I spent a week in Budapest. And I’ll be honest with you guys. For the first few days, I kinda’ hated the city. I went into Budapest traveling solo, with super high expectations of absolutely falling in love with the city (I know, dangerous! Don’t ever expect, kids!!). But I couldn’t help it, based on everyone’s raving reviews on the big Buda. I was anticipating a super cool, artsy city jam packed with liveliness, groovy little restaurants and bars, Turkish baths on every corner, and friendly locals. What I got? Three consecutive days of store and restaurant closings ’cause of the holidays, some mediocre goulash, an unfriendly hostel, overbooked baths, cold and grumpy locals, and even colder weather (I’m talkin’ -15°C cold). Yea. F***ING FREEZING. It was actually painful to be outside for more that 20 minutes.
In my year and a half of traveling solo, it was my first time I actually felt lonely.
However, I had 5 days left in Budapest, and I wasn’t ready to give up on it.
So, AWC took charge! I changed hostels to the epically awesome Instant Groove, where I met some kick butt travelers. I bought a heavy pair of gloves, mapped out a killer food plan for the next 5 days while in a Turkish bath, and finally, met an incredible local who not only showed me his version of Budapest, but took it a step further and brought me to his little Hungarian village out in the countryside.
Talk about a change for the Buda betta’!
So, by trial and error, I got to see the absolute best of the city, the right way. Thankfully, I had an entire week to spare! Now, I realize, not everyone has the luxury of spending a week in Buda. So, I made a nice, neat list of all the things that turned my bad experience around in Buda for the betta’. But not just betta’…the best! So, here’s your bucketlist to having the most incredible X amount of days in Budapest you could dream of. Scientifically proven failure and success, folks.
1. The hostel makes the world of difference.
I’d say that was my biggest mistake during those first few days. People were unsocial, the staff was unknowledgeable, and the vibe was just all around painful. I always believe that for the best experience, a hostel (or hotel, if you’re that kinda’ traveler) should reflect the vibe of the city you’re staying in. For example, if you’re in hippie Granada, stay in a chilled out hammock hostel. If you’re in Amsterdam, stay in a groovy psychedelic hostel. And if you’re in Budapest, stay in a grunge-meets-cool hostel above the city’s best ruin bar. It just makes sense! Of course, it depends what kind of hostel you’re looking for. But if you are a solo traveler like me, look for a social hostel. Heres a big HINT: often times the key word is “party” hostel, which signals that travelers are there to meet other travels. This doesn’t always mean it’s necessarily a “party” every day, but just that it’s a social vibe. If you’re heading to Budapest, I’d higgggghly recommend my hostel, the Instant Groove! Virtually visit it and book HERE.
2. Go to the famous ruin bars, but not just the ruin bars.
Budapest’s famous ruin bars are super, duper cool. They incorporate everything that Budapest was in the past, to what it is now. What do I mean by this? Well kids, communism in Hungary ended a mere few decades ago, in 1989. What happened in Budapest when the bad guys were kicked out? They turned old factories, warehouses, and even kosher butcheries (yes!) into what else, but BARS. They kept these huge spaces pretty much as is, without updating much of the buildings interiors, hiding ugly pipes, or painting chipped walls. Instead, they decorated these buildings with trippy art, psychedelic vintage paintings, and pretty much any oddity that makes you think, “WTF is that thing.” Now, the mistake? Don’t only go to these bars while in Budapest. Why? Because they’re for the tourists! You’ll be hard pressed to find a local in one of these famous ruin bars. My suggestion? If you want to see real, local Budapest, head into a random, unnamed bar. And prepare to watch Hungarian locals in their natural habitat.
3. Do as many activities as you can in a bath.
NO, NO, NOT THOSE KIND OF BATHS!! These….
Take advantage of these godly escapes. Go during the day to relax, and night to partayyyy. Yes, there are bath parties! However, check if it’s high tourist season in Budapest (which it was when I arrived), because it might be hard to get into the baths. If so, the best time to go is at 9 am and beat the rush! If not, head to one of the many baths leisurely, any time of the day. Go there alone like I did, with new friends, with old friends…whoever! Just go, as much as you can. You’ll feel like a new person. My advice? Head there after a morning tour! It’s a great way to relax after a morning of walking and give your feet a break 😉
4. Get a massage. They are cheap as F***.
Any of the baths offer massages at super cheap rates in comparison to massages in other parts of Europe.This was the first turn of my trip for the better, and lemme tell ya’, it was BIG turn. Go on, pamper yourself! You deserve it 😉
5. Drink Coffee Beer
Once I found this incredible beer, I couldn’t stop. It’s just SO freakin’ good. It’s brewed right in Budapest, by a few beer lovin’ guys who opened up a brewery in a garage. It’s even sold right at my hostel! Or, find it at Hintalo, an adorably cool, local-meets-vintage little Hungarian bar.
6. Eat good goulash and langos from the street.
Where to find good Goulash? Well, when I asked any Hungarian, they said “my grandma.” Hmmm, reminds of me of our dear friend the Spanish tortilla 😉 If you’re not fortunate enough to have a Hungarian grandma, head to Kiado Kocsma for goulash. For a truly authentic langos, head to this hole-in-the-wall street shop at metro Arany János. It’s called Retro Langos Bufe and it’s the real Hungarian deal.
Look forward to the complete AWC Budapest Food & Drink Guide coming out soon!
7. GO IN WARM WEATHER.
If I could do it again, I’d go in spring or summer. The Hungarian winter is just too flippin’ cold! Maybe I’m a baby, but I’m tellin’ ya, it hurt to walk around. And if you want to enjoy the beautiful Danube River, it’s nearly impossible in the winter! I went on a boat ride, and physically couldn’t stand outside for more than 4 seconds. So, go between March- September. Your hands and feet will thank you!
8. And finally…Make friends with a local.
Ok. Time for the big juicy confession: I met mine on Tinder. Gigs up! But I’m not embarrassed about it. I’m actually proud! Tinder is a fabulous resource to meet locals around the world. Just put in your description that you’re looking to form a friendship with a local and learn about their culture while visiting, and nothing more 😉 For me, it was about three days into my trip, and I felt I was missing something. I found the Hungarian locals to be very difficult to talk to, and I was having a really difficult time puncturing the local culture like I love to do when I travel. And to be honest…I was sick and tired of eating alone! So, I opened up my trusty Tinder, and started swiping. And low and behold, I met an amazing Hungarian school teacher named Csaba. He completely changed my experience to one of the most memorable trips I’ve ever had. He taught me about Hungarian way of life, and even took me road trippin’ to his village in the countryside! Now, I know if I ever return to Budapest, I will always have a wonderful friend there.
Stay awesome Budapest, until next time …in the warmer weather 😀