Going from the nice warm Croatia to the wintery Budapest wasn’t easy, but we loved our time in Hungary! I bought a nice new, fluffy hat and we ventured out to take on the winter season in style. Hungary isn’t always at the top of everyone’s “Europe to do List” BUT IT SHOULD BE. Budapest was filled with music and folk dancing, awesome food, strong liquor, vivid history, kind people, and my favorite.. thermal springs!
This post will just be an intro to Budapest, a place which has become one of our favorite cities. [ They are vying for the next Olympics so give them your vote! 😉 ]
The area we were staying in was right outside the Christmas Market! We were right next to all the shopping streets that were filled with souvenirs, museums, boutiques, and street food! Whenever we got chilly we would pop into a shop or two to find some keepsakes or grab a treat. The TRDLNKS we have shared with you from Prague actually originated here, but in Hungary they are called Chimney Cakes. We couldn’t get enough.
The street scenes in Budapest are full of shopping fun! We stayed on the Pest side and often walked down to the Riverwalk to stroll along the Danube. Budapest (and Hungary in general) have a hard history, but are now thriving. It is actually mind-blowing how quickly they went from a communist ruled country, with no personality and strict rules, to a prosperous society with friendly people and a distinct style and flair. In about 25 short years they have completely transformed their way of life and seem to have done so without bitterness towards foreigners, which I find really remarkable.
Besides the Chimney Cakes, we found other traditional Hungarian food pretty delicious! We had the warm goulash soup they are obsessed with, we tried the traditional beef stew, and Brad became particularly fond of the traditional paprikash (an cottage cheese noodle dish with chicken, paprika, and sour cream.) My favorite dish was called Hortobágyi palacsinta, aka “Hungarian Pancakes.” They were fluffy potato pancakes with a savory paprika/sour cream sauce and filled with minced meat. I had them three times in our three weeks in Hungary. They were to die for! PS if you haven’t figured it out yet, Hungary’s main cash crop is the paprika pepper and spice. They use paprika (and sour cream) in almost all their staple dishes!
When wrapping up the food category, we can’t forget about PALINKA! Palinka is a Hungarian fruit brandy, invented in the Middle Ages. In order to be called Palinka, the fruit must come from Hungarian fruit trees and it’s about 40-50% proof alcohol. Basically, you can smell the alcohol as they bring your glass out from the back! Because of it’s strength, they bring it in 20-50mL servings and you sip sip sip it. It’s not a shot. I repeat, it’s not a shot.
I’ve gotta finish up your intro to Budapest with my favorite thing about it… the entire city was built on a bedrock of hot springs. For that reason, thermal baths are HUGE here and wildly wonderful! I love the thermal baths and find any excuse to visit them. We visited two during our trip: Rudas was built in 1553 during Ottoman rule (like most of the baths) and has a cool rooftop hot tub that you can visit at night and get an amazing view of the city!
But our favorite was the famous and more crowded Szechenyi Bath. It was beautiful and HUGE! They have two giant outdoor bathing areas complete with chess boards, whirlpools, and fountains and are a toasty temperature. They also have indoor baths (18 pools total!) where you can relax in a quieter environment, or take place in hot springs water aerobics if you like! The indoors baths are a little more odd, they are like small hotel hot tubs, but still fun. The architecture is cool and unique and each bath is a slightly different temperature. There are saunas and hot rooms galore and tons of showers to cool down with.
We are loving our time in Budapest and will update you with more “must see” items shortly!