Brussels

I looked to the window next to me and saw a big, beautiful butt.

My first perception of Belgium was with a bit of culture shock. I arrived in Brussels at Gare de Nord (North train station) and stepped into a gray sky, looked to the window next to me and saw a big, beautiful butt. First I thought it was a mannequin, but IT MOVED! I wish I knew before going to Brussels that it has a red light district. I was standing in the middle of it! I’ve been to Amsterdam before, but I was well aware of the existence and location of the red light district. This time, it took me by surprise.

The second thing I noticed were the mothers and little girls begging for money to eat. They didn’t speak French, nor did it sound to me like Flemish (native tongue in parts of Belgium) so I suppose they were refugees. I, unfortunately, had not a dime of cash nor a bite of food with me since I had been traveling in Germany for about a week and I had recently lost my debit card, BUT that’s another story.

I was tired, sweaty, carrying my luggage and trying to find my hostel with a broken heart. I wish I had at least some snacks to give these people, but then again, that wouldn’t even be close to solving the problem. During my stay in Brussels, I met other immigrants who also arrived in Belgium as refugees and can now share success stories. That definitely changed my perspective of the city, as well as the beautiful Grand Place.

If you think that Grand Place is beautiful during the day, wait until you see the lights of the baroque building reflected into the dark-shiny floor at night, turning the Place into a beautiful dark sea of lights. Absolutely breath-taking.

Grand Place at night
Grand Place

Surrounding the Grand Place you have different little streets to choose your path from. They’re all crowded with souvenir and chocolate shops, as well as mediterranean restaurants, waffle and frites (aka french fries) stands, bars with a wide variety of Belgian beers, and of course, Le Boutique de TinTin. I’m a nerd for comics and I absolutely love TinTin, but no more than I adore his pup Milou, the true hero in the stories. The shop is more of a museum, unless you’re willing to spend about €70 in a figurine. I did get a €2 postcard as souvenir. Right across from this store, I found the most affordable chocolate and souvenir shop in the area, also, the one with the largest variety. It seemed like it was family owned, and at least during Spring Break, it was open until 11pm (23h).

Bruxelles, land of TinTin and Delirium beer.

If you’re a fan of beer, Delirium alley is a must! This alley hosts Delirium Cafe, Monasterium, Taphouse and even a Tequileria. People drink their beers in any of the bars or even in the alley on hot days (or nights). Delirium has a wide selection of beers from wheat, stouts, IPAs, sours and lambics. You also have a choice of size or beer flights if you want to taste a few. Remember, Belgian beers tend to be stronger so keep an eye on the alcohol % so they don’t sneak up on you. The bartenders are friendly and speak English so don’t be a afraid to ask for a taster before deciding on one.

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Just a few beer to choose from at Delirium Cafe


What to see
Something important to know is that Centraal Station is the closest to the city centre (closest to the Grand Place), you also have Midi and North station. Most trains stop at all 3 stations which are about a 20 minute walk from each other. If you’re coming from Charleroi (south airport), the first station is Midi, then Centraal, followed by the North station (opposite if you’re coming from the northern airport). The shuttle bus to the southern airport (Charleroi) departs from Midi Station.

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There are many famous monuments, parks and historical buildings to visit, such as the pissing boy statue known as Manneken Pis and the dog Zinneke Pis.
Just to mention a few more:
– The Atomium sculpture
– King’s Castle,
Royal Palace, not to be confused with Place Royale (the original Royal Palace)
– the still standing Notre-Dame church
– Brussels Park where I accidentally found a small free rave on Easter
Brussels is definitely one of those cities where no matter where you turn or which street you take, you’ll find something interesting.

TInTin Mural
If like me, you’re a fan of street art, you’ll find a beautiful mural by
Okudart right outside the North station. There are also many murals based on comics around Brussels. My favorite is, of course, the TinTin mural, shown here. You can also see the Smurf’s passage, leading to Centraal Station, as well as the Caroline Baldwin and the Broussaille mural.

