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