Coming from Copenhagen, Budapest was a relief to our wallets. Upon arriving in Hungary, my sister, cousin, and I quickly realized how far our money could go in this country. It’s hard to compare any place with Scandinavia’s high-quality-everying and prices, but because Budapest is such a cheap place to travel in comparison, the list of possible activities expanded greatly. In this post, I’m going to share some activities and places that our group highly recommends you visit while in Budapest.
The first thing I love to do in ANY city upon arrival is to leave the hostel and walk around for a bit. This always allows for quick and active sight-seeing as well as a way to orient yourself. Budapest is a very walk-able city, so the three of us basically saw everything important on the first morning/afternoon. The hostel we stayed at was called the Maverick City Lodge. Definitely would recommend because of its prime location near all of the fun ruin bars and markets. It’s only about a twenty minute walk to the Danube River where all the main sites are located. Along the walk to the river there is the city’s main pedestrian shopping district, the Budapest Ferris Wheel, and the Dohany Street Synagogue. The city’s free walking tour starts at St. Stephens Basilica which is only a ten minute walk from the hostel. The only reason we didn’t partake in this tour was because I had my Hungarian friend tour us instead.
After crossing the Chain Bridge from Pest to Buda (Budapest is actually two joining cities that eventually combined into one name) we walked up to the Buda Castle. Inside there is a museum, but we mostly visited the site for the spectacular views of the city. Walking through the tourist-trap district atop the hill we finally reached the Fisterman’s Bastion which hands-down holds the best view of Budapest. I for one love to find a good view of the city to take it all in. For just a few euros, there is a viewing area that I recommend because 1. I love views and 2. not many people are willing to buy the ticket so the area is not crowded. The area around Fisherman’s Bastion is fun to explore and is where we experienced our family-style Hungarian meal.
Budapest is one of the most fun cities I’ve ever been to, and this summer I went to A LOT of cities. Europeans from all over take weekend trips to partake in Budapest’s vibrant party scene, and everywhere I walked I saw bachelor parties stumbling around. When we found out about a guided pub crawl, we had to sign up. Having had one of the most fun nights of my trip, my Budapest experience would not have been the same without the pub crawl. There’s even a club on a moving boat cruise that goes through the city! Most of the Budapest pub crawls have a meeting spot but a few have a guide walk you right from your hostel. Budapest is unique because of it’s ruin bars which are old crumbling buildings converted into quirky and vibrant clubs, bars, and venues. Each is different in vibe, music, and style and it’s totally worth discovering! Drinks and club entrance fees are incrediblly cheap, and I think I spent a whopping $30 for a fulfilling night out with a to-go dinner included. During the day, many of the ruin bars are day-time markets with authentic Hungarian foods and street performers. During our stay, the entire pub street outside our hostel was hosting a Judas festival. Budapest is nonetheless an exciting place with lively events happening on every street.
They say Budapest at night is one of the most magical settings in the world. I can certainly agree, especially after our river boat cruise that cruised through the lit-up riverside. No trip to Hungary is complete without experiencing the Danube by boat and is definitely a MUST. Our boat cruise included two free drinks, lasted an hour, and wasn’t overcrowded with people despite peak tourist season. The boat sails under the Chain Bridge and parks right in front of the iconic Hungarian Parliament Building. This building is spectacularly huge and will exceed your expectations. At night, the entire building is a shimmering gold that reflects onto the Danube. It was ultimately a very enjoyable experience that is also a great way to meet fellow travelers.
The Szechenyi Thermal pool is one of Budapest’s most popular sites. The Neo-baroque palace contains endless thermal pools, exotic saunas, and luxury spas. Outside are three giant pools of varying temperature, one having a giant whirlpool that will suck you into a vortex with 30+ other strangers. Old men line up to play on the floating chess boards, and fountains spray warm streams into the hottest pool. You could potentially go all-out at this site, depending on whether you want a short dip in the pool or a luxury spa experience. We decided just to spend an hour or two at the site, which served to be plenty of time. We enjoyed our experienced, but we were definitely finished with the crowded swimming pools and loud echoing indoor tubs after two hours. I don’t foresee myself returning to the thermal pools if I were to return to Budapest, but it’s definitely something that should be experienced at least once. Bring flip flops! Everyone is barefoot and walking around the same slippery floors. Flip flops are the only type of footwear that is allowed through the entrance. Unless you want to rent a towel, bring your own too.
Budapest isn’t all that’s in Hungary. I was lucky to have a friend in the area to show me the countryside and beautiful regions outside of the city. Hungary is a beautiful country and a place to put on your travel itinerary is called Tihany. This quaint town that is famous for lavender sits atop a hill over-looking Lake Balaton. Lake Balaton is something I would never have expected to see in Hungary, because the water is Caribbean-blue and a very popular beach destination! Despite the fact Hungary is landlocked, this giant lake transports you to a tropical beach destination. The experience outside of Budapest made me feel like a truly got to see and feel the country of Hungary. If you get the chance to get out of the city, it is definitely worth the trip.
This concludes by post about Hungary. Stay updated by following my Instagram @jeff_hyer and stay tuned for more travel videos, photos, and posts on this city. Next stop, the magical land of Slovenia!