One year ago, I would not have been able to pinpoint Hungary on a map. I admit it. I had heard about Budapest in passing among other travelers as I spent 40 days in Europe on a solo adventure last summer, but I had no interest in doing any further research. I am not sure what the trigger was, but I had a lot of preconceived notions about Budapest and Prague in my head, and I just was not ready to jump into “that” part of Europe yet. I didn’t think it was for me and I was not sure how much fun I would have there.
How things change within one year.
As I alluded to in the first post for this “21 Days Away” series, I was not 100% sure where I wanted to spend my summer vacation. However, when I scooped up a flight to Athens, I saw how close Budapest was. I had a sorority sister of mine (Hey, Aria) who had posted about her love affair with the city and I had contacted her for some advice. She mentioned enough to spark more of an interest and I continued to do some research. With the help of Google, Instagram, and some of my Dallas Tribe friends, I was being fed Budapest articles and listicles and I was gaining excitement by the day. The 50 RyanAir flight sealed the deal and just after about 18 hours in Athens, I was back in the airport and on my way to Hungary.
After a two-hour flight, I found myself in the Budapest airport but my jetlag was slowly creeping on me. The previous night in Athens (Saturday) was my first night in Europe and I had virtually skipped Friday night because I was in the air. Originally, I had planned on taking public transportation to my hostel but my body was so fatigued, I didn’t have the energy and settled for an airport transfer shuttle, Mini Bud. Even though I had not budgeted for the shuttle, I am glad I did because I had a seamless transfer to my hostel and was able to save some time. Once I got to my hostel I took a nap because my body was delirious and arose to see what the streets of Budapest had to offer me.
The First Night
Because I was still sick and officially fighting jetlag, I wanted to keep my evening on a low wavelength. I stopped by a restaurant that gave travelers that stayed at my hostel free beers. It had then dawned on me that if I moved quickly enough, I would be able to walk the Danube River and catch the sunset as well as the infamous Parliament building illuminate.
I walked towards the river and crossed the bridge over to the Buda (more residential) side of the city. I thoroughly enjoyed my leisurely stroll along the sidewalk finally reveling in the fact that I was definitely in another country. The weather was perfect because the sun was gearing up to set within an hour and the pink and purple clouds were an instant mood booster. The trolleys were passing me in quarterly time spans and I saw a nice blend of both tourists and natives. Eventually, I searched for the perfect spot to sit and watch the Parliament building and surrounding area begin to glow as nightfall came.
It was breathtaking. It was a subtle transition but when the sky was finally black, you could see the magnificence of the glow. I had found my way past the Chain bridge and was now crossing back on the Margaret Bridge when an unexpected occurrence ruined my tranquility. I was under attack by mosquitos! It was to the point that I was almost running to the other side of the bridge to get away from the water but I know the damage had already been done. I stayed on the side streets on the way back to my hostel because I did not want to be anywhere near the river again that evening. Thankfully, Budapest’s streets were easy enough to follow (dead phone and all) and I found my way home safe and sound. As for the mosquito bites, I stopped counting at 20.
Where I Stayed
I stayed at the Maverick Hostel, part of a network in Budapest. Seeing the entry door outside let me know what kind of grandeur I was to expect once I entered. I have stayed in some pretty dope hostels before and the walkway to the front door was one of the Top 3 I have seen. You would have never known you were walking up into a hostel. Another thing that I appreciated was the friendly staff. The staff can truly make or break your hostel experience and I was in a happy space. The location was right off of the Erzebet Bridge and was within walking distance of a wealth of attractions, like the Danube River. It was not directly in the center of the city but I appreciated that because I was on a quieter street and did not have to hear people partying in the streets later than I was.
I am not particular about too much when it comes to hostels but I admit that I get highly agitated if the wifi connection is slow or simply does not function at all. I did not have to worry about that with the Maverick Hostel. It worked everywhere from the lounge to my dorm room and was speedy. If I decided that I did not want to walk to a destination, I was steps away from the trolley, the subway, and a bus station. It truly was a backpacker’s paradise.
Wombat’s City Hostel, Budapest
Unfortunately, because I stayed in Budapest longer than expected, Maverick was sold out for my sixth and final night. I looked through HostelWorld for the next best thing and came about Wombat’s City. This was my definition of a party hostel, although others might disagree. Any hostel that has a live rock band performing in the bar gets “party hostel” vibe from me! I am not even quite sure how many floors were there because I was to only stay for one night. I stayed in an all-female dorm but unfortunately, the wifi was terrible. The location was near a massive amount of bars and restaurants. It was definitely a busier area than Maverick.
Related Post: Hostel Life 101: Choosing the Right One
Where I Ate / Drank
Hungarian wine, y’all. Get you some. And while you are at it, indulge in some of the traditional goulash soup. There is a variety, and I appreciate the kind folks of We Love Budapest leading me to some of my restaurant selections.
I loved this little gem. Located steps away from the St. Stephen’s Basilica, the new restaurant is definitely going to be a Budapest staple. I visited for lunch and dinner on separate locations. I thoroughly enjoyed my goulash soup and due to recommendations from Trip Advisor, their chicken wings. It was a great reminder of being back in the States. It’s a sexy atmosphere at night with a DJ and highly recommend that you visit!
New York Cafe
This place puts the GRAND in grandeur. Everything about this place is opulent and extra. You feel fancy just being in the vicinity. I wish I had moved my schedule around to visit this cafe for lunch but this is a Budapest must-see. The live musicians provide great entertainment and as I also was caught in the rain as I was making my journey here, it was a great escape from the outside storm.
While New York Cafe is known as one of the best cafes in the world, I still recommend that you visit this cafe as well. I promise you that I had the best cinnamon ice cream of my life here. It is right off of a busy square and is great for people watching.
This sexy bar provided one of my favorite views of Budapest. I came during the evening to see the famous Budapest structures glow in the night sky. The music made you feel like dancing and I loved the crowd. The 3 rose did not hurt either! Again, Budapest wine, get you some.
I visited this restaurant / bar during the evening after hearing some pretty devastating moods. Discovering the hammocks put a smile on my face and of course, I hopped in one. The outdoor terrace was great and it was located in an area in which you could definitely go bar hopping.
Doblo Wine Bar
This was another fabulous wine bar that I discovered accidentally. I was still in the need for a mood booster and saw that they had a decent menu. To top if off, when I stepped inside this fabulously designed lounge, I saw a black female DJ! I found myself a seat and jammed with DJ Mahogany for the rest of the night. Music does the soul well.
This is a cash only establishment on the Buda side. It is located in a great location if you are coming down from the Buda Castle. I encountered a benevolent waitress who insisted that I was her guest and refused to accept a tip. I learned about Hungarian generosity that day.
After a busy day of walking around (or a long night of partying with friends, wink wink), this late night eatery certainly hits the spot. You can order delicious add-ons to create the burger of your dreams. For me, that equals the addition of jalapenos.
Markets / Grocery Stores
During the other times when I was hungry, I frequented the grocery stores that were located on my block. Our hostel had a great kitchen and it helped me to keep down costs by eating smaller meals “at home”.
Where I Played
Confession: I was originally supposed to spend 3 days in Budapest and 2 days in Prague. After an epic pub crawl, I overslept by 30 minutes and knew that I would not make it to the bus terminal in time. While I had the option to get on a different bus I decided that I was much more comfortable staying in Budapest and getting a true feel for the city. I was tired and did not feel like getting on a 7 hour bus because by the time I would have lost out on a full day in Prague. I am quite content with my ultimate decision and was truly able to capture in a lot and move at my own pace.
The Bridges & The Danube
During the day to combat mosquito attacks at night, I got in as much bridge walking as I could. I walked four different bridges and each of them had their own unique design and I encourage any visitor to do the same. It also was a great way to fight against the wealth of Hungarian wine I was drinking. The Danube River allows you to get extremely close to it (almost eerily close) so just be certain you are minding where you are walking.
