After a stop in Vienna for Christmas, we headed to Budapest to continue our holiday celebrations.
We weren’t really sure what to expect when we got to Budapest but a couple of things stood out. First, most people speak English. At first we were surprised but then when we realized how many Europeans travel and how few people speak Hungarian it actually made sense. Second, the people are extremely friendly and excited to share their town. Finally, I’ve never felt like such a big spender in my life. At the time, one US dollar was the equivalent of around 300 Hungarian Forint.
Where we stayed
We stayed at the Ritz-Carlton in Budapest. This was a modern hotel located across from Erzsebet teri park where the Budapest Eye is located. Most of the main attractions are within walking distance and our room looked out over the main shopping street.
Where we ate
Our first night we ate at Spoon which is located on a boat anchored directly across the river from the Buda Castle. Needless the say the view was amazing but the food was good too. Seeing the couple at the next table get engaged was an added bonus!
The second night we ate at Costes Downtown. This was a great restaurant off of a side street. The original was the first restaurant in Hungary ever awarded a Michelin star and this second location gained its star shortly after it opened. The food is great but it also has a very laid back atmosphere.
During a trip to the Buda side of the city we had lunch at the Pest-Buda Bistro which is located in the castle.
Our last night we were exhausted and ate at Deak Street Kitchen located in our hotel.
The Four Seasons is very centrally located and is a great place for drinks. We also had drinks at Le Bar at the Corinthia Hotel which is allegedly the inspiration for the Grand Budapest Hotel.
What we did
Our first stop was the Dohany Street Great Synagogue which is the largest synagogue in Europe. It is a must see. Sure, the building itself is beautiful but the history and story of the Jewish cemetery and Holocaust memorial park in the rear courtyard are so important for everyone to see.
Next we headed to the Great Market Hall which is a huge food hall. You can get produce, meats, and dairy as well as local clothes and souvenirs.
During the evening we did a boat cruise along the Danube. We chose the hour long cruise which was a perfect amount of time. There was an audioguide and one cocktail was included. You could also walk outside and take pictures.
Our second full day we wanted to see as much as we could. Our concierge arranged a fabulous driver who took us to some of the main sights. We headed out of town and drove through several of the other districts to check out highlights including the People’s Park.
We also checked out the Shoes on the Danube memorial which was very powerful. It is a series of shoe sculptures along the river bank which are meant to represent the shoes left behind when Jews were killed and dumped into the river during World War II.
Interestingly, there is also a statue of Ronald Reagan in Liberty Square. The statue is a sign of appreciation for his efforts to end the Cold War and in turn the Russian influence over Hungary.
We then headed to the Buda side for lunch and to visit the Buda Castle and the Matthias Church. We also visited the Military History Museum which was interesting. Even if you don’t want to spend a lot of time in the castle or museums there are a lot of cute shops and scenic view of the Pest side which are worth checking out.
Budapest also has Christmas markets with the largest winding through the main shopping area by the St. Stephen’s Basilica. It was here we were introduced to magic: Kürtőskalács. These are spit cakes which rotate over heat and are then doused with a flavor like cinnamon or garlic.
We loved Budapest and can’t wait to go back. Add it to your bucket list!