A perfect way to end the day at Brussels is by enjoying the sunset and the live music performer at the steps in Mont des Arts (featured image on top). This is a very picturesque and romantic area with a beautiful sight in every corner. I was on my own (#foreveralone) but didn’t mind all the embracing couples around me because I was in love with moment and the colorful sky. I also had a delicious chocolate covered waffle to keep me company ❤

Where to eat
GofreYou’ll never taste french fries the same way, since you’ll soon realize they’re actually from Belgium and they’re called Frites! Waffles with maple syrup will no longer suffice either, it’s strawberries, chocolate and chantilly or dead!… ok, maybe I’m taking it a bit to the extreme but there’s a reason why Belgians take great pride in their food.
Frites and waffles are musts in Belgium. I also found mediterranean food to be very popular in Brussels. Here are a few inexpensive and delicious places with great customer service, as well as English speaking staff: L’Express (Lebanese), Hellas (Greek, cash only),  Mykonos (Greek) and Lotus Vert (Vietnamese) for colder days.

Here is the list of every place mentioned in this post for you to save in your Google maps. Don’t forget to download the Brussels map in Google maps so as to save data and time when roaming around Brussels. This city is a great place to just walk around and get lost, you’ll find wonderful things to see or places to eat and drink everywhere you go. I hope you make the best of your time in this amazing city and always, BE PRESENT.

 

Tenerife, Isla Canaria

It was December in Madrid and I decided to escape the cold winter by visiting my first Spanish island. I’ve heard great things about the weather in Tenerife and how it has micro climates, making it always beach weather. The more research I did, and the more advice I received, the more I realized this trip wouldn’t be as easy as other cities in Europe where I get to know the city, and see all that is worth seeing with a walking tour. There is no metro in the island, only “guaguas” (buses). These are reliable but since they connect long distances, they don’t run as often as city buses in big cities.

The island is divided by the north and south side. They’re so different it almost seems like a different island. Sometimes, I even forgot I was still in Spain, specially in the south, which is overflowing with tourists from England, Ireland and Russia.

Near the center of the island lies the biggest attraction of Tenerife, its volcano Teide, which you can see from almost any point in the island. This in itself, is a day trip or a few days trip if you are into hiking. Check out my blog post on Teide for advice on visiting this volcano.

North Tenerife
The neighborhood of La Laguna is a must when visiting the north side of Tenerife. It’s a short 10min drive from the North Tenerife Airport. You can get a taxi at the airport. It shouldn’t be more than 11. If you land in the southern airport, but prefer to start your trip in the north, here’s how to get from South Tenerife Airport to La Laguna: 
1. Take the 111 guagua (bus) to Santa Cruz. It costs approximately €9.
2. About an hour later, arrive at the bus station in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Take the 015 bus to La Laguna.
3. It’s a 15 minute walk to the Cathedral, a centric point in La Laguna.

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Stunning mural in San Cristóbal de La Laguna

You can quickly walk through the center of La Laguna around Iglesia de Concepción and admire the colorful aesthetic of the buildings and discover the street art decorating different areas of the neighborhood. There are so many restaurants and cafés in the area that your only concern will be deciding on one. At night, I really recommend El Rincón de TinTinthis is where the locals go enjoy craft beers from all over Europe at an affordable price. Some nights you’ll be blessed with great live music. I was lucky to have heard an amazing blues band.

La Laguna is known for its great hiking paths and because of it’s proximity to the beach of Las Teresitas within a 20 minute drive of the center of La Laguna. A beautiful contrast of mountains and beach which reminded me of California because of the succulent plants growing next to palm trees. I also recommend driving or hiking up to the view point, El Mirador Las Teresitas. Beautiful views, especially during sunset. It reminded of the Amalfi Coast in Italy.

 

mirador las teresitas
El Mirador de Las Teresitas

Another short drive from La Laguna or Santa Cruz is Puerto de la Cruz; a stunning beach, popular by it’s black sand and lively boardwalk. This area is a bit more touristy. The restaurants and bars had an older crowd. Still, the exfoliating black sand was impressive, but I’m sure it gets really warm by absorbing all the sun rays in the summer.

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Sand art in Puerto de la Cruz


Garachico
is a small but pretty town known for its natural rocky pools, which were created by lava from the volcano. Worth visiting if you have the time. 
La Caleta, is another rocky beach worth checking out, but not somewhere where you could lay down in the sand since there’s an abundance of rocks.

