November in Budapest

Some things seem so easy to do, but end up being quite complicated when it’s time to execute. One such thing was planning a family vacation which was feasible for everyone. It meant co-ordinating leave dates from work, deciding on a location, planning the logistics and making it easy and enjoyable for everyone. And within months of planning, suddenly, it was time to get on that flight. And all 6 of us made our way to the beautiful city of Budapest.

This city was created by uniting 2 different cities, ‘Buda’ & ‘Pest’, which lie on either side of the Danube. The word Buda comes from Attila the Hun’s brother’s name and Pest simply means ‘oven’. And now the 2 sides are joined by 7 bridges. Fascinating right?

Upon landing, it just had a different vibe to it. We had visited many European cities in the past but this one seemed completely unique. So we jumped into a cab (a mini van no less as we would realise, that if we wanted to travel together, we needed to make sure it was a 6 seater with enough place for 6 Pakistani packed suitcases) and were on our way. The drive was peaceful, the trees whizzing by, the air a brisk 8 degrees Celsius and us all brewing with excitement at exploring a city we had heard little about. It was also the first time I had ventured forth with very little research. Otherwise, I usually have my excel sheet/day-to-day itinerary all set.

And within half hour, we had reached our destination of Kiraly. A very central, artsy part of town, flanked with cafes, a giant ferris wheel and local markets. The streets were cobbled, the stores a cozy size with unique offerings and vintage stores (eeee) at every corner. With the scent of coffee floating in the air, we made our way to our fantastic apartment. At a surprisingly affordable price, it allowed us all to share a space, yet enjoy some space.

And then we were out exploring. Budapest has a lot to offer anyone and everyone who is looking for good food, excellent local wine, live music, maybe even a casino.  Some of their must try dishes are chicken paprikash, goulash, Langos or bread with cheese, sour cream and onions, strudels and much more. A delicious street treat is their chimney cake or funnel cake. Baked on a skewer, you can enjoy this cake with chocolate or cinnamon flavouring. The delicious scent of baking bread will pull you to these cakes, throwing any worries of weight gain to the wind. The cinnamon scented wind no less.

Chimney cake
Chimney cake

 

Spinach pastry
Spinach pastry
Cherry strudel
Cherry strudel
Langos! The highlight of my Hungarian culinary experience
Langos! The highlight of my Hungarian culinary experience
Chocolate treat from a local bakery
Chocolate treat from a local bakery – Photo by NB

The streets are also lined with bakeries boasting freshly baked pastries, meat or cheese filled. They’re decadent yet irresistible. And also meant to be shared but I don’t think we really wanted to.

Kiraly as an area has a lot to offer aside from food. You can explore the Jewish quarter, venture into the Synagogue. Or shop along Andrassy Ave, the high end designer street, with stores like Gucci etc. All is within walking distance. St. Stephen’s Basilica is also a few meters away and beautiful to explore. If you’re feeling adventurous you can also hop on the ferris wheel, something my family was keen on doing, but I chose to sit it out and munch on some funnel cake.

The Synagogue
The Synagogue

 

A must see if the Buda castle. Just cross the chain bridge onto the Buda side and take the teleferik/cable car up the castle. It’s definitely a sight to see. They even feature a beautiful museum with some contemporary art as well as the Hungarian greats. You can enjoy the beautiful chilly breeze and wondrous panoramic views from up there.

The Chain Bridge
The Chain Bridge
View from Buda Castle - picture by HB
View from Buda Castle – picture by HB
The teleferik ride up to the Castle
The teleferik ride up to the Castle

One of the regrets we had was taking a night-time tour cruise. The fog was too dense and the tour guide/announcer was quite uninterested. It wasn’t a good use of limited time so I wouldn’t recommend it. But at least we can claim we have floated over a tiny part of the great Danube.

Other must do things are night walks along the Danube, a walk in the beautiful Margarita park which we explored using 3 people bikes. Fun and chilly! A bit haunting but that’s only because we were there during sunset. Definitely visit Vaci Utca but don’t buy anything! The prices are so much more expensive than anything else and the same souvenirs can be found elsewhere. Same for the food there. Average and overpriced. We also visited the Bazaar which was overflowing with paprika and sausages. But it was a bit of an eye-opener. Unlike other Bazaars all over the world, they REFUSED to haggle. Even getting annoyed at our audacity to ask for a 5% decrease in cost. Quite disappointing and shocking.

The people of Budapest are lovely! They will guide you, struggle to speak English so they can help and go out of their way to make you feel comfortable and welcomed. They genuinely make your trip one to remember.

More on our travels to the other cities coming up in the next post!

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