If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that I spent 48 hours in Budapest last month. I arrived on a Friday night and departed on Sunday night. The good thing about these weekend trips is that I don’t have to use my vacation days! This is one of the greatest travel benefits of living in Europe and I plan to take advantage of this to the fullest while I’m here.
Random Fun Facts About Budapest:
- Budapest is pronounced ‘Buda – PESHT’. There are two sides to this city, the flat side (Pest), and the hilly side (Buda). You should see both sides but Buda has the best views.
- One of the things I first noticed was the similarity in architecture to Vienna, and it turns out that at some point in history, Vienna and Budapest were the capitals of the Austria-Hungarian Empire.
- Hungary claims to own the Goulash, but so does Prague!
- Never say thank you to a waiter in Budapest or they’ll assume you don’t need change. Say thank you at the very end (this one’s difficult).
- It is an affordable city to visit!
- A Schengen visa gets you in (for folks that needs visa) but the currency is the Forint
I got around with public transportation and my two little feet. From the Airport, I took the airport bus (there’s a regular airport bus and then an express airport bus, you can take either). The good thing about the regular bus is that a day ticket can be used throughout the city on buses and trains.
Where I Stayed
I stayed at an Airbnb on Pest that was a three-minute walk from the metro but also within a five-minute walk of St. Stephen’s cathedral. As such, it was quite central. However, you could get an even better deal in a similar location if booked in advance.
What I Did
This was the largest turnout for a free walking tour that I’d ever seen (everyone loves freebies but we do tip the guides), so much so we were split into SIX different groups. I’m a big fan of doing a walking tour first to get my bearings in a city. We walked through the different parts of the City from the Jewish Quarter to St. Mattias Church, to the Danube River and the Castle. We learned about the people, the wars, and the Turkish occupation (this is how paprika came to Hungary). We crossed over the famous chain bridge onto the hilly side of town and this is where we got the best views of the city.
In addition to a three-hour introduction to the city and its history, our guide gave us tips on thermal baths, taught us Hungarian words, introduced us to the stories behind the ruin pubs, and gave food and restaurant recommendations.
After the tour ended I hurried back to my Airbnb to change shoes and then I headed off to a food tour I had booked. While there are many museums to see in town, I decided to go a food tour in Budapest to try something a little different. I found my way to the central market (Tip: Check it out its quite cool) and luckily found my guide from Urban Adventures, and we spent 2.5 hours eating our way through Budapest. This was a fun way to experience the city; and we had a fun group from South Africa, Nigeria, Scotland, the USA, and France. I’ve heard that the Culinary Walk’s Taste Hungary Tour is also a good one.
Night Time Pictures, Ruin Pubs, and Street Food
Budapest is a beautiful city by day and I just knew it would be stunning under the nights’ sky. I went for a wander and I wasn’t disappointed. The chain bridge lit up over the Danube River with the Parliament building in the background. I loveddd it!!
Budapest is also known for Ruin pubs. To be honest, I heard about them from a friend at work just a few days before I left (thanks Veronica!), I checked out one of them and let’s just say there’s nothing quite like it. Picture an old abandoned building converted into a pub with different rooms, a DJ or live music and lots of people. The décor and furniture is from all sorts of stuff and with the most random art by contemporary artists. It is the new wave of entertainment in Budapest. I went to Szimpla Kert, the oldest one of them all. Definitely a must visit while in Budapest! I ran into some guys from my walking tour and had a drink with them.
Afterwards, I found a corner selling street food at 1am and I indulged, I was starving! I love rice, so when I saw a Korean stall selling a rice sandwich, I went for it. Yes, the rice was the bun in this case.
Thermal Bath Experience:
I had a lot to see on Sunday so I got up and headed out to the Thermal Baths at 7:15am. There are a few in the city but I only had time for one so I went to Szechenyi Thermal baths, the largest of the lot. I paid for two hours and at that time of day it was quiet, and it was I and the grandpas and grandmas. When the young folks come at night though, I hear the parties are legendary. There are three large baths outside and I spent most of my time here. I checked out the others inside but they weren’t my cup of tea.
Now, I’ve had a Hamam experience in Turkey and Morocco and while the Budapest experience was great, I felt like I was just sitting in different pools with water at different temperatures. It was relaxing. Comparatively, I got scrubbed down and added massages on top in Morocco and Turkey. So, honestly this was a bit of a let down for me.
Sausage Langos for Lunch – a Hungarian Specialty
After the Bath, I walked through Hero Square and finally stopped to eat at Retro Langos Bufe. This place came recommended by three different people. It is a small place with outdoor sitting of 3-4 tables, and that’s it. I tried the Hungarian Sausage Langos. It was greasy, freshly deep fried, tasty and oh so bad for you!!
Citadel, and Shoes on the Danube
After my healthy lunch, I hiked to the Citadel for sweeping views of the city; I walked past the imposing parliament building (didn’t go inside), and saw the shoes on the Danube. The shoes on the Danube are a sobering tribute to the Jewish men, women and children shot to their death on the banks of the Danube by Arrow cross Militia. As ordered, they took off their shoes as they were shot on the edge of the river. The tribute represents the shoes left on the bank as their bodies fell into the river.
Soon, it was off to the airport, by bus of course!
Leaving Budapest – The Customs Officer Situation
On my way out of Budapest, there were two gentlemen looking at my passport. The officer finally put on the exit stamp and was about to return my passport to me but then the other gentleman stopped him. I thought, ‘o crap, it’s the Nigerian passport syndrome again’, which means more scrutiny, more questions before I’m allowed to leave. I’ve been through this dozens of times and I’m kind of over it.
Alas, I was wrong!! The gentleman smiled, and said: ‘ I just really want to know, how long did it take to get your hair done, its beautiful?’ I did not see that coming so I mumbled my way through an answer, smiling at the good-looking chap like an idiot. I grabbed my passport and then went off, smiling.
Morale of the story: Don’t assume! I need this reminder often; it is so easy to fall into the habit of jumping to conclusions prematurely.
What I Didn’t Do:
- Visit Museums such as the House of Terror, Holocaust Memorial Centre, and Budapest History Museum amongst others
- Spend More Time at the Central Market Hall – My food tour started here but I wish I had more time to explore and eat my way through the largest and oldest indoor market in Budapest.
- While this didn’t work for me, the Budapest card includes a lot of benefits such as free public transport, 13 free museums, 1 free bath entry, and so much more. You can purchase it online or in Budapest.
I loved my short visit to Budapest, and I’d recommend it for short city break either for someone living in Europe, or as a stop on a Euro trip. While I saw a lot, 48 hours was a short. An extra day or even half day would’ve been perfect.
Have you been to Budapest, what are your must-dos from the city? What did you think of the food and thermal baths? What did you like/not like?
Till next time,