Move over Paris – from what I’ve read about Budapest, it looks like the Hungarian capital punches above its weight when it comes to a romantic setting for that all important couples city mini break.
It’s less than two weeks till we hit Budapest for a long weekend, and our Lonely Planet city guide already has more than a few post it notes sticking out the edges to mark places we can’t forget to visit (#geekytraveller).
We have just three days so I think we’ll struggle to fit it all in, but as a good friend of mine who was once a tour guide says, ‘see the best, forget the rest’.
These are the 5 things we’ve picked out so far:
‘We strive for perfection!’ this Michelin-starred restaurant on Vorosmarty Square declares on its website. This place appearas unashamedly formal, with whole tabs on the website dedicated to explaining its ‘Philosophy’ and ‘Protocol’. Demanding statements proclaim rules such as “In our experience, young children are not capable of enjoying a culinary journey that may last 3 – 4 hours. If possible, please arrange for child-minding” as well as a semi-formal dinner dress code. It’s the perfect setting, then, to enjoy an 8 course tasting menu with Hungarian wine pairings. It’s going to be epic.
At the other end of the spectrum is the Klassz wine bar and restaurant on Andrassy ut – while Onyx demands reservations, Klassz simply recommends you turn up and wait for a table from which to sample their menu of four dozen Hungarian wines. WeLoveBudapest.com calls it ‘a bit crowded’ and ‘homey’ but nevertheless, ‘one of the best and least snobby restaurants in Budapest’. After our high society night at Onyx, something more low key will be just what we’re looking for.
3. Eateries in the Jewish Quarter – Kadar
Ok, so this is another food recommendation. Don’t worry, we plan to do lots of walking around! Anyway, according to the ‘Cheap Eats’ post on Everything Budapest, the city’s ‘etkezdeks’, or canteen-style local eateries, are usually challenging affairs for the first time visitor to Budapest as menus are only in Hungarian and the chalk board menu is hardly an aid for identifying the array of strange local dishes in front of you. Kadar is one of the exceptions, with wait staff that speak some English and even offer something akin to a warm reception. If you have time to scour the Jewish Quarter for your own choice of etkezdek, Everything Budapest recommends looking for the obvious indicator of a good feed – those with queues outside. Unsurprisingly, there’s no website, but you’ll find other reviews on Trip Advisor and other Budapest blogs too.
Budapest is renowned for its baths, and they all look so refreshing, revitalising and relaxing that we can’t choose just one, so we’re planning to experience both the Szechenyi and Gellert baths.
The Gellert baths have been likened to bathing in a cathedral, says our Lonely Planet guide. There are eight thermal baths that range from 21C to 40C, as well as a wave pool and two bubble pools. The massage menu offers a range of treatments including a ‘chocolate massage for two’ – we’re not sure yet whether this sounds like a dream come true or a sticky nightmare.
The Szechenyi baths, meanwhile, are described as ‘a gigantic wedding cake of a building’ and boast Budapest’s hottest spa water as well as outdoor chess boards, of course. From the website pictures it looks like what it would be like to bathe in the Trafalgar Square fountain in London or the Trevi Fountain in Rome.
Budapest has a less than rosy past and at Memento Park you’ll find relics of this – its site lists 42 pieces of Communist-era art and ‘the biggest statues of the Cold War’ that were removed from the streets of the city. You get the feeling it might be a warped Madam Tussaud’s style experience – picture with a statue of Lenin anyone? – but I think it’s important to see places like this to remember that Budapest wasn’t always the fun loving city it is today.
We’re staying at the Hotel Palazzo Zichy, which looks like a sight to see in itself, with its grand facade yet contemporary decor.
If anyone has any other must-see tips for Budapest, do let me know!