Back in September, we’d gone to Milan to explore more of Italy. I heard great things about Budapest and wanted to get a taste of Eastern Europe so I found a great deal and booked a flight to Budapest while we were over there.
We flew via Wizz Air, it’s another European low-cost carrier. As long as you’re not checking bags, it’s an easy and incredibly cheap flight.
I booked an apartment via AirBnB in a centrally located apartment in an old building in the heart of Budapest near the Oktagon metro stop. It was a classic and quaint unit located on the fourth floor of a building that was around 300 years old. We dropped off of our bags and instantly fell in love with the historic area. Outside our doors it was interesting to see old storefronts replaced with American favorites like Starbucks, KFC, and Hooters, but such is life.
Because the previous few days in Milan were filled with nonstop activities, I didn’t want to plan every last second of our trip to Budapest. All I knew was I wanted to take a sunset cruise down the Danube and to spend an afternoon at the historic Széchenyi thermal baths, everything else would have to be played by ear.
Our first day we met an older American couple from California that retired to Portugal. They’d been in Budapest for a few weeks and gave us some tips on places to eat and things to see during our short stay. They recommended a restaurant called Frici Papa that was close to our AirBnB so we figured we’d try it for lunch.
The place was totally no frills and was filled with a mix of tourists and locals alike. We ordered 2 glasses of wine, 2 appetizers, 2 entrees, and 2 bottles of water and combined our meal came to $11. I’ve been some places where you get a lot for your money but that place definitely took the cake. I’d definitely recommend it.
We ended up doing a free walking tour our first afternoon there. I highly recommend these tours either your first or second day because what better way is there to familiarize yourself with a new city. The part about it being free is always a plus. Depending on the thoroughness of the tour guide and cost of the city, I usually tip between $10-20.
Midway through our tour, my Aunt decided she rather take photos than keep up with the group, so we ended up losing them among the crowds. We lost them somewhere in the Buda Castle area but ended up stumbling across several beautiful weddings and a market with all types of trinkets. As we made our way down the hill, we walked through a nice, more modern neighborhood, it kind of reminded me of San Francisco. We finally made our way back across the Chain Bridge.
During our three days in Budapest, we literally walked over 20 miles according to my Fitbit. The weather in September was perfect for walking and remained comfortable throughout the day and night. Our last day was chilly, rainy day but we spent it exploring the rooms at Széchenyi. Each room has a different theme and the temperature of the water varies so it’s a place that is open to visitors year round. Pictures truly don’t do this place any justice. Tip: Book a “locker” in advance as they fill up. It’s not really a locker, more like a small changing room with a bench to store your clothing and things while navigating the baths.
We spent about 6 hours maneuvering from room to room, having a massage, and then lunch, and more time in the various pools. If you can, don’t waste your money eating there, bring snacks and leave them in your locker. The food there is overpriced and mediocre at best.
Budapest is a beautiful, old city with lots of history and classical architecture. It’s also extremely affordable. You could easily get by on a budget of $250 for 3 days including flights from other points in Europe, accommodations, meals, and entertainment. If you stay in a hostel and don’t fancy nice meals, you could very well get by on $150.
I will say there were a few times people stared at us like they’d never seen people of color before but we ignored it and kept it moving. In general, people were nice and we enjoyed our time there.
Below are two restaurants that I’d highly recommend from our visit:
New York Cafe – Don’t let the name fool you. It’s a very ornate (and pricey) cafe that offers Hungarian dishes as well as a fancy afternoon tea. $$$
Ötkert – cute sidewalk cafe, perfect for people-watching and tasty cocktails. $
For more photos from Budapest, check out my tumblr page.
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