Sam Starling
8 January 2013

Budapest

Back in November 2012, I went to Budapest with a few old friends from university. I’d only ever passed through before on my way to Serbia. Back then, it was hovering well above 30°C and I was lugging my bags around with me. This time, I had a proper chance to explore – and as with Amsterdam, I thought it’d be good to write up some of my highlights.

Szent Gellért Baths

Budapest is famous for its thermal baths. I visited these on my way back from Exit Festival in Serbia, and they were a godsend after 10 days spent camping in a dusty field. The baths are pretty cheap (less than £10) and you can stay as long as you want – two hours was enough for us.

There’s a mixed-sex area with a ‘normal’ pool, followed by separate-sex areas that consist of the actual thermal baths, a steam room, and saunas, where Dan and I nearly turned our feet into charcoal. Top tip: take sandals. You can rent everything you need there, including towels.

Buda Castle

One afternoon we took a walk from the Parliament Building, over the Chain Bridge and to the foot of the hill on which Buda Castle stands. There’s a funicular railway up to the top, but we decided we’d walk rather than queue. Don’t worry, the walk up is nowhere near as bad as it looks.

At the top there’s Buda Castle itself along with lots of museums, although we didn’t visit any of them. There’s also Sándor Palace (where the president lives), Matthias Church, and the Fisherman’s Bastion. The main reason we came up here is for the view – which on a clear day is spectacular. Bonus points if you come across the marching band that we happened upon.

Sör

Or, in English, beer. Budapest is famous for what’s known as ruin pubs. They’re not literally ruins, but this page gives you a bit of a better idea of what they consist of. Essentially, it’s cool bars and cheap beer. What more could you want? We particularly enjoyed Szimpla, Kuplung and a few others in that area.

You can’t go far wrong, and even if you do, a beer is less than a quid. English isn’t all that common, but please (kérem) and thank you (köszönöm) will get you a long way.

Honourable Mentions

It would be rude not to mention a few other bits — we stayed just around the corner from St. Stephen’s Basilica, which has a good coffee shop right next to it. Frici Papa does cheap and unassuming Hungarian food, which consists of having paprika with everything.

Finally, you’ve not done Budapest properly until you’ve had a lángos and washed it down with pálinka. Although you may want to do that the other way around…