You couldn’t have chosen a better time to be in Budapest, the queen of the Danube. We assume you’re there for either the F1 Hungarian Grand Prix running from July 24th to 26th or the Sziget Music Festival running from the 10th to the 17th of August. If you’re there just by happenstance, then you’re just about the luckiest traveler I know and you should check out our event pages for the Hungarian Grand Prix and the Sziget Music Festival for more details on how to capitalize on your ridiculous fortune. But in the event you have planned for either of the two, here’s a list of wonderful things to do when you’re not listening to Robbie Williams or the Kings of Leon or wondering if anyone is ever going to beat Schumi’s lap record set in 2004. It’s about time already, don’t you think? Also, RIP Jules Bianchi.
We’ve all eaten versions of this but never had the real thing- the Hungarian Gulyás or better known as the goulash, is what we hunt for. And no, it has absolutely no beetroot in it, that’s the Borscht. The Gulyas primarily comprises beef, potatoes and sweet paprika, which can be spiced up using dry paste often served at the table. It is not a stew but a soup. The stew is called pörkölt and served with yummy pinched pasta. If you’re in a group, order tanyér (larger portion) and while it’s almost always served as beef (marha), you might be able to find it in mutton (birka) or sometimes even pork. Eat it with nice crusty white bread, damn the refined flour, while you guzzle down some nice local kékfrankos or kardarka, both local wines. Spend some time wandering the Central Market, while you sample the wine and snack on lángos (a deep fried flat bread, sort of like a salty doughnut) with garlic and cheese. Don’t leave coins as a tip and don’t order mineral water, Budapest is blessed with springs and you should treat your body, and your wallet, to a free spa treatment. Head to Bock Bisztró, with locations in both Buda as well as Pest.
Make sure you leave an afternoon free for the Museum of Fine Arts which hosts a lovely gallery of Spanish work by El Greco, Velázquez, Zurbarán and Goya. Don’t miss the Canaletto’s untypical paintings of the backstreets of Rome; two Raphaels; a Dormition of the Virgin by the wonderful Holbein; work by Rembrandt, Titian, Veronese, Giorgione and all the leading Impressionists. (Open 10:00 am – 5.30 pm Tues-Sun; 10:00 am – 9.30 pm on Thursdays.) Not a fan of the arts? No matter, head to District 8 to marvel at the architecture or stroll down Király utca, filled with funky boutiques and galleries. If you’re in Óbuda, take a lunch break at the 100-year old Kéhli Restaurant while reading Gyula Krúdy’s Sunflower, a great novel to immerse yourself in Hungary while listening to the sounds of a violin. Folksy kitsch at its finest. Krudy loved Kéhli’s forró velőscsont pirítóssal (bone marrow on toast) so much that he included it in one of his novels.
a cruise on the Danube. It’s a one and a half hour boat ride that will take you past the Castle Hill with the Royal Palace and Matthias Church, the Gellért Hill, the Parliament building, and the bridges spanning the Danube. You can opt to spend lunch or dinner on the boat, but we suggest eschewing that for finer fare at better restaurants. The speedy Gonzales among you can take a bike out to explore the center of Pest in around 2.5 hours or you can head to Szentendre, a lovely artsy town in the Danube bend. But please reserve your Wednesday evenings for the Budapest Zoo, where you can listen to Jazz by the Giraffe. Program is available here.
In the event you enjoyed this guide to Budapest so much, feel free to bring Reshma back a packet of sweet paprika. Actually, don’t bother. Just tell us how much you enjoyed the racing and listening to Florence + the Machine.