Exploring Budapest: Public Baths, Bridges and Other Stories

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Prague was easiest my favorite city in this Eastern Europe trip. I was kind of denying it pa at first coz friends who've been to this side of the continent will tell me "Talaga!?" or ask "How about Stockholm?" (Or Oslo, Austria, Berlin, or the other cool cities I've been to!!). I love them all equally, as each has a different, and very distinct charm--and I am not just saying this for the sake! But Prague took me by surprise with its old fairytale vibe.

Coming in close is the capital city of Hungary which is Budapest. Tired from traveling for consecutive days, no pauses unless we were on sleeping trains, Budapest was refreshing and exciting and brought back so much of my energy.

A Little History: BUDA + PEST

Before the city that it is now, Buda and Pest were previously separate towns along with Obuda--much like Berlin's history or North and South Korea. Their "demarkation line" was the river Danube.

Although now unified and called as one city of Budapest, you can clearly see the two former independent towns. First, the more historical Buda is on the left side of river Danube. A clear indication that you're on this side is that it is where the Buda Castle is located. It is also a bit hilly, roads are narrow and winding that it's so hard to commute here and best to just walk (or in my case, crawl. Lol).

Meanwhile, Pest (which I learned is pronounced as pesht as they are not insects, hehehe) is the more modernized part of the city.  They have shops and restaurants, plus Budapest's main landmarks are located on this side including the Heroes Square, the Parliament and the Szechenyi Baths. You can also easily commute here by metro, buses or cars. I think we came in through this side, hopping off our 4-hour train ride from Westbahnhof to the Budapest Keleti Station.

Still at the train station, we met up with Ate's friend from high school Ate Jen, who's already leaving Hungary for her home in London that day but buti nalang nagkaabot pa. We had a quick catch up and lunch in a nearby mall, which is also our first meal in the city. I think hindi namin na realize that we were so hungry na pala, that when they placed this cheese pizza in front of us, naubos sya agad! 😂

Brought Ate Jen to the train station, which is also super pretty and very vintage looking.

Where We Stayed In Budapest

Out of all the accommodations Ate booked for this trip, this is probably THE BEST. But the most expensive too, haha! It's as if we own an apartment for the next 4 days, and the owners were also very friendly (they gave us a tour of the unit before they left us with the keys). Ang linis linis nya, and very spacious! Quite a contrast from the guesthouse we stayed in in Vienna. Here's a mini tour of the Cosy Central Apartment:

Very pang movie exteriors, sometimes we can see our neighbors homes at night when their place is fully lighted and their windows are wide open! Haha!

When you enter the apartment, they have a stool and a mat for your outside shoes:

On the left side is the mini sala and kitchen / dining area where I usually stay:

The kitchen is so complete, from microwave where I heat my cheese bread for breakfast, a water heater for my coffee, some pans for cooking, plates, glasses, and utensils--the works!

They also have drawers of all other kitchen essentials that you can think of, from cleaning stuff to paper towels, salt and pepper, etc.

Color palette / Apartment aesthetic goals!

They have a small counter where I love to eat while watching dubbed movies, and a couch where I often seat and wait for my Ate to finish prepping for the day. This is also where I open and fix my luggage.

Tipid tipid! There was a time in Budapest when Ate and I will eat dinner back in our apartment nalang para chill plus we also saved a few bucks.

Oh btw, there's a washing machine in our room's toilet and bath, and may pa-sabitan din sila which Ate was able to maximize during our whole stay! Haha!

Here's how our bedroom looks like. Again, very cozy and even cold at night with the window next to the bed. Colors look very calming--noted na ang blue, white, granite color palette for my future room or condo.

Towels are provided so yey:

Restroom is so pretty and still very well decorated:

Things To Do / Where To Go In Budapest

And so finally, here are some of the places we were able to visit during our four day stay in the city.

St. Stephen's Basilica

A huge Catholic church, there is a souvenir shop in front where Ate bought stampitas and pendants for pasalubong. We also heard the mass, but it was held on the side and not on the main church. Ang konti ng church goers dito, and noticeable yung mga Pinoy.

Hungarian Parliament Building

Very pretty, neo-gothic architecture standing on the banks of Danube. Sya pala yung pinipicturean namin the other night from the Buda Castle side. You can also take a guided tour inside (Ate had our tickets secured online prior this trip) which I really enjoyed!

