Our first night in Budapest, Hungary was electric- literally.
Shortly after arrival, we encountered a too-good-to-be-true atmosphere during an early evening stroll down the Danube . Hand-holding couples, seductive cafes and alluring music were framed by a backdrop of Pest's art nouveau buildings, the green hills of Buda and the pedestrian-filled bridges that link the two sides. Adding to the ambience, a storm was brewing in the distance and just as we returned to our apartment, a lush rain began to fall as we stood on our balcony facing venerable Central Market.
Impossibly romantic, even this mush averse girl couldn't help but fall head-over-heels for Budapest. If you are looking to rekindle the flame with your significant other, spend a long weekend or more in this magnificent city.
There are several ways to stoke the fires of passion at any time of day and without spending a fortune. Because love should be free and why must the night have all the fun?
EARLY MORNING: Sunrise, Sweat & Spa
Climb Gellert Hill to watch the sun rise before heading across the street to art nouveau jewel, Gellert Hotel & Thermal Baths for a soak. With the early morning hour (they open at 6 am), you will have the place to yourself amidst five baths and two pools. The 36 C (98 F) is the perfect temperature for snuggling. Adventurous couples will love the 7 C (44 F) plunge bath and outdoor wave pool or for more leisurely grandeur, head for the more sedate indoor lap pool and join local Hungarians doing early morning exercises.
The biggest splurge on the list, no one should leave Budapest without experiencing its famous baths. Save money by bringing your own towel and swim cap (or hotel shower cap).
Cost for Gellert Hill Climb: FREE
Cost for Gellert Thermal Bath: 10,500 HUF ($37 USD) for 2 all-day passes
EARLY AFTERNOON: Picnic & Poetry in the Park
For a Parisian-like experience without the crowds, throw some Hungarian rose, bread and cheese in your bag and stroll down Andrassy Avenue, Budapest's version of the Champs-Elysées, towards City Park (Varosliget). Admire the Hungarian Kings at Hero's Square (Hosok Tere) before heading toward fantastical Vajdahunyad Castle and its boating lake. After lunching under a majestic sycamore, rent a rowboat and impress your beloved with some Wordsworth or Byron. Or just walk the grounds.
Alternatively, skip the Andrassy walk and take the World Heritage Site listed Yellow Line (opened 1896) to Hosok Tere.
Cost of Picnic in the Park: FREE (just the cost of your lunch)
Cost of Boating: 1,200 HUF ($4.25 USD)
LATE AFTERNOON: Rendezvous at the Ruins
Sitting in a ruined building may not sound like a romantic afternoon activity, but you haven't been to Szimpla Kert. The star of Budapest's ruin pub scene, this hipster hangout is crowded with hard drinking twenty-somethings in the evening, but the open venue is perfect for beers and quiet couple time in the afternoon.
After checking out the tongue-in-cheek colorful art, grab the dark and moody bathtub room upstairs for some eye-gazing alone time or join other happy couples in the sun-dappled downstairs patio.
Cost of two pints of beer: 1,200 HUF ($4.25 USD)
EVENING: Romance Overload
For the ultimate over-the-top gesture, impress your loved one with this series of activities.
Start with a walk along the Danube at dusk, heading towards the Chain Bridge. The combination of pink skies and music filled cafes will set the scene nicely. After crossing the bridge, take the Funicular to the top and soak in the sunset before walking to Mattias Church and Fisherman's Bastion to admire the gorgeous architecture and sweeping views.
Sufficiently swooned, backtrack to Buda Castle and meander around while taking in the scene. There are many winding walkways on the river side to help you feel like adventurous explorers. Down one level, stop for a drink at the chic Zona Budapest Wine Bar or Lanchid 19 Hotel.
Cost of Funicular (2 tickets): 2,400 HUF ($8.50 USD)
Cost to walk around Buda Castle and Fisherman's Bastion: FREE
While there are many excellent hotels, save money without sacrificing ambience by staying at an elegant apartment like this one on AirBnB. It's perfectly positioned (and priced) in the midst of Central Market, Liberty Bridge (across from Gellert Hill) and famed pedestrian walk, Vaci.