This spring, a friend and I headed to Budapest to celebrate her birthday, and explore and adventure for Dragon in Your Pocket guests. Although our flight left midday, we had to make a connection via Vienna (no direct flights matched our travel days) and therefore ended up arriving in Budapest in the evening.
For the last leg of the travel, we climbed aboard our Adria Airways CRJ90 the old-fashioned way, via the craft’s own stairs from the tarmac. Having started our step back in time via the smaller aircraft, we really felt we were undertaking a magical adventure. We were entranced by the beautiful violet atmosphere of late dusk as our small craft came down through the clouds to land at the Budapest airport.
We were welcomed to this magical city by friendly people everywhere
Walking off the tiny aircraft, we stepped into a completely unfamiliar space. The darkening periwinkle sky shimmered as we breathlessly approached the terminal. English language signs were interspersed with Magyar on the walls of the airport. The Budapest airport is easy enough to navigate, but we weren’t confident in our Magyar language skills, so we’d booked a private car through our hotel for transfer, and enjoyed the comfort provided, as well as our friendly driver’s commentary about the surrounding area. We were met by a smiling gentleman with a sign, who spoke flawless English and escorted us to a lovely and lush Tesla. As the Tesla purred quietly into the center of the city, our escort spoke reassuringly about the country and city, telling us about customs, areas, and good spots to explore.
A night on the town after a smooth check-in
The bellman at The Klotild Palace escorted us to our lodging and thoroughly explained all the amenities. The hotel was long on flash but puzzlingly short on useful things like clothing storage. We had booked at 360 Bar on Andrassy (Budapest’s Champs Elysees), so headed out the door, beyond ready for a meal and a view.
We set off to 360, reputed to have an uninterrupted, pristine view of both the ancient and new cities here. Because the temperature was dropping, the walk felt much longer than the actual almost-mile distance, but the streets felt quite safe as we walked past clots and eddies of people enjoying their evening as we ambled down Dob Avenue, home of some of the ruin bars of Budapest.
The next morning dawned bright and early, with blue skies and somewhat warmer temperatures. We wandered down for an absolutely exquisite breakfast, compliments of the hotel. A gorgeous buffet, replete with fruits, vegetables, salads (the stuffed grape leaves and beets were amazing), and some particularly lush pastries, pies, and bread, was supplemented with a varied hot menu.
After breakfast, we met our charming host, Balazs Ackermann, owner of BudaPassion Tours, for a brilliant few hours in one of his restored vintage Trabants. We cannot recommend him and his company enough!
Balazs dropped us at our next destination, Hospital in the Rock. We needed nourishment and wanted to stroll around the Castle District, so we purchased our timed guided tour tickets (offered in English at the top of every hour until the last entry at 7 pm), and headed for a ramble and some nosh at Pest-Buda Bistro.
Pest-Buda offers traditional Hungarian food, and our repast was improved by the friendly and efficient service provided. We shared the Hungarian Bistro starter for 1, which was gracious plenty, given we both ordered mains which were fabulous as well: Wild Boar Stew with Red Wine, Potato Doughnut, Currant Jam, and Catfish Paprikash with Homemade Cottage Cheese Pasta.
Another night on the town complete with window shopping
Later we cabbed it back to our hotel, and I tried the spa facilities with a full-body massage while my friend rested. By then, the sun was setting so we walked around the central district and window-shopped as we headed to our evening sightseeing cruise on the Danube.
After seeing Budapest in its gloriously lit splendor, we needed dinner so headed to an old standard, Hard Rock Cafe Budapest. The decor was long on 1960s rock (Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and more, while our meal was bog-standard Hard Rock Cafe (my companion enjoyed the hamburger while I tried the tex-mex). Not content to call it a night, we headed out another night on the town. Total walking miles for the day: roughly 3 miles.
Special treat on Day 3: a soak in Budapest’s famous thermal baths
The morning of our final full day in Budapest, we had a special treat ready: a spa day at one of the many thermal baths in Budapest, Szechenyi Thermal Baths. We lazed about the baths for hours, then showered and walked through City Park toward Millennium Monument in Heroes Square. Andrassy Boulevard is a lovely thoroughfare and is best enjoyed either in a Trabant or on foot.
Traditional and delicious fare at Tukory Etterem on our last night
We made it back to the hotel in time to change for dinner, and get a taxi to Tukory Etterem (Tukory Restaurant). Our guide and new-found friend, Balázs, recommended Tukory as a non-touristy, authentic taste of Hungarian food. Even though the kitchen had closed, when we mentioned Balázs had recommended Tukory, we lucked out and managed to get a table in the completely full place, and really enjoyed the dishes our server recommended. We started with goulash and I had a meat dish with potatoes — it was an excellent meal and fueled our last night’s adventure out — to find and familiarise ourselves with some of the ruin bars, exploring the culture around them and hopefully meeting more Hungarians and learning more about their lives. Total miles walked today: about 3 miles.
The final morning, we rose and enjoyed one more delicious breakfast at Buddha-Bar Klotild Palace, then headed back to the airport with the car service.
Budapest is entrancing, mysterious, and had just started revealing her secrets when we had to head back. It’s definitely a must-explore, and I look forward to returning!! Check out our suggested 3 Days in Budapest Itinerary.
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