With the breathtaking architecture and beautiful places to visit Budapest is building up popularity as a must visit place for those who love to explore. It's also building up momentum as a must visit place for vegans, all over the cities there are more and more vegan & vegetarian restaurants and with an influence from a few middle eastern countries, hummus and falafel are never too far away!
We only had 5 days to explore both cities (one side of the river is Buda and the other Pest), so my mum and I thought it was important to do lots of research and put together a bit of an itinerary of 'must visit' places, to get the most out of the trip, I then plotted these on a map, so if we did change what we were doing, we could see what other things we wanted to do were around that area, and where we could eat too. We needn't have worried about how far everything was in walking distance though, the cities are well connected with buses, trains, trams and the metro line, which are all included with the purchase of a 72 hour Budapest card, and can take you wherever you need to go within the cities (with a little assistance from Google maps for direction & how many stops).
The First Day
When we arrived, we checked in to our apartment which was past a huge door, hidden in plain sight, and located in the middle of a beautiful courtyard, in down-town pest. We settled in a bit and then went to explore!
We first stopped off at the Central Market Hall, just around the corner from our apartment, and a famous spot in Budapest. The downstairs section of the hall is filled with sellers of fresh produce and the upstairs, clothes and street food. It really is a sight, filled with both tourists and locals buying their groceries. It fascinated me how many of the fruit and veg stalls appeared to be selling the same items, including yellow paprika peppers, which didn't go unnoticed, yet the locals seemed to have a favourite stall that they would only shop at.
The first restaurant we visited happened to be our favourite place in Budapest, and possibly just about anywhere. The 'street food' restaurant, on the Buda side, called Vegan Love offers the most amazing burgers and hot dogs, along with a few sides, speciaility sauces, smoothies, teas and still water lemonade. I ordered the BBQ Tofu Burger (BBQ marinated tofu, smoked 'cheese', crispy fried onions, tomatoes, baby spinach & garlic veganaise) and my mum the Shiitake Mushroom Quinoa (Shiitake mushroom quinoa patty, chive 'cream cheese',chickpea fritter, wasabi coleslaw, mung bean & corn salad and sauce) a along with sides of chips (our next visit we only ordered one portion), the 'cheese' dip and the garlic yogurt dip.
We then cut the burgers in half and shared them; they were messy, oozy deliciousness, filled with a vast array of flavours and textures that perfectly worked together. These burgers had been thoroughly thought out when the menu was being created, and each one had such different, yet equally delicious qualities, that helped to make them the best thing I ever ate. And yes, I know that is a huge claim, but it's the only way to describe these, that justifies truly how amazing they were. They were fresh and so flavourful and not-at-all greasy. I would go back to budapest solely for these burgers; anything you spend the whole time eating making 'mmmmm' noises, just speaks for itself at how amazing it is.
We then walked up the Buda side of the river and crossed back over the Elisabeth Bridge to the Pest side, in search for the Budapest card pick-up point; it was just around the corner from one of the metro stations in a little tourist info building. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the budapest card to anyone; it was about £25 and could be purchased online prior to the trip, to exchange a printed voucher for the card once in Budapest. It gained us entry into the National Museum, National Gallery, and Lukacs baths, along with unlimited public transport in the 72 hours that it's valid. The card is also valid in many other places and provides discounted entry to many others. Whilst I'm sure that we did get our moneys worth out of the card, it is worth it for the ease of use with the public transport, you can simply hop on and off without a worry of where to purchase tickets from, especially as there is a huge fine for those caught without a ticket (random checks occur whilst on the transport).
The card gives you freedom to explore the city as you please and makes you feel like tourists are welcome, it really is a fantastic idea and uncomplicates the process of travelling. Once you work out which trams are going which way and recognize some names of the metro stations, travelling isn't too difficult. But to make it even easier, I would plan out where we were going for the day on google maps (hotel location to destination) and it tells you where you need to get on the transport, which direction you're going in and how many stops, I then took a screen shot of this at the apartment, for a travel guide on the go around the city. We stopped off at a little espresso bar to read up on everything the card has to offer, we asked about soy milk, and they had both soy and rice milk to offer, which was quite a surprise, but shows that the popularity of non-dairy milks is definitely on the rise!
After all the exploring and being up since 4am for our flight we were pretty exhausted and still full from the burgers, so we wandered back to the apartment in the early evening, ready for a full day of exploring the next day!
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Day 2 coming soon...