Backpacking Europe: Budapest

Let me start this post by saying first that Budapest is the place I’ve been looking forward to the most of all of the amazing places we’re visiting and second that it did not disappoint!

So far, Budapest has been my favorite stop, I’m so sad we were only able to give it two days.

Our budget for this city was 26028 Hungarian forints (HUF) or $100, and we weighed in at 25875. Did we hit our budget goal? A resounding a happy yes! Budapest is an incredibly affordable city, with beers often costing the equivalent of $2, and delicious meals coming in at about $10, it’s truly an opportunity to try a little of everything.

The largest expense for my husband and I while visiting Budapest was definitely the thermal baths, which are lovely but are also relatively expensive compared to other activities available in the city. I believe we ended up spending about $40 on two tickets to the Szechenyi Thermal Baths.

My arrival in Budapest was after a full night of uncomfortable sleep, and an accidental almost trip to Zurich via wrong train and my husband and I were pretty beat. We walked from the beautiful train station with the incredible ceilings through Budapest to our hostel and enjoyed the architecture, something that was a clear tipoff that we were in a new city.

After checking in at Sziget City Hostel and getting some awesome lunch recommendations we went to a place called Frici Papa serving delicious Hungarian dishes at awesome prices. I went with a beef broth soup with dumplings and Erik chose the porkchops, but both of us shared the fried Camembert cheese with blueberries. Oh man that was good. This place is great to check out if you’re looking for authentic Hungarian food in a casual and comfortable setting. I think we probably spent the equivalent of $15 for two people and walked away feeling satisfied and happy.

We didn’t have much energy for much else that day but we did manage to rally enough for a trip to Cat Cafe in the early evening. The drinks are delicious and the cats are so sweet and friendly. We sat in a side room that didn’t have any cats in it and the waitress was kind enough to entice a few cats into wandering into that area to keep us company! It’s a nice place for a relaxing hour or two.

We finished our drinks in time to make it to family dinner at the hostel, a really cool option for at cost food offered by Sziget City Hostel that encourages the guests to talk to each other. Our first night one of the women working the front desk cooked some baller chicken pesto pasta.

After dinner, not wanting to miss out on this city and knowing we didn’t have a lot of time, we rallied once more and wandered a bit in the evening. I would highly recommend taking an evening walk in Budapest, all of the beautiful buildings are illuminated and look incredible in the dark.

Budapest also has some really great second hand shops, and here we continued the search for a leather jacket for Erik so he stays warm and toasty in London and Dublin. We stopped in one called Szputnyik, and wouldn’t you know it, I found a leather jacket. I felt like a bit of a jerk finding and purchasing my own leather jacket for staying toasty when my own poor cold husband has yet to find one, but hey I gotta stay warm too, and we definitely underestimated how chilly a damp rainy place could be when packing our warms. Now I have a jacket to keep me warm that will remind me of Budapest every time I wear it. Not a bad deal for $40.

In the end, Budapest wasn’t the place where Erik found a jacket, but the shops we found were pretty neat to look through anyways, and having a goal in mind when exploring a city can often encourage taking routes we never would have taken otherwise.

The morning of our full day in Budapest was dedicated to walking through the City Park to Széchenyi Thermal Baths and taking a dip, and it was the perfect temperature for it. Warm enough in September that we weren’t freezing when we were a bit damp but cool enough that the hot water still felt lovely.

In order to fully enjoy this particular outing, make sure to either bring your own towel or be prepared to shell out for towel rentals, and also give yourself a few hours to really feel the relaxation seep in. We didn’t have towels or enough time, and we ended up air drying and wishing the day was longer so we could have stuck around for a larger chunk of time.

We had ice-cream for lunch. We’re adults, we made a decision. Was it the right one? Yes.

Kürtöskalács , a.k.a. Chimney Cakes, are a Hungarian street food that traditionally appears at weddings, and when purchased on the street they are often served with ice cream. It was delicious, 10/10 would eat again. If you have a sweet tooth, be sure to check out this particular dessert!

After eating our healthy lunch we took in some of the sights along the Danube river, starting by crossing the Szechenyi Chain Bridge. The view from here was so beautiful, I could see down the river to the parliament building, and all the way up the hill to Buda castle.

Walking down the river a ways in order to see parliament from across the water was a suggestion from Erik. Somehow I had never picked up on photos of buildings like this always being from across the water but apparently it’s a thing? News to me, but props go to Erik for insisting we look at this side of the building because the Danube river in the foreground really makes the view.

Walking back towards the chain bridge, we made our way back to the funicular that provides a quick route up to Buda castle. It’s a short railway that connects Clark Ádám Square below to Buda Castle above, and it’s been open since 1870, minus a period of time after it was bombed during world war 2 and had to be rebuilt. It’s a popular tourist activity, however the line seems to move quickly so crowds are not prohibitive.

At 1100 HUF ($4.25) one way or 1700 HUF ($6.57) for a round trip, it’s a budget friendly way to experience a part of Budapest’s history and culture!

We chose to take the stairs thanks to the lovely weather, and my legs were ON FIRE by the time we got to the top. I am so out of shape, first order of business when we aren’t homeless travelers anymore is to figure out a fitness plan.

This shot is me being sad I couldn’t take this short cut because apparently my fear of tumbling down steep hills is prohibitive. It doesn’t look as bad in the photo but to me it was pretty scary.

Once at the top, all of those stairs seemed pretty worth it. Look at this architecture coupled with that amazing view of the beautiful blue sky!

Buda Castle itself has a long and complex history dating back to 1265 when its first iteration was built. Since then it’s gone through multiple incarnations, with the latest structure being built in the mid-1700’s. It’s history is speckled with multiple leaders, various sackings and burnings, and so many different inhabitants that soaking up the sights and text throughout Buda Castle could easily take all day! Sure, you could take a quick walk through and still appreciate the beauty, but the detail and history is what really brings this place to the next level.

We had a long full day of wandering around Budapest and had to come back to our hostel to have some quiet time before we tagged along for the ruin bar pub crawl later in the evening, and I again can’t praise Sziget City Hostel enough, it was such a great location, the price was really low, and family dinner every evening was a perfect way to meet new people. It was also pretty charmingly decorated, with old architecture peeking through the modern quirky paint and color. They also have events happening most if not all evenings, including the bar crawl we went on!

I accidentally took a bath in that ice cream I had for lunch but our bunks provided a perfect way to wash and dry my shirt and pants while resting before our evening pub crawl activities.

Ruin bars are bars that have taken up residence in old defunct buildings, and they’re definitely worth a visit. The prices are reasonable, everyone is really friendly, and the backstories are colorful. This photo above is from a ruin bar called Anker’t that took up residence in a defunct prison building!

Each bar has a different feel and aesthetic, some of them have restaurants, some of them have dance floors, some of them have a dozen different rooms to check out which a different party happening in each room like Fogas Haz, pictured above. The pub crawl was a great way to get the lay of the land, and I think they are common practice with many of the hostels in Budapest, so it’s a good idea to look at the schedule of events for whatever hostel you’re staying at!

If you’d rather find your own way, I found a resource that seems to have pretty great information on the ruin bars in Budapest, check it out at Ruinpubs.com.

Nutshell: I loved Budapest and I can’t wait to comeback and give it a full two weeks some day. Next stop: Vienna!

This isn’t goodbye, it’s see you later,

Michelle

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