After a better night train experience second time round, we arrived early Thursday morning in Budapest.
After our bag drop, first stop was a thermal bath in the city. Budapest is a spa city with literally hundreds of baths all over. We visited Szechenyi Baths, which had about thirty small spa pools, three outdoor pools, and a few (so hot we couldn't breathe) saunas. The place was packed and we spent hours moving around the different pools. Was good fun and nice to spend some time just sitting still!
After checking in and making ourselves beautiful, we had dinner and then, by chance, ended up at Deák Ferenc Square. The square was mobbed with people eating and drinking both in bars and on the grass. We arrived about an hour before the World Cup kicked off and the atmosphere was buzzing. We spent the rest of our night there watching football and drinking beer.
We had another early start on day two, planning to join a bike tour to see the city at 10am. At the bike shop, we were told the flyers were out of date and we'd need to wait til 2.30! Instead, we bought tickets for the hop on hop off bus tour, which was actually much better because Budapest is huge - there's no way we would have seen half as much by bike or on foot. We toured round Heroes Square, Deák Ferenc Square, the 5th largest synagogue in the world, the castle, the citadel overlooking the whole city, drove over some fancy bridges, finishing off at the Bulgarian parliament building. We had a boat tour to Margaret Island included, so sailed there and had a late lunch and hired bikes. There were fountains with music and water shows, ice cream stalls, bike hire places, parks, even a wee beach.
At night, we visited a ruin pub close to our hotel (Fagos Haz, I think). Budapest is famous for these places where people moved bars and furniture into condemned buildings that were no longer being maintained. They are very cool, laid back places. The one we visited seemed to have a lot of students. Again, the World Cup was on so we watched some of that. Afterwards, we had food and drinks in a converted printing shop, Bordo Bisztro.
We packed so much in to our stay in Budapest and had an amazing time. Feels like we got to see a lot of the city, but would come back for longer next time!