After packing my life into two small bags, I embarked on the most wild adventure of my life, travelling directly from my temporary home of 8 months in Sicily, hitching rides through Italy, flying to Germany, swinging into Prague, flying to Greece, Budapest and then settling in Australia. I took way too many photos and have way too much to say for just a single post, so in no particular order, this series accounts my trip up until now.
I think I have to start with talking about Budapest because it was what Davide and I thought would be the “peak” of our trip, based on all the wonderful things we’d heard about it.
While teaching English in Sicily, I had been living with a girl who was from Budapest, and she might have been paid-off by the government for all her positive advertising. She couldn’t say anything bad about the place – best parties, shopping, pretty parks, events, food, culture, summer weather, cheap EVERYTHING, etc. Plus we’d heard about Budapest’s magic from tons of other people who’d been there.
They say is that if you set your expectations too high, you’re bound to be let down. Fortunately for us, Budapest was everything we’d hoped for and more. We stayed in an AirBnb right in the center of the city for an awestrucking €11/night each which made our trip that much better. It was right in the center near all the popular ruin pubs and close to public transport.
Budapest was unique. Regardless if it was a Tuesday night or a Sunday afternoon, the city was lively and full of young people.
Budapest is often compared to Prague because they look very similar, are both in central Europe, relatively cheap and are great party destinations for young people. Perhaps if the weather had been better in Prague I might have felt differently, but I liked Budapest a lot more. It was just as beautiful but felt so much more real – not a city full of Disney-painted buildings and tourist gimmicks, but a real, live city with real kind and friendly people. That’s Budapest.
Heading to Hungary’s inspiring capital city soon? While there’s lots and lots to do in “hipster city”, check out my top must-dos while in Budapest!
My Top 9 Picks for Budapest:
1. House of Terror. One of the most powerful museums in Europe, this is more of an interactive and disturbing art installation. The House of Terror commemorates the people who were tortured and killed during the decades of Nazi and Communist suppression on Hungary. The highlight for me (although that sounds too cheery) was the chilling slow elevator descend into the reconstructed prison cells where hundreds of people were tortured and died. An absolute must-see and a necessary reminder that Budapest, the city of luxurious baths and cheap beer, had also been affected by a far graver past. We took nearly three hours to see it all. No photos allowed.
2. Bike Tour and 3. Eat Goulash. Travelling can be pretty exhausting if you spend most of your days walking and on our last European destination, we felt it was time for a leisurely bike ride. A bike tour is the best way to see a vast city like Budapest in a reasonable amount of time, and Budapest Breeze Bike’s Wheels & Meals tour takes you to a cute local cafe for traditional Hungarian goulash. It only costs €23 each including lunch! (beer extra)
4. Eat flower ice cream at Gelarto Rosa. Anyone who’s ever searched for Budapest + food on Pinterest will be familiar with these gorgeous little treats, but they are so much more than a pretty face. This ADORABLE ice cream shop near the basilica offers a unique variety of homemade flavours that I’ve never seen anywhere else (and com’on, you know I’ve eaten my share of ice cream). I had a 100% Sicilian Pistachio center surrounded by Panna Cotta with Salty Toffee and Lavender White Chocolate petals. Davide had the Pistachio surrounded by Hazelnut and Olive Oil.
5. Hit up the ruin pubs and Szimpla Kert. Budapest’s famous ruin pubs are pretty much exactly like it sounds: some beautiful genius a few years ago decided to open a bar in an old abandoned building using old abandoned furniture and soon it was a huge it and similar “ruin pubs” popped up all over the city – particularly along Kazinczy utca. The best and busiest one on any night is Szimpla Kert. I loved the atmosphere, the themed bars and exploring the crazy rooms, but when I went there was no music what-so-ever. Weird.
6. Walk along the Danube. This is something I didn’t have time to do and I really wish I had! On a beautiful sunny day, take a stroll along the wide Prague-like river that intersects Buda from Pest. If you have time, take a walk to Margaret Island which sits in the middle of the river and has a beautiful outdoor bath.
7. Visit a thermal bath. Speaking of which, this is an absolute must-do! Budapest is even MORE unique and awesome because it sits on a thermal hot spring so there are a ton of baths to choose from. Note: A “bath” in this sense is basically a complex of swimming pools and spas ranging from cold to hot-tub. We went to the stunning Szechenyi Baths which is one of the largest in Europe and popular with both tourists and locals. Other great options are Rudas (traditional Turkish bath) or Lukács Baths. A lot of baths are even turned into night clubs on the weekend!
8. The Budapest Castle. Yet again another reason why you’ll forever mix up Prague and Budapest in your head, Budapest also has a huge “castle” (more like, palace/cathedral complex) on the top of a hill overlooking the river. The architecture stunning, and definitely worth the climb (or funicular fee) to see it’s stunning Ancient Roman statues. And actually, the changing of the guards is really cool and unique. They make the guards at the Vatican look like amateurs.
9. Drink Pálinka! And finally, every city in Europe has it’s own signature alcohol and in Budapest it’s Pálinka – a strong, sometimes fruity-flavoured liquor that everyone’s obsessed about and you and buy literally anywhere. They say you can’t get invited to a Hungarian’s home without being invited to share a shot of Pálinka!
Have you been to Budapest and thought I missed anything? What are your top pics for places to eat, sights to see and activities to do? Comment below, I’m dying to know!