Drinking Beer in Vienna

Vienna is SUCH a fun town to explore on foot - it's filled with beautiful buildings like these.

Vienna is SUCH a fun town to explore on foot – it’s filled with beautiful buildings like these.

Kevin and I were super excited to visit Vienna on our way out of Europe. Family and friends have told us that the city is just BEAUTIFUL, and we figured we should at least see a little bit of Austria before heading back home to Seattle. So after a week in Paris, a month in Spain, a few nights in Portugal, 2 weeks in Italy, 40 days in Croatia and 4 weeks in Budapest, we packed up our bags for one of the last times and hopped on a train from Budapest to Vienna.

We stayed in a “Private Room” Airbnb rental in Vienna, which means we were in a private bedroom that someone chooses to rent out in their apartment. We ended up feeling like we had the entire apartment to ourselves, though, since our host Luca had just started a new Ice Cream shop! He was working 14+ hour days, so we rarely saw him. He seemed like a really nice guy and his apartment was enormous, bright, and in a great location. If you’re ever looking for a place to stay in Vienna and don’t mind the “Private Room” setup, we recommend Luca’s Place.

So what does one do when visiting Vienna? Admittedly, Kevin and I now travel waaaaaaaaaaaaaay off the beaten track. We avoid tourist attractions like the plague, spend most of our time outside, and have discovered that parks are often our favorite thing about cities we visited. So we skipped the Hofburg Palace, the Schönbrunn Palace, and ALL of the museums. You should definitely visit those things if they appeal to you, but I’m a huge advocate now for traveling how YOU want to travel without feeling obligated to go to a site just because Rick Steves gave it 3 thumbs up.

We focused on what matters to us: Beer, Food, Parks, and just one or two tourist attractions. If you are anything like Kevin and myself, we think you’ll enjoy doing the things I talk about below, especially the Beer in Vienna… Happy Travels, friends!

Explore Vienna’s Parks

We lucked out and got some amazing weather in Vienna, especially for it being late April/Early May. So we hit the parks and we hit them hard. For people traveling on a budget, parks are an ideal place to visit in Vienna. They are free, they are beautiful, and they are full of locals and great for people watching.

Jesuitenwiese Park

Running in Jesuitenwiese in Vienna!

Running in Jesuitenwiese Park (next to a stream!) in Vienna.

Vienna is an enormous city, so it’s nearly impossible to decide where you should stay during your visit. I’m training for a marathon at the moment, so we try to find apartments close to the tourist area but also near enormous parks where I can run 12+ miles without dying of boredom. Jesuitenwiese Park is HUGE, has beautiful wide (mostly shaded) running paths, and isn’t too busy. Added bonus?! FREE BATHROOMS!

Just LOVED running here!

Just LOVED running here!

From our Airbnb apartment, we walked over to Donaukanal (a small canal) then ran on a beautiful trail along the water to reach the park. If you’re in Vienna and need a place to run, we highly recommend Jesuitenwiese.

Volksgarten and Heldenplatz Square

If you’re planning to visit the Hofburg Palace complex, you MUST stop at Volksgarten and neighboring Heldenplatz Square. The lilacs were blooming in early May and the smell was incredible. There are chairs and benches everywhere in Volksgarten to sit down and enjoy being outside. Bring a blanket, a picnic, and some sunscreen, because you might just want to stay all day.

The lilacs smelled SO INCREDIBLE in this garden!

The lilacs smelled SO INCREDIBLE in Volksgarten!

Heldenplatz Square, part of the Hofburg palace complex. The big curved building is the “New Palace”, built in the early 1900s and intended to house royalty. But when heir-to-the-throne Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo, the plan for royalty to inhabit the building died along with him. Hitler addressed people from the balcony of this palace during WWII. Today it is a museum.

Heldenplatz Square, part of the Hofburg palace complex. The big curved building is the “New Palace”, built in the early 1900s and intended to house royalty. But when heir-to-the-throne Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo, the plan for royalty to inhabit the building died along with him. Hitler addressed people from the balcony of this palace during WWII. Today it is a museum.

Locals out enjoying the sunshine in Heldenplatz Square.

Locals out enjoying the sunshine in Heldenplatz Square.

Burggarten

Located near the Volksgarten, the Burggarten is also not to be missed! The garden is free to enter, so don’t be deterred by the people standing at the gates who look like they’re selling tickets. They’re probably just selling tickets to musical performances – walk right past ‘em.

Check out this awesome treble clef made in the grass with yellow flowers!! That’s a statue of Mozart in the background.

Check out this awesome treble clef made in the grass with yellow flowers!! That’s a statue of Mozart in the background.

Flowers in the Hofburg's Burggarten.

Flowers in the Hofburg’s Burggarten.

Burggarten.

Burggarten.

The beautiful Burggarten.

The beautiful Burggarten.

Stadtpark

Located on the East end of Vienna’s tourist center, Stadtpark is a great place to go if you need a break from the city and is known for its status of Austria’s most famous musicians.

Stadtpark, a great spot for a picnic and some sunshine!

Stadtpark, a great spot for a picnic and some sunshine!

Don't miss its many musician statues! This one is Mozart.

Don’t miss its many musician statues! This one is Mozart.

Naschmarkt

Okay, you got me, this isn’t technically a park – it’s an outdoor market. But we definitely recommend heading to Naschmarkt for a quick stroll, especially if your sweet tooth is aching. They have dozens of types of Baklava, fruits and vegetables from every corner of the world, and a dizzying array of olives.

Mmmmmmm olives at Naschmarkt.

Mmmmmmm olives at Naschmarkt.

Any veggie you can imagine, they'll sell you.

Any veggie you can imagine, they’ll sell you.

Mangos were like 20x more expensive than in Thailand!

Mangos were like 20x more expensive than in Thailand!

Naschmarkt

Naschmarkt

Beer in Vienna (and Some Food, Too)

7 Stern Brau

Our first (and definitely favorite) beer hall stop in Vienna, 7 Stern Brau was awesome. They’re located slightly off the tourist track, but it’s totally worth the walk. Plus, you’ll be near the delicious Schelato ice cream shop run by our Airbnb host Luca (see below).

The outside of 7 Stern Brau. Get ready for some good beer.

The outside of 7 Stern Brau. Get ready for some good beer.

 

When you walk in, you'll see their beer vending machine and you'll know you're in the right spot.

When you walk in, you’ll see their beer vending machine and you’ll know you’re in the right spot.

We sat in the bar and got to watch the master brewer at work while we ate and drank.

We sat in the bar and got to watch the master brewer at work while we ate and drank.

Kevin was a happy camper!

Kevin was a happy camper!

Dunkel on the left, Marzen on the right.

Dunkel on the left, Marzen on the right.

I was taking a picture of the brewer brewing, and he was like, "Hey, come up here, I'll take your picture."

I was taking a picture of the brewer brewing, and he was like, “Hey, come up here, I’ll take your picture.”

How could we turn down an offer like that? So awesome!

How could we turn down an offer like that? So awesome!

We got some lunch there - Goulash with a Dumpling for Kevin. YUM.

We got some lunch there – Goulash with a Dumpling for Kevin. YUM.

Viennese Schnitzel and Viennese Potato Salad for me. Yum!

Viennese Schnitzel and Viennese Potato Salad for me. Yum!

Schelato

For the best ice cream in Vienna, head to Schelato. It’s a new place opened by our Airbnb host Luca, and they make some of the tastiest ice cream I’ve had.

Ice Cream at Schelato! Left: Frozen Yogurt with dark berries + Chocolate. Right: Bourbon Vanilla + Chocolate.

Ice Cream at Schelato! Left: Frozen Yogurt with dark berries + Chocolate. Right: Bourbon Vanilla + Chocolate.

The frozen yogurt with dark berries was my very favorite flavor. The kicker was that we got both these cones for just 2.80 Euros!

Salm Brau

Salm Brau, located here, probably has the most fun atmosphere of any beer hall we visited in Vienna. It reminded us a lot of Munich’s beer halls, with its hop wreaths hanging from the ceiling and the waiters all wearing leiderhosen. Surrounded by loud, raucous people speaking German, we almost felt like we were back at Oktoberfest again!

PRO TIP: you should absolutely get a reservation if you’re visiting for dinner! We had one, so we skipped the enormous line and sat right down.

The general theme of food in Vienna is very similar to what we experienced in Germany: lots of meat and bread. Up top is the “Farmer’s Banquet” with two types of sausage and three types of grilled/smoked meat, plus a dumpling and beer cabbage. Down at the bottom is their speciatly, Stelze, which is smoked haunch of ham topped with horseradish. The verdict: not awesome, just okay.

The general theme of food in Vienna is very similar to what we experienced in Germany: lots of meat and bread. Up top is the “Farmer’s Banquet” with two types of sausage and three types of grilled/smoked meat, plus a dumpling and beer cabbage. Down at the bottom is their specialty, Stelze, which is smoked haunch of ham topped with horseradish. The verdict: not awesome, just okay.

Wieden Brau

If you’re looking for a bargain, go no further than Wieden Brau, located here. During Happy Hour (2-4pm), all drinks are half price! I can’t say the beer was my favorite, but it was the cheapest stop we made in the whole city.

Happy Hour beers at Wieden. Right: Helles. Left: “Mixed” Beer, which means they mix Dunkel with something light like Helles. I thought it’d be sort of like a black and tan, but no, it’s mixed in the kegs and comes out this way.

Happy Hour beers at Wieden. Right: Helles. Left: “Mixed” Beer, which means they mix Dunkel with something light like Helles. I thought it’d be sort of like a black and tan, but no, it’s mixed in the kegs and comes out this way.

The menu had a "butter filled pretzel" on it. Clearly, I could not resist.

The menu had a “butter filled pretzel” on it. Clearly, I could not resist.

1516 Brewing Company

If you’re feeling a little homesick and want to visit a beer hall that reminds you a little more of American beers, we recommend 1516 Brewing Company. It’s located in Vienna’s city center so it’s easy to reach, and we actually really enjoyed the lunch we ate there.

Beers at 1516 Brewing Company. On the left, a Grapefruit Wit. On the right, a Cascade Hefeweisen. Both delicious.

Beers at 1516 Brewing Company. On the left, a Grapefruit Wit. On the right, a Cascade Hefeweisen. Both delicious.

We sat outside on their nice patio and enjoyed the gorgeous weather!

We sat outside on their nice patio and enjoyed the gorgeous weather!

When in Vienna, eat sausages. We got a couple delicious sausages with a pretzel and the most amazing honey mustard I’ve ever had in my life.

When in Vienna, eat sausages. We got a couple delicious sausages with a pretzel and the most amazing honey mustard I’ve ever had in my life.

We also got a salad. Because I am DEPRIVED of vegetables in Europe, always.

We also got a salad. Because I am DEPRIVED of vegetables in Europe, always.

Stadtbrauerei Schwarzenberg

This brewery scores points for eccentricity, and is famous for its Honey Ale. Stadtbrauerei Schwarzenberg is a small operation located in the City Center, and is worth a visit solely because the decor is so fun to look at. Added bonus? They’re usually brewing some sort of beer, so it smells incredible when you walk inside!

The fun bar at Stadtbrauerei Schwarzenberg.

The fun bar at Stadtbrauerei Schwarzenberg.

Left: Maibock. Right: Honey Ale.

Left: Maibock. Right: Honey Ale.

Beers at Stadtbrauerei Schwarzenberg.

Beers at Stadtbrauerei Schwarzenberg.

It was our third or fourth pub stop. I was getting a little loopy...

It was our third or fourth pub stop. I was getting a little loopy…

Visit the Opera

This is the Vienna State Opera House.

This is the Vienna State Opera House.

Inside the Vienna State Opera House.

Inside the Vienna State Opera House.

Clearly, we couldn’t visit Vienna without hitting at least one tourist attraction, and we obviously chose the best bargain in town. Did you know you can go to the Vienna Opera for just three euros?! THREE! This is not a typo. If you arm yourself with a hefty amount of patience, a brown bag dinner, and a book for reading, it can be a great way to see the inside of the opera house and an actual opera performance without breaking the bank.

Hanging out in front of the opera house.

Hanging out in front of the opera house.

So how does it work? First, you get in line for standing room tickets. Once you get your ticket, you wait in line to go up the stairs to the standing room area. Once they let you into the standing room area, you mark your seat off, then wander around while you wait for the performance to start. Are you catching my drift here? There is a LOT of waiting. If you have a jam packed schedule for your time in Vienna, you might be better off spending the money to get a seat for the performance so you don’t waste hours standing in lines. Sometimes saving money isn’t worth sacrificing so much of your valuable travel time!

Sitting in line for our standing tickets.

Sitting in line for our standing tickets.

Inside the opulent Vienna State Opera House.

Inside the opulent Vienna State Opera House.

So fun to see, especially for just 3 euros! Tours cost almost 5x that!

So fun to see, especially for just 3 euros! Tours cost almost 5x that!

Vienna State Opera House

Vienna State Opera House

Our standing tickets were for the area there at the back - there's a bar you can lean on while you watch the show, but it's still kind of tiring!

Our standing tickets were for the area there at the back – there’s a bar you can lean on while you watch the show, but it’s still kind of tiring!

Exploring the opera house.

Exploring the opera house.

The cocktail room!

The cocktail room!

We definitely did not get box seats, but that didn't mean we didn't sneak in to see the box!

We definitely did not get box seats, but that didn’t mean we didn’t sneak in to see the box!

If you still want to do standing tickets like we did (time is something you have a lot of when you’re traveling for a whole year), check out this great writeup on how to get standing room tickets for the Vienna State Opera House.

We Want to Hear From You!

Have you visited Vienna? What was your favorite site?

Posing With Statues

I didn’t have time this week to put a “real post” together because Kevin and I have been so busy moving back into our house, applying for jobs, and doing interviews. So in lieu of a real post this Friday, I thought I’d introduce you to a weird hobby Kevin and I have when we’re traveling: taking photos with statues. You may have caught wind that we enjoy this if you’re my Facebook friend, but I’m guessing you haven’t felt the full force of this obsession. Here’s the full collection from the past couple of years, in reverse chronological order:

Atop Gellert Hill in Budapest, Hungary

Atop Gellert Hill in Budapest, Hungary

Budapest has statues ALL OVER the city. This guy has no real significance, he’s just a fun statue. Local districts in Budapest hold contests every year to come up with new, awesome statues. I like it!

Budapest has statues ALL OVER the city. This guy has no real significance, he’s just a fun statue. Local districts in Budapest hold contests every year to come up with new, awesome statues. I like it!

A statue of Ronald Reagan in Liberty Square! This statue was put up in 2011 as a PR stunt to draw attention from a scandal involving media censoring. The Hungarian authorities apparently don’t quite understand our one-team-against-the-other political system in the U.S., and invited then secretary of state Hillary Clinton to the statue’s unveiling. Oh, Hungary.

A statue of Ronald Reagan in Liberty Square! This statue was put up in 2011 as a PR stunt to draw attention from a scandal involving media censoring. The Hungarian authorities apparently don’t quite understand our one-team-against-the-other political system in the U.S., and invited then secretary of state Hillary Clinton to the statue’s unveiling. Oh, Hungary.

Kevin posing with Sir Gregory of Nin in Split, Croatia.

Kevin posing with Sir Gregory of Nin in Split, Croatia.

And here I am holding a mannequin's hand at an exhibit on old Croatian ways of making clothes in Krka National Park.

And here I am holding a mannequin’s hand at an exhibit on old Croatian ways of making clothes in Krka National Park.

Kingly Kevin in the Vatican Museum in Rome.

Kingly Kevin in the Vatican Museum in Rome.

I have no idea what the story of this statue is, but she made me chuckle. This is in Pisa, Italy.

I have no idea what the story of this statue is, but she made me chuckle. This is in Pisa, Italy.

Here’s my husband, the bullfighter, outside the Plaza de Toros (Bull Ring) in Sevilla, Spain.

Here’s my husband, the bullfighter, outside the Plaza de Toros (Bull Ring) in Sevilla, Spain.

At The Alcazar in Sevilla, Spain. Fun fact: Game of Thrones had just finished filming a month or two before we moved to town!

At The Alcazar in Sevilla, Spain. Fun fact: Game of Thrones had just finished filming a month or two before we moved to town!

Here’s a Washington Irving statue just outside the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. He’s being so pensive with the book in his hand. So I busted out my modern version of a book, my Kindle, and impersonated him.

Here’s a Washington Irving statue just outside the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. He’s being so pensive with the book in his hand. So I busted out my modern version of a book, my Kindle, and impersonated him.

Nailed this one, for sure. This is at The Alcazar in Sevilla, Spain.

Nailed this one, for sure. This is at The Alcazar in Sevilla, Spain.

Don't mind me, just monkeying around in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Don’t mind me, just monkeying around in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Possibly my favorite, this was taken on my 29th birthday in Chiang Mai, Thailand. (I get a free pass to let my weirdness out on my birthday.)

Possibly my favorite, this was taken on my 29th birthday in Chiang Mai, Thailand. (I get a free pass to let my weirdness out on my birthday.)

Can you find Kevin in this photo? Taken at Angkor Thom at the Angkor Wat Complex in Cambodia.

Can you find Kevin in this photo? Taken at Angkor Thom at the Angkor Wat Complex in Cambodia.

Impersonating the dancer status above the archway. This is the Dance Hall portion of Preah Khan, which is why the carvings are dancers. Preah Khan is a temple inside the Angkor Wat Complex in Cambodia.

Impersonating the dancer status above the archway. This is the Dance Hall portion of Preah Khan, which is why the carvings are dancers. Preah Khan is a temple inside the Angkor Wat Complex in Cambodia.

Ta Som. Here I am pretending to be a dancing statue again. Nailed it…

Ta Som. Here I am pretending to be a dancing statue again. Nailed it…

I am SO bringing a framed copy of this photo to my next White Elephant Gift Exchange... This was taken at the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

I am SO bringing a framed copy of this photo to my next White Elephant Gift Exchange… This was taken at the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Perhaps one of my finest. This is at The Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand.

Perhaps one of my finest. This is at The Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand.

