HOW I SPENT 72 HOURS IN THE HUNGARIAN CAPITAL, BUDAPEST.

I know it's been a while since my last blog post, which is mainly due to the fact that I still don't have wifi in my new flat because a certain X Factor sponsor is taking their time to resolve the issue, so here I am at sat at the University library on a Friday to write this post. If you follow me on social media you may have noticed I spent a couple of days in beautiful Budapest last week before cracking on with my final year of university, and boy was it marvellous! I'd wanted to visit this place ever since I watched Katy Perry's music video for Firework and 6 years later I finally made a point of doing it. So here are my highlights from the trip and some of my recommendations!

WHERE I STAYED 

I don't know why I didn't think to check Airbnb when looking for accommodation, because after having booked our apartment I realised there were so many beautiful flats and houses available on there! Even so, Budapest is super cheap when it comes to lodging so you can't really go wrong with it. We stayed at Guest Rest Studio Apartments in the heart of (Buda)Pest which was only a 5 minute walk from the Great Market Hall and the river and boasted some great gothic architecture, although the interior felt more like Romeo & Juliet. 

I always recommend staying at an apartment/apartahotel over a hotel if you're on a budget, simply because it allows you to prepare meals and skip the 8 euro breakfasts in the lobby. As always I recommend AirBnB or Booking.com for some cheap but decent finds, but if you're travelling by yourself or with a friend and looking to meet likeminded people, then the hostals are always cheap and a fun idea!

WHAT I SAW 

I know this may sound stupid, but I only became aware a week before my trip that Budapest is in fact divided into two former cities, Buda and...Pest. Pest is known as the more lively and flat town whereas Buda's Old Town will have you burning twice the amount of calories on your FitBit. Personally, I found Buda more intriguing and unique and had the most beautiful scenery and buildings, however we can't forgot how beautiful Parliament looks in the evening over on the Pest side. 

Before the trip we booked a 48 hour hop on-hop off ticket to get around Budapest and to see all the main sites accompanied by an audio guide and some interesting Hungarian tunes. We took full advantage of this on our first day there since we were running on 2 hours sleep but that also meant I dozed off on the very comfy bus for about half an hour. I must say I do recommend seeing as most of the city as you can by foot, simply because it's the best way to really experience a city and the traffic is also horrendous in the afternoon. You can find some inexpensive walking tours online or if you fancy doing it the old fashioned way with a map and compass, the city is really easy to get around and if you get lost, just ask for directions to the river!


 Some of my favourite landmarks had to be Heroes Square, Fisherman's Bastion, Parliament (at night), walking across Chain Bridge and seeing the "Shoes on the Danube" memorial along the Danube River. This was created to honour the Jewish people who were killed by the Arrow Cross militiamen during World War 2. It represents how they were made to line up on the river front and remove their shoes as they were seen too valuable to throw away, before being shot into the river so the current would carry their bodies away. 



WHAT I ATE

So this is probably where I should mention that I spent my first afternoon and evening in Budapest by the toilet and in bed with food poisoning. This is either due to the fact I had sushi for breakfast and went a bit overboard with the Wasabi, or the chicken with spinach sauce I had for lunch that ironically I kept raving about how delicious it was. So for lunch the following day we kept it relatively simple and head to the Hard Rock Cafe (8th one on the list!) and opted for the usual Twisted Mac & Cheese, which I think I've finally got sick of so now need to a new go-to order. 

We were also recommended by several people to head to La Pampa adjacent to St Stephen's Basilica which specifies in Argentinian cuisine and boy was it delicious. On to some Hungarian food... I definitely recommend you try the local Goulash soup, I had this three times whilst I was there because the first time I had 10 minutes to eat it before our boat left and so was downing hot soup. Hungarian's love their Paprika, so you will find this is the signature ingredient of most of their dishes. Daniella opted for a chicken filled pancake with Paprika sauce which she gave her approval too - she's a fussy eater so it must have been nice. 


