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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

Left Alone in Budapest for a Week

January 20, 2018
Alone in Budapest

I am left alone in Budapest for a week. Okay, so not exactly a full week, but six days. Either way, this is the longest time I have been alone in a while. That may sound strange, but it is true. My husband and I spent nearly everyday of 2017 together as we prepared for our new life in Budapest. We spent the first six months packing up the house and then the last six months “moving”. However, now that we are finally settled in, I find myself alone.

Being alone

While being alone is not something I am currently used to – I have never been afraid of it.  I’m certainly not afraid to be alone in Budapest.  It’s by far the safest capital city I’ve ever been too. Before I met my husband (9 years ago), I had been single for a couple of years.  I often took vacations alone.  I went to Mexico on scuba diving vacations alone.  I explored Amsterdam, Barcelona and even the streets of Budapest – alone. But now it does seem strange.  Its funny how quickly you get used to someone being by your side and helping you get through daily life. But this week, I’m getting out of my comfort zone, and I’m going to try something new in this gorgeous city everyday.


I am not a vegetarian nor a vegan, but I love veggie cuisine.  This 100% vegan restaurant is not far from where I live, so I though I would give it a try for lunch. You can find VEGACITY at 23-25 Múzeum boulevard in the 5th district near Kálvin Tér.  Their mission is to “make vegan quality food popular even among non-vegans”. Personally, I think they nailed it.  I had a very difficult time deciding what to eat from all the delicious looking choices.  They have weekly offers and you can find that info here.

I chose the Indian dish, and it was amazing.  The right amount of curry for flavour, but not too “hot” spicy. They did have hot sauces and other condiments to flavour if needed. I bought the “full portion” for 890 forints ($4.40 CDN or £2.53).  This could easily have fed two for a takeaway – especially if you served with rice.

Aside from being simply vegan, they also offer several sugar and gluten-free desserts. I definitely recommend you give it a try!

Vegacity Indian

My delicious tasting vegan curry dish from VEGACITY.

Shopping at Bijó Trade Store

Bijó Trade Store is a huge natural products store located at Róbert Károly krt. 96 in the 13th District. You can easily reach it by hopping on the 105 bus from Deák Ferenc Tér. Hopefully, if you do it in the rain like I did, you’ll remember to bring your umbrella – ugh.

This place is about the size of my local Whole Foods back in Toronto.  Its spreads itself over two floors. I must have spent an hour and a half in their shelves. It is filled with natural food, skincare, beauty products, vitamins and household products. On their website, they promise that all their products are “natural and chemical free”.

Since I have an obsession with all things skincare and beauty, I visited to see if I could make some new fabulous discoveries.  I bought a few things, I plan to test them out and have a separate review post up for you sometime soon.

To read more about our shopping adventures, read this.

Solitary Endeavours

I still have a few more days on my own.  Today, I plan to visit the Buddha Bar Hotel Spa.  And yes, this may be a little bit “cheaty”.  I mean, I usually go to the spa alone so this is hardly brave.  But I have never been to THIS spa before. Next week I am attending the 21st Budapest Burns Supper and I’m trying to make myself more presentable.

(from the Buddha Bar Hotel website)

Andrew and I are really looking forward to this event next weekend. If you haven’t heard of the Burns Supper organized by the Robert Burns International Foundation, you can read all about it on Expat Press Hungary Magazine: “Charity and Celebration at the 21st Budapest Burns Supper”

Where in the World?

England is famous for many things – fish and chips, Big Ben, double-decker buses, black cabs, The Beatles, and tea. This week it’s also famous for my husband – at least the part near Bristol.  Honey, if you’re reading this… I know it sounds like I’m having lots of fun alone – but I can’t wait to be reunited soon!

What are your favourite things to do in Budapest on your own?  What should I do/have done? Let me know in the comments below.

Oh, and if you like what your reading, please subscribe to get an email alert for each new post.  You can do that on the main page in the right hand column.

Köszönöm 😊


Budapest Expat Tips, Expat Life

Discovering Different places to Buy Harder to find Groceries in Budapest

January 17, 2018
Groceries in Budapest

My husband and I moved to Budapest seven weeks ago.  We live in the 5th district in the “Belvaros” area. Belváros means “inner city”or “downtown” in Hungarian. So while we have lots of little shops around, its not always easy to find exactly what we are craving or looking for. We set off to discover some different places to buy our harder to find groceries in Budapest.

