Diary of a Backpacker: Days 11-13, Budapest

Our third stop of the trip brings us to Budapest, the city of Ezra. Our initial plan was to journey to the white sands and pearly white habitats of Croatia but unfortunately one particularly badly cooked Italian calzone was not my pal…

You can read the actual article on Scotcampus.com here.129

  • How we got here: Bus followed by a train
  • Where we stayed: Colors Hostel Budapest (8/10)
  • Attractions visited: Gelert Baths, The Liberty Statue, Margaret Island, The Heroes Square, Danube River Cruise, the Fisherman’s Bastion
  • Best way to navigate within the city: Bus or bike

I’ll tell you something, George Ezra’s hit was brought up more than once on this visit to the Hungarian utopia.

The plains of Pest contrast with the hilly slopes of Buda against a pastel-coloured backdrop of orange, pink and violet sky at every point of the day. The two halves of the city are united by six bridges which carry traffic over the River Danube. Each bridge, having been constructed to pay homage to significant historical events in Hungarian history, is unique and intricately astounding – as if the city’s stunning original buildings were not enough to identify Budapest as an architectural nation. Littered with either mineral baths, castles or just plain friendly faces at every corner, three days here has been enough to confirm that Budapest really is the “hidden treasure chest” that Ezra lead us all to believe.

Having just escaped the extortionate survival costs of Italy’s cities, I was overjoyed to learn that you get a lot more for your money in Hungarian Forint. This didn’t stop me feeling sceptical as we booked our Budapest hostel. Over the past eight days, we have grown accustomed to coughing up 25 euros minimum per night in a hostel (around £20) which I believed to be reasonable on a 50€ a day budget. No WiFi, no out-of-hours reception, no room cleaning and sometimes no secure lockers were just what I believed to be the standard.

Fast forward to 1am in Central Budapest at Color’s Hostel – located within the heart of Pest – and we were handed a WiFi key and offered a beer by the 24-hour reception. Scrounging for our money in our backpacks we were told to drop our things, settle in and then come to reception to pay the small price of 27€ each for our three nights when we were ready. In fact, from that moment on I think we knew that our time spent here in Budapest would be a time for “wallet recovery” in preparation for our next expensive visit: Amsterdam.

On the first morning we made the decision to exchange 50€ for some local currency. Although countries within the European Union generally accept the Euro in addition to their own currencies, money is often lost as shops enforce a conversion charge when you do this. Believe it or not 50€ transformed into just over 15,000 FT (on a 1€ = 308FT rate) – our entire budget for three days.

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Instead of paying individual entry into attractions, we decided that we would opt for a bus tour. Luckily, we uncovered one called Sightseeing Budapest who’s citrus green buses could be seen all across the city. The deal was available at 20% student discount at 1400FT, and included: unlimited 48hr hop-on, hop-off access to the guided bus tours, two River Danube cruises, one night bus tour, a free bike ride on Margaret Island, one free bowl of Goulash soup, one free beer and a voucher booklet which – unlike every other voucher booklet you’ll have encountered on holiday – was really useful. I would definitely recommend this approach to sightseeing. Our bus allowed us to reach parts of the city which would have otherwise been inaccessible in the time we had here or very expensive to fund using public transport. For example, the Liberty Statue which is so high up on a hill it is visible almost everywhere you go.

We utilised most of the perks of the bus ticket during our stay, including my personal favourite: a bike ride in Margaret Island (which I liked to pretend is named after my lovely Grandma). I’m pretty sure that minus the baby pink frame, the tan leather seat and the vintage handlebars of the bike I chose to hire, this experience would have been very different. We paraded the outskirts of Margaret Island on our retro beauties with pride, our eyes being opened to another exciting mode of transport within future cities and even in Scotland back home.

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Budapest occupies a very serious bathing culture, something I was aware of before visiting. The hilly landscapes of Buda produce gallons of mineral springs every day which Hungarians – back as early as the 15th century – built beautiful, regal bathing houses around so that the richest could benefit from their medicinal properties *rubs smooth skin on face*. The water in Gelert baths is 100% natural. The baths boast an impressive array of pools for adults to enjoy which include thermal and ice cold baths, saunas and steam rooms. In addition to this, Gelert also have a huge wave pool for which they are famous. I would FULLY recommend visiting one Budapest’s baths in your lifetime.

Quite simply, the astounding architecture cannot be ignored in Budapest. The Hungarian parliamentary buildings located on the banks of the Danube put Holyrood’s monstrosity, once again, to shame. The sides of the river are lined with castles, cathedrals and baroque homes of regal nature that glow in the reflection of the water at sunset. To list each and every building we ‘oooh’d at would take far too long, but see the list of attractions above for details on what to pay attention to. The entire landscape of Budapest can be seen from the Liberty Statue situated on Gelert Hill. The arms of the freedom lady extend triumphantly above her head for all to see – a gentle reminder to tourists that Hungary is a nation proud of their history, their present, and excited for their future.

Highlight: The mineral baths

Downside: None!

View Diary of A Backpacker Days 4-9, Italy

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