For some reason I am unusually drawn to foreign cities and countries I know nothing about. It's exciting to get lost and discover new places, try new foods, drink different beer and meet interesting people. I enjoy travelling to Eastern Europe especially, as it has this eerie post world war vibe that is incredibly unfathomable for us Aussies.
Our country is so new and shiny that we just cannot understand how a.) a place can be so old and b.) how absolutely decimated a place can get during war. We are lucky, and sheltered, which is probably why we like to travel so much.
I once read a stat somewhere that stated around 30% of our nation travels overseas each year!
Anyway, back to the point. What better way to start an Eastern European trip than with Budapest. I'd highly recommend adding the city to your itinerary. Here's why:
Budapest is a melting pot of East-meets-West European culture. As a nation that was once occupied by the Romans, Turks, Austrians and Germans, it's always had a large and unwelcoming influx of migrants. This cultural mish-mash has made for an incredibly vibrant city with a delightful mix of neighbourhoods, shops, coffee houses, restaurants and bars.
So, what's one to do in such a hip city? Well, let me tell you...
Well, for starters, there is some seriously great coffee in Budapest, if you know where to look. Definitely check out Kontakt Coffee - It's your typical hipster art-house scene in a small space, with no wifi password, ?, perfect for millenials.
Well, Budapest has a very unique nightlife scene that is definitely worth checking out. A lot of the bars have been established in old war-torn buildings, known as ruin bars. They're scattered all over the city and most of the time you wouldn't even know they're there. To a passer-by it just looks like a normal residential building, but on the inside it's a crazy mix of graffiti, urban jungle, broken concrete and cracked ceilings - it looks literally like a bomb could have gone off yesterday.
One of the most popular ruin bars is called Szimpla Kert. All the local's will tell you not to go there because it's touristy and not-so-hip anymore, but as a tourist I'd say definitely go! It's massive and full of amazing spaces. It's worth a look, even if you just go for a walk through.
Most of the bars are in District VII which is known as the Jewish Quarter. I'd recommend you just walk around and pop in to a bar or restaurant that looks good to you... The neighbourhood is somewhat tailored to the student scene, but still, there's a lot to choose from. And heck, regardless of your age, it still makes for a good night out!
There's still so much more I could write about here, but for the sake of 200 words, I'll rattle off a few other must do's while you're there:
- Thermal Baths: Hungary boasts the largest amount of natural thermal springs than any other European country. In Budapest alone there is over a hundred different baths to choose from! One of the oldest and most famous baths is the Gellért Bath & Hotel. This is the perfect place to relax after a full day of city exploring!
- Take a walk up the Buda side of town: Budapest is basically two cities in one, divided by the Danube river. On the west you've got Buda hill and some incredibly beautiful old houses, buildings and monuments. Be sure to take a walk up to the Fisherman's Bastion and Buda Castle.
- Explore St. Stephen's Basilica: I'm not usually one for recommending churches but the benefit of St. Stephen's is that a.) it's incredibly beautiful and b.) you can get a stunning view from the top!
- Have a shot of Unicum: Just because. It's like a herbal Jägermeister and is regarded as one of the national drinks of Hungary! I actually like it a lot and wish I bought a bottle to take with me on my travels.
- Eat some bloodwurst, liverwurst ... any kind of wurst: You'll find a very meaty rich culture in Budapest. Going to the butcher is like going to a cafe in Paris. You'll be offered a wild variety of meats (mostly sausages) and can sit out under an umbrella with a beer to soak up the city vibes. It's really fun, and I'd recommend you find a local to go with so they can help you navigate the chaotic menu's.
Phew, I really could go on! Budapest is a very cool city. It's very easy to get around speaking English and there is so much to explore. It's pretty cheap too, seeing as they use their own currency, the Hungarian forint.
If you have any questions about Budapest - places to stay, to go out, to work from etc, just add a comment below!