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Jardin Victoria in La Orotava

La Orotava, is one of the cutest Spanish towns I’ve seen. You can do a DIY walking tour in about 2 hours. We started the day by parking near the houses then walking to the tourism office. There, we were provided a map with many landmarks that were walking distance from each other. Among them the Jardin Victoria, the museum Casa de los Balcones, and you have some amazing ocean views from Molino de Gofio. From La Orotava we drove up to Santa Ursula, less than 15mins away. We were hunting for the famous “guachinches”.

The Food
Eating at a Guachinche is the most local thing you can do in Tenerife. These are small restaurants in people’s houses. They have a set menu based on what they fished that morning and they’re located near the town of La Orotava, in San Ursula. There were also a few in La Orotava. I recommend a car for this trek since it’s high up in the mountain. There are many Guachinches in the area, the best way to decide on one is to ask a local. We heard several recommendations but opted for the only one opened on January 2nd.

Seafood is popular in Tenerife for obvious reasons. You can order a grilled-mediterranean style fish, or bathed in sauce. Rabbit seemed to also be a common dish in the north. The most iconic side dish is “papas arrugadas”, these are boiled potatoes with “mojo”. Mojo is a very delicious sauce that goes amazing with many things, especially seafood. There’s the green one, which is cilantro, garlic, oil and other spices. The red one tends to be spicier. Every restaurant seemed to have their own mojo recipe, encouraging us to try all of them. I apologize for not having any food pics, but my mind was focused on only one thing whenever food arrived. You gotta trust on this one, everything was delicious.

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Twilight in Costa Adeje, South Tenerife

South Tenerife
Costa Adeje is a popular destination in south Tenerife because of its abundance in beaches, as well as shops, restaurants and bars. Definitely a very touristy area. Never had I seen so many Irish people gathered together in the same place. Not even in Dublin! where I found a more international crowd. My friends and I walked into “Temple Bar” in Tenerife and we were the only two black haired people in that pub. We had a great time but we didn’t get to meet any locals in this area. Expect the same all over Avenida de las Americas, a popular strip that despite the tourist prices, it wasn’t as expensive as other main cities in Spain. You can find many British pubs and if you’re looking to dance the night away, there are many clubs in the area, among the most popular ones are Papagayo Beach Club,  TIBU, and Envy.

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Los Gigantes

Los Cristianos is another lovely beach frequented by tourists. It’s walking distance from Costa Adeje and Playas de las Americas.  If you have a car or the time to take a “guagua” to Los Gigantes I truly recommend it. The trip was easy and cost roughly 4 and took about 30-40 minutes one way. We took one big green bus from Playa de las Americas to the Los Gigantes bus stop. The cliffs, aka “Los Gigantes”, are huge and beautiful. I suggest walking up to the viewpoint, El Mirador Archipenque. You can also hike around the cliffs, but a tour guide is recommended if you’re not an experienced hiker. This whole neighborhood has many family-owned restaurants with authentic and delicious “mojo” recipes. We met the owner of El Pescador, an authentic Canarian restaurant with ocean views. He spoke about how he’s related to every staff member in the restaurant and how he’s daughter is teaching Chinese in the U.S. Quite an interesting experience. He definitely made us feel like another member of the family.

La Gomera is the closest island to Tenerife and can be visited in a day. You can easily see it from Los Cristianos beach in the south of Tenerife. The ferry departs from Los Cristianos port and arrives, an hour later in La Gomera. 2 companies connect both islands: Fred Olsen and Armas Naviera.

TL,DR… Tenerife is amazing! Even if the flight is expensive, the island is not. The weather is great, even if the north was a bit chilly. Don’t be discouraged from learning that you either need a car or patience for the Guagua (bus). There’s something for everyone in this island, so I hope you you’re able to visit and enjoy every moment just like I did.

 

 

Day Trips from Dublin

If you’re spending time in Dublin, please check out my post on my quick trip to this amazing city.

There are a few options of day trips from Dublin, but the most popular ones are The Cliffs of Moher and the Game of Thrones shooting locations. The roads in Ireland are narrow, windy and foggy so renting a car is not recommendable unless you are accustomed to driving in these conditions. There are plenty of companies offering bus tours that include a brief visit to small towns along the way.  The prices range from €40-60.  Below is the research I did before going to the Moher Cliffs.

