16 Dec A Photo Essay: Budapest, Hungary
Budapest, Hungary, has intrigued us for quite some time. From the beautiful architecture, to the magnitude of thermal baths and cave systems that run underneath the city, to the food and ruin pubs, and the storied history of the city, Budapest just sounded like one of those cities we would enjoy. And, I would have to say, our assumptions were more than correct. Budapest quickly became one of our favorite cities in Europe.
During our five day visit, we spent time relaxing in coffee shops, wandering around the gorgeous city streets, hopping around ruin pubs, taking a cooking class, visiting museums, ice skating, soaking in thermal baths, strolling through Christmas Markets, and attempting to explore the caves…more on that below. It was a wonderful time and I can guarantee we will be back again someday for another visit. Here are some of our favorite photos from Budapest, Hungary!
First up on the agenda was a soak in one of the many thermal baths that can be found throughout the city. It was so hard to pick which one we wanted to visit—so many of them looked wonderful—but in the end, we went to the Szechenyi Bath. The most popular thermal bath of Budapest won us over and we just had to see it for ourselves. We rented a private changing room and then made our way straight outside to brave the chilly weather for a soak.
The thermal baths outside were filled with steam rising off the water and the views of the surrounding buildings were fantastic. After soaking in both outdoor pools, we couldn’t leave without trying out a few of the indoor pools, as well. So, we made our way inside for a bit more pool hopping before making our way back to the hotel for the evening to stave off some jetlag.
One of our favorite activities during our time in Budapest was the market tour and cooking class that we signed up for. It was a private tour with Culinary Hungary, and it started out with a guided walk around the Central Market Hall market . While exploring the market, shopping for ingredients for our recipes, and getting to know our guide, Andrew, we sampled some traditional Hungarian foods.
Then, it was off to a Hungarian apartment to cook the foods we picked up at the market. . Andrew is a fantastic chef and we had a hands-on cooking lesson where we cooked potato soup with sausage and sour cream, chicken paprika, and Palacsinta, which is like a pancake type dessert. Everything turned out so delicious and it was fun to learn some new recipes that we can cook at home.
The main priority of our December trip through Europe was to check out a variety of Christmas Markets. Well, we definitely accomplished that goal. During our time in Budapest, we visited markets every night and made our way through the markets at Vorosmarty Square, St Stephen’s Basilica, Erzsebet Square, and several smaller markets that we wandered by and never learned the names of. We listened to music, watched light shows, ate plenty of treats, and drank mulled wine. Even though most of the markets were pretty packed and busy, we still had a wonderful time soaking up the festive sights and holiday spirit.
It’s always important to learn about the history of a destination, so we made our way to the Museum of Terror one morning. The museum documents the history of communist and fascist regimes from 20th century Hungary. Inside, you will find exhibits related to Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, and it is also a memorial to the victims from those times. In the past, the building that houses the museum was used to torture, kill, detain and interrogate prisoners and citizens, and in the basement, you can see examples of the types of cells and rooms that were used to break people. It was a heavy topic but an interesting and important museum to visit nonetheless.
After the museum, we found a nearby spot to eat–Panineria Sandwich Street looked like a cute and quick option so we stopped in. The food was good, but what I loved most was this wall art! Ha!
That afternoon, we spent plenty of time wandering around the streets and just soaking up the atmosphere of Budapest. We made our way down to the Hungarian Parliament Building, and I was literally in awe over the architecture.
Near the parliament we spotted Szamos Café—I heard they had delicious desserts so we couldn’t resist stopping in for an afternoon snack. It was busy and a bit spendy, but our cake and coffee were delicious. I had the Esterházy cake and Micah had some sort of chocolate cake.
When we were finished with our treats, we went to the small Szamos Chocolate Museum upstairs. Honestly, I thought the museum was a bit overpriced for what was there, but it was still interesting to learn about chocolate and get a few chocolate samples. One of my favorite displays was actually located in the attached gift shop—a replica of the Hungarian Parliament Building made out of chocolate!
The rest of our day was spent racking up what felt like a million steps. We crossed the Széchenyi Chain Bridge and walked up the steps towards the Buda Castle. While we didn’t spend near enough time across the river in the Buda portion of the city, it was fun to wander around for the evening. The views of Pest from the Fisherman’s Bastion on Castle Hill were spectacular, especially after dark.
Throughout our visit in Budapest, we also visited several ruin pubs. Ruin pubs were started in the early 2000’s inside of abandoned buildings and outdoor spaces. These spaces have been transformed into sometimes maze-like bars with chaotic, eccentric and mismatched decorations and furniture. All of our ruin pub visits were during the week and earlier in the evening, so the atmosphere inside was much more relaxed than what I’ve heard about from others. But, that was perfectly fine with us, and actually almost preferred. We enjoyed the open spaces and ability to admire some of the eccentric decorations. In total, we checked out seven ruin pubs and a few of our favorites were Szimpla Kert, Instant, and Kuplung.
Our last full day in Budapest started with a visit to a cute coffee shop we had passed several times as it was just down the street from our hotel. D18 Café & Bar was such a relaxing spot to sip on coffee and grab a bite to eat. I loved the atmosphere and our breakfast and coffee were great.
The last adventure on our agenda for Budpest was caving. We were going to go on a 5 hour tour that sends you shimmying through tight spaces in the cave system that lies under the city. We hopped on a couple of busses and made our way out to the spot where our tour was supposed to depart from, and we were welcomed with a closed-up building and not a soul in sight. We tried getting in contact with the tour operator and after an unsuccessful 30+ minute wait, we decided to cut our losses and head back into town. I was really looking forward to this adventure and was so disappointed that we couldn’t go spelunking. I guess there aren’t many tours running in the winter, so maybe they had cancelled ours without notifying us. Either way it was a letdown, but I am determined to head back someday to give it another shot.
Instead, we decided to lift our spirits and ended up at the café that has been dubbed “the most beautiful café in the world”, aka the New York Café. I wasn’t sure if it would be worth the hype, but wow. This place was indeed beautiful. Micah and I each ordered a setting of coffee and sat in awe staring at the details of the building. We also lucked out and caught a show of Christmas music put on by some amazing musicians. It definitely added a festive vibe to the entire experience!
Later that evening, we strapped on some ice skates and went for a spin on the frozen lake in front of the Vajdahunyad Castle. It is Europe’s largest outdoor ice skating rink and the scenery was top notch to boot. Now, I just need to work on improving my ice skating abilities!
Before heading to the train to make our way north to Bratislava, we stopped for a square breakfast. The donuts at The Box Donut were shaped in squares, and they were tasty, too! I especially loved the melted snowman water bottles on sale—a quirky sense of humor gets me every time.
We logged many miles during our visit to Budapest, and walking was definitely one of the best ways to see the city. I couldn’t help fawning over both the historic architecture and the trendy new design of many cafes, restaurants and shops we visited. The mix of old and new captured our hearts and left us dreaming of returning again someday. I definitely see several more thermal baths, ruin pubs and cafes in our future!