Tag Archive: Budapest


Dining In Budapest


Goulash is their national dish. Langos is the national dessert? Maybe. But really, Budapest has so much more. I love soup but one can only take so much goulash. So we tried others. And we weren’t disappointed at all.

Warning: Too many food photos. 馃檮

It’s my first time to try lecs贸, a Hungarian vegetable soup. I call it soup but it’s really more like a stew of peppers, tomatoes, onions, and ground sweet and hot paprika. I couldn’t believe it’s a vegetable soup or stew so I searched the Internet for its ingredients. Turns out the onions and peppers are saut茅ed in lard and maybe even bacon fat! But, we maybe in luck. The tomatoes are best during the summer season in this corner of the world and our tastebuds confirmed it. Like goulash, lecs贸 gets a generous sprinkling of paprika. Unlike goulash, lecs贸 has no potatoes nor beef cubes. Between the 2, I’m now a fan of lecs贸 .

But it’s not the only soup we enjoyed. The restaurant in Hotel Zenit Budapest (Divin Porcello Ham Bar) where we stayed serves very good cabbage soup and ham, sausage and cheese platter. Plus they have a superb wine list! The first meal upon arrival here in Budapest got us all excited for dinner that same day. This time, we tried the oldest restaurant in Pest called Sz谩z茅ves which literally translates to “a hundred years”. Complete with classical music from these 4 Hungarian gentlemen.

We particularly liked our fish dish here. Grilled zander? Have not come across this fish, but the English menu describes it as pike-perch of the Eurasian variety. It is a fresh-water fish with a very delicate taste. Simply grilled, and plated with alfalfa sprout toppings on a bed of lettuce and grilled onions with shrimps, we all enjoyed this dish.

We ordered our 1st stuffed cabbage here. The first of 2, but we haven’t been lucky. The first “Koloszvar” stuffed cabbage was salty, the next one (in another restaurant) tasted bland. We likewise tried the Hungarian Goulash here. A sure favourite!

Our last dinner in Budapest wasn’t Hungarian. My friend found this Italian restaurant in Pest near the Danube which earned pretty good reviews. We had bruschetta, caprese salad, beef tartare, 3 kinds of pasta, pulpo and we had HUNGARIAN wine from Tokaj, Hungary. To finish this fine meal, we succumbed to the recommended lemon sorbet with prosecco and Absolut Vodka! First time I’ve tried this and I promise it won’t be the last. 馃嵏

We ate very well in Budapest. And that’s only on the Pest side just around/near our lovely hotel by the Danube River. I bet there’s also many interesting bistros in the quieter side of Buda. We likewise enjoyed Hungarian wine. If at all, the only disappointment was the lunch we had at the Great Market Hall. The second floor is lined with many food stalls where one claims a table after ordering “cafeteria style” from any of the stalls. I enjoyed my beer but every dish we had was bleh. Took no pictures. Sorry. Nonetheless, I’d still suggest a visit to the Great Market Hall if only for the beer and some sausages. You’d find it at the end of the pedestrian shopping street called V谩ci Utca, so it’s not really out of the way. Besides, it’s the biggest indoor market housed in a magnificent building and offers many souvenir items and Hungarian delicacies.

J贸 Etv谩gy谩t! 馃嵔馃憣 (Errrr, I only meant “Bon Apetit” in Hungarian)


Hungary has heartbreaking stories to tell. And many stories are told in powerful symbols that are poignant reminders of a sad history. On the Pest side of the Danube, an evening stroll along the riverbank promenade is both refreshing and heartbreaking. The memorial is just a few meters south of the Parliament and consists of 60 pairs of shoes made of iron. Cast iron signs have the following text in English (also in Hebrew and Hungarian) : “To the memory of the victims shot into the Danube by Arrow Cross Militia Men in 1944-45. Erected 16 April 2005″.

I thought the victims were ALL Hungarian Jews. And that they were executed by Nazi Germans. I’m wrong on both counts. Many Hungarians were killed by fellow Hungarians and Germans. The Arrow Cross Party, who shared the same ideologies with the Nazis, took as many as 20,000 Jews from the Budapest Ghetto. It is claimed they were all executed at the banks of the Danube River. In February 1945, the Soviet forces “liberated” Budapest from the Germans. And that’s another sad story.

From Nazi Germany to Soviet Communism, Hungary suffered. Typically, I skip places where I feel negative vibes. But I was drawn to these symbols. The hole on the Hungarian flag hoisted over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. A dove shedding a tear. Old photos from a not so distant past. The chilling story of the Hungarian Uprising of 1956. Just look at that flag above the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The hole is right where the Communist Coat of Arms used to be. It was cut out and this symbolism became the battlecry of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 against its Soviet-influenced, Soviet-backed government. There is a sad ending here where the uprising was crushed by Soviet tanks rolling into the narrow streets of Budapest. Power and might to crush a Revolution. About 2,500 Hungarian protesters died, and 200,000 fled as refugees. Many Hungarians consider this as the nation’s worst tragedy.

They’ve been through a lot, and these monuments and memorials reinforce that sad memory. No one forgets. 馃様 One can’t help feeling impressed with the resiliency of these Hungarians.


Flanking the Danube River are Buda on the West and Pest on the East Bank. The “tale of 2 cities” merging into one has been subject of many discourses and inevitably comparisons are drawn. Our hotel is on the Pest side. This is where the Parliament is, best viewed from across the Danube in Castle Hill. A very handsome building which is only 3rd largest in the world.

Pest is flat, but bigger. Where Buda is more formal, even reserved, Pest is more vibrant. Nightlife is certainly livelier on the east bank of the Danube. It may not be “quiet and less crowded” as its hilly half, but this is where the action is. The coffee and bar scene here is tops and while relatively “new” and “young”, its bolder character gave way to many prominent edifices like the Parliament, Heroes Square, the “ruin bars”, the iconic St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and the many bronze statues scattered all around. But in my mind, nothing beats the eclectic bronze shoes lined at the edge of the Danube. The story goes that Hungarian Jews were told to take off their shoes, put whatever jewellery they have inside the shoes, and stand by the river edge. Then they were summarily executed and their bodies fell into the river as they took the shots from Budapest’s Arrow Cross Militia who shared the same Nazi ideology during World War II. The bronze shoes are poignant reminders of this dark period in Hungarian history.

The Central Market Hall is another iconic landmark in Pest. The market has a 2nd floor catering to tourists wishing to buy souvenirs and feast on Hungarian cuisine. There are many souvenir and handicraft for sale here, as well as food stalls where one can try Goulash, lecso, Hungarian smoked sausages, stuffed cabbage, meatballs, langos and many more. We’ve tried it here and it was forgettable if it weren’t our worst lunch. Well, it was a food court after all. But Pest is really teeming with nice shopping places, coffee bars and fine-dining restaurants. One only needs to do a little research. Thankfully, one of my friends made sure we ate very well here. 馃嵔

Michael Jackson fans would love it here. There is an MJ Memorial Tree in a tiny square corner just right across Kempinski Hotel where the late pop idol used to stay. The tree has assumed a Shrine of sorts with MJ photos plastered around the trunk. And Hungarian fans still gather here on MJ’s birthday, performing MJ’s popular dance moves. Nearby is the Hungarian Eye, much like the London Eye. It’s colossal but I feel it’s an eyesore amidst the many beautiful and historic buildings in the area.

Budapest has a number of popular thermal pools or baths, clearly something they must have picked up from the Romans and Turks. It was tempting to check out Sz茅chenyi or Gell茅rt if only to watch old men play chess while half-submerged in hot thermal waters. We passed on this one and chose to instead hear mass at St. Stephen’s , enjoy a good dinner then take an evening Danube cruise to see the Hungarian landmarks all lit up. We enjoyed both Buda and Pest. But when I do make a next visit, I’d likely try a hotel in Buda if only to feel its more sober night life.

Buda of Budapest


It used to be Buda, Pest and Old Buda. Buda and Pest separated by the River Danube, with the Old Town resting on the left bank which is Buda. Earliest settlers were Celts until the Romans occupied the present-Day Budapest in the first century B.C., annexing it as part of the Roman Empire. Then there was Attila, and the Huns ruled from the 5th century till the Magyar tribes arrived in the 9th century. By all accounts, the settlers and rulers lingered for centuries to affect Budapest’s way of life in many, many ways – art, culture, cuisine, architecture, language.

By the 10th century, the Hungarian Kingdom was established and the first king was St. Stephen who converted Hungary into Christianity. Soon, the French and Germans migrated here and then, the Mongolian invasion happened in the 12th century, thus destroying both cities. Through the centuries until Buda, Pest and Old Buda (Obuda) were joined in 1873, the city saw its transformation from Medieval Hungary to Renaissance Budapest to Turkish Budapest. And then the Hapsburgs came. Pest was soon to become the cultural and economic center of Hungary. But let’s talk about Buda first, and deal with Pest in my next blog. 馃槉

Buda Castle sits on Castle Hill with a perfect view of the Pest side. You can appreciate a night view of Buda riding a boat which glides slowly along the Blue Danube, or you can join a walking tour which requires stamina to last nearly 3 hours. Oh, there’s a funicular to climb up Castle Hill and visit the 3 major attractions on this side of the river. But we WALKED. 馃弮鈥嶁檪锔忦煆冣嶁檧锔 And we crossed the Chain Bridge ON FOOT. 馃懀馃懀And we CLIMBED. 馃毝鈥嶁檧锔忦煔垛嶁檧锔忦煔垛嶁檧锔All the way to Buda Castle, 馃彴馃彴 Fisherman’s Bastion and St. Matthias Church 馃晬馃晬馃晬 These 3 account for the best Buda attractions on the western bank of the Danube . All UNESCO Heritage Sites.

Its rich history doesn’t end here. The Austro-Hungarian Empire can claim much of what present-Day Budapest is. The Empire lasted only till the First World War. Then, during the Second World War, it cast its lot with Nazi Germany. The Germans seized the city and soon a dark period began for the country’s Hungarian Jews. There were political upheavals and once more, the nation in the 19th century transitioned from being a Hungarian Soviet Republic for a brief period, to being a Kingdom without a king.

Castle Hill looks more “imperial” than its better-half on the right bank. Where Pest is flat, Buda is hilly. The first bridge connecting the 2 was built only in 1848. The other bridges look nothing less and maybe more interesting for those eager for a view of the thermal pools. Among its attractions, I like Fisherman’s Bastion with its fairy tale windows offering the best views of Pest. I am also intrigued by St. Matthias Church which was the venue for the coronation of the last 2 Hungarian Hapsburg monarchs : Frank Joseph in 1867 and King Charles IV in 1916. Earlier destroyed by the Mongols, it was reconstructed, restored and survived wars to what it is today. Side by side, the Saint Matthias Church and Fisherman’s Bastion are 2 sites not to be missed. Or for that matter, a visit to Budapest is a must-see destination. One falls in love with this city. Buda or Pest side, both are lovely. On foot or gliding on a riverboat, both sites are magical.