Last week I had the pleasure of going to Budapest on a joint stag and hen do of our friends (the ‘Sten Do’ as we lovingly nicknamed it) for five days. It was great fun and we did a variety of activities – not just the traditional drinking kind. As there was a large group of us, around 30 people, we stayed in four apartments on the same street, which worked out really well (thanks to everyone who organised it!). The apartments were really comfortable and central.
Day 1, Friday – Arriving at lunch time, having dropped our bags off at our apartment, we headed off to find somewhere to eat nearby. We came across a really nice rooftop restaurant called Darshan – the menu translations to English were slightly alarming, but the food was really good and it was pretty peaceful.
We then had a pit stop at Alcatraz Bar, after which I decided it was time to go home after a long day of travelling.
Day 2, Saturday – We eased into Saturday by having brunch at Café Vian, a really nice French-style bistro with a large outdoor seating area. They have an extensive menu – I had some nice pastries and of course a glass of Prosecco (or two) to help recover from the night before.
After reinvigorating ourselves, we headed off to Memento Park which is outside of Budapest. In the park are displayed 42 statues and pieces of art from the Communist era (1945-1989) – you can just wonder round but we hired a tour guide who told us about the statues and their context. I think this statement from the park’s conceptual designer, Ákos Eleőd, sums it up well: “This Park is about dictatorship. And at the same time, because it can be talked about, described and built up, this Park is about democracy. After all, only democracy can provide an opportunity to think freely about dictatorship. Or about democracy, come to that! Or about anything!”
Saturday night was our ‘gender split’ night – us girls got dolled up and enjoyed excellent tiki-themed cocktails at Rumpus Tiki Bar, got our groove on at DiVino Gozsdu and had some more cocktails before meeting up with the boys and ending the night at the epic ruin bar, Szimpla. This was my favourite night, full of cocktails, tequila, fun and dancing.
Day 3, Sunday – Sunday was again split by gender, with the boys going off hiking (with hangovers, ouch) and the girls doing escape rooms. Needless to say, I was not particularly successful at escaping, and would rather have liked to just lie down and sleep, but it was pretty fun. Budapest is famed for its thermal baths, and in the evening we headed to the largest of these, Szechenyi, which I would highly recommend. It was super relaxing and a great group activity.
That night we had a literal feast at medieval restaurant Sir Lancelot. We enjoyed a room to ourselves with a huge banquet table, piled high with platters of meats, vegetables and fruit. Dinner was accompanied by a fire dancer, a belly dancer, a fire eater and sword fighters. A very unique and fun experience!
Day 4, Monday – This was our ‘personal’ day, so Luke and I wondered round Buda Castle in the morning. Although the gallery and museum were closed, we went inside the beautiful St Mathias Church and admired the Fisherman’s Bastion with its amazing views, particularly of the beautiful Parliament building.
We had lunch at Pavillon de Paris, a lovely romantic restaurant in a little walled garden, with lights hanging from the trees, and amazing food.
We went back to Buda Castle to do wine-tasting in Faust Cellar, which was a pretty epic setting. We sat in a little cave-like room lit by candles, and tried six red wines and one rosé, which were all delicious and unsurprisingly we brought a few bottles home with us. The sommelier was really passionate and knowledgeable about Hungarian wines – I would highly recommend this if you’re a wine fan.
We spent the evening drinking more wine at a fantastic restaurant called Gundel, accompanied by exquisite food and a mini orchestra. My duck ragout starter and crepe Suzette dessert were great, but the truffle butter ravioli was the star of the show. Beautiful paintings adorn the walls, and the staff are very proud of them and were eager to share their artistic knowledge with us.
Day 5, Tuesday – We upped the tempo on Tuesday and did a group excursion to the castle town of Visegrad, which we got to by hydrofoil boat. We spent the morning zip wiring and trying our hands at archery. Zip wiring was one of my favourite parts of the holiday and the views of the Danube and the surrounding scenery were spectacular.
After lunch we meandered round Visegrad Castle, enjoying the beautiful views. We took a slower boat back to Budapest, chilling on the sun deck and soaking in the rays. Our last night in Budapest (*sob*) was spent at Korhely, where we had really good traditional Hungarian food. 150cl bottle of wine anyone?!
Day 6, Wednesday – We had some time before our flight in the evening to enjoy a bit more of Budapest. We had breakfast in the most beautiful and most instagram-worthy café I have ever seen, New York Café.
We then explored the House of Terror, a brilliantly insightful museum about the Nazi and then Soviet occupations of Hungary. The museum also serves as a memorial to the victims of these regimes, including those detained, interrogated, tortured or killed in that building. Lunch was a quick (but very good) bagel at Budapest Bagel before we headed to the airport and made our way home.
Budapest is a beautiful city full of history and culture and I would love to go back to explore more of it. Budapest, I hope to see you again soon.