BRATISLAVA TO BUDAPEST
Budapest, as most people know, is one of my favourite cities in Europe. While each visit makes me fall more in love with adventuring around its magnificent streets and landmarks, for this trip I wanted to venture further out of Budapest. Thankfully, living in Europe gives me the opportunity to explore so many other countries only a few hours away, and as I was scouring Skyscanner once again I noticed a flight to Bratislava for £16 one way... and of course I couldn't pass up on the opportunity. After adding some carry on baggage to my booking, my flight was a bargain of £30 from London Luton to Bratislava.
So, on a brisk winter morning I set off on my next adventure.
BRATISLAVA (2 NIGHTS)
SLOVAKIA'S CAPITAL WITH A BEAUTIFUL OLD TOWN AND A HUB FOR GORGEOUS DAY TRIPS
BUDAPEST (6 NIGHTS)
ONE OF MY FAVOURITE EUROPEAN CITIES, WITH AN ENDLESS AMOUNT TO SEE AND DO
Tucked away in the heart of Europe, Slovakia seems to be a spot everyone misses off their list of places to visit. It had never been high on my must sees, but after hearing so many good things about Bratislava from different people, I had to stop off and see it for myself. I flew with WizzAir and arrived on a windy afternoon in Bratislava. After trying to work out the bus system for about 5 minutes, this very nice Slovakian man helped me figure it out before directing me to the right bus (which he was also on) and then telling me all about the best things to do in the city! Upon arriving into the Old Town I was pleasantly surprised, while the outskirts of the city seemed to still have a strong socialist feeling with its large, grey apartment blocks, the Old Town was small but very charming. The buildings were all unique with decadent facades and everything was just a 10-15 minute walk from each other. The locals were friendly and for February, it was lively.
Bratislava was fairly cheap, and is the perfect destination to travel to if you're on a budget as it still gives you the opportunity to do day trips to cities like Vienna or Budapest without having to pay for their more expensive accomodation. I would recommend budgeting £30-£40 a day, including accomodation, however if you cook for yourself, I think it's easy to spend less than that.
HOW TO GET FROM THE AIRPORT
The airport is about a 40 minute drive away from the city centre, but it is very straight forward to get from A to B. At first I found it super confusing to buy tickets at the machine, but thankfully a kind Slovakian man he showed me that the tickets are sold in time increments. The machine takes both cash and card + contactless/paywave (which was good news because I didn't have any euros on me at that point).
Once you're out of Bratislava Airport, you can catch the 61 bus into the city, once you're at the last stop you can either walk into the Old Town or get the 1 tram into the heart of town. You don't need to buy seperate tickets for different types of public transport, just ensure you have paid for enough time to get you to your destination.
WHERE TO STAY
While I was in Bratislava I stayed at Wild Elephants hostel, which was right in the centre of Old Town and had an amazing atmosphere. I paid €17 (€8.50 a night) for 2 nights in a 15 bed dorm, and while there were some very loud snorers in my room, the beds were comfy and the hostel was clean. Each night they cooked a family meal which was always vegan and only cost €5. It meant time to socialise with other people from the hostel before heading to their upstairs bar for drinks and the nightly pub-crawl.
WHAT TO DO IN BRATISLAVA
The star of the city is by far Bratislava Castle. Located right in the heart of Old Town, the castle is an easy 15 minute walk. I arrived at around 8am and I was worried there was going to be a gate which closed off the castle during the night, however it seemed as if you could explore the grounds anytime of the day and apart from a Slovakian policeman, I was the only person there. The castle is beautiful and gleamed white due to its recent renovations. I would recommend getting there early to avoid the crowds, however if you want to visit Baroque Gardens (the gardens on the castle grounds), you will have to wait until 9am for them to open.
Located right in the centre of Old Town is Michaels' Gate, and if you're not careful you will miss it. The door to enter is pretty hard to spot and is tucked away to the side of an arch way. Michael's Gate is actually an arms museum, but also has 360 balcony, which provides beautiful views of the whole city. When I went up I was the only person there, which was great because it's not a huge space you can move around in. The price is €5 entry and is definitely worth it even if you aren't interested in the armoury.
One of the most unusual churches and a must see when you visit Slovakia is the Hungarian Secessionist Blue Church. Made famous by its unusual appearance, it is unique for sure. The inside is often closed to the public but if you have a peak through the window you can see that the inside is just as blue as the outside!
