Discover the most buzzed-about city still under the mainstream radar. Enjoy one of my favorite parts of Budapest before the rest of the world does too!
SEE ALSO: 25 Foods You’ve Gotta Try In Budapest
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Let’s start in the Buda part of Budapest, which is both ritzy and historic. It’s also one of my favorite areas, because of the beautiful views of Castle Hill. Right next to Matthias Church, you’ll see Fisherman’s Bastion – a neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque style terrace where you can see a gorgeous view of Danube, the longest river in the European Union. The first citizens arrived to Castle Hill in the 13th century after the Mongolian invasion, today, it’s recognized as a World Heritage Site.
First completed in 1265, Buda Castle is comprised of palaces for the Hungarian kings. It’s survived the Middle Ages, the Ottoman and Baroque periods. Today, you can check out changing of the guards every hour from 8:30 am – 5 pm. The Hungarian National Gallery is also here, with impressive collections of 6000 paintings, 2100 sculptures, 3100 medals, 11,000 drawings, and 5000 prints.
Budapest has a number of bookshops, even ones that sell a good number of English books. But the one I fell in love with was in a tiny little tunnel in Castle Hill called Litea, Literature & Tea Bookshop. For any book lovers, this is a little heavenly jewel.
Make sure you make Litea just as special for you as it has been for me! Next to the bookshop is a series of souvenir stores, perfect for getting gifts for friends and family back home! Some people think souvenir shopping is so cliche, but what I’ve found in Budapest is that if you talk to the store owners, you’ll find really great handmade stuff.
Speaking of food, THE restaurant in Castle Hill you want to indulge in is Vár: a Speiz, a Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant serving traditional Hungarian cuisine in a casual, bistro-style. Marinated salmon, Bikaver Eger red wine, goulash soup, duck breast with foie gras are not to be missed.
For a good night’s sleep in Castle Hill, my hotel of choice is St. George Residence All Suite Hotel de Luxe. 26 super spacious suites are cozy and old-school glamorous. It’s perfect for couples and families who need more space. As one of the oldest hotels in Budapest, this 700-year-old building even has a medieval wine cellar.
While you’re still on the Buda side, make sure to take a stroll along the Danube and snap a few photos of the magnificent Parliament building. It’s the largest building in Hungary and the tallest in Budapest.
Crossing the Chain Bridge, we cross over to the Pest side, and in the heart of downtown is Fashion Street!
Fashion Street is probably the most famous shopping area in the city. Christmas time or not, there’s always an outdoor market selling local food, clothing and crafts. On a cold winter day, hot wine is 150% necessary.
DRINK: Hot Wine
On a cold winter day, hot wine is 150% necessary.
Looking for a Hungarian fashion label? Try Nanushka, the flagship store on Fashion Street is where you can find clothes for the urban nomad.
A totally chic hotel right on Fashion Street is Kempinski Hotel Corvinus, Budapest. The Germany luxury brand’s Budapest location is MADE for the sophisticated, business-savvy modern jetsetter. Fully equipped with a gym, pool and spa, even an open-kitchen for cooking classes, Kempinski is even Michael Jackson’s favorite. The King of Pop stayed in this hotel so many times that there’s a tree planted across from the hotel in his honor.
Down the elevator ride from you room at Kempinski is the Nobu Restaurant on lobby floor. You want a taste of Los Angeles? The world’s most famous Japanese restaurant has got hip crowds and celebrity sightings.
Fashion street is already on the Pest side, but there’s quite a few other hotspots. Starting with Púder Bar. Ruin pubs are a huge deal in Budapest, they’re basically abandoned venues from the Communist era, and now transformed into cool bars and cultural spaces that mixes drinking and art in the same space. Puder Bar is one of the most popular ruin pubs with exhibitions and artistic events during the day.
Live music, shaggy on the inside but the walls are plastered with a lot of heart. For Sale Pub is located across the street from the Central Market Hall (which we’ll go into later.) The pub allows you and I to stick little notes, drawings, business cards, pictures…anything you want on the walls. Pretty cool!
The new bar in town has got massive retro vibe. Taskaradio Bar is decorated with Pioneer’s 12 commandments which is a youth Communist Hungary organization. Besides the awesome lamps, there are retro radios, cars, toys, TVs, photos…this is #ThrowbackThursday and #FlashbackFriday’s love child.
One of my favorite restaurants in Budapest is Bock Bisztró, and I believe it’s also one of the best in the city. Also a Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant, Bock makes its own beautiful wines so don’t forget to pick up a bottle here or at the airport. Devour in beet root salad, veal neck and let’s also mention that all this cost no more than USD $50. I.Love.Hungary.
If you wanna slay, you know you’ve gotta rock a little vintage. Since San Francisco days, I’ve always loved a good vintage store. Here in Budapest, you wanna stop by Szputnyik. It’s where all the cool kids are. Here is a fashion concept that mixes old and new, romantic vintage, provocative and modern styles. You know I was all over it.
A really adorable hotel on the Pest side is Palazzo Zichy, which was a place from the 19th century transformed into a boutique hotel. Highly ranked on TripAdvisor, Palazzo Zichy is perfect for the low-key traveler looking for a more intimate vibe. 80 contemporary rooms come with complimentary breakfast, coffee and tea and cocktail hours. Bang for the buck!
SEE: Heroes’ Square
Budapest, Hősök tere, 1146 Hungary (map)
Heroes’ Square hosts many important political events throughout Hungarian history. You can see statues of the famous Seven Chiefains (leaders of seven tribes,) and other national leaders and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Right next to Heroes’ Square is the incredible castle of Vajdahunyad. Built in 1896, the Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque-style castle was a celebration of 1,000 years of Hungary since the Hungarian Conquest of the Carpathian Basin.
Between 1910 to 1930’s, coffee culture became huge in Budapest among writers, poets and artists. On the famous Andrassy Avenue across from the Opera House is Muvesz, which means “artist”, is one of the more famous coffee houses. Sit back, eat, drink, munch and take in all that artistic ambiance.
Great Market Hall or Central Market Hall is the largest and oldest indoor market in Budapest. On the first floor, you can find product, meats, pastries, candies, spices and spirits. The second floor has eateries and souvenirs. Closed on Sundays, the market is a great place for a quick meal.
Photos: Wendy Hung
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