My first time in Budapest was in 2006 – I landed there on accident and in pretty funny circumstances. I was on my way back to Warsaw from a trip with my friend, and we arrived in Budapest because of fogs and problems with landing. And it didn’t happen just once, but twice! Our plane going to Warsaw was sent to Budapest twice! I remember that even back then, ten years ago, Budapest made a very positive impression on me. There was some kind of strange exoticism and magnetising charm to it. It’s Hungary, a country pretty close to Poles and our culture, and yet very different. I remember Christmas fair on Vörösmarty Square, mulled wine and my first real Hungarian stew, I remember Vásárcsarnok and thermal pools.
I came back to Budapest after 5 years and was shocked. Incredible growth of gastronomical offer, Michelin star restaurants, bustling night life. Budapest became a real European metropolis in my eyes. Too bad we only spent two dys there, but I’m sure we’ll come back pretty soon in a bigger group! 🙂
Today we’re introducing you to a few places worth having on your list if you decide to go to Budapest. There won’t be any tourist “must sees” (well, almost) on this list, but mostly just food, food, food! 🙂
First thing’s first…
1) Vásárcsarnok – Vámház körút 1-3
London has its Borough Market, Barcelona – impressive La Boqueria and Budapest – Vasarcsarnok. The Great Market Hall in Pest, on the right side of Danube is amazing in every way. Awesome antique architecture, buzz, atmosphere and food, food, food! This huge market has everything it needs to be called the absolute “must visit” of Budapest.
What’s especially magnetizing about this place for me is its naturalness. Although it’s one of the main tourist attractions in Budapest, local residents doing their everyday shopping are still the majority there. Besides an incredibly rich offer of fruits and vegetables, meats, smoked meats, you can try local street food (lángos is a must!) or Hungarian wine.
2) Budafok – Lics Winery and Torley – Kossuth Lajos utca 44
Budafok is a neighbourhood of Budapest located a few kilometers south west from the city center. It’s been famous mostly for its rich wine-making traditions and unique for European scale well-developed system of basements connected together for ages. Being there, you need to go to one of the local wine producers – for example to Lics Winery. You can walk around its underground with wine barrells and, of course, buy a souvenir you can take home.
While you’re still in the neighbourhood, you can’t forget about one of the most famous Hungarian sparkling wine producers, József Torley & Co. You can go to a modern sparkling wine museum and antique basements. Torley has been produced for over 120 years in traditional double fermentation method.
3) Strudel House Elso Pesti Reteshaz – Oktober 6. Utca 22
The absolute must for all strudel lovers is Strudel House and it’s coming from someone who is not the biggest fan of this treat. You can watch “strudelmen” work there. They’re like pizzaiolos in pizza places, forming the dough and folding it around different stuffings in front of guests. The favor choice is very rich – you can get everything from salty strudels with cabbage (so-called Kaposztas), through sweet ones with apples (Almas), apples and poppy-seed (Almas-makas), cherries and poppy-seed (Meggyes-makas), to poppy-seed or plum strudles. I fell in love with with the plum one and even though I wasn’t hungry anymore, I went back to eat more – another one with apple and poppy-seed. You can give everything just to eat that hot strudel even if you thought you weren’t a fan!
5) Night dinner and Danube cruise
Whoever’s been to Budapest will appreciate its night view. Beautiful during the day, even more beautiful at dusk. If you add a three hour long dinner on one of many boat-restaurants cruising the Dunabe River and overlooking the city to that, you will have a perfect recipe for an incredibly romantic dinner with your loved one. It’s good to choose the host wisely, though, because not everyone can offer you high standards when it comes to food. If you choos a good one, you will have a super evening! 🙂
6) Cafe Gerbeaud – Vörösmarty tér 7-8
By many, it’s called the best confectionery in Budapest. Its beginnings reach 1858. Gerbaud is in the city centre, on Vörösmarty tér 7-8. Its interior reminds me of Warsaw’s Wedel on Szpitalna Street – it’s pretty traditional. They offer both Hungarian classics and modern confectioner’s trade, like our DESEO. I find it funny that it’s the first place we see during our sightseeing! 🙂 When there, you can buy cakes, petit gateau cookies, pralines, truffles, chocolates and nuts in chocolate. Prices? High! One cookie (similar to ours sold for about 14-17 PLN) is about 35 PLN.
7) Street Food Karavan – Kazinczy u. 18
Jewish neighbourhood. From our first trip we remember it mostly as a very climatic, but still pretty seedy part of town. It reminded us of Warsaw’s Praga. What’s interesting, not only do we see Orthodox Jews walking around in their traditional outfits, but also hipsters – it’s trendy. If you follow them, you will find places like Karavan, a pretty big open-air food court. We went there during the day, but I’m sure at night this place is as vibrant as Warsaw’s Night Market Warto in summer!
8) Bors GasztroBár – Kazinczy u. 10
Incredibly interesting story of two chefs bored with gastronomical tension, who decide to open an average street food bar using the knowledge and experience they got while working in fine dining restaurants. Something like Munchies in Warsaw. Same thing happened in Bors Gasztrobar – gourmet food (they still offer high quality and fresh ingredients) has been given to people. You can eat soups, sandwiches, pastas and desserts here – most of it is served in cups, they often take risks when it comes to flavors (for example classical Hungarian Hortobagy pancakes flavored “soup”, cinnamon or Snickers pancakes – the picture’s taken from their Facebook page).
While planning your trip to Budapest, you have to see if you can make it to some wine festival. Countless culinary events are organized in that city almost all year long. Hungarians joke that if you want a Hungarian to stop watching TV, you need to organize a wine or culinary festival 🙂
One of the most important ones takes place every September in the most beautiful place you can imagine – in Buda Castle. The most important Hungarian wine producers come there for a few days and you get to taste the best things that Hungarians have to offer. You won’t only get to taste their wines, but also some treats including langos. It’s worth it!
To sum things up, modern Budapest is magnetizing not just because of its architecture, climate, atmosphere and listed buildings, but also because of foodies that are constantly looking for places where they could eat! Budapest is close to Poland – you can find pretty good flights or go on a car trip. October is still a good time for that! 🙂