Maybe the winning impersonation. This is the Grand Palace in Bangkok.

Maybe the winning impersonation. This is the Grand Palace in Bangkok.

And here’s Kevin, imitating the bird soldier statue thingy. NAILED IT. The Grand Palace in Bangkok.

And here’s Kevin, imitating the bird soldier statue thingy. NAILED IT. The Grand Palace in Bangkok.

This statue is right next to our favorite coffee shop in all of Chiang Mai, Mingmitr. He watched us work for months, so we felt he deserved a photo.

This statue is right next to our favorite coffee shop in all of Chiang Mai, Mingmitr. He watched us work for months, so we felt he deserved a photo.

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai, Thailand

I love a good cat statue with a mustache. Chiang Mai, Thailand.

I love a good cat statue with a mustache. Chiang Mai, Thailand.

We snapped this one after we started losing our minds during an almost-12-hour layover in Seoul, South Korea.

We snapped this one after we started losing our minds during an almost-12-hour layover in Seoul, South Korea.

Hanging out with some mannequins in South Korea on our layover tour of the city! Incheon, South Korea.

Hanging out with some mannequins in South Korea on our layover tour of the city! Incheon, South Korea.

Ronald McDonald is everywhere in the world. We found him this time in Incheon Airport in South Korea.

Ronald McDonald is everywhere in the world. We found him this time in Incheon Airport in South Korea.

Outside a pharmacy in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Outside a pharmacy in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

We're getting good at the dragon pose. This was in Chiang Rai, Thailand at the White Temple.

We’re getting good at the dragon pose. This was in Chiang Rai, Thailand at the White Temple.

This photo is called “Kevin, Singaporean Warrior”. Taken outside a temple in Singapore.

This photo is called “Kevin, Singaporean Warrior”. Taken outside a temple in Singapore.

Kevin’s best dragon face yet (I think he nailed it) at the Temple on the Hill in Pai, Thailand.

Kevin’s best dragon face yet (I think he nailed it) at the Temple on the Hill in Pai, Thailand.

This was actually on our very first trip to Chiang Mai in December 2013. This statue sits outside of a Bank near Thapae Gate.

This was actually on our very first trip to Chiang Mai in December 2013. This statue sits outside of a Bank near Thapae Gate.

This one is in Hanoi, Vietnam, taken in December 2013.

This one is in Hanoi, Vietnam, taken in December 2013.

We act weird in the U.S.A. too. This one is at Northwest Trek here in Washington State.

We act weird in the U.S.A. too. This one is at Northwest Trek here in Washington State.

Kevin, the astronaut. Universal Studios in Los Angeles, California.

Kevin, the astronaut. Universal Studios in Los Angeles, California.

Guard Kevin in London, England.

Guard Kevin in London, England.

I just loved this statue - it was around the corner from an Airbnb apartment we rented in Bamberg, Germany in September 2012.

I just loved this statue – it was around the corner from an Airbnb apartment we rented in Bamberg, Germany in September 2012.

Hanging out in a museum in Munich, Germany.

Hanging out in a museum in Munich, Germany.

Victory pose in Munich, Germany in 2012.

Victory pose in Munich, Germany in 2012.

With a Faraday statue in London in 2012.

With a Faraday statue in London in 2012.

Beer in Budapest

Budapest surprised us in so many ways. The sights were more awesome than we expected, the people were more friendly than we anticipated, the sweets exceeded my wildest dreams, and Beer in Budapest did not disappoint! Budapest was markedly the end of the “wine phase” of our European adventure. From this point out, things definitely shifted over to a Beer focus. Kevin was ecstatic. In his words, “About freaking time!”

Budapest is every beer-lover’s playground. The Craft Beer scene is absolutely going nuts there right now! You almost can’t walk anywhere without stumbling past a craft beer bar or bottle shop, which is dangerous for my liver, but wonderful in a city where you have to pay $1 to use public restrooms. I’d rather pay for a $2 beer!

I’m not sure I’d even call Budapest’s craft beer scene young anymore – there are far too many breweries for that now. But even though it has matured and really become a fun part of the city, the beer is still incredibly inexpensive! In this post, I’ll take you in a photo tour of a few of our favorite bars and bottle shops in Budapest.

The bars below are ordered in the same way you should consume your beers and wines: the best first, and the less exciting stuff later. Cheers!

Élesztő Bar

By far our favorite spot in Budapest for beer is Élesztő Bar. Élesztő is the Hungarian word for yeast, so they get points with me for being clever. Élesztő is technically a ruin pub, which means it was opened up in a building that may otherwise have been left abandoned or demolished. That means one thing: ambiance. Élesztő is enormous, with a giant, awesome outdoor area and even more indoor space.

Peering into the Élesztő courtyard. This is such a fun place to sit and enjoy a beer when it's nice outside.

Peering into the Élesztő courtyard. This is such a fun place to sit and enjoy a beer when it’s nice outside.

The only bad thing about Élesztő is its location. It’s a bit of a hike from the tourist core of Budapest, but is totally worth the walk or the cost of taking a tram. Anything in Budapest seems to take an hour to walk to anyway, and I’m promising you great beer at the end of the walk. Clearly, you must go.

Inside the Élesztő, where all the magic happens. (I'm talking about the magic of pouring beers.)

Inside the Élesztő, where all the magic happens. (I’m talking about the magic of pouring beers.)

There are TWENTY ONE BEER TAPS at Élesztő. That’s right. TWENTY ONE. We had our work cut out for us. Luckly, you can get small sizes of every beer, and most beers are priced so that you’re not saving money by ordering the large size. I liked that, because I didn’t feel like we were wasting money to try more of a variety of beers.

Look at that beer list!!

Look at that beer list!!

We focused on beers that were from Hungarian Breweries, but you can find beers here from all over Europe.

Left: Propaganda Pilsner. Right: Pineapple Noir Saison.

Left: Propaganda Pilsner. Right: Pineapple Noir Saison.

Left: Sorostyen Red Lager (Yum). Right: Mosaic in Black Porter.

Left: Sorostyen Red Lager (Yum). Right: Mosaic in Black Porter.

The Facts:

Csak a Jó Sör (Only Good Beer)

The first thing you should learn when arriving in Budapest is that the Hungarian word for Beer is Sör. Once you know that, you can handle anything. Our favorite stop to buy bottled beer in all of Budapest was an awesome little bottle shop called Csak a Jó Sör, which translates to Only Good Beer.

We tried a couple of the beers they had on tap and weren’t very impressed. You actually get a lot more bang for your “Forint” (Hungarian currency) when you buy bottles, so we recommend focusing on those.

Beers on tap at Csak a Jó Sör. Kevin had the Citron IPA and I ordered the Coffee Porter. I'm STILL experiencing a coffee buzz from how much coffee they put in this puppy. TOO MUCH COFFEE.

Beers on tap at Csak a Jó Sör. Kevin had the Citron IPA and I ordered the Coffee Porter. I’m STILL experiencing a coffee buzz from how much coffee they put in this puppy. TOO MUCH COFFEE.

Kevin took the opportunity to try as many Belgian beers as he could while we were in Budapest. Most bottles were $3 or less, which is WAY more reasonable than anything you’d pay for Belgian beer in the States.

A few of the Belgian beers Kevin enjoyed from Csak a Jó Sör:

Yum.

The Facts:

Schimpla Kert Ruin Pub

For ambiance alone, this puppy is ranked #3 with us. Élesztő was our first ruin pub, but Schimpla is decidedly more ruin-like. I’m pretty sure that most of their furniture has been scavenged from the side of the road or from junk yards, but it actually lends the space a really fun vibe and looks pretty cool! Schimpla is located in the Jewish Quarter of Budapest, so it’s really easy to reach for most tourists. We definitely categorize this as a not-to-be-missed stop on your beer tour of the city.

We weren’t super excited about the drinks we ordered, but that’s ok. You’re there for the experience.

Kevin's dark beer, my cider, and a shot of Unicum, Hungary's most famous (and most disgusting) liquor.

Kevin’s dark beer, my cider, and a shot of Unicum, Hungary’s most famous (and most disgusting) liquor.

Unicum has been described to be "like Jagermeister, but with a distinctly stronger flavor". Everyone says you have to try it, so we clearly did.

Unicum has been described to be “like Jagermeister, but with a distinctly stronger flavor”. Excellent… Everyone says you have to try it, so we clearly did…

And here's what Kevin thought of it.

…and here’s what Kevin thought of it.

The best part of Schimpla is their awesome outdoor area. You can even sit in a car-turned-dining-table!

The outdoor area of Schipmla, with the old converted car.

The outdoor area of Schipmla, with the old converted car.

Schimpla even serves food, if you're there when the kitchen is open.

Schimpla even serves food, if you’re there when the kitchen is open.

The Facts:

Hopfanatic

Hopfanatic Pub in Budapest

Hopfanatic Pub in Budapest

If you’re craving an IPA, head to Hopfanatic, as that’s just about all they brew. They have 10 beers on tap, most of which are IPAs or Pale Ales. They also had a Porter on tap.

Beers on tap at Hopfanatic.

Beers on tap at Hopfanatic.

