When I got an Air France voucher to use in compensation for delayed luggage at Amsterdam airport, I did not have to think long before deciding to use it against a week-end in Budapest. I already been twice, in 2011 and 2012, and fallen under the charm of its long avenues and magnificent buildings.
We were delighted to arrive in a sunny Budapest on a Friday, and quickly checked in at the Sofitel chain bridge. Sadly the room was not as big as the one I enjoyed during my last visit but it was good to get a special welcome from Accor (I am a silver member of their loyalty programme). We were soon outside again to cross the chain bridge (one of the only two surviving bridges designed by William Tierney Clark, with the other one being in the opulent Thames Valley town of Marlow, which we visited this summer) and climb the hill towards the Habsburg castle. On previous visits I had used the expensive funicular but actually the walk up is fairly short and you will enjoy the view even more.
After enjoying the last warm rays of sun, we were on our way down again to experience the hotel spa and swimming pool. If the facilities are not too busy, you will get to enjoy a decent size swimming pool and a sauna for free. The spa treatments offered are also well-priced on the whole, with a selected few being on offer (the offer changing every month). A pedicure was sampled during this stay, which was carried out diligently and to a high standard.
After a glass of delicious Hungarian wine at the bar (and free as part of our special welcome), we decided to have dinner at the restaurant (you can also enjoy some bar snacks). We sat down to a long feast of pleasant flavours and friendly service: only the appetiser, tomato and tasteless mozzarella, was disappointing. After the goulash, with the right flavours to balance the richness, and some tasty foie gras, we enjoyed a delicious sorbet made the local staple, palinka. It proved highly refreshing and a nice pit stop before embarking on our final course – the Dobos torta, which with its sponge cake and chocolate layers, is not dissimilar to an Opéra cake, and which rounded off our evening of Hungarian culinary delights beautifully thanks to its elegance and simplicity.
The following day, we enjoyed a comprehensive breakfast. The service, the atmosphere and the quality of some offerings (orange juice) could do with a little improving, but I would nevertheless be grateful to get the same standard on most of my travels.
Once again we were up the hill to visit the Budapest History Museum, with a permanent exhibition about the history of the city. We definitely recommend it. After a short stop at the hotel to drop off the jackets, which proved unnecessary under the warm sun, we headed off to lunch at Fausto’s Osteria, near the synagogue. Catering to the local wealthy and tourists, it offers tasty Italian cuisine (the portions are very big). After visiting a nice Capa exhibition at the Hungarian National Museum – which also has some interesting historical exhibits, with little commentary in English though, it was time to go back to the hotel and catch the last rays of sun on the terrace with a delicious and refreshing cocktail.
That night we visited an authentic Hungarian restaurant, Kisbuda Gyöngye. Over live piano, it was the chance to enjoy some proper Hungarian food and chat with the friendly owner about the difficult economic situation in Hungary, as there were only another couple of diners in the restaurant that night. Coming from France, where the recession has been greatly cushioned by generous safety nets, it was striking to see the dignity of many Hungarian people and their warm welcome.
Sunday was also spent under a warm sun and we started near the massive Parliament building with a walk and a delicious lunch at Biarritz. It was then time to enjoy some more scenic Budapest views (Szabadság tér, Andrássy út, Hósök tere) before catching the flight back home.
The architecture, the scenic views and the succulent food would give us great pleasure to return.