Budapest had been on my bucket list for years, and after a long wait it certainly didn’t disappoint. After touching down in Budapest we hopped in an airport shuttle and set on our way to the cute apartment we had rented for our stay from Airbnb, which I can't recommend enough. The apartment sat just at the edge of the Jewish Quarter beside the National Museum.
Outside of the large, imposing museum sit four brightly coloured wooden benches and a small garden, making it a prime location for a picnic pit stop or a lazy afternoon of reading in the sunshine. Inside, the museum chronicles the history of Hungary from its formation up to present day, showcasing everything from suits of armour to communist propaganda.
We spent a large portion of our time in Budapest’s thermal baths. My favourite of the baths was the Szechenyi bath, which is one of the largest in Europe. There are three huge outdoor pools – one for lane swimming, a cool pool and another at 37 degrees – which are surrounded by the canary yellow walls of the baroque-style building. I never imagined that taking a dip in 37 degree water would be refreshing in 30 degree sunshine, but it is glorious. There are even more pools inside, some uncomfortably hot and some freezing, as well as a sauna and menthol steam room.
At the night time Szechenyi bath hosts pool parties in the hot baths, complete with strobe lights and a smoke machine. It was delightfully tacky and lots of fun! We got a couples tickets for around €40 which included entrance, a private changing cabin and four beer tokens.
When we weren’t lazing around the baths we took in a bit of culture, doing touristy things and visiting the top sights. Highlights were Heroes Square, where lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and City Park, which is one of Hungary’s World Heritage sites. We also visited The Museum of Fine Arts to see The World of Toulouse-Lautrec exhibition, which showcases a large selection of famous screen prints, lithographs and sketches by the French artist.
I was excited to visit Budapest Zoo (there are sloths there) and so we went along one night hoping to catch a live jazz concert that plays there every Wednesday evening, but unfortunately the heavens opened and the music was called off. When it wasn’t raining we spent plenty of time on Margaret Island, a green little island in the middle of the Danube. You can rent bikes there and explore; there are expansive gardens, a koi pond and a small animal sanctuary with ginormous bunny rabbits and cute little deer.
We also did plenty of eating. Red meat, red wine and white carbs are the Hungarian staple; think goulash and venison and strudel. For cheap and traditional fare we ate at Vidam and Kisharang, both meals costing under £10 for two courses each and two huge beers. And for something a bit more fancy pants we went to Menza and Muzeum, because if you can’t be fancy on holiday then when can you? Overall food and drink was very cheap. One evening we stumbled upon the hidden garden at Bordo Bistro and when I saw that extra-large glasses of Prosecco were €1.30 I decided to stay.
In the day time we filled up on ice cream from Levendula, which serves up artisan ice creams with unusual flavours. My favourite was a combination of the red wine and chocolate and gorgonzola flavours, which are well worth a second trip to Budapest.