There’s something utterly magical about Budapest, especially when the seasons start to change and that coldness swoops in. Locals huddle in small bakeries, sipping frothy hot chocolates and scoffing sweet delicacies. The windows steam up as if to hide their naughty secrets. Log cabins pop up in the market squares selling handmade gifts and food, whilst magnificently grand buildings house spa baths and pools.
With return flights (from the UK) costing a lot less than £100 it really is an affordable city break. Add the cheap, boutique accommodation spots and the endless list of attractions costing next to nothing it really is a star of a destination. With so much on offer, here are seven pearls of wisdom (#7POW) to help your planning.
What to Do in Budapest
♥ Szechenyi Thermal Baths
Without a doubt, if you only do one thing during your winter break to Budapest make sure it is this. Entrance costs about £11 for the day, which includes the use of a cabin (locker). Bring your swimwear and simply work your way round the thermal baths, saunas and steam rooms. The building itself is absolutely stunning, so sit back, relax and look up at the beautiful ceiling. The stand out moment though (literally) is when you make the dash to the outdoor pool. The cold air will nip at you, but the moment you sink back into the water you’ll be warmed. Watch the locals sitting in the shallow waters playing chess, and if you’re really lucky, the snow flurries spilling glistening flakes onto your hair.
The law* says you have to eat at least one Kürtőskalács (also known as a stoveor chimney cake). Marvel at the bakers making them using a long stick and twirling them over the flames, then delight as they sprinkle it with cinnamon or sugar. You’ll find them in the main square in one of the little log cabins and you’ll also find them at local street vendors dotted about the city. You can read more here. *The law meaning the Taylor Hearts Travel law…
♥ Opera for Pounds
Even if you’re not that into opera, you really have to visit the famous opera house. It’s a very regal building that’s popular with the locals more than it is the tourists. Don’t bother with a tour. Simply book tickets for whatever’s playing that evening. You’ll get to see inside the building and a performance. Plus, it’s an excuse to get dressed up. If you’re not fussed on your view you can pick up some outstanding bargains. Look for ‘restricted view’ tickets in the boxes – the view isn’t that bad and the tickets can cost just a few pounds. Make sure you book in advance. Details here.
You’ll find English highstreet faves in the city centre alongside individual boutiques. In the build up to Christmas you’ll also find stalls selling handcrafted Christmas tree decorations, trinkets and some more unusual gifts. Porcupine shoe brush anyone?
♥ Bridges of Budapest
The iconic Chain Bridge was the first to permanently connect Buda to Pest. It’s only a short walk from one side to the other, but it has to be done. If you’ve enough time, make sure you visit during both the daytime and evening. The views are lovely and at night the bridge is lit up. There are other bridges across the river, all of which are wonderfully unique, so you can’t really go wrong with a walk along the Danube River.
♥ View from Above
Climb one of the many hills to get a great shot of the Danube and the city. Castle Hill and Gellérthegy are favourites. Make sure you wrap up warm as the wind whips round your face the higher you get. There are statues on the way up (whichever route you choose), but the real pull is the view. If you’re not into walking use the funicular. The cost is minimal and it’s certainly different to the tube in London!
Admire Budapest’s UNESCO World Heritage-listed urban panorama from the comfort of your seat. Book a river cruise down the Danube River for little more than a tenner. If you’ve already seen Budapest during the day, go for a night cruise. The twinkling lights of the bridge and buildings makes for a special evening. You can even choose to opt for a dinner or dance cruise if you want to go all out. You can find some affordable options here.
You could easily do all of the above in two days. It’s perfect for a weekend break and it won’t break the bank.
Have you been to Budapest or is it somewhere that you’d like to visit? Do you have any recommendations or tips to add to this list? I’d love to hear from you in the comments box below. X