A Last Minute Bargain To Budapest Part 3: The City, Old and New

We started our second full day in Budapest with a delicious breakfast at the Blue Bird Cafe. I enjoyed a wonderfully fruity espresso, a flaky croissant and a slice of soft, sweet banana cake accompanied by a generous portion of jam and butter.

I thought service at the cafe was friendly and if we’d allowed ourselves a longer trip we would have been happy to return.

After breakfast we headed to the magnificent St. Stephen’s Basilica, it was really quite beautiful.

Named after the first King of Hungary, this Neo-Classical building was completed in 1905 following fifty years of construction. The Basilica was filled with more works of art then we could possibly take in during our short visit.

The basilica is also famous for holding a famous relic of the Catholic church; the Holy Dextor aka The Holy Right Hand of St. Stephen.

After viewing this somewhat macabre item we were left wondering what, if any other religions are so fond of commemorating such artefacts.

We then headed to Castle Hill, taking the metro and foolishly walking up the hill instead of taking the bus.
Our next stop was the remaining ruins of the Church of Saint Mary Magdalene, one of the oldest in Budapest dating back to the 13th Century.

As we walked deeper into the Castle District we arrived at the popular Trinity Square near the Matthias Church and Fisherman’s Bastion. Whilst things took a turn toward tourist central, the crowds were more than justified as the views across the Danube were rather special.

We passed by the Old Town Hall, built over three hundred years ago.
We then took a quick look at the Holy Trinity Statue built in the early 1700’s to commemorate Budapest’s plague victims.

We then made our way past the statue of military man John Hunyadi atop his horse to the multi-turreted lookout point of Fisherman’s Bastion.

We then strolled past the 19th Century Neo-Classical Sándor Palace, official residence and workspace of the President of Hungary since 2003.

I was then heartily disappointed that we did not get to try out the funicular…

After all that walking we then visited the two museums housed in the Royal Palace. We took in their exhibits at a pace far greater than we usually manage as we found neither to be particularly enthralling. We saw some nice paintings at the Hungarian National Gallery but the Budapest History Museum or Castle Museum as it is better known was particularly disappointing, mainly because there’s not very much castle left.

On the way down the hill we stopped for lunch at Ildikó konyhája, a place our guide book described as somewhere that, “has all the traditional Hungarian favourites at rock-bottom prices just below the Castle District.” It was not wrong!

The food was decent enough, with giant hunks of meat.
Once again, the typical Hungarian portion seemed much more generous than anywhere else we’d travelled to.

After lunch we headed back across the river via Budapest’s iconic Chain Bridge. We enjoyed looking back up at the Castle District, being able to take in the full majesty of the Royal Palace, Matthias Church and then closer to the river bank, the Szilágyi Dezső Square Reformed Church. Ahead of us on the other side of the Danube was the imposing Library and Information Centre of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

Our tour began with a climb of the decorative, gold-plated City Side Staircase to the main floor of the building where the most interesting rooms and corridors are found.
We then arrived at the Grand Staircase with it’s spectacular columns, beautiful frescoes and intricately chiselled statues.
We then arrived at the The Lounge of the Chamber of Peers with its pyrogranite sculptures and the largest hand knotted carpet in Europe.

We felt that the tour was worth the money but with a fixed timing of just under an hour it always felt a little rushed.

We then hoped on the metro and headed towards City Park.
Thanks to my trade mark poor timing and even worse sense of direction, we missed the metro train twice making our reservation tight.

We then got escorted by a ticket inspector off of the train as the month had ever so slightly rubbed off on our plastic Budapest cards. We really thought we were getting fined but in reality the ticket inspector was having trouble reaching her boss to get authorisation to sign off our tickets as not dodgy!

Thankfully we were only fifteen minutes late in the end and enjoyed a unique dinner at Laci Konyha which offers up modern Hungarian cuisine. Though in my book it felt very much like a fusion restaurant.

We got the evening off to a happy start with a glass of Tokaji.
First up was an amuse bouche of local bread, serrano ham, olive and olive oil seasoned with fresh black pepper.

I thought it made for an excellent introduction with the highlight for me being the fruity olive oil. It was a classic combination that left no room to hide, but thanks to the quality of the ingredients it shone.

For my starter I had the duck soup; the smoked duck was delicious, like eating the best piece of bacon money can buy.

For anyone who doesn’t eat pork and wants to know what good bacon tastes like, smoked duck is your friend! This dish was an odd fusion of Thai and Hungarian flavours. The light and clear broth contained coriander and coriander oil which morphed into a hot and sour Thai soup peppered with hot chilli and sour lemon grass. It was a refreshing but highly unusual combination, it was also near impossible to eat with only the spoon provided. I also wasn’t convinced when asking the sommelier for advice that a fruity, sweet glass of Tokaji would pair well with my soup, but to his credit the wine handled both the smokiness of the duck and the Thai flavours exquisitely.

Anne-So had the soft boiled egg, aubergine, foie gras, espuma, focaccia which reminded me of the inside of a Tuc biscuit but in a good way, I promise!

Again, the Hungarian influence was felt with the cheese but the execution was quite unusual.

For my main I’d chosen the veal cheeks with pickled vegetables.

Eating this course gave me the sensation of eating meat with salad but with the addition of pak choi and delicious roast garlic. I still can’t work out what the sauce was, even now. The food was perfectly cooked but once again I found the flavour combinations quite odd.

Anne-So went for salmon, rye gnocchi, young radish, raspberry, chanterelle, sauce and vegetables, all traditional Hungarian ingredients but with a modern execution.
For dessert we both ordered the raspberry, chamomile, sea buckthorne option.

We nearly skipped it but that would have been a huge mistake. The sorbet was refreshing and delicious and for better or worse the highlight of my meal.

We were given a mini cake and a filled chocolate to finish what was a good meal that we are glad to have tried even though some of the flavour combinations in the dishes we ordered were not to our taste.

You can find the daily menus here and at the time of visiting the set lunch looked like a bit of a bargain. Full and refreshed after an amazing dessert we headed home to our Airbnb to sleep.

A Last Minute Bargain To Budapest

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