The bartenders aren’t very friendly or knowledgable at Hopfanatic, but that’s not why you go. You go to Hopfanatic because of their awesome urinals:

Why don't we have urinals like these in the States? It's almost cool enough to put in my house. Almost.

Why don’t we have urinals like these in the States? It’s almost cool enough to put in my house. Almost.

The Facts:

Léhűtő, a bar for the Hipsters

Every city has a gathering place for hipsters. There’s Brooklyn in NYC, Capitol Hill in Seattle, and the Pearl District in Portland. I’m not trying to call anyone out here – I love skinny jeans and mustaches as much as the next person, and usually these neighborhoods are among my favorites. I just think it’s amazing how an entire area can feel like it falls into this category. In Budapest, the hipster neighborhood is the Jewish Quarter, and the epicenter seems to be Léhűtő.

Léhűtő, a fun little bar in the Jewish Quarter of Budapest.

Léhűtő, a fun little bar in the Jewish Quarter of Budapest.

Their beers are a bit pricier than what we found elsewhere, but they’ve got a huge selection and the bartender was nice enough to help us pick our poison. Added bonus? This bar is easy to find and close to the tourist core of Budapest.

The Facts:

Unconventional Drinking

One of the greatest things about Europe is that you can drink almost anywhere! There are no fenced off beer gardens here, no one is waiting to give you a citation for holding a beer on the street, and it’s borderline acceptable to BYOB on a train ride. If I’m being honest, I think a more casual attitude towards drinking by a culture as a whole makes kids less likely to sneak alcohol and overdo things. Drinking is not something that is forbidden; it’s something you do socially and responsibly with friends. It’s ok for kids to see that!

Let me set my soapbox aside and show you some of Budapest’s finest unconventional drinking spots.

Drinking at a VW Beer Van!

Budapest's VW Beer Van.

Budapest’s VW Beer Van.

If you ever find yourself at a festival in Budapest, look for the cute little blue Kézmüves Sör VW van selling pints of beer!

Kevin ordering up a pint.

Kevin ordering up a pint.

Nothing beats drinking a delicious dark wheat beer next to an old-ass castle.

Nothing beats drinking a delicious dark wheat beer next to an old-ass castle.

We stumbled onto the beer van by sheer dumb luck, and you should certainly stop for a drink if you happen to find it. If you speak Hungarian (or arm yourself with Google Translate and some patience) you might be able to figure out where they are from the Kézmüves Sör Website. Good luck.

Drinking in City Park

One of our favorite places to sit and enjoy a beer was in City Park, which is essentially Budapest’s answer to NYC’s Central Park. We were staying in an apartment only a few blocks away, and took every chance we got to soak up some sun while enjoying a German hefeweisen.

If you find yourself in City Park, wander around, you’ll find a bar eventually. There’s even one in an old repurposed railroad car in the NE corner of the park!

Drinking while Biking

Especially huge in Budapest is “Beers on Wheels”, the drink-while-you-pedal bars rolling all over the city. You bike to power the cart, and a bartender will keep your beer topped up. I’m not sure who mans the steering wheel.

Drink while you get your exercise in Budapest.

Drink while you get your exercise in Budapest.

The downside? It doesn’t seem like you can book just a couple spots in one of these moving bars. You need to be traveling with a group and have to book out the whole thing.

Drinking on Trains

Remember when I said it’s borderline acceptable to drink on a train? I’m not sure it’s 100% legal, but locals won’t bat an eye. The best way to make a several-hour train ride from Budapest to Vienna fly by is to BYOB. Trust us, you won’t regret it.

Enjoying some cider with my lunch on the train to Vienna.

Enjoying some cider with my lunch on the train to Vienna.

We Want to Hear From You!

Where in the world did you have your most memorable beer/wine/cocktail? Mine will forever be Oktoberfest in Munich in 2012, but we just got home from Prague which was also awesome. (Posts on Prague to come soon!)

Leave us a comment to let us know!

Desserts in Budapest

The main reason we chose Budapest for our last full month-long home in Europe was the huge selection of awesome Airbnb apartments for dirt cheap prices. But a very, very, very close second was all the decadent desserts in Budapest. Hungary is a country with an incredible cake scene – it was like a dream come true for a self-proclaimed cake lover like me. After all, this is the country where the Dobos Torte was invented.

This blog post will be a quick photo tour through the desserts we tried in Budapest. If this blog post makes you Hungary (har har), I highly recommend you walk straight to your kitchen and make your own Dobos Torte using this recipe, which is easy to make and guaranteed to impress family and friends. I made it once and love it.

Without further ado, let’s eat!

Kürtőskalács (Chimney Cake)

Oh. My. Goodness. This dessert was a revelation, and was hands down the best sweet we ate in Budapest. Chimney Cakes are made from a sweet dough that is rolled out onto a wooden roller, then rolled in sugar, then either grilled over hot coals or baked in an oven. After it’s cooked, they’ll roll it in your choice of topping: chocolate, walnut, almond, poppy-seed, vanilla, cinnamon (our fave!), or coconut.

The best Chimney Cakes we had during our time in Budapest were from Molnar’s Kürtőskalács. Their chimney cakes cost 990 Forint (about $3.68), and were by far the best we found in all of our time in Budapest.

Molnar's Kürtőskalács. This place is my idea of heaven.

Molnar’s Kürtőskalács. This place is my idea of heaven.

One of the bakers, working hard on making those Chimney Cakes.

One of the bakers, working hard on making those Chimney Cakes.

They’re located in the heart of the downtown tourist area, so it is inexcusable not to stop by, in my opinion.

Ahhhhh Molnar's is so good. My mouth is watering looking at this photo...

Ahhhhh Molnar’s is so good. My mouth is watering looking at this photo…

A very close runner-up to Molnar’s is any charcoal-cooked Kürtőskalács stand at outdoor festivals in Budapest. Here’s the caveat, though, make sure it’s a food stand where lots of locals eat! We picked the one below, which had a CRAZY line, and it was fantastic.

A Kurtoskalacs stand at an Easter Festival in City Park.

A Kurtoskalacs stand at an Easter Festival in City Park.

The key to Chimney cakes is getting them fresh and hot! Never, ever, ever buy a cold Chimney cake. Here’s a peek at how they’re made:

The dough is rolled onto these wooden rollers.

The dough is rolled onto these wooden rollers.

At festivals, they're usually cooked over hot coals!

At festivals, they’re usually cooked over hot coals!

Here's Kevin with our Chimney Cake. At the festival, they usually run about 1000 Forint (about $3.72), but are quite a bit bigger than the ones you'll get at Molnar's.

Here’s Kevin with our Chimney Cake. At festivals, they usually run about 1000 Forint (about $3.72), but are quite a bit bigger than the ones you’ll get at Molnar’s.

Best Bakery in Budapest: Pasha Turkish Bakery

In a surprise move, we decided to name Pasha as our favorite bakery in Budapest. But it’s Turkish, you say, and this is Hungary, you say. Tough cookies (har har). Make one visit to Pasha and you’ll be singing a different tune, I promise.

Pasha Bakery, the best in Budapest.

Pasha Bakery, the best in Budapest.

The downside to Pasha is that it is pretty far out in the Northern Suburbs. In fact, you have to take the H5 commuter rail to the Békásmegyer stop to get there, then walk a couple blocks. We think it’s totally worth the trip if you’re in Budapest for five days or more. Their amazingly tasty sweets and rock bottom prices make the trip totally worth it! We got four baklavas, two bureks, four cookies, and a big sesame pastry for just 2265 Forint, or about $8.45.

Pasha serves Burek! We loved the apple and spinach varieties.

Pasha serves Burek! We fell in love with Burek in Croatia. At Pasha, we loved the apple and spinach varieties.

Best pastry we tried there was this tahini and sesame pastry. It had just a hint of sweetness, which Kevin and I both LOVED.

The single best pastry we tried there was this tahini and sesame pastry. It had just a hint of sweetness, which Kevin and I both LOVED. It balanced out the honey-doused baklava.

Delicious baked goods at Pasha!

Delicious baked goods at Pasha!

Cookies, cakes, and Turkish Pizza, oh my!

Cookies, cakes, and Turkish Pizza, oh my!

Two words: Chocolate Baklava. Or as I called it, Choclava.

Two words: Chocolate Baklava. Or as I called it, Choclova.

Clearly, we bought the chocolate baklava, which completely blew my mind. It is so good. They also have a superb traditional Baklava, which would've knocked my socks off if I had eaten it before its chocolate sibling.

Clearly, we bought the chocolate baklava, which completely blew my mind. It is so good. They also have a superb traditional Baklava, which would’ve knocked my socks off if I had eaten it before its chocolate sibling.

Rumor has it that Pasha bakery may open up a chain in downtown Budapest sometime in the future. Check their website often to see if it happens before your visit!

The Dobos Torte: Hungary’s Gift to the World

The Dobos Torte is a Hungarian sponge cake layered with chocolate icing, topped with a crunchy layer of caramel. It was invented way back in the 1800s by a guy named Jozsef C. Dobos. If I could time travel, I would love to go to the 1800s and give this man a well-deserved pat on the back.

