Budapest – The capital of Hungary and the main political, industrial, commercial and transport center of the country.
The most populated city in Hungary and one of the largest cities in the European Union, with a population of over 1.7 million inhabitants. The history of Budapest began when an early Celtic settlement transformed into the Roman town of Aquincum. Buda and Pest developed as separate cities, until in the 19th century Pest took the initiative. In 1872 they merged into one city. The Danube, known as Corridor 7, runs through Budapest, once connecting the two separate cities. Also, Buda and Pest are connected with nine bridges. The most beautiful is the Chain Bridge, built between 1839 and 1849.
For many “the Queen of Danube” shines its beauty not only through nine bridges and impressive buildings but also through many culinary specialties such as goulash, fish stew or famous Poppy seed strudel, Gerbeaud cake, marzipan, Palinka snaps and Tokaji wine. I don’t want to disappoint you but I didn’t have the chance to try all of above-mentioned delights gluten-free but nonetheless Budapest represents gluten-free fairytale for every Celiac.
Since I remember I have always filled my suitcases with more food than clothes.
This time it was no different. I loaded myself with gluten-free bread and pastry, homemade dry meet products and with a detailed map of safe gluten-free restaurants and bakeries. By “safe” I mean Hungarian Celiac Association provided me with a list of restaurants they regularly check. I have usually searched for restaurants by myself but in many cases these places knew nothing what I was talking about. This time it was different.
I travelled to Hungary with my boyfriend who doesn’t have to eat gluten-free but he strictly adheres the diet because of me. Moreover (and for me the same important) he proactively searched for all these places with the same enthusiasm as he searched for museums and other sighseeing points.
We travelled with a bus and took homemade rolls and fruits onboard with us. This was enough for eight-hour long drive. We arrived in Budapest in the evening and since we booked an apartment on Andrasi Boulevard (which is nearby to almost all must-do landmarks) we took a walk to Vaci Street with Hard Rock Café featuring gluten-free menu.
We didn’t wait long to get our table and to my big surprise I actually got a gluten-free menu. Although the list of dishes is not too long, one can choose among gluten-free hamburger, steak, different salads, nachos, chicken wings and few desserts such as ice-cream and brownies.
We ordered two smoked ribs with fries and I strongly believe I missed nothing not trying local specialties such as goulash because these ribs were one of the best meals in my life. Furthermore, I need to admit portions are big enough for two so we split it next time we came.
“This was the first time in my life I bought bread in a bakery.”
Next morning we decided to visit gluten-free bakery Free which was located couple of meters away from our apartment. I’m never too sure when I’m in a bakery but the list I had with me this time gave me confidence. Moreover, this was the first time in my life I bought bread in a bakery. For a second I thought I’m in a parallel life eating hot and soft bread made of dark flour just for me, just like that.
Grocery stores around Budapest are well equipped with gluten-free dried meat products and cheeses so, together with perfectly baked bread, we made ourselves delicious breakfast with ham & eggs, cheese and yogurt.
Besides gluten-free restaurant map we had well-marked map of metro with us although we haven’t used it much considering we mostly walked around Buda and Pest. If you love to walk, this would be a recommendation as walking is a great way to get to know the city.
We came to Budapest in time of Christmas markets which are not the best place for a Celiac person – looking from eating perspective. One can smell goulash, barbeque, strudels as well as other desserts all over city squares. Everything looks delicious but for us, only mulled wine, snaps in combination with fruits and nuts were available (although they go perfectly with sandwiches and snacks, we made for us before well planned, long walk). If you are a Celiac person you always need to be well-equipped with gluten-free products nevertheless how good your gluten-free map is. As I said above, grocery stores in Budapest offer a lot of gluten-free products so you can always buy some snacks to fit in your bag.
Next day we decided to stop-by in a restaurant Drop where only gluten-free food is served. Thus, the menu here was longer of those restaurants where combined food is served.
Here, in this restaurant you can try real Hungarian gluten-free goulash but considering I know how to make one at home, we ordered steak tartare and gluten-free burger (these two are rare to find and not to worry about being safe). Besides these, you are able to order different salads, pastas, soups, barbeque as well as different sour or sweet house specialties.
Now I really felt as being in a parallel universe. Budapest gave me hope that all Celiac people will someday eat without having to worry or having to think what to cook at home and when to knead the bread. I can’t say I was completely relaxed though. I even can’t say I’ll be able to relax in the future as I got used to my own, my mother’s or sister’s cooking but I just wanted to know what is the feeling when you don’t have to worry about eating (in terms of where and how). Budapest is the place where Celiac person can relax because Hungary has very responsible and devoted Celiac Association.
Although you can drink coffee and other hot drinks on every corner it’s a real experience to drink coffee while exploring the city. You can try gluten-free bars while sipping coffee from Costa Coffee. They make bars with chocolate, fruit or almonds – I still can’t decide which one was better.
If you decide to walk around the city (as we did) you will run into more gluten-free bakeries or healthy food stores in which only gluten-free products are sold. Besides bread, you can also buy sandwiches in this lovely Tibidabo bakery. You can find it in Rakoczi street near city centre, so it’ll be on your way wether you go toward Elisabeth Bridge or Vajdahundyad Castle.
We decided to stop searching for gluten-free restaurants with traditional dishes because there were restarunts on our list where you can try pizza, burger etc (which is really rare). This took us to Etna Restaurant, checked by Celiac Association, to try their pizza. Restaurant is located on Baross square. Remember this, on the SQUARE. We spent two hours searching for it although it was located just couple of kilometers away from our apartment because navigation took us to Baross Street. Hunger, tiredness and time were bigger than pizza expedition so we decided to stop at McDonald’s, located in the city centre. In cooperation with well known gluten-free company Schär , McDonald’s offers gluten-free burgers. Although I can’t say these burgers are very healthy, they are really tasty indeed.
For breakfast you can always have dried-meat products, cheese and vegetables but if this is not the breakfast you prefer, DM offers gluten-free mueslis which you can combine with fruit and yogurt to fulfil the batteries until lunch. The important part of the trip is that you book the apartment with kitchen so you can prepare yourself a decent meal. If the kitchen looks suspicious you can disinfect it easily with 70% alcohol and lower the risk of contamination.
If you travel with partner who is also on a gluten-free diet you can surprise her or him if you serve gluten-free brownie with a cup of morning coffee. As I mentioned, there was a bakery Free near our apartment which, besides bread, sells sour and sweet products.
Even though we rarely eat sweets, chocolate brownie and ice-cream are my favorites. Ice-cream in Hard Rock Caffe is big as the lunch-dish for two persons, with chocolate dressing, whipped cream, nuts and hazelnuts. My boyfriend got his first chance to take me out for an ice-cream so he was even more enthusiastic than I was.
I can’t say all of this would be a fairytale if I haven’t had a co-traveler who was more enthusiastic about some things more than I was. Until now, there was always my family who offered unmeasurable love and support on my life’s journey. Mom and dad always tried that gluten-free diet wouldn’t fell so hard on me and my sister. Now, when I’m increasing family member count, I can’t describe how happy I am that I found someone who understands me completely and wants to follow my way of living (in my case, gluten-free way of living). For the end, I just need to say that no map in this world will help if you don’t have someone with you who will always follow you to desired destination.