Monthly Archives

March 2018

Expat Life

A Quick Guide to Enjoying the Danube at The Bálna

March 13, 2018

The Bálna has been one of our favourite places to go for meal or drink since it was built in 2013. The Bálna or “Budapest Whale” is the huge glass and metal building on the Danube bank in the 9th district. It sits between the Szabadság (Liberty) Bridge and Petőfi Bridge. Here is my quick guide to enjoying the Danube at The Bálna.

The Bálna

When my sister and I first started visiting Budapest as adults, this stretch of the Danube was nothing more than some old, sketchy looking warehouses. We were always a little nervous walking around there after dark.  But at one time, these warehouses were essential to the city’s prosperity.  However, by the early 21st century, they fell into complete disrepair.

Construction of this modern structure began in 2009 but the 2011 opening had to be delayed due to legal issues until 2013. It was designed by a Dutch architect, Kas Oosterhuis. The historical brick building and the concrete structure typical is covered in a computer-designed metal-glass shell.  It is the shape of this shell that gives the building its name.

The Bálna as seen from the top of Gellert Hill.

The Bálna serves as a commercial, cultural and entertainment centre. Inside you will find galleries, restaurants, offices and shops. However, it was meant to be an architectural showpiece for Budapest just like the Eiffel Tower is in Paris.  Unfortunately, with the current city management, it never quite achieved the originally planned icon status it was designed for. The building is currently up for sale from the municipality.

Why We Love It

There are several restaurants that have seating both indoors and outdoors on the ground floor of the Bálna.  We have enjoyed the spectacular Danube view from them all.  I can’t think of a single time of the year where you can’t find a patio seat to enjoy the summer or winter sun. While this is definitely a more touristy destination, many of the restaurants have daily lunch specials during the week.

At the Esco Bar & Cafe, you can get a delicious pizza big enough for two people to share. This Peruvian bar serves more than 10 different pizzas with lovely thin crusts – just the way I like them.

Andrew and Lucy enjoying the sun at the Bálna Terasz

The Bálna Bistro & Terasz

Our particular favourite place for a drink is the Bálna Terasz. Last Sunday afternoon we walked over there with our dog to indulge in a sweet treat. The restaurant featured menu items that included Nutella. Who could resist on such a lovely day?

It is THE perfect place to relax at the end of the day and enjoy amazing sunsets.  Alternately, come on a weekend to simple enjoy the marvellous view of the Liberty Bridge and Gellert Hill. There is definitely something for everyone.

I have to admit, we did look at bit like tourists last weekend when we last visited.  If you don’t want to, read this.

Additional Information

Visiting by public transportation is easy. Simple take the Metro M4 to Fővám tér or Tram 2 to Zsil utca.

Parking at Bálna is available in a underground car park. The parking fee is 300 HUF/hour. The first hour is free on weekdays, the first two hours are free on weekends.

You will definitely find us there again sometime soon!

Expat Life

The Secrets to Having a Fabulous Brunch at the New TOPRUM in Budapest

March 5, 2018
Hotel Rum Brunch

Brunch. That amazing combination of breakfast and lunch that makes it perfectly acceptable to drink alcohol early on a Sunday. Budapest is full of many great places to indulge in this my most favourite of meals. However, my husband and I thought we would try a brand new rooftop brunch located the Hotel Rum. Here are our secrets to having a fabulous brunch at TOPRUM.

The Hotel Rum

The Hotel Rum is a beautiful boutique hotel located near the Central Market Hall in Budapest’s 5th District on Egyetem tér . It has 40 contemporary rooms located in a 19th century apartment block – all designed by Budapest based architects and interior designers. The building houses the hotel,  the URBAN TIGER restaurant and TOPRUM – the new rooftop sky bar.

TOPRUM was opened for the first time last weekend.  We attended the second ever rooftop brunch offered here. If you don’t want to look like a tourist while doing so, read my last post.

TOPRUM Secret One: Request a Table beside the Window

While there is a great view from all tables, if you want the ultimate view, request a table beside the window.  Due to the positioning of the restaurant, you have an 180 degree view of  the city.

There is a mix of both round and rectangular tables with comfortable padded chairs. We saw couples, and a group as large as 8, enjoying their meals. And while I’m sure children may be permitted at TOPRUM, we saw none.

TOPRUM Secret Two: Order the Shakshuka

Eating low-carb or gluten-free?  Then order the shakshuka.  Alternately, if you’re like me and just wanted something different from the usual brunch standards – order the the shakshuka.

What is shakshuka? Shakshuka is a dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, peppers, and onions. This version included pieces of feta cheese for additional flavour and was served with a small fresh bun.  It was absolutely delicious!

Shakshuka as presented by TOPRUM with feta and fresh herbs for 2250 HUF.

The traditional Eggs Benedict with ham and arugula for 1990 HUF.

TOPRUM Secret Three: Enjoy the Live Music

Our reservation was for 1pm and we were lucky to enjoy the first set of a guitar and vocalist duo. The music was lovely and the perfect volume. The singing was loud enough to enjoy but soft enough to not have to yell at each other across the table.

TOPRUM Secret 4: Have Dessert

I’m not normally a dessert after brunch time of girl – especially not when mimosas are available – but I went for it.  Initially our waiter seemed perplexed that I didn’t know what “Floating Islands in Vanilla” were.  So in case you don’t know either – its a sweet egg white “dumpling” in melted vanilla ice-cream.  Yes please!

Both my husband and I ordered one of these simple but scrumptious desserts.

