We woke up yesterday after a very restful night to an included buffet breakfast, with a wonderful variety of fruits, breads, meats, cheeses and all the salad you could ever want. One night in and I could already recommend the Soho Hotel for it’s good vibes, stellar service and its location close to the nightlife. But just make sure you’re comfortable with whoever you share a room with, as it’s a little cosy!
Venturing out we headed first for the tourist staple, the Hop On Hop Off Sightseeing bus tour, before boarding a lunchtime cocktail cruise up and down the Danube river. At first I was slightly disappointed to find it was tiny and closed roofed, but at least it was a way of sheltering from the rain – and yes, it rained again.
We first passed one of the city’s most impressive buildings – Parliament. The Parliament building is the second biggest parliament in Europe, the iconic structure actually inspired by Westminster in London, after the architect visited numerous times. The building is made almost entirely of Hungarian materials, apart from a few statues donated by the King of Sweden. There’s a fun little fact right there.
The tour continued as we felt the gentle breeze and invading spots of rain whip lightly through the cabin whilst sipping on our cocktails, passing the castle, various bridges, the concert hall (aka the whale for some reason) and more, until we were back on dry land. A river cruise is a great way to see a snapshot of some of the city’s major sights, and this one was especially interesting for both the commentary and for the fact that the cruise I took last time I was in the city was at night instead.
Stopping by St Stephen’s Basillica for cute macarons and a floral sculpture of sweetness that is ice-cream from Gelato Rosa (it’s vegan too, for if you don’t do dairy), we next headed over the river back to the Buda side to check out the Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church.
One of my favourite spots in the city, the Fisherman’s Bastion is a gorgeous wall boasting stone archways and seven towers built to represent seven tribes. Built in the 20th century, it is purely decorative, framing the 13th century Matthias church and its most stunning tiled roof.
Heading back over to Pest, it was time to retire to prepare for one of the main priorities on my list for this trip – a visit to a ruin bar.
We started out with the most famous of the lot, Szimpla Kert, which was so heaving its iconic seating made from a grafittied old car was almost too hard to spot. The ruin bars are a Budapest staple, open air abandoned buildings transformed with random junk into hip night spots for all to enjoy. From park benches to radios and everything in-between, this place has got it. The random lighting and the various different themes that decorate the extensive multi-storey bar make it a truly special and atmospheric experience. Just be warned, if you’re finding yourself really drunk, I imagine it can also be kind of trippy too. It’s that random and unique. The prices can’t be ignored either. Vodka+mixer and a jager shot for £6? I’m certainly not complaining, especially as this is one of the more expensive night spots in the city. The majority of places still do things even cheaper, with wines and beers coming in at literal pence, so if you’re into your alcohol, Budapest could well be the place for you!
As it was slightly claustrophobic, we didn’t stay long, but it was still a few hours I won’t soon forget. Moving on, the heavens had opened once more, flashes of lightning illuminating the skies over the streets of the Jewish Quarter, sadly a familiar sight by now. We next visited a bar just down the road simply because our hop on hop off bus package offered a free shot there. A free shot of local liqueur, Palinka. FYI, it is ghastly to get down (ours were plum, but there are other flavours available too), but the aftertaste isn’t actually so bad in the end, and I always like to make the effort to try the local spirit in each country I visit.
Today is another spa day, thank God. Even though I love this city with all of my heart, I don’t know that I’d have fancied walking around again, and besides, this is the second thing on my tick list of 3 things to do while here. Will check in later, but for now, farewell.