How to Spend a Winter Holiday in Budapest

Highlights:

Here are some of the most wonderful experiences in Budapest:

  • Luxuriating in the Széchenyi Thermal Bath
  • Losing yourself in the labyrinthine Ruin Pubs
  • Dinner at Mazel Tov
  • Exploring the Jewish District
  • Views from the Castle and Fisherman’s Bastion
  • Strolling the Christmas marketsIMG_1039

Thermal Baths: Széchenyi is the largest thermal bath in Europe. I love a good thermal bath, and if a country boasts beautiful thermal baths I bolt right for them. This is among my favorites. Surrounded by what looks like a gorgeous yellow cathedral and cascading with steam, Szechnyi is a true treat for the senses. I love the wave whirlpool. Grab a glass of bubbles, luxuriate in the steaming hot baths and take in the general splendor. We were quite lucky with our weather and it wasn’t too chilly but I imagine lounging in the heated pools as the snow falls would be a beautiful experience as well.

Ruin Pubs: A few years ago these pubs began gaining popularity in Budapest’s Jewish district, and I have never experienced anything quite like them. Lose yourself in the fever dream artwork and labyrinthine, seemingly never endless corners of these pubs. Filled with an assortment of bizarre and whimsical odds and ends – I’m talking a room full of giant green kangaroos and multi colored lamps at Instant, and increasingly insane animal inspired art at Szimpla Kert (one wall is covered by a painting of a massive gerbil devouring a knight) the Ruin Pubs provide endless entertainment. We preferred Szimpla’s relaxed atmosphere during the day and Instant at night.

IMG_20180121_203143_619
Hello! The Szimpla Kert green kangaroo never fails to make me smile

Szimpla:  Huge pub with old mismatched items such as plants, the aforementioned green kangaroo & a room full of antique lamps with music, food & a garden. Offers several wine bars, and a restaurant serving pub eats in addition to countless other hidey-hole bars.

IMG_20180124_164025_961

Brie Szimpla
Szimpla Courtyard

20180106_150535IMG_20180124_164143_173

Instant: Twenty six rooms in a former apartment building. Head upstairs to find the smaller, calmer areas or join the revelers below in the “enchanted forest”, surrounded by artwork depicting woodland musicians, winged hippos and a wharthog-shaped glittering disco ball.

A sampling of the artwork:

 

Eats: Mazel Tov: I had my birthday dinner at this gorgeous Israeli restaurant in the Jewish District. So delicious and atmospheric we went several times. Filled with streams of twinkling lights hanging down from the ceiling and covered in lush green cascading plants. Mazel Tov has live Israeli music, delicious Middle Eastern fair and fun cocktails. My favorite was the warm hummus bowl with falafel and Israeli salad.

20180105_201639

20180105_202817
Warm hummus bowl with falafel & chicken shwarma plus Israeli salad ❤
20180106_152216
Entrance to Mazel Tov

Wine Bar:

Doblo: This chic, romantic wine bar feels like you are sipping vino in the inside of a cave. Very atmospheric. We had a great time chatting with the bartender and learning about Hungarian wines.

IMG_20180124_164716_777
Who knew Hungarian wines were so delish?

Tuning Burger: Yummy place for burgers and chicken sandwiches. Great fries

Tuning Burger

Bakeries: Mlinar. Delicious bakery with flaky pastries, both sweet and savory. Very budget friendly. We ran straight for this little place when we found one in Croatia as well.

The Castle & Fisherman’s Bastille: Walk across the iconic Lion Bridge and up to the castle for the most gorgeous views over Budapest. The Fisherman’s Bastille is Gothic and gorgeous and straight from a fairytale. Tip: We went around twilight which has the most amazing violet views over the Danube to the city.

IMG_0966.jpg

Fisherman's Bastion.jpg

 

IMG_20180130_151250_748

IMG_0973.jpg

The Christmas Market/Parliament: Take some time to visit the festive markets – the food is the real standout here. Mulled wine thick with floating apples, langos (fried hungarian flatbread) with exotic toppings, steaming chimney cakes and more. Then head to Parliament building for the gorgeous lion sculptures and glittering Xmas tree for a festive treat.

Buda Xmas

20181230_155835

Lion Parliament Buda

Grand Cafes: These look like a cross between an Opera House and a baroque cathedral and are total showstoppers. They are wonderful for sipping coffee, sampling the Hungarian pastries, and letting your imagination run wild about the Hungarian creatives – writers, artists and poets, who frequented the cafes in the 20s. We went to Centrál Kávéház. I ordered the decadent Dobos Torte (a chocolate sponge cake topped with a caramel glaze) and did not regret it. Cafe Gerbeaud at Vosmorty Square and the New York Cafe are also beautiful.

Where to Stay: We stayed at an AirBnB in the Jewish district and loved it. Everything is very walkable  – about two minutes to fabulous restaurants, cafes, wine bars, ruin pubs and boutique shops. Also, and I kid you not, our Airbnb was about thirty bucks for a beautiful, spacious, airy apartment.

Budapest is a gorgeous, gothic, vibrant city. Full of rich history and a welcoming culture, we had so much fun, we went twice in 18 months! It was particularly gorgeous in winter. We absolutely love Eastern Europe and cannot wait to explore this part of the world more.

More Budapest Pics: