Each year, Fearless Photographers, a world wide professional photography organization that I’m a member of, hosts an annual conference in Europe dedicated to furthering education, inspiration and networking. Always the prolific traveler that I am, I decided after last year’s successful and memorable conference in Porto, Portugal, that I wouldn’t ever miss a year. I was overjoyed when Huy announced that this year’s conference was going to be in Budapest, which has been on my travel list for quite some time. I fell in love with this charming Eastern European city and to be honest, I didn’t plan enough days there, which just means that I’ll have to return. It’s mind blowingly beautiful, the food is amazing, the people are incredibly generous and it has a hip, vibrant and creative culture. I feel pretty lucky to have been able to spend a few days exploring Budapest, meeting other Fearless Photographers from around the world, with my good friends Nicky and Ilana.
STAY: Until 1873, Budapest was actually two different cities, Buda on the western bank of the Danube river and Pest on the eastern. Buda has sweeping vistas, offered from the rolling slopes and tiered streets surrounding the the old Citadella fortress. We chose to stay in Pest, because of the proximity to our work conference, but didn’t regret it: the busy, bustling streets of the trendy neighborhoods across the river offered an abundance of people watching, gourmet restaurants and underground “ruin” bars to explore.
EAT: have at least one traditional Hungarian dinner, but make sure to explore Budapest’s extensive and varied restaurants as well.
- Mak Bistro was one of our favorite dinners during our entire trip. The menu is creative, laden with interesting twists on Hungarian dishes, and the wine list is exceptional.
- We ended up at Pozsonyi Kisvendeglo for a traditional Hungarian meal on the first night. It seemed to be mostly frequented by locals, the menu was only in Hungarian, the portions were massive and the goulash was delicious.
- I would have never expected to find the best bagel of my life in Budapest but I did and we ate there every morning we could. Inez Bagel Shop, conveniently located across the street from our Airbnb, also had the best coffee I’ve had in a long time!
- Our meal at Mazi was a stand-out. Traditional Greek food prepared fresh, in an adorable setting with fantastic service. The squid ink pasta sent us to the moon.
- Underneath our Airbnb was an Italian restaurant, Caffe GianMario, that was open from dawn to far past dusk. It was always packed. Every day the incredible smells of a garlic red sauce would waft up through the courtyard. It would overwhelm you as you walked to or from the apartment door. We knew that eating there at least one night was an absolute must and I’m so glad we did. The minute you stepped into the restaraunt, you were transported to what I can only imagine Italy is like: an intimate cafe that was loud, boisterous and joyful. An unexpected surprise in a lobster pasta, a perfect pizza pie and interesting conversation with a Russian sitting next to us really made this night a memorable one.
- The St. Andrea Wine and Gourmet Bar offers wines from the winning winery in the Eger Wine Region.
- Szimpla Kert might be Budapest’s most famous ruin bar, but with good reason. It was the first and paved the way to change what folks saw in buildings that would have otherwise been demolished. What started as an idea for a community art space is now one of Pest’s busiest bars. The eclectic collection of thrift store finds and bizarre inclusions feels like it would be right at home in Austin, TX and the walls are graced with community art and plants.
- The Faust Wine Cellar is hard to find but worth the effort: the result is a lesson in Hungarian wine, from a knowledgeable local expert in an underground cellar beneath the Buda Castle. They guide you through 6 tastings (five different ones and then one repeat). We loved the experience (and the wine) so much that we ended up taking a few bottles home to the apartment with us.
- Get lost in Castle Hill: on the Buda side of the river, the castle and old citadel, a Unesco World Heritage Site, offer unparalleled views of the city and hours of exploration.
- Shop local: find selections of books, clothes, jewelry, art and other knickknacks from local artisans at Rododendron Art and Design and in the stalls at Paloma, which offers a hidden interior courtyard with a multitude of small quaint stalls hosting anywhere from 1-10 artists and craftsmen in each one. From leather bags, to shoes, to art, to jewelry, we walked out of there having spent a wonderful afternoon chatting with the designers and artists themselves and with our pocketbooks significantly lighter. Paloma is cash only so hit up the ATM before you go!
- Budapest is world reknown for it’s thermal baths and parks and those are two things that I wish I’d had extra days here to explore. Don’t make the same mistake we did!
- Hire Flytographer Roky. It’s no secret that I love to hire professional photographer’s for myself as a souvenir when I travel. This was Nicky’s first international travel experience as an adult and she was really excited to have it captured professionally as well. Roky was amazing and we had the best afternoon exploring the quaint steep brick streets and architecture of Buda with him. He made us feel like a million bucks!