It was my birthday on Saturday (6th December) and as a treat, I was treated to a few days away in Hungary – specifically, in Budapest. The report below should be helpful for anyone spending a long weekend or 48 hours in Budapest – as the title suggests!
A lot of people find December birthdays annoying due to their proximity to Jesus’ big day. However, this is actually something I really enjoy. It had been a long-standing dream of mine to go abroad to enjoy a snowy (or cold) Christmas market that the Eastern European countries seem to do so well and it was 2014 that this dream was finally fulfilled!
I opted for some spicy sausage, seasoned vegetables and garlic potatoes for my main meal which was much more tasty than I was expecting but very welcome. I washed it down with a hot mug of Gluhwein (more were to follow) and then we cast our eyes over the hand-made goods on sale.
I wanted to check out some of the sights surrounding the river at night as well as during the day and so we made our way out of the market and towards the Danube. The famous Chain Bridge presented itself first but the National Gallery, Parliament Building and remainder of the Castle District all stole attention from one another – for a small city, the sights really do pack a punch.
Arrival in Budapest
We took off from Bristol Airport just after midday and by the time we landed in Budapest, made our way on the bus and train to our AirBnB apartment, changed and headed back out on the streets, the night had already begun. We had made the decision to not eat at a restaurant but to sample the food at the Christmas market and enjoy some nice warm mulled wine in the cold winter night.
Fisherman's Bastion and Parliament Building
Our first and only full day in Budapest saw us cram in the Fisherman’s Bastion, St. Mattias Church, Parliament Building, St. Matthew’s Basilica, another Xmas market and a hot bath at the Rudas Bath-house followed by an evening of dinner and drinks as a pre-birthday celebration.
We actually woke up early to go to a blind exhibition but were turned away the door because we hadn’t booked for an English guide (despite there being no mention of this on their website at all). A little disgruntled, we walked to Fisherman’s Bastion and immediately our spirits were lifted.
I’m a sucker for a good view and sitting high above Budapest in the beautiful castle district with a hot mug of mulled wine to hand was perfect.
We spent a long time at the Bastion but eventually the next prominent building in the low-lying skyline of Budapest was the Parliament building. It looks forced in between a lot of very communist and war-time style buildings and stands as a symbol of power and inequality in Hungary (which can be replicated across most countries to be fair).
In the square outside the Parliament building was a small memorial/museum to the events of October 1956 – the Hungarian uprising. Without going into too much detail, the AVH (Hungarian Secret Police) fired onto a peacefully protesting mass of civilians. I never knew of this before my trip so it was interesting to find out whilst walking around in the same area.
St. Stephen's Basilica
St. Stephen’s Basilica was the next location on our trundle through Budapest. The route we took ensured our first sight of the basilica would be framed between the typical beautiful Hungarian architecture and sandwiched between sky and another colourful Xmas fair below.
The basilica was quite an imposing sight as you turn the corner onto the street. The inside was no different.
Once we had explored the intricately sculpted internals, we stopped off at the fair which had amassed in the square out the front. I enjoyed yet another warm mulled wine and we sat on the steps leading to the entrance and took in the view and the atmosphere around us. It was getting even colder now as the day was drawing to a close but we had one more thing in mind before the day was up – the traditional thermal baths!
Rudas Thermal Bath House
For obvious reasons, I don’t have any photos of the inside of these baths but we opted to avoid the more touristy Szechenyi public baths and instead made our way to the Rudas Baths. The baths still maintain their traditional decor and the main bath sits under a domed ceiling which has small holes in to allow beams of light to shine through the mist which creates an amazing scene upon entry. We got a lot of stares when we first entered and, whilst a great experience, it did feel a little homoerotic – maybe not for everyone.
We finished in the baths feeling immensely relaxed. We trundled back to our apartment to get showered and dressed ready for a final evening meal and a few drinks to pre-celebrate my birthday. I ordered some amazing ribs and tried a few Hungarian wheat beers which went down well! We were stuffed after all of this and walked back to our room to complete our whirlwind tour of Budapest.
Return to Bristol
As I mentioned before, I had always wanted to head to an Eastern European Xmas market in the winter and being able to do so for my birthday was an added bonus. The trip was really great and the cold, wintery conditions only added to its’ charm. The city is a really stunning sight and there is a treat on every corner. The time really flew by though but I enjoyed every moment of it all – I hope you can see though that you can do so much spending just 48 hours in Budapest!
Please enjoy the video I pulled together which should give you a better feeling for the city if you haven’t already done so through this article: