Budapest has been on my bucket list for a while but since Haydn and I have been to Prague, which shares many similarities, we’d never rushed to go. However, once we realised we could combine a fun European break with a Formula 1 weekend we decided to go for it. We actually bought the F1 tickets in summer 2020 and then just kept our fingers crossed that Covid-19 wouldn’t stop us from going. Booking flights relatively last minute has been our go-to for holidays during the Pandemic and so it wasn’t until about 2 months before we needed to be there that we actually sorted flights, hotels, tests (lots, and lots of tests) and insurance. We do typically get insurance although it felt pretty essential given that we wouldn’t yet be vaccinated and were attending a large sporting event.
Day 1 – Monday 26th July
Since we had a morning flight we were able to explore the very first day that we arrived. We didn’t want to go too far because not only were we tired but it was also extremely hot (that’s going to be a theme throughout this trip). However, we did walk to arguably the best building in Budapest, The Parliament building! Standing proud on the river bank this is one of those beautifully built places you know you’ll never forget. It’s actually hard to get a photo that does this building justice because the architecture is stunning from every angle.
One thing I love to do everywhere we visit is to find a great view across the city, St. Stephen’s Basilica was the perfect place in the heart of the city to take in the sights. Not only can you admire the external architecture but for a small fee, you can climb up the towers and enjoy panoramic views.
The lighting was just perfect, the sun tucked itself behind some clouds and in the shade, the colours of the buildings and the city surrounding us looked amazing.
We stayed at the top of the Basilica for a while as it was a nice spot to just enjoy the view and get a feel for the city we were staying in.
There are plenty of places to eat, around the Basilica but one place that caught my eye (unsurprisingly), was an ice cream shop. Not just an ice cream shop, Gelarto Rosa, a shop that crafted an ice cream rose on every cone. It was a no brainer, I wanted to try it!
We grabbed a quick dinner whilst out and about as long as some snacks from the local supermarket and headed back to our Airbnb. Finding a supermarket and picking up snacks whilst abroad is one of my favourite things to do, they always have fun flavours or different things to try. On this particular trip, we enjoyed chocolate milkshakes on an almost daily basis!
Day 2 – Tuesday 27th July
This was Haydn’s birthday so we made sure we had a fun day of sightseeing and planned to make the most of it. Knowing that the afternoon would be too hot to roam about we decided to make a relatively early start to our second day as we wanted to climb Gellért Hill. Another opportunity to take in some views and see the other side of the river Danube.
At the top of the hill, we were hoping to get a view of the Liberty Statue, which has great meaning in Budapest as it commemorates those who sacrificed their lives for the independence, freedom, and prosperity of Hungary. Sadly the monument was closed for restoration work so we weren’t able to get very close at all. I’m still glad we ventured up as the views along the way were beautiful.
For the rest of the afternoon we took it easy, we enjoyed wandering the streets and taking in all the scenery before getting ready to head over to Margaret Island. One thing that was common in Budapest was the option to rent bikes from a company called Moi Bubi, they work just like Boris bikes in London. We decided to rent a couple in order to explore more of the island in the time we had.
The main reason we decided to head over to Margaret Island in the evening was to watch a fountain light show which happens a couple of times each night in the summer. Named the Musical Fountain for a reason this is an attraction enjoyed by tourists and locals alike.
On our walk back to the Airbnb we decided to take the scenic route in order to enjoy the Hungarian Parliament Building at night. All lit up this building looks just as spectacular at night as it does during the day.
Day 3 – Wednesday 28th July
Since we were out late the night before we had a slow start to the day. We decided to visit Széchenyi Thermal Bath which is the biggest and most well known thermal bath in Budapest. We used the metro system to get across the city and from our Airbnb, it was quick and easy to work out where we needed to go.
One thing that we really should have been more aware of was how long we were spending in the thermal water on the hottest day of our entire holiday. We got into the thermal baths around midday when the temperature was well over 30 degrees and the water wasn’t far behind. Ironically there are actually warnings around the pool not to spend more than 30 minutes in the water, all of which we ignored…
It wasn’t until we left the thermal baths did it hit me just how hot it was. I was practically crying on route home as I just felt like I was melting. Which turned out to be the case as Haydn was pretty burnt and I had heat stroke which left me feeling rubbish for the rest of the day and through the night. So that was actually all we ended up doing on our third day as I couldn’t eat a meal by the end of the day so we had some fast food and went to sleep.
