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*I’ve been to Budapest twice for a total of 10 days spent in the city. It is my second favorite city in Europe behind Prague. Inside of this Budapest Guide, you’ll not only learn interesting things about the city, but you’ll also get my recommendations for things like — culture, food, nightlife, and things to do.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions, and please check out my other related posts on Budapest:
10 Things to do in Budapest
5 Hungarian Foods to Try
Ultimate Guide to the Nightlife in Budapest
Top 10 Hungarian Words
Budapest is one of the most unique, awesome and affordable places in Europe. I first had the chance to visit when I was studying abroad in Prague in 2012, and I just visited again in the summer of 2015. I love Budapest so much that I can see myself living there for some time.
It’s no surprise that this city is ranked the most liveable city in Eastern Europe by the Economist Intelligence Unit.
Many people don’t know that Budapest is actually made up of two cities, “Buda” and “Pest.” The two cities are split by the Danube River, with the western side (Buda) being the hilly and historic region and the eastern side (Pest) containing most of the urban area including restaurants, nightlife, hotels and more.
No matter what your incentives are for being in Budapest, I can assure you that you will encounter some crazy things. The city truly never sleeps and has something for everyone.
One of the best things about Budapest is affordability. The currency is called the Forint, and it is extremely inflated. The last time I was in Budapest, one U.S. dollar = 250 Forints. Just to put in perspective how cheap the city is: my hostel room cost $7 a day (and it was a decent hostel), a 20 minute cab ride across the city was around $3, and a standard street food meal was around $3. With that being said, always remember to stay away from the touristy places because they will try to rip you off!
It’s time for some quick facts:
– Currency: Hungarian Forint (HUF)
– Language: Hungarian
– Population: 1.75 million (city), 3.3 million (metro)
– The history of the city dates back to an early Celtic settlement in the 9th Century
– Constructed in 1894, the underground railway system is the 2nd oldest in the world (behind London)
– Budapest has 123 thermal springs pumping out 80 million liters of water everyday
– Budapest has the 2nd largest Jewish Synagogue and the 3rd largest Parliament building in the world
– The Szechenyi medicinal Bath is the largest medicinal public bath in Europe
– The Sziget Festival is the largest music and cultural festival in Europe. Over 400,000 people attend this weeklong festival that’s held every August.
Culture & People
Hungarian people aren’t friendly upon first encounter, but they’ll open up to you quickly.
My first impression of Hungarians was they they were close minded and private individuals. They rarely smile and they have a permanently stern face that is likely the result from the previous communist government.
However, I realized that this is the case with most of the older generation and not the younger generation. All of the Hungarians that I met who were my age could speak English and were open minded and friendly.
As I meandered around some museums, I learned about the dominance of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the dark times of the Nazi occupation of the country. It’s very intense to see how the people in Budapest went through an endless amount of hardships and suffering over the last few centuries. The history and struggles definitely has an impact on the attitude of the people, so keep this in mind when you are in the city.
I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and form new friendships. You might want to know the Top 10 Hungarian Words to keep in your back pocket 😉
What to Do?
No matter how much time you have to spend in Budapest, I can guarantee you one thing: You will Never run out of things to do!
The castle district on the Buda side of the river is fascinating. It’s like straight out of a fantasy world that you’ve only dreamed about or seen in movies. Buda Castle is located on top of the hill and dominated the area with its giant structure. Just down the hill are a plethora of medieval castles that you are able to go inside and explore. I recommend just walking around the area for one afternoon, and set aside at least 4 hours
If you are in Budapest in the summertime, then you’ve got to take a swim in one of the MANY thermal baths. It’s a great cultural experience and the water is actually healthy for your body. If you are looking to have some fun, they you can go to a bath party at night, where you can drink beers and party all night long with awesome people. I’ve heard they are insane.
Lastly, try to go inside the Hungarian Parliament building! In my opinion, it’s the most beautiful building in Europe. The tickets are very hard to get, and you must purchase them online beforehand. You can only enter the building on an organized tour, and they have very strict rules. It’s prestigious. I was unable to make it because the tickets were sold out, but I heard that it’s incredible inside.
For a more complete list, check out my post on 10 Things to do in Budapest.
You will find a lot of meat, bread, potatoes, vegetables, and cheese. Soups and stews are commonly served during wintertime. The most classic dish native to Hungarian culture is Goulash soup, which is a stew mixed with beef, vegetables, and spices. Hungary cuisine is particularity known for its unique variation of herbs and spices, proving the goulash soup to be the tastiest in the world.
There are also some delicious pastries that I found while in Budapest, so keep an eye out for those! Pay close attention to the street vendors and the little bakery corner stores that are located all over town.
To learn more about the best foods that Budapest has to offer, please read my post on 5 Hungarian Foods to Try.
The nightlife in Budapest is a BLAST!
I partied harder in Budapest than I did in most other European cities. The crowd is a lively bunch of young adults who literally stay out all night long until early morning.
The coolest bars on this planet are in Budapest- they are called the ruin bars.
Basically, ruin bars were built in the old district VII (the old Jewish quarter) in the ruins of abandoned buildings or lots. After WWII, this neighborhood was torn into shreds, so it became a great place to build an underground bar scene. Every ruin bar is different- they look like normal bars from the outside and the inside is hip, lively, artsy, and funky with loud music, lots of bars, crazy cool decorations and loud music. The interior is HUGE inside with so many rooms. One room will be a hookah bar/theme with reggae playing, another room will have swanky neon lights and classy, and another room will have chairs hanging from the ceilings.
My favorite ruin pubs were Szimpla Kert and Instant. Check them out.
Aside from the ruin bars, the club scene is hoppin’ every weekend. My favorite club was called club Studio and it was located on the mini island of Sziget in the Danube River. Over 8,000 people can pack into this club making it the 3rd biggest club in the world. It was one of the best clubbing nights I’ve ever had. Oh, and the crowd is stunningly attractive 🙂
Budapest is one of those cities that you will dream about once you leave. I am definitely going back the next time I am in Europe!
If you want to know the best clubs and bars around town, then read my Ultimate Guide to the Nightlife in Budapest!
Thanks for reading! Please comment with any questions or stories