Budapest

Budapest, Hungary: September 15 – 17, 2018

I arrived at Kelenfold station in Budapest after a short ride from Bratislava. Part of what I love about travelling is trying to figure things out while lacking language skills. I knew which tram I needed to take but buying the ticket was the first challenge. This station wasn’t the most central station to arrive at but connections were plentiful.

I tried to buy a ticket inside, as purchasing from a real person is the best way to ensure you’re doing the right thing. I was advised to go outside and buy my ticket from a machine. I bought a full price ticket for 370 HUF at the yellow machine and found out it was for long distance trains. Oops! At this point I had missed the direct tram so I reconfigured my directions and saw I could take two subways (with one not so simple connection) to get to the inner city.
I found the correct purple machine and purchased a ticket for 350 HUF. Boarding the subway was no problem but when it came time to change trains to the M3, I wandered around for quite awhile until noticing it was under construction. Google maps sent me outside where I caught an M3 bus, replacing subway service (temporarily?)

I met up with my friend who had traveled separately from me at Wombats hostel, where he warned me the room would not be up to my standards (we had just checked out of the Hilton in Vienna). Thankfully the kind front desk people understood my challenge of sharing a room with a hungover Russian man with a bottle of vodka still beside his bed where he was sleeping at 4 pm and who had made his mark in the bathroom, and switched my friend and I to a private (clean) room. Points for Wombats to uphold their reputation as the cleanest hostel in Europe.

I had two main goals in Budapest, to check out some ruins bars and thermal baths. I had read that Anker’t served some vegan food so that was our first stop. The grumpy bar man informed us they weren’t serving food that day so we drank our beers and discussed our next plans. While flipping through a Budapest tourist magazine we came across a coupon for free vodka shots at Anker’t. Coupon clipping in Budapest? Why not!? The Hungarian vodka hit us hard, maybe from lack of food or maybe just that good! We found another free shot at a nearby bar and then really needed to find food.

Vegan eating in Budapest isn’t difficult if you pre-plan but you can’t just wander the outdoor food market on Andrassy street expecting every vendor to have vegan options. Finally, I found some vegan pasta at another awesome hidden alley market across from Wombats, Gozsdu-Udvar. Not exactly traditional Hungarian food but I did later try sauerkraut stuffed pickles to at least try some Hungerian cuisine.

Before getting too into the ruins bar scene in Budapest, we returned back to our hostel to have a cold shower (I’m not sure if hot water is uncommon in all of Budapest or just our hostel?) and after enjoying our free drink in the hostel lobby (yes, that’s free drink #3) we set out to check out the following ruins bars:
Csendes Vintage Bar & Cafe – didn’t really have that “ruins” feeling, super warm inside and no music playing. The cool part was all the random toys and stuff on the walls and it is worth going here for a drink even if just to view it as museum of weird.

On our way to Ellátó Kert, another ruins bar, we got side tracked and ended up into our favourite bar Köleves Restaurent. The outdoor space was amazing and cool, had us feeling like we were truly on vacation. There were hammocks and picnic tables with cool lighting. Everything about this place was rad.

Köleves Restaurent

Determined to check out more ruins bars, we headed to Ellátó Kert because, well, tacos. We were stoked to get some tacos but upon walking in, realized this wouldn’t be happening. Ellátó Kert seems super popular, and therefore super crowded without much room to order food. Cool spot to check out.

We failed on checking out the others but gave us a good sense of the incredible Budapest nightlife.

A cool part of barhopping through Budapest is that it allowed us to explore the beauty of this great city at night. The most significant place was the Grand Synagogue. If you don’t mind dodging puddles of vomit on the streets from the vibrant nightlife, Budapest is an amazing city to explore after dark.

The next morning we started by returning to Anker’t ruins bar as we heard they host a vegan market on Sundays. At 9:30 am there was no sign of any market (that is vegan fail #2 Anker’t) so we headed to Szimbla farmers market to fill up before starting our massive tour of Budapest.

Below is our ultimate self guided itinerary of Budapest. You can use this as a general guide to create your own.
– walk up Andrassy st. to the Park Varozliget. You may catch a street long festival/market as we did.
– Stop in at the terror haza, terror museum. We opted to skip this as Berlin was dark enough for us, but it looks like a spot for some good history and learning.
– Hosok tere – main square in the park surrounded by beautiful buildings. Horse races were on when we visited, obstructing our views of most spots.
– Vajdahunyad vára – museum of agriculture. I’m not into agriculture museums but the outside of this castle like building in a park provides fantastic photo opportunities.

