On the eve of my departure from Budapest, I felt a little tired. The combination of drinking wine while out on the town, consuming a little extra food and the overwhelming sensation of foreignness always leaves me a little frazzled towards the end of a city break. So what did I do? I popped to the Royal Spa in the Corinthia Hotel in which I was shacked up. After a little treadmill action, I felt infinitely better.
Before I left the spa, the receptionist asked me apropos to nothing if I’d like a yoga session the following morning before my car took me to the airport. It didn’t take much for me to acquiesce, despite my confusion and suspicion that perhaps they’d asked me because someone else has dropped out of a session. At 8am, a yoga instructor appeared, like a wonderful, bendy mirage who would help me dispel the last of my exhaustion and quell my new pre-flight nerves in one hour (and, no, she told me, the hotel didn’t have a cancellation – they generally offer yoga sessions to those embarking on a flight. What forethought).
On the plane home, physically and mentally relaxed, I reflected. Budapest. A city spliced in two: Buda – rarefied, hilly, and Pest – urban, sprawling. I left feeling that Budapest was a city split in many ways – old and new, magyar and European, a tourist hub and yet still home to many Hungarians. As a creature who is culturally split several ways myself (Hungarian father, Austrian mother, French name and English schooling will do that to a girl), this sat comfortably with me.
The reasons to visit are many – a city through which the Danube runs with plenty of Austro-Hungarian boulevards, old-world coffee houses and where bathing in natural hot water springs is still a staple activity is always going to be a pleasure to roam. And roam you ought – Budapest is made for strolling. In colder months, bring plenty of layers and plop yourself into one of the warm thermal baths. During the summer, visit the Alfréd Hajós sports pool on Margaret island in the middle of the Danube.
Some other spa and food advice gleaned from my own experiences and recommendations of natives:
– Cafe Kor (Pest). A cosy restaurant that, like most Budapest eateries, doesn’t encourage Vegetarianism.
– Menza (Pest). This is a bit more trendy. Don’t let that put you off – good, affordable food.
– Deryne Bistro (Buda). Near the famous chain bridge, this eclectic bistro is a fun place to stop off with live music that adds to the atmosphere.
– New York Coffee House in the Boscolo Hotel (Pest). About as opulent as it gets, if you’d like a glimpse into the serious luxury of bygone days, head here.
– Szimpla Kert (Pest). At Szimpla Kert – simple garden – you’ll find yourself sitting in a converted bath or car seat. You’ll enjoy it.
– Omorovicza on Andrassy Avenue (Pest). Ostensibly my reason for visiting, this is the original home to Omorovicza. The treatment room at the back offers a facial in serene surroundings.
– Gellert Baths and Spa (Buda). Twelve different pools of varying temperatures rich with magnesium, calcium, sulphate-chloride, hydrogen-carbonate, fluoride ions, and sodium. There’s also an inhalatorium.
– Rudas Thermal Bath (Buda). Established during the Turkish occupation, the waters in these baths offer calcium, magnesium, fluoride ions, hydrogen-carbonate, sulphate and sodium.