The Hungarian capital is really two cities – Buda and Pest – separated by the beautiful Danube river and linked by the first permanent bridge – The Szechenyi Chain Bride. Budapest only became one entity towards the end of the 19th century. They are two rather contrasting side with Buda being very calm and serene, full of elegant architecture such as Fisherman’s Bastion and the Castle. It’s on a hill looking down on a flat Pest, which is home to business, commerce, clubs and ruin bars. What I loved about Budapest is that it has something to offer everyone from history nerds to all night ravers.
4 Day Itinerary
We arrived to Budapest quite late on Friday 19th June 2015. After figuring out how to use the Hungarian trains, we finally arrived at our accommodation – Treestyle Hostel. It was only when we were walking towards the hostel that we realised that it was in the centre of the former Jewish ghetto and on top of 2 clubs. As always, Hannah and I looked up, trying hard not to laugh or cry until we step inside. When we walked in, the receptionist greeted us enthusiastically – and very drunk. Wondering what we’ve got ourselves into this time, we sucked it in and slept early – looking forward to see what the next day will offer.
Day 1: A stroll along the Danube
We had a 2pm walking tour booked, so we decided to spend the morning eating our breakfast and having a stroll along the River Danube. It was lovely just people watching by the river and soaking in the architecture. We then started the Budapest free walking tour. We met with the speaking guide in Pest and she took us around Pest, stopping in front of the main monuments and churches – learning their history. What I still remember about that tour is that I was surprised to learn that the Hungarian language is actually more similar to Asian languages than other European languages. This is because of the Huns invading Budapest centuries ago. The tour then took us over the famous Chain Bridge, the oldest bridge in the city – over to the Buda side. They told us about this history of the Castle and Parliament.
After dinner, we went back to the hostel – changed- and then made our way to yet another pub crawl. This pub crawl went to a number of Ruin Bars. Budapest is most famous for its Ruin Bars – which are basically pubs built in abandoned/ruined buildings. This originated from post WW2, where many of Budapest’s buildings in the Jewish neighbourhood were destroyed. Years later, people squatted into these buildings and basically turned them into secret underground pubs and bars. Each of their ruin bars have their own vibe. The three main ruin bars are Szimpla Kert, Instant and Fogas Haz. The final club of the pub crawl was ‘Instant’, the biggest and most famous of the ruin bars. It has three different dance floors, one playing techno, another indie and electro, and a third one play some weird kind of dance music I’ve never heard before. Its such a weird and rare experience – you will even enter a room where the furniture is on the ceiling… THE CEILING! Nevertheless, I found starting up a conversation in a ruin bar much easier than in a normal bar – everyone seems to have their guards down due to the relaxed environment. Brilliant night.
Day 2: Gilbert Hil and Szechenyi Thermal Bath
It was Fathers Day! Hannah and I decided to do something a little different for Fathers Day as we felt bad for missing it. We decided to climb up Gilbert Hill (again!) for a full view of Budapest and then held out a sign saying ‘Happy Fathers Day, Love from Budapest0’ before sending it to our dads. They loved it!
Our next stop was to Szechenyi Thermal Bath at City Park. A trip to Budapest would not be complete without a trip to the natural thermal baths, which is what Budapest is famous for. Even the Romans enjoyed the city’s thermal baths. Apparently the thermal springs which fill these baths have healing powers. Not to sure how much truth is in that – but what I do know is that they sure were fun and relaxing! Szechenyi is arguably the most popular one in Budapest and was built in 1913. Its beautiful neo-baroque bath complex has 11 medicinal pools and 8 swimming pools. It’s one of the largest spas in Europe. A ticket is around $15-$20 including a locker. Hannah and I, being the mature ladies we were, were far too excited by the whirl pool, repeatedly going round and round. We had to force ourselves to stop as we were getting some very strange looks by the lads sunbathing.
In the evening, we found ourselves back in Instant, dancing away. We met some really funny Scottish guys who’s strangely felt the need to ‘protect us’ from the other guys in the club. Hannah and I just found the whole night hilarious and fun. We also bumped into some people we met in Prague which was rather random.
Day 3 – Day trip to Bratislava.
Blog post can be found here
Day 4: Market Hall
On the last, we only had a few hours in the morning before we had to get back on the train to the next country. We decided to do some souvenir shopping in the Market Hall on the Pest side of the river. We were surprised with how huge it is – it is inside an enormous building with vaulted ceilings and two floors of food! The bottom floor mainly had stands selling food and the top floor had stands selling traditional hot meals and souvenirs. We grabbed some paprika and a few other souvenirs and nibbles. By this point of our interrailing trip – our rucksack was getting very full, and so I would love to have bought more – just didn’t have the space for it. I defientely recommend checking this place out when visiting Budapest – but make sure you come with an empty stomach!
- Budapest, much like many Eastern cities has a lot of great (And very cheap) hostels – costing $9-$22 a night for a shared dorm room. I’ve always used Hostel World to book our hostels and never had any issues.
- Here are a few of the best-rated hostels:
Other Random Practical Travel Tips:
- Take a ride on Tram #2 for amazing views along the Danube and a number of other Budapest’s major sights.
- Make sure you check out the river a night to get beautiful views of the city lights.
- Be weary of Keleti Train Station – its rather sketchy and a popular spot for pickpockets and crooked taxi driver. I don’t recommend hanging around there any longer than needed. Funnily enough, that was where our hostel was located but was only given this advice by a local – after I came back.