A Road Trip through Hungary – Lake Balaton, Budapest & Esztergom

We left Austria for Hungary with plenty of excitement as it was a new country for both of us and I’ve wanted to visit Budapest for many years. Our first stop was Keszthely near Lake Balaton. In summer, this is normally an extremely busy holiday resort. It was nice to visit out of season and experience it without the crowds. Lake Balaton is huge being the biggest lake in Central Europe, it’s hard to get your head around the sheer scale of it.

Just 6km away from Keszthely is Lake Hévíz, which is a thermal pond that is said to have healing properties. We spent a relaxing afternoon there enjoying the warm temperatures and swimming through lily pads with the ducks.

Driving through Hungary was really enjoyable. We didn’t take the highways as we wanted to see some of the countryside villages and towns. As we have a British license plate on our car, it appeared to be quite a rare sight to some passers by as we received quite a lot of staring and pointing. I have wanted to visit Budapest for years and I was really excited to taste some traditional Hungarian food and see the historic sights.

We were planning on camping just outside of the city, but after checking online we found a super cheap and awesome airbnb right next to Városliget city park, which is on the Pest side of the River Danube. It was close to the city centre with an enjoyable 25 minute stroll into central Budapest. We enjoyed our first evening out at Kozmosz Vegan restaurant which is located next to Hunyadi Tér park. Kozmosz is a cosy, underground restaurant serving delicious vegan meals. I had the BBQ seitan plate which was washed down with a Dreher Hungarian lager. The food was homely and really tasty. We spent the rest of our evening in a ruin bar. These are bars built into once derelict buildings and outdoor spaces. The atmosphere in Szimpla Kart was electric with hundreds of people hanging out in different rooms with crazy furniture. We saw a jazz duo playing in one room which were really good and we even got to drink our favourite Slovenian lager.

Our second day in Budapest mainly consisted of eating. A lot. We walked to the Central Market where I had read they sell the famous lángos. This is an enriched dough shaped into a flatbread and then, wait for it, deep fried! After hustling and bustling in the manic queue, we were finally rewarded with this fattening specialty. It is traditionally topped with sour cream and cheese. Pete also added some jalapeños to his for a little extra kick. There are so many different toppings for the lángos, it was difficult to choose between sweet or savoury and simple or extravagant! It was really delicious and I definitely had that saying from Peter Kay in the back of my mind, “once on the lips, forever on the hips” but it was so good. We also bought some Hungarian smoked and spicy paprika from one of the market stalls too.

We found an amazing gelato shop selling, maybe the best gelato and sorbet I have ever had at Gelarto Rosa. I had pistachio and pumpkin gelato with chocolate and raspberry sorbet. The most magical part was that it was beautifully shaped into a rose. We also stopped by BESTIA Beer Garden for a drink and watched the world go by on St. Stephen’s Square.

As we were staying so close to Széchenyi Thermal Baths, it would have been silly not to visit. Budapest is well known for its health spas and thermal springs, and this spa is one of the largest natural hot springs in Europe. We went in the early evening and it was great! The cooler Autumn temperatures made getting into the outdoor heated pool just lovely. The different pools are said to have different healing properties with warm medicinal water. Below is a video of our time in the baths.

Budapest is a really diverse city with a fantastic array of foodie options. I actually wish we had had longer in this amazing city.

We stopped by Esztergom on our way to Slovakia. It’s a gorgeous old walled city, formerly the capital of Hungary, perched on the river Danube. Esztergom Basilisca towers over the town and it is the biggest church and the tallest building in Hungary. It’s a stunningly beautiful building and there are great views down to the city and across to Slovakia.

We had an awesome time in Hungary and I’d really love to spend more time there, especially in the summer around Lake Balaton or Christmas in Budapest. The roads are easy to navigate and the countryside is really beautiful. I found the people of Hungary really friendly and the food fantastic.

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