Get Your Guide Viator Finn McCool
– Moher Cliffs – Moher Cliffs
– Kilmacduagh Monastery
– Doolin Village
– Wild Atlantic Way
– The Burren
– Galway City – Galway City
– Galway
12 hours, 50 EUR
14 hours, 40 EUR
45 EUR

The differences between tours are minimal. I opted for the Viator tour, which turned out to be the same as Finn McCool since our buses had the Finn McCool logo on them, and the itinerary was the same as their website.

What you need to know:
No matter when you go, take a wind breaker or a raincoat. Umbrellas are practically useless against the strong winds nears the cliffs and beaches. If you go in the winter, there are not enough layers to keep you warm. Make sure you carry a beanie, gloves and boots. Your tennis shoes/sneakers/trainers, or whatever you want to call them, will get wet. Your chances of slipping in rocks or along the cliffs are larger with shoes that have no grip on the sole. Now, onto to the fun part…

monastery
The first stop was a quick one at the Kilmacduagh Monastery. An impressive and small cemetery next to the road towards The Burren. I personally enjoy visiting old cemeteries, especially medieval looking ones. This place is eerie and wonderful at the same time. It has a small church made out of stone. We were here for 15-20 minutes since the weather was bad. Strong winds and rain. You read about the monastery’s story here: http://monastic.ie/history/kilmacduagh/

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Fighting against the wind from the Cliffs of Moher

About 4 hours from departure, we arrived at the Cliffs of Moher. The bus was already shaking from the strong December wind. We waited out the rain and wind inside the museum where you can take a green screen picture “in front” of the cliffs. Pretty useful since we didn’t get to spend much time outside admiring the cliffs. When we finally stepped out of the building and head towards the cliffs, I truly feared for my life. At first it seemed like a nice challenge to venture against the wind, but there were times when I thought that I would fly away. The wind pushed back even the strongest person. Imagine a 5 foot (1.5 meters) woman, fighting against mother nature for the sake of an adventure. The rain slapped your face repeatedly, still, we laughed at this situation and were grateful for a clear day. I was warned on the the biggest risk of visiting the cliffs… the fog which can impede you from seeing anything at all on certain days. So, I’ll take strong winds over fog since admiring those 300-million year old cliffs was more than words can describe.
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Three strong Latina warriors against that Irish wind

On our way to Galway City, we stopped by The Burren where the sun graced us with it’s presence. This beautiful place is a region in the southwest of Ireland known for the view below, a beach paved by limestone dating back to the ice age. Mind you step when walking in this bedrock of cracked limestone.
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The Burren

Not far from The Burren you can visit either Doolin Village or Galway City. I wish I would’ve chosen the tour stopping by Doolin Village since it’s known for its folklore and cute pubs. Galway is also charming small town but with more city vibes. For example, the mall. We spent most of out time in there due to the weather but there’s a small Christmas market, if you go in December. We explored it within 30 minutes or less. Here, I finally got to taste some authentic Irish coffee!
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The Christmas Market at Galway

No matter where you go, no matter the weather… remember to enjoy every sip of that Irish coffee (or Guinness), remember to take a deep breathe of that fresh Irish air and remember to enjoy every moment of your trip. It’s your time to make the most out of this adventure that you’ve decided to embark on. Always, be present.
irish coffee

Dublin at Christmas time

I somehow convinced my friends to join me on a trip to Ireland in December. I had a long weekend and the flight from Madrid was short and affordable. I’m not sure if my Mexican/Californian blood is getting used to real winters or I overly prepared with a coat that barely allows for movement, but the cold Irish winter seemed bearable. Going to the Cliffs of Moher, of course, was a different story.  I will share my notes on this weekend getaway so you can take advantage of your time there.

To and from the airport
The airport is not too far from the city. The Airlink express (747) bus leaves every 15 minutes from the airport and will take you 30 minutes to arrive at the Gardiner Street stop, where most hostels and B&B’s are. This bus costs €7 for a single trip or €12 for a roundtrip. The last one departs from the airport at 12:30am (00.30).
Bus number 41 and 16 lead to O’Connell Street, which is near Dublin One Mall,  good centric point of reference. These buses cost €3.30 for a single journey and the driver accepts exact change only. Another option is the Aircoach, which runs 24 hours a day. It costs €8 for a single journey.
A taxi would cost €25 roughly to the city center. Lynk is a popular company and their phone number is 00 353 14600000. Uber is not commonly used, therefore, there aren’t many drivers out there.
All information and timetables can be found on each company’s website.

