There’s something about a good film that helps put a place on the map, and Wes Anderson’s hit film, ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’, has certainly done that for Budapest in Hungary.
Millions of gallons of water pass daily into its 118 springs and boreholes. And while the vast 1913 neo-baroque Szechenhi Spa is incredibly impressive, the city offers more than just bubbles. The 300ft dome of St Stephen’s Basilica, Heroes’ Square and Statue Park, the Roman ruins of the Aquincium Museum and the Jewish Quarter are just some of the places that will have you reaching out for your camera to get snap happy. And to see these awe-inspiring places, you need a good hotel to place your head and the help of a good concierge to help plan your stay.
We checked into The Corinthia Hotel in the heart of the city to begin our three-day trip to this vibrant city. An impressive landmark building with an imposing Neo-classical façade and soaring atrium, Corinthia offers elegant three eateries, a bar, a café, its very own nightclub club and plenty of space to relax including a spa. Just as well, because on the day, we arrived facing torrential downpours which forced us to take full advantage of the hotel where we used the spa facilities until wrinkled and dined like queens. Food is more than just Ghoulash at the hotel’s restaurant Bistro as we found out that evening. The chicken paprika with “Galuska” and glazed turnips were to die for, perfectly polished off with a good few glasses of wine.
The following morning with the sun shining with not even a hint of the rainfall the day before, we took a tour with a guide from Budapest Underguide. A firm believer of discovering a destination through its culinary life, we chose the delicatessen tour. It took us from the Central Market Hall, operating since 896, where we tasted stuffed cabbage, langos – a large scone with garlic and sour cream – before moving on to have a coffee and cake at the Central Café. Having opened its doors in 1887, the café is one of the oldest and most visited in Budapest. Having suffered hardship and ruin following the two world wars, it’s been restored to its former glory. The decorations on the ceiling are the same as they were back in 1913.
The trendy seventh district used to be the rough part of town, but today the retro bars and cafes have become a ‘must go-to area’ for a spot of day and nightlife. The daddy of all retro bars is Szimpla Kert. Converted literally from rubbish, this is truly a walk down memory lane. You can find yourself sitting in a scrapped out car to an old school gymnast horse bench. Inside or out, you can find many amusing things like a barber’s chair, an old bathtub a telephone booth. One trip just isn’t enough.
Luckily a hangover can be cured by a trip to the Szechenyi medicinal baths. These 100 year old in and outdoor pools in the city will have you restored to health and ready in no time. But if you still need some extra help then a trip to Omorovicza is a must. With my body restored, I needed a face to match so I went along to this walk in spa for a facial. Therapist Syilvia first explained to me the process of my facial before combining unique Hungarian techniques to ease away tension and lift my skin with a thorough facial like I had never experienced before. The treatment included a velvety mud cleanse and massage using firm, fluttering strokes that soothed out my stress lines along the jaw and forehead. As I drifted off into a sleepy state with the mud mask, Sylvia proceeded to massage my hands. When I finally came around, I saw the mirror reflecting back plumper skin and a reduction in the appearance of fine line and wrinkles.
Having conquered street food earlier, it was time to sit down and enjoy a proper feast so I went along to the Budda Bar and Restaurant. Attached to a five star restaurant, a visit here is a must if you love Thai food! The ambiance, the staff, the music, was just so perfect.
Seeing Budapest during the day is great but if you have time, but seeing the place along the Danube river cruise at night is a must. With a glass of bubbly in my hand aboard the Legenda River Cruise, I relaxed taking in the magnificent Parliament building, the Royal Palace, the bridges and many other splendid sights all bathed in light. A sure fine way to end the trip by experiencing the legends of Budapest come alive.