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A Week in Beautiful Budapest: June 2023

We recently spent 7 days in Budapest, June 28 to July 5. Budapest is a fantastic city without the crowds of some other european capitals. I also really enjoyed not seeing a lot of American tourists.

Arrival:

We had flown into Frankfurt from SFO and planned to take the train from Frankfurt to Budapest, a long trip, but i enjoy taking the train. However, after we got to Germany, we heard that the trains had become unreliable at times, and we worried that our 12 minute connection in Munich might be too close.. So we made a last-minute change and decided to fly the next morning instead. A good decision.

Apartment:

We rented an apartment in Budapest with the tour company Untours. Untours provides some services, including airport pickup and dropoff, a pre-stocked fridge, a river cruise, and a transit card for the week. You can also rent the apartment on your own: ( about $150 a night for a one bedroom apt. ) https://novabudapest.com/
We loved it because it faced onto a very leafy courtyard and it was on the 4th floor with a good size balcony. The apartment had a washing machine and a drying rack which fit on the balcony.

Transit:

Because we had the transit pass ($18 for a 15-day pass; i believe that is the minimum time), it was so easy to get around. You do not have to validate it when riding buses or the subway. You may be asked to show it if there are inspectors at the station, which happened a couple of times. Budapest has an extremely good public transport system! - we never took a cab once. There is the subway, trams, and bus transport that covers the whole city and travels on time. Google maps provided the info about departure times, so we could get to a stop at the right time.

Currency: We got about $150 in forints when we arrived - we weren’t sure what the credit/cash options would be. We were able to tap to pay with Google Pay on our phones, or with credit cards almost everywhere. There was one small restaurant that wanted cash, and one small clothing shop, but that was it, so unless you prefer cash, i wouldn’t recommend getting too much.

Itinerary:

Day 1: we walked around taking pictures of the beautiful buildings. For dinner, we had made a reservation at Kiraly 100. https://kiraly100.hu/en/king100restaurant, a recommendation from the Hungary forum. We had an amazing dinner starting with strawberry soup for me (cold fruit soups are a thing in Hungarian cuisine) and then a duck leg with sweet cabbage. My husband had an ‘eggplant cream” which is offered many places, and is the consistency of a baba ghanoush. He followed with a pork tenderloin with mushroom sauce. We also had champagne and wine with dinner for about $65 for both of us, and this was an expensive restaurant. We loved the prices in Budapest. Wine was usually $3 or so a glass.

Day 2: Szechenyi Baths and meetup at Kadarka Wine Bar

The other priority we had besides eating and drinking well - was to check out the Thermal Baths. We made an online reservation for Thursday morning at the Szechenyi baths.
You can book with a locker or a cabin - a cabin is a full dressing room, so we chose that. Admission costs about $35. You do need to bring a towel and flip flops/shower shoes. If you don't have a towel you will need to buy one - they do not rent them. Also if you want to swim in the large swimming pool (not the hot pools) you are required to have a swim cap.
Once you are changed into your suit, you find your way through rooms of indoor pools of different temps and through to the outside pools. You may have seen the Rick Steves budapest episode where he is in an outdoor pool and there is sort of a lazy river in the middle of it - That is Szechenyi baths. It was really nice soaking for a while. Then of course, you can take a break and go to the snack bar for some lunch - goulash or a sandwich,etc.
We found it very relaxing and invigorating!

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After taking the bus back to our apt., we went for lunch at a place called Lunch! https://lunchbudapest.hu/.
It was a small cafe/burger place (which there a lot of in budapest) but I had a fantastic grilled chicken sandwich.

The other highlight of our day was meeting up with James (Mister E on the Hungary forum), at Kadarka wine bar. http://kadarkawinebar.com/. We chatted and had great wine (and bought some to take home to the apt.!) and very good food. Thanks for a great evening James!

Day 3: The Great Synagogue and a Klezmer concert

Budapest has several synagogues, but this synagogue is special in its design and size, it’s the 2nd biggest in the world. We bought a ticket online, but it was unclear whether it included a tour. If you book via a 3rd party like getyourguide.com you can see the tour times for english tours. There are tours going on in multiple languages at all times. We got there after an english tour had started but were able to join in and listen to part of it. The synagogue is amazing and there is also an exhibit about Raoul Wallenberg, who saved thousands of hungarian jews. There is also an exhibit about the Budapest Ghetto in WW2.

