Much like my last blog post about my summer trip I have decided to split this post up into a section which focuses on my experience of Budapest and then some more general tips about travelling there. I should make it clear here that my boyfriend and I were unfortunately only in Budapest for one and a half days and so my guide is for those who want to see the key sites and only have a limited time to spend in Budapest.
Our Time in Budapest:
We arrived in Budapest from Prague having travelled by aeroplane. At the airport my boyfriend and I purchased two short journey public transport tickets each for the mere cost of £1.50 at the current exchange rate. We then took the bus to the nearest metro station and then the metro to the station closest to our hostel. (For more information on this see the second part of my post on practicalities).
Having checked into our hostel, changed into our swimwear and picked up some extra towels we headed to the Széchenyi Baths in the City Park. The baths were very easy to get to on the metro with a stop right outside them if you take the M1 to Széchenyi Fürdo. However, getting into the baths themselves proved rather more complicated. We had purchased an online ticket because we had read how busy the baths get and this was the best chance of us being able to get in. However, we soon found out that the entrance by the metro station was not the main entrance and you cannot enter with a pre-purchased ticket here. To enter you had to walk round the corner and enter at the main reception and pick up tickets from a small office to the left of the main purchasing area. After this we used our tickets to get a locker and change. Many of the lockers did not lock and were broken. I found out that you had to find someone who worked there to lock your locker and take the tag from inside the locker so that they would then unlock it for you later. It was probably not the safest locker in the world as most people did not have tags and were just able to get the locker unlocked regardless. After this challenge I headed up to the baths to meet my boyfriend who had changed in the male locker room and faced similar difficulties. Despite the fuss of getting into the baths once we were in the pools it was actually fairly relaxing. We stayed in the outside area reserving a lounger with a towel and our flip-flops. The best thing about the baths is that although the ticket was expensive you can stay as long as you want so it actually is better value than you initially think.
Having spent the afternoon at the Baths we headed back to the hostel and out to the ruin bars. We stopped at a Thai restaurant chain over the road first which is popular with those heading out to clubs. The food was quick, yummy, reasonably priced and made a change from the very similar Central European dishes we had been eating. After this we headed into the bars. These bars were within walking distance from our hostel and also the central metro station in Pest. I would strongly recommend going to them, they were such fun. The decor is like an exploded antiques shop inside and there are lots of different rooms for you to explore. Spirits were fairly expensive to drink in comparisons to local wine and beer which cost us £1 a drink!
With only one day left in Budapest and having not seen the sights of the Buda and Pest we decided to head out on a walking tour the next morning. We met by the statue opposite the church behind V Deák Ferenc tér station at 10.30 am. The tour was great and I could not recommend it more. Our guide Remi was a local student whose English was amazing and she was incredibly friendly. The tour took us round the key sites in both Buda and Pest. We visited, Matthais Church, statues of famous Hungarians, walked across the chain bridge to Buda where we visited the Royal Palace, St. Stephen’s Basilican and finished at the Fisherman’s Bastion. I recommend that you book a place on the tour if you are interested. You can book online on at FREE BUDAPEST TOURS. They also offer a tour in Spanish for those who would prefer this.
Since the tour ended at the Fisherman’s Bastion we decided to buy tickets to walk along the top and look over the city. This is a great place to take pictures and admire the view but there is little else to do. If you do not want to take pictures you may be better off purchasing a ticket to the Basilica adjacent to the Bastion. This area is also full of tourist shops and restaurants where you can buy something to eat. We opted to eat sandwiched we had prepared in the hostel in the quaint park opposite the Basilica.
After lunch we headed back down the hill and headed towards the parliament building where we had tickets for a guided tour. I strongly urge that you buy tickets for the tours as they sell out and you cannot visit the parliament without paying for a guided tour in the appropriate language. It truly was impressive and was worth visiting. Having visited other Parliaments this was definitely one of the most ornate and interesting I have seen. The tour lasted just under an hour and afterwards you can explore the museum about its construction. Alternatively you can just admire it from the outside grounds if you do not want to pay for a ticket. However, as an EU citizen you will get a substantially reduced price and a further discount if you are a student so it is not as expensive as you may think. It cost us around £6 each.
The surrounding area of the Parliament is full of interesting monuments and squares which we explored after this. We visited the statue of Imre Nagy and the only remaining Soviet memorial left in the city as well as the monument to the victims of the Holocaust. All of which were within walking distance of each other. After this we strolled back to the Matthais church and went inside. Inside it is very peaceful and ornate. You can pay a small donation to see the relics kept in the church if you so wish as well. Then we headed to the main shopping area to visit the largest tourist shop and explore further. In a local supermarket we tried Túro Rudi, sweetened cream cheese dipped in chocolate, an interesting favourite snack in Hungary.
For dinner we headed to a slightly more expensive and upmarket restaurant in Pest, Menza. However, the prices were still extremely reasonable. The restaurant is very popular and I would recommend booking as we had the night before. The food is traditional Hungarian food and also offers some other Central European dishes. Two courses come to about £6 per person which is very reasonable. I tried the egg noodles which were pretty nice and made a change from cheese which is often the only vegetarian option available in restaurants.
After dinner we headed to a ruin bar for a last drink in Budapest and back to the hostel as our flight to Bucharest was leaving the next morning at 6 am.
To get to the airport for the next part of our trip we took a taxi. The taxis in Hungary can overcharge you dearly so be careful! We booked ours through the hostel to avoid being scammed by a passing taxi and made sure that they had the appropriate fares displayed as set by the government. The trip by taxi to the airport was far more expensive than by public transport but was far quicker and at 4am in the morning is your only choice. It is worth considering this when you book your flights. However having said this it still only cost us about £25 so was not actually horrifically expensive just a lot more than we had paid before!
When we arrived at the airport we were sad to be leaving such a great city and disappointed we did not have more time to spend there. However, it was nice to discover that we had a lot of money left over because Budapest is such a cheap city!
- Budpest is a pretty safe city you just need to be careful of the usual pickpocketing issues of all major European cities. As already mentioned you should be careful with Taxis so you are not overcharged but so long as you are in a government approved taxi displaying the fares on the outside and book through your hotels you should not have a problem.
- We walked around Budapest mainly as it is not a particularly large city. However, there is an extensive transport system which is quick and easy to use. You can buy single trip tickets, 10 journey tickets or a seven day pass depending on your needs. Just don’t forget to validate you ticket in the stamping machines to avoid being fined!
- To get to and from the airport you can use a taxi but the cheapest means of transport is to take Bus 200E to Kobánya- Kispest metro station and then the M3 metro line to Deál tér which is the main metro station where you can interchange to the appropriate line you need. All you need for this is two single trip journeys, one for the bus and one for the metro. It took less than an hour and cost us barely anything.
- Euros are accepted in some places in Budapest but you will pay far more in Euros than you would do if you pay in Forint. I would recommend exchanging Pounds for Forint before you leave on your trip.
- As a vegetarian I found it pretty easy to eat in Budapest. There are plenty of Asian restaurants offering vegetarian options as well as Italian restaurants. Local restaurants tended to offer things such as communist pizza, egg noodles and fried cheese which were all vegetarian too. My advice would be to check the menu when choosing a restaurant.
I hope this post has inspired you to visit this lovely city! In my next post I will cover the third city of my trip the wonderful Bucharest.