On September 1st 2015, I travelled to Budapest with my two best friends, Cloé and Lyd. Budapest was one of the first places that I’d ever travelled to completely without an ‘adult’, and due to my anxiety I was a little apprehensive. I hadn’t been on a flight for two years, when I’d flown to Mexico with my family and that was a traumatic experience. The turbulence on the outbound descent was classed as ‘severe,’ dropping about fifty feet in the air amidst a brewing storm and causing the whole cabin on the newly-created ‘Dreamliner’ plane to scream and cry for their lives. Grown men were in tears and clutching onto their partners and I honestly thought I was going to die. Obviously, we were fine. Turbulence is never anything to fear on a plane, it’s just very, very scary. However, that was the experience I had in mind whilst strapping in to my ridiculously tiny airplane seat (wtf, Wizz airlines) and my heart was pumping despite it only having a short 3-hour duration. The flight aside, the first day into our mini-European break and I was giddy with freedom and wonder. I literally skipped down the streets of Budapest. We stayed for four nights and it certainly wasn’t enough time to explore it to its full potential. Due to the sheer amount to write about this city, I’ll separate this post into two parts- Buda and Pest (though in reverse order, just to be a pain). Before 1873 these used to be two separate cities, one each side of the river Danube. They’re both very different in character but equally as wonderful.
We stayed at the Paprika Hostel in Jokai Ter, just off of Andrassy Avenue I would recommend this hostel: it has an amazing location, slap-bang in the middle of the main road that stretches (roughly) from the river Danube all the way to the magnificent Heroes’ Square (located next to the City Park and Szechenyi Thermal Baths). However, there are so many other amazing places to stay in Budapest.
Setting out from our hostel on the first morning, I was amazed by the immediate beauty of the place: tall trees lined the pavements, architecture was eclectic and adorable bright yellow trams crept the wide main roads. It was all so different.
The shops down Andrassy Avenue -from which you accessed most of the tourist hotspots- were mainly designer boutiques with a couple of restaurants. These were of a fairly quaint nature: adorned with fairy-lights and bright colour palettes- cute and enticing. The vegetarian options were fairly limited especially in more traditional Hungarian eateries. One of their specialities is ‘goulash’ a hearty and spicy soup made from beef and potatoes. My meat-eater friend Lyd tried some. Us veggies, we were generally reduced to one option, which although disappointing is better than nothing (ahem, looking at you Nice). Pizzerias and the like, however, gave us plenty of veggie pasta dishes and pizzas to choose from. One of the major plus sides to Budapest is the prices- we were impressed with how cheap everything was, especially in the supermarkets. We were able to get a bottle of wine for the equivalent of £1 and the bread rolls in one place were 25 HUF, which is the same as less than a penny. So, there’s pretty much free lunch up for grabs if you’re on a stringent budget (and don’t mind a diet solely consisting of bread).
Places to go in Budapest:
Kiosk Beanbag Garden
On our first day, we spent most of the daylight hours wandering around and soaking up the atmosphere. We walked through Pest towards the river Danube to take a look at the spectacular bridges. As you approach Chain Bridge, some steps to the right lead you down to the river bank, where you can immediately find an adorable grassy beanbag garden overlooking the water. I’m really glad we took this detour rather than going straight across the bridge. We sat down for a drink and ended up staying more than a couple of hours drinking in the atmosphere and the September sunshine. This is such a outside cute little bar to check out during summer with some lovely views of the river and the opposite banks of Buda.
Heroes Square and City Park
A short walk down Andrassy Avenue in the opposite direction from the river Danube and you’ll find Heroes Square, a large square where the magnificent Millennium Monument lies. The square is framed by the beautiful Museum of Fine art, which is unfortunately closed for renovation until 2018. Straight past the square lies the City park. We only walked through the park to get to and from the baths but I wish we’d spent more time there in hindsight. It was a really beautiful grassy area with a lake, quaint gothic church, and statues scattered around the grounds. The restaurants in the park are quite expensive but we found one nearby, across the road from the square that was delicious and didn’t break our budgets.
Szechenyi Thermal Baths
We couldn’t come to Budapest and not try out the thermal baths. We opted to go for Szecheyni Baths because I’d seen pictures of friends there over summer and was immediately in love with the aesthetic of the place. We ordered our tickets online before we arrived and added the extra of a locker so we didn’t have to worry about our stuff during the day. It wasn’t too expensive for a day out, except that Cloé had to fork out for a swimming costume in the lobby (because she’s stupid and forgot to bring one). We spent a whole day at the baths, it was a nice day so we sunbathed outside for some of the time. Inside the building, you can find a massive collection of smaller baths each with different properties of minerals and varying temperatures. Unfortunately, we couldn’t understand what the benefits of each one was as the signs were all in Hungarian but we definitely had fun jumping in and out of all the pools. We spent some time hopping in between the boiling saunas and the ice cold pools due to its apparent benefits to your skin and metabolism (and also just for the thrill of it).
Parliament is undeniably the most beautiful building in Budapest. I’d heard that it was worth a visit but on arrival I was honestly stunned by its grandeur. It’s gothic, looming and the design is magnificently intricate, you could stare at it for hours. The grounds were immaculate and sadly you were forbidden from going near the building or the garden- I was whistled at by a guard for perching on the ledge (scary).
The ruin bars of Budapest are fantastically innovative and the ones that we visited were all creatively decorated. Szimpla Kert is the most famous of the ruin bars and for good reason. Not only was it such a beautiful place but the atmosphere was relaxing and friendly. Although it was busy, it still wasn’t impossible to find a place to sit and we ended up having some lovely conversations with the people around us.
Not so good in Budapest:
We were recommended this club by some people staying in our hostel as it was only a 5 minute walk away. Although the decor of the place is really unique, with statues of flying pigs attached to the ceiling and some really vibrant wall art, I didn’t enjoy myself either time that I visited, mainly due how busy it was.We weren’t allowed in several of the rooms because they were too packed and it was impossible to get a drink at the bar within half an hour. When we finally found a room that we were allowed to enter, we were amused by how awful the music was -noughties cheesy pop hits that make you cringe- but didn’t let that stop us dancing. What did bring down the mood was the amount of extremely touchy men that surrounded us like locusts. Some of them literally tried to drag us away from behind. It was quite unnerving how confident they were and unlike anything I’ve seen before. Obviously this isn’t really a fault of the club but it overall the experience wasn’t great.
Look out for my second post on Budapest where I focus on Buda, on the West side of the Danube river.
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Much love <3