I’m so glad I decided to give Budapest another shot. When I was there back in 2007, I have to admit I did not have the best time. People had been saying it was “the next” Prague but with better nightlife, etc. First of all, I hate when people make such comparisons because cities like that can’t be “the next” of each other. Prague is in the Czech Republic, Budapest is in Hungary. Different countries, different cultures. Was London ever “the next” Paris or vice versa? I don’t think so. Anyway, I don’t know where I was going with that…

The last time I was in town I was staying at “hostel”, a hostel that was actually my own private apartment. I didn’t get it and still don’t but I remember it being extremely difficult to get even an extra roll of toilet paper from reception let alone advice and recommendations of what to see and do in the city. Customer service seemed non-existent everywhere I went and the streets looked as if they hadn’t been cleaned since 1989. I could have just been staying in the wrong area and going to all the wrong places, but those were just my first impressions. It was also June and unpleasantly hot.

Fast forward 5 years and I am back in Budapest in the middle of February. Although a tad cold, things got off to a smooth and wonderful start. Flying into Terminal 1 via Wizz Air was a breeze; to get from Terminal 1 to the city center just take the 200E bus to Kőbánya-Kispest; here you can get the metro and go wherever you need. If you are going to be using public transportation more than 4 or 5 times in one day, you should get a 24 hour travel ticket. You can get one up at the post office on the second floor of Terminal 1. They cost 1550 HUF ($7).

I picked the perfect place to stay this time: the Soho Hotel on Dohány utca. It appealed to me not only because of its chic design and great location, but also because it’s not ridiculously overpriced like most boutique hotels. In fact it’s not ridiculously overpriced for any type of accommodation – I’m certain there are double rooms in sub-par hostels or two-star budget hotels that go for about the same. Don’t let the words “design” and “boutique” scare you off when looking for cheaper accommodation, you’d be surprised what you can find. This place had everything – high speed internet, satellite TV, an excellent bar/lounge in the lobby, the most helpful guys working at the reception desk. I felt totally spoiled and welcome, a far cry from my last visit.

It started snowing as soon as I arrived and with such a nice hotel room I was so tempted to just stay in and hang out. But no, definitely didn’t fly all the way to Budapest to do that.

A friend recommended I check out this café/ bar called Szimpla on Kertész Street so I headed there first. It wasn’t long after I finished my cappuccino that the snow stopped and the skies started to open. I got out of there fast and just started walking…for like 5 hours.

Budapest is absolutely gorgeous covered in snow. Budapest is absolutely gorgeous in general. The architecture there is so amazing – how did I fail to notice it 5 years ago? It seemed so much cleaner this time around and the buildings more vibrant. There was more energy on the streets and definitely more smiles. Lots of smiles.

My fingers and face were starting to freeze after about 2 hours so I stopped at this place on Károlyi Mihaly utca for some forralt bor  (that’s classy for several glasses of mulled wine) to warm up. Totally worked. Wish I knew what it was called; I loved the vibe in there and the waiters even more.

By the time I finished with that and got to the Danube it had started to snow again but I didn’t care, just kept going. I crossed the Szabadság híd/Liberty Bridge over to Buda and worked my way up to Buda Castle and Fisherman’s Bastion.

Fisherman’s Bastion is probably my favorite place in the city. I would like to build an apartment for myself in one of its turrets.

I was still in Buda after sunset which gave me the opportunity to take some fabulous night shots of Lánchíd/Chain Bridge. Pretty beautiful, huh?

It was a long day but a great day. Snow came in like an expected yet unwanted guest at first, but quickly turned into the life of the party. I realized that having the opportunity to see Budapest covered in snow was a pretty cool one seeing as the vast majority of visitors make their way through here in spring and summer. It’s almost a completely different place.

So two thumbs up for Budapest in winter. It was a beautiful experience and the best way to start my Central European adventure. More on my evening activities in Budapest soon..