Patungan daw ng yosi before:

All guests were lent these headpiece so we can hear the tour guide's stories even when we're at the back.

The Széchenyi Chain Bridge

This is one of the highlights for me of our day 1 in Budapest. It was night time, Ate and I decided to just walk around the city, and even crossed the famous Széchenyi Chain Bridge--the bridge that divided Buda and Pest. People were also walking or hanging out, as cars passed by so fast that it felt cooler on a midsummer night! The sight and the feeling of being there was something to behold.

Hősök tere

Another major square in Budapest, the Hősök tere features the Seven chieftains of the Magyars and other important Hungarian national leaders, as well as the Memorial Stone of Heroes.

Buda's Castle District

Another Budapest favorite is this huge compound in Buda where you will find the Matthias Church, Fisherman's Bastion, the Buda Castle, Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest History Museum, and a spectacular view of the river Danube--most especially during sunset and at night.

Central Market Hall

An indoor market that looks like a train station or even a church from the outside, where vendors sell all sorts of stuff from raw produce, vegetables and meat, to paprika that you can take home, and other souvenirs.

City Park

A public park with main entrance at the Heroes' Square. You will find some of Budapest's tourist attractions here including the Municipal Zoological and Botanical Garden, Municipal Grand Circus, Vajdahunyad Castle, and the Széchenyi Medicinal Baths and Swimming Pool where we went to.

Szechenyi Thermal Bath

Naku not for the OC at heart, haha! But this is another highlight, top 3 level experience during our Budapest trip! The Széchenyi Thermal Bath is the largest medicinal bath in Europe. From the outside, it looks like the parliament, haha! Ate and I were so intimidated to go in, but vowed na any discomfort ng kahit isa lang sa amin, aalis kami kaagad. Lol!

But once we got in, the sucker for Japanese onsens, Korean jjimjilbang, and public bathhouses in me suddenly got so excited! Hahaha! Can't stop won't stop! 😂

They have indoor and outdoor pools, water is supplied by two thermal spring with 74 °C and 77 °C in temperature. Thermal water has sulphate, calcium, magnesium, bicarbonate and a significant amount of metaboric acid and fluoride that has a lot of health benefits to our body. In my case, super enjoy lang ako basta may water hehehe!

Favorite ko yung outdoor hot pools, may mga pafountain pa! There's a clock and temperature projected on a large digital screen by the pool coz masama din daw na super tagal magbabad.

Szechenyi Thermal Bath FAQs:

How much did we pay? 5700 Ft during weekdays, 5900 Ft during weekends and holidays, inclusive of cabin use (picture below--it's a dressing room and locker in one). Complete price list HERE.

Time: 6am to 10pm daily

What to Bring? I brought my own rubber slippers, swimsuit, and small towel. There's a shower room but no shampoo and body wash were provided so bring your own or pay extra for a package. They also have rentals for towels, swimming caps, and even swimsuits but if for hygiene and to save money bring nalang your own.

Other things to do? Aside from the 18 indoor and outdoor pools, I also enjoyed going in the saunas and steam chambers!! Other stuff that you can do with extra pay are massages, manicure and pedicure, aquafitness classes, and I even saw a thermal beer spa! Haha!

Check out their WEBSITE for more information.

Gellért Hill, Citadella, and the Liberty Statue

We went up the Gellert Hill during our last day, which turned out to be an unexpected hike! Haha! Good thing I was always in comfortable sneakers during our travels. Gellert Hill turned out to be named after Saint Gerard, who was thrown from this hill to die huhu. :(

At the end of our journey is the Liberty Statue of Hungary, a symbolic statue for those who sacrificed their lives for the independence, freedom, and prosperity of the country. Surrounding the liberty is the Citadella, a kind of fortress, where people rested, took pictures, and enjoyed the sight of the river Danube from bird's view point.

Hungarian National Gallery

Ate allowed me to have a solo quick tour before our appointment at the Hungarian Parliament. She had coffee in Starbucks, while I chose to patiently line up for a ticket to the Frida Kahlo exhibit in the Hungarian National Gallery. Might not look like it, but I am a big fan of art and I think seeing their paintings in person gives me the same kilig as seeing an artista or something! Haha!

