I never fully understood George Ezra’s song until I visited Budapest. Now, I think I am in love. One visit to Budapest is not enough. This is one of the best last-minute getaway breaks I have ever been on. Read on to find out more about the Hungarian capital that is certainly worth a second date.
How to get there:
A sleepy, almost three hour, flight from Dublin gets you into Budapest at 23:40. Since our flight arrived so late and we didn’t fancy navigating a new city in the wee small hours our hotel, Bohem Art Hotel had kindly organized an airport transfer for us.
Top tip. Pay the hotel not the driver. I mistakenly assumed you pay the driver and I think he thought it was a random and rather large tip. My bad!
Where to stay:
We chose the Bohem Art Hotel because it was so unique to find a hotel in which an art gallery theme pervades the whole hotel. And with such reasonable rates it was a deal.
Each bedroom has a large wall sized painting on the wall, and the conference room has a gallery style display of work to view. The foyer also displays large, interesting canvases and the boutique-y vibe is strong! It has a clean, sleek, modern feel and they advertised sparkling wine at breakfast, sooooo. Booked! The hotel had also upgraded us to a suite. Thank you Bohem Art Hotel!
Our room was, compact. It was a little smaller than I was expecting for a suite but comfortable and had everything we needed. The staff is really helpful and so friendly and the location is close to the river. Nestled between Liberty and Elisabeth Bridges it was easy to jump on a tram or wander across to Buda or into Pest. I can certainly recommend this spot as a base.
Tuesday was our first exploration day and after eating sooooo much food at the buffet breakfast we headed out to get our bearings. Can I just say, I don’t understand my need to try ALL OF THE FOODS when I see a buffet breakfast. I am not a huge breakfast person at home, yet I feel compelled to load my plate with egg concoctions, brioche and pastries I wouldn’t normally eat. And always opt for the mystery dish, whose label has gone wandering. Why? Does anyone else do this?! Bohem just had so much to choose from.
What to do:
Rudas Thermal Spa in Buda
I had contacted the Rudas Thermal Spa on the Buda side of the river to book an unmissable experience at the renowned thermal waters.
The city has many spas to choose from and if I could reel back even a few years I was all for it! Nestled at the foot of Gellert Hill this spa was first built in 1550 during the Ottoman rule and is rated in the top 5 thermal wellness spas in Budapest.
That fact is due to it having a rooftop, heated pool with views of the city and a stunning domed, octagonal pool plucked straight from Turkey. Tuesday is ‘ladies only’ day in the Thermal pool. The swimming pool and wellness areas are open to men all week and on weekends it’s mixed. But Tuesday, in the incredible domed thermal pool room, is just for us gals. There are four pools in the corners of the room, each of varying temperatures from 28 degrees C upwards.
Top tips: Bring your own towel to save you having to rent one there. You do get the deposit back for the towels but still. Also if you want to swim in the pool, you need a swimming hat-also rentable but just a heads up. And maybe pack some flip-flops to walk around in. We paid for entry, a locker, and towels and it came to about €20 each. Check out my post for more details here.
After two hours in the spa, dipping in and out of various hot and cool tubs we were squeaky clean and ready to head back to our hotel to get ready for a wine cruise on the Danube. Thank you to Rudas Spa for giving me a 50% discount rate for my ticket.
Wine Cruise on the Danube with Hungaria Koncert:
I had been looking forward to this part of the trip very much! What’s not to love about cruising along the Danube sampling some local, Hungarian wines? I want to say a huge thank you to Zsuzanna and Bea from Hungaria Koncert for hosting us and showing us a really fun night! Budapest from the river is a sight to behold. The Parliament, University, and Gellert Hill are among the many buildings all lit up along the riverbank.
This view is incredible. We arranged to meet for the 19:00 cruise and during the summer there is also one at 22:00. The boat also runs a dinner cruise at the same time. We boarded the cruise and were seated upstairs. Hungaria Koncert run lunch cruises as well as craft beer cruises and their prices are great.
