The capital city of Hungary had been on Rob’s and my list of places to visit almost since we met. Rob’s mother was born here making it a special place for him and it had been roughly ten years since they had last visited. It was definitely time to go back for him and I’m glad I went with him to what is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve visited.
Budapest is a spacious and grande city. Although that grandeur has definitely been neglected in Hungary’s turbulent history of occupations which can be seen on some streets and buildings. History was quite a central aspect of our stay here and I would recommend reading up a little bit before visiting as it will give you an idea of why things look like they do today.
And if you understand the history you can maybe understand the people better too. I was told that Hungarians are quite serious people and I could see a little of that, but the people we met were generally very friendly and most of them spoke excellent English. We didn’t expect the latter but it shows what ten years can do to a country, when Rob last visited he had the impression that almost no one spoke English.
English speaking or not I found the people and the city wonderful if yet a little somber at times, which in itself can be a beautiful thing. And definitely understandable considering their rather recent dark history. This is something that isn’t talked about much though, I think the people prefer to look forward. I think that’s a pretty good attitude and there’s so much to enjoy in such a stunning city with grande architecture (like the parliament house pictured below), the Danube and deliciously hearty food.
Hungarian food culture to me is quite traditional and I’m not complaining because the spices are delicious and the portions are always big. It can however be difficult as a vegan to just walk into a restaurant expecting there to be something on the menu which makes a little planning ahead is essential. Below I will list some of our favourite food spots, as well as other sights and spots I wouldn’t want you to miss, and a few links to guides I found useful on my visit.
Also don’t forget to scroll all the way down to find a recipe for a delicious veganised version of the Hungarian bean soup ‘Bab Leves’. It is actually Rob’s mother Agi’s recipe, with just a few tweaks to make it vegan and gluten free friendly. Let’s say ‘Köszönöm szépen Agi’ (thank you) for sharing this deliciousness with us and then let’s get cooking.
1, The Hungarian parliament building. 2, A view of the city and the Matyas Templom. 3, Nagy Vasarcsarnok (The central market hall). 4, St. Istvan Basilica.
FOOD AND DRINK
As mentioned earlier the food culture is quite traditional in Hungary which means that a lot of places are not vegan friendly. But don’t despair there are many lovely places to eat well on a vegan diet in Budapest. You will enjoy full flavours and big portions often served with pride and love. Another positive thing about eating out in Budapest is that as Western tourist food is very affordable, as is almost everything, which means that you can maybe afford to try a few more things than if you were to visit more central or North European cities.
Partly because we visited during a public holdiay and partly because we enjoyed going the markets we ate a lot ‘at home’ in our Air Bnb during our stay. Therefore there are very few restaurants on this list but please scroll down to find three guides I found useful when planning our visit with lots more ideas.
Rózsa utca 39 and Ferenciek tere 2.
There is a reason to why this is listed first here and it is because we ended up eating at this restaurant on Rózsa utca several times during our week long stay. This restaurant has everything; veganised Hungarian specialities, pizza, pasta, raw food, veganised Hungarian pastries, ice cream and home made smoothies and fresh juices – both fruit and vegetables. Everything is vegan, everything is delicious, trust us because we’ve tried almost everything on the menu. You might think that with doing so many different things none would come out that good but not here, enjoy!
Káldy Gyula utca 7.
This is a raw cafe with a lovely interior and equally lovely owners. When we visited they had just started their business and were only serving cakes, sweet snacks and drinks but were in the middle of planning their lunch menu. The cakes were delicious but their chocolate drink took the gold.
Bérkocsis utca 23.
This bar/pub is a quirky local place in district 8 that serve up some simple vegan fare like soup and houmous with vegetable sticks. They also serve all the traditional Hungarian drinks like Palinka which is a schnapps, fruit beers and wines. The place has a ‘hippie air’ and is a great place to chill out after a long day walking the streets of Budapest.
Kazinczy utca 14.
This is a very popular ruin bar with a very quirky interior and a courtyard at the back. Here you can try Hungarian craft beer and other localities. My favourite event at the bar is however the farmer’s market which takes place on Sundays where you’ll find locally produced fruit and vegetables, pickles and krauts, spices and sauces and much more. If you visit in summer you must try Hungarian strawberries, they are full of flavour (almost as good as Swedish, haha).
Horánszky utca 27.
This small delicatessen has the most friendly vegan owner and the best range of local traditional goods. Enjoy a vegan snack/dessert as you browse the shelves for presents for your loved ones. We bought some palinka her as well as a variety of spices and spreads. You will also find some good quality nut butters here which are hard to find elsewhere in Budapest.