Common Grocery Stores

There are many smaller grocery stores and specialty shops all over the city.  Sometimes you will find more than one on the same block.  But if you are used to shopping at Whole Foods or Loblaws like I was, these shops are incredibly tiny. Choice in these shops is usually quite limited and stock doesn’t seem to come very regularly. One week you can find the item you are looking for – but then you don’t see it again for another month.

Andrew was very excited to find his favourite cookies at our local SPAR when we first arrived.  However, once we bought up the few packages in stock, we never saw them again.

Some of the typical downtown grocery shops:

  • CBA
  • Tesco Expressz
  • SPAR
  • Prima
  • ABC
  • Aldi

Shopping near Kálvin Ter

We live close to the Danube, in the southern part of the 5th district close to Kálvin Ter. We wanted to find more ethnic type foods and some North American & British comfort foods. Our research complete, we decided we would visit the Asia Market, the Great Market Hall (“Nagyvásárcsarnok”) and the USA Candy Store. All 3 stores are no more then 15 minutes walking distance – important on a chilly January afternoon. There are also several metro, tram and bus options to get to this easy to reach spot downtown.

The Asia Market

Located right next door to the Great Market Hall is The Azsia Market . This Asian Market sells all things Asian with generous helping of Mexican and Indian food items. We bought our rice cooker from here along with some other kitchen items.  There is row after row of amazing foods, sauces, canned goods, baking goods, teas and more.

They have a massive spice, rice and pasta section made from a wide variety of plants, flours and grains. I would highly recommend this place for vegetarians, vegans or anyone who likes ethnic foods. You can visit their Facebook page to read about their latest offers.

Azsian Market

You can find the market at Vámház körút. 5, Budapest 1093. The operating hours are Monday through Friday 8:00 am to 6:30 pm, Saturday 8:00 am to 3 pm and its closed on Sunday.

Groceries purchased:

Black beans, baked beans, variety of curry spices, garlic, soya sauce, sweet and sour sauce, rice noodles, jasmine rice and herbal peach tea.

The Great Market Hall

The Great Market Hall, built in 1897, is the biggest and prettiest of all Budapest market halls.  Located beside the Liberty Bridge, the building is 10,000 square meters over 3 floors, covered by a steel structure. A distinctive architectural feature is the roof which was restored to have colourful tiling. And while being a tourist hotspot, it also serves as a functioning and practical place to buy your fresh groceries. You can also find other smaller market halls located in various locations in both Buda and Pest.

Great Market Hall

The interior of the Great Market Hall (still decorated from the Christmas holiday).

The stalls on the main floor sell fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, meat, dairy, baked good and booze. Downstairs you’ll find the more pungent fish vendors and butchers, along with an Aldi supermarket. Upstairs you’ll find an incredible amount of souvenir items, Hungarian handicrafts, prepared food stalls and restaurants.

Andrew and I enjoying the relative quiet of the main floor Market Hall on a rainy afternoon.

The Market is closed on Sunday, opens at 6am on other days, and closes at 5pm Monday, 6pm Tue-Fri and 3pm Saturday.

Groceries purchased:

Mandarin oranges, bananas, lemons, avocado, onions, walnuts, eggs, Brie cheese, milk and rye bread.

USA Candy – London Gourmet

Our final stop was USA Candy – London Gourmet.  This store stocks not just American candies, but British sweets too. This small shop is just across the main road from the market and on our way home.  Here you can find lots of satisfaction for your sweet tooth – but also some familiar and comforting foods.  They sell tea, condiments, cereals, marmalades, and more.

Andrew headed straight to the Cadbury section as soon as we walked in…

You will find the USA Candy shop at Királyi Pál u. 13b, Budapest, 1053. The operating hours are Monday through Friday 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, Saturday 10:00 am to 1 pm and its closed on Sunday.

Groceries purchased:

Flake chocolate bars, KitKat mocha bar, M&M Dark Chocolate Mints, Tetley’s Tea and Vegemite (personally a yuck for me).

Additional Grocery Stores

I’m sure there are many more amazing places for groceries that I have yet to discover.  In all fairness, we’ve just explored within a very small area near our home.  However, I would be remiss not to once again mention the British Pantry – a home delivery grocer that Andrew and I also use. I also spoke about the service in my post about the Best Facebook Groups for Expats.

Is there somewhere fabulous that I missed?  Do you have a favourite place I should know about?  Is there an awesome market I should check out? Let me know in the comments below!