Landmarks
As always, I recommend a walking tour. This time I chose the popular SANDEMANs. They have free tours departing at 10am, 11am or 2pm (14:00) from Barnardo Square in front of City Hall. Check their website for updated times and departing locations.
Dublin is very walkable but be prepared for rain and wind, especially during the winter.

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Dublin Castle
Dating from 1204 it has 2 small museums and gardens. One of the gardens is small, cute and patio-like located on the rooftop. Perfect place to chill over the summer. Inside the castle, you can also find the Chester Beatty Library with cushions to seat and relax. I went here to warm up and rest after the walking tour.

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Temple Bar
Temple Bar, is not only a famous bar among tourists, it is also a popular neighborhood along the river. Its cobble stone streets give Dublin such an old timey and distinctive vibe along with the crowded pubs hosting live music.

Trinity College
Trinity College
This beautiful college is located in the center of Dublin, surrounded by many shops and restaurants. It’s a notorious tourist destination because of its library holding the Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript Gospel book in Latin dating back to the 9th century. I personally opted for not visiting the library despite hearing good things since I only had one day to explore the city. Another reason being that I’m on a budget and the €14 (€11 for students) entrance fee was not feasible. You can still appreciate the beauty of the campus for free.

Where to eat and drink
You’ll find delicious food in any pub. An important thing to remember though is that kitchens close at 9pm (21:00). Pints range from €5-7 depending on the beer and most pubs have a good selection of draught beers.

Cornucopia is famous amongst locals for its big portions of delicious and healthy food. You choose from several mouthwatering vegetarian and vegan dishes. The restaurant is large and homey. It has several dining areas and is decorated as if you’re having lunch or dinner at a relative’s home. Definitely my favorite place for food in Dublin.
Bunsen simple menu, good burgers.
There are many kebab places in Dublin, but Zaytoon is the most popular one. It’s not the cheapest option, but it has the freshest ingredients. They even have a salmon kebab! There’s a branch in Temple Bar.
For dessert, Murphy’s  is a must try while in Dublin. This ice cream parlor is known for its extravagant flavors, such as salt, gin, brown bread, etc.

Pubs
Porterhouse ended up being my go to pub. It’s a 3 story pub with a good selection of home brewed craft beers, good service, decent prices and great live music. It’s right around the corner of City Hall, also near Temple Bar.
The Brazen Head claims to be the oldest pub in Ireland, dating back 1198. I only drank a pint of Guinness but the food looked amazing. A reservation is recommended for dinner time. Although it was not my favorite pub, I did enjoy relaxing by the fireplace. There’s live music every night at 9:30pm (21:30).


The Wild Duck an expensive but gorgeous pub in Temple Bar. It’s quite big so you have a bigger chance of finding a seat. As in any pub, the decorations are plenty and random, but I liked the art in the Wild Duck the best. I was especially attracted to the entrance which was filled with lights during Christmas. It made it hard to miss despite it being located in a small alley.
Mulligan’s is an 18th century riverside pub frequented by an older crowd of locals, hence a chiller vibe. The decorations are simple, unlike the bars on Temple Bar but without lacking a good selection of draught beers.
McNeill’s is also frequented by locals since it has the cheapest pints (€4), but keep in mind they only accept cash. There’s live music on Thursdays at 9:30pm (21:30).
Copper Face Jacks was recommended by a local as THE club to dance in Dublin. Also serving lunch.

Museums are free!
All of the national museums are free! These are the National Gallery (next to Trinity College), the Irish Whiskey Museum, the Archeological Museum, which is next to the National Library, and the Collin Barracks Museum, exhibiting military uniforms and replicas of weapons.

In general, Dublin is an expensive city, but it has so much to offer in return. In other countries, you normally pay a cover at a bar if there’s a local band playing while running the risk of them not being any good. In Dublin, there’s no such risk. Not only are the shows free, but the musicians are also talented, at least, in my experience. I really loved the random decor in most pubs, the variety in beer, the amazing food and portions, as well as the friendliness of the local islanders.

Zaragoza & Las Fiestas del Pilar

Spain has many festivities throughout the year. A good way to celebrate the beginning of Autumn is by visiting Zaragoza in Aragón during Las Fiestas de la Virgen del Pilar in mid-October. Zaragoza is a gorgeous small town between Madrid and Barcelona.  It’s possible to see it in a day or you could also stay the weekend. Beware, that’s “puente” weekend, meaning that it’s a long weekend, so travel and lodging prices might be higher than usual.

