Travel Tuesday: Budapest

Happy Travel Tuesday! This week I’ll tell you about my trip to Budapest, Hungary.

As it turns out, I’m really horrible at geography and I’m even worse at history. (I was asleep a lot…) Teenage Lisa really wasn’t interested in European history and College Lisa decided to take History of New York , so it’s fair to say there are a lot of gaps in my knowledge of European history, including the Cold War and the Iron Curtain. When I decided to embark on this journey to Prague, I imagined lots of gray. Just…everywhere. Buildings, clothing, food, whatever. I’d done my research (into brunch spots and coffeeshops, obviously the important stuff) but I figured those were the exceptions. Instead, Prague turned out to be one of the most beautiful cities I visited while in Europe.

Now, Budapest.

Budapest looks the way I thought Prague would. There’s a lot of gray. Where I was traveling, of course. I can’t speak to the entire city, but certainly not as colorful as Prague is. The two cities are often compared and whether that’s fair or not, I can’t say, but Prague was my point of reference, so there it is. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t beautiful in its own way, though, quite the opposite. Enough prologue, though, let’s get to it.

Where We Stayed

After my week long solo trip to Spain and Portugal, it was nice to go on this trip with my friends and Husband. We decided to stay at an Airbnb in the Josefov neighborhood. It was a super cozy space and since we were only there for the weekend, it was exactly what we needed.

What We Did 

Parliament

This building is huge! Also, it’s pretty cool to look at, which is really all we could do. We only spent a couple of minutes here.

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Castle Hill

Home to Buda Castle, Fisherman’s Bastion, and the Holy Trinity Column. This is the go-to spot in Budapest for tourists. Be sure to take the funicular for a cutesy (albeit short) experience.

My personal favorite was the Holy Trinity Column. We didn’t go inside, but the colors and architecture of this building were really beautiful and unlike anything I’ve seen before.

Fisherman’s Bastion is a cool piece of architecture as well, but I was more interested in its maze-like passages that made it seem like I was in some sort of medieval labyrinth.

Buda Castle has the most amazing view of the city. We happened to get there as the sun was setting and the street lights were coming on and it was gorgeous.

Thermal Baths

You can’t come to Budapest and not try at least one thermal bath. We managed to squeeze in visits to two. These thermal baths are said to have healing properties. I can’t say that I necessarily felt healed, but given the fact that it was cold and snowy the entire weekend we were here, it was definitely a welcome reprieve from the weather.

The first one we went to was Gellert Spa and Bath. Simply put, it was a fantastic time. There are different rooms that house different baths of varying temperatures. There are also steam rooms, saunas, and even ice baths. (You have to try it! I’m not saying you’ll like it, but definitely worth trying once in your life.) On top of that, it’s really just beautiful. The green and blue hues and fountains make for a really luxurious time.

The second one we went to (in the snow) was the Szechenyi Bath. This is one of the famed outdoor baths, with good reason. I was really nervous to go out into the snow in my bikini to make it down the stairs to the pool, but what a unique experience. The bath, of course, is super warm, but with the steam rising from the pool, you’ll quickly forget that it’s freezing outside and just get to relax. Getting out of course, is a mission. Inside, I’ll say that I liked Gellert Spa and Bath’s offerings a bit more, but Szechenyi also had some cool features. In addition to steam rooms and saunas, there was a color room and showers that alternated cold and hot water.  Definitely a can’t miss if you’re in Budapest.

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Where I Ate (and Drank!)

STIKA 

Stika is the sort of place that wouldn’t be out of place in gentrified Brooklyn. Minimalist decor, tons of different coffee options made by the bearded and tattooed barista, etc. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy my brunch here, I’m just painting a picture for you. I got my brunch go-to, eggs benedict and chai latte. The eggs benedict were great, the chai latte was just okay. There was a bit of a wait, but not too unbearable. It was a nice start to the day.

Steg Fish Bar

I read about this place on Great Trips’ Instagram and it came in handy when we were starving after visiting Gellert. We wanted to try something Hungarian, but something also a little modern and Steg was the best of both worlds. I ordered  fish soup and a wrap. Both were pretty good, but I think I liked the fish soup more. It was something new and had a nice kick. Bonus points for having games on the tables and for fantastic service.

