Ok, there are a million and one travel guides out there, all claiming to have the insider scoop on a city. These days they mostly rely on crowdsourcing and as such are constantly being updated to include the hottest spots of the moment. I admit that I use these myself and find them invaluable, particularly in big cities where choices can be overwhelming; or very touristy spots where every other “genuine, local food” restaurant presents you with a picture menu of delights including hamburgers with sausage and pasta.* But each traveller to a new destination sees it through their own eyes, and even though it may not be anything new, I thought I’d share my opinion of the “must see”‘s from some of my recent trips. I hope you enjoy!
BUDAPEST: A RIGHTLYORLEFTLY WHISTLESTOP GUIDE
STAY: With Air BnB. I’m going to do an entire post on this later, but my experience staying at this apartment in Budapest was my first ever using the website and it exceeded every expectation I had, tenfold! James’s apartment was centrally located, opposite a 24 hour minimarket, tramstop, “exotic” nightclub and the (apparently infamous, and understandably so) Budapest Bagel. We made full use of three of those locales over our five day trip (I’ll leave it to your imagination which one we left out- but I assure you, it wasn’t the delicious, chewy bagels filled with cream cheese and slow roasted vegetables…*drool*) in between sightseeing and business meetings. It couldn’t have been more perfect and, as someone who travels A LOT for work, it was lovely to have a lounge area to relax in during the evenings, rather than just being cooped up in the same old hotel room as normal. Thanks James!
VISIT: On foot. We spent our first day in Budapest walking. Walking, and walking, and walking. We never got lost, because we didn’t have an aim. I truly believe that’s one of the best ways to see a city; to walk through its narrow, winding backstreets (in broad daylight, of course!) and discover the tiny cafes, boutique shops and street art on garage walls. We walked so far that my right foot all but fell off, inflamed for no particular reason and the tendon still squeaks when I flex it three weeks later. Don’t let that put you off though, just wear more practical shoes than I did. 😉
EAT: Be prepared for hearty food in Hungary (and most of Eastern Europe actually). Big hunks of roasted meat with dumplings, doughy Langos smothered with sour cream and cheese (a street food snack, to keep you going when the breakfast bagel is but a distant memory!), all washed down with full bodied wine that receives worldwide acclaim. We found the Csendes Vintage Bar & Cafe on Tripadvisor on our first evening in Budapest, but were turned away due to the throng inside. Desperate to see what it was all about, we booked a table for the next evening. Then it all made sense.
This place is the epitome of hipster culture- dim lighting and walls graffitied by patrons (high five for whoever wrote the message below!), quirky ornaments adorning every available ledge and even dangling from the ceiling for the ultimate provocation of childlike curiosity. The menu resembled an american diner, but with distinct Hungarian flair. I chose ribs with dumplings made with cottage cheese and was impressed when the waiter offered to pair a wine with our meals. I really appreciate a great wine pairing, but don’t really know enough to venture too far outside of my comfort zone, so I was more than happy for this cheery gent to do the hard work for me. Let me tell you: good wine paired with such decadent stodge is a revelation!
We made a few false starts with food in Budapest, and it can be tricky to find authentic Hungarian food, but also worth mentioning are meals we ate at Darshan Udvar– where the service was impeccable and the portions were enormous!- and Szimpla Haztajj– where I naively ordered a peanut and rum coffee to go with my sandwich at 12pm, assuming it would be flavoured with essence… (Nope! :p ).
SHOP: The Gosdu Bazaar (GOUBA), though tricky to find (if you happen to be walking in completely the wrong direction for 20 minutes…) is a quaint little alleyway of local artisans offering unique gifts to take home for loved ones. I may have made a purchase or two, but those purchases may or may not be Christmas presents for family members, so I can’t show pictures unfortunately!
DRINK: Don’t you just love it when you find a quirky little spot down a side street that’s buzzing with charm and you’re sure you’ve stumbled across the secret beating heart of the city, known only by locals? Don’t you also just love it when you find out that this hot spot is actually world renowned, apparently one of the top “must visit” bars in Europe? :p Go and visit the reclaimed-from-ruin Szimpla market/ nightlife hub and enjoy a drink in one of the many bars lurking in it’s hallways; check it out on a Sunday morning too for the local farmers’ market. Just don’t tell anyone I told you 😉
ENJOY: Street performers aren’t beggars! If someone is accompanying your blissful strolling, panoramic-selfie-taking, afternoon with beautiful music then make their day and throw a few coins in their hat. This violin player provided an uplifting soundtrack to our exploration of the Buda castle grounds; a smile and a few forints was the least I could give back!
I hope you liked my little whistlestop guide! I’d love to hear your recommendations, I’m sure I’ll be back to Budapest soon!!
*True story, this particular culinary delight was on offer when I visited Benidorm a last year with my family- it’s safe to say I stuck to tapas! :p