Posted by: vlibrizzi | December 4, 2009

The best 30 euros we ever spent: 48 hours in Budapest

A few weeks ago while C. and I were looking at our schedule for the rest of 2009, we noticed that we both had a five-day break from classes in the beginning of December. So, never wanting to let an opportunity like that pass us by, we started looking into places we could go for a few days. 

Unfortunately, most of the places at the top of our list (Vienna, the Amalfi Coast, etc.) were ridiculously expensive at this time of year. So, we did something we never do….we went onto EasyJet’s website and searched for the cheapest place to go for the few days that we had available. 

Rounding out the top of the list was Budapest. So we said, heck, why not go there? The flight only costs 30 euros! We had no expectations for Budapest. We had heard from friends that it’s a nice city, but that it’s terribly cold in the winter, so we didn’t have all that much to go on. 

But, boy, when we arrived, were we pleasantly surprised. Budapest was absolutely amazing!

Although the city still seems to be a bit behind the Iron curtain (take the retro-looking subway cars, for example), the people were so nice, the buidings were beautiful, and the food was fabulous. 

I would HIGHLY recommend Budapest to anyone coming to Europe. I don’t know why more people don’t go there more often. 

So, in order to persuade you go hop on your next EasyJet flight to Budapest, here’s a rundown of what we did while we were there:

Day 1: 

We arrived mid-day (it’s only a 2 hour flight from Paris to Budapest), dropped off our bags at our great hotel (Hotel Leo Panzio on the Pest side of the river), and started our sightseeing. We walked to the Hungarian National Opera to buy some tickets to Wednesday night’s show of the Nutcracker (not exactly opera, but, hey, ballet is fun too!), and then stopped for some lunch at a great side-street neighborhood restaurant called Kadar where we shared some pickled cabbage, boiled potatoes, and beef stew. Yum! You can see me digging in to my food in the photo to the left.

Later that afternoon, we crossed the famous Szechenyi chain bridge and then took the funicular (not worth the price, better to walk) up to Castle Hill to see the famous monuments in Buda (the other side of the Danube river). The views from the top of the hill were fantastic, especially from Fisherman’s Bastion.

Then, to get out of the cold for a bit, we stopped in the Matthias church to look around and to warm up. You can see a photo of the interior of the church to the left.

From the outside, the church reminded us of the Hotel Dieu in Beaune, with its beautifully tiled roof. 

As the sun set, we took some great photos from atop the Fisherman’s Bastion of the full moon rising over the Hungarian Parliament building (to the left). Then, we stopped in a coffee shop to warm up by the fire as we drank hot chocolate. 

Later on that evening, we walked back to the Opera house to see the Nutcracker…which was wonderful! Neither of us had seen the Nutcracker in years, and the Opera, with its golden walls and beautifully decorated ceilings were stunning….it really got us in the Christmas spirit! 

Day 2:

On Thursday morning, we visited the highlight of anyone’s trip to Budapest, the Thermal Baths. We had no idea that Hungarians love their baths so much, so we were in for quite a treat when our guidebook recommended visiting one of the baths as the top thing to do in town. 

We bought our tickets (which, for a small fee, allowed us full access to the baths for up to six hours), changed into our swimsuits, and headed first to the huge outdoor baths. Yes, you read right…outside baths in freezing cold Hungary! 

The main outdoor bath was 38 degrees celsius (about 100 fahrenheit), and once we got in, it didn’t seem cold outside out all anymore. We floated around with the locals, and tried to keep our bearings as we got lost in the steam. Then, we headed indoors to take a dip in some of the countless other baths….cold baths, warm baths, saunas, mudbaths, and, our favorite, an oval-shaped pool with strong jets that literally propelled you around the bath…it was like being on a carnival ride! If I were Hungarian, I would go to these baths all the time…and I think most people do. There were people at the baths of all ages, chatting, playing chess (in the baths!) as you can see some men doing in the photo to the left, or just relaxing. What a nice life, huh?

We spent three hours at the baths and could have spent much more time there, but we only had a few more hours in Budapest and still had a lot to see. So, we walked back to the center of town to visit St. Stephen’s church, and to see the famous relic, St. Stephen’s hand, which is housed in the church. 

As we were walking from the church and it started to get dark (at 4 pm!), we literally stumbled upon a huge outdoor Christmas market. But before we stopped in the market, we needed to get warm so we stopped in Gerbeaud’s pastry shop in Vorosmarty Square to have a coffee.  

Then, we spent the rest of the night walking around the market while sipping on Gluwien (hot wine with cinnamon and other spices) to keep us warm.

When we got hungry, we bought kielbasa, stuffed cabbage, and sourkraut from one of the many stands serving traditional regional. C. also sampled the Hungarian pankakes (which tasted to me like a potato latke with sour cream on top).

And, for dessert, we shared a wonderful cinnamon and sugar dough concoction which were wrapped around a wooden rod, then cooked over a fire. It was delicious!

I wish we had more time to explore Budapest. I feel like there were so many sights and neighborhoods that we missed on our too-short trip. But it’s definitely a city we’ll be returning to….even if we have to pay more than 30 euros to get there 🙂

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Responses

  1. I did the EasyJet last minute fares once too…ended up spending an amazing 3-day weekend in Edinburgh with some friends! Love it.

    Can’t wait to see you guys soon!


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