Often described as the ‘Little Paris of Middle Europe’, Budapest proved itself to be a gem of a city! Szia! I recently returned from a Christmas city break in Budapest- here’s what I got up to while I was there…
I landed in Budapest really late Thursday evening so after checking into my hotel I swiftly went to sleep knowing that I had to be up bright and early the next day. I stayed at Marco Polo Top Hostel, an independent hostel in the centre of Budapest. It was comfy, cheap and all that I needed for a short stay in Budapest.
On Friday morning, I was picked up at 10am for a three-hour group tour of the city, provided by a company called Cityrama. I knew I didn’t have long in the city and, not wanting to miss anything, I thought this tour would be a great way to see everything there is to see in Budapest in just a short amount of time and learn more about its history – and I was right!
The tour itself was really well organised and took us to most of popular spots in the city, including Gellert Hill, which offered the most spectacular view of Budapest; Heroes’ Square, noted for its iconic statue complex featuring the seven Chieftains of the Magyars and other important national leaders as well as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier; and the colourful Castle District.
Castle District boasted Matthias Church, an enormous Roman Catholic church with the most colourful tiled roof, and Fisherman’s Bastion, a panoramic viewing terrace with fairy tale towers. It was hands down the most picturesque area I visited during my trip to Budapest.
Certain parts of it have been lovingly restored after being reduced to rubble during World War II but it still feels like the heart of medieval Budapest, with cobblestone streets, narrow alleyways and pretty squares surrounded by baroque and classical buildings.
We also crossed Chain Bridge and Margaret Bridge, and passed by the Central Market Hall and the Synagogue as well as the city park and all its attractions, the Hungarian State Opera House, St Stephen’s Basilica and the Hungarian Parliament, which is the largest parliament building in Europe.
I should mention that our tour guide was absolutely brilliant. She (obviously) knew a lot about the city and took the time to explain to us the history of both the most important sights in Budapest and the smaller, side-street monuments and buildings such as the House of Houdini and Dracula’s chamber…
As we explored the city, I couldn’t help but fall in love with it. It’s full of secrets and hidden spots to explore, and it’s simply so vast and grand. Really, there’s just so much to see and do – from its impressive architecture to its breathtaking views, rickety trolleybuses to lively flea markets, and so much more. No matter where I went in the city, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something out of the ordinary was just around the corner.
It was around 2pm when the tour finished so I decided to grab some lunch. I’d read about a restaurant in the Jewish Quarter called Vintage Garden that I wanted to go to while I was in Budapest and, as I wasn’t far away from it at the time, I made my way there.
As I’d expected the décor was lovely. The dining room was beautifully shabby chic and was even prettier with Christmas decorations. The menu also offered a variety of foods and all of it was reasonably priced.
The only negative was the service, which really let the restaurant down. It started as soon as I walked in and asked for a table, only for the two waiters at the front desk to turn to each other and crack a joke in Hungarian. It might not have been about me, but I still thought it was rude. Then throughout my lunch I had to actively hunt down my waiter for things.
After lunch I went back to the Central Market Hall. We’d only passed by it on the tour and I really wanted to go inside. I couldn’t help but stop in the entrance to take it all in. Traditional Christmas music was playing the background, sparkling lights hung from the ceiling and I could see that there were at least three floors of goodies to rifle through.
The market itself is the largest and oldest indoor market in Budapest. A lot of the locals come here to do their food shopping and it’s easy to see why. The first floor is jam-packed with stalls selling fresh produce.
The second floor was obviously more for tourists. There was stall after stall of souvenirs, and traditional Hungarian food and drink to try. I intended to pick up a few gifts for my friends and family but actually ended up going on a bit of spree for myself – whoops!
By the time I’d left the market it was getting dark so I walked back to my hotel, dropped my things off, freshened up and then visited a nearby pub for something to eat and drink before the day was over.
You can see more pictures of Budapest on my Instagram page @itslarashingles.
Have you visited Budapest? I’d love to hear about your own adventures there!