Today I'm going to let guest editor Peter Brooker talk more about his recent travels. His last article 48 hours in Bilbao will prove to be a very useful tool for me as I weigh up options for future weekends away. Today he's going to talk about his recent weekend break in Budapest. With some tips, hints, how to budget etc.
I'd been once before to Budapest. Like most men subjected to a long week working on a production line, rueing missed opportunities and poor life choices, a weekend reprieve in Budapest was just the antidote.
That was me ten years ago, embarking on a friends stag do that would prove to be one of the most blistering, relentless anarchic weekends of my life. Much like the Kennedy case file, most of the information of what happened that weekend can't be revealed until all parties have effectively, well, died. Let’s just say we lost the hotel deposit before we even got to our room.
This recent trip as a sober man in his forties with a respectable girlfriend, featured none of that debauchery. Although I did get to see packs of disaffected men on the fringes of being thrown off planes, marauding through the Hungarian capital with lecherous dog-hungry eyes.
I don't think it's an exclusively British thing, but we have a fetishistic nature about us that makes us easier to spot when on holiday.
Where to stay in Budapest?
The Baron Residence Hotel is acutely central in Budapest. Relatively cheap, 3 nights for 282 GBP with breakfast thrown in. Breakfast is bare-bones; hardly the flagship for Budapest cuisine but can tie you over for a few hours.
It's not an Instagram-type hotel. I didn't get one shot inside. But not all hotels were designed for the purpose of showing off. This is classic eastern-European utilitarian style.
Where to Eat in Budapest?
There are many great Hungarian restaurants on a street called Raday Utca. This is mainly populated by locals and we were recommended this street by the concierge at the hotel.
The ONYX is probably one of the most expensive restaurants, we didn't go there but looked inside and it looked very swish.
The Kacsa Restaurant is quiet and out of the way. Little old school in terms of decor but I want to give them a mention because the gentleman who served us was genuine and well put together.
Anna Cafes are dotted around and is the best place for lemonades and people watching.
Things to see in Budapest
I'd definitely take a walk up to Liberty Statue. It’s incredibly scenic with plenty of lofty views of the Danube. You don't really get those views in London. Primrose Hill maybe, unless you do the Shard or certain public high rises.
The National Gallery has some great photography exhibitions. Especially the Fortepan exhibition Every past is my Past. This gallery has pictures mined from clearance sales, discarded photos, most handed down through generations. The owners and subjects are sometimes unidentified. There are currently 111,000 photos in the collection.
Up in the dome you'll also get some awe inspiring shots of the city.
So who knew that Dracula was a real person? Vlad the Impaler was a nasty piece of work. He tortured people by shaving the skin of his victims feet, coating the open wounds in salt and had goats lick them.
Vlad the Impaler was imprisoned here in these endless labyrinthian tunnels which is worth a visit, but you'll be pleased to leave.
Saint Stephens Basilica
The Americans will have you believe the stairs leading up to the dome go on forever. Don't believe a word of it. A modest schlepp will get you to one of the best views overlooking the city.
The exhibitions inside are not modernised or curated in a way that is the least bit interesting. However, the Cathedral is beautiful inside and well worth a look.
Where to go in Budapest for movie lovers
Budapest is a city utilised my filmmakers for its post-apocalyptic brutalism that is littered within the capital and its surrounding districts. The Stock Exchange Palace for example was used as Harrison Ford's home in Bladerunner 2049.
The Whale Building on the river was used in The Martian and Heroes Square was partly used for opening sequence in Red Heat.
If you’re a lover of movie memorabilia you can check out Ernst Gallery for eclectic rare movie posters. There is the Pinball Museum which houses the Rocky Pinball machine and you can also have fun spotting 007 number plates on the cars around town. We only saw one but there are plenty of 00's or 'other agents' as I amusingly coined. (Yes the girlfriend rolled her eyes).
Some last tips
The local currency is HUF and a lot of places only take cash. There are plenty of ATM's dotted around the capital so you shouldn't worry.
The airport is about a 30 GBP Uber ride into the centre of Budapest. It's a very walkable city and we didn't get any transportation when we were there. We covered 50 km in the 3 days we were there by foot, so make sure you bring comfy shoes.
The Gellert Hotel is an infamous place for thermal spas. We went inside the hotel to look around but we didn't frequent the spas, despite it being highly recommended. The Szabadsag Bridge is opposite and great for INSTA photos as you can climb up a small section.
The city is very chewed up currently as a lot of construction work is going on in a lot of the squares. This could fizzle a romantic weekend away if you're hoping to see Budapest this year.