So it was the weekend we’d all been waiting for – it was time for Culture Club to go global! One of our Culture Club members has relocated to Budapest for 6 months for work so it was just too good an opportunity for the rest (ie the other two) of us to miss. It was time to hop on a plane and check out culture Hungarian style!
We got the 8am Wizz Air flight out of Luton airport on Saturday morning and were in Budapest by 11am. From then on in it was a non-stop culture experience, an assault on all of the senses with great food, beautiful sights, classical music, lovely smells and the velvety touch of a mineral spa…
Here is a brief rundown of our culture packed itinerary (which seems to be mostly filled with eating, drinking, dancing and music):
Saturday started with brunch at Cirkusz in the old Jewish quarter delicious food, cool decor, reasonably priced, great start to the trip! This was followed by a quick swim and jacuzzi at the sumptuous spa in our hotel, the Royal Hotel Corinthia.
Revitalised by the swim and energised by a quick (tho very overpriced G&T in the hotel bar) we jumped on the tram and headed to a ballet at Erkel Theatre – the largest theatre in the city. The venue had a definite South Bank vibe and being located in District 8, I felt like I was in The Hunger Games. The ballet was a production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, the first half was rather slow, the second half was excellent!
Culture over for the night it was time for a delicious dinner at Trattoria Pomo D’Oro a classy Italian restaurant a taxi ride away (I’m afraid I’m not quite sure in what direction…). My homemade pumpkin ravioli was sublime, the burrata mozerella to die for, and the wine list pretty splendid too.
Fully satiated it was time to head into the night for some quality dancing at Instant – a labyrinth of a club with a variety of different music playing – we particularly enjoyed sweaty corner, where we seemed to spend most of our time…
Sunday started with a much-needed swim and jacuzzi in the fancy hotel spa, we’d danced till 6am and arose at 9am so the jacuzzi certainly helped to ease the pain slightly!
Then it was time to head to Buda (we’d previously only been in Pest) for brunch at Deryne Bistro. This is a very classy French bistro with lovely live jazz and tasty food washed down with smooth Bloody Marys.
Full up yet again (and yet again without a morsel of Hungarian fayre to pass our lips) we had time for a quick sweep browse of the castle on the hill which disappointingly looks nothing like a castle and just kept making me play that Ed Sheeran song on a loop in my own head before jumping in a cap to the Children’s Railway. This is real railway set in the Buda Hills and run by children although supervised by adults. It is a hangover from the projects introduced in Eastern Europe by the Soviet Union to teach them social responsibility. It provides beautiful views of the Buda Hills whilst giving an interesting insight into the communist Hungary of old. (Culture plus historical/political context = double culture tick!).
We alighted at Janos and walked up the hill to the viewpoint and the Libego Chairlift which runs back down the hill back to the American Embassy in town with beautiful panoramic views of the city throughout.
Then it was back into a cab to the Gellert Spa for a spot of chilling and celeb spotting (well we saw Dakota Fanning which I think counts as celeb spotting – and on that note is celeb spotting a cultural activity?)… Now I didn’t know that Budapest was renowned for its spas, to be honest I’d done very little research before the trip seeing as how I had a man in the ground as it were. Anyway when we arrive he told us that we had the choice of party spa in Pest or the more tranquil spa in Buda. We opted for tranquil spa seeing as how we had rather overdone it the night before and wanted to relax, and we were not disappointed. With hot mineral baths, a cold refreshing wave pool, a beautiful indoor pool and sunloungers aplenty, this really was an amazing place to relax. Although the complicated locker and bathrobe rental systems were quite tricky to get your head round, especially when trying to function on a hangover and 3 hours sleep.
Our time in the spa was cut short because we had tickets to a classical concert that evening so after a couple of hours we had to jump in yet another cab and head back towards our hotel. Now unfortunately at this point our trip went slightly wrong…We were unlucky enough to hail a very dodgy, violent, aggressive and quite frankly terrifying taxi driver. But the tale of that is not for here, just be warned to double check the meter that your driver is using and be careful about confronting them with any issues before you get out at your destination. Anyway we eventually got back to our hotel in one piece, filled in a police report, and then headed out for dinner and a few much needed drinks.
Dinner was back in the old Jewish quarter at a charming Middle Eastern restaurant called Dobrumba. We had loads of delicious small sharing plates washed down with a few gallons of white wine before heading off to a classical music concert at the Liszt Academy.
The Liszt Academy is a stunning building – large and opulent and very different in style and atmosphere to the Erkel. It was a beautiful place to enjoy a concert – although sadly the concert was a little dull.
As soon as the concert finished we dashed back out into the night for a nightcap at Szimpla – now this place does have to be seen to be believed. It’s a sprawling building (disused warehouse perhaps?) bursting with eccentric oddities and a complex labyrinth of rooms, floors and walkways. We drank here till midnight and then as the clock struck 12 it was time to head back to our hotel and get ready to get the plane back to London.