Nagy Vasarcsarnok (The Central Market Hall)
Vámház krt. 1-3.
The central market is a huge market hall with an abundance of fruit, vegetables, spices and other Hungarian foods. You will also find lots of stalls selling traditional Hungarian dress and home wares. I bought some beautiful wooden utensils here but really it is more something to see and enjoy then a place to shop. The vegetables are not necessarily of the highest quality and some of the spices etc can be found at supermarkets at a cheaper price.
Szimpla Kert bar and farmer’s market spot.
DO AND SEE
There are a whole bunch of things to do and see in Budapest. There is a lot of intricate history here and if you are into that enjoy visiting some museums as well as historical sites. There is also a lot of forgotten, and sometimes remembered, glamour in this city and this is another thing I really enjoyed. Look up to see the beautiful architecture, visit the thermal baths and go to the opera.
Uránia Nemzeti Filmszínház
Rákóczi útca 21.
This cinema built in the late 19th century is a sight to behold. It is definitely the most glamorous cinema I have ever been to. On a rainy day this is your perfect Budapest pass time. They show modern films but also fringe cinema and Hungarian classics, we were lucky to catch one of the latter ones with English subtitles. The staff is friendly and will help you find a film that suits you, they are also happy for you to have a little wander around if you just want to see the building itself.
Gellért Thermal Bath
Kelenhegyi útca 4.
The thermal baths are one of the most famous attractions in Budapest. I visited two during my visit and this one was my favourite (I would not recommend visitng the Széchenyi baths). It is very clean and has a beautiful art deco interior. Enjoy this rare treat.
Magyar Állami Operaház
Andrássy útca 22.
The Hungarian state opera is gorgeous with all that neo-renaissance flair. Sometimes there’s ballet on the schedule as well if you cannot deal with the opera itself. This is a very affordable pleasure in Budapest in comparison to many other cities where it can be rather extortionate to visit the opera. This is a pleasure few of us give ourselves in our day to day life so if you are visiting Budapest take the opportunity to get dressed up and visit this gem.
Magyar Nemzeti Múzeum
Múzeum krt. 14-16.
This is Hungarys national museum dedicated to the history of the country. It is situated in a beautiful building and contains many artefacts and lots of information. I really recommend this to anyone looking to learn more about the country.
St. Istvan Basilica
Szent István tér 1.
Over the past year or so I have found myself in various religious buildings on my travels, something I never thought I would enjoy but have totally become a lover of. The St. Stephen Basilica in Budapest is one of the most ornate I’ve ever seen, it is beautiful. Another amazing feature is that you can climb into the dome and step out onto a balcony which wraps all the way around it to view the city around you.
Szechenyi Lanchid (Chain Bridge)
This gorgeous bridge will take you between Pest and Buda with views of the palace and the parliament building and much more. It was recommended to us as the most beautiful bridge in Budapest and we haven’t seen all of them but it is very grande and does give an air of greatness.
1, Tram in Buda. 2, Tram tracks on Pest side next to the Danube. 3, A green street in Buda overlooking the Liberty Statue on Gellért Hill.
BAB LEVES – HUNGARIAN BEAN SOUP
PORTIONS: 3-4 portion / TIME: 90 min
1 large or two small brown onions
2 x 400 g cans kidney beans or equivalent soaked and cooked
6 medium/large carrots
1 small head celery
1 large tomato
1 – 1 1/2 l vegetable stock, or water and a tbsp stock powder
Frying oil, such as rapeseed or good quality sunflower
3 garlic cloves
2 heaped tbsp corn flour
1 tbsp smoked paprika
Soya yoghurt, other plant yoghurt or plant creme fraiche
Roughly chop onion. Peel and cut carrots into large chunks (see image). Clean and cut celery into similar length pieces. Drain kidney beans if using canned.
Place a large sauce pan over medium heat and add onions. Once translucent add beans, carrots, celery and the whole tomato. Cover with vegetable stock or water and stock powder. Place lid on top and bring to the boil. Once boiling turn down to a simmer and leave to cook for 45 min.
Make a rue by adding frying oil to a small frying pan, to cover the bottom, along with the flour. Mix until no lumps and heat through, be careful not to burn or catch. Once heated through mince the garlic into the pan and add smoked paprika powder. Mix and leave on the heat for another minute until very fragrant. When fragrant add enough water to make a thickish paste like consistency. At this point you might think it looks too liquidy to make a pasty texture but trust the process, when you add the water the mixture will thicken. Add the finished rue into the soup pot.
Mix the rue into the soup and let simmer for another 15 minutes before serving. Serve with a dollop of plant yoghurt or plant creme fraiche and some parsley.