Below are only a few of the many places to visit in Zaragoza:

basilicaBasílica del Pilar
Stunning Renaissance Basilique. It holds Goya paintings and concerts inside. Check the schedule here. The best views are from the bridges. There’s also a path along the river where you can appreciate the reflection of the Basilique almost geometrically aligned with the actual Basilique.

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  • Puente de Santiago & Puente de Piedra
    Both these bridges offer amazing views of the Basílica del Pilar
  • Plaza del Pilar
    Both bridges lead to La Plaza del Pilar where most of Las fiestas happen. The parade ends here since the Basilique is in the Plaza.
  • The parade
    If you go during the festivities you’ll be able to see the Reinassance outfits of the local families marching from Plaza España to the Basilique where they offer flowers to La Virgen del Pilar.
  • Plaza España
    It feels like every city in Spain has a Plaza España, including Mexico, but they vary so much in size and aspect. You’ll find many shops and restaurants here.

    teatro

  • Museo del Teatro de Cesaragusta
    Ruins from the theater during the Roman Empire. It’s fun walking around it and pretending you’re in the middle of the ring with a crowd surrounding you. The museum is free during the festivities. You can check out prices and hours on their website.

  • Palacio Aljafería
    A UNESCO World Heritage-11th century palace with Moorish influences. As of October 2018 prices are 1 EUR for student and 5 EUR General Admission. Consult prices and schedules on their website.
  • Food truck garden
    Along the main road that goes from Plaza del Pilar to the Palacio de Aljafería, we found a food truck garden. It had craft beers brewed by Ambar. As well as trucks with food from all over the world. This area was not as busy as the city center so it was easier to find seats and relax.
  • El Tubo Quarter (Tapas District)
    Narrow pedestrian road with many local bars and restaurants. Most bars have affordable drinks and gorgeous gardens. It leads to Plaza España.

Zaragoza has many other museums including the Archeological & Fine Arts Museum and the Goya Museum. It also has lively and friendly locals who pour out of the many cafes and bars. It is a small city but with plenty to do over a weekend. My favorite moment in Zaragoza was admiring the Basilique from the path along the river. I can’t decide if it was more beautiful during the day or at night. I’ll let you be the judge. Enjoy your time in this magical town and remember to enjoy yourself even when trying to get through a crowd or parade in a narrow-cobblestone road. Remember you’re looking at everything for the first time. BE PRESENT!

The Baths in Budapest

Budapest baths

The Széchenyi Baths are the largest medicinal baths in all of Europe. This location has been opened since 1913! It has 18 pools total. Some are indoor and some outdoor. Every pool is different, either in temperature, size, or contents. The main reason we decided for these Baths, besides the size, is because it’s next to the Vajdahunyad Castle, aka “Dracula’s Castle”, which I write about on my Budapest post.

“It was too late to leave…”

One of my favorite experiences was in an indoor pool, it was green. At first, it seemed like it might be a radioactive substance; at the risk of coming out with superpowers, I jumped in. The water was cool and minty. My friend and I noticed there were floatable weights surrounding the pool and all other people in that pool were older women. We didn’t think much of it. We grabbed some weights and begun our “workout”. Not long after, a woman in workout clothes started shouting in Hungarian and directing us from outside the pool. We realized we were in a class. It was too late to leave, people had started doing rounds around the pool. We decided to see how long we could last. The class was only 20 minutes and it was so much fun! I truly recommend looking at the schedule, which is posted next to the pool.

There are many unique baths, including the “beer showers”, in which the water has hops. The description was in Hungarian so I didn’t get any details, but it was definitely interesting. There were some freezing cold baths, as well as some boiling hot ones. There were some saltier ones and others where the water seemed bluer. The ceiling where the indoor pools are is gorgeous! I loved floating around in warm water looking up at those majestic domes.
jet stream Budapest
The outside pools were the largest. There was one with a whirlpool in the middle. It was fun getting caught in it but it was so difficult getting out. Surrounding the whirlpool are the jet streams. You’ll have to patiently await your turn while still holding your ground if you’re next (use assertive look shown).

