Memories of Budapest

This time last year I was off on a cultural trip to Budapest, and I’ve only now realised that I never made a blog post about it! In light of this, I’d thought I’d write about how Budapest is a great city to explore especially if you’re a student who’s finished university for the summer and maybe has a bit of left over student loan.

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The Hungarian Parliament building, which was inspired by the Palace of Westminster in London

It’s a city break that you can afford

Paris…Rome..Madrid…all beautiful cities that you have to fork out for if you want to stay in a nice, central location. Meanwhile in Budapest, I was able to stay for a week in a central 4* hotel with breakfast for less than £300, with flights! It’s got all the charm and appeal of a capital city, without the typical western Europe price tag.

Budapest is extremely affordable to go around, and for meals out (read on for the pictures), we normally spent about £10 each, not bad! There’s a lot that you can do for free or for a reduced price, English language walking tours for example, last over two hours and you pay what you want at the end, or you can grab a leaflet and take yourself around. We were also really lucky to be around for the evening where all of the museums and galleries are open until 2am, and the ticked only cost 1500 ft, which is less than £4. It was such a bargain and I’d recommend that to anyone, except the leaflet was all in Hungarian, but we managed.

The exchange rate is also great, as Hungary hasn’t joined the Euro just yet. I took £200 spending money and got nearly 70,000 ft, which made me feel incredibly rich, especially since I’ve still got a 10,000 ft note!

It’s got lots of history

City breaks are all about going out, exploring and trying new things, and Budapest has a lot more history that people first think. It’s right in the middle of Western and Eastern Europe and so it’s seen a lot of conflict and events in it’s relatively young life (fun fact: Budapest was originally two cities, Buda and Pest, it was only a couple of hundred years ago that they unified it into one city). As it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until the end of the First World War (there’ll be lots of events going on this year for the centenary), it’s got the Imperial Palace standing in Buda and overlooking the Danube, and it’s now an art gallery.

The Imperial Palace, built for the Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresa (mother of Marie Antoinette).
The Imperial Palace, built for the Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresa (mother of Marie Antoinette)

Moving into more modern times, Hungary sided with Nazi Germany in the Second World War and was eventually taken under the influence of the Soviet Union as a communist state. As a result of this, Budapest features a lot of memorials and museums dedicated to this darker time, including the House of Terror, a set of offices held first by fascists and then by communists where prisoners were detained and tortured. It’s not a happy museum, but it’s one of the best in Budapest and is a definite visit because it’s so eye opening to what went on during those times.

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A memorial to the Jews of Budapest who were executed on the side of the Danube.
A memorial to the Jews of Budapest who were executed on the side of the Danube.

It has it’s own identity

There’s the conventional side of a city break, going to the museums and galleries, but Budapest has a lot of alternative destinations as well. The most well known, and one of the attractions that I visited, were the ruin pubs. Ruin pubs are abandoned old buildings that haven’t been fully repaired, but have been made safe enough to turn into drinking establishments (students will love them), they’ve each got their own identity and they’re a great place to spend an evening after dinner. Here are some shots of the one I went to:

Flying bunnies! In a bar!
Flying bunnies! In a bar!

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Yes, that is an owl/woman on the walls
Yes, that is an owl/woman on the walls

Also, pack your swimsuits. After walking around in flip flops for two days in 40ºC heat, I was in need of a slightly easier day, so I grabbed my stuff and headed off to one of the many thermal baths and swimming pools that Budapest has (one of its nicknames is the city of baths). People even put up plaques outside the baths if they’ve been cured of an illness there, I wouldn’t say that my blisters or mosquito bites were cured, but they felt a little bit better!

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The food

This is a big one for me, I love going round cities, learning all about it, but a really good holiday for me involves some great food, and Budapest certainly didn’t disappoint. Some of the ingredients that Hungary is famous for is paprika, sour cream and a goulash type stew. A couple of times we had the usual, pizza, pasta or sandwich but we made sure to try the traditional meals, and here are some of them (we didn’t take pictures of every meal…this isn’t Instagram).

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Beef cheeks in goulash sauce with cream cheese dumplings
Gundel - thin pancake filled with walnut puree on top of custard with some meringue on top
Gundel – thin pancake filled with walnut puree on top of custard with some meringue on top
Chicken in paprika sauce with mini flour dumplings
Chicken in paprika sauce with mini flour dumplings
Langos - a deep fried potato donut topped with sour cream, cheese, ham, onion and cucumber. You can't eat this delicately, believe me, just pick it up and go for it!
Langos – a deep fried potato donut topped with sour cream, cheese, ham, onion and cucumber. You can’t eat this delicately, believe me, just pick it up and go for it!

If you love good like I do, head to the central food market, it’s where I tried the lángos and it was amazing!

 

This is just a taste of why I think you fellow students should go to Budapest, whenever I speak to anyone about it, they always say that they loved their time there or really want to go. There’s even more to explore in this great city, so go for it! I’m off to Amsterdam after my thesis hand-in, so there’ll be another student guide to that!

 

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