budapest, hungary - on foot in the jewish quarter and downtown pest + thermal baths

Our trip to Budapest over my spring break was fervently planned during my winter break, after three sleepless nights of agonizing over whether to go to Istanbul, Madrid, or Budapest (embarrassment of riches!). We made a good choice: Budapest's eclectic mix of architecturally intricate buildings in magnificent shocks of faded pinks and yellows and robins egg blues, old Communist leftovers and crappy Western chains (TGIFriday's, OfficeDepot and Hooters galore!) made wandering the winding streets all the more captivating. Turkish and Austrian influences (aka DELICIOUS INFLUENCES) were heavy-handed in the food, and architecture too.

Tram no. 2 Budapest

Budapest downtown

Budapest downtown

Budapest was born way back in 1873 with the unification of Buda, Obuda, and Pest. Pest is the newer side, Buda the older; Obuda is the place everyone forgets about when telling you Budapest is the combination of Buda and Pest. We stayed in the Jewish Quarter of Pest in a crumbling old building for something ridiculous like $20 per night.

Budapest downtown

Budapest bookstore

Budapest downtown graffiti

Budapest downtown

Budapest downtown

Budapest downtown

Budapest downtown

Budapest downtown

Budapest downtown graffiti

Budapest downtown

Budapest downtown

Jewish Quarter, Budapest

Jewish Quarter, Budapest

Spiler Budapest
SPILER - KIRALY STREET 13

We landed around lunchtime and headed straight for Spiler, a local favorite known for its 'quality street food.' Alex ordered a lamb burger and I had a 'traditional Hungarian pizza.' Spiler boasts an impressive local beer list, which Alex ordered off of (below), while I went with prosecco. Creature of habit.

Stari beer, Budapest

Spiler Restaurant Budapest
I mean, they're not wrong.

Budapest downtown

Budapest downtown

Budapest downtown

Budapest downtown

Budapest downtown

Budapest Jewish Quarter

We stayed in an Airbnb in the Jewish Quarter in Pest and loved it, especially Kaczynski Utca. It's a gritty, colorful, working-class neighborhood with beautiful Synagogues, winding streets, ruin bars, and tiny cafes and shops. The above and below plaques are a visual history of the neighborhood in Hungarian. During the War, the neighborhood's population was crammed into a couple buildings, sleeping 13 or 14 people. After the War, these buildings were demolished and the area is fenced off and peppered with these striking memorials.

Budapest Jewish Quarter

Budapest Jewish Quarter

Budapest downtown graffiti Jewish Quarter

Budapest Electrotechnical Museum

Karavan Street Food Budapest
KARAVAN - KAZINCZY U 18

Karavan is a little hall full of parked food trucks serving street food. We didn't order anything because we were still processing the 18,743 calories we'd each eaten for breakfast, but everything looked and smelled spectacular. You will only see this much emotion on my man's face when there is food or football involved. #italians

Budapest downtown architecture

Number 2 Tram, Budapest
Fitting right in. I'm laughing here because I asked Alex, "Are you getting the tram in the picture?" I'll leave it up to you to imagine the highly sarcastic comment & facial expression Alex responded with.

Phonebooth, Budapest

Phonebooth, Budapest
PHONEBOOTHS, guys!! What up, 1990?!

Budapest downtown graffiti Grandio Hostel

Budapest downtown
 Free elections and democracy came to formerly communist Hungary in 1989, a year after I was born. Also apparently the year this Pepsi ad was hung outside this shop.



Budapest downtown
 

Budapest downtown tram
 
Hemingway, Budapest
HEMINGWAY ETTEREM - KOSZTOLANYI TER 2

We had dinner our first night at Hemingway, a resto back behind Gellert Hill, a bit of a distance from the inner city. It was beautifully decorated inside, with plants and leather and taxidermy galore. Papa would've been proud.


Grilled fish at Hemingway, Budapest

I was a bit nervous about Hungarian food; I am the type that orders the grilled fish of the day, a simple salad, and a glass of wine for dinner every night in Italy. Hungarian food is heavy -- lots of potatoes, huge chunks of red meat, pickled vegetables. Food that feels like concrete is sitting in your stomach all day. All of this is to say, I tried to seek out the more Turkish-inspired options when we ate, and was especially thrilled with this superb grilled fish of the day at Hemingway. The potatoes and asparagus were great too. Oddly, the random single grape at the bottom of the dish was one of my favorite parts of the meal, and things like that are why I am not a syndicated newspaper food reviewer.

Goulash at Hemingway, Budapest
 Tried our first bowls of traditional goulash soup! Seven thumbs up. Fun fact presented without comment: goulash was the meal my mom decided to make for Alex the first time he met my family.


Hemingway, Budapest

Hemingway, Budapest

Hemingway the author was one of the reasons Alex and I are currently dating; he innocently asked me as we were hanging around a beach in Sardinia a few Octobers ago who my favorite author was... that one thing in common led us to finding out a million more and now here we are, traveling the world, wedding planning, building our lives together. This was the argument I used when convincing Alex to take a selfie with me in front of this Hemingway quote in Hungarian outside the restaurant. It worked.


 
Rudas Thermal Baths, Budapest
RUDAS THERMAL BATHS - DOBRENTEI 9

After dinner, we crested Gellert Hill to spend our Friday night at the Rudas Thermal Baths on the Danube River. Budapest is known for its thermal baths -- one of the reasons the Romans settled in the area was to use the thermal springs. Those dudes knew what was up. Rudas itself was built in 1550 (!).

Rudas has night hours -- from 10pm to 2am -- on Fridays and Saturdays. They also have a rooftop jacuzzi with a stunning view of the city, but it is closed during night hours, which I amazingly did not cry about. Alex loved the lap pool (above & below) and I loved the heated pools under an ancient and magnificent cupola. The pools were quite full of youngsters and oldsters hanging around, shooting the shit. It was a terrific alternative to getting blasted in a bar with loud throbbing music.

Rudas Thermal Baths, Budapest
Hallo Alex!


Rudas Thermal Baths, Budapest
Pro tip: it is hard to take quality photos with your phone in a very steamy room.

Rudas Thermal Baths, Budapest

Followed by a long walk home over the Danube and through Pest. One of those situations where I am like "at THIS point--" (5 minutes into the walk) "--we might as well just walk all the way home" (90 minutes away). Alex is a trooper. We stuffed our faces with Hungarian candy bars before passing out hardcore in on our horrible sunken mattress that seems to have been predominately used by a 1,009 pound man for the past 79 years. Best sleep of my life.

NEXT WEEK: Budapest part 2 - the central market hall & day/nite drinking!

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