Check out this Dobos Torte. I can definitely get onboard with this ratio of icing to cake.

Check out this Dobos Torte. I can definitely get onboard with this ratio of icing to cake.

Nearly every Cukrászda (the Hungarian word for Bakery) in Budapest sells this tasty creation. We only tried it at one bakery, but I’d challenge you to try to find the BEST Dobos Torte in town and leave me a comment once you do!

Ruszwurm Bakery in Castle Hill

Ruszwurm Bakery in Castle Hill

We got our Dobos fix at Ruszwurm Cukrászda, which claims to be Budapest’s oldest cafe! It’s a family business started back in 1827, and is located a block from the Matthias Church at the top of Castle Hill. The bakery has been through a lot – the building was damaged in bombings in 1849 and 1944, but they are still dishing up tasty cakes today!

Ruszwurm's Dobos Torte

Ruszwurm’s Dobos Torte

There is no shortage of cakes to choose from at Ruszwurm.

There is no shortage of cakes to choose from at Ruszwurm.

The Dobos Torte was good, but the cake Ruszwurm Cukrászda is most famous for is their Ruszwurm Kreme cake. It’s a heavenly vanilla custard sandwiched between two pieces of puff pastry, then topped with a hefty amount powdered sugar. This slice of cake was absolutely the winner at Ruszwurm – if you visit, you MUST try this one!

Ruszwurm's famous Kreme Cake. You have to try it!!

Ruszwurm’s famous Kreme Cake. You have to try it!!

Fair warning, Ruszwurm is definitely on the tourist radar and full of people wildly waving around selfie sticks and taking photos. Excessive photo taking is always slightly annoying, but this is one case where I think the Kreme Cake is worth the hassle of feeling touristy.

Auguszt Cukrászda

Speaking of Kreme Cake, we also gave it a shot at Auguszt Cukrászda. They’re also known for their Kreme Cakes, but the only reason I’m putting this section in here is to encourage you to get it at Ruszwurm instead.

Kreme Cakes at Auguszt Cukrászda. Regular ol' Kreme Cake on the left, and their Chocolate and Orange variety on the right.

Kreme Cakes at Auguszt Cukrászda. Regular ol’ Kreme Cake on the left, and their Chocolate and Orange variety on the right.

Ruszwurm’s Kreme Cake was far superior to the one we got at Auguszt, and Ruszwurm’s service was more friendly.

Fröhlich Cukrászda

For something different, be sure you stop by Fröhlich Cukrászda, a bakery in the Jewish Quarter that specializes in a few traditional Jewish Cakes.

Check out this unassuming storefront! Fröhlich is located smack dab in the middle of the Jewish Quarter of Budapest.

Check out this unassuming storefront! Fröhlich is located smack dab in the middle of the Jewish Quarter of Budapest.

This bakery is family run, and the woman behind the counter was one of the nicest people we met in town. They had a dizzying array of cakes, and I’m certain they are all delicious.

The cake selection at Fröhlich Cukrászda

The cake selection at Fröhlich Cukrászda

They even have a Dobos Torte. We didn't try it, but I bet it's awesome.

They even have a Dobos Torte. We didn’t try it, but I bet it’s awesome.

First, we went for the most chocolatey thing we could find:

Fröhlich's Chocolate Torte Cake.

Fröhlich’s Chocolate Torte Cake.

And obviously, we got the cake they are famous for, Flodni. Flodni is an apple, poppy-seed, and walnut dessert cake. It’s a traditional dessert commonly made in Jewish households in Budapest, Fröhlich is just about the only bakery where you can find it in Budapest.

Flodni cake from Fröhlich Cukrászda.

Flodni cake from Fröhlich Cukrászda.

Hungarian people are absolutely bonkers for poppy seeds for some reason – the entire middle layer of this cake was just a bunch of poppy seeds held together by a sweet syrup. It’s not really for me, and I didn’t 100% enjoy this cake because the poppy made it pretty earthy, but it was definitely fun to try. Plus, Fröhlich has some of the most reasonable cake prices in the city, so it’s impossible to steer yourself wrong here.

Cookies for the Cookie Monsters

If you love cookies as much as we do, Budapest has you covered. I’m sure that the Great Market Hall is already on your radar if you’re planning to visit the city. It was built in the late 1800s and is known for its awesome colorful Zsolnay roof tiles.

Budapest's Great Market Hall (Nagyvásárcsarnok)

Budapest’s Great Market Hall (Nagyvásárcsarnok). Look at that roof!

After you enter the main doors of the Great Market Hall, turn left, and there will be a bakery immediately on your right. This gal sells some of the best cookies in town, for rock bottom prices! The minimum purchase is 100 grams of cookies, which will run you 100 Forint, which just south of 40 cents. Go ahead, buy a whole Kilo of cookies, you know you want to.

Cookies at the Great Market Hall. We loved the round Chocolate and Vanilla ones at the front here - they are great dipped in coffee or tea!

Cookies at the Great Market Hall. We loved the round Chocolate and Vanilla ones at the front here – they are great dipped in coffee or tea!

Stand back from the cookie booth and watch what locals order. There were older men literally buying several Kilograms of cookies from this gal. It’s gotta be the best bargain in the Market Hall!

If you’re looking for a cookie experience that is a little more… interesting… head to Castle Hill and seek out Pethes János Cukrász. They’re located in Castle Hill at Donáti Utca 42 (map), way off the Tourist track, in a basement.

The unassuming Pethes János Cukrász, a basement bakery in Castle Hill.

The unassuming Pethes János Cukrász, a basement bakery in Castle Hill.

This place is more of an industrial bakery than a storefront, but don’t let that deter you! They bake and sell cookies to other stores in the city, so they know what they’re doing. No one there spoke a bit of English, but I got by with some hand waving and gesturing. Be sure you take small bills, I doubt they have a lot of change lying around.

I managed to buy a bag mixed with the cookies we love to dip in coffee, and these delicious peanut cookies that I think are called földimogyoró. They're in the top-right in this photo.

I managed to buy a bag mixed with the cookies we love to dip in coffee, and these delicious peanut cookies that I think are called földimogyoró. They’re in the top-right in this photo.

Because of the language barrier, I bought more cookies than I intended to. I'm not complaining, it was still just $3! Look at all these cookies!

Because of the language barrier, I bought more cookies than I intended to. I’m not complaining, it was still just $3! Look at all these cookies!

Rêtes (Strudel) in Budapest

I’ll leave you today with some sweets that are completely acceptable to eat at breakfast. I’m from a family where a slice of Pie is a perfectly normal way to start your day – in fact, that is one of my favorite things about the holiday season. So when I got wind of the strudel situation in Budapest, I was super excited.

I did a little digging on the internet and found Rózi Néni Rétesei, a little food stand that is allegedly the reigning Strudel Specialist in Budapest. This place has been family owned for over twenty years, and deserves its reputation for being delicious.

The Rózi Néni Rétesei Strudel Stand

The Rózi Néni Rétesei Strudel Stand

They have an all-Hungarian website and a Facebook Page, and are located in a food stand that sits here.

So many strudels yum!

So many strudels yum!

We tried Cherry Cheese, Sesame, Sour Cherry, Imperial Cheese, Peach Cheese, and Apple.

We tried Cherry Cheese, Sesame, Sour Cherry, Imperial Cheese, Peach Cheese, and Apple. All these for about $5.

They were all delicious except for the sesame, which was earthy and not for me. The Peach strudel is one of their most popular, and was delicious! I actually liked the Imperial Cheese the best, which is the fanciest of the strudels in the photo above (top left).

PRO TIPs: Go in the morning, or they may run out of the good stuff! Also, take cash. Also, you should absolutely get the powdered sugar topping!

We Want to Hear From You!

Which country in Europe has the best sweets? Paris? Italy? Belgium? Hungary? Leave us a comment and let us know!

Eating in Budapest

If you do a little research about Hungarian food, you’ll start to see some common themes. Words like starchy, heavy, and fattening will come up regularly. It’s heavy on the meat and bread, and light on the vegetables. In fact, it wasn’t too long ago that ordering a “salad” in Hungary meant getting a plate full of pickled vegetables! Even in recent years, with imported foods showing up in more stores, you’re still hard pressed to find leafy greens anywhere.

Word on the street is that much of the food here is made with lard, making it extra filling and heavy, and some would say extra yummy. The occasional meal where my plate is loaded up solely with meat and starches definitely hits the spot every once in awhile, but I also like to fit into my clothes and feel good about life.

So we adopted a go-out-twice-a-week rule for Eating in Budapest, and I’m happy to report that we’re more or less the same size as when we arrived in this city. I think it was a smart move, because I’m here to tell you that I saw with my own two eyes a pork dish that came with rice AND potatoes, and they also brought out a bread basket. SO MANY STARCHES! What is this madness?

As unhealthy as it sounds, Hungarian food can actually be extremely delicious. If you look in the right places and visit the right restaurants (and cook some healthier meals for yourself in between trips to restaurants!), you’ll fall in love with the local cuisine. The paprika dishes are out of this world, the duck dishes STILL make special appearances my occasional food dreams, and the local lunch institution known as the “Napi Menü” is every budget traveler’s fantasy.

