After a great few days in Prague, I hopped on a bus to Budapest for the weekend. Budapest is one of my favorite cities and I’m lucky to have extended family living there. It’s one of Europe’s hidden gems and a place that I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing like a local twice. My “sister-in-law” Heather – a.k.a. my brother’s wife’s sister – has lived in Budapest for almost fifteen years. I was happy to return a few weeks ago for a non-touristy trip full of eating and catch-up time with Heather and her husband, Vic.
Dinner at Menza
For dinner our first night we went to Menza, located off the bustling Liszt Ferenc square. Heather and Vic encouraged me to scratch a Hungarian dish off my list, so I ordered the Hungarian beef stew with homemade noodles while they opted for vegetarian-friendly Hungarian ratatouille, egg noodles and garlic soup with lángos (puff pastry), sour cream and cheese. The beef stew was similar to the goulash that I tried in Prague but tasted better paired with the noodles instead of dumplings. It was nice to catch up on the terrace on a warm spring night at Menza.
Champagne at the Hungarian State Opera House
I wasted no time being cultural by going to the Hungarian State Opera House to see Madame Butterfly on my first night. Even though we didn’t eat there, I couldn’t resist sharing photos of the beautiful place. During intermission, everyone gathers on the upstairs terrace for champagne and libations. Fancy, huh?
Saturday morning stroll at the Hunyadi Tér Market
I’ve shared my love for markets over and over (and over) again on the blog. It’s my favorite way to experience the heart of a culture on a Saturday morning – watching people do their weekly shopping and seeing local vendors sell what’s in season. Heather and Vic are lucky to have one of the best markets right outside of their door on Hunyadi Tér, where they do most of their shopping. I loved browsing through the heaping selection of produce, flowers, cheese, meats and other products and even picked up some local honey to take home.
Gelato at Fragola
I throw the rules out the door when traveling so it’s no surprise that I gave into Vic’s suggestion for ice cream following brunch. We went across the street to Fragola, a newly popular gelato spot in town. I was surprised to find more exotic flavors than usual such as cabernet sauvignon, which Vic ended up getting. I thought it was too early for wine-flavored ice cream so I opted for a scoop of chocolate. The texture was crazy and tasted more like a cone full of brownie batter than cold gelato. I’ll be dreaming about that heavenly scoop for the rest of my life…
Wine at DiVino Borbár
Living in the land of French wine, I forget that other regions produce the good stuff too. Heather and Vic took me to a hip, new wine bar called DiVino Borbár for a glass of Hungarian’s finest vino. We had a glass of the Kiss Gabor, a mix of cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc. I’m not sure what I loved more – the tasty wine or the amazing terrace view of the Basilica.
Dinner at Klassz
One of Heather and Vic’s favorite places in Budapest is Klassz so we headed there for an early dinner on the patio. We shared a plate of Buffalo mozzerella with red pepper cream and ordered risotto with asparagus. Great wine, fresh food, good company = perfect evening.
Drinks at Szimpla
The nightlife in Budapest is one of a kind. The bar options are endless but my favorite part is the courtyard style watering holes. Just when you think you’ve walked into a sweaty, crowded place, the bar opens up into a courtyard during spring and summer months making it airy, beautiful and just damn fun. One bar that has become especially popular is Szimpla. Not only does it feature a courtyard, but you can satisfy your late night munchies with carrots. Yes, carrots. The bartenders walk around the bar selling carrots and in my opinion, that’s pretty cool.
Dinner with a view at Pannonhalma
We decided to venture out of Budapest and headed two hours west of the city to the Archabbey of Pannonhalma. It was a beautiful and historical experience, ending with dinner at the restaurant by the visitor’s center. The tall windows provide a panoramic view of the countryside and you can sample wines from the local vineyards. I enjoyed a delicious mozzarella and cucumber salad and risotto with shrimp and Mangalica sausage with a glass of Hungarian red wine.