This post is part of a new series, highlighting some of the cities you can easily visit before of after Krakow, and what we love about them. First up is the city of Budapest!
The city is much larger than Krakow, and not quite as navigable by foot. Some information about the subway and buses will help tremendously as you try to get around the city. Or use Uber. We tried to take taxis here on our first trip and it did not go smoothly. Hungary is on the Forint, with most prices for things being in the thousands.
The Baths of Budapest
What drew me to Budapest in the first place was its collection of thermal baths. There are many throughout the city, each quite different from the next. Most importantly you should check the bath(s) you choose website to make sure that they are open to the genders in your party on the day you are going; ie. some baths are only open to men or only to women on certain days of the week (assume these days that are for only one gender to be filled with nudity).
We have been to three baths and highly recommend all of them- but if you only have time for one the Szechenyi Baths, which are the most historical and grandiose, but also the most popular is the one you can’t miss. Having both indoor and outdoor pools, enjoyable even in below freezing weather, but also a fun place to spend a summer day, makes this bath quite versatile. I personally have only visited them at night, and prefer it that way. To lay out how the baths look, there are 3 outdoor pools, and over 10 indoor ones. Outdoors, the pool on the left is the “adventure” pool with jets that spin you around, and bubbles too. The pool in the middle is for swimming laps, is actually pretty cold, and you must wear a swimming cap to get in. Inside the 10+ baths are all different temperatures, going up and down about 2-3 celsius, so that you can toggle your body temperature. And then there is a really really cold bath, for if you get too overheated. Outside there are even chess tables where locals bring their own sets!
My next favorite, a very close second really, is the Rudas Baths. What is awesome about these is they are one of the oldest baths. The indoor baths here have an ancient feel to them and are really dark. The ceiling is like a dome with small glass circles allowing colored light to poke through. You can really mess with your body temperature in these baths- including dipping into a bath that you can shovel ice into. They also have cold buckets of water that when you pull a rope fall onto you. Outside, however, there is a brand new rooftop bath. It only fits about 20 people, but it offers beautiful views of the whole city- making this bath house really stand out against Szechenyi now. There is also an additional section now with more modern baths for children and adults inside.
Finally, there is also the Gellert Baths. This reminds me more of a fancy hotel pool. It is the most brightly lit, has mosaic tiles, and one could argue appears to be the cleanest. While it is the most expensive, I found it to be the least fun. However, if you are more prone to modern baths this one is for you.
Overall the guidebooks are right; there will be a lot of old fat Hungarians in speedos, the buildings were a little complicated at first, but easily navigable, and the cleanliness of the activity is questionable but absolutely worth it.
It is worth getting a locker to keep your towel dry until the end. And if you can bring a robe and flip flops, it may make you more comfortable as well. They will most likely have blow dryers available for free to use.
Ruin Bars of Budapest
There are lots of “ruin” bars in Budapest, something it is known for as much as the baths. We went to Szimpla Kert and it was awesome… There is just stuff everywhere. Take time to explore each room, and expect it to be crowded. The little outside garden high-top tables and stools was a nice break from the chaos inside. Definitely my favorite place to grab a beer.
Eat Cake (And Langos)
We stopped in to these two cake shops during one of our trips. The first one had more traditional Hungarian cakes, specifically Dobos Torta, which you have to try.
Langos and Goulash are two of the most famous Hungarian dishes. The best Langos is fried right in front of you and smothered in sour cream and cheese. This little hole in the wall (I think it was called Tomi Langos) was a pretty good spot to enjoy the fried bread, but we also went to the Great Market Hall for some too.
Major Sites to See
Like I said this city is huge! There are things to see on both sides. Some of my favorite places we visited were…
Fisherman’s Bastion 19th Century Fortress and Lookout towers
The Hungarian Parliament Building
Chain Bridge over the River Danube between Buda and Pest
Hero’s Square with statues of the leaders of the 7 tribes who founded the country. This is where Jacek proposed to me!
The Great Market Hall: Best place to shop, also a great place to eat! This is where we got Langos for the first time and would recommend getting it again anywhere here.
City Park: A great place to wander around- when we were here in winter there was an ice skating rink.
Shoes on the Danube Bank Memorial: to those people killed by the Fascist militia who were ordered to remove their shoes, and then shot. Their bodies falling into the river and floating away.
As always I am here at firstname.lastname@example.org for any further questions!