Free Walking Tour
I love free walking tours because you get in a lot of history about an area during a small chunk of time. I encourage you to research the various companies that offer them because some are more formal than others. I am glad that our tour was free-spirited and our guide was personable. She taught us a wealth about the city of Budapest. For instance, Hungarian is rated in one of the top 10 hardest languages in the world (I can attest to this) and there is not a building higher than 96 meters in an ode to the country’s founding year. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes because you are bound to get your steps in.
Shoes on the Danube Memorial
Please note that this was by no means a symbol of “playing”, but while walking on the Danube you will come across the shoes on the Danube. This was in memory of the Jewish citizens of Budapest that were shot into the river during World War II. Similar to the memorial I visited in Berlin last summer, I was pretty disgusted by individuals taking carefree selfies. I think everything has a time and place and that certainly was not it.
I love European pub crawls but my age is showing! It’s almost guaranteed that the end of your night will be a whirlwind. However, this is a great opportunity to meet different people traveling in the city and you become best friends for the night. I even met a man with the exact same birthdate as me, which was super exciting. Unfortunately, while walking in the Budapest streets I suffered from an epic battle wound but at least I will never forget that night.
Most, if not all of, the pub crawls in Budapest will lead you to the ruin bars. They are funky once deserted buildings that serve you great priced drinks and offer you a great time. Everyone tells you to go to Szimpla, and you simply have to do it. I went on my last night (a Friday) and I had a great time with 5 other people. I also thoroughly enjoyed Fogaz Ház but randomly ending up new ruin bar will be just as fun.
Great Market Hall
Located off a variety of public transportation stops, I enjoyed visiting the market and picking up some meat, souvenirs, and wine. While the first floor is dedicated to eating, you will find a random assortment of gifts and souvenirs on the second-floor so make sure you check it out.
Andrassy Avenue & Hero's Square
You might have heard the comparison of Budapest being the “Paris of the East”. During my walking tour, I learned that Andrassy Avenue, was designed to resemble the Champs-Élysées and when you walk along the street, you can see the influence. The luxurious stores and the trees forming a canopy are a sight to see as you head towards the end of the street at Hero’s Square. The statues surrounding you make you feel physically small but it was an incredible ode to the significant rulers in Hungarian history.
Stay tuned for a post highlighting this gem that I am so happy I got to explore. If you have the time to spare during your Budapest visit, be sure to visit Margaret Island. I lost track of time spent on the islands and before I knew it, I had been there for four hours!
Like for Margaret Island, I have a separate post that will be coming later this week highlighting my visit to the famous Budapest baths. All I am going to say is that you MUST go. Indulge in some moments of tranquility and see what the hype is all about.
Related Post: Visiting the Budapest Baths of Széchenyi and Gellért
My Apology to the City of Budapest
I was SLEEPING on this city and I am embarrassed about it. I fell in love and was sad when it was time for me to leave. You would think that I would have been ready to go after 6 full days there, but I was not ready to go. All of my preconceived notions about rudeness from Eastern Europeans in Hungary was invalid. I was always greeted with a smile and the people forgave me and my wretched attempts at saying “hello, please, and thank you” in Hungarian (but at least I tried).
I would absolutely love to see more minority travelers venture off to Budapest. It was often that I was the only black person in a vicinity (until I got to Szimpla). And even though I was attacked my mosquitos and the gnats that ruled a city were a nuisance, the fabulous memories trump the bad. I felt like I had a family when I hooked up with Starr from Black Girl In Budapest and new friends we met that night. The city was able to navigate as a solo female traveler and I truly feel like I left a chunk of my heart. I feel like an idiot for scoffing at visiting Hungary one year ago, but you learn and you grow. Budapest is definitely on my list of repeat cities to visit.
Major shoutout to Black Girl In Budapest and We Love Budapest for providing dope tips for my trip!
What about you, travelers? Did you fall in love with Budapest too? Was Budapest even on your travel radar? Let’s chat!