Floating Islands with Vanilla for 1100 HUF.

If you’re looking for a laid-back place for brunch with an incredible view and great food – look no further then TOPRUM. Maybe we’ll see you there next weekend?

Want to see more of our expat life in Budapest?  Watch our latest YouTube Video now!

More Information

For reservations please contact Demján Balázs +36 70 319 5742 between 8am-8pm.

TOPRUM hosts brunch on both Saturdays and Sunday and is open to the public. Brunch is served from 12:00 to 5:00pm with live music from 1:00 to 3:00pm.

TOPRUM is located at Királyi Pál Street 4, Budapest 1053

Note: This blog was not sponsored in any way.  All opinions are my own.  Brunch was paid for solely by my husband 🙂

Budapest Expat Tips

Tourist Alert: What Not to Wear in Budapest, Hungary

March 3, 2018
What not to wear in Budapest

Budapest is an amazing city. Everywhere you look you’ll find amazing architecture, museums, hotels, bars, nooks, and crannies. And while there are many cultural differences between North America and Hungary, the way people dress is one of them. So unless you want to be immediately identified as a tourist, here is a short list of what not to wear in Budapest, Hungary.

Tourist Alert

Please note that these are my personal observations after 3 months of living in Budapest.  I have absolutely done ALL of the things listed below (as I’m sure some of you have too). You (and I) may even continue to do so in the future. Guess what?  If that’s what you want, go ahead and be the best tourist you can be! But for those of you who want to blend in a little more with your European surroundings  – keep reading.

Dirty Shoes or Trainers

Since we take public transportation practically everyday, we get to see a lot of footwear. Hungarian’s shoes are practically always polished to perfection.  Even in wintertime, you would have to look hard to find salt stains on a fellow passenger’s boots. Laces are also neat and clean – with shoes/boots completely tied up.

Now I am not saying that all Canadians have dirty shoes (as I am sure not all Hungarians have clean ones).  However, both my husband and I noticed this almost immediately.  It prompted us to get to the store to make sure we had some good polish on hand. There is definitely a higher level of respect for an individual’s personal appearance.

Furthermore, wearing trainers/running shoes is definitely a sign that you must be a tourist.  You will discover most Europeans wear stylish but comfortable shoes or a higher-end sneaker look.  You’ll likely only find running shoes being worn during an actual athletic activity.

 mens shoes

A more likely shoe to be seen in winter is something like this comfortable, but stylish, men’s shoe.

Running shoes

While these bright coloured trainers may be perfect for the gym or track, wearing on the street of Budapest simply screams tourist.

Colourful Winter Coats

When the temperatures drop, I’ve always liked to beat the gloom with a bold coloured coat.  I have a turquoise coat, a bright pink down vest and my husband has a cobalt blue coat.  Unfortunately, these are not looks you find regularly on adults on the streets of Budapest. Most Hungarians above the age of 12 wear black or darker colours. Lucky for us, we own more than one coat.

Note that this doesn’t always stop us from wearing our coats of many colours, but we make a conscious choice to do so. Sometimes, and in certain places, its simply best to fit in and look “Hungarian”.  Why be a target for tour operators and pickpockets when you don’t have to be?

Check out our latest video on YouTube to see when we blend in and when we don’t bother…

Tourist with bright coat

While we have protected his identity, this man is immediately recognizable as a tourist in this bright blue coat.

Baseball Caps

As someone who has spent the last ten summers of my life on a boat, both my husband and I own more then one baseball cap (even if I did rarely wear one).  Baseball caps are often a complete necessity when sailing to keep the sun out of your eyes without losing your sunglasses. On the contrary, you will find few adult Hungarians wearing these on the streets of Budapest.

If you do see this style of cap, its most likely to be devoid of any slogan or sports logo. I’m not really sure why baseball hats get no love?  You do see lots other styles of hats – bucket hats, pork pie hats, straw hats, and my husband’s personal favourite, the Trilby. Ps. This does to apply to ladies as well.

Tourists in Baseball caps

Wearing this hat is not only a sign that your are a tourist but a Times Square billboard sized sign that you are a tourist.

Sweatsuits, Tracksuits and Yoga Pants

I love my yoga pants.  Who doesn’t love their yoga pants?  They can be be both flattering and practical when they fit right.  In the past, I never hesitated from wearing them to the mall, out for coffee or grocery shopping.  On the other hand, please know that I never wore them to work or to a dinner party. Rarely do you see these anywhere on the streets of Budapest.  Sweats? Track suits? Leisure wear? Nope.  You won’t find any of those either. Again, this applies to both women and men.  Sorry boys!  Leave those baggy track suits at home.

yoga pants

Defying all North American logic, these two women are wearing yoga pants to actually do yoga – not to meet at Starbucks for a latte.

Other Tourist Giveaways

Of course clothing is just one part of the tourist puzzle.  Carrying selfie sticks, wearing backpacks, multiple cameras, staring at large maps, paying in Euros instead of forints, are all huge “tourist alert” giveaways.  Perhaps the most obvious – and the hardest to avoid – is speaking in English.

Selfie Stick

Perhaps the most obvious of tourist devices – the selfie stick. Not only that – but many popular spots simply ban the use of these nowadays.

In short, no matter how you dress or what language you speak, please don’t hesitate to come and visit this extremely safe and beautiful city that I now call home. Hungarians are fabulous and will fill you to the brim with the best food, wine, weather and entertainment.

What do you think screams tourist?  Let me know in the comments below!