Hey everyone, I hope you’re all doing really well. Two weeks ago I went to visit Vienna and Budapest on a kind of “mini-interrailing trip”. At Christmas, the company I work for had given us the days between Christmas and New Year’s for free, leaving me with a spare week of holidays that I could carry.
Unfortunately I seemed to have picked up something like the flu / bronchitis on my way down to Vienna, rendering me almost completely out of action for all of the trip bar 2 days, particularly in Vienna, where I was just running on painkillers but I really enjoyed the break and would love to return to Budapest sometime.
Outbound from Hamburg, it was cheaper to buy our train tickets from the Austrian rail network, “ÖBB” and on the way back via the German rail network “DB“. We also pre-purchased our Vienna – Budapest return tickets via the Austrian rail network.
Tip: pay the extra and reserve your seat on long stretches particularly if you are traveling with a partner – it gets annoying trying to constantly find new seats.
We stayed at the slightly out-of-town Art Hotel Ana Katharina, which at €50 for the room including a nice breakfast seemed too good an offer to pass up. Being sick, I really appreciated the free tea / coffee. The 3 day Vienna travel card for unlimited use of the public transport cost around €33 for the two of us.
One day we took the underground and went to visit the Schönbrunn Palace. The castle is furnished in the rococo style and was the summer residence of the house of Habsburg. Last year I read a book that a friend gave to me about the Bavarian-born Habsburg empress “Sissi” so by hook or by crook, I wanted to see what it was like inside! Buying tickets there on the spot was a bit chaotic, so with hindsight I think it would have been calmer to buy them in advance and print them out. The online ticket shop is here.
We also really enjoyed our typical Austrian dinner at a brewery close to our hotel: the Lichtenthaler brewery.
The only cafe we visited in Vienna was the traditional Prückel cafe. The rest of the time I was sadly sleeping off my flu. Compared to Hamburg, Vienna seemed more expensive overall.
We stayed at the Gellért hotel which is handily situated at the underground station “Szent Gellért ter”. It has its own art nouveau thermal baths which if you’re staying at the hotel you can use for free once and after that, you get a 50% discount. The baths were definitely the highlight of our trip and we chose this hotel because I wasn’t sure if my boyfriend would be up for going to a bathhouse (if it’s attached to the hotel… then it’s like a pool, right?). There’s always the question on the continent whether it will be a “textile-free zone” which, for us, being nude with strangers is just uncomfortable. I guess it’s how you’re raised. This hotel’s baths do require bathing suits and swimming caps and flip-flops.
The hotel itself seems like in its hayday it was a very grand hotel but renovated during the communist era. I guess that is part of its past too.
Another highlight was the extremely beautiful New York Café. There are certainly more budget-friendly options for a coffee in Budapest, but this was certainly an experience to remember.
Hungarian food is very hearty and I felt well enough 2 nights to wrap up warm and venture out into the city. One night we spontaneously decided to eat at the French-Hungarian bistro “Borsso” which was romantic with very interesting items on the menu but perhaps a bit rich for my taste. Maybe it wasn’t really to my palette as well because I was so sick but I’m glad we were there.
The other place we ate with traditional Hungarian food was Fatál Etterem. Unfortunately my appetite was not big enough for the enormous portions, but it was delicious. Actually it would be smarter to order something to share and maybe a side or a salad. They also took euro as payment which was handy because we were running out of Hungarian Forints. I preferred Hungarian wine to Hungarian beer. (I was obviously not THAT sick! haha!)
We did the bus tour around Budapest, which I NEVER do (don’t know why actually!) Since I had done no research whatsoever about the cities, it was actually very good to get an overview of what the city has to offer and where we’d like to explore more in our very little time available. I was a little suprised how some prices in Budapest were pretty much on a par with Hamburg. I guess since it’s eastern Europe I thought it would be much cheaper. It is VERY touristey however.
There is a grandness to Vienna that I wasn’t expecting, perhaps because in school we didn’t learn so much about the history of the continent and didn’t understand how powerful the Austro-Hungarian empire was. My only other experience of Austria was the countryside area around Großglockner which has a very different feeling. Budapest has a very laid-back feeling and a charm that I think rightly deserves its title of “The Paris of the East”.
I hope you enjoyed reading about our trip and if you’re planning a trip to Budapest or Vienna that there is some helpful information in there. Or at least that you can get some inspiration to be excited about your trip.