I'm recently back from a 4 night trip to Budapest, Hungary and I've absolutely fallen in love with the city. Me and my friend Lauren flew from Dublin and stayed in the Soho Boutique hotel which was quite central for shops and restaurants. The trip was a bit of an impulse booking as we managed to get a deal for £169 each including flights, from our local travel agents.
We tried our best to research things to do in Budapest before we actually went, and thermal baths proved to be popular with tourists. The two main thermal baths in the city are the Gellert and the Szechenyi, both at opposite sides of the city. We visited the Szechenyi baths on the Pest side of the city, in the late afternoon and were able to bathe in the dark.
We booked our tickets for the bath at our hotel (at no extra rate) and brought our own towels - they charge extra to rent towels, swimwear and flip flops if you haven't brought your own. Dressing gowns are also available to rent out but we just about managed the cold dash from the pool without them. The baths are amazing - it's so surreal bathing in the dark and sitting in 35C water when the air above is verging on freezing - the result is a steamy scene like something out of a dream!
We spent most of our time walking around Budapest, not only was it cheaper than local taxis but was probably to best way to sight see. We came across many local shops and restaurants like this cute little bakery 'According to my Mum'.
Eager to see the most of Budapest, we headed to the Central Market Hall, the oldest indoor market and where locals normally buy their fresh fruit and meat. The main floor of the market is mostly food and the upstairs is packed with souvenirs that tend to be cheaper than most shops. I managed to pick up a Budapest tshirt and scarf for around £3 each. Budapest have forints for currency and the country is very inexpensive with £10 working out as 4134 forints. We used an app that allowed us to convert Hungarian currency to pounds before we bought anything, without having to use data abroad.
Aside from the markets and local shops, we headed to West End shopping centre located next to the train station and bought lots of goodies to take home. The shopping centre has an impressive 4 floors and boasts over 400 shops including a whole floor dedicated to food - it's honestly food shop after food shop and so much to choose from.
We came across a store 'Women's Secret' which is basically Europe's answer to Victoria's Secret and I picked up some cute sleepwear. Aside from European stores, the shopping centre boasts global brands like Mango and H&M but with cheaper price tags. I managed to pick up a cream faux fur coat in Mango for £60 when it's actually in UK stores at £80.
I'm a bit of a fussy eater so we played it safe and visited Hard Rock Cafe in the centre of Budapest. Although it was my first time you can't go wrong with a familiar menu and yummy cocktails. We liked the place so much that we actually went back twice and were served by some lovely waiters.
Trying to fit as much into our 4 days as possible, we made a day trip to Budapest Zoo! We went near closing time and the weather was quite nippy, so the zoo was reasonably empty. The zoo had all the animals you could think of and more, including a few animals I couldn't name. They even have an Australian zone where you can roam freely among emus and wallabies, and even pet them if you're brave enough (I wasn't).
I had the best time in Budapest and would love to go back. This was my first real city break and I honestly think I preferred it to beach holidays. I'd love to visit other cities especially Paris, but what girl wouldn't? I'd highly recommend Budapest as an inexpensive holiday destination. We were expecting to arrive and see snow but the weather was very similar, if not warmer than Northern Ireland - locals also tell us that summer is very warm.