As always, I am months behind with my photo editing. So I still have these pictures from Budapest sitting on my desktop where I spent a long and sunny weekend with my family in June. My brother and me created a family tradition a couple of years back, that we offer our parents plane tickets to a destination of our choice for Christmas, and we then turn it into a family vacation with all the four of us.
This year’s choice was Budapest as my father’s roots are Hungarian since his mother emigrated from Budapest to Germany after the war. However, originally, my father’s ancestors have migrated to today’s Hungary as part of the ‘Donauschwaben’ movement a few hundred years back. So while my grandmother was born and raised in Hungary, she never considered herself Hungarian. She was living in a settlement of mostly German-born people where German was spoken and lived. She only had basic knowledge of the Hungarian language to sell her vegetables on the farmer’s market. This is why, sadly, neither my father, nor me and my brother, speak any Hungarian neither.
Anyway, Budapest it was for this year’s trip!
We left for Budapest on a very hot Friday in June and were greeted with the same heat that we were hoping to leave behind. We stayed at the Art Hotel right on the Danube river with a glorious view on the Parliament building from our room. We spent our days roaming the streets of Buda and Pest, walking under the scorching heat and retreating to one of the many bar and coffee places from time to time for a cold lemonade. We loved Pest and especially the Jewish quarter with its historical coffee places, the narrow alleys and the markets. The Great Market Hall is worth a visit, while there are quite a few touristy knick-knacks on offer, the bigger part of it still serves as legitimate market place – you see pieces of meat on display that you haven’t seen before (even after traveling India and other Asian countries…). I also loved the atmosphere in the old coffee houses where the town’s intellectual elite used to meet and discuss politics and literature. Café Central, for example, also has great food, the ‘Wiener Schnitzel’ was amazing.
At the Great Market Hall…
Coffee houses where one can still feel the atmosphere of the golden days…
Over in the Jewish quarter, a lot of bars and restaurants draw in a rather young and party-active crowd. Szimpla Kert itself, the iconic ruin bar, was an interesting experience but is mostly populated by tourists and caters to their likings so I wonder if it was different in the past. The nearby food market with all the hip and instagrammable food feels a bit out of place in this otherwise rather traditional neighborhood. Still, my brother and me had a great time there, especially in the photo booth.
St. Stefan’s Basilica
The next morning, we explored the Fisher’s Bastion and the hills of Buda and the Parliament. From the Fisher’s Bastion one has a great view over Budapest, however, the area up there is really crowded. I’d suggest retreating to the little alleys of Buda, as little as two alleys away from the bastion one has the streets for oneself again and the little alleys are really worth the visit.
Fisher’s Bastion with a view
Streets of Buda
Something I can only recommend is booking a ticket for the opera for one night. We went to see a contemporary dance piece (that I enjoyed, obviously but was in parts a little weird to my less dance-addicted family), but we still had a wonderful time since the opera building itself emanates all that glory and fame, plus it has a beautiful bar and balcony so we all felt very fancy there. Afterwards, I can also highly recommend to go for a drink or two to Bestia, a very hip and stylish restaurant/bar just next to the St. Stefan’s basilica.
At the Opera – café and bar
Toute la famille – mirror selfie
Drinks at Bestia
On our last day, we finally went to experience the other big tourist draw of Budapest – the thermal pools. So we went to one of those iconic bathing institutions, only to realize that we were joining in with hundreds of other people, old and young, so that every inch in the water was covered and everyone was just floating along in the masses. To me, this felt rather stressful than restorative so I would not necessarily recommending it. However, during the week, one might have better options.
So all in all, we had an amazing time in Budapest, interesting neighborhoods, rich in history, beautiful architecture, really good food, amazing cake and coffee – and all this at a very reasonable price rate. Budapest, thank you a lot and we might see each other again!