My boyfriend, Miles, and I decided to go to Budapest, Hungary, for a short break before Christmas 2011. We were staying in Pest, on the Eastern side of the Danube River which meant it was easy to walk to the market, restaurants and shopping district. Exploring the Christmas markets proved to be really interesting and excellent for finding unique presents. You can find all sorts of one-off arts and crafts items as well as native foodstuffs that are great to take home and serve as a reminder for your travels.
The smell around the market helps create a lovely warm atmosphere. Loads of stalls are cooking fresh food with different types of Hungarian sausage and traditional dishes. Beware though, their portion sizes are definitely built for hefty Hungarian men so if you’re just feeling peckish, one portion will feed two of you.
We explored Budapest on foot, which gave us time to appreciate it. Walking across the Széchenyi Chain Bridge to Buda Castle gave us a great view of Pest and the Houses of Parliament. We rode the Budapest Metro which, unnervingly, is only about 2 meters below the ground. What we loved though was the little circus chime that sang every time the carriages stopped.
One of the reasons we chose Budapest is that neither of us had been there and I didn’t know much about Hungary’s history. I’m not that into museums but Miles is a bit of a history buff so we visited the House of Terror. It’s all about the Nazi invasion of Hungary during WW2 and everything that went with it. I found it really interesting and it was a great way to learn a bit more.
Being Christmas, there was an outdoor ice rink which was full of people. Us being the wimps that we are though, opted for the Széchenyi baths. The baths are warm but the air was freezing so walking from the changing rooms to the outside baths turned into more of an embarrassing jog.
After paying for breakfast and never making it down in time, we were pleased to find eating out is fairly cheap compared to many European capitals. For lunch we often went into Gerbeaud Bistro, right next to the market. Their past visitors include Brad Pitt(!) and they serve delicious cakes and pastries. One of the restaurants we wandered into was Menza. The decor is very 80’s and it was full of young professionals. Not only was the food delicious but a few days later we read about it as one of the places to be seen in Budapest, which made us feel pretty cool. As the trendsetters that we are now, i’m taking autograph requests…