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Should You Believe the Hype About Budapest?

“We’re Arctic Monkeys and this is ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor – don’t believe the hype”.  That was the first thing I heard their singer say, and it turned out they were one of the few hyped-up indie bands of the 2000’s that actually deserved it. I imagine, if Budapest could talk, it would say something similar. Despite being more cool and laid-back than arrogant and showy, Budapest has become something of a hyped-up tourist destination for people who are now to cool for more mainstream cities like Paris and Rome. It turns out Budapest deserves every bit of praise that is coming its way – here are some of the many things that make it my favourite city in Europe (so far).

The ruin pubs

Are these the coolest bars in the world? Ruin pubs are basically a cross between antiques stores, weird artists’ residences and hip inner city bars. You’ll see an eclectic mix of decorations and every room seems to have a different theme. We went to Szimpla for a few drinks, and while it was pretty quiet in the early evening I’m sure it gets crazy later on. If you’re in Budapest you have to go to a ruin pub!

A ruins pub in Budapest, Hungary

The streets

While not quite as “pretty” as the streets of some other big cities in Europe, the streets of Budapest are full of character – you’ll never get bored on an inner city stroll. From the Jewish quarter to pedestrian only walkways full of restaurants, I highly recommend ditching the map and getting lost on the streets of Budapest.

Downtown Budapest, Hungary

The bridges

Budapest has a couple of historic bridges which separate the two halves of the city. On one side of the Danube river lies Buda, and one the other side (I’m sure you can see where this is going…) is Pest. The bridges that separate the two halves of Budapest are picturesque to say the least. The green one, or Liberty Bridge as it is formally known, is a great place to walk across – you’ll see Buda Hill, yellow trams chugging along in the distance and the Danube River flowing underneath. The Chain Bridge is older and busier – it leads to some of the more touristy parts of Budapest but is still a nice place for a walk.

The Liberty Bridge in Budapest, HungaryChain bridge in Budapest, Hungary

The food

We ate some great food in Europe, but the food in Budapest was the definite winner.  It was also very affordable – we ate meals full of perfectly cooked meat covered in sauce bursting with flavour for the price of a sandwich in Paris!

The buildings

I hadn’t really heard of any of Budapest’s buildings before I went there. I thought maybe they didn’t have any special pieces of architecture, but I was wrong. The Fisherman’s Bastion is perched on a hill above the Danube River and looks like it fell straight out of a fairy tale. The view from up there was great as well. Buda Castle was nice (but nothing too special compared to others in Europe), but the parliament building, especially when it’s lit up at night, is pretty magical.

Fishermans' Bastion at sunset in Budapest, HungaryThe Parliament building in Budapest, Hungary at night

The trams

There’s something special about old trams winding through the streets of a European city, and the trams of Budapest add so much to the already atmospheric inner-city neighbourhoods. They are cheap to ride and make for a great way to see the city, especially if you ride them close to the river.

A yellow tram in Budapest, Hungary

The statues

Who doesn’t like statues of lions and horses!?

A lion statue in Budapest, HungaryA statue on Buda Hill, Budapest, Hungary

The Baths

One of my favourite things to do in Budapest is relax at one of the historic bathhouses. In the movie I Spy (starring Owen Wilson and Eddie Murphy — watch it if you haven’t already) there’s a shootout at one of the baths, but they are usually very peaceful. We went to the Kiraly baths for a few hours before our night train to Prague — there were hardly any other people there and they don’t segregate the sexes like they do at some of the others.

Budapest in autumn

We were in Budapest in early November and the weather was almost perfect. It did get quite cold but we did a lot of walking so it didn’t matter too much. The crowds were thin in November as well, an even better reason for avoiding high season. Budapest is getting more and more popular, but you’ll still see far less tourists than in Paris, Rome or Prague.

So, should you believe the hype about Budapest?

Yes! It’s an awesome city full of friendly people and great food. Budapest has a hard to describe atmosphere – it just feels different to anywhere else in Europe. Maybe it’s the fact that there isn’t anything particularly iconic there, which means you don’t feel the need to rush around seeing things – you can take it easy and explore the streets at a leisurely pace. If you haven’t been to Budapest put it on your list, it might turn out to be your new favourite city.

Further reading: We didn’t explore the rest of Hungary, but check out gotohungary.com if you’re interested in learning more about travelling outside of Budapest

Have you been to Budapest? Would you choose it over Europe’s more famous cities? Let me know!

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Jon Algie

Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who hates talking about himself in the third person and has no imagination when it comes to naming websites.
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10 Comments

  1. May 25, 2015 at 4:08 pm — Reply

    wow! amazing photo… i love their culture….. i like it specially old trams.Budapest has a couple of stunning bridges which separate the two halves of the city.

    • Jon Algie
      May 26, 2015 at 2:02 am — Reply

      Cheers Eva – Budapest is a fun city to take photos of!

      • September 7, 2015 at 7:46 pm — Reply

        Hi Jon, you have some good photos here – didn’t you want to share a little bit more? Budapest is one of the most spectacular cities in Europe, and for example the Castle is definitely more special than the one in Stockholm, for example.

        • Jon Algie
          September 8, 2015 at 3:49 am — Reply

          Cheers Andrea – didn’t spend enough time in Budapest to get too in depth, I’ll return one day though!

  2. May 28, 2015 at 11:57 am — Reply

    I had one of the best meals ever in Budapest at Tigris and I also thoroughly enjoyed the wine tasting at Faust, in the old cloisters underneath the Hilton Hotel. If you’re using the local bus to make the climb up there, make sure you have a ticket though. The transport inspectors regularly ride that particular route and lack of ‘local knowledge’ won’t save you if you haven’t bought a pass.

    • Jon Algie
      May 30, 2015 at 1:51 am — Reply

      Sounds great, Budapest has to be one of the best places to eat and drink in Europe. We actually couldn’t work out how to get a ticket for the tram at first so jumped off before we were caught!

  3. Fabio
    June 2, 2015 at 10:38 pm — Reply

    I liked both the Arctic Monkeys and Budapest before they got big…… nah I can’t really claim that about the Monkeys, but I did go to Budapest about 15 years ago. I think a return is due, it really is so laid back and I would love to see it again!

    Also, I’m glad someone else shares my love of the bridges, I have so many photos of them!

  4. Jon Algie
    June 3, 2015 at 8:05 am — Reply

    Haha, Arctic Monkeys have improved since so it’s all good! It’d be interesting to see how much/if Budapest has changed in 15 years, probably just less tourists (although there weren’t really many of us when I was there anyway).

  5. Damien
    July 2, 2016 at 9:49 pm — Reply

    Hi, can you share with me your itinerary as well as the hotel. I am planning for a 15 days trip to Vienna, Hungary n Czech Republic. Thanks

    • Jon Algie
      July 18, 2016 at 4:02 pm — Reply

      Hi Damien, we stayed at Natty Dog hostel in a private room and it was great — it had a good kitchen and was close to the sights / the metro. We spent around 10 days in Romania and then took a train to Budapest and from there we went to Prague and then to Vienna. We didn’t have a lot of time so we just picked the places we really wanted to see, definitely want to return to the region though.

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