“Budapest is a prime site for dreams: The East’s exuberant vision of the West, the West’s uneasy hallucination of the East. It is a dreamed-up city; a city almost completely faked; a city invented out of other cities, out of Paris by way of Vienna — the imitation, as Claudio Magris has it, of an imitation.”
― M. John Harrison, The Course of the Heart
I have always felt the need to escape from Dublin during the Christmas period. Everything starts getting so busy, it can all become a little overwhelming. Whether it is deadlines in work, the social expectations that come with this time of the year or the dark, winter nights, it is easy to become drained of your social and emotional energy.
Budapest is a three-hour flight from Dublin, far enough to allow the distance between myself and home to really allow for disconnection and mental decompression.
The city is wonderful, especially during the Christmas period. They appear to take this holiday rather seriously. At night it transforms into a fairy light draped gothic cityscape.
The key thing for my winter/Christmas escape is ease and Budapest is most certainty that. At a crisp 1°C, everything seems to move slower, coffee tastes better and food warms as well as fills. The low temperature also means you are inclined to sit longer and enjoy the warmth on offer.
We stayed in the New York Palace, a real retreat and a place where you can rest and restore. Their staff are polite and obliging and the spa facilities are amongst the best. We found ourselves spending more time in the Palace than you would if you had booked a hostel to just sleep in, and this suited the purpose of the trip.
You can walk everywhere in Budapest and it is easy to walk from Buda to the Pest side if you are staying in the city centre. Even in the cold I enjoyed all of the walking, I wanted to spend the least amount of time possible on public transport so as to disconnect completely from the standard working weekday.
Budapest is big on meat. You will see “Beers & Burgers” signs everywhere and be wary of places that offer ‘Brunch’ as they tend to be specifically marketed towards tourists (the type of people with money and having breakfast at 11am).
Robinson deserves a special mention at this stage. Located five minutes from Heroes Square, this restaurant stands out as one of my top three favourite places to eat, period. Atmosphere, décor and of course the food was fantastic.
For coffee, try the Arán bakery, owned by an Irish graduate from TUD in Pastry Arts Management is most certainty worth a visit.
A standout moment for me was 10ora10 vintage watch shop. Here I picked up my Seiko Presage, the snowflake edition. It was cool seeing the vintage watch scene flourishing and the guys were conversational, informed and open to negotiation on prices.
Gellert baths is a great choice of baths to visit. Relaxing and historic, but choose your times to go, they can get extremely busy!
For drinks, we went back to Beer Point twice (good food) and we also hit up Szimpla Kert, one of Budapest’s ruin bars.
We travel for many reasons. Escapism is usually a latent if not prominent motivation in most recreational decisions to holiday. It is important to know and accept your reasons for travel to help you get the most out of it. This time it was for break and that exactly what we did.
This trip gave me much needed space to think and catch up on some much-needed rest. The city is a great place for couples and also has a very sociable flavour to it. Our reasons for visiting were to slow down and have a genuinely restorative trip so we didn’t feel bad for being in bed early some nights and napping after dinner when needed.