I didn’t really know much about Budapest before going there. But now that I’ve been, I can definitely say that I’ll be going back – probably in a few weeks as I make my way back down through the Baltics to Croatia.
My first experience of Hungary was arriving by bus into Budapest a little way out of town, not far from the M3 Metro station. After being in London, Stockholm, Berlin and Vienna in previous weeks I was quite accustomed to the metro systems but this one was something else!
Firstly the signage was super confusing – i.e there wasn’t much. And once I found my way to the ticket office I had no idea what sort of ticket to buy or how much the ticket was, but I ended up with a 3 day pass for about 12 euros which wasn’t too bad. Don’t expect a smile from the ticket office.
Once I had my ticket, showed it to the old man at the escalators I made my way down to the train. When it arrived like a rocket from the right, covered in graffiti rattling like a tin full of rocks I knew I was in for a treat!
Despite its rickety appearance, the metro did its thing and I arrived in the centre of Budapest at Deak Square, surrounded by run down but charming old buildings, very different to the pristine buildings of Vienna I had left just hours earlier.
I have been to a number of “run down” cities in South America and Africa before but Budapest just seems to work with this, utilising the rustic charm to its advantage. This is no more evident than in any one of the many “Ruin Bars” that have been built around decrepit buildings with an ironic hipster chic, without the hipsters – watch out if they learn of this place!
The river is huge and lined by many old, beautiful buildings, all within walking distance of the main square, which itself is full of activity with skateboarders, bars and fluffy dogs.
The Hungarian people are charming and very friendly even to those of us who can’t speak a word of their language except thank you and cheers. All the men however look like Jason Statham-esq thugs & mobsters! Despite their brash appearance many are very friendly and happy to chat, there are some however who’s appearance is befitting of their nature!
The Social Life
The local food is delicious, the river is beautiful and the outdoor bars are great for a casual drink. There seem to be a LOT of smokers which is sad. But that’s what you get when cigarettes are 4 euro’s a pack.
Food is cheap as is beer, even in the “Touristy” areas. There are a lot of festivals during summer and the Sparties (Spa Party), despite being predominately drunk british and Australian blokes was definitely a unique experience. We went with a group of us and had a ball. Beware the 1500huf charge fee though for getting your drink card!
We made a last minute decision to go to Sziget on the sunday night. We prepared with a $4 bottle of wine and a $8 bottle of vodka and we were ready to go. Taking a $2 500ml beer for the road (you seem to be able to drink on public transport and in the street, although I don’t know the official rules!) and we were off!
Sziget is such a great festival, the music covers all bases from rock to indie to dance to hip hop, and the crowd (unlike at home) is full of party goers from all across the globe!
We arrived t the festival, had some tequila shots and consequently lost each other about 10 mins later, not to reunite until 9am the next morning when the last of us stumbled in the door!
So without boring you with too much detail of my own personal experience, I can say that Budapest has a bit of everything. Cultural experiences, architecture, ruins, cheap drinks and a great vibe. Go check it out if you ever get the chance!