LIVING IN BUDAPEST
My nineteenth birthday was spent discovering the beautiful city of Budapest, and after falling in love with the city I was eagerly waiting my return. After finding a £30 flight to Hungary's capital for July of this year, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to revisit, which is where this adventure begins. My flight was a red eyed departure from London Luton and landed by midday. Driving through the city I was reminded of how much I love Budapest. The curvature of the architecture lacing the buildings, fruit stands pattering the pavement, the warm sunshine beaming through the bus window, all things I adore.
HOW TO GET FROM THE AIRPORT INTO THE CITY
The airport is fairly far out from the city centre and costs around 7000 HUF (£20) to get a taxi. An alternative, much cheaper way to get into Budapest is the 100E bus, which frequently runs from the airport (approximately every 20 minutes). The bus costs 900 HUF (£2.30), and you can purchase tickets from the purple public transport ticket machines, however make sure you buy the right ticket and not a normal bus ticket which costs 300 HUF.
WHERE TO STAY
For the two months I was living in Budapest I was staying at Vitae Hostel, which is part of the Budapest Party Hostel chain. I absolutely loved my time at Vitae and found it was the perfect mixture of party and relax. Some alternative hostel recommendations are Grandio and Retox, which are part of the same chain but are for the more intense partiers, and for the people who are more interested in chilling and sightseeing, Meander and Hostel One are two great options.
WHAT TO DO IN BUDAPEST
1. SZIMPLA KERT
A hotpost for Tourists and Locals alike and the reason we saw such an array of Stag parties at various locations throughout Budapest, Szimpla Kert was always a fun way to enjoy the evening. Walking in was like stepping into the 1990's. Everything was decorated with memorabilia I was surprised still existed. There were different rooms that lined the walls, each with a little bit of it's own character but still had the same underlying theme 'chic junk'. Those big grey computers you thought were all in landfills were being used to play strange psychedelic patterns; while chairs and lamps hung from the ceiling in a precarious fashion. Different bars littered different corners of the space, all specialising in different drinks. A shisha lounge can also be found near the entrance, holding couples and groups lounging in big, retro couches puffing out flavoured smoke, filling the whole building in a strawberry infused haze. The drinks are also extremely well priced and taste really delicious considering I only bought a vodka lemonade. There is also a small stage right at the back where they have bands playing and James and I actually got to listen to an edgy Hungarian band, which, in my opinion, should be on everyone's bucket lists.
2. JEWISH QUARTER
By far my favourite part of Budapest and a place with an array of character. Home to endless great Restaurants, bars, and more importantly, Dohány Street Synagogue. As the largest Synagogue in Europe and second largest in the world, it's definitely a place to check out. The Jewish Quarter is the best part of Budapest to stay, in my opinion, just walking through the streets it was noticeable to how close it was to everything. Never too far away from the baths or great places to eat. If you're also a little bit of a party goer, it was definitely the best part of Budapest to be staying in. Surrounded by bars that were constantly bustling, even on weekdays, and hostels that looked full with backpackers, it's a great option. Along with the cute, quirky shops that line the streets, there are dozens of edgy clothes shops, bars with hammocks and wooden bungalows, and my favourite place, Karavan. Just down the road from Szimpla Kert, it's the perfect place for dinner before hitting the Hungarian bars. Made up of around 8 different food vans including Hungarian Goulash, liquid nitrogen ice cream and my favourite, 'Las Vegan'. Only offering a selection of six burgers, I found each very different than the next. The van quickly became my second home while in Budapest, and both the soy as well as the vegan cheese patty burgers I tried I highly recommend. Vegan or not though, Karavan is definitely a great idea for lunch or dinner one day on your trip.
3. THERMAL BATHS
Without a doubt one of my favourite parts of the trip. The mix between the stunning architecture and relaxing in Budapest's beautiful pools is an absolute must. James and I only managed to visit two of the baths, Gellért and Széchenyi, situated in Buda and Pest, respectively. The baths are reasonably priced, only about £10 to £15 to get in, depending on which one you went to. Keep in mind though, some of the baths have single sex days only, depending. Make sure to have a check on what days are open to both sexes! The baths can be very confusing to navigate around, but it's super interesting to wander through the different sections, so enjoy getting a little lost. Even if you do get lost, don't worry there are plenty of people around to direct you to the changing rooms and pools. Gellért had a wave pool in one of the outside pools, as well as a 28 degree pool outside, which was the perfect temperature to lounge in and enjoy the outdoors. Both baths have a different array of sauna's and pools of varying temperatures, and I recommend checking out all of them! Széchenyi had an amazing outside pool which was 38 degrees, which was amazing in summer, but I imagine even better in winter. Budapest is known for their baths, and definitely for a reason. It was a personal highlight of the trip and was a great way to relax at the end of a long day of exploring.
