Jack and I decided quite early that we wanted to do a joint hen/stag do (aka a hag, sten or whatever else you want to call it). We have a lot of mixed friends and we wanted to bring everyone together to celebrate in Budapest; a city we fell in love with during our Europe Road Trip.
While we wanted it to be together, we felt it was really important to spend time separately as well. We booked two different apartments, one for the girls and one for the boys, spending Thursday and Friday separately, Saturday all together and then on the Sunday people did whatever they wanted coming together for dinner.
It was only at the airport while trying to fit everyone around the table to eat that we truly realised what Jack and I had attempted to organise! People kept arriving and space very quickly filled up. 16 people later, we were on our way to meet 2 more who had already flown out.
Day 1 – Ladies Evening
We had booked separate taxis from the airport to take us to the apartments so we waved goodbye to the boys and drove into town. Our Air B&B apartment was on the edge of the Jewish District, walking distance to restaurants and the ruin bars with a metro nearby to jump on to see more of the city.
Arriving early evening we had enough time to have a few drinks in the apartment (with the England vs Belgium World Cup Game on in the background) and then head out to dinner at a beautiful restaurant called Mazel Tov.
Best described as a gentrified ruin bar, it’s hidden away in an unassuming road and opens out into a stunning indoor courtyard with greenery everywhere. The menu is Israeli and serves a decent amount of vegetarian options. We had a full range of dishes across the 7 of us, from a bowl of hummus with fresh pita, chicken shawarma, lamb and sausage, falafel and sweet potato.
The food couldn’t be knocked, but the customer service could have been better. A few gin and tonic’s later no one really cared. We had such a laugh in the restaurant that our plan to move back towards the apartment for drinks and games didn’t really happen and we spent all night there. The last of our party also joined us making a group of 8.
We did eventually head back to our apartment which had a great open space in the middle, this made us all sitting around together easy. We’d also bought a speaker with us so we put on some music, poured some drinks and then the girls asked me some questions that they had asked Jack. I was amazed they had actually managed to get the answers out of him, but I did get a bonus point for predicting he had not answered all of their questions.
Day 2 – Ladies Day
We only had one plan for the day; Széchenyi Thermal Baths. I found an amazing breakfast place called Cirkusz in the Jewish District that set us up for the day with a full range of breakfast food from avocado, eggs, French toast as well as classy full breakfasts. To say everyone was happy was an understatement. You can even watch the chefs prepare the food through a glass window if you want to make yourself drool while waiting.
A quick metro trip later we headed into Széchenyi thermal baths. This bath is one of the biggest with 15 indoor pools and three outside. Our plan; to do absolutely nothing! You can book all sorts of massages and treatments which some people took advantage of, but we pulled up some deck chairs and set up home, dipped chatted and chilled for hours with a few beers and pancakes to top it off. It was the perfect day!
On the way out we missed the boys on their beer bike passing us by about 10 minutes.
We jumped back on the metro home to get dolled up for dinner at Bistro Fine on Andrássy út, a beautiful restaurant. On the way to the restaurant we had a shoe casualty which ended up being fixed back together again with a few plasters and a safety pin in a matter of minutes. The wonder of a girls’ handbag!
Budapest is still a relatively cheap country for Europe so I chose restaurants where we could eat like the Queens we are and still feel like we were getting a good deal. This place was no different and there was not an unhappy person around the table after dinner. The atmosphere was so amazing and we were even serenaded by a 4 piece string quartet (no seriously, check out the video below) who were amazing and absolutely made our evening! 3 bottles of wine and 6 cocktails later, even the waiter was jokingly asking if we were ever going to leave.
Another highlight of the restaurant was the toilets! I don’t think I’ve ever seen such impeccably decorated toilets before. They may have staged a few tipsy photoshoots, but why not…
Luckily for the restaurant we did leave, but we didn’t go far, just moving up the road to the 360 bar. I hadn’t managed to book a table but we ordered some drinks and one did become available. The view across the city is beautiful but it was expensive in comparison to other places we’d visited. Seeing the city made me really excited for our walking tour the following day as we hadn’t really seen a huge amount of Budapest yet. We ordered some drinks and laughed the evening away.
