In November of 2014, I visited Budapest over Thanksgiving break with my mother for our annual mother-daughter trip. Included below is our itinerary for the trip with pictures and travel tips! This is a continuation of a 4 day trip to Vienna.
5:00am Wake/pack/check out of hotel
5:45am Leave for Wien-Meidling (taxi)
9:49am Arrive in Budapest / Buy Block of 10 Transport Tkts
10:30am Check into flat / Buy groceries at Central Market Hall
12:00pm Dohany Street Synagogue
7:30pm Drink at Szimpla Kert (ruin pub)
We woke super early to catch the 7:00am train to Budapest. The hotel packed an incredible sack breakfast for us that will literally last for days. We spent the train ride catching up on our Hungarian history with Rick Steves, preparing for the next stage in our world traveling adventures.
Upon arrival, we were besieged by taxi drivers offering their “help” but we bravely found our own way to the #5 bus to Ferenciak Tere, near the flat we’re renting.
After getting settled a bit, we struck out onto the chilly streets of Budapest using Rick Steves’ Synagogue/Jewish Quarter and Pest Town Center Walks to navigate our feet along the streets of a foreign city. Highlights included the Great Synagogue (second largest in the world)…
…eating Langos at “Tipical Hungarian Kitchen”…
…the Danube Promenade (with the Little Princess statue)…
…first McDonald’s behind the “iron curtain”…
…former Pilvax Cafe (where the Revolution of 1848 began with a poetry reading)…
…and the Great Market Hall.
After serious souvenir temptation at the central market, we hopped across the street to a restaurant recommended by our landlord Tomas for having the best Goulash in town. ..and were amusedly surprised to learn it was an “American” style restaurant in which the floor was covered in hay and peanut shells and the walls covered in signatures of patrons (note in pictures that we left ours on a Vienna subway ticket). The goulash was VERY GOOD!!
After dinner, we made our way back up touristy Vaci Utca towards our flat, stopping to browse and buy a few groceries for the morning. We’re hoping for a little sun (and warmer weather) tomorrow.
9:00am Take Funicular up Castle Hill
9:15am Explore Buda Royal Palace Grounds
9:45am Visit the National Library
10:30am Visit the History Museum
12:30pm Visit the National Gallery
2:00pm Ecseri Flea Market
3:00pm Hospital in the Rock
4:00pm See the remaining Castle Hill sites
6:00pm Tasting in Wine Cellar Underneath the Hilton
We allowed ourselves to wake this morning without an alarm and were all the better for the rest. As a result, we actually started our daily adventure around 9:30 with a walk along the Danube to cross the Chain Bridge (oldest permanent bridge between Buda and Pest) to begin exploring the other side of the river, Buda.
Instead of taking the funicular, we decided to hike up Castle Hill along the meandering sidewalks. Our exploration of the historic city included the famous Turul statue…
…National Gallery, History Museum, and National Library…
…walking along the medieval castle walls…
…and the Fisherman’s Bastion…
Matthias Church was definitely a highlight and the views of Parliament at night from the Bastion were incredible!
We learned of a Wine Cellar below the Hilton amid the ruins of a 13th century monastery and were delighted to discover it 4 stories under the earth in a small stone room. They fit us in without a reservation for a “short” wine tasting, which they said would take 1.5 hours! We sampled 6 delicious Hungarian wines in an amazing atmosphere.
Afterwards, we headed to the Labyrinth, a cheesy cave exhibit under Castle Hill. To enter, we had to walk deep into the mountain along floor lit caves only to discover a locked door. Hearing voices on the other side, we tried knocking but soon gave up and started to leave. Suddenly the lights went out and we heard a low Hungarian voice say, “I’m coming. ..” at which point my mother and I ran like the devil was chasing us! It turns out they were just closing up but we got quite a fright.
We then sauntered back down the hill and across the Danube to a “Hungarian” restaurant for our Thanksgiving feast accompanied by spirited gypsy music!
(As originally planned – Read below for various changes)
8:00am Explore Margaret Island
10:00am St. Stephen’s Basilica
12:00pm House of Terror
2:00pm Museum of Fine Arts
5:00pm Return to flat and clean up
6:30pm Dinner (Karpatia Restaurant)
8:00pm Stop in at Ice Bar
We woke up to weather alerts about freezing rain.
Undaunted, we set out to explore Leopold Town and St. Istvan’s Basilica, where we climbed the shaky 302 stairs to the top for panoramic views of the gray city.
Walking up the Danube, we saw the haunting Holocaust Memorial, empty shoes at the site where thousands were massacred, which was felt even more deeply during our visit to the House of Terror, a museum dedicated to the “double occupation” of Hungary, first the Nazis, then the Russians.
We walked the entire length of Andrassy Ut, ending at Heroes Square and City Park, all developed for the 1000th birthday celebration of the city in 1896. Along Andrassy, we stopped in at the world class Opera house, viewed statues of Franz Liszt, and ate lunch at the Hungarian hipster restaurant, Menza.
In the park, we explored Vajdahunyad Castle and considered a dip in the Szechenyi Baths, but decided to wait until morning when we would be less laden with stuff.
To get back to the city, we caught the M1, the first underground train in Europe, and ate decadent desserts at Gerbaud Cafe in Vorosmarty Ter.
We then walked back towards the flat and decided to stop in at the Ice Bar Budapest, an incredibly underwhelming experience! It was essentially a cold room the size of a walk in freezer, but we had two drinks from shot glasses made of ice and bumped along to discotheque music anyway.
We then shopped our way back to the flat for an early night to rest up for our final day of adventure tomorrow.
(As originally planned – Read Below for Various Shifts in the Schedule)
7:00am Gellert Bath
10:00am Cave Church
5:30pm Dinner/return to flat
Our last day! Determined to visit a Budapest thermal bath, which Rick Steves describes as THE quintessential Budapest experience, we donned our bathing suits under our clothes and walked across the Liberty (or as mom consistently calls it the “Victory” bridge) towards the historic Gellert Baths.
Before going in, however, we were just too tempted to climb the steep Gellert Hill to get the highest view of the city and to visit the Citadella.
Once back down, we mastered the complicated entrance procedure for the thermal baths and really rather enjoyed the relaxing hot mineral springs. Sorry boys, no pictures of us in our bathing suits!
After the baths, we returned to the flat to change then went for a fancy lunch at the Central Cafe nearby. Mom had saibling fish with potatoes and carrot puree and I had duck liver pate and blue cheese gnocchi with roasted tomatoes and walnuts.
Thoroughly stuffed and relaxed, we decided to shop and spend the remainder of our forints but discovered, alas, that most stores (aside from souvenir shops) close around 2pm on Saturday. So, we caught the M2 along the Danube to Margaret Bridge to stroll over to Margaret Island for a brief exploration. We were delighted to discover a new beautiful view of the city alight at night (it was dark at 4:15pm here) from the bridge that included parliament, chain bridge, the citadel, castle hill, Matthias Church, and the fisherman’s bastion.
We finished the night spending our forints on souvenir wine and jewelery on Vaci Utca. For dinner, we purchased some delicious bread, cheese, meat, dates, and wine to enjoy in the flat as we relaxed in preparation for tomorrow’s journey home.