I was lucky enough to visit Budapest at the weekend as my friend Mariana is currently working there. I've been wanting to visit this wonderful city for a long time, so jumped at the opportunity. One of the first things that struck me about the Hungarian capital was just how calm and quiet it was during the day. There isn't that hustle and bustle you find in most European capitals - it's touristy yes, but no where near the hoards you find in London and Paris. The city itself is really beautiful; the architecture is captivating - an interesting mix of communist-style, Soviet Bloc buildings and ice cream colours. And the best bit? The city baths, which you can visit even in winter as they're heated. So here are a few things not to miss:
1. Castle Hill - this is the area encompassing Buda Castle and complex - where Hungary's kings that includes Budapest's must-sees: the Royal Palace, Matthias Church and the Fisherman's Bastion. Try to see the changing of the guard if you can, which involves a march with drums. I'd recommend spending a whole morning or afternoon wandering around here and perhaps have lunch in one of the cafes or grab an ice-cream. It involves a lot of walking, so make sure you wear comfy shoes. A mistake I made and was practically crippled by the end of the day! Those Sandro shoes I'm wearing in the photo above are pretty, but painful...
2. St Stephen's Basilica - the basilica towers over one of the main square and is right next to a group of bars, making it a perfect photo op place for night time
3. Margaret Island is probably the best place to go on a hot day as there are the baths, with plenty of shade if you need it and pretty gardens to walk through. Oh and I almost forgot to mention the
4. Szechenyi Baths - unfortunately we didn't have time to make it to these baths. Although they look the most aesthetically pleasing, they don't have any shade. And in my rather dehydrated condition on Sunday I would probably have melted into a giant puddle, but they'd be on the top of my list for the next visit.
Eating & Drinking:
- The Big Fish - although Hungary is a land-locked country and not known for its delights of the sea, Fish Bar dishes up some of the scrumiest seafood I've ever tasted. You go up to the counter and choose want you want and then they cook it for you. We went for a portion of battered fish and chips and a portion of squid, prawns and scallops. It was delicious, and we washed it down with a bottle of white Hungarian wine. Just don't sit inside before a night out as you will come out stinking of fish.
- Hello Baby - I haven't danced so much, as I did at this place over the weekend, for ages. It's a really fun place to go with various rooms and music, and it's set in a beautiful, old high-ceilinged building.
- Innio Wine bar - this is a great pre or post dinner venue for a glass of wine, Hungarian or otherwise.
[Photography: Marissa Cox]