When you come out of the outdoor pools you’ll have lounge chairs to lay out on. It’s possible to get drinks and food, as well bring your own snacks. Which I knew food and drinks were allowed! 

Another thing I wish I knew, it’s that it’s pointless to rent a changing locker since your entrance ticket includes access to other lockers downstairs where the showers are. These are the regular showers you would find in a gym, but of course, with mountain water! There are hairdryers but bring your toiletries, which you can leave in your locker. You’ll have access to your locker with the code in the bracelet you’ll be given after paying the entrance fee. This was 17 EUR as of July 2018. Towel rentals were expensive in my opinion, they were 10 EUR. So bring a towel and don’t forget your flip-flops. You’ll need these when going from pool to pool. If you care about taking pics, bring a waterproof camera or a waterproof cover for your phone. Otherwise, don’t be dumb, don’t bring your phone outside the locker. IT WILL GET WET. You’ll have access to the lockers at all time and can go visit your phone whenever. Don’t forget a lock though!

YOU’LL NEED…
– Toiletries
– Towel
– Flip-flops
– Lock
– Waterproof camera or cell phone case
– Snacks/lunch
– Beers (can be easily be brought in)

One last thing is that locals tend to avoid the Baths during the summer so it would be a good time to go if you’re hoping to avoid crowds. I’m sure you’ll have a blast at any of the many Baths in Pest.  If you’re looking for tips when visiting the city, please check out my Budapest post.

I hope you let your inner child free as I did in this wonderful place. Enjoy every moment and remember to always BE PRESENT!

underwater budapest

Budapest

Let’s begin with the common misconception that Budapest is one city. This was definitely my understanding until I learned that Buda and Pest are separated by the Danube river and connected by beautiful bridges. A simple way to distinguish them is that Buda is the side of town with the Castle District and Pest, which is pronounced “pesht”, is the one with the Ruin Bars, aka the fun part of town!

I really recommend booking a walking tour so as to hear all the amazing history behind every district and beautiful castle. I took Generation Tours and was very pleased since the tour guide started by handing out a cheat sheet with some basic Hungarian:

Szia/Sziasztok = Hello
Jó napot = Good morning
Viszlát = Goodbye
Köszönöm = Thank you
Szeretlek = I love you
Jó = Good/Ok
Igen = Yes
Nem = No
Egészségedre = Cheers
Bor = Wine
Sör = Beer

Landmarks:
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Vajdahunyad Castle
AKA Dracula Castle! It is not near the center but it’s next to the Széchenyi Baths.
Ironically, it is now an Agriculture Museum, but the park surrounding it and the castle itself are both gorgeous and eerie; dating back over 100 years!
“Dracula’s character was most probably inspired by Vlad the Impaler, the 15th-century Transylvanian prince, also known as Vlad III Dracul of Wallachia, who was imprisoned by John Hunyadi in Vajdahunyad Castle for years.”(source)

St. Stephen’s Basilique
Beautiful cathedral in the city center and the biggest church in Budapest.
It hosts classical concerts indoors.

Fisherman’s Bastion
Best views of Pest! Free balconies located in the Castle district in Buda from where a castle used to be. Some cafés in the area taking up some of the viewpoints.

20181003_232952Hungarian Parliament Building
Enormous and gorgeous gothic building by the Danube river. It’s located in Pest, but you get the best view from across the river on Buda. Check out the website for up to date visiting hours and prices.

 

20180729_142502Holocaust memorial
There are a few sculptures of shoes along the Danube River, in front of the Parliament Building. Their purpose is to remember all the Hungarian women, men and children killed whose bodies were thrown to the Danube river during WWII. It’s very emotional and definitely worth a visit.

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Liberty Bridge
If you’re visiting during the summer, you’ll be able to hang out and party ON the bridge. The city closes the bridge to vehicles for the weekend so locals can picnic on the bridge. There’s local artists performing, as well as some hammocks hanging for your convenience.

Stop by the market and get some cold beers or a bottle of wine to share, along with some snacks because there are no sellers on the bridge. Seems like a missed opportunity, but I’m guessing it has to do with this being a sort of new tradition.

 

“My friend and I literally gasped when all the lights on the bridges and castles in Buda were lit .”