4. HOP ON HOP OFF BUS
Although I am not a huge fan of hop on hop off buses exploring Budapest with a group of friends and a bottle of wine while sitting on the roof top was one of my favourite memories. The city is fairly spread out, so if you only have a day or two, it's a fast way to be able to see both Buda and Pest. The hop on hop off buses cost around 6000 - 7000 HUF depending on the company.
Budapest's Parliament is one of the most iconic aspects of the city and is such a beautiful monument. Whether you explore it up close on the Pest side or you wander over to Buda to sit and admire it from across the Danube, you'll fall in love with it.
The highest point in Budapest and a must see when you visit. You can either walk up there or get a bus up, I also suggest grabbing a bottle of wine so you can sit and relax with the beautiful view of the city below!
7. BUDAPEST CASTLE
While you're over on the Buda side of the city, you have to make sure you save some time to visit Budapest Castle, which not only provides beautiful views over the city, but is also a spectacle in its own right. The outside is free to explore and only takes about 15 minutes to walk up from the river.
8. FISHERMAN'S BASTION
The Fisherman's Bastion is one of my favourite parts of Budapest and is a must when visiting the city. I recommend getting there early so you can have it to yourself for a while before the endless crowds arrive. It is super easy to spend a lot of time on the Buda side of the city, especially near the Bastion as there is rows of restaurants, market stalls, shops, view points, etc which you can explore.
9. BUDAPEST BOAT PARTY
The Danube is the heart of Budapest and visiting the city wouldn't be complete without a cruise down the river. While staying at Vitae a boat cruise was held every Wednesday with the Budapest Party Hostel chain and Budapest Party Bookers. The boat costs anywhere from 6000 HUF - 11000 HUF depending which one you do (they hold different ones throughout the week), so find the one that excites you the most!
WHERE TO EAT IN BUDAPEST
1. SZIMPLY CAFE
Raved about by google and friends, Szimply seemed like the place to go for a good brunch. Sister shop to Kontakt, the coffee part of the relationship, both shops do have an incredibly unique vibe. Two small shops that utilised their spaces well, but An extravagant menu, unchangeable for any particular dietary requirements and some staff whom I believed to be quite blunt towards customers, I found it all just a bit overrated. A first glance the menu is exciting, lots of different items I had never tried, with most of the options being vegetarian, more than one vegan option, and even some gluten free choices. James decided to go for the avocado on toast, a brunch classic, while I went for the vegan acai rice porridge. For a small shop the utilised the space well.
The food itself was incredibly underwhelming for me. Some quite bland acai, which didn't really seem to work well as a porridge, mixed with the tartness of the strange choice of fruit that decorated the bowl. James felt the same, saying that he thought it was weird how they decorated his plate with cold egg yolk and some pickled radish. Both two beautiful plates of food, but neither worth the price. However, it's not all bad. Szimply does offer House made cold press juices, which were by far the best part. I opted for the Strawberry, rhubarb, basil, apple and lemon one while James went for the super punchy ginger one, a good choice for those hard core hangovers or just to get you going in the morning. They also offer a green cold press juice, a mix of leafy veg including cabbage was apparently in the mix for that one, so definitely an option for those on a hunt for a good kick start to the day.
Szimply's sister cafe, directly across the alley, is the coffee component of the two. Offering no sugar in their coffee, no long blacks (americano's) and no milk with the V60's, they don't mess around with people who don't know their stuff. A short, but precise menu and more than one milk alternative, I was hopeful. Unfortunately, I found their coffee to not mix with soy very well and for me it seemed to be quite a dark, smokey, kind of flavour. On the other hand though, James just ordered a normal flat white, claiming that for normal milk, it was a really great coffee. It's definitely a place to be checked out if you're into the specialty coffee scene.
3. LAS VEGANS
Vegan burgers are, and will always be, one of my favourite foods, so having Las Vegans right around the corner from Vitae was a dream. Located in the Vegan Garden, which holds 5-6 different food trucks to choose from, after selecting from the relatively concise menu, just listen out for your name and then enjoy your food on outdoor picnic chairs. When visiting I highly recommend trying out the Magic Mushroom burger and the vegan nuggets!
4. ZING BURGER
Most of my meat-eating friends were absolutely in love with Zing Burger and I would often find them munching away on them. I only tried the fries, which were delicious, but I have heard from an endless amount of people that the burgers are bomb, too!
5. HISZTERIA CREMERIA
Ice cream is one of the simple pleasures in life and Hiszteria provides some that rivals the best! There are dozens of flavours to choose from, including plenty of vegan options, then you pay based on the weight!