Spring Break 2011 was spent in Budapest, Hungary (Central Europe) with my partner in crime: Domenique! We were in desperate need of an escape from the city– she almost convinced me to go to Tunisia while they were in a war because airfare was cheap and they’re known for cake… however, as appealing as she made it sound… I’m glad we decided to book a roundtrip flight to Budapest along with our hostel: Budapest Bubble, for a total of (+/-) 200,euro.
You can read the details of our 3 NIGHT/ 3 DAY travel, but I’ll repost the highlights:
Area: Budapest is divided into two areas: BUDA & PEST. The Buda side has the cultural aspect, whereas the Pest side has more of the city vibe– restaurants, pubs and clubs (FYI: SMOKING IS ALLOWED EVERYWHERE).
- I would say that most Hungarians speak English very well, but they prefer to speak Hungarian.
- Everything is within walking distance, except for the Szechenyi Bath House and the airport. Take the metro if you need to travel (FYI: there’s two options for a metro ticket- the cheaper metro ticket only takes you 3 stops, the more expensive one is one-way unlimited). Most things are just a hop, skip, and jump away in the city center!
- As for the weather, it was beautiful during the day and quite chilly at night (April 25-28, 2011).
- Hungary has their own currency: 1 euro gets you 270 Forint. Prices seem to be slightly cheaper than Italy, but not by much (careful not to confuse 1,000 for 10,000 forint- yeah, that almost happened).
Sightseeing (not in a particular order):
- You must visit the Gellert Bath House (Buda) or better, visit the Szechenyi Outdoor/Indoor Bath House for Males & Females (Pest) for the thermal spas. Check the dates/times to see if you can get a deal (Ex: lower prices after 5pm OR special days for men/women… BTW, you do not need to reserve ahead). Sandals are optional so I suggest that you bring your own!
- On the Buda side, skip the Citadel (unless you like hiking), head towards the Royal Palace and just take the Funicular up to see the same view of the city (frees up a lot of time and energy).
- Take a walk along the river on the Pest side to see the shoe tribute to the Holocaust…
- Walk over the bridge to The Island. Nice relaxing area, bring a blanket if you want to picnic infront of the fountain!
- Take a look at the Budapest train station which isn’t too far from Menza Restaurant- it’s made by the same brothers who built the Eiffel Tower and it’s absolutely breathtaking!
- Oh and if you don’t like scary/dark places… stay away from the Labrinyths… I confused the description with underwater maze-like thermal baths, but they’re actually dark caves (and I’m not sure how authentic they say they are).
- Hungarians eat very heavy meals (1 normal portion size can probably feed 2, maybe 3 people) and they start early in the morning (Ex: Dom was served a plate of mushroom pasta at 8am).
- Central Market is a good place to start every morning- go upstairs and get Fresh Langostine Fritter with sour cream and cheese or a crêpe to your liking! Or if you want, pick fresh produce to cook at home OR help yourself to a bowl of Goulash, the local favorite in Budapest (just remember, if you try this beef stew, you must like paprika)!
- For lunch, I highly recommend Menza, a Hungarian/Fusion restaurant; everything was super yummy and we had excellent service (walk-in for lunch but make reservations for dinner).
- After lunch, stop in the theatre district for coffee… the buildings are beautiful and the atmosphere is comfortable.
- For dinner, find The Hummus Bar. It’s the best local food recommendation ever- quality eats for dirt cheap! Falafel, hummus, mushrooms, pitas, oh my!
- HELPFUL TIP: Bring a Student ID if you have one- most places offer discounts!
- IMPORTANT: No matter how sweet they are to you, do not sit down to eat on the street near the Central Market. It’s a tourist trap and they will overcharge you for everything (ex: tourists have been charged for utensils).
Overall: I had a wonderful time in Budapest! 3 days are good, 4 days might be better, but 5 would be way too many! I felt like we got to do everything we wanted to do… however, if we had more time, maybe it would’ve been nice just to sit at a teahouse or a café to soak in the lifestyle. I really enjoyed the variety of food that was offered in Pest, but I was a bit disappointed in the fresh pastries/desserts (saw lots of packaged sweets). However, a local did give me one bakery address for both sweet & salty goodies– she guaranteed Hungarian pastry perfection but I’d have to take a taxi there. So with that said, I am willing to return to Budapest just to give their bakeries another shot! Actually, who am I kidding… I’d totally go back just to soak in their thermal baths any day ;)