One of the locals said it best “everyone comes to Budapest for 3 things, booze, art and… well you can guess the last one” and he was right! I traveled to Budapest for 5 days and 4 nights which was great… but a little too long (if you have ever had Palinka you know why.) Budapest is fully of history, culture and freezing cold temperatures, but being from Oswego that didn’t stop us! In this post I want to share some travel tips and cool spots I found along the way!
To know before you go!
- Budapest is split into two sides divided by the Danube River. Buda and Pest (pronounced peshed)
- If you stay at the Wombat DON’T go down the street with all the Christmas lights right across from the hostel. Biggest tourist trap! The restaurants are pricy and the food is mediocre!
- There currency is the forint so when you switch from euro to forint you get more for your euro but trust me that money goes quickly.
- Ask the locals! For the first day my friends and I had no idea where to go or what to see, all we had was a map and our curiosity.
- Try and do a hop on hop off bus tour. It may be cheesy but it’s the best way to see the city in the least amount of time. Plus with Budapest’s harsh winter weather that bus comes in handy just to warm up a bit.
- Don’t take the cabs! Will charge you a lot when they know you’re not Hungarian!
- Metro is your best friend! Its super easy and cheap and sometimes they don’t even check to see if you have bought a ticket.
- Beware if the Palinka!
Hostel: The Wombat
- We stayed at the wombat all 4 nights and it was great! The front desk was super nice and helpful (especially the woman from England with the red hair!) They helped us to book tickets to the baths and gave us great advice on where to eat for cheap. Best thing about the Wombat… the BAR! So much fun and great way to meet fellow travelers (plus they give you 2 free drinks at check-in). My two friends and I shared one room with a full bed and private bathroom, there was plenty of space plus we saved some money.
The Grand Synagogue
- Incredibly moving if you’re Jewish or not. We did a tour of the synagogue and was one of the highlights of the trip. The tour guide was fun and funny while sharing his extensive knowledge of the Hungarian Jews and their struggle throughout the world wars.
- This market is filled with not only Hungarian culture but also traditional Hungarian food! My friends and I went to different stands and sampled everything we could get our hands on; chocolate, olives, dried sausage, fruit, candy, cheese! On the top floor there are different booths selling traditional Hungarian tapestries and items for tourists (pricy.) It was great for lunch plus right outside the market is a bridge leading over the river and it is beautiful at sunset.
St Stephan’s Basilica
- Very cool cathedral! It was huge and the inside was gorgeous with old painted ceilings, old bells and children singing as you entered. I wish I did a tour here because I would have liked to learn more about it, but a site to see for sure!
- We stumbled upon this square as we were looking for the parliament building! Very nice surprise! The first thing we saw was a bronze sculpture of Ronald Regan that faced the US embassy! I was curious why it was there so I goggled it and apparently Ronald Regan helped liberate the Hungarians from the Russian rule during the First World War. We took some cool pics with old Ronny.
- Amazing! When you’re on the Pest side you can’t see how big the building really is but here you can do a tour of the building. But I suggest walking the chain bridge from the Buda to Pest at night when parliament is lit up. It is breathtaking. The parliament building costed the Hungarians so much that they could have built another city for the same price! I didn’t do a tour but I’m sure that would have been so cool!
Shoes on Danube
- These are located right on the water next to the parliament building. There are 80 pairs on iron shoes on the wall next to the Danube that represent the Hungarians that were shot into the river during World War II. The only remains of these people were there shoes of all different sizes, from high heels, slippers, work boots and children’s slippers. A site I will never forget.
- We booked a cave tour through bus 2 alps for 30 euros. Well we had the hardest time trying to find the cave (Buda side) plus when we got there the tours were half the price we paid going through bus 2 alps. But the cave was very cool defiantly a once and a lifetime experience. **WARNING** Do not do if you are claustrophobic! At one point we were army crawling though an opening that you could not even hold your head up right through! **WARNING** do not do this if you’re hangover…. I did and it was terrible (no bathrooms in the caves.)
Buda Castle funicular
- The funicular was like a little cart on rails that took you up to Buda castle, which gives you a view of the river and city. You have to pay to ride in it, I suggest only riding one way because the view was cool but not as great as we thought. But this is one of the oldest funiculars in Europe.
Mathis’s church + Fisherman’s bastion
- Both sites were cool and very close to each other, which was nice. But I wish I did a tour because I didn’t really know what I was looking at! Nice buildings and views but deff try to get on a tour!
Hospital in the rock Museum
- This museum was in a cave that originally was a hospital and safe zone for the Hungarians during the cold war and WWII. The museum was cool; it had replicas of the different rooms and the equipment they used at the time.
Szechenyi thermal baths
- A Budapest MUST! We went at night that was cool because you saw the steam coming off of the giant hot baths! Think giant Jacuzzi with 100 of your closest friends. Make sure to bring a towel (or they charge you) and some sort of slip on shoe (walking from bath to bath on frozen concrete with no shoes is no fun.) We stayed for 4 hours and it was so relaxing!
To Eat/ Drink
- Mosaic – right next to Wombat hostile, very good for a big cheap breakfast!
- Zoo Café- SO COOL!!! It’s a café that has waiters bringing different animals to your table! I’m talking chameleons, snakes, rabbets, toucans, parrots, Guiney pigs, turtles, cats, bearded dragons and much more! I do not suggest eating here, but the ambiance was so fun.
- Chimney cake!! You can find one of these on any corner in Budapest! It’s like a lemony churro that is shaped like a cone (or chimney) and covered in sugar and cinnamon! I had like one a day they were great!
- Langos Papa – cheap and you get a lot of food! We got Hungarian goulash, pate and a langos (think of a funnel cake with sour cream, garlic and cheese…. Interesting but worth a try!)
- Kiado – This pub is definitely not a tourist trap! Very original Hungarian bar. Which was a little intimidating walking into. But the food was great! I got the duck and it was delish!
- Gerbaud Café – Pricy! But absolutely amazing food! I got the sauerkraut stew and it was the best thing I had in Budapest!
- We went on a bar crawl with the hostel for 15 euros with entrance to 3 bars and a club. This was fun at first, but the group split up from each other towards the end. Some highlights of this was the bar Retox! This bar made me feel as if I was in Oswego, they had drinking games (beer pong, flip cup) plus the best part the owner was from Scranton PA! He told us to call him Shmike (his Hungarian name) and he gave us some great recommendations on where to go to get the whole Hungarian experience. If you are lost and don’t know what to do, go to Retox and ask to talk to him! He literally saved us from all the tourist traps and made us feel right at home.
- Instant club- it was very fun deff recommend!
- **WARNING** There is a very popular Hungarian liquor called Palinka, the alcohol content goes from 40-87%!!! Deadly! Naturally I bought a bottle to bring back to the US, but be careful a couple of shots of this you’ll be seeing stars (trust me.)
Budapest was one of the best trips I have ever been on I 100% suggest making your way to the “city of baths.”