A neoclassic Palace in the centre of old town designed in pink and gold. This is just a quick stop off but in my opinion is incredibly beautiful and definitely worth the visit!
Also known as Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising, this UFO looking structure sits over the Danube. While it's not the most beautiful looking bridge I've ever seen, you can climb up to the top, which provides beautiful views of Bratislava Castle and its Old Town!
ST MARTIN'S CATHEDRAL
A quick stop off on the way up to the castle but a very beautiful, whimsical church never the less.
SLOVAK RADIO STATION
Most of the time I seek the beautiful things when I travel, but visiting the Slovak Radio station was on my list. Known as one of the ugliest designed buildings in the world, this large, grey and brown upside-down pyramid is a sight for sore eyes, but but be seen nevertheless!
Just a short 2 and a half hour drive away from Bratislava is Budapest. After running late for my bus and nearly dying in a Slovakian taxi because the driver thought he was in formula one, I made it just in time for my £9 Flixbus. The drive to Budapest was smooth and I indulged on some apples, bread and peanut butter while listening to a podcast. I adore the city and was unbelievably excited to return to Budapest after my summer last year. There is so much to see and do, and I felt as if there was a lot I didn't have the opportunity to experience in 2019. If you want to read about Living in Budapest, make sure to check out my blog post!
I think Hungary is a strange one for budgeting because while the country itself is cheap, a lot of the activities, eating out and partying does add up. If you're just planning on sticking to the bare minimum and not going out or doing anything too extravagant, I think £30 - £40 is enough. However if you're planning on doing boat parties, bus parties, escape rooms, all you can eat sushi etc, you should be budgeting more like £60 - £80 a day, just to be safe. If you do plan on going out, I would recommend cooking for yourself and drinking at the hostel before hand, groceries are super cheap!
HOW TO GET FROM THE BUS STATION
There are a few main bus stations in Budapest, the most common one I've visited in Kelenföld. It's a little out of the way but is very straight forward to get into the heart of the city. Catch the M4 metro to Rákóczi tér M, walk out of the metro station and directly in front of the exit (on the road) is a tram stop, catch the 4/6 tram 3 stops to Király utca / Erzsébet körút if you are staying at Vitae Hostel.
HOW TO GET TO THE AIRPORT
Budapest airport is a fair trip out of the city so I would recommend getting the bus for the cheapest option. An airport bus ticket costs 900 HUF (£3) and the bus ride is around 30 minutes from Deák Ferenc tér (catch the 100E bus).
WHERE TO STAY
While living in Budapest last summer I stayed at Vitae Hostel, and this time was no exception. Vitae is super central to everything you need and is walking distance to all the major sights. I love staying because it is always a good time, with friendly staff and a good social scene (especially if you like partying), you will enjoy yourself for sure!
WHAT TO DO IN BUDAPEST
I have already covered a lot of what to do in my other Budapest blog post, but here are some new recommendations from this time around!
BUDAPEST FERRIS WHEEL
Located right next to St Stephen's Basilica is Budapest's Ferris Wheel. I never really had much interest in going on it, however it was a really beautiful day and I thought, why the hell not. It costs €10 but provides beautiful views of the city and is a lot of fun to do with friends.
You will most likely stumble across Chain Bridge all by yourself as it's one of the main bridges that connect Buda to Pest, however it in itself deserves it's own recognition. Completed in 1849, this suspension bridge is a hub for foot traffic so it can get quite congested during midday, but if you arrive in the morning it's a beautiful walk!
If you're looking for a beautiful spot for sunrise or sunset, I highly recommend getting yourself up to the Citadel or Statue of Liberty. The hill provides unbelievable views of the whole city and it becomes even more magical when the city is lit up at night time. Grab some friends and some drinks or head up there solo and just sit + watch the magic.
Located right by Hero's Square and Széchenyi thermal baths, this castle is a lovely little stop off which has boating on its lake and some market/food stalls in the summer!
WHERE TO EAT
If all you can eat and drink sushi sounds like your style you are going to die and go to heaven when you get to Itoshii. You have 2 and a half hours to demolish as much as you can and get drunk while you do it. It is so much fun to do with a big group of friends (or people you just met in the hostel).
KARAVAN STREET FOOD
Karavan has something for everyone, from traditional Hungarian goulash to vegan burgers to chimney cakes, this is the perfect stop off for something quick and tasty! Unfortunately this is only open during the summer months, but is perfect to visit with friends!
Check out my Living in Budapest blog post for more recommendations of things to do and where to eat!