The excitement is real as I head back to a city that stole my heart a few years ago! Definitely one of the most underrated cities in Europe, if you’ve never set foot here before you’re in for a real surprise. Commonly considered to be “the little Paris of Central Europe”, this Hungarian capital has the same amount of magic, a surprisingly pumping nightlife scene, and your money will stretch a hell of a lot farther here! Within a 1000-year-old culture, you will find historical monuments paralleled with modern buildings and a youthful vibrancy throughout this charming city.
Budapest is made up of two distinct sides, Buda and Pest, which run on either side of the Danube River. Navigating this city in a day means a fair bit of walking, but our centrally located Wombat’s Hostel was the perfect base to plan our walking itinerary around. Just a few minutes away was the St. Stephens Cathedral, the largest church in Budapest dedicated to Hungary’s first king. This place houses Hungary’s most sacred treasure – St. Stephen’s mummified right hand. It’s well worth a look!
We took a leisurely stroll along one of Budapest’s most iconic landmarks, Chain Bridge. This was the first permanent stone bridge that spanned the Danube and connected Buda and Pest. We reached the Buda side of the river, which was beautifully hilly and full of winding medieval streets and houses. Here we found Roman ruins and went to a few lookouts from Buda Castle and Fisherman’s Bastion. Fisherman’s Bastion is a must visit on a trip to Budapest for it’s unbelievably magical views, but our initial trip to this place was hampered by high heat and tourists at each and every window, so we knew we had to come back when no one was around.
The next morning at 4am, we were back at Fisherman’s Bastion in time for the sunrise. We waited in anticipation, then witnessed the light hit the sky over Parliament Building and the different hues of oranges and reds creep over the city in front of us. We had this fortress all to ourselves with not another tourist in sight; just myself, Jake, our friend Tali and and some Hungarian birdies. In that moment I was on top of the world, and this sunrise will go down in my books as the closest thing I’ve ever felt to magic.
The perfect way to relax after a jam-packed few days of sight seeing is to unwind at one of Budapest’s world famous thermal bath houses. The Szechenyi thermal bath is by far the most beautiful and extravagant pool I’ve ever laid eyes on! At 100 years old, this is the largest natural spa bath in Europe and uses water derived from two thermal springs rich in calcium, magnesium and hydrogen carbonate. There are 15 different pools to lounge in, from steaming hot to freezing cold. There’s definitely something for everybody.
Hungarian food is quite fittingly, for the hungry. It’s heavy, it’s hearty, and there’s so much meat and goulash and bread you’ll definitely be enjoying a food coma at the end of the day. At Central Market we indulged in the typical Hungarian delicacy, Langos. A heavy deep-fried bread with an assortment of toppings like sour cream and cheese (I liked mine with mushrooms and ham), it was affordable and super filling! You can even get dessert versions. Something about deep-frying the bread just gives it a distinguished flavour compared to any normal pizza dough or white bread.
If Langos doesn’t sound like your kinda party, the Central Market is still a great place for lunch and worth visiting even just for the wander inside the beautiful building. The bottom level is a market hall of colourful fresh produce with plenty of fruits, vegetables, cured meats and cheese. The top level has more food stalls, but it was mainly for souvenirs. Here you’ll find traditional clothing, fur hats, postcards, magnets, shot glasses and all types of souvenirs.
In my books, Budapest has the hippest nightlife in Europe. Though it’s a close win over the booming party scene in Berlin! Budapest is particularly famous for their trendy ruin bars. Left to decay after the rampage of World War II, making use of these old building ruins was one way to brighten up the town and make use of the rubble. Now, these ruins are transformed into the funkiest bars you will ever come across. Szimpla Kert is listed as one of the top 3 bars in the world, and once you’ve visited it’s pretty clear as to why! Household items, knickknacks and many oddities decorate this underground beer garden complex and tourists and locals alike come here every night to party it up or enjoy the bustling atmosphere. It’s wacky, it’s weird, it’s wonderful.
Since my first visit to Budapest, I’ve noticed more young people are recognizing this city as a hidden gem, and it’s slowly starting to gather the hype it deserves. At this point though it’s still quieter than the other tourist hotspots; each and every passenger I spoke with mentioned they came here with little to no expectations, and have been floored by their experiences. I don’t know how else to describe this place but stank’n cool, and I will continue to boast about this city to other travellers and demand its attention!
You can experience all of this on our Hop-on Hop-off network. Check the website for more details!