1000 thermal springs, and some of the traditional Turkish baths date back to the 16th century. We decided to check our Gellert, which is famous for it’s stunning art nouveau architecture. After figuring out the maze of the locker rooms, we floated around in the giant hot tub (minus the jets), letting the healing powers of the salts do their work. I skipped the cold baths, because why pay money for something that feels terrible!? There was nothing awkward or weird about this experience- everyone was in bathing suits and just hanging out. Gellert Baths were clean and I would certainly recommend a visit.
Unfortunately, we had a plane to catch, so after our relaxing soak, we had a Starbucks and then hopped an hour flight back to Venice. I have another trip planned to Budapest in May, and look forward to exploring even more.