‘We’ll go to the Gellert Thermal Baths tomorrow/later/at some point’ became a bit of a running joke during our time in Budapest.
Needless to say, we didn’t end up part of the People Soup, much to our dismay. I even bought a respectable swimming cozzie for the occasion.
We were just far too hungover on day one; all we could do was sight see, drink copious amounts of coffee, nap and eat our body weight in delicious tapas.
Over Sangria that evening a plan was formed: get some sleep, get up early, breakfast, hire some bicycles and cycle up to the Gellart Baths.
But the weather had other ideas.
Day Two was a bit of a washout. It rained and then it rained some more. Between the cobbled streets and the downpour, it felt a lot like being back at home in Manchester. In the rain. Without an umbrella.
Our plans took a bit of a u-turn so we decided to spend a day visiting the numerous museums.
There are so many interesting museums in Budapest, and we were particularly interested in Terror House. We knew next to nothing about the history of Hungary, apart from that it was pretty sad and a lot of devastation was caused by a communist regime and the events preceding, during and following WW2, and so we decided a little education was a good idea.
One of my favourite things to do when I travel is to read up on the history of the place I am visiting, I felt a little ashamed of my absolute blank knowledge when it came to Budapest. So we headed to Terror House, beanie hats and scarves pulled over our heads in an attempt to keep out some of the downpour, only to find that it was Monday. The surly guard at the door shook his head when we enquired about the opening times. Not today, was all he said. After briefly consulting the guide book we realised the error of our ways. Museums and galleries are closed on a Monday. I’d known this. I’d read this in my preparation for the trip. It was in the guidebook. Plans scuppered, we trawled the streets of Budapest looking for something to do that wouldn’t see us drenched.
We stumbled on Budapest’s Cat Café and headed in for a warm drink and a quick pause to dry out. I’d always been intrigued by Cate Cafes. The one in London is ridiculously expensive and I’d never really felt the urge to go there. If I wanted a brew and the company of felines, I would just sit on my doorstep and hang out with the neighbourhood moggies. There’s quite an eclectic bunch in Edgeley. Why would I pay for the privilege? Luckily you don’t have to pay for the one in Budapest, you just order coffee or tea. The cats just lounge around looking overfed and completely uninterested. They were cute. It was cute. But I would never pay a fee to go to such a gimmicky place.
Food and café culture became a big thing for us in Budapest.
Leisurely breakfasts and long, boozy dinners were a huge part of our routine. There are so many fabulous places to grab a bite. Unfortunately most of the establishments selling traditional fare such as goulash and this really yummy looking chicken-paprika dish, were in the really touristy areas of the city, and certainly seemed to jack up their prices.
Preferring to spend time in places seldom frequented by holidaymakers, we decided to eat at cool little wine bars secreted in alleyways. The atmosphere was way better and the people were actually inhabitants of the city. Our two favourite places were a small wine bar – naturally we proceeded to get pissed and knock back the vino like only British thirty-something women can – where we dined on the most amazing meat and cheese platters, sipped espresso and chased it all down with a little bit of Sambuca, because, you know, YOLO. There was live music, cute boys and the interior was dimly lit and intimate. I swear the couple next to us were on a first date – it really was the most perfect setting.
The second was a really posh restaurant next to the State Opera House. Not somewhere either of us would ever choose IRL, but the novelty of this place was the sheer fact that we could actually afford poshness in Budapest.
“I hope they let me in with my trainers on,” Katy said as we opened the heavy wooden doors. “I wasn’t allowed in the Hawksmoor in London because of my shoes,” but there were no problems. Trainer hatred doesn’t seem to exist in Budapest (Budapest – 1. London – 0.)
The waiters were happy to see us when we popped in for a luxury cocktail before our tour of the opera house started (there’s something hilarious about doing a group tour with a wine buzz) and we decided we’d luxe it up with breakfast there on our last day. The food was delicious. Katy opted for her first local dish which was Hungarian scrambled eggs consisting of chorizo, peppers, onions and a whole host of yummy fare. I had ham and eggs which was essentially a huge piece of ham with three fried eggs on top. For egg-crazy, yolk fanatic me, it was the best breakfast ever!
