It was the end of November, and my partner and I decided to embark on a city break to Budapest, just in time for the famous Christmas markets. Unlike our usual quick trips, we opted for a week-long stay to truly immerse ourselves in the city's charms at a more leisurely pace. We lucked out with our apart hotel, situated a mere 5-minute walk from St. Stephen's Basilica – the perfect central location.
Check-in was a breeze, and our room was located on the top floor. We had to take an elevator ride followed by a short flight of stairs, but it wasn't a problem for us. The room, being an apart hotel, was spacious and featured a separate kitchen fully equipped for cooking. Though, honestly, who wants to cook while on holiday? We had opted for a bed and breakfast package but only had breakfast at the hotel a couple of times. It was always crowded, and the staff seemed a bit clueless, with the buffet constantly running out of food and the coffee machine often breaking down – what a disaster! Thankfully, Budapest had an abundance of fantastic coffee houses serving spectacular cakes, which became our go-to breakfast spots most of the time.
To get our bearings around the city and decide which sights to explore when, we did what we usually do and purchased a 2-day pass for the big red bus. It not only served as a convenient mode of transportation but also included a Danube river cruise – a definite bonus! Naturally, our first stop was a stroll through the Christmas markets. However, we were a bit disappointed as we found mostly overpriced food stalls (though the food did look tempting) and shops selling overpriced trinkets. But fear not, for we stumbled upon Budapest's oldest strudel restaurant, and it lived up to its reputation, serving the most delicious strudels in every shape and form!
The following day, our adventures truly began as we hopped on the big red bus to explore the city. We started with St. Stephen's Basilica, where we ventured inside and climbed up to the dome, taking in the panoramic views of Budapest. From there, we made our way to the Parliament building, marveling at its grandeur. Next to it, we encountered the Holocaust Shoe Monument, a somber reminder of the city's history. We then strolled along the banks of the Danube to embark on our included river cruise. It was undeniably chilly in winter, but the experience was well worth bundling up for.
Taking the bus up to Heroes' Square, we discovered that there was a zoo nearby for those interested. However, we decided to explore the beautiful gardens and paths surrounding the square instead. In winter, there was even an open-air skating rink for visitors to enjoy. From there, we meandered down to the Jewish quarter, where we visited the Dohány Street Synagogue, an architectural gem. We stumbled upon a quirky coffee bar, and to my surprise, my partner ordered a hot cup of "magic milk" for us to share. I have no idea what was in it, but it was absolutely delightful.
Buda Castle on the Pest side of the Danube was a must-see attraction. We dedicated two days to fully immerse ourselves in its splendor. Unfortunately, the Chain Bridge was closed for repairs during our visit, but the big red bus came to our rescue, providing a convenient mode of transportation from Buda to Pest.
Throughout our stay, we discovered an abundance of traditional restaurants and old bars, all serving mouthwatering, hearty dishes rooted in meat, stews, and dumplings. And, of course, we couldn't resist indulging in the fabulous cakes that Budapest had to offer. After all, what more could we ask for?
Our week in Budapest was filled with adventure, delicious food, and beautiful sights. From the bustling Christmas markets to the breathtaking landmarks, the city left an indelible mark on our hearts. We returned home with wonderful memories and a newfound appreciation for the vibrant charm of Budapest.