One of the most underrated cities of the Eastern Bloc, where people speak a language you think you’d never understand, shows its beauty not only in the exquisite architecture and local food but also in buzzing night-life and romantic views.
Being overwhelmed with uni and deadlines, all I could think of was where and when I could escape the busy and money driven London, city where everyone is always in a rush and where having free time is a long forgotten thing.
Because I was going home, to my lovely Bratislava to visit my family and friends, I wanted to stay in a close distance to home, but still be able to explore something new. Budapest, being only 2-hour drive from Bratislava and a place I’ve never been to seemed like a great idea and therefore we chose this city to be our next “romantic” city break.
Whether you are in a similar position or you are just simply looking for a cheap getaway, Budapest should definitely be on your list! A city easy to explore in 3 days, it’s a paradise for tourists looking for both fun and relax.
We took a train from Bratislava on Thursday evening and came back on Sunday evening. The ticket cost me 17,50 euro, but with ISIC student card the ticket is half price- 8,50 euro.(Unfortunately UK and international student cards are not accepted on Slovak and Hungarian trains)
It’s also easy to get there with a car, but parking in the city can often be impossible (if your hotel/Airbnb doesn’t include parking)
If you’re looking for a flight, again best site to search for flights is skyscanner.com and Ryanair. If you book one month in advance, the tickets will most likely not cost you more than 60 pounds/euro and often you can find discounted flights even few days before(weekends are more expensive of course).
Flying to Prague, Vienna or Bratislava is also an option, as you can take a train from there for very cheap.
Hungarian- couldn’t understand anything (even though a lot of their words are similar to Slovak) and it sounds and looks as if you smashed your head on the keybord. Most of the people working in customer services speak English and if not, at least they understand it so you shouldn’t have a problem. However, I advise you to take a map with you just in case, because finding a wifi in the city can be a problem (unless you’re sitting down in a restaurant or a pub).
Hungarian forints. Money exchanges are often a scam, so it’s better to withdraw a bigger amount of money in the ATM ( just like anywhere else in Europe I think)
One euro is around 300 forints, but definitely check the rate before your trip to avoid misunderstandings.
Seeing the price we paid for some things for example 24,000 forints was a bit funny sometimes and we felt like millionaires.
In February it was around 13 degrees, so the same as in Bratislava, Prague or Vienna. Less rainy than in London and mostly sunny. There was a lot of outside places and markets that were not opened during our stay, so it would be worth coming back in summer.
At first, we bought a coupon through zlavadna.sk to stay in a new and modern hotel with SPA and breakfast called Bo33. However, we took too much time on deciding on an exact date of our stay, and when we finally decided the hotel was fully booked. Sadly, all the other hotels on the website were booked for that weekend too, so we decided to check out Airbnb. The hotel Bo33 however, looked amazing and I’d love to visit it one day.
With Airbnb, I easily found a small studio apartment in the city center, just one stop from the main train station Keleti.
The host Andrea was great and gave us a list full of restaurants and bars to check out. I highly recommend her design studio if you’re a couple traveling to Budapest. However, Andrea has another apartment right next to this one, which is a bit different and can accommodate up to 4 people.
The apartment was great, clean and very close to the city center!
Transport in the city
Budapest has metro, buses, trolley buses and trams so it’s very easy to get everywhere you want. Since we lived so close to the center, we mostly walked everywhere or took the tube.
10 tickets for public transports costs less 10 euro and you can use it every type of transport.
I wouldn’t try traveling without a ticket because there are ticket inspectors at every station checking if you have one.
Food & Drinks
Hungarian food is definitely one of a kind and as a person who lives in a country next to Hungary, I already know what most of the food tastes like.
Some typical food is goulash soup- with meat and potatoes, chicken paprikash- chicken in paprika sauce, sausages, cabbage with meat and dumplings, various salami and poppy seed rolls- similar to german strudel.
However, Budapest, as every capital city has a big range of restaurants with various cuisines.
We’ve been to a very nice dinner in an Italian restaurant near the Bazilika, called Akademia Italia. The food and drinks were amazing and the prices weren’t high either, considering the touristic location. You could also buy Italian groceries in the shop downstairs.
Parties & night-life
In the firs time in the history of trips, me and my boyfriend haven’t been to a party. Therefore I call this rather a romantic weekend.
Budapest has a very busy nightlife with many clubs located both in the center and outside in more urban areas. I advise you to check out TripAdvisor before committing to buying tickets. You can definitely find every type of club in Budapest with music genres ranging from pop music to dark drum and bass and techno.
Gozsdu Udvar compromises of buildings and their courtyards, which all together create a street full of bars, pubs and restaurants. It’s a place loved by tourists as well as locals and it’s always very busy. If you’re looking for a fun night, you should definitely come here for a couple of drinks and see where the night will take you.
Spiler restaurant and bar is one of the places we’ve been to and where we tried many cocktails for as cheap as 5 euro. Amazing drinks and food and a very nice atmosphere- definitely worth to check out. They also have Pimms for all the real Brits, probably because so many of them come to Budapest to get drunk and party for cheap.(I stayed true to Bellini and My Tie)
Vicky Barcelona– bar with amazing tapas, cocktails and authentic Spanish music
Blue Bird– a karaoke bar, which turns into an amazing breakfast and brunch destination in the morning. We’ve tried yummy eggs benedict and BBQ pulled pork bagel, with fresh green ice tea and great coffee! Definitely a must go place, whether you’re hungover or just lazy to cook in the morning.
