For my birthday a few years ago I was whisked away on a whirlwind tour of Hungary’s cheeky capital, Budapest. A love affair quickly commenced, with the people, the ruin bars, the baths, the sparties (a spa-party? Yes please) and obvs the food (give me an S-, give me a C, give me an H give me an N – what does that spell? Almost SCHNITZEL!)
As a Gemini with a June birthday, this was the perfect time to visit Budapest to devour everything this Hungarian capital has to offer. And here’s a short guide on what to do if you have 36 hours in the Hungarian capital.
Day 1: Our whirlwind Hungarian adventure begins
11 am: Arrive at the Corinthia Hotel Budapest
We chose the Corinthia Hotel Budapest due to its location, rave reviews and the fact that it had one of the best spas in the city which was free for hotel guests. Unbeknownst to me, my boyfriend had preordered a chocolate cake and Hungarian sparkling wine (almost like champagne) to the room as a birthday surprise, and as soon as we entered our plush room I knew this was going to be an amazing holiday. Not one to waste cake nor alcohol, we quickly dug into the sponge layers of creamy chocolate while sipping on ice cold bubbles of joy.
3 pm: Pull on some comfortable clothes and hit the pavement (but be careful – the local beer may distract your efforts)
We were keen to get out to see the city, so after indulging in the pre-birthday hotel treats we pulled on our sneakers and hit the streets. Located in the heart of the city center, we were lucky to be within walking distance of many key attractions. Our attention soon turned to a square close to the hotel filled with cafes and bars with tourists and locals alike drinking beer and coffee in the afternoon sun. We decided to join them and soon several hours had passed as we people watched while sipping ourselves into a comfortably tipsy state.
Not wanting to miss out on one of the finer restaurants we’d read about, we finished our beers and went back to the room for a siesta and a dip in the baths.
5 pm: Chill out in the hotel baths
Getting back to the hotel we quickly pulled on our bathing suits and headed downstairs to the famed Corinthia Hotel Budapest spa. We were greeted by a friendly young woman who gave us towels and water, and then we slowly walked into the swimming pool area, built like the Hungarian baths I had read about in books. I didn’t bring my camera with me into the baths, so please just believe me when I say that you HAVE to visit the Hungarian baths when you’re in Budapest.
8 pm: Dinner at Bock Bisztro Pest
When traveling I like to do my research beforehand on where to eat a few of our finer meals. We usually test out one or two nicer restaurants with rave reviews (found through TripAdvisor mostly) and then we let our noses and gut instinct lead us to the well of our remaining foodventures.
Bread and homemade lard.
I had read about Bock Bisztro Pest on various occasions, and as it was located almost right next to our hotel we decided to give it a shot as our virgin induction to Hungarian food. We scored ourselves a table outside, and we quickly decided to share a bottle of rose (the price of wine in Hungary is extremely low btw), and ordered a Hungarian goulash to share, as well as a duck and beef main for him and her respectively.
The meal kicked off with a basket of warm, homemade bread served with lard which spread across the bread as smooth as butter (well – duh).
The mains were just as beautiful as the starter, and my better half gulped down a spicy beef goulash with the perfect hit of paprika, while I enjoyed the incredibly tender veal cheek with smoked ham, pickles and creamy potatoes.
11 pm: Check out a ruin bar
The ruin bars are one of the best things about Budapest’s nightlife (which is already something to write home about), and they are spaced out all over the old city.
3 am: Have a kebab / order room-service and hit the hay
One of the magical things about Budapest is that the prices are reasonably low, which means you can take advantage of ostentatious services like 3 am room service. We went ahead and ordered a number of the pasta dishes on offer (we had consumed a lot of beer), and the bill came out to less than what we would normally pay for one meal in London.
Day 2: Explore the city & get your Hungarian bath on
9 am: Grab some coffee and wander around the city before it gets up
Budapest is absolutely lovely at all times of day, but we found the mornings were especially pleasant for a stroll. We grabbed a coffee at a small cafe, and after a quick caffeine pick-me up, began walking through the city in search of absolutely nothing. The only goal we had was to make sure we found a winning place for lunch. Which is honestly the best way to spend a holiday.
Noon: Lunch at a traditional Hungarian bistro
Hungary is known for many traditional dishes, including langos (fried dough), goulash and chicken paprikash (which should also be bucket list food items for anyone who hasn’t tried them). We decided to go with the Wiener schnitzel (which is actually Austrian, but because of the strong Austrian influence in Hungary during the Austro-Hungarian era, it’s become a Hungarian traditional recipe.
My other half decided to have the traditional cold plate, which is basically just a Hungarian version of a charcuterie platter made up of a number of different hams, salamis, olives, pickled vegetables and pork crackling, served with bread.
4 pm: Hit the Hungarian baths and try a langos with cheese
The Hungarian thermal baths are set up so that you can spend the whole day chilling out in the water, whether rain or shine. There are dozens of pools and spa areas, including whirlpools and saunas, and you can pick and choose where you want to be depending on your mood.
We left our phones and cameras in the lockers so that they wouldn’t get wet, but as we also stayed for the SPArty in the evening, here are some shots from the party in the water.
10 pm: Grab your stuff and head to the airport
We took our bags with us to the baths, so that we could head straight to the airport after a shower and change. Our 36 hours in Budapest were quickly up, but we had an amazing time exploring this incredible city – and will definitely be back again soon!