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The Top Things to Eat, Gram, and Do in Budapest, Hungary
Paige Arminta-Watts escapes to Eastern Europe for 72 inspiring hours.

By Amber Kallor

Paige Arminta-Watts, who calls Salt Lake City home, has the rare ability to make even the most mundane situation—like mowing your lawn or grocery shopping—look jaw-droppingly glamorous on the ’gram. Make The Ritz-Carlton in Budapest—located just steps away from the River Danube and St. Stephen’s Basilica—her backdrop and the results are beyond breathtaking (scroll down for proof).

“Budapest is one place that should be on everyone’s bucket list,” she says. “I enjoyed just walking around the streets because there is something different and beautiful around every corner.” Stay at a five-star hotel nestled in the center of this happening and historic Hungarian city and you’ve got memories (and content!) for years to come.

Here, Arminta-Watts reveals her secrets for capturing photos free of tourists and the top spots to spend time in this enchanting Eastern European escape.

See: “The view from the The Ritz-Carlton is amazing,” says Arminta-Watts. “It’s a prime location, so we were right across the street from the Budapest Eye and we could walk to the Széchenyi Chain Bridge and the Danube. We even had a balcony that overlooked Fashion Street.” While it was tempting to enjoy the view of both Buda (which presides over two hills) and Pest (located across the river) solely from the hotel, Arminta-Watts hit the city’s cobblestone streets right after stepping off the plane. She says she likes to skip the typical online tour guides and experience a destination from a local’s perspective. “I think it’s just fun to adventure around the neighborhoods, meet people, and get their opinions on things to eat and do,” she says.

Snap: Capturing content is a great way to secure your memories—and beat jet lag. “We landed in the late afternoon and decided to shoot some pictures because, one, we needed to stay awake, and two, because the evening light is amazing,” she explains. The morning sunrise in Budapest is equally as spectacular as the sunset. “I like to shoot the most tourist-y spots in the morning, so I wake up at five and get to the location by 6:00 a.m., shoot, and walk around until 8:00 a.m.,” she says of her strategy. “Then, I go back to the hotel, have breakfast, and head out again.”

In addition to the must-see museums, majestic Buda Castle, and Neo-Gothic parliament building (which contains the Hungarian Crown Jewels), Arminta-Watts says that the Fisherman’s Bastion overlooking the river and Heroes’ Square punctuated by the Millennium Monument were two of her favorite places to take pics and enjoy the view before throngs of tourists took over. “We went to the Fisherman’s Bastion during sunrise and nobody was there. Watching the light shine through the architecture was stunning.” Save indoor activities, like Grand Market Hall, for the afternoon when the sun is harsh and looks better shining through windows.

Snack: After taking in the sights of the city during the early morning hours, Arminta-Watts refueled with brownie-flavored overnight oats topped with coconut and chocolate chips at The Ritz-Carlton. The hotel has three restaurants that serve everything from Hungarian-inspired cuisine (DSK Wine & Grill) to cocktails and afternoon tea under a striking stained-glass cupola (Kupola Lounge and Bar), but nothing beats breakfast on your personal balcony wrapped in a fluffy white robe.

After hours, Arminta-Watts suggests snagging a reservation at Zeya, a restaurant specializing in fine barbecue. While dinner in Budapest often kicked off well past her bedtime—“I think it’s a European thing, but everyone eats super late!” she says—it’s well worth giving up a few hours of beauty sleep for a night out on the town. Go for the atmosphere (which includes sexy lighting and photos of Sphynx cats) and stay for the meat platter. “It was so beyond good!” she says. “Obviously I’m into Instagram, so I’m an ambiance gal and this restaurant was really cool and appealing to the eye.” For dessert, head to Gelarto Rosa in Szent István Square for handmade ice cream in the heart of Budapest. Naturally, this flower-shaped treat is photo-friendly.

Spa: A traditional Turkish bathhouse was originally on Arminta-Watts agenda, but preferring a more private experience, she ended up at The Ritz-Carlton Spa where the indoor pool boasts a glass ceiling so you can always find your light. “You don’t feel like you’re stuck inside,” she says. While Budapest—a city that boasts well over 100 natural hot springs—has long been renowned as a wellness retreat around the world, The Royal Palace Ritual is a one-of-a-kind treatment that involves 130 minutes of bliss. Treat yourself to a full body exfoliation, hot stone massage, and the spa’s thermal suite.

 

Sleep: “At night, I didn’t even want to go out,” admits Arminta-Watts who says she often preferred to relax and order French fries from room service. “Any chance I get, I’m in a robe and slippers just chilling!” With rooms that include panoramic views of Fashion Street, Elizabeth Park, and Deák Ferenc Square, it’s hard to find an excuse to leave The Ritz-Carlton in Budapest. “The amenities, like the pool and gym, were awesome, but my favorite part was the genuinely nice staff,” says Arminta-Watts. “Anytime I asked questions or needed help nobody seemed bugged. I ordered room service a lot, so I literally became friends with one of the employees because I saw him so much!”