Sunday, 26 October 2014

Visiting Budapest, Hungary - Day 1.

Back in August I won the first competition I have ever won in my life. I won two return flights to anywhere in Europe with KLM. I scoured the internet, and originally wanted to go to Russia, but then realized it might be a little dangerous at the moment. Then I wanted to go to Iceland, but the volcano kept threatening to erupt, so I finally settled on my third choice; Budapest, and I'm so glad I did. 

St Stephen's Basilica Budapest

I dropped Bella a message and asked if she fancied coming along, we've both been so busy with work this year that we've barely seen each other, so it seemed like a good opportunity to catch up and have some fun doing what we do best; eating lots of food, and taking in some culture. 

We landed late Sunday evening and got a taxi to the Le Meridien, which is part of luxury American hotel group Starwood Resorts. It was a beautiful hotel, and the perfect base for our first 3 nights there. I'll have a full review up tomorrow! After unpacking, jumping up and down on the beds in excitement, and then getting dressed up to go down to drinks in the bar, we had one drink and realized how tired we were, so decided to get an early night.

The next morning we arose bright and early to a beautiful day, and went downstairs for the hotel breakfast to prepare ourselves for the full day ahead. The buffet was amazing, fresh pastries, fruit, waffles, and a full cooked breakfast too which included Veal Sausages - yum!! After filling our tummies we wandered over to St Stephen's Basilica which is a five minute walk from the hotel (we could see the basilica from our room!). 
St Stephen's Basilica Budapest
I went for sensible/comfortable clothing;
H&M tee, M&S maxi skirt, Gap cardigan, Barbour watch.
We had a look around the impressive cathedral, and it very much reminded me of the ones I saw in Rome back in May. 

St Stephen's Basilica Budapest Hungary

St Stephen's Basilica Budapest Hungary

Just like St Peter's Basilica, you could go up to the top of the dome. However St Stephen's was much cheaper than St Peter's at just 400 Forint (about £1). We took the lift rather than the stairs, it was early in the morning and 22 degrees. No thanks.

The views were so so beautiful. We could see over the whole of Budapest, from the stunning Houses of Parliament to our hotel!

St Stephen's Basilica Budapest Dome

St Stephen's Basilica Budapest Dome

St Stephen's Basilica Budapest Dome View
The architecture in Budapest varies so much, they've only been independent for about 20 years. For hundreds of years they've been occupied, from the Ottoman Empire, to the Mongols, the Habsburg's of Austria, the Nazi's, and then the Soviets, and you can see influences of all of these within the architecture and different buildings. 

St Stephen's Basilica Dome Budapest

Top of St Stephen's Basilica Budapest

After walking around the top, we then went back to a little market next to the hotel to get some Langos. It costs around £1.50, and you can get different toppings on it. I went for the traditional Cheese and Sour Cream. The lady deep fried the dough, then spread the sour cream on with a paint brush, then she grated the cheese on top.

Woman making Langos in Budapest Hungary

Making Langos in Budapest Hungary

Hungarian Langos
Looks gross right? It was delicious. I ate the whole thing and had a heart attack shortly after. Kidding, I think it was just major heartburn. Bella was completely shocked that I managed to finish it all. Luckily it didn't give me an upset tummy as I had feared, although I do have a tummy of steel which probably helped.

After my Langos feast we went back to the hotel to grab our swimming stuff, and then walked all the way down Andrassy Avenue (the Budapest version of the Champs-Elysees and Bond Street) towards Heroes Square and the Szechenyi thermal baths. The street was really long, but really pretty! Full of trees and crumbling old buildings and big mansions. Also how cute are the post boxes!?

Old building in Budapest Hungary

Budapest architecture

Budapest post box

We stopped to take a look at the Budapest Opera House en-route, and noticed that they were filming there - it was full of men in American army uniforms covered in dirt, and camera crew. After asking one of the security men, it turns out it was the film Spectral, by Legendary Pictures! It's gonna be released in 2016 and is about a special ops team who are trying to fight supernatural beings in a European city. Sounds good! You can see the green screens and cameras on the big yellow cherry picker in the photo below...

Budapest Hungarian opera house
We finally got to the Szechenyi thermal baths about half an hour later, after a quick stop at Heroes Square right at the entrance of City Park.

Heroes Square Budapest

The thermal baths are the largest medicinal baths in Europe, with the water supplied by two thermal springs. There are 3 outdoor pools and 15 indoor pools, and you pay just 4600Ft for all-day entrance with a changing room in which to store all of your stuff and get changed. That's about £10.

inside szechenyi baths budapest

szechenyi baths budapest

szechenyi thermal baths budapest hungary
szechenyi thermal baths budapest
szechenyi medicinal baths budapest hungary

szechenyi baths budapest aroma bath

inside szechenyi thermal baths budapest

We went in almost every pool to test it out, my favourite was the aroma pool in the photo above the last one - it smelled amazing and was so warm and relaxing! I took a proper unattractive-boob-squashing-swimming-swimsuit with me to the baths as I thought it would be far too cold for a bikini outside in October, how wrong was I! It was 22 degrees that day and so lovely being outside in the thermal swimming pools in the autumn. 

After spending an hour or so in the indoor baths we then went back outside, and saw some locals enjoying the afternoon - one man was painting in his speedos, while another just below him in the pool played chess.

locals at szechenyi baths budapest

If you want to go to thermal baths while in Budapest, have a look at which one you'd like to go to. We went to Szechenyi because they were the closest and we loved the architecture, but there are some over on the Buda side like Gellert and Rudas, that are smaller and have really amazing architecture inside. Also make sure you take a swimming costume, towel, and flip flops with you!

After a few hours relaxing we made the long walk back to the hotel. We showered and changed, then walked through the city towards the Hungarian Parliament building. A beautiful Gothic beast of a building, it was truly magnificent to see at night, and trumps our Houses of Parliament any day.

Hungarian Parliament building Budapest at night
Hungarian Parliament Building Budapest at night
On our way to the Parliament building we stumbled across a memorial statue, with a home-made memorial across the road from it, and just in front were two dozen or so people sat around a tree listening to a talk. A man came over to us with a piece of paper that explained what was going on. The memorial had been set up by the Hungarian Government to commemorate the Jewish persecution of the Nazi's. We went back the next day during the day time to get some photos.

Jewish memorial Budapest

It depicts the Angel Gabriel (which represents Hungary) standing innocently beneath the German Eagle, showing the oppression the Nazi's brought with them to Hungary. However, this is not actually what happened. The Hungarian government welcomed the Nazi's with open arms. Hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews were massacred in Hungary or deported to the concentration camps. 

Naturally the people of Budapest (both Jewish and non-Jewish) are furious with the government for not creating a memorial that at least admits to the mistake it made during the war and shows the truth, and so every night since the memorial was unveiled back in the summer, they have talks about the history of the Jewish community and what happened during WW2. It is a peaceful protest, they simply want to make a point to the government.

Jewish memorial in Budapest Hungary

The home-made memorial in front of the actual memorial has been created by the Jewish community of Budapest, the kerbside is full of mementos from family members as well as photographs and printed out copies of letters from family members murdered by the Nazi's. It's shocking to see and very moving, and if you're visiting Budapest anytime soon I urge you to visit it at Szabadság tér Park, at the south end of the park near the Iberostar Grand hotel.

After our history lesson, we walked back towards the hotel to find somewhere to eat, and found the most amazing Hungarian restaurant (more on this soon!). After dinner we then went to a ruin bar for drinks (again, more on this soon in a big post about eating and going out in Budapest), and finally got to bed around 2am. A fantastic first day in Pest!


  1. It's so nice, isn't it? I just love Budapest!

  2. It's lovely. I've been to Budapest a few years ago and it was beautiful. Congrats for winning the competition :)

    Anca @ ancaslifestyle | UK

    1. Thank you, I was so excited, such an amazing opportunity! I'd love to go back to Budapest again one day, it was lovely and so much to see and do.

      C x

  3. What a great place to choose for your free flights. It looks magical with all that amazing architecture!

    Rosie xx

    1. I'm so glad I chose it! Still desperately want to go to Russia and Iceland as well though haha! The architecture was stunning!

      C x

  4. You had a great time! Like your long skirt :)

  5. Well, looks like my comment from last night never worked, so I'll start over! I really love your pictures! Indoor pools are amazing, I love them! Especially the thermal ones! However, I can't stay too long in one or else my legs just stop working altogether because they get so dang relaxed! Anyways, my question is how in the world did win flight tickets? For some odd reason when I read this last night, I imagined you got them from the radio! Lol

    1. Ah no! Well at least this one worked :)

      Thank you! Oh no, that must suck :( what do you have to do to get them working again?

      Well, I actually unknowingly entered the competition! They were having a travel chat with the hashtag #KLMSummertime, and I took part because two of my favourite travel bloggers well helping KLM run it, and it turns out that it was a competition - all you had to do was take part in the chat using the hashtag to be entered!

      C x

  6. Congratulations on your win! Those baths look absolutely incredible. I've read so many posts on Budapest over the last few months that it's slowly creeping up my must visit list x


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