Szimpla Kert

Budapest is famous for what are known as ruin bars. Started out in abandoned, run down buildings, they’re known for their cheap drinks and quirky decor. Szimpla Kert is credited as being one of the very first ruin bars. It’s really a sight to behold, with art, signs, objects, and lights everywhere – on the walls, ceilings, every single nook and cranny. It’s wild. There are also live performances, but we didn’t get to see any when we were there. We were there on a Saturday night, so it was pretty busy, but not packed to the point where you couldn’t move.

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Budapest was such a fun trip and really took me by surprise. I can’t wait to visit again in the warmer weather.

 

 

 

 

 

The Prague Socialite: Madrid

As a proud New Yorker (and Bronxite obvs), I really love visiting other cities. I’m not the kind of person that necessarily wants to escape city life when I travel. Sometimes I’m not really that impressed because I’m constantly comparing it to NYC, but other times, I just fall in love with a city’s energy, and that was my experience during my recent trip to Madrid.

I originally wanted to go to Barcelona, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to go in the midst of all the stuff happening with the possible Brexit-like situation. Plus, I knew I wanted to go to Lisbon and it was simply easier (read: cheaper) to do so from Madrid. Basically, I went in with zero expectations.

Where I Stayed

I stayed in a 12 person mixed dorm at Safestay Madrid. By far, this has to be one of my best hostel experiences thus far. As a solo traveler, and one who can be particularly hesitant to socialize with others, sometimes you want to link up with someone else to check out somewhere cool, go to a bar, or just take lots of cute pictures of you as proof that you were actually there. This hostel just had a really great vibe that allowed people to meet and socialize. A huge plus for me, which I think made a huge difference, is that the events they run are hosted by the hostel employees. So you get to see them again and meet people who are actually staying at your hostel.

What I Did

Even though I was on vacation, I was still on a pretty tight budget, so I looked up free things to do in Madrid and came across this really great Time Out article that was pretty much my guide for the entire trip. My timing was actually pretty perfect because I got to visit the major museums for free.

Museo del Prado is free from 5-7 pm. You have to wait in line (I was on line for at least a half hour) because people line up very early, but it’s definitely worth it. It’s a huge museum with many classic paintings, you could definitely visit more than once to really see and appreciate everything.

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (free from 7-9 pm and from 3-7 on Sundays), which had some pieces from Dali and Picasso, as well as some really cool experimental art by William Kentridge.

Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza (free on Mondays from 12-4pm) had a mix of classic art and contemporary art. They also had a really great gift shop.

El Templo de Debod -An actual ancient Egyptian temple that was dismantled and gifted to Spain as a thank you for their help in saving the Abu Simbel temples (or so Wikipedia tells me). Do yourself a favor and go at sunset. It was beautiful!

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Palacio de Cristal – located in the famous Retiro Park, which is beautiful in and of itself, the palace is this beautiful, structure tucked away in a quiet location in the park. I opted not to go inside, but I think it’s even better to just appreciate it from the outside. That or I’m just a cheap bastard. Whatever.

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Retiro Park – A huge park with all kinds of different amenities and things to do, kind of like our Pelham Bay Park (except, to be honest even more beautiful, but I mean there’s a palace in it!)

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Where I Ate 

Alhambra – I found this place on Yelp after discussing with my new friends I met at the hostel how we all wanted to try paella during our time in Spain. In addition to the paella, the three of us decided to split a grilled meat platter for two. Oh, and a pitcher of sangria of course. Everything was soooo good, but there was so much of it, we had to take it to go.  Right when we thought we were ready to pack up and go, the waitress brought over three extra glasses of sangria for free! This is something I could definitely get used to.

El Tigre – One of my friends (Shout out to Cindy!) recommended this place and it’s where I had my final meal in Madrid before heading out to Lisbon. For the price of one drink, you’re served up a huge plate of tapas. The catch is that you don’t get to choose, but it didn’t matter. It was all delicious. Another cool thing is that the plates vary from person to person. I was served potatoes, bread and cheese, croquettes, and once I finished that, I was given a plate of stuffed mushrooms. Spain just really knows how to do hospitality. It totally changed my view on tapas.

La Campana – Just off of Plaza Mayor is a small, almost hole in the wall type of place.  The  tour guide of the walking tour I took recommended it for their squid sandwiches. It’s really just calamari on a baguette-type of bread, but it was a fresh, cheap, and filling lunch.

 

All in all, I think Madrid has been one of my favorite trips to date. Definitely my best solo trip thus far. Below are some other cool pictures I took while I was there. Enjoy!

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