September 2018 – A Wedding Celebration in Budapest!
Our most recent trip to Budapest was short & sweet [again]! We flew over to celebrate the marriage of a dear friend over Labor Day Weekend in 2018 [only three weeks before our own wedding, a little crazy in hindsight]. It was an incredible four day event starting with a welcome party Thursday and ending with brunch on Sunday. Outside of the wedding functions which included a private Danube River Cruise, sightseeing bus with stops at Heroes’ Square and Gellért Hill, wedding ceremony at Matthias Church and cocktail hour at Fisherman’s Bastion we didn’t have time for much else.
However, that pretty much checks off the top things to see/do in Budapest and it was good reassurance that we saw a good amount of Budapest during our first visit, which was also very short. We did have lunch at the New York Cafe one day which is known for it’s decadent decor and authentic Hungarian food and stole a few hours the morning of the wedding to walk around the area where we were staying and grabbed breakfast from à table! Boulangerie-Patisserie.
We stayed at the Corinthia Hotel which is where the wedding reception was held and were able to walk most everywhere from there. This time around we visited in September and the weather was perfect. Sunny days and warm nights.
Keep reading to learn more about what we did on our first trip to Budapest!
July 2, 2016 – Sunset Danube River Cruise
After a few delays and a quick, unplanned visit to Helsinki, we made it to Budapest and jumped right in to our itinerary to make up for lost time. We dropped our bags and went straight to the river to purchase last minute tickets for the Dunayacht Sunset Cruise along the Danube River. Personally, I think this cruise is best done at sunset/night when you can see the city and Hungarian Parliament Building all lit up from the river – it’s truly a sight to see.
Note: There are many river cruise options – sunset, daylight, dinner, booze, etc. We opted for the cheapest option at 8 EUR/person. It was a little difficult to hear the audio and it certainly wasn’t the nicest of facilities but the wine and beer were cheap and the views are all the same. This tour is located at dock 10 and tickets are good for two days of unlimited rides.
For our first dinner, we wanted authentic Hungarian cuisine and settled for an unassuming spot near our Airbnb, Verne Etterem Restaurant. Overall, the experience and food were fairly unmemorable but it hit the spot that night.
July 3, 2016 – Thermal Bath House & Ruin Bars
Due to our flight issues, this was our only full day to explore Budapest. We really had to prioritize our time and activities so, naturally, we went first to Gellért Baths & Spa on the Buda side of town [5300 HUF/person]. Gellért has several baths and pools – inside and outside – of varying degrees and compositions, saunas, steam rooms and even a cold tub.
We spent a lot of time in the indoor thermal baths that range from 35° – 40° C [95° -104°F]. They contain hot spring water with calcium, magnesium, hydrogen-carbonate and sulfate-chloride and are said to be natural remedies for many bodily ailments. We also visited the spa for an amazing massage that was reasonably priced and exactly what we needed after a hectic couple of travel days [25000 HUF/couple].
Note: Gellért is a mixed gender bath house that requires bathing suits. They do not provide bath towels, robes, slippers or swim caps which the indoor swimming pool requires. However, you can rent or purchase all of these items within the facility [towels are 1000 HUF to rent + 2000 HUF refundable deposit/person]. Purchase of admission grants you access to a locker but private changing cabins are extra.
Conveniently, the bath house sits at the base of Gellért Hill so it was quick and easy to make the journey to the top to see the Citadella Fortress and best panoramic views of Pest and the Danube River below. If you decide to walk, it will take about 25 minutes each way and is of moderate difficulty.
Upon returning to the Pest side of town, we made our way down Vaci Street, the most famous pedestrian street in central Budapest that is lined with every type of sidewalk cafe, restaurant and shopping you can imagine. Our destination was Gerbeaud Cafe in Vörösmarty Square. This beautiful cafe has been serving some of the country’s best coffees, teas, confectionery goods and ice cream since 1858.
That evening we watched the sunset from the Szabadsag Bridge, which happened to be closed to automobile traffic while we were there, before heading to Budapest’s Seventh District to visit the infamous ruin pubs [or romkocsma to the locals]. These long-time abandoned buildings have since been converted into maze-like bars, filled with the most eclectic – or perhaps bizarre – decor, furniture and people. The original romkocsma that is definitely worth a visit, and also our favorite, is Szimpla Kert.
In typical fashion, when we left the bar for the night, we made a stop for a late night slice of pizza from Vespa Rossa at Street Food Karaván which is conveniently located in an open lot next door to Szimpla Kert. Great food truck options that you eat at communal picnic tables.
In the morning, we were off to Dubrovnik, Croatia!
Accommodations & Country Specific Details
Our Airbnb was right on Vaci Street, the main pedestrian walkway in Budapest. It was small but clean and had the necessary essentials. Our hosts arranged for transport to and from the airport for 7800 HUF/person each way and were great at accommodating us despite our flight cancellations. They were also great at communicating ahead of time and giving us recommendations of things to do during our visit.
To Budapest: By air through Finnair.
Around Budapest: We were able to walk everywhere from our Airbnb. However, Budapest is supposed to have a pretty extensive, efficient and cheap public transportation system. If we had had more time to explore, I know we would have taken advantage of it.
Currency: Hungarian Forint (HUF) but they also accept the Euro (EUR) almost everywhere.
Language: Hungarian but had no problem finding English speakers.
Outlet Adapter: The standard voltage is 230 V. The standard frequency is 50 Hz. The power sockets that are used are of type C and F.
Passport/Visa Requirements: U.S. Passport valid for at least six months from date of travel. U.S. must be valid at least three months beyond planned departure date from the Schengen area. No visa for visits under 90 days required.
Weather: We visited in July, typically Budapest’s hottest month. The temperature was warm but not hot. During the day or in the sun, you can comfortably wear summer clothes but at night I recommend bringing a light jacket or cardigan.