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Trip Report Budapest over New Years

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Just got back from 4 days in Budapest....here are the highlights:

Sofitel - great location, at the foot of the Chain Bridge on the Pest side, next to the 4 Seasons and the Intercontinental. Overall the hotel was OK, not great (I'd say 4* but i think its rated 5), but good for what we needed. We got a good deal on a 2BR suite that allowed us to put the 3 kids in 1 room (pull-out sofa + cot) and us 2 in the other. Plus we had access to the executive lounge open all day with drinks, snacks, breakfast, happy hour, computers with internet, etc. Great to go with the kids to chill out after a day walking around. spa/pool/gym was OK not amazing.

Szechenyi Baths (City Park) - excellent! We were two families with a bunch of kids from 5 to 12, and everyone loved the baths. I was a little worried that it wouldn't be appropriate for the kids. While there weren't too many kids there, it was not a problem at all. The baths (outdoor and indoor) were mixed gender (some other places have separate baths for men & women). The outdoor baths ranged from 25deg (lukewarm) to 38deg (nice and hot!) and even thought it was about 5deg outside, it didnt bother us at all. The kids loved being outside in a hot pool. There's one section with a round pool and there are jets that push the water fairly quickly in a circle, so the water sort of pulls you along in a circle -- pretty fun esp when its crowded with kids, adults and grandparents all mixed together! Indoors there were more baths plus some saunas. Overall, a great experience. Not physically as beautiful as the Gellert, for instance, but the sheer size/scale of it, and the family-friendliness made it perfect for us.

Bagolyvar restaurant - also in City Park. This is the sister (less-expensive) restaurant to the famous more-expensive Gundel. What a great dinner! Best hortobagy palacsinta of the trip. Very reasonable price/value. The Gundel wines were also very reasonable (very decent reds for approx EUR12/bottle). Also great goulash.

Kurtoskalacs - At Vorosmarty square there was a Christmas market... with food, crafts, etc. The highlight here were the KurtoSkalacs (known as chimney cakes) -- description here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurtoskalacs. What made these great was the fact that they were cooked over open charcoal . Unbelievably sweet, hot, soft, crusty all at the same time, in vanilla, cinnamon and cocoa. Later in the trip we found a kurtoskalacs shop (on Vaci Utca) but what a disappointment - they were cooked in a small electric oven and were nowehere near as good as the charcoal version.

Royal Palace - One day we took the metro to Moskva Ter and walked through Vienna Gate (back of the Royal Palace area) and then walked around and down the hill and crossed the Chain Bridge back to Pest. The next day we tool the bus (I think 16?) across Chain Bridge and up to the center of the Royal Palace.... the bus was easier but the subway trip was more fun.

Underneath the Royal Palace are the Labarynths - accessible through a small door on a side street. These were carved from the rock by water since prehistoric times, and also used during the war as bunkers. Now its pretty tame, not really recommended for adults but really fun for the kids. Especially since the museums were closed for new years, this kept the kids busy for a few hours.

Overall, we really loved Budapest - a friendly, clean, beautiful city ... very reasonable prices ... lots to see ... good food .... !

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