The wonderful thing about being on holiday is the amount you get to eat and drink guilt free. I mean, holidays do not come with calorie counting. Not the way I do them. They definitely don’t come with carb fear. They come with cake breaks and wine pit stops. Just look at these amazing cakes we ordered in a local patisserie.
While we were really disappointed that we couldn’t make it to the Gellart baths, we did manage to check one thing of our Budapest bucket list, and that was a tour of the beautiful State Opera House. Ideally, we’d have caught a show but as we were in Budapest for such a short amount of time, it wasn’t possible. Instead we opted for a guided tour and a mini-opera showcase.
Our tour guide was great, answering questions about artwork and architecture, as well as providing us with snippets from the history of the opera house, including gossipy tales regarding the royal family. We even got to hang out in the swanky box seats – queue selfies!
At the end of the tour, we were treated to the mini-opera which was quite honestly the funniest thing I have ever seen. Not because of the content, but because the man who was treating us to his lovely voice decided to pick on Katy and make her dance with him. Ever the good sport, she did as she was told and everyone applauded her efforts. Obviously I filmed the entire think and laughed throughout like any supportive friend would.
The State Opera House is truly stunning. There is another, larger and more modern, opera house (The Royal Opera House) near the river which showcases far more operas and productions, but it isn’t a patch on the State Opera House building. Just take a look at some of these snaps above (you had to pay extra for photos so we only got to sneak a few!)
Top Tip! If you ever find yourself in Budapest for more than a couple of days, you should certainly look into buying a ticket to a production. They are quite reasonable at around 30 euros and even cheaper if you’re a student.
We really didn’t have enough time in Budapest. You can easily spend a week getting lost in all its interesting side streets. It’s a city where the history and culture is so vast you will probably learn something new every day. I would have loved to spend another couple of days there – we barely explored Pest on the other side of the river from Buda, and only scratched the surface of all the galleries and museums dotted around the city centre. I could easily spend a day just museum hopping.
Our last day in Budapest was somewhat of an adventure. We decided to just go out and explore, leaving our bags at the reception in our apartment building (for no fee, might I add – other hoteliers should take note!) and heading off in a direction we had never ventured. We ended up in a strange empty market place where we were followed around by each stall member, perusing a bizarre Christmas/easter themed shop full of trinkets and weird displays, eating KFC and discovering THERE IS NO GRAVY IN BUDAPEST. THEY DO NOT KNOW GRAVY. I DO NOT KNOW HOW TO ASK FOR GRAVY IN HUNGARY. PLEASE HELP ME. WHERE IS THE KFC GRAVY. I MAY CRY which sort of broke our hearts, and strolling down the banks of the River Danube wishing we had more time.
After saying goodbye to what could quite possibly be the nicest receptionist in the world, we headed to the subway station with plenty of time to spare, only to find that the metro route we needed was not taking passengers anywhere. At all. Like, ever. Or at least for the next hour or so. Well, this is what we gathered when a the conductor beckoned to us to leave anyway. No problem, we thought in our arrogant London induced travel savvy, we’ll just hop on a train, skip back a stop and get the metro from there. No biggy. But this didn’t work either. We reached the same stop and were beckoned off by a scary woman with a wheelie shopping bag. Oh, the shame! So after consulting a map – and a nice man who spoke a little English (I was thoroughly ashamed of my inability to have even picked up a few Hungarian words during our time in Budapest. I hate being that person) – we managed to find what we needed. A replacement bus service from Astoria.
NOTHING strikes fear into the hearts of anyone that has ever relied on the tube as a mode of transport, than the words REPLACEMENT BUS SERVICE.
Ok, we thought. Ok. Let’s do this. Astoria. Let’s find Astoria.
With suitcases in tow, we headed off on our journey. Now let me tell you, it is easier to get to bloody Mordor than it is to navigate a replacement transportation service in a country where you don’t speak the language. Eventually we found our bus and boarded. We hoped. The driver hot-tailed it through the streets of Budapest like Lewis Hamilton and it was all Katy and I could do to stay upright and stop laughing. Eventually we made it to the airport, unscathed, with plenty of time to spare.
It just goes to show that no matter where you are in the world, things will always be the same.
There will always be a bus replacement service that pushes you to your very limits.
Photo Credit: Some of these snaps were taken by my travel buddy, Katy. She is awesome.