From Lille, France I took the TGV train to CDG Airport in Paris with a travel time of less than an hour! Then I flew from Paris to Budapest, Hungary via AirFrance.
Buda vs Pest
Budapest, the capital city of Hungary, is also known as the “Paris of the East” or “Little Paris of Middle Europe” because of its charming architecture and mix of cultural influences spanning over a thousand years, from the Roman to the Turks occupation and much later the union with Austria. The mixture of the western capitalism and the influence of the 40 years of communist governance make Budapest’s culture and people uniquely charming. Budapest was included in the UNESCO World Heritage list because of the Banks of Danube, the Buda Castle district, and the Andrassy Avenue.
The capital is divided by the Danube River into two key cities with a total of 23 numbered districts. Buda in the West covering Districts I-III, XI-XII, XXII, has the historic castle district showcasing the medieval streets, caves, houses, museums, restaurants, and ruins while the Pest in the East, covering Districts IV-IX, holds the Parliament building, Jewish quarter, flea markets, bookstores, antique stores, and most of the ruin pubs.
The currency is Hungarian Foriant (HUF). Budapest is actually considered one of the cheapest places for a Europe vacation!
Where to stay?
Since I will only be staying in Budapest for 3 days & 2 nights, I decided to book in a hostel called Hostel One Basilica. In summary, it’s a good hostel in terms of service, pricing, and even location. If you ask me if I will stay there again, I am starting to think the older I get the more I prefer private spaces with common areas versus shared rooms so probably not! Go and read the rest of the review below before you decide though.
Hostel One Basilica review:
- It has a good location, strategically located in the Pest Area. It’s a 10-minute walk to Stephen’s Basilica and another 5-minute walk to the Danube River where you can see the Chain’s Bridge and the Buda Castle from Pest side. It is also a 10-minute walk to Szimpla Kert the most famous ruin pub in Budapest, located in Kazinczy utca 14! It is also less than 5-minute walk to the metro!
- The pricing is also not too expensive for a backpacker or solo traveler. Check out their website or you can find them in Hostelworld.
- I chose to stay here because they offer free tours and dinner! The tours cover pubcrawls and morning city walking tours so it’s a nice way to get around the city and meet new friends. The volunteers are also helpful when you need directions! The dinner though is not as enticing as it sounded to be. In my first night, I tried it. They served lots of bread and pasta. To be honest, the pasta was bland and since I don’t eat too much bread I decided to eat outside after and the rest of my stay. Oh, and they did serve pasta every night.
- The place is built inside a renovated building. Establishments are not allowed to change the structure of the old buildings as the government’s way of preserving its history and culture, but business owners are allowed to renovate the inside to make it more useful for the business. The rooms are spacious and the bed is comfortable. The toilets are also big and there are a lot so you don’t have to spend too much time waiting for your turn. However, in most days most toilets also smell like puke or vomit because of the other travelers (so yes, it’s not the fault of the hostel) after a night out or pub crawl.
If you are up to meet new friends, spend your nights drunk, and enjoy the city through walking tours then Hostel One Basilica is not a bad choice
What to see and eat in Budapest?
The Hungarian National Parliament is the largest in Europe, influenced by Gothic architecture. You can enter the building by joining an organized tour that lasts around 30 minutes. It is located in the Pest side by the Danube River, near the Chain’s Bridge.
Its official name is the “Church of the Blessed Virgin” coined by the Buda German community but when Matyas, a previous Hungarian King held his weddings here it was later on renamed to Matthias Church. It is located in the Buda side, near the Buda Castle and Fisherman’s Bastion.
St. Stephen Basilica
A cathedral shaped like a Greek cross with two steeples and a dome and is considered the highest church in Budapest. I was able to find it because I heard the church bells at night, singing a Christmas song. They said for a fee, you can climb at the top and get a good view of the city. I just lit a candle and prayed.
It is also known as the Royal Palace located in the Castle hill. You can enter the place for free except for some areas like museums and attractions. From my hostel, I walked all the way to the castle which was a good exercise, considering the cloudy weather. A few meters away you will find the Matthias Church and Fisherman’s Bastion.
If you want a good view of the Danube river and Pest side you can choose among the seven watchtowers of the Fisherman’s Bastion located in the castle district. Fisherman’s Bastion has a neo-Gothic construction and symbolizes the seven Magyar clans’ leaders that came around the IX century. It was named after the Guild of Fishermen who protected the wall during the past wars.
King Stephan Statue
Located in the middle of the Matthias Church and the bastion is the statue of King Stephan the first king of Hungary and was declared a saint after bringing Christianity to Hungary. The statue carries the cross with two bars, a symbol granted to him by the Pope.
The most famous suspension bridge and the first permanent bridge that connects Buda and Pest over the River Danube. In the Pest side, it is anchored near the Roosevelt Square while on the Buda side, near the Adam Clark Square and Zero Kilometer Stone. It has gained its popularity because of the engineering concept behind its construction and was later on recognized along the side of the Brooklyn Bridge of New York.
Szimpla Kert, Ruin Pub
Szimpla Kert is the most famous ruin pub and probably started the Ruin Pub genre in Budapest. It started when the owners were given the opportunity to move to a bigger building in VII District where houses and a factory used to stand. It is located in the Jewish Quarter which used to be the Jewish Ghetto during World War II and after the war, this area was left with empty buildings. Now, there are more ruin pubs making used of old ruins symbolizing the rebirth of Budapest’s nightlife amidst the city’s war history.
In a nutshell, ruin bars are described as “get a dodgy old building before it would be demolished, gather all colorful odds and gadgets and whatever, use them as furniture and decoration, and serve good drinks. That’s all. A great recycle bar at its finest”. – http://www.ruinpubs.com/SzimplaKert
It is a premiere shopping area where you can also see musicians playing in the street. I accidentally found them while walking one night trying to find a place to eat. It is a 3-minute walk from Hostel One Basilica.
No photo for this one.
This dessert is famous in Hungary, Vienna, and Czech Republic. Chimney cake is also called Kurtosh Kalach, a spit cake that used to be a dessert during festivities but can now be consumed anytime of the day and year. It is made of sweet, “raised dough wrapped around a truncated cone-shaped baking spit and then covered with sugar”. Trdelnik is a kind of spit cake that you can find along the streets. My favorite is with Nutella inside the cone!
Hungarian Goulash & Dreher local beer
This is one of the most famous soup in the region. It is a soup made of meat and vegetables seasoned with paprika and spices. If you ask me, it’s like Filipino’s pochero. It’s good to pair with their local beer.
- When you buy tickets for your tours and attractions make sure you buy them in credible ticketing officers and offices because you will be offered different kinds of prices and tickets along the streets and near attraction spots.
- It is okay to drink tap water.
I wish I could have stayed longer to see more of the castle district, the market, ruin pubs, and the thermal baths! Budapest is definitely one of my favorite cities, it does have its own charm. It’s perfect for a solo or group travel.
Next stop, Vienna, Austria!
You can also find me in Instagram: @travelanyway for random trips and daily musings. Ciao!