In this blog post, I’ll show you a few of our best experiences of eating in Budapest. I should note here that there will be a conspicuous absence of sweets. Don’t worry, we’re not off sugar. Not even close. The cookies and cakes in Budapest are just so damn delicious that they deserve their own blog post. Stay tuned for a post on desserts next week. Without further ado… let’s eat!

Hungarikum: Best Restaurant in Budapest

Every once in awhile, you visit a restaurant that knocks your socks off. For Kevin’s birthday, we decided to try out Hungarikum Bistro, one of the top-rated restaurants on Trip Advisor in Budapest. Normally, I’m more impressed with small eateries that are off the beaten path, outside the major tourist areas. The kind where you have to order your food using hand signals and broken attempts at using the local language.

Once in a blue moon, though, a touristy popular restaurant far exceeds my expectations. Hungarikum has everything: incredibly friendly service, wonderfully delicious food, live music, and a few extra freebies that they throw in to make your meal extra special. PRO TIP: Hungarikum is extremely popular, even on random weekdays at lunchtime, so reservations are absolutely a must-do.

Without further ado, here’s a photo tour of our meal at Hungarikum:

First, they bring out complimentary bacon and onion bread topped with sour cream and paprika. And Freebie #1 steals my heart. Nice work, Hungarikum.

First, they bring out complimentary bacon and onion bread topped with sour cream and paprika. And Freebie #1 steals my heart. Nice work, Hungarikum.

Everyone gets a plate of peppers to spice up their meals. PRO TIP: The one on the bottom is fantastic in Goulash.

Everyone gets a plate of peppers to spice up their meals. PRO TIP: The paste on the bottom is fantastic in Goulash.

Kevin and I shared a bowl of Goulash as a started, and they split it out into two bowls without us even asking!

Kevin and I shared a bowl of Goulash as a starter, and they split it out into two bowls without us even asking!

Then the live music started! Check this guy out - a total badass.

Then the live music started! Check this guy out – such a badass.

Our waitress offered to take our picture when she brought out our food. She was super sweet and helpful.

Our waitress offered to take our picture when she brought out our food. She was super sweet and helpful.

We ordered the Pork Tenderloin (with BACON) on noodles with Paprika Sauce...

We ordered the Pork Tenderloin (with BACON) on noodles with Paprika Sauce…

...and the Crispy Duck Leg with braised red cabbage and onion mashed potatoes. This was our single best plate of food we had in Budapest. It was SO delicious.

…and the Crispy Duck Leg with braised red cabbage and onion mashed potatoes. This was our single best plate of food we had in Budapest. It was SO delicious.

When they bring out your check, they give you a free shot of Plum Palinka liquor! And freebie #2 seals Hungarikum's place as my favorite restaurant in Budapest.

When they bring out your check, they give you a free shot of Plum Palinka liquor! And freebie #2 seals Hungarikum’s place as my favorite restaurant in Budapest.

If you’re in town, you definitely should make a reservation well ahead of time and arrive hungry. Visit their website to reserve a spot. The total damage for this entire dinner was just 7810 Forint, which is about $29.

Kisharang: Second Best Restaurant in Budapest

If you’re in the mood for something a little more casual or didn’t manage to snag a reservation at Hungarikum, Kisharang is a great alternative. It doesn’t have a huge presence on Trip Advisor like Hungarikum, but they have friendly service and serve up delicious Hungarian food at reasonable prices.

Enjoying the outdoor seating at Kisharang in Downtown Budapest.

Enjoying the outdoor seating at Kisharang in Downtown Budapest.

Probably the tastiest dish we ate there, this is Lecso with sausage. It's a traditional Hungarian dish that is sort of their answer to ratatouille. Highly recommend.

Probably the tastiest dish we ate there, this is Lecso with sausage. It’s a traditional Hungarian dish that is sort of their answer to ratatouille. I highly recommend it.

When you're in Budapest, you MUST try some Hortobágyi Palacsinta, which is savory pancakes with a meat filling topped with a heavenly paprika sauce. These will set you back about $3.90.

When you’re in Budapest, you MUST try some Hortobágyi Palacsinta, which is savory pancakes with a meat filling topped with a heavenly paprika sauce. These will set you back about $3.90.

They also serve a less soupy take on Pork Goulash, which comes with noodles. This one was $4.97.

They also serve a less soupy take on Pork Goulash, which comes with noodles. This one was $4.97.

We also tried their stuffed pepper and meatball dish. Yum.

We also tried their stuffed pepper and meatball dish. The sauce was a bit on the sweet side for me, but still tasty.

PRO TIP: Kisharang is cash only.

The Napi Menü: A Hungarian Institution

When you’re in Budapest, you have to try at least one Napi Menü, if only for the thrill of getting lunch at the most incredible bargain EVER. The Napi Menü is something restaurants cooked up to try to entice office workers to eat lunch at restaurants during the workweek. It’s served only during lunch hours on weekdays, and consists of 2 or 3 courses. Most times, a restaurant offers just a single Napi Menü option per day – there are no choices, and no substitutions. You eat what they’re serving.

It’s a little bit of a bummer to be robbed of your choices, but sometimes I like to just eat whatever’s being served. Plus at just $3-5, a 2 or 3-course meal is an absolute steal!

Here are a few of the Napi Menü lunches we had while we were in Budapest:

First Napi Menü experience, Nador Restaurant, which serves up 2 courses for 990 Forint (about $3.70) or 3 courses for 1350 Forint (about $5).

The first course was better than it looks. Soup with chicken and gnocchi.

The first course was better than it looks. Soup with chicken and gnocchi.

Second course at Nador, Chicken Schnitzel with potatoes.

Second course at Nador, Chicken Schnitzel with potatoes.

Course #3 was a tasty dessert crepe with jam.

Course #3 was a tasty dessert crepe with jam.

Nador restaurant is down the steps in this huge cellar-like room! Such a fun stop for lunch.

Nador restaurant is down the steps in this huge cellar-like room! Such a fun stop for lunch. The big white thing in the foreground is a CANDLE, if you would believe that. The wax drippings have accumulated over years and years, making the huge white blob you see here.

Look for a sign like this: the magic words are Napi Menü.

Look for a sign like this: the magic words are Napi Menü.

Our second, and definitely weirdest, Napi Menü was at Ruben’s Eatery. They serve up 3 courses for 890 Forint (about $3.30).

The day we visited, the first course was a chicken and dumpling soup.

The day we visited, the first course was a chicken and dumpling soup.

I'm still not sure what the second course was. Noodles with saurkraut and maaaaaybe some meat? It was tasty, but unidentifiable.

I’m still not sure what the second course was. Noodles with saurkraut and maaaaaybe some meat? It was tasty, but unidentifiable.

The weirdest course of them all, dessert was an apple! I like apples as much as the next lady, but it just made me chuckle when they brought this out. How do I eat it? Do I take it with me when I leave or eat it here? Should I slice it or just go for it with my hands?

The weirdest course of them all – dessert was an apple! I like apples as much as the next lady, but it just made me chuckle when they brought this out. How do I eat it? Do I take it with me when I leave or eat it here? Should I slice it or just go for it with my hands?

Our last, and maybe tastiest, Napi Menü stop was at Vendiak. They’re situated on a sunny little square that is perfect for people watching. For just 980 Forint (about $3.60), we got a glass of honey-lemon tea, soup, and a bowl of cheese ravioli. It was really tasty, definitely a good stop!

Enjoying Vendiak's honey-lemon tea.

Enjoying Vendiak’s honey-lemon tea.

Course #1: Vegetable Soup.

Course #1: Vegetable Soup.

Course #2: Ravioli with plenty of parmesan.

Course #2: Ravioli with plenty of parmesan.

The cute outdoor eating area at Vendiak.

The cute outdoor eating area at Vendiak.

While Napi Menü lunches can be a great money-saving option on weekdays (you HAVE to do it at least once!), we think it’s definitely worth it to visit Hungarikum or Kisharang so you can pick out some of Hungary’s best dishes.

Langos: Hungary’s Most Unhealthy (and Delicious) Snack

It’s possible that I’ve insinuated that Hungarian food is not the most healthy in the world. Brace yourself – here’s the most unhealthy thing we ate while we were in town.

Langos are something of a local delicacy, and you’ll never find a festival in Budapest without at least two booths serving them. Sort of the savory cousin of the funnel cake, langos are just fried dough that is usually topped with sour cream and cheese. Ours also came with pork knuckle, jalepenos, caramelized onions, and paprika. It. Was. Delicious.

If you're in town, you have to try Langos. But only once, if you know what's good for you. :-)

If you’re in town, you have to try Langos. But only once, if you know what’s good for you. :-) I know the photo makes it hard to tell how big this is – it’s larger than my face, if that helps.

My Little Melbourne: Best Coffee We Had in Europe

I know sound like a broken record when I complain about the coffee in Europe. I’m happy to report that we finally stumbled upon a cafe where the coffee was delicious! My Little Melbourne is a cute little cafe located in Budapest’s Jewish Quarter that scores well on our coffee meter.

My Little Melbourne, such a cute little coffee shop.

My Little Melbourne, such a cute little coffee shop.

