We decided to see the Great Market Hall (Nagycsarnok) first. The Great Market Hall is a giant city market where you can buy fruits, vegetables, meat, booze, and of course lots of tourist knickknacks. The first floor is dedicated to the grocery items while the second has row upon row of craft stalls selling everything from scarves to figurines. There are also some food stalls on the 2nd floor and while we were very tempted we had just eaten our breakfast.
We arrived around 10pm on Sunday night. We collected our bags and took a taxi to our host, Laszlo’s home. I think we arrived somewhere near 11pm. We stayed up a little while with him – he made us tea – and then we went to bed hoping to rest enough for our first full day.
Monday morning we got up fairly early and headed out into the city. We ended up first at a cozy coffee shop and tea house for breakfast – Mozaik. We spent a while there enjoying the atmosphere, our food and drink, and the opportunity to warm up after a long walk.
After leaving the Great Market we crossed the Danube on the Szabadság Bridge (Liberty Bridge) over to the Buda side. It was quite cold and windy crossing the water! Once on the other side we were next to Gellért Hill which was named after the missionary who was reportedly rolled down the hill inside a barrel filled with nails. Yikes. Nestled in that hill is the Cave Church. From the outside it looked very interesting and we had read that there were passages leading deep into the hill that you could tour. Unfortunately the tour we took wasn’t all that interesting.
Following our tour of the cave church we were feeling pretty cold and in need of some mulled wine so we decided to venture over to the Christmas Market in Vörösmarty Square. It was wonderful! We walked around with our hot wine, perusing craft and food stalls, listening to Christmas music all while freezing our butts off! We bought a couple things and then sat down with more wine and a piping hot sauerkraut stew. I’m not really sure quite what it was, but it was exceptional. There was sauerkraut, there was sausage, another meat, and a sauce – it warmed us right up.
We left the Christmas Market resolved to come back the next day, made a quick detour to a bookstore just behind the Opera, and then headed back to Laszlo’s to clean up and rest before our concert at the Opera House. Before we left Austin, I bought tickets to the Budapest Philharmonic Christmas Concert so that we could see the Philharmonic and see a performance at Budapest’s gorgeous opera house. And it is gorgeous. Wow. It’s a very intimate and opulent space – I know that my photos are inadequate. We had great seats on the floor. The concert was fantastic, the space was gorgeous – I’m so glad we had the opportunity to see a performance. It was just breathtaking.
Following the concert Laszlo met us outside and we walked around Pest for a while as he showed us different things about the city. We ended up at a very eclectic bar – a mix between Spider House and the Cathedral of Junk if you Austinites can imagine. It’s a large space with several little bars on a few levels and a bunch of junk hanging all over the place. We had some mulled wine there and then headed out to grab some food. After going to a couple places and finding them closed we ended up at a great restaurant – Menza. Amazingly, they stay open until midnight so we were able to eat a great meal even though it was after 11. Zach and Laszlo both had the duck liver with mashed potatoes while I had the Hungarian beef stew with spatzle. Everything was spectacular. We even ordered a side of cucumber salad to help even out our meals. It was a great way to end our first day.
We walked back to Laszlo’s along Andrássy marveling at the beautiful buildings on either side, Heroes’ Square (Hősök tere) at the end, and the entrance to City Park (Városliget).