13 August 2012

Budafest!


Budapest. Cheap beer, hammock chairs, awesome bars and amazing people. What’s not to love?
Budapest is a really pretty city, which reminded me of Prague in the way that it has the culture and look of western Europe but cheap prices and slightly grungy feel of eastern European. The city is fairly small, so it's really easy to get around and there is plenty to do for the culture vulture or the average drunken backpacker. Budapest has really grown in recent years to be ‘a must see city’ in Europe and is challenging the likes of other cities on the continent for popularity with worldwide backpackers as well as Europeans.

Getting to Budapest is simple and accessible. The flight is about a 4 hour trip from the UK, or you can rail it from neighbouring cities. My accommodation of choice was the Casa de la Musica hostel. Easy to bus to from the airport and near to the main sights, plus a great place to meet fellow backpackers thanks to the hostel’s bar in the courtyard which is surrounded by the rooms. The only downside is that the website stated it had a pool. Maybe my expectations are too high but I wouldn't say a child’s paddling pool is exactly what I had in mind for a quick dip...

What to do?

You won’t be bored in Budapest. First sight to visit and the most popular attraction is the Szechenyi Baths. I didn't visit any other baths to compare but these seemed the biggest and the number one suggestion by locals and backpackers alike. Around £12 for 4 hours gets you access to all of the baths. Expect make-out central in the open warm bath outside, and expect big burly Hungarians in the boiling hot baths inside... sexy… Word of warning, we went to the bath ‘party’ hosted on Saturday nights. Cutting a long story short we got our bag stolen due to a confusion with the lockers, but don’t let that put you off, just keep your valuables at home as well as your dignity as I got escorted from the men’s changing room twice due to language confusion (any excuse)


Not into baths with big sexy hairy Hungarian men? Then there is still plenty to do in Budapest. Try a free walking tour. We found Free Budapest Tours, which was perfect for a laid back introduction to the city sights of the Basilica of St Stephen, Castle Hill and Parliament. There are plenty more cultural buildings to visit and you could easily spend a week trawling around them all. We met a few guys who even took a trip to some local villages which looked beautiful, so if you do get bored of central Budapest (although unlikely to happen) then hop on a river boat and see the outskirts of the capital.

Eat and drink?

Plenty of restaurants to try the local dishes. As a vegetarian I didn't try any of the famous goulash, but I heard it’s a must eat. Towards the south of the city there is a huge food market which is worth wandering round. Drink-wise, you’re in heaven. For backpackers, head to the ruin bars. They are exactly what they say on the tin, bars that are in ‘ruined’ spots from the war I believe. Amongst the main streets in the city you’ll come across the ruin hotspots of Szimpla and Instant. Szimpla is just off the main street in the centre of Budapest, with hanging chairs from the ceiling, a variety of music, open decks and great cocktails. Drinks start from around £2, need I say more? Instant is a similar bar except with taxidermy hanging from the ceiling. Apart from these two bars you’ll find cool places with hammock chairs, rooftop dance floors and generally cheap local beer.

Overall, Budapest is a must see city for Europe. It won’t stretch your budget but it will live up to expectations of European culture, and if it doesn't then find some Hungarian beer and bathe in a Hungarian bath with some hairy locals.

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