Affordability makes it the perfect student city break. Flights start from as little as £25 with budget airlines, and accommodation is much more affordable than in neighbouring European cities. The Hungarian capital is filled to the brim with things to see, and is just waiting to be explored.
The city is split by the Danube River, with Buda lying to the west, and Pest to the east, stitched together by a network of bridges. Most impressive of which is the towering Széchenyi Chain Bridge. The currency, the Hungarian Forint, is a little difficult to get your head around, with one British pound equal to around 400 forints. It’s easy to feel like you’re spending monopoly money when you’re blowing 5000 forints on a meal. Speaking of which, the traditional Hungarian cuisine won’t suite all tastes. Goulash and steaming meat stews are popular dishes in almost all establishments, even in the heat of summer.
The streets are immaculate, and this is a city that’s designed to be explored by foot. At every turn there is an architectural marvel, whether it’s a pale blue turreted mansion, the opulent, neogothic Parliament building or one of the dozens of splashing water features. There’s no better way to get to know this most compact of cities than by meandering the backstreets and strolling down the splendid Andrassy Avenue. When your feet get tired – and they will – it’s easy enough to hop on the metro or tram to get between districts.
The Royal Palace is cited by many guidebooks as the number one attraction in Budapest. This is most definitely the case, but beware; what the guidebooks fail to mention is the easily missed yellow courtyard room nestled inside which is flooded with sunlight, be sure to sneak a peek inside. St. Stephen’s Basilica is an awe-inspiring presence, standing guard over St. Stephen’s square. Surrounded as it is by stylish bars, it’s the perfect spot to have a drink and take in the surroundings. When you’re ambling along the banks of the river, be sure to look for the Shoes on the Danube. This poignant memorial honors the Jews who were ordered to take off their shoes on the bank, prior to having their lives taken.
With thermal Turkish baths on almost every corner, it is no surprise Budapest has become known as the ‘City of Baths.’ The Gellért baths have been likened to swimming inside a cathedral, where you can lie back and admire the mosaiced ceilings. Yet even these are dwarfed by the enormous Széchenyi baths. Wherever you decide to go, a plunge into 75°c waters is the perfect way to unwind and rest your fatigued feet.
Budapest has a lively nightlife, with ‘kerts’ or ‘ruin pubs’ being major hotspots. Originally semi-legal bars set up in abandoned courtyards, Budapest’s kerts have been the city’s staple summer hang outs for over a decade. With plants creeping their way into the party and lanterns suspended in the air, these kerts make a refreshing change to your run-of-the mill club. Szimpla Kert might seem no more than a run down apartment building from the outside, but let the distant rumble of music draw you in. It’s heaving with people and decorated with everything from bathtub sofas to old televisions sprouting wires and fairy lights. During certain months of the year, kerts also house open-air cinemas.
Whether you’re soaking in the atmosphere, or soaking in a thermal bath, this is city that you can effortlessly immerse yourself in.