Buda Buda Buda Buda rocking everywhere….forgive me for this BUDA couldn’t help myself. Ok, I’m done now promise.
Somewhere over Hungary
We left Poland at 10:35 and flew via Wizz Air to Budapest. Wizz Air was a pleasant change from Ryanair, while still maintaining its status of budget friendly. They had actual seat pockets, it’s always the little things that get me! Now we were on day 2 of our Euro tour and had walked about 12 miles the previous day so I think it goes without saying, I fell asleep quite easily on our short hour long flight. I did, however, wake up in time to catch a view of the snowy mountain range below us. With a little research, I THINK we flew over the Carpathian Mountains. Check out this awesome photo Jocelyn snagged!
At the airport
Upon arriving into Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport James and I were saddened to find out that since we had flown to Hungary from another country within the EU (Poland) we didn’t need to go through customs A.K.A. no passport stamp for us! 😦 As silly as it sounds we were really looking forward to filling our passports with different stamps. On the bright side, no customs meant less time spent in the airport and we could be in the city center even sooner! We immediately went over to the currency exchange desk to exchange some Euros for some HUF.
We exchanged 50 Euros for 12,800 HUF. The Hungarian Forint currency is all in very large dominations. Coins jumped from 10 HUF to 200 HUF. The notes were in the thousands. Before this, it’s safe to say I had NEVER held a 2,000 bill.
Fun Fact: Budapest is actually not one, but TWO cities “Buda” and “Pest” separated by the Danube River. Buda is on the left, and quite hilly as opposed to Pest on the right which is much more flat.
At our hostel, I managed to snap this pic which I thought really showed the difference between the two cities really well. (Not entirely sure why the times are off because there aren’t any time changes between the two cities).
Anyway, the combined cities of BUDA and PEST offer a Budapest tourist card. They offer them in increments of 24 hr, 48 hr, and 36 hr from time of validation. Since we were planning to be there for a little over 24 hours we opted for the first option. You can purchase the card online and have it sent to your hotel, or have it held for you at the tourist office in the airport (though you run the risk of getting to the airport prior/after the opening hours of the office). The website for the Budapest card didn’t seem 100% authentic to me, so I erred on the side of caution and opted to buy it at the desk in person rather than online with my bank information. One 24 hr card cost 4,900 HUF, a total of 9,800 HUF for James and I. What I really liked about the Budapest card was that it offered free transportation from the airport to city center, and within the city, free admission to certain attractions and discounts at various sites and restaurants and 1 free admission to a thermal bath.The most popular bath cost about €15 to enter, whereas the card cost us a few euros more, and transportation, discounts, and free entrances to various attractions plus a more “local” thermal bath. It was a no-brainer. We bought our card on Sunday 12/11/16 and had until Monday 12/12/16 to use it. Unfortunately for us, many of the sites that the Budapest Card offered free attractions to were for museums, and as it turns out many museums are closed on Monday’s. Low and behold we were traveling on a Sunday and Monday. Oh well, it was worth it for the transportation and free entrance to a bath alone.
Since we had the Budapest card we were able to take a public bus (Bus 200E to Kobanya Kispest metro where you take the M3 line) to the nearest train station for free. As soon as you get your card, go wait in line for the bus as MANY people are also waiting for the bus. Two buses came and went before we were at the front of the queue to get on. When on the bus all you need to do is show your card to your bus driver. Our bus driver FROM the airport was MUCH more vigilant in ensuring the cards were validated and signed properly than our bus driver TO the airport but that’s a story for later on…
The bus ride lasted maybe 20 minutes before we were at Kobanya Kispest Metro station (a.k.a. the last stop of the metro for the city center). The metro line starts at Deak Ferenc Ter and ends at Kobanya Kispest. Since we were at Kobanya we just hopped on the first train heading to Deak Ferenc on the M3 line.
As far as validation goes, there are two methods. When you enter the platform of the train station there will be staff members that physically look at your cards or your tickets and make sure it is okay, or there are two red little poles where you can tap your card on to “validate”. The 24 hr cards are actually validated at the time of purchase, so there is no need to tap it on the poles, however, you may be stopped by an official who is checking to see you are not using an expired card. We did notice that stations further away from the city i.e Kobanya Kispest had no staff looking at cards, whereas stations nearer to the city had staff on duty checking the cards.
Our first mode of action was to check in to our hostel, dump our backpacks and explore the city. With that in mind, we got off at Klinikak since it was a 5-minute walk to our hostel. We stayed at Just Like Home which we booked via Booking.com. The hostel was a bit difficult to find and on both mine and Jocelyn’s offline maps since it came up as “Urban Life Apartments.” If you ever stay there and have trouble finding it, it’s right near the Leonardo Hotel next to a little bakery. Also as far as location, the hostel was a bit out of the city center, maybe a 30-minute walk but we didn’t mind the walk. Plus we had free transport so it didn’t matter.
The hostel was true to its name, in that it made you feel “just like home.” James and I managed to get a 3 person room that was quite spacious and roomy. Also, we got personal lockers in the room so that was a plus! The hostel was fitted with a spacious kitchen and living room. Essentially it very much seemed that it was a luxury apartment turned hostel. It only cost us €9 + city tax for us to stay a night and it was neat, clean and quite, so fine by me!
As we were walking from our hostel to the metro to head into the city we came across this beautiful church that I couldn’t help but snap a photo of. I don’t know the name of it, nor did we go inside, but it was beautiful from the outside!
The city – Day 1.
Upon departing Deak Ferenc Ter we were struck by the impressive architecture, AND lucky enough to come across a Hungary sign, not much different from the “I Amsterdam” Sign. Being the tourists we are, of course, we took many photos with it.
Right near the station is the Szent István Bazilika, or the St. Stephen’s Basilica. Since it was December there were many Christmas markets out, and low and behold the courtyard in front of the Church was THE hub for the Christmas market. I tried my best to get a photo that did the Church justice.
Just a stone throw away from the Basilica is the famed memorial of the “Shoes on the Danube.” The memorial is meant to honor the many that were killed during the horrific events of The Holocaust and WW2. While traveling was exciting, it was also very humbling and grounding to see a memorial with such a profound importance behind it.
After visiting the memorial and paying our respects, we took a few seconds to truly take in the view before us, and boy was it stunning. Standing on the Pest shores of the Danube River, you can see the Buda Castle up on the hill.
With the impressive views across the way, we naturally decided to go visit BUDA so we were off to cross the Chain Bridge that connects Buda and Pest. A quick walk across the bridge turned into almost 5 minutes because I couldn’t help but stop and snap photos of the view.
Immediately as you cross over to BUDA you’ll come across the 0 KM Stone. The purpose of this rock is that it is the beginning point from where all distances are recorded from in Budapest.
Just to the left of the 0 KM Stone is a walkway embedded into the mountain and that winds up the Buda Hill. Yes, we were a little out of breath when we got to the top. These were the moments when I hated Eli’s quick pace, ’cause I always tried to maintain his pace and my lungs quickly proved we were in quite different physical states. The view at the top was definitely worth the huffin’ and puffin’ though.
These pictures were actually taken at the very base of “Buda Castle.” While the view in itself was breathtaking, the statues and architecture around us were also stunning.
One of the perks we had with the Budapest Card was that we could enter the Hungarian National Gallery for free. Jocelyn enjoys art so we made sure to utilize our card and check out the gallery. (It’s actually the building right behind the horse statue.) After a stroll through the museum James, Eli and I decided to wander around for a bit before we were set to meet up with Jocelyn. Lucky for us we managed to catch an amazing view of the sunset.
By the time we met up with Jocelyn, the sun had set and everything was lit up. Going back over to Pest and seeing the city all lit up was spectacular. If you can’t tell I was blown away by Budapest. I loved that it was so picturesque not only during the day but also at night. My favorite bit was seeing the Hungarian Parliament lit up at night.
When we crossed back over to the Pest side, I managed to snap a photo of Buda Hill and the Chain Bridge all lit up. It was equally as beautiful as Pest was lit up.
Now while transportation was a key reason I purchased the Budapest Card, another swaying reason was the fact that it offers 1 free admission to a Thermal Bath. Budapest is famous for its thermal, relaxing baths. There was no way I was going to Budapest and not visiting a bath. So we went back to our hostel, got our suits and went back to the city to spend a couple hours at the baths. I wouldn’t be doing this story justice if I didn’t discuss the blunder that happened on our way to the baths.
When we were in our hostel room James said he would be responsible for carrying our backpack, you know stuffed with some important things like towels, change of clothes, MONEY etc. Well, I brought the backpack to the couch and sat it on the couch next to me to tie my shoes, and then James came and sat next to me to tie his shoes. At this point, I got up and left him on the couch with the backpack and went along my merry way. Fast forward 10 minutes later, we’re all standing on the tram heading towards St. Lukacs Thermal Baths and James goes “Do you have the backpack?” Cue my instant panic/annoyance/rage. We left Jocelyn and Eli to head back to our hostel and get our backpack. Anyone who knows James and I know that we bicker a lot. Well, poor Jocelyn and Eli heard the ups and downs of this “argument” over who’s fault it was for leaving the backpack for the next two days. Sorry guys……
We ended up getting there a bit late since we had this little blunder but still managed to spend about an hour in one of many massive luxury hot tubs. While sitting in large hot tub pools, saunas and steam rooms sound super relaxing (which it totally is) keep in mind it can be kinda gross at the same time…..
Pro Tip: Bring a towel, fresh change of clothes, flip flops, and some soap to shower with immediately after getting out!
Pro Tip #2: NOT that I recommend doing this at all, HOWEVER, we did notice during our travels in Budapest, there seems to be little to zero regulation on trams throughout the city. While the trams were included in our Budapest Cards, there were no validation machines on the trams, nor were there attendants on the tram to look at tickets for passengers. I don’t think I saw a single person holding a ticket on the trams.
After a quick tram ride from Buda (where the Baths were located) back to Pest, we stopped at the Christmas market to grab a bite to eat. The market was much more scenic at night with all the Christmas lights lit, especially in front of the Basilica.
James and I opted to eat some food we’d packed because we only had 3000 HUF left, and we wanted to only use the Forints we had left, and not have to convert any more euros to HUF. So we planned to use our remaining HUF for lunch the following day. Anyway, check out this delicious dish Jocelyn and Eli got themselves that night. We weren’t sure what it was, but we deduced it was a combination of cabbage and meat on a piece of bread of sorts.
When we were done at the Christmas market we went back to our hostel to catch some Zs. Turns out James and I ended up having a pretty cool roommate! He was actually from Poland and had taken a bus ride down to Hungary to watch a football game. We described the dish Jocelyn and Eli purchased and he told us he thinks it was Bigos so there you go! Anyway, he was really interesting to talk to and it was great that we went all the way to Hungary and ended up making a friend from Poland. We found out his family made their very own Cherry Vodka, and he gave James some to sample and let us keep the cool bottle it was in! We’re definitely looking forward to reconnecting with Dawid some day in the future.
The city – Day 2.
The following day we were up and ready to go back to explore the city. First stop was to hike up Buda hill, to the Gellert Hill Cave. What’s really interesting about this is it’s actually a Church, built into a cave on a hill. Check it out!
The Gellert Hill Cave was not included in our Budapest Card, nor did we really want to go inside it that badly so we continued on with our hike through the Jubileumi Park. Again, I was cursing Eli for his quick pace but I quit while I was ahead and didn’t even attempt to keep up with him. Jocelyn and I huffed and puffed up the hill at a nice sloooooow and easy pace. Plus this time we had our heavy backpacks sooooo it’s ok, right? Check out the unreal views we saw while hiking up!
Once we got to the top we were met with a stunning statue towards the front of the Citadella and even better view of the city!
James and Eli just HAD to recreate this statue….
Next stop on our list was to walk BACK to the Royal Palace and just beyond it to check out St. Matthias Church and the Fisherman’s Bastion. I think this may have been about a 20-minute walk. These were the last few things we had on our list to do before we wanted to grab lunch.
St. Matthias Church
Now let me tell you about timing, as soon as we were done touring the Fisherman’s Bastion it started to rain. Talk about timing, we hopped on a boss to Pest and went to our lunch destination.
The Good Eats
So for lunch, we settled on Kisharang Restaurant. This restaurant was highly rated on trip advisor for being Budget friendly, having authentic Hungarian food, and speaking English! Check, check, check! It is QUITE small and offers very few tables, but at noon on a Monday, we were seated with no problem. The reviews were definitely accurate. It was cheap, it was delicious and it was authentic. I ordered a Chicken crepe with paprika sauce, while James got a Goulash Soup. Jocelyn and Eli got a chicken soup and mushroom goulash respectively.
The only not so great experience we had was the service we received. Now I did read online that Eastern European countries people tend to be curt and to the point in restaurants than their western counterparts – so it is quite possible that this way of life played into this situation a little. Basically, we asked prior to sitting if we could pay with Euros and Forints and we were told yes. We then asked if we could split the bill amongst the four of us since we were all paying for our own meals and while she did say yes, you could tell she was instantly annoyed with us – I swear we got an eye roll. Anyway fast forward to the end of the meal, James was paying for his meal in euros (€5.82) while I was paying with our left over Forints for my meal. He tried to make it easy on the restaurant by paying the exact amount in euros. Our waitress rudely told us that it was unacceptable and she wouldn’t accept euro coins only notes. We weren’t really sure what to do about this considering €1 is a coin in itself…so we then overpaid her with notes and figured not a big deal we’ll just get the change. Well we’re sitting and waiting for our change and then we realize she wasn’t going to give us change, so James had to heckle with her for her to give us our change. She begrudgingly did so, but in Forints and at a terrible exchange rate. All in all, the service by this specific employee- was not spectacular. The food was DELICIOUS and cheap!
