Budapest is the perfect mix between Prague and Berlin. It showcases the medieval part of Eastern Europe through UNESCO preserving most of the city, but still has that hipster vibe like Berlin. Budapest was one of the cities on my list of places to visit when I was in Europe the last time, but I never had the means of making it out there.
Maggie took the reigns of booking our hostel in Budapest and did a fantastic job. We stayed at the Hive Party Hostel, and exactly as it sounds it was one big party. If you think you’re going to get any kind of sleep while staying here, you’re sadly mistaken. The hostel was situated in a way that the bar was smack dab in the middle of all the rooms. Even though we were staying there on a Monday and Tuesday night, the bar scene was still poppin’. As for the rooms, they were extremely clean and equipped with a bathroom inside the dorm which is very abnormal for hostels. The bunk beds are my only complaint solely because of the ladder being so unforgiving to my arthritis riden knees. I swear every time I ventured down the ladder I thought it would be my last.On our first night, we arrived to Budapest around 6 p.m. after our 17 hour train ride and as always, food was our main priority. We chose to go to a popular restaurant right around the corner from our hostel called Drum. Drum served all the typical Hungarian foods, which meant we had to try them all! Among our favorites were the chicken paprika, goulash (that’s a given), mushroom garlic soup and langos. Mom, if you’re reading this, don’t worry about my bank account, the currency was so in our favor that we only paid around $7 a person for our humongous meal.
After dinner we headed back to the hostel bar for a drink and then called it a night. We only had two full days in Budapest so we set aside the first full day to seeing as much of the city as we possibly could.
One thing I absolutely despise while I’m abroad is looking like a tourist. Even if we are lost, I refuse to stand there and pull out a map. This may could also be because I’m extremely stubborn but I’ll never admit it. In an attempt to not look like a dumb American wandering the streets of Budapest aimlessly, we joined a free walking tour that covered the entire city. These tour guides work solely off of tips meaning they are pretty fantastic at what they do.
Regi, our tour guide took us all over the city in a matter of three hours. We were able to hit all of the main sights I wanted to see. Regi was extremely informative during the tour. She taught us about the two different cities, Buda and Pest and how they are so different from one another. She said, “There are two types of people who live here, ones that live on the Buda side and ones that want to live on the Buda side.”
The Buda side is more historic, more expensive and home to the infamous “Buda hills.” The people who live here take great pride in being from the Buda side. The Pest side is more modern, has more things to do in terms of eating, nightlife and shopping and is completely flat. Apparently, those who live on the Buda side say the only good thing about the Pest side is the view from the Buda side.
In addition to hearing all the banter between the two sides of the city, Regi took us to St. Stephen’s Basilica which is the largest building in all of Hungary. There is a law that buildings cannot exceed 96 meters and St. Stephen’s hits exactly 96. It is technically free to enter the church but donations are expected usually around 200 Hungarian forint ($0.70). The church is absolutely beautiful and I definitely recommend visiting during one of their traditional masses.
The next stop on our tour was the Charles Bridge. This bridge was surprisingly different from other bridges in Europe. There are only walking paths on the outside of the bridge because cars actually drive on this bridge and it had no street vendors, very abnormal. From the bridge you can capture fantastic views of Parliament and St. Stephens.
After the Charles Bridge, we hiked up to Castle City and saw the beautiful view of Pest those Buda residents were talking about. The Castle isn’t actually a castle anymore, but it is still very beautiful to visit.
Adjacent to the old castle is the Matthias Church. The Matthias Church is one of the most unique churches I’ve seen all throughout Europe. The exterior of the church resembles a Hungarian porcelain roof that has a kind of Aztec pattern. The colors are so vibrant it’s hard to believe that this is the oldest church in Budapest.
One of my favorite stops on our tour was when we visited the Yellow Metro Line or the M1. If you find yourself standing in front of a yellow metro sign you’re in the presence of the Millennium Underground Railway. This metro station is preserved by UNESCO meaning it is the exact same metro station people used in the 1880s. The yellow line is decorated in only the colors red, green and white to represent the Hungarian flag. It’s an awesome experience to ride on one of the trains from this line. If you have a destination on the yellow line, definitely use the M1 as your transportation.
To end our tour, Regi told us all the must see spots from Budapest such as the central market, the ruin bars and of course, the turkish baths.
We ended our second day at the Széchenyi Gyógyfürdő Bath. It cost only $15 to spend as many hours as you wish in the turkish baths. Széchenyi is one of the largest bath complexes in Europe. It harbors an assortment of thermal baths (indoors and outdoors), ice baths, aroma therapy, saunas, massage services and much, much more.
We began our last day at the Central Market. The market has two levels, the first is mainly food and the second is full of all different kinds of souvenirs. The market has pretty much everything you could ever want. It was really cool for me to walk around and notice multiple different souvenirs that I received from my father growing up. He traveled a lot when we were kids and from every country he visited he would always bring us something home. It was a heartwarming experience seeing the toys I grew up with around every corner. I wish I could’ve brought some home for old times sake but my backpack simply wouldn’t allow it.
Hungarian food has definitely made it’s way to my top from this trip. Our first dinner at Drum was amazing and our second dinner at Frici Papa was even better. Regi recommended Frici Papa to us after our tour and I am so happy she did. Anything you order from this restaurant will be amazing! I had mushroom goulash with jasmine rice, yum town population me.
After doing more sightseeing and getting multiple cups of hot wine, we ended our trip to Budapest at the ever so famous, ruin bars. We chose to visit Szimpla Kert which just so happened to be right around the corner from our hostel. Szimpla was like nothing I have ever seen before. For those of you who are unfamiliar with what ruin bars are, they are ruined and abandoned buildings turned into bars. The furniture is made out of old antiques meaning you could have a bar seat that doubles as a bathtub or a refrigerator. Szimpla is hands down the most unique place I’ve ever been; it was the perfect note to end our wonderful trip to Budapest on.
After spending three days in Budapest, I’ve come to the conclusion that the city doesn’t get enough credit for just how great it is. I would put Budapest as my top city we’ve visited thus far on our trip. It was the perfect mix between modern and hipster. It had everything we wanted. The food was incredible, the nightlife was so unique and unmatched and the city itself is gorgeous! I cannot wait to return back to Budapest one day. I’ll be sure to book at least a week or two so I am able to cover just about everything this city has to offer.
Up next, we’re headed to my favorite gothic city, Prague.
Until next time Budapest, stay buda-ful.