Some other bars to check out:
For Sale Pub, Innio, Kadaraka wine bar, Vintage garden restaurant
Since we didn’t know any locals in Budapest, I’m only bringing you (this time) a list of the top touristic places you should see. When I’ll come back one day, I’ll definitely post an update!
St. Stephen’s Basilica
Glorious neoclassical building located in the city center, near cute restaurants, bars and pubs.You can check it out from the inside for free 🙂 This is the only picture of the Bazilika I have since we were tired after all day of walking and couldn’t be bothered to come closer.
The parliament is one of the Europe’s oldest legislative buildings and eminent landmark of Budapest.It lies in Lajos Kossuth Square on the bank of the Danube. It’s one of the first things you notice when walking alongside the river and in the night it’s lit up with lights, making it look even more glorious. It’s currently the largest building in Hungary and still the tallest building in Budapest.
The bridge that connects the two sides of Budapest, Buda and Pest, is also lit with lights at night. It was the first permanent bridge across the river Danube in Hungary and was opened in 1849.
(looking like a proper tourist)
Buda castle, from its name, suggest that it’s the historical castle and palace complex and it lays on the southern tip of Castle Hill. It was completed in 1265 and it used to be a residence of the Hungarian kings in Budapest.
The area around the castle is called Castle District, which is famous for its Medieval, Baroque, and 19th-century houses, churches, and public buildings such as Mathias Church. Today you can find there many restaurants and cafés for tourists as well as public houses.
The castle is a part of the Budapest World Heritage Site, which was declared in 1987.
You can take a cable car up to the Castle hill for 4 euro or walk your way up the stairs and enjoy the beautiful view of the city.
The Citadella is the fortification located upon the top of Gellert Hill. Citadella is the Hungarian word for citadel which means a kind of fortress. The place occupies a place which held strategic important in Budapest’s military history and was built in 1859.
It is now a frequently visited tourist site, from which you can enjoy a great view on the whole city of Budapest.
The city center is full of bars, restaurants, cute cafés and shops and walks both in the city and along the river are much encouraged, as Budapest is lit with lights at night, making it look more magical than ever.
As my Hungarian friend said to me:” a place for kids”. However, I found it pretty amazing, probably because of the fact that I love animals of every kind.
The tropicarium is located a bit further from the city center, but it’s easy to reach by bus (30-minute bus ride)
The ticket costs 8 euro and you can explore animals such reptiles, fish, sharks, monkies, birds, stingrays and crocodiles. Birds are not kept in cages but fly around the rooms and in the tropical forest, which makes the experience even more lively and authentic. A lot of the animals in the tropicarium I saw for the first time, and you wouldn’t find them in many ZOOs.
My favourite part was the pool with sting- rays where you can pet them as they swim around. I think some of them really enjoyed human touch, like the little dude on my picture.
The tropicarium is famous for its tunnel, in which you can stand and watch sharks and other fishes swim around you.
A place for kids, but it kept me entertained for at least two hours and I totally loved it! And no, we were not the only adults there.
Budapest carries a nickname, “a city of baths” thanks to more than 125 thermal springs located underneath the ground. A lot of the springs were first found in Roman times and the ancient buildings sit above them. Many of the baths are more than a century old and have a glorious architecture- such as Szechenyi baths (baroque). The water in those baths is used to heal various medical problems, such as skin problems and arthrosis.
Most of these baths include inside and outside pools with different temperatures, saunas, massages and relax rooms and are a favourite attraction for tourists.
Szechenyi baths are the biggest in the whole Europe and are the most visited. It was a great fun for us and even though the service was a bit communist and changing rooms looked like a hospital, we really enjoyed it. All day ticket was 17 euro, but they also offer a 2- hour ticket starting after 5 pm for cheaper price. If you feel like soaking in hot water and trying different saunas, this is the perfect location for your pampering. Szechenyi baths also offer a beer SPA, in which you can bathe in a pool full of beer and drink unlimited beer for an hour (great for British tourists).
The Császár, Rudas and Király baths are also not be missed and are among the oldest in the city.
Overall price and impression
I really liked Budapest and would like to definitely come back again sometime, probably in summer. Despite the sad looks of some places, such as tube stations and big concentration of homeless people sleeping on these stations and underpasses, it’s a very nice city with amazing architecture and buzzing night-life.
Airbnb for 3 nights- 65 euro per person, food and drinks around 65 euro per person( we stayed in, watching movies and eating popcorn two of the three nights), cable car, baths and tropicarium – 29 euro per person.
Travel- 17,50 per adult ticket, 8,50 per a student version
Altogether around 180 euro per person for a 3-day trip. Great and cheap getaway for a student like me and you! 🙂 So what are you waiting for? The weather is only getting better and that leaves you with no excuses on why you shouldn’t already be on your way to Budapest!
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You can look forward to another travel post about Netherlands and more precisely Amsterdam, Haag and Groningen coming out in April!