Another recommendation from the Hungary forum (thanks Texastravelmom!): We booked a Klezmer concert and dinner at the Spinoza restaurant in the Jewish quarter on Friday night. It includes a pre-concert glass of wine, then a concert in a tiny theater at the back of the restaurant followed by dinner. The entertainer that night was Judit Klein - she sang in Yiddish ( and spoke in english and hungarian) with an excellent piano player and clarinetist.

Day 4: Funicular to Buda and evening cruise

We took a tram across the river and got tickets for the funicular up to Castle Hill. There were great views of the city. We had an excellent lunch at the Royal Guard cafe. The food presentation in Hungary is always beautiful!

That evening we went on a river cruise with Legenda. It started at 8:15, but the highlight came at 9:00pm, when the Parliament buildings lit up as we cruised by. Sunset is very late in the summer in Hungary - 10pm! I think its always great to see a city from the water if you can.
We had an early dinner at Pilvax restaurant, which had great reviews on Google,but we did not care for it. Food was not great and it came out in about 5 minutes which is never a good sign....

Day 5: Gellert Baths and Hungarikum Bistro

We went to a different thermal bath on Sunday, which became my favorite. Gellert Baths, which is on the Buda side, is mostly indoor, but it is beautifully tiled in Art Nouveau style. We went from hot bath, to cold bath, to steam room - repeat as needed! Gellert also had better food and more variety. We had beer and schnitzel sandwiches as we rested on lounge chairs.

Dinner was at Hungarikum bistro - this place definitely requires a reservation well in advance. https://hungarikumbisztro.hu/en/
We felt very lucky to get in as many were turned away. Super nice service and very charming. Live music and little extras like a shot of palinka with dessert. There were more tourists here but we had great food. Probably my favorite restaurant.

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Day 6: Szentendre and Strudel-making

We decided to go to the town of Szentendre today, although we weren’t able to take the boat back due to our schedule, so that was poor planning. The town was very cute, and my husband had some dark chocolate ice cream with lavender which he said was incredible, but I’m sure the boat ride would have make it much more interesting.

We had an early strudel-making class at 5:30, so we picked up a pizza and took it to the apt. for an early dinner. We booked it here:
https://www.getyourguide.com/budapest-l29/budapest-hands-on-strudel-making-class-t243307/

This was so much fun! There was another couple with us and we made 2 kinds of strudel: apple and cabbage. Also plentiful wine and leftovers to take home. The host is a professional chef and was very friendly and helpful.

Day 7: The House of Terror and the Opera

We went to the House of Terror in the morning. Get there as close to opening as you can as it is very popular and by the time we left there were long lines. Hungary has had a very turbulent and traumatic history and this museum is very powerful and hard to take at times. You get an audio tour and proceed through the different rooms of the building. Warning: the exit is via an elevator that takes you back down to the first floor, but very slowly and with the lights out. It takes about 5 minutes to go down 3 floors. I am not claustrophobic but i was here! Did not like it at all.

We had booked Opera tix a couple of months before for a performance of Madame Butterfly. I worried about what seats to book and what to wear, but it was all fine. We were on the floor in the back - maybe row 20? And had a great view. It is a small opera house so most seats are good. Dress varied, we saw people in gowns and tuxedos and also casually dressed. A collared shirt for men seemed to be the minimum. I wore a casual dress. It was a gorgeous venue - so glad we went.

Before the 7pm show we got an early dinner at Szek, a transylvanian restaurant about a block away from the opera house. Husband had goulash and i had roast chicken. It was excellent and as always in Budapest, beautifully presented.

The following morning, we left Budapest via train on our way to Belgium, but that’s for a different report!

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4325 posts

Oh, this sounds like such a lovely week! I am now wondering if I can manage to wait till my next scheduled visit in October. And the comparison of the baths is welcome. I have tried Rudas, but not the other two. Yet.

Thanks for reporting!

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3352 posts

Thanks for sharing. Sounds like a great week. This is a city we plan to spend some time in, in the not too distant future.

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489 posts

Thanks, annemargaret, it sounds like y’all had a great week. I’ve read several of your prep questions and answers as you planned your time. I’m going in Oct and will be in Budapest for 6 days, 3 on tour and 3 on my own so it is great to hear how it all turned out. Keeping all the restaurant comments for sure!

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2488 posts

Thanks for sharing. I already had Hungarikum Bisztró on my list but added a note to book ahead.

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4921 posts

annemargaret, I just got back from Budapest, myself. So why am I reading a Budapest trip report? Well, you never know when you might want to go back! So it's good to have a list of things to do "next visit."

I'm adding your strudel making class to my list of possibilities!