I’ll be completely honest, when planning our Summer holiday this year we only really had one essential criteria for our destination. It had to be cheap. We both decided we wanted to get out of the UK but our budget was limited, so we started looking for somewhere that included travel and accommodation, for around £250 each.
Initially we began looking at Croatia and Montenegro as we heard great things about the caving in Croatia and Montenegro is ever-growing in popularity with us Brits. After some research another European country caught our eye, Hungary. I didn’t really know much about the place except Sziget Music Festival was held in the capital, Budapest. Anyway, we thought we’d give a whirl.
We got our flights from Manchester with Ryanair, these cost about £100 return each and flight time was 2 hours 20mins.
As for accommodation, I am still a huge fan of Air BNB, if you haven’t used the service yet I’d definitely recommend it for your next trip. We used them on our trip to Norway so decided to try and find a similar little gem for Budapest. We were not disappointed when we decided on Anna’s apartment, located right near the Danube river – total cost for 7 night £234.
A top floor apartment, located just up from the Hungarian Parliament Building. Stunning views and a cute little neighbourhood, dotted with independent shops and cafes.
The apartment was pretty easy to get to from Budapest airport using public transport. We bought a ticket for the 100E bus route, a special shuttle bus which takes your right into central Budapest (Deák Square), it’s a 35 minute journey costing 900 Hungarian forints – which works out at just under £3. We then hopped on the Metro, M3 line, Budapest has 3 metro lines in total and the apartment was a short walk from Lehel Ter.
I was very excited to learn on our arrival that Budapest’s Pinball Museum was only a 10 minute walk from the apartment, we went there on our 2nd night in the city. Pay the equivalent of about £10 and get free play on loads of pinball machines and arcade games. Highly recommended if you’re into that kind of thing, hours of fun!
We were also close by the Budapest Jazz Club. A great spot for checking out live music, with ticketed events, free jam sessions, a restaurant and great bar!
I’m not going to continue by doing a day by day account of the things we got up to. Just some little highlights of the places we enjoyed the most, because if I included everything we’d be here all day and I’ve got other stuff to do, like walk the dog. She is totally staring at me right now.
Anyhoo, situated on the River Danube, Margaret Island is a massive green space in the middle of the city. It’s a huge park with thermal baths, rose and Japanese gardens, small zoo and the ruins of an ancient convent. We went on a sunny Sunday with tourists and locals alike, enjoying the warm weather.
We also spent a lot of time enjoying the local dishes and beers. My personal favourite being the Hungarian goulash. Even in the hot weather, this hearty rich stew was a welcome stomach filler after a long day of sightseeing. Also if you get the chance go to Sir Lancelot’s Medieval Restaurant – just near the Budapest-Nyugati Railway Station. A great medieval dining experience with jousting, belly dancing, fire dancers and loads of medieval merriment. Perhaps not a 100% Hungarian experience, but brilliant fun nevertheless.
Another foodie must is to visit to famous New York Cafe, billed as the “most beautiful coffee house in the world” I certainly wouldn’t argue with that.
After all that excitement you can relax in one of the cities many thermal baths. We opted for Széchenyi Thermal Bath which is open from 6am-10pm every day. Comprising of 21 pools in total it’s one of the largest bath complexes in Europe. There are 3 main outdoor pools to swim in and many smaller hot and cold pools and a sauna to relax in.
As our week progressed we made plans to get out of the city for a day or two and took the train down to Lake Balaton, also known as the “Hungarian Sea”. It has a whopping surface area of 229 squares miles. We made a last minute booking at Granit Villa, a nice little guest house, right on the edge of the lake (bring cash). We did plenty of swimming and it was surprisingly quiet. We had just missed high season apparently, temperatures were still hitting the high 20’s. My only regret about our visit to Lake Balaton is that we didn’t have a car, I’ve love to have seen more of the lake.
On our return to Budapest, much to Chris’ insistence, we went for a caving tour under the city. I was slightly reluctant at first as, well, let’s face it I’m a self-proclaimed wuss. Small, tight spaces underground do not much appeal to me. I took a few pictures whilst we were underground but this blog post shows a far better account of the tour. After an initial twang of fear as we clambered down a 40 foot ladder I really began to enjoy myself, navigating through tiny holes like “the sandwich” and working as a team, listening and advising the other adventurers on how to make it through a tight squeeze. Our guide was great, very funny and encouraging – check out their website here.
For our last couple of days we packed in some more sight-seeing. Enjoying the beautiful Royal Palace on the located on the hilly Buda side of the city.
Followed by St Stephen’s Basilica, back over in Pest, an amazing looking Roman Catholic church where you can find spectacular views of the city by scaling the 364 steps up to the dome’s observation deck (there’s also an elevator if y’all don’t like sweating)
As mentioned at the beginning of this blog post, our apartment was only 10 minutes walk from the Budapest Parliament Buildings. A truly stunning building with many statues of famous Hungarians Kings and great Military leaders. Apparently every single person who contributed to the building of parliament had to be Hungarian. It took over 20 years to build and is the largest building in Budapest. Current building regulations state that no other buildings in Budapest can be bigger than the Parliamentary buildings which is 96 metres.
And that about wraps up this quick city guide, I hope you found some of it useful if you are planning your own trip to Budapest. You can get discounts on public transport and most of the places featured in the blog post using the Budapest Card – available here.
Can you recommend any other places in Budapest? Please leave your recommendations in the comments below.