The onboard musicians were warming up and our table was well equipped with glasses for our wine tasting and even an explanatory place mat telling you a little about the wines we would be sampling and the regions they came from. I, honestly, expected, a few thimbles full of wine and no more but these were seven decent sized glasses of wine. SEVEN.
Top tip: Eat before you go on the cruise. The breadsticks were not nearly enough soakage!
As we cruised past the many historical and culturally significant buildings along the river, our hosts gave us fun facts about the city and its architecture. We also learned how to say thank you in Hungarian and even a little about the history of the country. I must confess I was ignorant of Hungary’s long record of harboring invading forces from the Mongols to the Nazis. Such a fascinating country and city. I honestly can’t think of a more fun way to spend the evening than in the company of friends, enjoying some delicious wine on the Danube. This is a MUST for your Budapest visit. Have a look here for more information.
Fancy a little more luxury? Here is another accommodation option.
Wednesday was moving day as we were changing hotels to the five-star luxury Aria Hotel Budapest by Library Collection. A short walk (and then a run back to Bohem Art Hotel, because I absentmindedly left my passport in the safe!) brought us to the square outside St Stephen’s Basilica. Situated a few feet from the square was our pamper palace for the remainder of our stay in Budapest.
Check. This. Place. OUT! Bliss. This stunning hotel is music themed and from the foyer decor to the grand piano in the Music Garden, it is such a unique and fun hotel. We were booked into the jazz wing. For more details on my stay at the Aria Hotel Budapest click here. We dropped our bags in our Duke Ellington inspired room and headed out for our kick scooter tour of Pest with Budapest Bike Breeze.
Kick Scooter Tour:
I have never heard of city scooter tours. Bike tours, yes, walking tours, of course, but scooters? Nope. Welcome to Budapest Bike Breeze’s kick scooter tours. Let me tell you, once you get the hang of scooting around and ignore the niggling feeling that you are being super hipster you will have the best time learning about the history and culture of Budapest. Humming a scooting ‘choon’ in your head as you go is also a great idea!
Our guide was really informative and interesting and we stopped off at St Stephen’s Basilica, an indoor market, Heroes Square, Liberty Bridge, Chain Bridge, the Jewish Quarter, Shoes on the Promenade, Parliament and the Synagogue.
I cannot recommend this tour enough. It is a great idea for older kids too
Top tip: Take your time on the cobblestones because scooters like to throw up some whiplash and you can feel the shaking in your teeth! And watch out for the tail of the scooter smacking you in the ankles as you lift it up steps! Our guide brought us up streets and down lanes and we learned so much about this gorgeous city’s history. Prices for adult tickets are €20 and students are €18. The tour took about 2 hours and fun bonus, it is a leg day workout! Win! Thanks to Budapest Bike Breeze for the 50% discount on my ticket.
Pooped after your day of scooting fun? Head to the Aria Hotel for a complimentary wine and cheese reception (€25pp for nonguests).
Where to eat:
Our hotel recommended Rezkakas traditional Hungarian restaurant near St Stephen’s Basilica. This high-end bistro had plenty of foodie treats and live music to boot. The menu is a great mix of Hungarian dishes with a modern twist and everything we ate was scrumptious.
After being rolled out of there after dinner might I suggest you check out one of Budapest’s many ruin bars. These bars are all the rage and set in the Jewish quarter they are built in old abandoned buildings and stores. How cool is that!?
Thursday dawned. Our last day in Budapest. There were still a million things I wanted to see and do and that is yet ANOTHER reason why I can’t wait to go back! Instead, we opted to order room service and then laze about in the spa of our hotel and avail of the relaxation chambers one last time.
Budapest, you are indeed a hidden treasure chest. With so much to see and do and such reasonable prices to be found, your ideal Hungarian getaway awaits you.
So long from Budapest, kedveseim!