Day 4 – Thursday 29th July
Even though I’d had a rough night we had no choice but to get up the next morning as we needed to take our next covid test in order to gain entry to Formula 1 over the weekend. It was actually quite difficult to find a proper place to get tested that wasn’t the airport but luckily for me I had Haydn with me who found government-backed testing centres around the city that anyone could pay to use. The lady who conducted the tests was rough and poor Haydn did not have a pleasant time but once it was over I started to feel better afterwards which was a bonus for me. We were in a completely different part of the city from where we had been on previous days and by following a gathering of building down a random side street we found an Alpine F1 car in the street! This was the first time all weekend we’d seen others in F1 merch and excitement for the race weekend was building.
Having learned from our mistake we stayed out of the sun for the afternoon and in the early evening caught a boat across the river in order to get to Castle District.
Once across the river we made our way up to Buda castle and enjoyed some more gorgeous views along the way. Budapest, in general, is a very photogenic city with lots of beautiful architecture and scenery to admire. The views back across the river and over to the Parliament buildings were definitely some of my favourite of the entire trip.
Even though Haydn hates taking photos taking them is really important to me as I think it’s such a memorable way to look back on an experience we’ve shared together. Even though framing a photo without the help of someone else was a little awkward I was happy to capture one of us with the Hungarian Parliament Building in the background.
A real gem of Budapest is Fisherman’s Bastion, although it is one of the most popular spots for tourists I feel that it has retained some real charm. Its beautiful white architecture and gorgeous views across the river are truly unrivalled.
We decided to grab a drink and enjoy the sunset which was so peaceful. We sat together and just talked, it’s nice to have moments of reflection, especially after such a crazy year where travel hasn’t been what we were hoping for. We’ve had plenty of trips cancelled or postponed but at that moment I was just so grateful to be enjoying time with Haydn and exploring a new place.
Day 5 – Friday 30th July
Knowing that we had a busy weekend ahead watching Formula 1 we decided to have a lazy Friday. We had to do another covid test ready to fly home, but this time we found a type of test where you essentially suck cotton and they take a swap from that! It was much less invasive than the throat and nose testing we’d done before and it only cost about £5 more. We also picked up our F1 wristbands which allowed us to prove we hadn’t tested positive for covid and could enter the event.
To finish off the day we went for a lovely dinner together and then visited a Pinball museum because it had so many recommendations on TripAdvisor. I was more curious as to how pinball could be that popular but it was actually a lot of fun! I loved the retro machines and we ended up spending over 2 hours there.
I love using public transport in different cities as it feels like a much more authentic way to explore. After an evening in a different area of the city, we jumped on a bus to get back to our hotel. It was so easy to work out which bus we needed and how to get a ticket.
Day 6 & 7 – Saturday 31st July & Sunday 1st August
Other than being slightly scared about getting heatstroke again, I woke up so excited to watch qualifying on Saturday. Getting to the track was relatively simple and since there were so many other fans making their way to the track it was easy to follow the trail of wristbands. As well as the typical metro, you also take the suburban railway which, as the name suggests, takes you through more residential areas of Budapest. It was cool to see a different part of the city and appreciate more of the culture. From that train, there are then transport buses to take you to the track. These go super crowded but luckily I got a seat every time we needed one.
Haydn and I had bought tickets with seats in the stands at turn 1 which gave us a great view of the corner as well as the first straight from the starting line. We were able to enjoy a sunny qualifying and thanks to frozen water bottles and mini fans we stayed at a good temperature throughout.
The best part about watching the race in person was being able to physically see just how fast the cars travel which the perspective on TV just doesn’t do justice. As well as that the sound of the engines were incredible! I loved hearing them roar past and then feeling the breeze they created seconds later.
Raceday was even more exciting than qualifying. The drama at the first corner after it had rained at the very start of the race made our seats some of the best on the track. We witnessed all the action and then continued to enjoy an exciting race. I was so sad that Lando was out after the first lap along with some of my other favourite drivers and unfortunately, Max (Haydn’s favourite) didn’t have a great weekend either but we still enjoyed the atmosphere and were happy Esteban took the podium.
Overall I loved Budapest! I thought the city had so much to offer with so many incredible things to do. There is still more that we would do if we were to go again. Watching Formula 1 was of course a highlight and something I’d definitely love to do again (although it is quite pricey). The only downside was that we visited during the hottest point of the year which really limited our days as I struggled to walk around at our usual exploring pace when the sun was at its highest. I would recommend visiting Budapest but maybe not in the height of summer!