Enjoying some coffees in Budapest!

Enjoying some coffees in Budapest!

We Want to Hear From You!

Have you been to Budapest? What did you think of the food? Good? Bad? Heavy? Leave us a comment and let us know!

Everyday Life in Budapest

We Love Budapest!

We Love Budapest!

Budapest was never more than a tiny blip on my travel radar until this year, mostly because I’ve focused a little more on Western Europe destinations. Let’s face it, a lot of these countries in the Eastern half of Europe are expensive to get to from the US, which can be a huge turnoff when you’re looking at flight prices.

If I had only realized how completely wonderful Budapest would be, I would’ve pulled it way further up on my travel list. It’s definitely an underdog city in Europe (at least for many of the Americans I know), one that many more people should consider visiting. They have something for everyone. There’s a world-class opera house, clothing-optional thermal baths, some of the best cakes I’ve ever eaten, and an incredibly fascinating history. Reading about WWII and the communist history here in Hungary could occupy my spare time for weeks.

This city should be on every traveler’s list. Of all the cities we’ve visited in Europe, we’d definitely rank Budapest as #1 for being the most livable AND as #1 for being the most appealing for a tourist. Whether you’re doing slow travel or just planning a week-long trip, Budapest is perfect.

In this post, I talk about everyday life in Budapest. What it’s like to live here as an expat, where we go running, what our apartment here is like, and what we spend our time doing. In the next few posts, I’ll talk more about the tourist side of Budapest.

Our Apartment in Budapest

This might be the #1 reason we love it here so much – we rent a fantastic Airbnb apartment from a really nice gal, and it ran us just $570 for 4 weeks. That price includes all utilities, and the Airbnb fee, and averages out to just $20/night. The apartment has high ceilings, huge windows, a nice open kitchen (important since we only go out to eat twice a week), a washing machine and dishwasher, and super comfy furniture. We love working and living here, and we hated to leave.

Here's Kevin in our sun-drenched living room working on the sofa.

Here’s Kevin in our sun-drenched living room working on the sofa. Look, REAL house plants! So fun!

We’re glad that the apartment has been so great for working. We usually camp out at the dining room table to work each day, and the fast internet has been great for us. There aren’t many cafes in our neighborhood with free wifi, so it’s good that this worked out so well.

Doing a little cider-aided development in the evening in our apartment.

Doing a little cider-aided development in the evening in our apartment.

We even have a little balcony with a table and chairs! We’re on the 3rd floor of the building, so it’s fun to sit out there and enjoy the sunshine.

Having lunch out on the balcony.

Having lunch out on the balcony.

Here’s a quick little video tour of our home for the last 4 weeks:

This spot has been a great home base for exploring this awesome city. We’ve been working 5 days a week here, and doing all of our tourist things on Mondays and Fridays. It has been fun to settle into a routine, do a lot of studying and learning, and finally kick off our job search!

Enjoying our Neighborhood

We’re definitely not located in the most central location in Budapest. We’re about a 1-hour walk towards the downtown tourist area, which is certainly a hassle at times. If you stayed here for a short trip to Budapest, you’d definitely want to spring for bus tickets to get in and out of the city quickly. But we think that the neighborhood (and the general awesomeness of the apartment) make it worth the hassle of being outside the urban core of the city.

For one, we have lots of awesome flowers and gardens around here:

Purple and Gold tulips in a neighborhood garden, just like the colors of our house in Seattle.

Purple and Gold tulips in a neighborhood garden, just like the colors of our house in Seattle.

But mostly, we love walking a few minutes to City Park to visit any of the handful of outdoor bars. Nothing beats soaking up the sunshine on a warm day with a half liter of Hefeweisen in your hand:

Tasty beers on a sunny day at a cafe/bar in City Park

Tasty beers on a sunny day at a cafe/bar in City Park

Relaxing in City Park.

Relaxing in City Park.

If sitting still while drinking isn’t your thing, there are lots of these riding around Budapest, too:

A pedal bar in Budapest. We see these all the time riding around in City Park!

A pedal bar in Budapest. We see these all the time riding around in City Park!

Running in Budapest

I admit it, we are now extremely picky about which Airbnb apartments we rent. One of the top things we look for is that an apartment is near to an outdoor location where we can go running. I’m training for a marathon, so having a nice place for my 22-mile runs is super important.

Vajdahunyad Castle in City Park. Can you imagine my surprise the first time I went to run and stumbled past this?!

Vajdahunyad Castle in City Park. Can you imagine my surprise the first time I went to run and stumbled past this?!

Luckily, Budapest came through! The apartment we picked is a few blocks away from enormous City Park. This huge tree-filled park is also home to the Szechenyi Baths and Vajdahunyad Castle! It can get crowded on weekends and I sometimes get filled with tourist rage when people obliviously block the entire walking path, but most of the time it’s a pleasant place to be.

Here's Kevin running in front of the Szechenyi Thermal Baths. Can you believe those tulips?

Here’s Kevin running in front of the Szechenyi Thermal Baths. Can you believe those tulips?

The Perks of Slow Travel: Going to Holiday Festivals!

One of the great things about being in town for 4 weeks is that you’re inevitably going to be around for some sort of festival. As it turns out, Budapesters throw a huge shindig for Easter! The castle area of City Park filled up with food stalls, craft booths, and beer vendors. It was a great way for us to celebrate Easter.

First, we discovered a Hungarian specialty called Kurtoskalacs, or Chimney Cake! Dough is rolled out onto a wooden roller, is covered in sugar, then roasted over hot coals until the dough is cooked through. We ordered ours dusted with cinnamon, but you can also get walnut, chocolate, vanilla, coconut, or poppy! It’s a massive, filling pastry that costs just 1000 Forint (less than $4). Hands down, this is my favorite dessert we’ve had in Budapest.

Chimney Cake at a fair in Budapest's City Park.

Chimney Cake at a fair in Budapest’s City Park.

Crowds at the Easter Festival in City Park.

Crowds at the Easter Festival in City Park.

The next best thing about festivals is the beer vendors! In Europe, you don’t have to stay in a beer garden to drink, you can take your beer wherever your heart desires. It’s amazing. But not as amazing as this cute little VW Van that has been turned into a little tap house on wheels!

Check this thing out - is it cute or what?! I want one.

Check this thing out – is it cute or what?! I want one.

Kevin really enjoyed the dark wheat beer he got at the festival.

Kevin really enjoyed the dark wheat beer he got at the festival.

There’s something for everyone at the Easter Festival. Do you want to listen to country music and enjoy a platter of “Befalo Bill” Barbecue? We can accommodate that.

Barbecue at the Easter Festival

Barbecue at the Easter Festival

The wonderful Easter Festival in City Park.

The wonderful Easter Festival in City Park.

We Want to Hear From You!

Have you visited Budapest? Did you love it as much as we did? Leave us a comment and let us know!

The Budapest Baths: Our Guide to the Széchenyi Fürdő

Budapest's Amazing Széchenyi Baths!

Budapest’s Amazing Széchenyi Fürdö (Fürdö means bath in Hungarian)

Budapest is famous for its many thermal baths, which are these huge, centuries old, awesome indoor/outdoor pool/spa facilities where locals and tourists go to relax and unwind. The entire city sits right on top of a whole bunch of thermal hot springs (as evidenced by the occasional VERY strong smell of sulfur).

We visited the Szechenyi Bath, which is located out in City Park. This is arguably one of the most tourist-friendly baths for a handful of reasons. First and foremost, most signs have been translated into English and many of the bath employees speak English. That is ALWAYS good news when you don’t know the Hungarian word for “Men” or “Women”. I shudder to think what would I would’ve seen if I wandered into the wrong dressing room.

The Szechenyi baths are also in a really awesome, old, beautiful building that is located in a wonderful area. The beautiful Vajdahunyad Castle is located right across the street (definitely worth a quick visit), Heroes’ Square is nearby, and, if you’re staying downtown, you can either walk up Andrássy Út (Budapest’s Champs Élysées or Broadway) or take the Metro to get out here. Easy as pie. Or in Budapest, I suppose I should say easy as strudel.

The Szechenyi Baths, the place where other bathers will get awkwardly close to you, especially when you're taking a photo. (See the guy near me in the pool in this photo.)

The Szechenyi Baths, the place where other bathers will get awkwardly close to you, especially when you’re taking a photo. (See the guy near me in the pool in this photo.)

There’s something intimidating about the Budapest Baths, though. I had all these unanswered questions before we went. Am I supposed to go naked? Will it be weird if Kevin wears trunks instead of a speedo? Is a bikini ok? Are there changing facilities or do you just get naked in the locker room? Can I bring beer or food? Should I bring my own towel? Can I rent a swimsuit? Where do I enter the baths? Is it ok to pee in the pools? (Spoiler alert: the answer to that last question is always, ALWAYS a resounding NO.)

In this post, I’ll share our experience with the Szechenyi Baths and answer some of the burning questions I had before we became resident Budapest Bath experts.

Question 1: Am I Supposed to Go Naked?

You may think I’m being silly, but this is actually a very valid question. Remember, Budapest has a bunch of bath facilities, and some of them are nudie-friendly (like the Rudas baths). Usually, nude thermal baths are gender-segregated. They’ll either have separate areas for men and women, or different days of the week will be for men or for women only.

