Hey, you there! Are you HUNGARY for an adventure? 'Cos you're being nothing Budapest! etc etc.
Okay, let's face it; when it comes to Budapest, the pun opportunities are pretty decent. But surprisingly, that's not the only reason I went there (we're talking, maybe, 23% of the decision?).
Yep, me and my pal, Tom, spent four days there recently and, through making mistakes such as not understanding which way North is on an INTERACTIVE MAP THAT TELLS YOU WHICH WAY NORTH IS, we now know what to do (and what not to) in Budapest...
1. Go there on your birthday
Then your friend might buy you champagne.
2. Pretend you knew all along that Buda and Pest are two different places
Then, when you get home, use any opportunity to impress your mates with said geographical knowledge.
Mate: "Could you pass me the knife please?"
You: "Hey, isn't it funny how knives and forks go together but are also separate? A bit like Budapest, really."
Above example can also (loosely) be applied to Ross & Rachel and humous & bourbon biscuits.
3. Locate the party
There is a genuine party app for Budapest called the 'Budapest Party Locator'.
Let's just say, thanks to this little beauty: we located the party.
(And yes, just so we're clear, that is a giant metal pig hanging from the ceiling.)
4. Stay in Pest
Obviously this depends on your preference, but we stayed on the Pest side of the river as it's closer to all the bars, restaurants and markets than Buda. And it has SWEETS! So many sweets.
Apparently heated baths are a massive deal in Budapest! Who knew? (Apart from people who live there, people who built them, people who are actually organised and do research about a place before they go etc.)
My total fave was Szechenyi (the 'yellow' spa) which you can get to on the underground. It was only after we'd been in the outdoors bath for 2.5 hours that we saw the sign warning us to stay in the water no longer than 20 mins. My fingers looked like massive currants. Gross.
6. Do appreciate the signage
7. Ruin Pubs
I had to move this section down the page a bit for fear of coming across like a total alcoholic, but basically, forget everything you've heard about culture, history etc: IT IS ALL ABOUT THE RUIN BARS IN BUDAPEST.
Here's my handy ruin bar pub crawl guide if you are going:
Start at Jelen (it's got a sort of 'Brighton-on-the-continent' vibe. You can get nice food and coffee here too, and they had live music on when we were there).
Then wonder along to the Blue horse (or Kek Lo) for a quick one. They sell clothes and jewellery there and -OMG- they have a statue of a blue horse outside.
(I don't know why my lips have gone so Pete Burnsy in this photo.)
Across the road is one of the best bars I've ever been to: Szimpla. With its tens of rooms, films outside, counter food inside... and the opportunity to purchase a carrot with your drink, well, you will no doubt understand why it's one of the most famous ruin bars in the world.
Most is the next on the list. It's just a ten minute walk up the road and is owned by the same people who own Jelen. Their strawberry cocktail is made with fresh strawberries. So that means it's good for you. Like the whole 'carrot with a drink' thing.
Lastly, it's on to Instant - a bit rough, a bit studenty, and just a little bit perfect. We danced a lot and when we left at 4am, the party was still going strong. IT WAS A MONDAY, PEOPLE.
8. Take the tram for fun!
Not meaning to boast or anything, but when I was in Pest, I *may* have taken a ride on "the world's seventh best tram".
I think seventh is a pretty fair ranking tbh.
You're on it for 5 minutes, the view is exactly the same as you'd be able to see if you walked and a good deal of it is underground. If you're a tram enthusiast like my friend Tom apparently is (see pic above), you need to jump aboard the number 2. Head down to the Gellert bridge on the Pest side to get it (but make sure you buy a ticket first from one of the underground stations).
9. Dress up warm if going in winter
10. Buda Castle: National Portrait Gallery, church, history museum and FUN!icular railway
Okay, we may or may not have spent most of our 'Buda Castle' day trying to work out where the actual castle was. So to save you some time: that whole walled area on top of the hill? The castle is ALL OF IT.
The views from the castle are pretty breath-taking, and if you're lucky you might see a sort of military dance routine thing (often referred to as the 'changing of the guards').
I'd recommend getting the tiny funicular railway to the top because funicular railways are cool.
Once you're inside the castle walls, there are some incredible views from the bastion (follow signs to the church) and great opportunities for pensive profile pics.
The church itself is amazing, too (you have to pay to go in, but it's not much), and we ended up having a really deep and arty conversation about whether it's better to restore historical artifacts or to preserve them (until we got distracted by a really glamorous, famous-looking couple who we then stalked for a bit).
The castle walls also house Budapest's history museum. The history stuff was all in a bit of a confusing order and we didn't really learn much, BUT we did accidentally walk into a weird little off-limits back room where some people were sat sewing. For a heart-stopping moment, we genuinely thought we'd traveled back in time; that was, until they got angry and told us to leave, and we thought "surely no one in the olden days would have been that rude."
We also visited The National Portrait Gallery. I was mostly interested to see more of the communist propaganda and there wasn't much of that, but it was quite surreal walking through the history of Hungary in art form. There was a cool pic of a horse, too.
11. Embrace the difference
Everything is a little bit the same as it is in England, but also a little bit different. Don't believe me?
12. Gellert Hill
Gellert hill overlooks Budapest. The climb takes about 15 minutes and is well worth it to see all the statues of men being manly (plus some nice views).
13. Christmas Markets
Budapest is famous for its Christmas Markets. They open from mid November onwards and are... well, everything you would expect. Chrismassy, markety etc.
There's the main one in town (on the Pest side), and not far from that is market hall, which is all covered. The latter is sort of like Brixton market but more paprika-ry and a lot less hipster (here, mustaches are anything but ironic). Worth a visit though, if only to purchase some cheap spices and weird salad tongs with ladies dressed as men painted on them (but watch out for the stall owners ripping you off - Tom accidentally paid £20 for said novelty tongs. I paid £2.50. I don't think he wanted them that bad).
I should also point out you can buy this bag there, too.
14. Statue park
Is it weird to include something we didn't do? Probs. We REALLY wanted to go here (it's where they dumped all the old communist statues), but we ran out of time. It's a little way outside of Buda by the sounds of it, but meant to be very good. Plus, THEY HAVE A COMMUNIST HOTLINE:
15. And lastly... don't get drunk on the flight, yeah?
Turns out, it does not help the whole 'ear popping' situation.
- Book taxis through the hotel to get the best price
- Do ask for wifi. Pretty much everywhere we went had it.
- Learn some Hungarian! We only really needed hello and goodbye (both are szia - handily pronounced 'seeya') and thank you (köszönöm - pronounced just as it's spelt)
- If you're interested in Hungary's history, maybe look it up before hand - I couldn't really find it succinctly summarised in any of the places we went to while we were there, but when I did learn about how it's only been independent twenty odd years etc, my experience really changed. You sort of appreciate it's sense of freedom a lot more.
- Don't be put off by the smell of the spas! They really do stink but it's something to do with the natural water apparently. You do get used to it.
- You can get a day travel card. Only do that if you're going to make four or five journeys, otherwise you may as we'll buy singles.
- Oh, and maybe learn how to use a map. Turns out, it's a pretty useful skill to have.
Other helpful Budapest websites:
And hey! If you are going to Hungary... have the BudaBEST time! (23% guys. 23%. There was always going to be another pun.)