On the way home we stumbled across Karavan, the street food court we’d arranged to meet the boys at before starting our walking tour tomorrow. It was still open which fed our alcohol filled stomachs nicely on our route.
Day 3 – Joint Day
After a nice lie in we headed back towards Karavan, a street food court where I thought the various hangovers would all find something that would help cure them. I think between the 17 of us someone had something from every food van and then it was time for our walking tour.
To me, if you’re going to go abroad you should definitely at least do one touristy thing and actually enjoy the city that you have come to visit. I love a good walking tour and Andor from Trip to Budapest did not disappoint. He delivered the right amount of facts vs stupid quips and took us a little off the beaten path to experience some funnier parts of Budapest. We walked from the Dohány Street Synagogue where we had our run down of the History of Budapest, around to Elizabeth Square with it’s huge wheel, lock gate and graffiti.
One fun fact for you; there is a restriction on the building height in the centre of Budapest which means that there is not a skyscraper in sight. The height restriction is 96m which means that bother the Parliament Building and St Stephen’s Basilica, the two buildings that set this precedent are both 96m symbolising that neither government or religion is more important than the other.
By St Stephen’s Basilica (which has my name written on it, so that basically means it’s mine) we learnt about different types of Hungarian Food which is basically everything but made with paprika. Or so it felt. Ankor, our guide, was impressed that some of us had had some lángos for lunch (picture above) and some of us had already tried some gulyás (or goulash, a beef stew).
The boys also decided that they definitely wanted to get their hands on some Pálinka, a traditional fruit brandy which is at least 37.5% ABV. I definitely added Kürtőskalács (yes, I had to Google that spelling!) or more commonly known as chimney cake to our list. I remembered them from our trip to Prague.
Outside the Hungarian Academy of Sciences we learnt about the things Hungarian’s had invented. This included having the first underground in continental Europe (the first is in London), the Bic pen and the Rubik’s Cube. Ankor then produced an unsolved Rubik’s cube which Jack promptly solved. Queue clap from the crowd.
We crossed the river on the Chain Bridge where we had to guess what the sculptor had missed from the lions that sit proud on the bridge. The answer? Their tongues. Legend has it that the sculptor when finding out, was so ashamed he committed suicide off of the Chain Bridge. He didn’t. Love a good old wives tale.
Climbing the steps towards Buda Castle and the State Government Office got us all out of breath, but the view was worth it and we even timed it for the Changing of the Guards. None of us envied them in their full uniform standing out in the sun!
This is where our tour descended into willy statue’s and rubbing horse’s balls. No joke, but I’ll explain. Just down the road from the Government Office is a fountain with a statue which was designed as an artistic statue to symbolise the union of Buda and Pest. Locals now refer to it as the penis statue, because, well… it looks like a penis.
Just down the road from that before you get to the Holy Trinity Statue and Matthias Church is a statue of a horse, students climb it and rub its balls for good luck and so the horse’s balls are quite shiny.
We then came to the Matthias Church and the Fisherman’s Bastion; my favourite part of Budapest! Gothic architecture is by far my favourite and Budapest is covered in it. Matthias Church with its brightly coloured tiles (which are self-cleaning by the way), sits proud surrounded by the most fairy-tale like turrets you’ll ever see.
The viewing platform gives you the best panoramic view of Budapest along the Danube and across to the Parliament building. It’s crazy to think that practically three years ago to the date, Jack and I managed to park in our van for 3 days in Budapest about 200m up from the Parliament Building during our 3 month road trip across Europe.
I also awkwardly realised that on the day we visited the Fisherman’s Bastion I was wearing the same shorts that I’d chosen to wear on this day. Just goes to show that you do not need new clothes all the time, you should spend money on experiences!
