Travel writer Fern O’Shaughnessy gives a beginner’s guide to Budapest
I visited Budapest (whilst interrailing) for three days and on a budget. We didn’t have the money to do all the fancy things we originally wanted to do – the bar crawls and the nice meals out. Instead, we were forced to make everything ten times cheaper.
But, thanks to research and some thrifty decisions, we were still able to see everything we wanted to.
Budapest is perhaps most famous for its tourist sites – the castle, the fisherman’s bastion and the parliament houses. All are stunning, and all are situated on the same river, with the same breath-taking views (I recommend going to the castle at sunset – you won’t regret it). If you are short for time, a tour is your best option, giving you the most information and allowing you to see the ‘big sites’ of Budapest within one afternoon.
We took a free walking tour led by a local student – the information for which is easy to find – with leaflets and flyers in most hostels. The guides also have lots of suggestions for meals out, bars, clubs and other things to do. However, while these tours are free, you are expected to give a tip. The usual amount is five to ten euros (1600 – 3200 HUF) and definitely worth it.
Budapest’s thermal baths are an essential part of any trip. They may be overpriced, crowded and simply glorified swimming pools, but they are a fundamental part of Hungarian culture (and every girl’s Instagram). There are plenty to choose from, but the Szechenyi Baths are, according to their own website, ‘the largest and most popular’ baths in Budapest. It is also definitely worth booking in advance and arriving early to grab a decent spot before it becomes filled with tourists. Although, be careful when deciding what ticket to get as we paid around £20 – roughly £10 more than the normal ticket – for the luxury of having a changing room, which we didn’t need to use.
Having said this, the baths make for a relaxing day out from exploring Budapest’s other attractions.
The Ruin Bars are perhaps Budapest’s best kept secret; people only tend to know about them if they’ve been. We heard of them through exchanging tips with other travellers, and immediately decided to go. They are a collection of bars across the Jewish Quarter which are a group of abandoned old buildings that were destroyed during World War Two. The bars are filled with random furniture and are decorated with what appears to be anything the managers could find lying around. The bars are hidden and change places frequently depending on whether neighbours find out or if the building gets bought by developers. A quick google search showed us the closest bar to us – even Ruin Bars are not too secluded to avoid social media.