The past few weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind and the reason for my lack of posts lately is because I have officially started my new job, yay! Anyone who has started a new job will know that no matter how exciting it may be, it can also be very tiring, physically and mentally, hence why after work I’ve been getting home and crashing out instead of blogging.
Conveniently, our trip to Budapest was last weekend so it was the perfect place for me to recharge my batteries after a busy week of learning new systems and taking everything in.
I have a lot of countries and places on my ‘to visit’ list but Hungary has never been a place that’s near the top of that list. However, over the last few years lots of people have been singing Budapest’s praises so when my friend suggested a group of us went for his birthday I thought I’d see what all the fuss was about.
Here are some of my highlights and top tips for visiting Budapest:
I’ve never really explored central Europe before so I had no idea what to expect when I arrived in Budapest. As the taxi transfer arrived at the airport, we all piled in, cases in hand and set off towards the city. We landed about nine o’clock on a Saturday night so naturally we expected everywhere to be quite busy. Halfway to the apartment we realized we hadn’t seen one person walking around the streets and as we weaved our way through the quiet back streets of Budapest we began to feel more and more confused. Before we knew it we burst out into the middle of a busy interchange and much to our relief there was a lot more life! It turned out that our apartment was just off the interchange (which was known as the oktagon) so we were well and truly in the heart of everything.
The following morning, after eating lots of nachos the night before, we got up and was ready to explore the city. Just behind our apartment was a square lined with cute alfresco cafes, so we had breakfast in the sunshine and fueled up for the day. After breakfast we decided the best way to discover the city was to be full on tourists and jump on a big open top bus! In London you’d never be seen on a big open top bus but this was Budapest and for this weekend anything went! After being on the bus for only five minutes we arrived at Heroes Square and Vajdahunyad Castle. After taking lots of photos at the square and exploring the area we stumbled across a medieval festival with market stalls selling traditional Hungarian food and crafts.
As time was ticking away we jumped back on the bus and headed across town to the Liberty Statue. There are lots of great ways to look across the city of Budapest but this is probably one of the best- the view from the top of Gellért Hill is breathtaking. Like I said earlier, before coming to Budapest I didn’t really know a lot about this place at all, I didn’t even realise they had their own currency until two weeks before we went. However we did learn very quickly that Hungary hasn’t had a very good history. Erected in 1947, the liberty statue commemorates those who sacrificed their lives for the independence, freedom, and prosperity of Hungary.
After another load of photos we got back on the bus and saw the famous palace and parliament. Although Budapest may seem very run down, their attention to architecture is second to none. Influenced by a number of British landmarks such as Tower Bridge and the Houses of Parliament, the cities world famous landmarks are as beautiful up close as they are in all the photos.
It was our first proper evening in the city so we were determined to find the Ruin bars everyone spoke of. During our search we stumbled across a street named Gozsdu Court. At times Budapest can seem like a very quiet city- that’s probably because everyone is here! Lined with restaurants and fairylights, this courtyard felt like one of the most thriving places in Budapest. We decided to discover a Tapas restaurant called Vicky Barcelona and was pleasantly surprised. Over the past few years Budapest has been a well known stag and hen do location, this is probably because it’s so cheap. Between seven of us we ordered nearly twenty tapas plates, beers and a couple of jugs of sangria and for all of us it worked out about £100- you would spend that on tapas for two in London!
We then (after asking for directions many times) found the Ruin bars. To put it simply, I’ve never seen anything like it before in my life. Imagine a massive house party, full of people, in many different rooms. There a number of bars, pinball machines, shisha pipes, bikes hanging from the ceiling and if you could find an empty space on the wall you could even write all over it! If you picked this place up and dumped it right in the middle of Shoreditch it wouldn’t look out of place at all. Because everything was so cheap, we stocked up on the drinks, tried the local Hungarian shots and danced the night away.
The following morning we were all feeling a little fragile so we got up, got dressed and headed down to get some breakfast from one of the alfresco cafes behind us. Another thing Budapest is famous for is its thermal baths so we thought there was no better way to cure our hangovers than spend the afternoon there. After asking many of the locals, we decided to go to the Gellért baths- there are so many different baths to visit in the city so we asked a few people in the restaurants which one is best. Built in 1918, the Gellért baths are well known for their spectacular Art Nouveau interiors which include colourful mosaics, marble columns, stained glass windows and statues. With a number of different baths, all at different temperatures, it’s like sharing a really hot bath with all your friends- it did get rid of our hangovers though!
For our last night we headed back to the Gozsdu Court and ate like kings again. Our time in Budapest had nearly come to an end so we ventured out to a few of the local bars before heading back to the apartment to get ready for our early morning pick up back to the airport.
There is so much more I would like to see of Budapest and although it didn’t rain, I would love to see it in the sunshine more. It’s a truly beautiful city even if it does seem a bit rough around the edges.
Five tips for visiting Budapest
- If you are travelling in a group, AirBnb is a no brainer. We stayed in two amazing apartments that were clean, secure and fully kitted out. The hosts were extremely helpful and even left us bottle of wine as a welcome gift and sorted out our airport transfers for us.
- The money in Budapest can be very very confusing. At about 400 Hungarian Forint (HUF) to the pound it made splitting the bill at dinnertime an absolute nightmare. Instead we just started a massive whip and everytime we went somewhere to eat or drink we paid for it out of there. It’s a lot easier that way than messing around with 20,000 huf notes and change!
- If you’re a girl, don’t walk around on your own. Compared to places like Morocco and Egypt, you might say Budapest is really safe. However we did notice there were lots of random guys just lurking around so you would probably feel safer visiting with a companion.
- Taxi’s can be expensive. We didn’t use any taxis whilst in Budapest however we did go to get one on the way back from the baths and for what would have been a 30 minute walk it would have cost us the equivalent to £50 in a taxi! Everywhere is really close so its easy to walk most places.
- Be patient. Budapest is a very very laid back city, and if you spend most of your days racing around London like me it can be quite a frustrating place. It might have just been us but we found service in all the restaurants were slow and people behind the tills in shops were also slow, they like to faff so try to chill out and take it easy.
Have you been to Budapest before? What are your favourite places?