– Szechenyi thermal baths. If you just got tattooed in Berlin and want to skip the actual baths part, you can view the facility through a window into the zoo side entrance. You cannot view the pools from the main entrance. They also offer a beer spa with unlimited beer.

– Skip the zoo. That kind of stuff is cruel.
– Head to Margaret Hid bridge. We took a different route than Andrassy street which led us over an old train station with some abandoned buildings and graffiti.

– Walk along the Danube towards the chain bridge.
– Shortly after the Batthyany Ter (where you’ll see gorgeous churches!) you will see the stairs to climb up to the Fisherman’s Bastion. Fisherman’s bastion is a highlight/must see spot and offers the best views from a castle. You can pay 1500 HUF to climb further up for better views. Behind the castle are a bunch of little shops and overpriced restaurants.

– if you have more time, check out other spots on the Buda side before crossing over the chain bridge to Pest.

– walk along the Danube back towards the parliament buildings and Neprajzi museum, stopping to check out the shoes on the Danube.

Shoes on the Danube memorial

– Grab some dinner near one of the inner city sights before setting out again to explore Budapest at night.

You can find some touristy (overpriced) dinner spots near the Parliament buildings

– There is no shortage of evening cruises along the Danube. We opted for the public boat one, which had the final journey leaving dock 8 at Petofir ter at 19:32. You’re going to thank me for giving you the dock number as it is a busy place without any obvious signage as to where to go. You will not see the purple ticket booth for transit but can buy your ticket on board for 750 HUF (cash only).

– This short cruise is a night time photographers dream, going under the chain bridge, past all the main sights on the Buda & Pest sides. 20 minutes later (it was a short “cruise” as it is actually part of their transit system and not a tourist attraction) you can get off at the Parliament buildings
– walk back along the Danube to the chain bridge to get some night time photos

– head to the Budapest Eye area where you’ll see everyone hanging out in the park outside of Akvarium klub. In the area surrounding the Budapest Eye you’ll see all the higher end hotels and shops.

– from here, you can hit up more of the Budapest nightlife of your choice – there is so much to see and do. Despite doing 36 km of walking (according to my Fitbit) you’ll want to save some energy to check out more of the nightlife which even on a Sunday night was going strong.

The next morning I did some more wandering of the sights I’d already seen before jumping on the 100e direct bus to the airport (900 HUF). Don’t waste your money on a cab, this bus will take you directly to the airport in under 30 minutes.

Wizzair had sent me an email advising me to be at the airport 2 hours & 15 minutes ahead of flight time. Although congested, I made it through security in less than 15 minutes and since my gate wasn’t even announced until 30 minutes before boarding, I had a lot of time to kill. After trying 6 different fancy eye creams at the duty free store to try to erase the effects of backpacking through Eastern Europe, I checked out two of the different lounges (thank you mastercard and priority pass!)
Lounge passes are an essential item for any person spending a significant amount of time in airports and likes to drink for free – but that is a whole other blog.

Next stop: Norway

General Budapest tips:
– choose transit over cabs. The Budapest transit system is cheap, modern and super easy to use.
– buy local transit tickets from PURPLE machines (they do accept cards)
– consider a day pass for transit if you don’t want to log 45,000 Fitbit steps in one day.
– carry change for washrooms (they do not accept cards)
– prices for food and drinks vary significantly. To stay on budget, buy your beer and food at the local stores or smaller Hungarian places, not Jamie Oliver’s pizza place at the top of the castle.
– avoid the offers to pay in Euros. The exchange rate offered is terrible. Get yourself some Hungarian currency or use your credit card.
– food trucks and outdoor markets are a thing in Budapest. Embrace it and keep your eyes out for little markets tucked into old buildings or full streets full of vendors.

– apparently drinking in public is highly illegal. We saw quite a few people doing it but kept our beer drinking to our room to be safe.

Some vegan food spots I discovered along my Budapest travels:
– Fill good – bakery
– Las vegans – food truck, mostly burgers
– Vega city – every meal you could imagine. This place is huge.