Country three – Hungary – and the popular tourist city of Budapest. The popularity of the city has grown since George Ezra (swoon) released his single of the same name, and I’m among the thousands who have become more curious about what the city holds. We boarded our fast train from Vienna and sat in a comfy carriage for only two and a half hours; passing some hilariously named towns, Mosonmagyaróvár was a personal fave and it was the first Hungarian stop! We arrived and headed straight to our Airbnb, the first where we had the whole place to ourselves, which was smaller than we thought but still manageable!
A few weeks earlier, I managed to book us tickets to watch the Snow White Ballet in Erkel Theatre on our first night. Beforehand, we stopped at a cafe/bar called Grand where we both had a hot dog, chips and a coke each and it totalled 1000ft (£2.68)!!! Budapest you have won on the cheap food front! We then headed to the ballet which was incredible! The bowing sequence ending the show was a little bit over-excessive….just a little…they did around 4 cast bows then another 3 individual ones. We got bored of them repeating the same thing so we left before the majority of people did – worked out well as we avoided the queues! Our first night ended with us drinking cocktails over happy hour in the Shot Bar terrace on the street. Watching the sun set over the gorgeous city was an amazing first look at what our Hungarian life held for us.
We had so much planned for our time here, we knew we wanted to spend a whole day in the baths, so we packed in a whole day of sightseeing into our first full day (in 34 degree heat…bad idea). Our first stop was the House of Terror…which frustratingly was closed on the day that we decided to go! So we then headed to St Stephen’s Basilica. We walked down a really long road called Andrássy út and we saw a film being shot there which was amazing to see. Just before we got to the Basilica, we stopped to do a spot of tourist shopping and I bought an addition to my shot glass collection (got to be done)! We couldn’t get into the Basilica itself as you can’t have your knees and shoulders out due to religious reasons, so we just admired its beauty from the outside.
Around the corner, in Liberty Square, we decided to stop for a spot of lunch at Hütte Café Terrace where we tried traditional Hungarian Goulash. It was a lot thinner than I expected it to be, the beef was deliciously tender, and had a gorgeous paprika-like flavour – was very appetising! After a short stroll, we approached the beautiful Parliament Building which was astoundingly large in person; its spires and arches being more gothic and ornate than I anticipated. A few (lot) of pictures later, we rambled along the bank of the Danube river passing the famous shoe sculptures that memorialise the people shot there during WWII. By now, the weather had picked up and it was sweltering hot and we were running out of water quickly…but we decided to plow on.
We passed over the Széchenyi Lánchíd bridge where I hopped myself onto the side where I sat dangling my legs over the Danube below me (Bex was terrified). The extremely overpriced funicular to the castle lay before us and we had no option but to take a ride on it, due to the hill that fell before us being impossible to handle in the heat. When we reached the top, we were greeted by a stunning view over the entirety of the city and even more heat. While Bex was having an argument with a vending machine, I was watching the changing of the guards outside the Sándor Palace; they must have been boiling, they were even wearing sunglasses which made me giggle. After stopping to sit down beside a fan rationing our cold bottle of coke, we made our way down the hill via a route through the old town so we could see Matthias Church and the Fisherman’s Bastion. There were a group of boys standing in a tower of the Bastion throwing water balloons down onto unsuspecting passers-by on the steps below – it was funny to watch, but I imagine the victims weren’t laughing.
In the evening, we decided to go on a ‘free’ bar crawl that our friends had recommended to us. We met some lovely people that night including Tom and Dan who were also from England, Shirley from California, Jonny from Dublin and others from Germany, Israel and Hungary itself! There was a fantastic deal offered to us for 3000ft (€10) where we’d get free entry to the 3 bars and a club, a shot at each place, and an unlimited hour of drinking in the second bar – we bought it in a heartbeat. In the second bar, unlimited drinks, we tried the Hungarian speciality – the ‘Shrek‘ pint. We were told by our amazing guide, Rosa, that it was made of 40% wine and had kiwi syrup in it, 2 and a half pints of these things equated to a bottle of wine…we had 4 each…oops! I can’t remember the names of the first 2 ruin-bars, but the third bar was called Ellátó Kert and the incredible club that we ended the night in is called Fogas Ház és Kert. The club has to be one of the best clubs I’ve ever been to! It was compiled of around 7 rooms, with different genres of music inside each of them, and a massive outside terrace covered in a circus-like tent that was lit up with multi-coloured lights in the trees (it’s hard to explain, google pictures if you’re more interested!). I highly recommend doing the crawl because it’s the best one that I’ve been on, the guides are lovely, and the places they take you to are incredible! Bare in mind though, you don’t get to the club until 2am so you have a long night of drinking ahead of you!
Following a mad night on the town, a day of relaxation was definitely needed. We headed to the infamous Széchenyi Baths, much later than intended (thanks hangover) for a day of floating and sunbathing. Entry to the baths with locker is 4900ft (£15.70) so it’s quite expensive but it’s a must-do when visiting the city. The changing rooms are very *ahem* open, so we wore our swimming costumes under our clothes when we went to the baths and changed in a toilet cubicle (hygienic, I know). It’s a challenge finding a sun-lounger around the main outside bath but some kind ladies offered us theirs as they were leaving. Beds reserved, we headed into the 38 degree thermal bath. I stupidly forgot to bring my GoPro to the bath as I’d left it in the locker but I saw lots of people throwing their cameras around in the baths and I wished I’d got some footage! It’s recommended to only spend 20 minutes at a time in the water but we definitely did not adhere to this rule, the water is gorgeously warm and it’s so therapeutic. We didn’t venture into the other many baths in the complex so we didn’t really get our money’s worth, but I was too hungover to move…an amazing end to our time in the city, which I can now back up to George Ezra, that it is a treasure chest.
If you have any questions about my general Interrail experience, feel free to check out my FAQ post here!
See my video from Budapest here: