If you haven’t seen Part 1 yet, here it is. Without further adieu, onwards to Part 2! This post will cover sightseeing, shopping, relaxing, and a big section on nightlife.
Sightseeing. There is an abundance of sightseeing in the city, so much that I was quite taken aback when I was given a breakdown of the city. Honestly, you need at least 3-4 full days in this city to truly see all the sights (unlike in Vancouver where you can see everything in a day </bitterness>).
Let’s start with the Buda side of the city. Perhaps the most famous sight is the Buda Castle, where the royal family lives. It’s interesting to note that the royal family did not actually stay in the Castle during the Austro-Hungarian Empire, since they stayed in Vienna instead.
It’s quite a trek uphill to get to the Castle, but once you’re up there, you get a sick view of Pest.
Shortly to the north of Buda Castle is Matthias Church (top) and Fisherman’s Bastion (bottom). Great views from here too.
South of the Buda Castle is The Citadel. Built in the 19th century, The Citadel is a fortress that overlooks the city and is at the highest point in all of Budapest. In fact, getting up to The Citadel was like doing the Grouse Grind back in Vancouver. All uphill for about 25 minutes.
The centrepiece of the Citadel is the Liberty Statue, which can be seen far away even from the Pest side of the city. The Liberty Statue was built in 1947 to serve as a memorial for those who served in Russia during World War II. After the Iron Curtain was lifted and Hungary received its freedom, the Liberty Statue was changed to commemorate all the lives lost for the freedom and prosperity of Hungary.
Did I mention it has the best view of the city?
Let’s move on to the Pest side.
As mentioned before, here is the awesome Hungarian Parliament, which is best seen from taking a boat along the Danube (I was lucky enough to be on a boat cruise at night, giving me the best view of the Parliament).
St Stephen’s Basilica. It is so large that you can see it from the top of The Citadel on the Buda side.
Finally, the Grand Market Hall, where you can buy meat, fruits, vegetables, spices, etc.
Shopping. Now that you’re done sightseeing, you must feel like you gotta get your shop on. Well, don’t you worry child. Budapest’s got a plan for you.
The most famous shopping street is Andrassy Street, which is Budapest’s 5th Avenue or Champs-Elysees, with its wide boulevards and luxury-brand stores.
After Andrassy, there are Vaci Utca and Fashion Street, which are pedestrian-only streets much like Stroget in Copenhagen. There are less high-end brand names here and more shops like the ones you’d find on Robson in Vancouver.
Some of the nicest store fronts I’ve ever seen are on Fashion Street.
Relaxing. Now that you’re all tired from sightseeing and shopping, it’s time to sit and relax. Budapest’s got you covered in this department too.
One of the best times I’ve had in Budapest was at the Szechenyi Bathhouse. They’ve got indoor and outdoor heated pools (like being in giant hot tubs), as well as countless saunas that range in different temperatures (from 40-50 degrees to more than 100!). We tried the 100-degree sauna but walked out in less than 10 seconds. It’s basically like you’re in an oven.
After the bathhouse, you must make your way over to Sirius Teahouse. From what I’m told, it’s everyone from our hostel’s favorite spot to hang out. It’s very hard to find because the teahouse’s sign is tiny and hidden away (left). At first glance, it looks like a regular teahouse (right). I mean, nothing special. Right?
Wrong. If you look a bit harder, there are many hidden holes and ladders you can go through and climb to get to different rooms. Awesome place!
The nightlife. Now that it’s night time, on to the main event. The nightlife in this city borders on insanity. Its options are limitless, and each place has its own character and flavor, outclassing most places I’ve been to.
Before I delve into the nightlife, I have to give a shout out to Carpe Noctem, the hostel we stayed at. Prior to coming here, a few friends told me that this hostel made the trip for them. Indeed, it does. The hostel is very small, with only twenty or so beds. However, it is very homely and the staff (who also live in the hostel) are very friendly. And man, can they drink. Challenging one of them will be a big mistake on your part. The hostel has no reception area nor do they have multiple floors where you need a key to enter your room. Rather, you’re basically living in a giant apartment with awesome hosts that live in the same rooms as you do. When you arrive, they sit you down and give you a rundown of the entire city and all the things to do and see. In terms of your night, you don’t have to do anything at all. You just show up at the hostel at 8:30pm and they take you out every night. When I say that the hostel goes out every night, I don’t mean Friday and Saturday. I mean every single night. I’m not sure how these guys do it, but they basically party every night of the week for a living. They have 3 other sister hostels that have many more beds, so when the hostel goes out, they go out in groups of 100-200 at a time.
During the first night, we went on a boat cruise where you pay $30cad that includes entrance on the boat, cover for the club, and a bottle of champagne per person. These were some sights from the boat.
After the boat, we went to Morrison 2, which is a very large club with at least 3 different dance floors, all with different types of music.
On Saturday, we went on a pub crawl in the Jewish district (7th district). These bars are also known as “ruin bars” for the following reason: when Jewish people were forced out of Budapest during World War II, there were many empty buildings left behind. For the longest time, the Hungarian government didn’t know what to do with them. But then someone had the idea to turn these buildings into bars and clubs, and now we are left with the “ruin bars” of today. Here are some pictures of a typical old building in Budapest.
The first stop was Szimpla Kert, which is ranked as the world’s 3rd best bar.
I don’t have pictures from the second bar, but I remember that the place looked like an apartment. I think the booth we sat at was a bedroom with a wall taken out.
The third place we went to featured a live-band, which was very cool.
The 4th stop was quite fun, and was the first place we went to with a fully functioning dance floor (with bars all along the second floor overlooking the dance floor).
The 5th and final destination was a club called Instant. However, most of the hostel had lost each other at Fogashaz or had been too inebriated, so only our group of guys ended up going. Instant was the club that everyone had recommended, and when we got there, the line up was massive (pictures below). We ended up using a bit of our wits to get in without much of a line up. The club itself is much like Morrison 2, with numerous dance floors and countless bars. Also, there used to be a section where everything was upside down (ie tables, chairs, etc)!
On Monday, the hostel went to Morrison 1, a bar that has everything: dance floor, karaoke, foosball, etc. The best part? 4 beers for 500huf (~$2cad).
I should point out that foosball is huge in Hungary. Every bar I went to had a foosball table, and everyone we played was very skilled.
Finally, on Tuesday, we went to this bar near Andrassy that had beer pong, a breezer-chugging contest, and karaoke (again). The best part? It was known as the stock market bar. You see, as more people bought a certain drink, the price of that drink would go up, and vice versa. These prices would be shown on TVs all around the bar. Pretty damn cool if you ask me.
And that’s that. This trip was an eye-opener for me because I didn’t know such an awesome place existed before. I had thought that Budapest was a mid-sized Eastern European city with only a modest amount to see and do. Boy, was I wrong. I’ll end it here because I hate lengthy conclusions. Thanks for reading.