10 reasons why you should visit Budapest
After many trips to Europe, I finally made it to Budapest. Why did I take so bloody long? Europe showcases some of the grandest, most culturally vibrant cities in the world but seriously, Hungary's capital Budapest (Buda and Pest were two separate cities divided by the Danube River) takes the cake, eats it, and then throws a party to celebrate! Here are 10 reasons why you need to get to Budapest in 2015.
Spa + party = Sparty, get it? Budapest is peppered with natural thermal baths that locals and visitors alike have been enjoying for centuries. However, since 1998 the Sparty crew has been putting a different spin on things. Every Saturday night, thousands of revellers dance to house beats in steamy waist-deep water.
2. It’s cheap!
Food, beer, vodka, taxis, vodka, hostels, vodka… They are all super cheap in Budapest! If you’ve been travelling through Western Europe then you will feel like a king or queen here. The quality isn’t sacrificed either as you can find some of the cleanest hostels in Europe here for pennies.
3. Ruin bars
On the Pest side of the river you will find dozens of 'ruin pubs' – basically bars or clubs housed in buildings that are pretty much falling down. Imagine graffiti-covered walls and leather jackets. The most popular (and most expensive) ruin bar is Szimpla Kert.
4. Live music
Budapest is a huge university town. There are students here from all over the world mixing with young locals as well. This makes for an incredibly diverse local music scene. Everything from blues to psychedelic rock can be heard blasting from local bars on any night of the week until the early hours.
5. Buda Castle
On the Buda side stands the amazing Buda Castle, which was first completed in 1265, atop a cliff. Walk across the Chain Bridge before dusk, making sure you reach the top for a mind-blowing sunset over the city.
6. The food
Hungary is known for its hearty dishes. There’s no better way to kill a hangover in Budapest than a generous portion of goulash served with fresh crusty bread. Make sure you save room for dessert as they don’t mind a sweet either!
7. The parks
Summertime to the locals in Budapest means grabbing a slice of park and chilling all day long. The Buda side is particularly known for its green areas, so grab a nice bottle of Hungarian plonk and a few links of salami and get amongst it. Try car-free Margaret Island - a 2.5 kilometre-long recreation zone split by the Danube. During summer, you can watch the national water polo team tirelessly practice in the outdoor Olympic-sized pool.
8. Gellért Baths
The famous indoor baths drip with opulence and hot water. You can easily spend four to five hours exploring the maze of different-sized pools of varying temps. The walls and ceilings are beautifully decorated in mosaics dating from 1912. Since 2013, the entire complex is mixed between males and females, allowing couples to enjoy the healing waters together.
9. House of Terror
For a bite-size history lesson on Budapest and Hungary, you must check out this museum. The building actually served as the Nazi headquarters from 1940, then was utilised by the Communist era's State Security (the Hungarian version of the KGB). Thousands were tortured here and kept in the basement prison, which is now open to the public. I dare you to sit in a cell with the door closed.
10. Danube booze cruise
Look, there’s no better way to see a new city than from its waterways, and hey, if there are drinks included, then all the better, right? There are numerous booze cruises offered and generally hostels will organise a group to partake in a cruise at least once a week. Don’t hit the shooters until you’ve taken a few snaps with your camera though, as the banks of Budapest all lit up are incredible. This is why they call her the 'The Paris of the East'.