I've been meaning to write about this trip I took for ages, but I've only just got round to it. I went to Budapest in Hungary for four nights, as for money-saving reasons I'm trying to travel more to countries outside of the Euro-zone.
Getting There in One Piece
Our flight was a bit of a nightmare; none of my local Bureau de Changes stocked Hungarian Forints so we had to drive into the city centre to avoid paying through the roof for our currency at the airport! For me I'd never think to do something like this in advance, as there are only so many countries in Europe not on the Euro, and Budapest is a pretty common destination. But make sure you order them in advance if you don't live in/near a major city. We arrived at the airport just short of 2 hours; so not ideal but definitely doable.
After checking our bags in and going through security I had about 10 minutes to get around Duty Free. But as soon as I'd paid (and spent all my money!) the flight was showing as 2 hours delayed! There was zero communication from Jet2 and after the two hours passed the board kept saying the gate was opening in 5 minutes, but every time 5 minutes passed it would push back another 5-10 minutes! It was really annoying as we couldn't go and get a drink or anything because it kept saying the gate was opening in 5 minutes, which went on for over half an hour. Finally, 3 hours later we finally got to the gate, and the staff were really rude to everyone, which was even more unreasonable because we didn't even know the reason for the delay! Finally on the plane we found out (from the very nice and apologetic pilot) that it was because our plane had been unable to fly due to the storms in Barcelona, where our plane was coming from. It was a completely legitimate reason, but it was handled so badly!
The Buddha Bar Hotel
So finally we got to our hotel, the Buddha Bar, at around 11pm. I really loved the hotel and we got a great deal on it; the staff were very friendly and helpful and the surroundings were so opulent. My only issue is that everywhere is 'mood lighting', which is all very nice for creating an atmosphere but not hugely practical. We ate at the restaurant and the food and cocktails were just amazing, again the service was fantastic, obviously we were there right before closing because of the delay but they didn't make us feel rushed or unwelcome (as the only people in the restaurant!) at all. It was definitely pricey for Budapest, but even then it's only what you'd pay at the average restaurant in the UK. That was a really nice end to a bit of a stressful day.
The hotel did have it's own spa but as we were there for such a short amount of time we didn't get to experience it. There's a nice indoor bar, but it shuts at 11pm and sadly not many people seem to take advantage of it. There's an outdoor 'terrace' area which is a lot more casual than the rest of the hotel, where people would often go to watch the World Cup. We had a standard superior room with a really cool shower, a space age toilet and a huuuge double bed. There's a Tassimo machine (we got 3 free coffees) and an extensive mini-bar (which wasn't that unreasonably priced). All the rooms have free wifi and they offer extra services like ironing your clothes for you.
We were staying on the flat side of the Danube; Pest. This is the side where you can visit the Hungarian Parliament, Opera House and Synagogue. We went to both the Hungarian Parliament and Opera House, though didn't have a tour of the inside. The main high street for shopping and most of the restaurants and nightlife.
This is the hilly side of the Danube. We visited the Art Gallery, walked around the outside of the Palace and then walked around 15 minutes to the Matyas Church and Fisherman's Bastion (around £4 to see both for a student). The Matyas Church is just breathtaking, I could've stayed there all day; it's a must-see. Fisherman's Bastion is also pretty amazing to look at, however you pay for a ticket just to walk a short length of the top of the structure. I wasn't too fussed, as it was only a pound or two, but if you're strapped for cash it really isn't a necessity; you can see it just as well from the public areas. Both are well worth visiting.
Two days in a row we had lunch at the Piknik Pavilion, which is overlooked by the Matyas Church. We went there as it was the only place which looked decent and there really weren't many cafes in the area, however it really was lovely. The place had been done up really nicely (though it's mostly outdoors, and speaking from experience it's not the most fun in the rain!), and the food was great. It was reasonably priced and did lots of meat cuts, cheeses and deli boards, and had a nice selection of wines.
On our last day we went to the Szechenyi Baths. It was quite a pricey: €50 for a day at the baths (access to the indoor and outdoor facilities), a 30-minute massage and access to the relaxation room. Overall it wasn't terrible value for money though; the relaxation room had free fruit and refreshments, a gym, chess, hammocks and an outdoor balcony you could sunbathe in private on. We were really lucky with the weather on the day we went so it was really nice in the huge outdoor pool. There were also saunas, steam rooms and different types of baths inside. All in all we did spend the entire day there so got our moneys worth. I think you can have access to the outdoor pool (and potentially the indoor ones) for a smaller amount.
Zeller Bistro (#1 on Tripadvisor)
We went to the #1 rated restaurant on Tripadvisor in Budapest on the last night. It was such a good end to the trip. The decor is pretty but unpretentious and the service was just fantastic. The staff were knowledgable about the menu, really helpful and spent about ten minutes helping us choose out the right wine for our meal. The food was really good and extremely reasonable! Definitely book in advance if you want to try it out though.
A Bit of Advice
Taxis: Yellow taxis in Budapest have a set price, however make sure you book them in advance or get a ticket from one of the booths beforehand, as we learned the hard way that they don't have to charge you the set price if you just get into one at a rank or flag them down.
Hop on Hop off: As cheesy as they are, the 'hop on, hop off' bus tours are a great way to get around the sights. The tickets are very inexpensive (around £8) and valid for 2 days. They're really frequent so you're free to do your own thing and see what you like.
Currency: Get a good amount of the smaller notes, like 500s, when you change your money as you'll need them for taxis and tickets!
Overall Budapest is an amazing city. I'm sad I wasn't there for longer, as I didn't get to see all that I'd like to have seen. I'd say 5 full days would have been perfect. I enjoyed my time there so much and can't wait to go back one day :)