We typically aren't the types to visit a major city for just one day, but we did just that back in September to start out our whirlwind tour of Hungary, Croatia and Slovenia. We arrived in the Hungarian capital city mid-afternoon and went straight to our AirBnB (our first AirBnB experience as a matter of fact - LOVED it) and gathered some knowledge from our host on how to see the city with one evening and the following full day. Let's pause and look at where we stayed:
I came upon this adorable chapel-turned-apartment in the heart of downtown Budapest parallel to famous pedestrian-only Vaci Street - idyllic for a crisp September morning stroll. Just look at those arched details and 200 year old door. It was so incredibly cozy and romantic and right in the heart of where you want to be, steps away from the Jewish Quarter and National Museum.
Central Cafe was our first stop for food where we each got their recommended chicken dish in a tomato broth with homemade gnocchi. To die for...and we swallowed that down with cold, delicious Dreher brews.
From there, we walked around exploring taking pictures of the beautiful architecture and ran up to the train station to buy our tickets over to Zagreb. We decided to visit one of the classic "ruin" pubs and ended up at the most popular, Szimpla Kert (Simple Garden). These pubs are buildings that once lay in ruin and are converted into lively, eclectic bars attracted to locals and foreigners strolling in for a pint. Everywhere you look, there's a different mismatched decoration, colorful splashes of paint and people just having a really good time either in the central garden or off in one of the many warehouse rooms for a more intimate gathering.
We stayed there until the sun went down and decided to take a taxi around to see Parliament at night - the world's third largest Parliament building. This is a must-do and you can't really miss it if you do make it here. It is one of the most enchanting architectural wonders I have ever seen and incredibly illuminated at night. It sits on the Pest side, which is very flat, where most of the cafes, nightlife and hotels sit. This is where we stayed and where we would recommend anyone staying while visiting. It's just more lively and easily accessible by foot. Across the Danube River in Buda is where you find rolling hills, windy streets and the sleepy Castle District. It's likely the most picturesque part of the whole city featuring ancient monuments, panoramic views and cobblestone streets through the Old Town, but it is fairly quiet. Mathias Church and Fisherman's Bastion are the areas for some of the most gorgeous shots and the tour inside the church is well worth it.
So, with an evening down and one full day ahead, we did what any normal, young, couple would do. We hopped on the Big Bus Tour of Budapest! Educational ear phones included, I might add. It may seem like a dorky touristy thing to do, because it totally is, but we saw everything! We went across famous Chain Bridge back into the Buda Castle District, went on to Heroes Square and over to the famous Szechenyi Baths where we only grabbed a quick photo. The entry fee was a little steep and we weren't super keen on bathing with a ton of people on a warm day anyway. Something about that felt odd and we didn't exactly pack our swimsuits. Back on the Big Bus we went!
We cleaned up after a busy day and headed back up to Castle Hill where I had researched a Hungarian Wine house that was popular to offer tastings - well, it was closed. Been closed for three years apparently. So, we walked around and had a drink and an appetizer at a little garden cafe and went on to eat dinner at Var a Speiz. This place. Oh gosh, this place was good. We didn't make a reservation, but Jon sweet talked his way into letting us grab some barstools and sit at a high top table that was stacked with their menus. Luckily, we got a table once this food-writer type guy got his free meal and cleansed his palette about 7 different times. Jon got a pork dish and I opted for a shrimp risotto, and all was wonderful in the world. It's situated just across the street from the Hilton, perfect for people watching and taking in the views of Mathias Church glowing in the darkness. The restaurant received Michelin's "Bib Gourmand" award, and we typically don't visit restaurants qualified in Michelin standards (or ever), so this was a treat!
Our nightcap in Budapest was at a place called For Sale Pub right near our chapel apartment. A little frightening with hay on the floors, literally thousands of pieces of paper notes stuck to every beam, every wall, every inch of the place and open flame candles lit. That was the frightening part. The thing could seriously go up in flames at any moment, we would never make it out alive, but hey! It's charming! They had a great live band and fine enough drinks. It was cash only from what I remember, and a really cute little joint to end our trip in Budapest.
We loved this city and wish we spent more time exploring. It's delightful during the day, but we both agreed it was so much prettier at night. The bridges are lit up, the street lanterns are glowing and the monuments are showstoppers. It's completely dreamy, and we highly recommend visiting this European city so close in proximity to others we've been to like Prague and Vienna. From here we made our way to Croatia - stay tuned!