You may be thinking, “Gee, but nudie baths sound like such an authentic experience.” I assure you, though, you’ll see PLENTY of skin at the Szechenyi Baths without the pressure to avert your eyes. Honestly, speedos don’t cover nearly enough skin for my liking. I am now fully topped up on my man thigh quota for the next decade or so. If you’re more into chest hair than man thigh, the baths definitely have you covered. They’ve got the whole back hair thing covered, too. Something for everyone, right?

Kevin was the most covered-up man in the entire Szechenyi Baths. Silly American... :-)

Kevin was the most covered-up man in the entire Szechenyi Baths. Silly American… :-)

The bottom line of what to wear? Whatever makes you comfortable as long as you wear something. Kevin was easily the most covered man there with his American swim trunks on. Women will fit in just fine in a bikini or a one-piece suit.

Question 2: Can I Rent a Swimsuit or Towel?

Yes and yes. But I feel like we should talk about the first thing. Do you really want to RENT a swimsuit? This turns me off for obvious reasons. I’m even more turned off now that I’ve been to Szechenyi and seen the swimsuit rentals. Men get one choice: speedo. It’s actually hilarious to try to pick out American men who had to rent a speedo and are clearly uncomfortable with it. Women are issued a pretty modest one-piece, but it’s made of alarmingly thin material. Make of that what you will. In short, pack a swimsuit. It hardly takes up any space, anyway.

An Awesome Sunny Day at the Baths!

An Awesome Sunny Day at the Baths!

Towel rental at Szechenyi is easy. Choose from a small towel for about $1.50 (plus refundable $5.50 deposit), a Big towel for $2.50 (plus $15 deposit), or treat yo’self and rent a bath robe for $4 (with $40 deposit). YOLO, right? We brought our own towels, but I sure would’ve felt fancy wearing around a robe.

You can pay for towel/swim suit rental at the cashier desk with cash or credit card and pick it up at the towel/swimsuit rental office once you’re inside. If you wait to pay for your rental inside, it’s cash only.

Question 3: What Else Should I Bring with Me?

If you’re fair skinned and headed to the baths on a hot day, bring along some sunblock. Part of the baths are outdoors and there isn’t much shade. The other half of the bath facilities are indoors.

We also highly recommend bringing along flip flops, a water bottle, and snacks. People didn’t really go barefoot at the baths – most wore flip flops from pool to pool. We definitely needed the water bottle after spending so much time soaking in hot water and sitting in saunas. (There are water fountains in a few places to re-fill your bottle.) And obviously, I know myself well enough now that I never, ever, ever go anywhere without snacks. We spent almost four hours at the baths, and I can tell you I would’ve been one angry lady without some food towards the end.

There is a snack bar at the Szechenyi baths where you can buy snacks and drinks if you’re desperate. Prices are reasonable, too! They also sell beer, though you can bring in your own. Just don’t bring anything glass into the baths and you’ll be fine.

Question 4: How Much Do the Baths Cost? Should I Get a Locker or Cabin?

The baths are not as cheap as I thought they’d be. With good planning and time management, though, you can definitely get your moneys worth. It’s important to realize that there are two very different areas at Szechenyi, and they each have different hours. The outdoor pools are open 6am-10pm every day, but the indoor thermal baths and saunas close at 7pm! Many, many tourists have been disappointed when they arrived to find the indoor part closed.

The Southeast Entrance to the Szechenyi Baths. We didn't go in this way, but it's definitely the best side to take photos. I love the spring tulips!

The Southeast Entrance to the Szechenyi Baths. We didn’t go in this way, but it’s definitely the best side to take photos. I love the spring tulips!

The latest bath prices are available on the Szechenyi website. In general, it costs slightly more (about $1 extra) to visit on weekends, and costs slightly less (about $1 less) if you visit super early in the morning or after the indoor pools close at 7pm. Go when it’s convenient for you, but realize that crowds will be smaller on weekdays, especially before about 3pm.

When you buy your ticket, you choose either a cabin or a locker. You cannot enter the baths without paying for either a cabin or locker, you have to choose one or the other. There is a “Visitor Ticket” available for 1650 Forint (about $6) if you want to take a 15-minute tour of the baths without swimming; check out the Széchenyi Baths guided tours site for details.

Lockers are exactly what you’d expect and are located in gender-segregated locker rooms. Cabins are more private – you are essentially renting a tiny private room where you can change and leave your belongings.

Cabins on weekdays cost 5000 Forint ($18) and lockers are 4500 Forint ($16.25). If you’re going to the baths with a friend, you can share one Cabin. In this case, one person pays the Cabin price and the other pays the locker price even though they don’t use the locker. Cabins are not gender segregated – Kevin and I shared one without any problems.

Question 5: Where/How Do I Enter the Baths?

I’ll tell you exactly what we did, because I would do things the same way if we visited again. This is based heavily on Rick Steves’ recommendations.

  1. Enter the baths on the Northwest side. This is the side nearest to the zoo. If you’re heading towards the baths from the Metro exit, or if you’re walking towards them from downtown, this is the far left-hand side of the building.

    The Northwest Entrance we used looks like this.

    The Northwest Entrance we used looks like this.

  2. Once you’re in the lobby, go to any of the cashiers. Some take only cash, some also take cards. Check the sign on their window and make sure you’re in the right line.

    The lobby looks like this. Beautiful, right?!

    The lobby looks like this. Beautiful, right?!

  3. Pay the cashier for your cabin or locker, and he/she will issue a bracelet that you’ll use to enter the baths and open your locker or cabin. If you choose a cabin, he/she will go ahead and give you a cabin number.

    My Széchenyi Baths Bracelet.

    My Széchenyi Baths Bracelet.

  4. Head towards the turnstile and scan your bracelet to get in. Once you’re inside, follow the cabin number signs to find yours. Cabins are on the main floor or upstairs. Locker rooms are downstairs. We left our belongings in the cabin and felt totally safe doing so.

    Our cabin was the last one on the left!

    Our cabin was the last one on the left!

Question 6: What Are the Baths Like Once You’re Inside?

Once you find your cabin or locker and change clothes, it’s time to enjoy the baths! Before you get wet, we recommend walking around to get your bearings. After all, there are 18 pools and 10 steam room / saunas to explore! Go upstairs to check out the view down of the baths to get the classic Széchenyi baths photo. There are also sun decks and a fitness center to check out, though they were closed when we were there.

This one is the "Relaxation Pool". It's the one with the chess boards!

This one is the “Relaxation Pool”. It’s the one with the chess boards!

Walk around and check out the outdoor pools. Each pool is a different temperature; the pool temps are usually posted on a plaque nearby. The lap pool is the chilliest of the outdoor pools, and is the one in the middle where everyone is wearing swimming caps (they’re required). Fun fact: apparently bringing a flimsy shower cap from your hotel meets the swim cap requirement. Who knew?!

Dip your toes in the Relaxation Pool and the Fun Pool. The hottest of the outdoor pools is the Relaxation Pool. This is also where the chess boards are located! On any given day, you’re pretty much guaranteed to see some older Hungarian gentlemen sitting here playing chess while they soak. The Fun Pool is a bit cooler, and is filled with jets and currents to play in.

The Outdoor "Fun Pool". The circular thing in the center has a current going around the circle. If you go in, you can float leisurely around in circles!

The Outdoor “Fun Pool”. The circular thing in the center has a current going around the circle. If you go in, you can float leisurely around in circles!

Head inside to explore the thermal baths! Room after room after room has pool after pool after pool. They vary in temperature from an super cold 16 Degrees C (60 F) to a nice and hot 40 Degrees C (104 F). Each of the indoor pools have different mineral contents in the water. Some are a murky green and stinky, others are eerie blue, and some are crystal clear, but none of them are chlorinated. Lots of locals use the thermal baths for medicinal purposes – there’s even a special medical entrance to the Szechenyi bath complex! Doctors will sometimes send their patients here with a prescribed list of baths to soak in!

One of the many indoor pools at Szechenyi.

One of the many indoor pools at Szechenyi.

And of course, definitely DO NOT MISS the steam room and the saunas! Each steam room or sauna is located next to a cold bath, so you can heat yourself up then dunk in the cold water. It is absolutely wonderful – you should definitely give it a try. I didn’t want to, and it ended up being my favorite part os the whole bath experience! I loved the steam room and the aromatherapy sauna. There is also a light therapy sauna, and a super-hot 100 deg. Celsius sauna that was absolutely roasting inside!

Probably the coolest room inside the baths! In the pool in the very back of this photo, you sit inside a big, bright room with tons of windows in the dome. It was amazing.

Probably the coolest room inside the baths! In the pool in the very back of this photo, you sit inside a big, bright room with tons of windows in the dome. It was amazing.

Whatever you do, just remember: be bold and explore! You might get some funny looks, or you might feel awkward wedged between two large Hungarian gentlemen in the hot tub, but you’ll be glad you gave everything a try. I know we were.

We Want to Hear From You!

Have you visited a thermal bath anywhere around the world? Leave us a comment and let us know!