1. WizzAir (the company we flew with) has entered a new level of cheap by classifying between small and large cabin bags (you pay for the large ones). We stressed for a good 10 minutes and creatively side-stepped our way past the gate attendant. No fees for us!
2. Forint (Hungarian currency) is fun! I’ve never seen thousands of dollars in my wallet or been happy to pay 200 dollars for a pastry.
3. Shuttle buses will leave without you. And waiting at the airport for 2 hours on an empty stomach and little sleep is not fun.
4. Hostels can be gorgeous! Even ones called “Hipster Hostel” can enchant with loft-style bedrooms, inner courtyards, creepy old school elevators and a pet bunny!
5. Walking from Pest to Buda (yes, they are two separate areas) in the sun is breathtaking. The architecture of Budapest is beautiful and there is no better way to see it than walking over the Danube River.
6. Hungarian baths are wonderful. A tad overpriced, but wonderful. We visited the Gellert Baths and managed to spend 3 hours in baths of various temperatures with mainly elderly Hungarians. We even did a few seconds in the world’s hottest sauna and coldest chill pool!
7. There is no shame in dessert before dinner.
8. Tourist traps are alive and well in Budapest. For example: the duo outside of the “authentic” Hungarian restaurant who convinced us to dine at their establishment. Feeling conned, we still managed to enjoy a bottle of wine and the big meat platter.
9. Burger King serves Belgian waffles in Budapest. And they had to be tried.
10. The Great Market is a super cool indoor market home to souvenir stalls, delicious strawberries, goulash in a bread bowl and Hungarian pizza!
11. Chain Bridge is worth all of the hype. And, not so fun fact: the architect of the bridge was convinced it was perfect, until it was pointed out that the lions were missing tongues. So, he killed himself.
12. Funiculars are usually the best (based on my funicular experience in Italy). But sometimes, they’re overpriced, and you have to walk up Castle Hill.
13. But the walk is so worth it! Fisherman’s Bastion, the ruins of Buda Castle and Matthias Church are beautiful and show off a great view of the river and Parliament.
14. A “hang” is a tortoise shell shaped instrument that plays the music of the gods. When combined with guitar and violin, it’s pretty much impossible not to fall in love and buy the album!
15. Another tourist trap: the cafe at the bottom of the hill that serves 3 chicken wings for 8 euro and tries to add items you didn’t order to the bill.
16. If I thought Castle Hill was a climb, I had no idea until I reached Gellert Hill. Luckily, these night time views were even better!
17. The yummiest thing I ate in Budapest was a duck burger. I’m not great with traditional Hungarian food.
18. Budapest plays host to a few ruin bars: bars that are located in abandoned buildings. We visited Szimpla – a huge space covered in graffiti and a foosball table where Steph dominated!
19. March 15th is a national holiday in Hungary! This meant we got to see a big group of people with a lot of Hungarian flags, hear from a scary speech-maker, watch Hungarian dancing and join the crowds shopping the stalls on Castle Hill.
20. St Stephen’s Basilica is also worth the hype.
21. Sometimes a cold rainy day with a sick friend is best spent inside a coffee shop!
22. The metro escalators are FAST! Like gear up, jump on and grip the handle kind of fast.
23. The caves in Buda are very far away from our hostel in Pest.
24. The caves in Buda are cool, but maybe not worth the long hype.
25. Margaret Island, an island in the middle of the Danube River, does not serve food, much to our displeasure.
26. Andrassy Avenue is a pretty cool street for shopping, statues and sights. It would have been cooler in nicer weather, but Heroes Square was still pretty awesome!
27. Budapest was my first foray into Eastern Europe and it was a wonderful surprise. The city was gorgeous, with unreal architecture, and a weekend spent with good girlfriends made it that much better! Thanks for an amazing trip!
And now: a week off to actually sleep in my own bed, write an exam and prepare for Switzerland at the end of the month!