Probably the best thing about living in Europe is being just a few hours by plane or train or even car from so many fabulous cities. I have been wanting to go to Budapest for years, and we finally made it this weekend. We took the train from Vienna to Budapest, which takes about three hours. Upon arriving in Budapest Friday afternoon, we had to seek out an ATM right away. Hungary may be part of the European Union, but they do not have the euro, they use Hungarian forints at an exchange rate of about 1€ = 300 HUF. After taking out what seemed like a small fortune in cash, we were off to the hotel.
We found a good deal on a hotel, the Corinthia and it was just lovely. The only downside is that they had strict pool access hours for children under 16. Children could only use the pool from 11:00 to 15:00. Had we known that, we may have stayed elsewhere. That said, we did make it to the hotel pool once during our stay and it was definitely the fanciest hotel pool I have ever seen (no photos allowed).
Our Budapest weekend was coupled with a visit from my in-laws, who arrived on Saturday afternoon and stayed in the same hotel. Louis was very happy to see his Mamie and Papie on our little vacation. The weather was very uncooperative for most of our weekend, but, fortunately, there are plenty of indoor things to do in Budapest.
One of our main activities was eating. And let me tell you, much to my delight, we ate very, very well. I didn’t know what to expect with Hungarian food (I’m a food wimp), but I found many new flavors and tastes that I loved. Friday night we ate at a Koleves, an inviting restaurant that had something for everyone. Saturday we had breakfast at the famed and fancy (and touristy) Cafe Gerbeaud. The breakfast for two was copious enough for the three of us and served with coffee and orange juice. We liked it so much that we took my in-laws there for breakfast on Sunday morning too.
Saturday afternoon we wanted to eat at the Central Market Hall, but after strolling around this gigantic and crowded market, we decided to go elsewhere. We ended up at a restaurant not far from the hotel called Ket Szerecsen. There, we had a leisurely lunch as it drizzled outside.
After our late lunch Saturday, my in-laws stayed at the hotel to rest and the three of us went to check out the baths. There are a number of large and small bath complexes in Budapest and our hotel gave us free passes to be used in some of the more renowned ones. We chose to go to the Szechenyi Baths which are located in the City Park. The baths were my number one reason for wanting to go to Budapest, and what is even better is that they are a great activity for drizzly and cold days. There were three large outdoor pools. Two for just bathing/swimming in and one for lap swimming. While I didn’t go in the lap swimming pool the other two pools were just fantastic. One is heated at about 34°C and the other at 38°C. After running from the inside of the bath house in a bikini in temperatures hovering around zero, it was fantastic to step into a nice hot bath. We stayed in the outdoor baths for quite some time before checking out the indoor baths. There are about a dozen indoor baths ranging in size and temperature; the temperatures were displayed next to each pool so you knew what you were getting into. Night fell as we were in the baths and it was such an amazing experience to be in a huge heated outdoor pool with the steam rising from the water in such a sumptuous setting. I didn’t bring my camera to the baths because I didn’t want to constantly worry about it. But I saw plenty of people using cameras.
As previously mentioned, Sunday we went back to Gerbeaud for breakfast with my in-laws. After another extravagant breakfast, we did some sightseeing under an annoying drizzle. We crossed the Chain Bridge and walked around the Buda Castle.
Then we made our way over to Matthias Church to check out the amazing views of the city. At the point the rain was coming down fairly hard and we took a taxi back to the hotel.
After a quick lunch of sandwiches, we went back to the baths, this time taking the in-laws along with us. We enjoyed the baths just as much the second time and my in-laws loved them too.
At this point, I should mention the Budapest metro system, which we took to and from the baths. When you go down into the metro the first thing you notice are the men standing at the entrance, making sure you buy a ticket. After that, you notice how old the system is. I don’t know when they last renovated (probably never) or updated the trains (not for several generations), but it was definitely the most charming metro system I have ever seen. The stations had beautiful tiles and wooden cabinets with wooden ticket booths. We only rode on line 1, so I’m not sure if the other lines are more modern/different, but the trains on line 1 were only two cars long and played a quirky little tune every time we arrived at a new station. I was charmed.
After another afternoon at the baths, we were hungry and went in search of dinner. We went to a place called Spinoza, which was another traditional Hungarian restaurant. The owner was outside and saw us checking out his menu and talked us into eating at his restaurant. He did not disappoint.
Monday, we had just enough time to eat a leisurely breakfast (forgot the name of that restaurant, but it wasn’t anything worth noting) and then went back to the hotel for a quick swim before checkout time.
We left our bags at the hotel and ate again (!) and then it was time to catch our train back to Vienna. We had two full days in Budapest and two half days and it definitely wasn’t enough. I would love to go back when the weather is more conducive to sight seeing and museum going and just being outside. And of course, I want to try some of the other baths!
Koleves Restaurant – Kazinczy utca 41. | Dob utca 26
Gerbeaud Cafe – Vorosmarty ter 7
Central Market Hall – Vamhaz korut 1-3
Ket Szerecsen Restaurant – Nagymezo u. 14
Spinoza Restaurant – Dob utca 15
Szechenyi Baths – Allatkerti korut 11
Corinthia Hotel – Erzsebet krt 43 – 49