A special shout out to my traveling buddy and co-author Sara Frazier for all her help putting this article together!
From central market cooking classes to stunning neo-gothic architecture, Budapest Hungary has something to offer every type of traveller. We opted to visit this historic city in the winter, we found plenty of cozy things to do indoors. Learning how to make goulash and tasting Hungary’s famous spirit, palinka, we experienced a foodie’s paradise. If you are just as passionate about food and drink as we are, keep reading!
Exploring the culinary scene of Budapest
We kicked off our weekend in Budapest by attending a central market cooking class with Chefparade! Barbara, our chef, met us in front of the Grand Central Market Hall in the morning. In this particular case, being an early riser was absolutely worth it! We were able to sail through the plethora of food stalls without the afternoon tourist crowds.
For breakfast, we tasted some delicious savory rolls cooked with none other than pork lard. Animal fats are also another fixture in Hungarian cooking, providing that unforgettable buttery flavor. Once we had our fill, we headed back to the Chefparade kitchen.
Hungarian cuisine: central market cooking class
In just around 3 hours, we prepared a feast that included the traditional beef gulas (goulash) soup. Additionally, we cooked chicken paprikash served alongside homemade noodles. If that wasn’t enough food to put us in a coma, we finished off the class learning how to flip pancakes for dessert! Check out the video above for that one, Sara and I both could use some practice! I’m going to go ahead and blame my poor flipping skills on the palinka that we were sipping on while cooking!
See the transformation of the Jewish quarter
After filling our tummies at the central market cooking class, it was time to walk off those calories! Sara and I were lucky enough to meet up with Attila at Budapestflow and learn all about the history of the transformation of the Jewish Quarter.
Known by most tourists as the party center of Budapest, the Jewish Quarter has so much more to offer than the famous ruin pubs and booze-filled evenings! A little more than 10 years ago, a few young entrepreneurs saw a unique opportunity in the old decrepit buildings left abandoned for years after World War 2. They purchased one of these properties and repurposed it into the alternative nightlife scene. The ruin pubs brought the Jewish Quarter back to life.
The oldest ruin pub, Szimpla Kert is a must-visit on your trip to Budapest.This first pub is known as Szimpla, and it is a must see in your time in Budapest. The eclectic style is curated by the founders as well as many local artists. Although you can certainly knock back some palinka and dance the night away, we’d recommend coming to experience this pub on Sunday morning. The pub hosts a local farmers market, including an all you can eat buffet style brunch upstairs. For just seventeen dollars you can feast on a variety of local dishes!
In addition to ruin pubs, this area has lots of street art to check out. Attila showed us many murals painted by local and international artists during our walking tour. Fun fact I learned while on the walking tour: The Rubik’s cube is a Hungarian invention! Invented by Enro Rubik in 1974, this game has brought joy to millions of people around the world.
Taste the sweets and palinka spirits
Sara and I choose to venture to the beautiful city of Budapest during the winter months. The frigid temperatures kept us indoors for most of our trip, but we didn’t let that get us down! In fact, we most likely wouldn’t have taken advantage of all the unique experiences. For example, the central market cooking class or experiencing the coffee culture that Europe is so well known for.
Our culinary adventure continued with the help of Taste Hungary. Located on the outskirts of the Jewish quarter, Taste Hungary host daily wine tastings and culinary tours in a cozy wine cellar. Because we only had seventy-two hours to explore Hungary’s capital, we jumped head first into the wine tasting.
Similar to Hungary’s neighbor Romania, the region’s diverse terrain produces such a wide variety of varietals! You must be aware of the bull’s blood. Historically consumed by locals preparing for battle with the Turks, this 14% alcohol beverage is as deceiving as palinka. Our fellow tasters shared a fair share of laughs (and additionally, hangovers) all while toasting our lovely sommelier and guide at the end of the night.
If alcohol is not your thing, take advantage of the sweets and coffeehouse tour. We explored the famous cake baking culture in a three-hour walking (and eating) tour. We tried everything from traditional chocolate and creme layered cakes, lavender, and lemon poppy seed slices from Fat Fairy.
Where to stay
Budapest has a wide variety of accommodations that work for every type of budget. Here are some options that we recommend:
- Aventura Boutique Hostel I know what you are thinking, I haven’t stayed in a hostel since I backpacked in my twenties. Aventura prides itself in its quiet location north of the city center. We opted for the cozy private rouge apartment located just a block away from the hostel.
- Corinthia Hotel This boutique-style hotel has a 5-star rating for a reason. From its ideal location on the Grand Boulevard to the Royal Spa’s many relaxing specials, it’s an ideal place to stay if you’re looking to spend plenty of time in your accommodation.
- City-Hotel Budapest Tucked away on a quieter side street, City-Hotel Budapest is a quick commute to Andrassy Street and Heroes Square, with a number of cozy apartment-style rooms available.
What we plan to do next time around
- Take more time to explore the Buda side of the Danube. This side of the city contains many of Budapest’s famed castles and historic buildings. Spend some time soaking in the stunning architecture of the Parliament building and St. Matthias church from Fisherman’s Bastion. An unfortunate part of traveling in the winter is that the cold got to us. As a result, we didn’t last very long walking outside.
- Find relaxation in spa culture. Spend at least one full day living in leisure and exploring the bath culture. We did do the most famous Szechenyi baths, but it was extremely crowded on a Sunday afternoon. Skip Szechenyi and bathe as the locals do at Lucaks baths and saunas.
- Learn about Hungarian history and culture exploring one of the dozens of museums.
- House of the Parliament Explore the architecture of the World Unesco heritage site. Notably this is the home of local legislature and lawmaking.
- Hungarian National Museum This museum is located on Castle Hill and filled with local artwork form the ages.
- House of Terror One of Budapest’s most popular museums. Highlights some of the darkest periods Hungary’s history. The building was first used by the Hungarian Arrow Cross party. Finally, the Communist secret police used the building in the Soviet Fascist era.
Until next time Budapest
From sipping on palinka to learning about Hungarian cuisine at the central market cooking class, Budapest has something to offer every type of traveler. Sara and I are hoping to return to this unique European city soon!