I honestly never expected to go to Hungary in my life but when my friend suggested a weekend trip to Budapest I was more than willing to jump on board and now I couldn’t be more glad that I did! The weekend I spent in Budapest was one of the most amazing weekends I’ve had while studying abroad.
My friends, Steph, Jess, and Maryna, and I arrived in Budapest around noon. It was just a short train ride from the airport to our hostel, which was highly recommended by an Australian guy I met in the hostel I stayed in while visiting Barcelona. From first impressions alone we could tell the hostel was going to be a great place to stay! The front doors were large and wooden and the directions I had received noted that there was no sign outside because of historic nature of the building. We climbed up four flights of stairs to the hostel. We were warmly greeted by about half a dozen people hanging out, smoking cigarettes on sofas right by the door. One of the hostel employees, a tall skinny British boy with curly hair, a lip piercing, and plaid pajama pants, showed us to the dorm we would be staying in and offered us a cup of tea. He then promptly picked up a map and began circling the best sites in the city, passing along tons of great advice.
After grabbing lunch we headed out to see some sites. Budapest is a beautiful, historic city filled with tons of interesting architecture. We visited a St. Stephens Basilica that housed the mummified hand of the first Hungarian King and climbed over 300 steps where we took in the city. Even though the sun had already set it was still amazing to see all of the buildings lit up. I think it made the city look even more magical.
Then we walked across the Light Bridge that connects Pest to Buda where we took a gondola up the hill and explored a palace built by the Austrians in 1748 and the Fisherman’s Batilion.
While attempting to return to our hostel we wandered into the national archives of Budapest as well, which were hosting an open house. All we wanted were directions but people kept trying to show us things. Everyone was being so nice we felt bad leaving, but after checking out the building, which was incredibly beautiful as well, we left.
By the time we got back across the city it was nearly 7:45 and the hostel we were staying in was leaving for a Ruin Pub Crawl at 8:30. While walking back from the metro we ran into two of the employees at our hostel that recommended we grab burritos at a mexican chain nearby. Funnily enough my friend Molly, who I just saw in Dublin, had recommended the same place, and all three insisted I get a margarita! The food was pretty good, definitely a treat compared to bland British sandwiches, especially for Steph, who was missing California street food and her families mexican cooking.
After some “international cuisine” we Steph, Jess, Maryna and I moved on to a more “natitve” adventure. Our hostel hosted a pub crawl to three different Ruin pubs throughout the city. Ruin pubs are bars set up in abandoned houses and courtyards, protected by historical conservation efforts that prevent their demolition and renovation. The bars were so unique, filled with mis matched furniture, art installations, music, and tons of people. It was a great opportunity to meet the other guests at the hostel we were staying at. Everyone was young, coming to travel Europe from the US, UK, Canada, and Australia. The hostel employees told us all how they came to Budapest for a few days and fell so in love with the city, the people they met, and the hostel itself that they decided to stay, luckily finding a job with the hostel itself. By the time we visited two Ruin Pubs, both surprisingly unique, we headed back to the hostel to get some sleep. All of us slept incredibly well, exhausted from a full day of site seeing, even considering we were sharing the room with 5 other (potentially intoxicated) travelers.
The next morning we woke up early and headed off to one of Budapest’s most famous attractions – the baths. It was a nice walk to the Szechenyi baths, located next to the city park. We had the chance to walk down beautiful streets which we were told are often used in films to recreate 18th century Paris, and past Hero’s Square. The baths themselves were amazing, after a quick sprint from the locker rooms, through the cold air, we found ourselves completely relaxed in the pools. We spent the afternoon wandering around the spas, checking out different pools and saunas. One of the saunas was so hot it made my necklace burn on my skin.
Regretably we left the spa around 3 and wandered through the park, and towards the Christmas market. Unfortunatly only a handful of unimpressive stalls were set up but the four of us wandered into a traditional Hungarian restaurant where we had an amazing lunch complete with Goulash (beef stew), spaetzel (egg noodles), and muled wine. We then went on to see the parliament, which was a huge gothic building right on the river, before trecking back to our hostel completly beat.
For better or worse we were convinced to go out to an open mic night hosted by the Hostel. Even though we were completely exhausted, and had a 4am flight to catch, we didn’t want to miss out on one last opportunity to hang out with the people staying in the same hostel as us. The open mic night was amazing, we had such a good time meeting lots of people staying at our hostel and a brother hostel in another part of Budapest. I was thrilled with a group of Australians began singing the Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme song when I told them I was from Philadelphia, and joined in myself, screaming the Will Smith lyrics. A handful of other hostel guests stood up on stage and gave amazing performances as well, showing true musical talent!
By the time we headed back to the hostel we only had an hour before our cab came to take us to the airport, but going out was well worth it. Even as I suffered through 6 hours of class on Monday I didn’t regret a single thing all weekend. Budapest was one of the most beautiful, fun, interesting places and I’d give up all the sleep in the world to have the opportunity to travel, meet new people, and try new things.