The Real Grand Budapest Hotel

Most of the time when Americans think of “Europe”, we think of France or Italy or Spain—Western Europe. However, there is a whole other side to the continent that far too many people ignore just because they are unfamiliar with what it has to offer. Eastern Europe has some magnificent cities, wonderful people, and amazing food! Today we are off to Budapest!

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View of Chain Bridge from Buda Castle

When to Go

So remember, we are not on the Riviera, we are not on a Mediterranean island, so your trip to Budapest is not going to be a sun and sand type of trip. Budapest is cold in the winter and hot in the summer. So pick your poison. Spring is probably best, but remember the winters are long over there, so Spring really means May not April. However, all of these pictures are from a March trip, so it is doable.

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March is definitely still winter in Budapest.

Where to Stay

I didn’t title this article “The Grand Budapest Hotel IRL” for no reason, we really did stay in what seemed to inspire the movie—The Corinthia Hotel Budapest. I normally don’t start with lodging, but The Corinthia had such a strong influence on our stay in Hungary that I would like to emphasize how much we loved it! And how much you all need to check it out!

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Grand Staircase in the Corinthia Hotel Budapest

This staircase represents how grand this hotel truly is. From the façade, to the gigantic rooms, to the superb executive club, the Corinthia will turn your jaunt to Hungary from an exploration to a luxurious tour of the country.

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The Executive Club should pay for itself with the open bar alone.

My number one recommendation for staying at the Corinthia is that you must splurge and add on access to the Executive Club. You have access for breakfast, lunch, tea time, happy hour and snacks throughout the day. I know you are in Budapest to see what it is like in Eastern Europe and this club shows that the finer things did survive east of the Iron Curtain.

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Traditional Hungarian snacks are served all day.

Another great thing about the Executive Club is that you are really getting a feel for Hungarian food and culture as all the food is nothing like you get in Western Europe, everything is indigenous to the city.

What to Do

Even though we were in Budapest in what seemed like the middle of winter, i.e. March, you can still get out and see the sites. Buda Castle Park and the Chain Bridge are must sees!

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Buda Castle

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From up here you get the most amazing city and river views!

Since this was actually our first Eastern European city, we just really wanted to walk around and try and absorb the differences from Western Europe. And of course, one of the reasons we all travel is to see and try the different street foods. In Budapest, Transylvanian Funnel Cake is very popular.

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And I feel like the fact that we were there when it was cold just made the experience all that more authentic. Seeing the vendors pop that steaming funnel cake off the rack and pop it into the little bag before he handed it to us was just so special. We were starting to feel like real Hungarians braving the cold for a tasty treat!

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IRL there was steam pouring out of the middle.

Fun Facts

Something else to keep in mind when you visit Budapest is that Hungary does not use Euros, they have their own currency, the Forints. So while you are still in the EU, you will need to change some of your money, and be warned the exchange rate is not going to be self-explanatory. Come prepared with your Yahoo Finance quote so you make sure you get a good rate wherever you change your money. However, it is fun to save some of the currency to bring back as a souvenir, since most places in Europe are on the Euro.

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Where to Eat

This is the time to be adventurous, because Hungarian food is delicious! And also, you can feel free to loosen your wallet a little more than usually because thanks to the exchange rate, even fine dining in Budapest is extremely affordable in comparison to many other major cities. One lovely place we had dinner was, Bock Bistro. Fantastic food, great atmosphere. Honestly, my soup I choose was probably the best soup I’ve ever had!

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Remember you are in Eastern Europe so they tend to wash down a nice meal with Vodka.

Budapest is an amazing place that certainly deserves to be discovered by more Americans. Go off the beaten path and choose Hungary as the next leg of your journey!

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