I first sampled the bohemian splendour of Budapest a couple of years ago on a birthday getaway with friends. This grand bohemian city has a strange but unique feel to it. I don’t quite know how to explain it but there was something drawing me in. I have visited many cities since my first trip to Budapest, but I have not experienced this feeling again. I knew that before long I would return to sample more of the bohemian capital.
Casati Budapest Hotel
About six months ago I connected with a gorgeous boutique hotel located right in the heart of the city, the Casati Budpest Hotel. Their concept is unique, they offer four different styles of room, and it was this that attracted me. The four room styles are; natural, heaven, cool and classic.
Casati Budapest Hotel, Bohemian Budapest
After a few messages back and forth I reserved a room at Casati for a couple of nights in March. I was quite open as to when I could visit Budapest, and they recommended that I should plan my stay during mid march, so that I was in Budapest for their Revolution Day holiday. I was told that the city would really spring to life in celebrations and cultural activities during this holiday, so I went ahead and booked my visit to include this date.
The Casati has been open since 2012 and is located just off Andrássy Utca, seconds away from the Opera metro station. They have 25 rooms, each one unique, but falling into one of their four room styles. Casati doesn’t have a restaurant, however it does have a light and airy modern breakfast room, where they put on a magnificent spread. Sparkling wine is included in the breakfast buffet, this was the first time I have seen this in a hotel. Just off the breakfast room is a small bar area, and during my stay work on their new cocktail bar next to reception was underway. Other facilities at the hotel include a fitness room and sauna.
Spend a perfect day in Bohemian Budapest
I managed to fit a lot into my three days in Budapest, but needless to say there is so much more which I didn’t get round to. If I had to pick the best parts of my trip and create my perfect day, this would be it…
Spend the morning exploring Castle Hill
Spend a morning exploring the picturesque Castle Hill, enjoying the stunning panoramic views over the river Danube and Pest side of the city. My hotel was located in Pest, just a short 10 minute walk to the famous Széchenyi Chain Bridge. The Chain Bridge was the first bridge built to connect the two cities of Buda and Pest, completed in 1849 and designed by William Tierney Clark of Bristol, UK.
After crossing the Chain Bridge you arrive at the Castle Hill funicular railway that takes you to the top of the hill. You can also walk up the hill if you prefer. There is a lot to explore on Castle Hill, and it was here that most of the Revolution Day festivities take place every year. The hill is home to the famous Buda Castle as well as Matthias Church, Fishermans Bastion and the ancient castle district of the city.
During my visit the streets of the castle district were lined with market stalls offering food and drink, as well arts and crafts, and Revolution Day mementos. There were also live concerts, folk music bands, and numerous other acts entertaining the huge crowds. The staff at the hotel was right; the city really did spring into life this day!
Behind the picturesque tiled roof of Matthias Church lies the Fishermans Bastion. Fishermans Bastion is a neo-gothic style terrace that runs along the top of castle hill between the edge of the hill and Matthias Church. The terrace provides some breath-taking views over Pest and the Danube, and if you are in need of some refreshment there is a wine bar/café in the bastion, under the terrace, where you can enjoy a nice refreshing drink and a light snack.
Pay a visit to the Indoor markets to sample some Hungarian cuisine
A visit to the Great Market Hall should be at the top of everyone’s to-do list while in bohemian Budapest. The Great Market Hall is located at Fővám square, at the end of Váci utca. The market can be easily reached on foot or you could take a tram to Fővám square.
The Great Market Hall was built in 1897. It was severely damaged in both world wars, resulting in it being closed for many years. Huge restoration works took place in the 1990s bringing the market back to its original bohemian grandeur. The market hall is now one of the biggest tourist attractions in Budapest.
With three levels, the market offers an extensive range of items, anything from fresh fruit and vegetables to sweets, cakes, cheese, cooked meats, raw meat, herbs and spices, and even fresh fish. With so much to choose from this is a great place to explore and hunt down the ingredients to recreate your favourite Hungarian dishes, or even to find souvenirs and gifts. I found some beautiful salamis and loads of paprika so that I can make lots of Hungarian goulash when I was back at home.
Take a stroll down Andrássy Utca to Hősök Tere and then relax in the Széchenyi Baths
From Erzsébet Tér in the centre of Budapest, take a stroll along Andrássy Utca, Budapest’s equivalent of the Champs-Élysées. The beginning is lined with designer boutiques, with opulent grand mansions at the other end. Andrássy Utca ends at Hősök Tere (Hero’s Square). Hősök Tere is known for the iconic monument showing the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars, as well as the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The Museum of Fine Arts and the Palace of Art are also located here.
On the opposite side of the square lies City Park and a short walk through the park will take you to Széchenyi baths. Budapest is famous for its thermal baths, and with so many different thermal baths scattered around the city, there are plenty to choose from. Széchenyi is one of the most famous baths, and a visit here comes highly recommended. A perfect time to visit the baths is just before dusk so you can experience the baths in the daytime as well as at night. A visit on a very cold night is even better, as they have a very mystical look to them with all the steam rising into the cold night air.
The entrance fee for the baths is approximately £12 per person, and in case you forget to pack you own towels and bathing gear, you can hire them there. The main outdoor area of Széchenyi has two large baths and a swimming pool. This outdoor area is surrounded on all sides by the buildings that house the changing rooms, showers, snack kiosks and numerous hot and cold indoor baths, as well as saunas and steam rooms.
Enjoy Dinner at Aszú Étterem
On my first evening in Budapest I asked the receptionist at the hotel to recommend a good restaurant for dinner for some traditional Hungarian cuisine. He recommended two places, but warned that they might already be fully booked due to it being a Saturday night. He offered to call ahead and book but I politely declined, as I wanted to go and check them out for myself. Luckily they were down the same street, almost opposite each other. They both looked amazing, but out of the two I picked Aszú Étterem. It was extremely busy, but I luckily managed to get a table.
The building had a very grand feel to it, and I must admit that I felt a tad underdressed – turning up wearing a pair of jeans, but then I spotted someone wearing a baseball cap so it wasn’t a problem. The maître d’ took us to our table and promptly handed us menus in English. There was a huge choice of food on the menu, as well as a story from the owner on how the restaurant was founded, and also his love for wine! All of their wines which they served are sourced locally from Hungarian vineyards, and they also serve a range of their very own dessert wines.
I chose the goulash soup to start, followed by the Hungarian mangalica pork tenderloin with cabbage noodle and apple compote, and then orange eclairs with caramel ice cream to finish. The food was absolutely amazing, and so was the bottle of Heimann Merlot 2012 Szekszárd that accompanied it. I couldn’t resist trying one of their dessert wines with my orange eclairs, the dessert wines have a range of different sweetness, and I opted for one that was not too sweet.
After such an amazing meal, you would naturally be expecting a nasty shock when the time came to pay the bill. When my bill arrived I was shocked, but in a good way! All the food and wine I had consumed came to little over £30 – I was very impressed. So much so, that on the last day of my trip I re-visit to Aszú for lunch.
To end the day…
To end a perfect day in bohemian Budapest, why not try a nightcap of a national Hungarian liqueur, Unicum. I can say that it’s not for me, but definitely worth a try!