"My house in Budapest, my hidden treasure chest" 🎶. I'm not going to lie, there's a 90 percent chance I went to Budapest because George Ezra has a song named after it. But it turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made. Something about Budapest made me immediately fall in love with it!
Getting to Budapest from Prague took a never-ending eight hours on the bus, which originally was only supposed to be five. However, I must admit it wasn't that bad. We had personal movie screens, plenty of room, and they even served hot drinks. So, if anyone is looking for a bus company for Prague to Budapest, I definitely recommend Student Agency.
Because our bus ride took longer than expected, my friend, Maddie, and I arrived late in the evening. We made our way to my couch surfing host's home, trying to figure out the metro system along the way. After I settled into my host's home, Maddie went off to stay with her cousin at a hotel. Unfortunately, we got there too late to do any sightseeing, so we decided to just meet up for dinner and get a taste for Hungarian cuisine. Be prepared for a lot of paprika, the national spice of Hungary, and don't forget to try what they're most known for: Goulash!
After a rainy last day in Prague, Budapest welcomed me into the city with warm, sunny weather the next morning. It definitely lifted my spirits, and I was so excited for my first day of sightseeing. Since we didn't have a ton of time in Budapest, we decided it was best to join a free walking tour. It's the best way to get acquainted with a new city and they take you to all the important sites.
I highly recommend doing a free walking tour if you're short on time. Our tour guide was funny and gave us an interesting, historical background on Budapest. Though the whole tour took about 3 hours, you won't even notice with all the beautiful scenery around you.
After our tour ended, my friends and I wandered back across the Chain Bridge, but not before stopping for some traditional Hungarian snacks. Kürtőskalács, or chimney cakes, were basically the same as the trdelník we had in Prague. The other thing we tried was lángos, a typical Hungarian street food. Deep-fried dough topped with sour cream and cheese sounded delicious, and it was, but I was so disgustingly full afterwards. It's definitely worth trying, but please share with a friend for the sake of your stomach 😆.
With our bellies full, we decided to go back to St. Stephen's Basilica and climb up to the tower for a panoramic view. I usually hate paying for these things cause they're so overpriced for tourists, but tickets weren't even $2 USD! After 364 steps, we finally made it up to the top (out of breath) for the most stunning view.
After soaking up the view, we made our way to Széchenyi Thermal Bath, one of Budapest's most popular and Europe's largest medicinal bath. The thermal bath is said to have healing qualities, and soaking in the warm water was much needed after a whole day of walking.
We spent a good hour or so there, until the air got chilly. Maddie and her cousin had booked a cruise on the Danube River for the evening, so we parted ways. I went back home for a bit to meet up with my host, and then dragged him out again to do some more sightseeing with me. Our first stop was the Citadella, located on top of Gellért Hill. I love a good night view and seeing all of Budapest lit up was one of the most beautiful views I've ever seen.
Afterwards, my host took me to Street Food Karavan for a quick bite to eat. This place is an outdoor food court made up of different food trucks with plenty of options to choose from. The best part is they're open past midnight on the weekends, so it's the perfect place to grab a late dinner before a pub crawl or after for some drunk munchies.
Later, we headed out to the Jewish Quarter to explore some of Budapest's popular ruin pubs, Fogasház (Budapest, Akácfa u. 51, 1073 Hungary) and Szimpla kert (Budapest, Kazinczy u. 14, 1075 Hungary). The most well-known and original ruin pub would have to be Szimple kert. It's a huge space with multiple rooms and bar areas decorated with graffiti all over the walls and quirky furniture, like a bathtub doubling as a couch and a random bicycle hanging from the ceilings. I wish I had more pictures to show, but it was too darkly lit for photos!
After a few drinks, we finally made our way home. Having been up since 9 am and staying out past midnight, I was complete exhausted. Somehow, I managed to see and experience all of Budapest in less than 24 hours. And while I wish I could've spaced it out more, it was totally worth it.
But the adventure is not quite over! The next morning, I woke up bright and early again to make it to the Great Market Hall (Budapest, Vámház krt. 1-3, 1093 Hungary) before our late afternoon flight back to London. Whenever I go to a new city, I love checking out the local market to really get a feel for their culture and local specialties. This is a great place to pick up some fresh produce, Hungarian souvenirs, or try some strudel.
After my visit to the market and filling up on strudel, it was time to head off to the airport. I was so sad to leave warm and sunny Budapest for cold and rainy London, but I'll never forget my time here. I came here with no idea of what to expect and left craving for more. Budapest is definitely a city I will have to revisit in the future!
*Originally published on Violets for Vivien