Picture this – your best mate lives in Dubai, so her boyfriend coordinates a surprise trip to Budapest for her 30th Birthday with her closest friends and her parents for a couple of nights.
I have never been so scared about screwing up a surprise in my life. Cue the avoidance of said friend on WhatsApp for approximately 3 weeks beforehand in fear that I might accidentally drop the bomb. Despite that, the excitement was pretty intense in the many secret group chats we had going on before our trip. It’s been a while since I’ve been on a jolly with the girls and I couldn’t bloody wait.
Last Saturday morning seven of us headed to Luton Airport for our boozy weekend of birthday fun. The best thing about it was that Laura had absolutely no clue what was going on, as her boyfriend Matt had organised a two-night stay in a yurt in the Hungarian countryside beforehand – cute! She arrived in Budapest city centre to find her parents sitting in the cafe they chose to have lunch in for surprise number one, before heading over to their apartment where she got the fright of her life as all 7 of us jumped out as she walked in. You can watch a video of that awesome moment right here:
Budapest is a pretty lively place. It is not short of beanos and stag dos, as we found out on our flight over. Our plane was buzzing with lads on the beers, with one groom-to-be who was so hammered before 11am he had no clue where he was going.
Amongst the lads, lads lads and lots of beer, Budapest is pretty much designed for a weekend away with a group of friends and you’re definitely not short of places to spend hours gassing over a few gin and tonics or local lagers like we did. Budapest as a city offers a quirky European short break with an underground edge.
District 7, or the Jewish quarter as its also known on the Pest side of the city, is the place to be for a night out. This is where all the famous ‘ruin bars’ are located, including Szimpla Kert. A crazy three-story ruin bar with heaps of personality including corner caves and quirky decor, grungy graffiti and cheap alcohol.
There’s a pretty mixed crowd of locals and internationals in here, and not one surface that hasn’t been scribbled on with some weird arty randomness. You can even sip your pint whilst sitting in a bath tub if you like!
Round the corner from Szimpla Kert is Gozsdu Udvar, a mile-long pedestrian street teaming with bars, clubs, karaoke, food, drink – the lot. If you’re in a large group for what ever reason you must go here. Dinner choices are endless.
We chose to have a meal at Spiler, an Asian street food restaurant washed down with plenty of Pálinka (gross). That said, I didn’t go for the Asian food and opted to try a traditional Hungarian dish of Chicken Paprikash. Mistake number 1 – don’t choose local cuisine in a restaurant that doesn’t specialise in it. It wasn’t great.
District 7 is dotted with many cafes and bars to keep you occupied day and night, including an adorable little coffee shop which we visited for breakfast called Stika. Get your eggs and coffee here and maybe even try an extra spicy Hungarian sausage on the side of your fry up to kick that hangover away.
After a heavy night on the wine, we chose to relax in one of Budapest’s famous thermal baths and sweat out the night before in a spa. Budapest is known as the city of baths and the few people I know who had visited the Hungarian capital before all said the spa was a must do. They were right.
We opted for the Széchenyi Thermal Bath , one of the oldest in Europe with loads of pools (18 in total), complete with herds of tourists and locals alike, including a table of elderly gentlemen with suntans darker than I’ve ever had in my life playing cards drinking beer by the poolside.
Take a cruise up the danube and see the sights on the water. I was pretty set on organising this for our group as it looked like a great way to see the city, and after a bit of homework I discovered the amazing Dunarama water limousine service (follow them on Instagram @Dunarama) on budapestrivercruise.com and booked an hour-long trip on a private yacht on Sunday afternoon.
Our hosts provided all the information we needed including a a guided tour of the cities iconic landmarks enjoying a glass of fizz before taking a sharp left and going full throttle towards the Hungarian Houses of Parliament to the sound of Highway to Hell blasting through the speakers. I’m pretty sure the poor women watching us from the riverside wet themselves with fear as we edged ever closer before slicing back on track. Mental. We yelped with fear quite a lot as we hit the choppy water! Oops.
Top your weekend off with a cracking meal. Have a chilled evening of Hungarian-Hawaiian vibes at the Vintage Garden, and enjoy the white paradise garden and adorable flamingo-centric decor. This is the sort of venue you only come across if you do your homework, and you really could be anywhere. That said, it was a great location for our final evening in the city and provided that relaxing, contemporary restaurant vibe we were after.
And one more thing…
Stay somewhere central so you can stumble home with ease. We booked this fantastic apartment called Downtown Oasis through Air BnB, which was walking distance from the Pest side’s best attractions and the river.
We flew to Budapest with Wizz Air from Luton for £100 return, with Downtown Oasis costing £23 pppn.