A Budapest Break

Inspiration has recently run dry for me, and I’ve had a very bad case of writer’s block… This is due to a number of reasons. I’ve been extremely stressed out, because of work and money problems and health and personal issues… I guess they all tie in to one another really, don’t they? You’re worried and really anxious about one thing, the negative energy leaks into other parts of your life, soon you’re sick to your stomach with worry, and all the evil thoughts, (literally physical) symptoms and feelings that come along with it… So you lose inspiration… You lose motivation to do anything but vegetate, watch TV and browse Facebook (and Instagram) on a never-ending ‘refresh’ loop… Don’t get me wrong… I’m not depressed, nor am I miserable… Just apathetic…

Trying to break the cycle… It’s destructive!!

I’m just going to share my short Budapest experience with you all, to try to get the ball rolling again, and hopefully re-inspire myself!

So… My mum wanted to go on a short trip and my sister needed a break from her very busy and hectic job; I always to want to go on any trip… Thus, Budapest. Wizz Air flights were (relatively) cheap, found a cool central hotel to stay in for a few nights, and off we went! (Actually it wasn’t that simple. My sister’s a nightmare to coordinate with, she has a horrendous schedule, but where there’s a will there’s a way, so I found something which worked for us all). So off we went… Had to leave my poor partner in crime behind this time, as well as my demanding little kitty, but you know, absence does make the heart grow fonder!

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The hotel we stayed in? The Bohem Art Hotel! A modern hotel in a really central location, only about 50 m away from the riverside; staff were friendly and accommodating, the bed was comfy and the room clean. The breakfast was also pretty tasty, and was included in the overall price. So it was a fairly good deal! (keep in mind you have to pay a city tax, in addition to your hotel bill…) I always book my hotels via booking.com… Here’s a link to a €15.00 discount if you use the site to book your accommodation!

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We only stayed for three nights, not nearly enough time to see this beautiful city, but boy oh boy, did I fall in love with the place! It’s gorgeous! The architecture is just mesmerizing, looks like it came directly out of a fairytale! It’s a luscious and unique blend of East meets West and although Budapest is a hustling, bustling, busy city, it still retains that classic, old city feel to it, with some areas just brimming with charm and sophistication! Our mission was simple (and tiring – an understatement)… Do and see as much as you can in three days!!! We did the most touristy thing one could do when visiting a foreign city… We bought a ‘hop on-hop off’ bus ticket and got to exploring!! I like the hop on-hop off buses when making short visits to a new city… You can get the scope of how large the place you’re visiting is, as well as get an idea of the area geography, you get to ram all the attractions into one ride, then choose the ones you really want to visit, and you can just get on and off as you please. No need to pay for public transport, no need to catch a taxi… It’s ideal if you’re trying to see a lot in a short period of time! So we did that!

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Now as I said, three days is not nearly enough to see this awesome city, but we basically got to see (and do) the following sites:

Thermal Baths

Because what’s a visit to the ‘City of Spas” without doing this, right??? There a numerous thermal baths around the Budapest, all having a different feel and style to them… I chose the Rudas Baths for my visit as they were closest to my hotel. They’re also the most ‘Eastern’ in style as they were established sometime around the 16th century, during the time of the Turkish occupation. The main spa area includes an octagonal pool covered by a large Ottoman dome. At the end of the 19th century, a therapeutic swimming facility and a sauna was added. Make sure you try out the steam room, as well as the sauna, but only do so if you’re in good health, the heat and steam are quite an overwhelming experience, albeit a healing one (I had inflamed tonsils before my visit, and guess what, they were A-OK after getting in that steam room!!!).

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Image courtesy of likealocalguide.com

Other very popular thermal baths in Budapest include the Gellert Baths and the Szechenyi Thermal Baths, amongst others.

Just a little important side note for you here: We were NOT provided towels during our stay at the Rudas Baths, so make it a point to take your own! Also, pre-booking a spa ticket is recommended as the baths do tend to get very busy, especially during weekends!  Also, you can’t take a camera into the baths with you. Some people were carrying around their mobile phones but I really do not recommend it… It’s very humid, I imagine it would be harmful to your phones… You do get a locker where you can put all your stuff, so store your items there and you’re good to go!

Castle Hill

Another must-see when staying in the city, the Castle Hill is a World Heritage Site, housing the magnificent Royal Palace (which now exhibits the Hungarian National Gallery, National Library and the Budapest History Museum), the magical Fishermen’s Bastion, the gothic Matthias Church, the Hospital in the Rock Museum, lots of stunning baroque architecture, gothic arches and picturesque cobblestone streets. My sister was dead set on visiting the Labyrinth in Buda Castle Hill. It’s basically a very intricate (and large) complex of caves and tunnels boring into the hill! The underground labyrinth is about 6 miles long and the part, which can be visited, is around one mile in length. A unique (and hilarious) experience! Do not go down here if you’re scared of the dark! There’s a ‘tunnel of darkness’ which is NOT for the claustrophobic… It’s basically a pitch black pathway you have to walk through. There’s a rope you hold on to which directs you on where you need to walk, nothing else…. Just the funniest experience I had in Budapest. My sister was holding onto the rope for dear life, my mum was clutching onto my sister, and I basically grabbed onto my mum’s bra strap at the back and didn’t let go until I literally saw light at the end of the tunnel… We did the whole thing laughing our asses off, terrified we’d get lost in the absolute darkness!