Széchenyi_Chain_Bridge_in_Budapest_at_nightChain Bridge:
This beautiful stone-bridge is known for its lion statues. It is said that during the inauguration, a child noticed that the lions lacked tongues. So the architect decided to jump off the bridge after hearing about his unforgivable error because that’s a normal reaction (sarcastic tone). I’m sure this is just a rumor since other people say the tongues can be seen from above. Still, makes for a fun story.
Another thing worth mentioning about Chain Bridge is that locals enjoy the gorgeous sunset on the steps next to the bridge on the Pest side of town, overlooking Buda. Public drinking is permitted, so bring a bottle of wine! The view is indescribably beautiful. My friend and I literally gasped when all the lights on the bridges and castles in Buda were lit.

Ruin bars
I know that after a day of exploring the city, either in the scorching sun or the freezing winter wind, it isn’t easy to go out and party at night, but when in Budapest, RUIN BARS ARE A MUST! I also recommend checking out some of these ruin bars during the day. It’s a completely different experience since you’ll be able to appreciate the random decor best during daylight.  Below are just a few:

20180727_174912Szimpla
The most popular ruin bar in Budapest, and for GOOD REASON. It has maaany bars to choose from. Most have similar menus and prices with slight variations. For instance, some carry craft beers. This is definitely one of the bars with a completely different vibe at day vs. night. During the day you’ll be able to notice all the random objects, plants, paintings, murals, graffitis and mirrors decorating the endless bar. At night, however, you’ll be able to experience the ambiance the colorful lights give, as well as enjoy the local DJs and bands performing.
During the day, make sure you check out the Design shop in the entrance. It has endless creative designs of anything you can think of: jewelry, art, toys, bags, decor, souvenirs, etc. All by local artists. FYI, they’re closed on Mondays. Also, be mindful of the exchange rate

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Red Ruin
Not the biggest one, but definitely worth checking out.

Instant
Known as a nightclub, but you can still go in casual clothes like all ruin bars. It’s up to you if you rather dress to impress.

Best places to get cash:
Remember that Hungary’s currency is the Hungarian Florints (HUF or FTS). As of August 2018, 300 HUF is about 1 EUR. Not easy to remember, so be mindful of the conversion rate. Especially when tourist places charge in EUR.

OTP Bank
They charged the equivalent of about 1 EUR for the withdrawal. The exchange rate was also the best in comparison to other banks.

Food… my reason for traveling!
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For Sale Pub
Do not be fooled by the name. This place was recommended by a local when I mentioned I wanted to try some legit Goulash. This place has a “cowboy saloon” look. It has random decor, hay on the ground, peanuts for aperitive, and you can even throw the peels on the floor. The food, however, is very Hungarian. The portions are HUGE. I wasn’t able to finish my Goulash, so I took it home and had it for dinner for the next 3 days! The food is not only big, but it’s also delicious and quite homey. The Goulash came with all the sides you pour into the stew. It very much reminded me of Mexican pozole.

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Vegan Garden
I’m not sure if it’s only open during the summer, but this cute little garden kept bringing us back. It has all types of food, and of course, a bar… with Hungarian trivia.
My favorite thing about this place is this vegan gyro pizza that I still dream about! I completely adore Tzaziki sauce, and the fact that it’s dairy free, it makes me want to overdose on it even more!


Where to get souvenirs:
Paprika Market
When shopping, remember to be mindful of the exchange rate.
This place offered the largest variety of souvenirs, as well as the some of the best prices. There are other local shops that had more creative designs of magnets, postcards, etc, but Paprika has everything with paprika! From honey to jam and even Pálinka with paprika.

Pálinka is the local liquor. It has a high alcohol percentage and it’s mostly fermented with different fruits such as pear, grape, berries, etc. My favorite was the spicy version I tried at this market. I, unfortunately, did not purchase a small bottle so I could get a bigger one at the airport. BIG MISTAKE. Nobody else carries Pálinka with paprika. If you like spicy food or drinks, I suggest you ask for a sample. You’re also able to taste the many sauces, jams and honey they carry. People at this shop, and all over Budapest for that matter, are the friendliest.

There are plenty other things to see and places to visit while in Budapest. I didn’t include all the gorgeous and unique castles in Buda nor the street art, which I’ll save for another post. I’m sure you’ll enjoy your time in Budapest no matter what you do. Other nearby cities I recommend are Vienna, Prague, and Krakow. Have fun and remember, even when the weather is bad, BE PRESENT and enjoy every moment!