Most of the food is relatively cheap, and the wine is even cheaper - we're talking 2 euros a glass! We made an American friend on our last day there and insisted she joined us for dinner as she was travelling alone, the idea was to head to "Comme Chez Soi" which everyone raves on about, but it was fully booked upon arrival. We settled for an Indian restaurant called Kashmir which we stubbled upon on our way back and the food was delicious but took about 40 minutes, at least we can confirm it was fresh. Lastly we had to make a stop at the Gelarto Rosa which creates Rose Ice-Cream cones, I have to say this is probably the best gelato I've ever tasted #notanad. 



WHAT I EXPERIENCED

The Great Market Hall was the first place we stumbled upon, and we had no idea how much we were paying for things because we didn't have a clue on how the Hungarian Forint worked. So after coming to grips with it we made another trip to here to buy some souvenirs (Paprika) and just stroll across the dozens of food stalls. I imagine it's where all the locals head to for all their fruit and veg (and cheese!). 


I usually make it a point to visit a handful of museums whenever I'm in a new city, but we were running short on time and money so just decided to head to the House of Terror as it seemed the most intriguing. It contains exhibits related to the fascist regimes in 20th-century Hungary and is also a memorial to the victims of these regimes, including those detained, interrogated, tortured or killed in the building. You get an eerie feeling as soon as you step in the building, especially when inside the cells and watching the clips from survivors. If you're interested be sure to show your student ID for half price entrance! 


Anyone I know who's been to Budapest has told me that the nightlife is amazing, so we couldn't leave without seeing what the city had to offer. What better way to do that than on a party boat along the River Danube? For 20 euros we got to see Budapest by night, have unlimited beer, wine and champagne and get free entry to one of Budapest's busiest nightclubs Craft. I can imagine this would be best in the peak of summer because it was slightly chilly on the top deck, however the boat parties run all year long as they have a dance floor inside as well, although your pictures wouldn't look great would they. We made some new friends who were travelling across Europe and now I have a couple of sofas to stay on when I travel across America in 2018! There are also plenty of ruin bars that you can find across Pest which are all known for something, such as "the one with all the letters" which was just opposite The Great Market Hall, the Jewish Quarter also boasts a great nightlife with a difference. 

Lastly we made a quick trip to the SzĂ©chenyi Baths just across from Heroes Square, which I must say started off as a bit of a nightmare. The staff was useless so we spent the first 15 minutes trying to find where to rent out bathing costumes and how the lockers worked, luckily with some charades work from a Hungarian woman, we got there in the end. The thermal baths are meant to have special healing properties because of all the minerals found in the rocks and stuff, but I just felt like I was in a swimming pool after 100 kids have been let loose in it. This is where we met our dinner friend so we had some interesting conversations at least, and I would have loved to stay for the thermal pool party in the evening but sadly we had a plane to catch in a couple of hours! 


TOP TIPS FOR BUDAPEST.

  • They accept euros, but Hungarian Forint is their main currency and will get you a better exchange rate when changing your money. 
  • Yellow taxis to and from the airport will cost you the same/less than booking a shuttle online - we paid 12 euros each. Always google where your destination is before jumping in a taxi, we hopped in one to take us to the boat terminal and despite it being right in front of the bridge, the whole trip round set us back 10 euros each. 
  • Bring a bathing suit/towel with you to avoid rental fees at the baths! We looked everywhere for a swimsuit for Daniella but with it being late September, most stores already had their A/W collections in. 
  • Try the local cuisine, but if you're a fussy eater don't go for the most extravagant looking thing on the menu. 
  • Be open-minded! The amount of people you'll bump into who are travelling around Europe is incredible, so don't be afraid to make conversation with people, you might get some interesting conversations out of them and even a new place to stay if you ever need it!

If you've visited Budapest I'd love to hear what your favourite spots where and your recommendations for next time I hit up the city! 

♡ GS ♡

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