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Getting to Castle Hill is easy… Catch the funicular near the Chain Bridge. It will take you all the way up to the top. You could opt to walk up the hill, we chose the lazier, and more scenic option… Funicular upwards, walking downwards!

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Yes… that’s me in the dark labyrinth tunnels! There were creepy mannequins dressed in opera costumes…  :/

Danube Cruise

We were lucky enough to have this included as part of our “Hop on-Hop off” experience, but you could easily buy a cruise ticket on the riverside. Cruising up and down the wide Danube, the stunning divider/connector of Buda and Pest, is very scenic and relaxing. You could opt for a day cruise, or else do a night cruise. Whilst we did both, I really would not recommend a dinner cruise… There are so many good eateries in the city! The best thing you can do it grab a bite to eat on land, then get a romantic night cruise where you can enjoy the city all lit up, whilst sipping on a glass of wine. ❤

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Click here for more info about cruising the Danube!

Central Market Hall

Fantastic souvenir buying opportunity here! The Central Market Hall was built in the 19th century, and is the largest market in Budapest. On the ground floor you’ll find locals, as well as foreigners buying local produce, including sausage (highly recommended, it’s deeelicious!), meats, cheeses, a variety of vegetables and fruit, as well as alcohol/liquor. On the second floor there are more food stands, with some great little eateries, as well as vendors selling locally made handicrafts, embroidery work, clothing and souvenirs. In the basements there’s a fish market, a supermarket, and a small Asian grocery…

Parliament Building

One of my biggest Budapest regrets? Not booking a tour to get into this place (simply didn’t have the time!!)… Individual admission is not allowed, so if you want to get into this magnificent structure, you have to pre-book a tour. I walked to it, around it, and saw it from the river. It is a SPECTACULAR structure. A magnificent example of Neo-Gothic architecture, just over 100 years old. It’s the third largest Parliament building in the world, has 691 rooms and 20 kilometers (12,5 miles) of stairs!

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Guided tours of the Parliament are available when the National Assembly is not in session. The tour takes about 45 minutes, and is well worth the price, as it covers the main entrance stairs and hall, one of the lobbies, the old House of Lords and the Hungarian Crown Jewels.

New York Cafe

When you hear “The Most Beautiful Cafe in the World” can be found in Budapest, you just have to visit, right? And boy, did this place did live up to its name! It truly is stunning! Attached to the five-star, Boscolo Hotel, the huge cafe is just a the epitome of flamboyance and luxury! Guilded stucco, enormous crystal chandeliers, and soft velvet seating! I was really under-dressed and too shabby to be sitting around eating a huge bowl of ice cream in this place. But what the hell! I visited, I ate an €8.00 bowl of ice cream, and I peed in their fancy toilets!!! SO THERE!! 😀

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Chain Bridge

The Chain Bridge was the first one to permanently connect Buda and Pest, so I think walking across is not only a very scenic one, but also a semi spiritual one, no? At the time of its construction, Chain Bridge was considered to be one of the wonders of the world, and I can truly see why. It’s extremely beautiful and has an interesting history to it! Chief engineer Adam Clark, a master builder from Scotland, completed the span in 1849 and legend has it that he was so proud of his masterpiece he would challenge anyone to find any fault with his work. When someone pointed out that the lions at either ends of the bridge didn’t have tongues, he was so ashamed that he committed suicide. This of course is only a myth, but a cool one (albeit tragic) nonetheless. By the way, the lions do have tongues, however, you cannot see them from the street below, I tried!

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Gellert Hill

This is THE PLACE to get the best views of the city. From here you can basically see the Chain Bridge with the Gresham Palace, and the majestic St Stephen Basilica in the background, the white turreted Parliament building, the Liberty Bridge, the Art Nouveau Gellert Baths and Hotel, the colorfully tiled roofs of the Central Market Hall. So that’s basically just a bunch of World Heritage Sites, all rammed into one of the most scenic city views I have ever had the privilege of seeing!

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Here you can find the Citadel, a U-shaped, 19th century fortress, about 220 metres long, 60 metres wide, and 4 metres tall, with 60 cannon complements – basically taking up the whole plateau of the Gellert Hill. There’s also an impressive monument, known as the Statue of Liberty (erected by the communists to celebrate Budapest’s liberation from the Nazi troops – and then its ‘suppression by the Soviets’… yey…), the beautifully dramatic and huge St Gellert Monument, and the Cave Church (access to this is near the Gellert Baths at the base of the hill).

Váci Street

My mother and sister are shopaholics (to my utter horror and misery), so we just had to pass through Budapest’s most popular shopping street. Váci street is located in the city center and designated as a pedestrian precinct, running from Vörösmarty Square to Vámház körút. Here you can find a number of fashionable shops, as well as souvenir shops, many eateries and cafes.

So that was my short and sweet (and very hectic) Budapest experience!!! We walked about 20,000 steps per day, were completely knocked out every night, and had an absolutely fantastic girls’ trip!

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Of course, there are so many other things to do and see in the city. Places which should definitely make it onto any visitors list also include Budapest’s architectural masterpiece, the famous Opera House, St Stephen’s Basilica, Andrassy Avenue and Hero’s Square, a stroll through Margaret Island, as well as the numerous and very trendy ruin pubs found around the city. Whatever you do get around to doing, I’m sure Budapest will blow you away. It really is just a gorgeous city, and it did exceed my expectations. The only problem here is that I’m definitely going to have to visit again, with my partner. It’s a very romantic place, so I did miss him on my trip! Ah well, just another excuse to travel again I guess!

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