Like in the Van Gogh exhibit in Jeju, this exhibit also has Frida's quotable quotes which show how tortured and sad she was while she was living.

I cannot contain my happiness seeing all these legit paintings in real life! What an opportunity that I never thought of prior this Euro trip! Someday, I will be heading to Amsterdam just to see more of Van Gogh's works! I've been to MOMA to see Starry Night in NYC, but there's still so so much to see!

Not just paintings, you will also see Frida's photos and letters in this exhibit. Too bad that it already ended last November, but I wonder if they just transfer everything in another museum??

Will forever be grateful to that girl who willingly took my photo with a legit Frida Kahlo self portrait!!!! This one is called the "Self Portrait with Small Monkey, 1945".

They say that Friday usually paints herself with her favorite animals to substitute the children she never had. In her 1945 self-portrait, Frida is intertwined with her hairless dog Señor Xolotl, a monkey, and a pre-Hispanic idol. 

Liberty Bridge

Also called the Freedom Bridge, this green bridge in Budapest connects Buda and Pest across the Danube River, I guess much like the chain bridge. This one is very near our apartment so we get to pass by it everyday while we were in the city. At night, its turquoise color stands out, illuminated by the lights from the lamps and the cars. People actually go up and hangout on its metal structure!

Shoes on the Danube Bank

A sad memorial on the east bank of Danube River honoring the Jews who took of their shoes, and shot with arrows at the edge of the water by fascists during World War II.

Little Princess of Budapest

One of the distinct sculptures you'll chance upon around Pest is the Little Princess or the Kiskirálylány. She is located by the riverside walk, a statue of a 5-year-old girl leaning casually by the railings of the tram.

What and Where To Eat in Budapest?

Some of the recommended restaurants in my Ate's list include the Hummusbar, Hungarikum Bistro, Fekete, Szeraj and the Hoppacska. Although we had plenty of dinners spent in our apartment, some of our most memorable meals in Europe were in local restaurants and cafes of Budapest. We had falafels and hummus, create your own pasta, coffee al fresco style in an independent coffee shop, huge servings of burritos in a Mexican resto, and of course a local Hungarian dish in Hungarikum Bistro!

One of my favorite meals for this trip is here at the Hungarikum Bistro, just because the food and the place feels so legit! Dining is strictly by reservations, and because Ate is Ate, we had our booking weeks prior this trip. We heard groups asking the receptionist about the time they can go in, and I think it was 6pm palang but available is about 10pm na!

We were given this homemade bread while waiting for our orders. It has yogurt on top and comes with a paprika dipping sauce.

Very cozy, great service, and traditional Hungarian meal! They have limited menu, but there are about two vegetarian options for the mains so yey. I order the Mushroom Paprikash with Dumplings--very comfort food vibe and has mushroom and chewy gnocchi topped with distinct sauce. I made sure to order red wine to enjoy everything, and then a shot of Palinka with Ate afterwards just to cap off the meal and our wonderful night in Budapest.

In Conclusion

I cannot box our Budapest trip, much more this whole Eastern Europe trip. Maybe this is why it took me months to recover (from the sepanx, and also from the expenses, lol) and eventually create these blog posts. Ang hirap nyang isulat! Sa totoo lang, if I only have more time and energy it would have been nice to make a per day blog post of all our experiences in this 20-day adventure. We saw so much, did so much stuff! But time constraints and lack of writing powers lead me to just posting one per city--pwede nadin kesa wala but next time I will try harder.

I'd say this Euro trip is an experience of a lifetime--a highlight of my 2018. Europe in general was all new to me! We tend to go back to places where we've been to to avoid disappointments and for guaranteed satisfaction (Japan and Korea for me), but I think this trip taught me to go again for the unknown. Do not be afraid. Take risks! When you don't know what's coming next, doesn't it bring so much more excitement? This trip brought back travel's magic and mystery to me.

Last stop: Krakow, Polland!

1 comment

  1. Can't believe you had a selfie with Frida Kahlo's portrait in Hungarian National Gallery..Naalala ko tuloy yung Movie na "Coco" super love ko dun yung role niya.! Hope to see more Frida Kahlo's posts or Photos po in your future blog.!


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