Ankor left us here, but only after writing down the English phrases that the boys had taught him and their context which included ‘You’re taking the piss!’ which by the end of the tour he was using perfectly! We headed back the our apartments to get ready for dinner.
I’d booked a meal for the 17 of us at a restaurant called Zeller Bistro in the inner city. Due to the amount of us, we had had to pre order off the three course set menu, but this made everything much easier for everyone! The restaurant is very pretty with hanging plants, fairy lights and a stage where a blues band played, followed by a singer. It had a really nice ambience and they tucked us away where we felt we could make some noise while annoying as little people as possible! Turns out we weren’t the worst behaved table anyway.
There was a huge amount of food and a huge amount of alcohol. It was amazing to get everyone together like that!
We then moved onto 4 Bro, a club in downtown Budapest where we ended our night. The music was good enough to keep people happy and the alcohol definitely helped with that too!
Day 4 – The Final Day
There was varying states of hangover today, so people split up to do various things. A few of the boys, Jack included, went to the Széchenyi thermal baths, a few of us girls went to do a bit more sightseeing and everyone else went and died in the City Park.
For breakfast we headed back to Circusz where they squeezed us in and a ridiculous amount of food was ordered. I had massive food envy last time we were here when I saw the French toast so I knew exactly what I was ordering this time! You could not see a single part of the table for food!
There were four of us who went sightseeing wanted to head to the Parliament building and have a wander along the Danube and then back to Hero’s Square and we thought the coolest way to do it would be on some bikes. Budapest has a similar bike hire system like the Boris bikes in London called Mol Bubi, only it turns out that they are really hard to hire!
You have to go to specific stations and register your details on a screen which can barely recognise some characters unless you press it so hard your thumb falls off! The instructions really aren’t great and after the most hilarious hour of four very educated people attempting to hire said bikes, we gave up and got on the underground. I don’t think I have laughed as hard as I did over something so stupid. It should have been so much simpler!
A few tube stops later we made it to the Hungarian Parliament building which is just as impressive as I remembered and now I know how tall it is too! Standing in Kossuth Lajos Square surrounded by the beautiful building and lots of statues I pretended to know exactly what I was talking about and gave a tour to the three girls who had come with me. We took it in turns to make up what each statue represented and see how stupid it could become.
We then pretended to hop back on our bikes and ride down to the Shoes on the Danube Bank, a memorial to those shots into the Danube in 1944-45. They were ordered to take off their shoes and shot at the edge of the river so the water curried carried away their bodies. 3,500 people were killed in this way, 800 of them Jews during World War 2. It is quite harrowing, especially as some of the cast iron shoes are children’s.
It was a cooler day than the others so we wandered quite far along the river back to the chain bridge and back into the city. We jumped back on the metro to Hero’s Square, a place I hadn’t managed to see on my first visit, but was definitely on my list for my second. Considering the others were all either at Széchenyi thermal baths or in the City Park just on the outside, only a short walk from Hero’s Square it was the perfect place to end our bike crash of a tour; but not before we hopped onto four bikes still in their stands to send to the others to fool them into thinking we did actually hire some bikes!
We headed into the City Park to find the others where we spent the next few hours just chilling and sleeping. As the sun moved round, the people moved, but the belongings did not which meant that by 4pm there was just a sea of suitcases and stuff across the park. In the City Park are several shops where we even managed to track down a chimney cake!
Back all together again we headed for the last supper at a restaurant recommended by the person who I booked Mazel Tov through. Tereza is a new Mexican restaurant that has just opened this summer and I can never pass up Mexican food! This really cute outdoor restaurant had a bench table that fitted us all on and we ordered a load of different tacos, chips with guacamole and salsa and had a laugh. It was the perfect way to end our trip!
The plane ride home was a quiet one and we all parted ways at the airport. I had not truly realised the effect that getting the vast majority of our friends together would have and it was such a cool thing to do. We are both now seriously looking forward to the wedding and another side effect we did not think about is that now everyone has met each other it is going to make our wedding so much more fun too!
Thank you to all of you who came, it was the most incredible weekend!
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