After lunch, it was about 1:30 pm and we had a few hours to kill before heading back to the airport for our flight that evening. Since we had pretty much done the majority of the things we planned to do we decided to kill a few hours in the Christmas Market. Check out this stall with mouth watering goodies…
When we bought our Budapest Card at the airport we got a coupon for free mulled wine and a mug. If you know me I just LOVE anything free…so obviously, we were going to scout out the mugs. After asking a couple stalls we finally found the one where the coupon was valid and I was a happy trooper because I got a free souvenir! Eli and I didn’t drink the mulled wine, so they got pawned off to Jocelyn and James. Poor Jocelyn got a case of the day drink that day..sorry!
The previous day, Jocelyn had seen a Chimney Cake and had her heart set on purchasing one. We walked around a few stalls so she could find the best option. She was like a kid in a candy store once she bought her Chimney Cake.
Leaving the city center
At about 3:30 pm we decided it was time to walk back to the train station and head to the airport so we could be there at 5 pm (2 hours before our flight). Now, we weren’t positive if our Budapest Card would get us access back to the airport or not because at the time we were a little unsure on the expiration of the card. We figured we’d try anyway and see how lenient the staff was on it since we noticed there seemed to be zero regulation on most of the public transport and if we ended up needing to pay we would pay. Luckily, we had no problem getting back to the airport. Not once were we even asked to provide a ticket, so it worked in our case!
We got through the airport with ease and had zero issues with security. We even got free Lindt chocolate samples in duty-free – yay! Since we had some time to kill and James and I had a little Forint left over we were on the hunt for an adapter. The adapter we had was broken and didn’t work in Poland nor Hungary. Eli’s was also broken so Jocelyn had the only functioning adapter. We were lucky that one of the members at a store allowed us to pay for a discounted price so we didn’t have to pay in Forints AND Euros! THANK. YOU. SIR.
A quick funny story, while we were in the airport waiting for our gate to be released, James and I were sitting at one of many empty tables at a restaurant so I could charge my phone and an irate man walked over to us and scolded us for sitting at a restaurant table and sucking up the electricity and then asked us to move so he could use the outlet. The irony of his anger was so funny to me. I politely told him we would not leave our table so he could sit there, but we would be more than happy to move our table over so he could also have access to the outlet. He just muttered to himself and then decided to order a cappuccino from the restaurant and berate the staff for making awful coffee. It got to the point where he offered to go back there and make it after he sent his coffee back three times. You could tell the waitress was at her wit’s end with this man. If nothing, he offered some amusement for James and me.
Shortly after, James and I were seated on our Ryanair flight heading towards Athens, Greece!
Miles Walked: 21.5 miles
- Day 1 Miles Walked: 13.2 miles
- Day 2 Miles Walked: 8.3 miles
Total Cost for James & I: $51.77 for flights, €69.82 in Budapest.
- Euros spent: €69.82
- USD spent: $51.77
- Beginning balance of Euros: €751.50
- Total Euros spent: €69.82
- €19.82 + €50 conversion to HUF
- Ending balance of Euros: €681.68
**Total Forint spent from €50 conversion to 12,800 HUF: 12,800 HUF
Breakdown of costs
Prepaid Flight Cost:
***ALL 9 Flights Totaled Roughly $301 ea. This portion:
- Flights to Budapest – $51.77 based on 3/22/17 conversion rates.
- (WAW 10:35 – BUD 11:45) WIZZAIR €47.91 (for James and I)
Cost Incurred in Budapest:
- Conversion to 12,800 Forint: €50
- Accommodation – €14
- For 1 night for James and I – €10
- City tax (€2/person) – total €4
- Food – 1,510 HUF & €5.82
- Crepes with paprika sauce – 1,510 HUF
- Goulash Soup – €5.82
- Transportation and Attractions – 9,800 HUF
- Budapest Card 4,900 HUF ea, total 9,800 HUF
- Post Card – 100 HUF
- Adapter – 1,390 HUF
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