May 31st, 2020
Through Volunteering in a Hostel via Workaway, I had the amazing opportunity to be able to temporarily live in Budapest, Hungary for three weeks. It is a beautiful and easily likeable City with lots to see and do; so here is my list of things to check out for your visit!
* Walk! Although the metro and tram system in Budapest are easy to navigate (and a great option if it gets too hot), it is so easy to walk here as it is mostly flat. There are also free walking tours every day (for a small tip at the end of course), at 10:30am and 2:30pm from Vorosmarty Square, that take about 3 hours and give you a wonderful insight into the City.
The guide will advise you about the history of Buda and Pest and explain a bit about the Hungarian language (which is one of the hardest languages to learn by the way, however you will find most people do speak English here).
You are then taken over the beautiful Chain Bridge to the Buda side and up a few steps to see the Royal Palace and Clark Adam Square. From there you will have the most amazing view of the Pest side, so definitely take your camera! Also, there are water fountains throughout the City, so take your water bottle and fill it up - the water is fine to drink and very refreshing.
*Main sites to see: Heroes Square, St Stephen's Basilica, Margaret Island, Liberty Statue, Parliament (book in advance), Budapest Eye (where you will also find the Michael Jackson Tribute Tree), the Shoes on the Danube Monument and Kerepsi Cemetery.
Other places of interest that I didn't get to, but you might be interested in are the Holocaust Museum and the House of Terror (again, book in advance).
*Food and Drink:
The traditional Hungarian dishes here are: Goulash, Chicken paprikash and their famous street food is Langos (not particulary healthy, but soo good - you have to try!). There are a lot of super touristy (#moreexpensive) Restaurants near Vorosmarty Square (where you will also find the infamous Hard Rock Cafe), however if you head more towards Kalvin Square, you can find loads of cheaper and good quality Hungarian food places on Reviczky Street; try 'Fecske Presszo'.
Side note: Tipping is customary in Cafe's, Bars and Restaurants in Hungary, however make sure you don't say thank you, until you have got your change. If you say thank you as you pay, the Server will assume any change is the tip.
For the fellow beer-lovers out there, Budapest has lots of lagers and seems to be getting into its craft beers. Their pride & joy however is a cherry beer which you can get on tap. It is definitely something different and not a drink I could have more than one pint of, but worth a try!
To all you wine-drinkers, you can enjoy super cheap wine by the glass at most Restaurants here for 250 Forint - which is only $1.30NZD!
And if you feel like something a little bit stronger, then you might want to try some Pálinka - a 'fruit flavoured brandy'. Which to me, tasted more like bad tequila with no flavour - so if you are up for something that warms the throat and gets the party started, it is about 55% alcohol!
Make sure you check out a Ruin Bar or two whilst you are here. They are massive bars in previously abandoned buildings in the Jewish Quarter and each area of each bar has something different to offer. The two best ones are Szimpla Kert and Fogasház. There is a specific 'ruin bar pub crawl' that you can do, however it is just as easy (and cheaper), to wander yourself and find them. Nearby there is also an area called Godzsu Udvar which is pedestrian access only and has lots of different restaurants and bars; including a bar called Bluebird'' with some terrible, but fun karaoke if you are still out after 1am!
For those who aren't after a big night out, it is still worth going in to Szimpla during the day - grab a drink and take a wander around!
*After all the exploring and night life, you have to experience the relaxation of a Thermal Bath! The largest and more commonly known one is the Széchenyi Baths, which is situated near Heroes Square on the Pest side (and even has a metro stop 2 mins walk from the main entrance). During my time in Budapest, I also checked out the Gellert Baths too. They are just across the Green Bridge on the Buda side.
Although they are both great to relax in, my pick would be to suggest the classic Széchenyi Baths. Although the Gellert Baths have nicer and newer changing areas and bathrooms, the pools at Széchenyi are bigger and better and it was slightly cheaper. And make sure you take your own towel - it will save you a little bit there too. (I believe that if you stay at the Gellert Hotel, the pool entry is included in your room rate). Either way - very relaxing and well worth it!
*Wander at night time: Budapest is a very safe City and it absolutely stunning in the evening. Especially on those still, calm summer nights. One of my highlight's was sitting in the middle of the Green Bridge and watching the sun set. Ahhh Budapest...
There are also lots of low-key hidden gem Festivals around the City with live music and usually free entry - highly recommend to check one out if you see a poster advertisement when you are there!
Like any major tourist hotspot, you will see street beggars, have people trying to sell you things on the footpath and have cab drivers try to take advantage of you with the fare (make sure you discuss the rate first). Also, like anywhere else, keep your bag on you at all times.
If you are arriving from the Airport, the cheapest way to get into the City is to catch the 100E bus from outside the Terminal. It takes about 30 minutes and costs 900 Forint = 3 Euros. There is a purple ticket machine where you must pre-purchase your ticket before you get on the bus. The machine takes common credit cards, so you don't have to worry about the randomness of the HUF currency straight away!
Aside from the large, random currency denominations (200 coin anyone?!); I have some wonderful memories from this place and hope you all get to visit it at some stage too and see it for yourself.
Köszönöm Budapest and Egészségére! (Thank you and Cheers!).
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