Budapest: A weekend break
When Twin Turtle (Joanna van Lynden) flew to Budapest for the weekend as a birthday treat from her boyfriend, she was so taken by the city that she couldn’t stop talking about it upon her return. Here she shares some of Budapest’s highlights:
- Recommended to me by a friend who knows the city very well, this is the place to stay in Budapest. A small boutique hotel in an old town house; each room is different and original.
- The walls in our room were covered by beautiful old doors, and there were some lovely details such the old Singer sewing machine transformed into a bedside table.
- The communal areas have high ceilings, lots of natural light and beautiful furniture including a grand piano. There is a real homely feeling about Brody house, with comfortable sofas in the living room, a well-stocked honesty bar and jugs of cucumber water in the reception area.
- The courtyard offers a cool place to relax upon returning from sightseeing in the heat.
- Breakfast is not included but highly recommendable with a lovely buffet and the well-priced sides such as eggs benedict, pancakes etc.
The Jewish Quarter
- Gozsdu Udvar; a series of courtyards lined with lively restaurants and bars in the Jewish quarter. The perfect spot for bar-hopping in the evening (we saw a fair amount of Hen and Stag dos) or a chilled out place to have lunch.
- We had lunch at Kolor – we were more impressed by its design than the food but it was nonetheless worthwhile. The service was friendly and welcoming. Di Vino and Epic Bar are also popular.
- We discovered Koleves Kert by chance as we just happened to walk past it. We were immediately drawn to its friendly atmosphere; kids playing on the swings hanging from the roof of the central bar and the brightly coloured garden chairs. It reminded me of trendy beer gardens in Berlin’s Kreuzberg or Neukoln. We had an early supper here before we flew back to England – I had a tasty Hungarian potato pancake with crème fraiche and cheese, and Ernst a steak sandwich. The bartenders were a bit grumpy but the great feel of the place definitely made up for that!
- Pesti Diszno Bisztro; located on the corner between Nagymezo utca and Mazsar utca, where the street widens into a square housing numerous theatres and a fountain. The restaurant is known for its contemporary Hungarian dishes – meaning traditional dishes lightened with a touch of fusion.
- We started with a mixed appetiser for two which was a delicious assortment of Hungarian cold cuts including Mangalitza sausage, salami, liver paté and dried ham served with fresh bread. For my main course I had a Hungarian Letcho, a stew with sautéed peppers, tomatoes, onions and sausages. Hearty and filling. Ernst went for the Mangalitza burger (pork), which was good but nothing special.
- Good wine list with a range of affordable wines and local beers.
- The service was friendly and efficient. Lovely outside terrace. Interior trendy, with high ceilings and walls lined with wine bottles.
- Borbirosag; this original Hungarian bistro known for its good wines and fresh food was recommended to us by Brody House. It is located behind the building of the Great Market Hall (Nagycsarnok) and the Corvinus University. We sadly could not get a table outside as it was fully booked so I advise reserving a table before you go.
- MAK Bistro is another highly recommended restaurant which blends Hungarian and French cuisine. Not ideal in the summer as it lacks outside seating, which is why we didn’t end up going. But when the weather is cooler this is definitely a place to come for a fun dinner with friends.
- The best way to explore the city is on foot or by bike. Bikes can be rented almost anywhere, with a similar system to London’s Barclay’s Bikes (but called MOL bikes).
- Start early and visit Buda Castle, so as to avoid as many tourists as possible. The views of the city and the mighty Danube (which splits the city in two sides: Buda and Pest) are stunning. I’d recommend taking the old fashioned tram up to the castle (since it’s very steep) and then a stroll back down. Besides the castle, you’ll find most of Budapest’s sights on the Pest side.
- Margitsziget (Margaret Island) is worth visiting. Despite the heat we spent much time on this island in the middle of the Danube in central Budapest. You can go for lovely walks through its green and well maintained park. We spent Sunday afternoon at the heaving Palatinus water park – unfortunately there were many others that had the same idea which meant the swimming pools were full of screaming children. Luckily we found a quiet spot where we could rent deck chairs, read and soak up the sun.
- If you like ballet or the opera, Budapest is the city to take advantage of this.