In this article, my daughter shares some of the things she enjoyed on a short break to Budapest, seen through the eyes of an 18 year old. Of course Sophie-Anne and her friend Emma spent their evenings partying and clubbing but they also managed to fit in a surprising amount of culture and sightseeing.
I arrived in Budapest with my friend Emma late on Tuesday evening and as it was too late to navigate the public transport links we hopped in a cab to my cousin Sophia’s apartment. The fares surprisingly aren’t too bad, that is if you pay in florins over euros. We had a quick catch up with Sophia, but with work in the morning she was eager to get some sleep and pointed us in the right direction for some things to do the following day.
Wednesday – we do the museums
Bright and early on Wednesday morning we rose eager to get some cultural sightseeing done, to satisfy our parents’ museum questions that we would surely encounter on our return. I am, of course, a believer in the ability of teenagers being able to mix culture and partying on a city trip, but it’s best to do what requires most energy at the start of the trip before the late nights get to you.
Unfortunately, it was raining on the first day, but the House of Terror museum was only one stop away on the tram, so we visited it first. The museum was very interactive and seemed quite popular, as by the time we left there was a queue and lots of school trips lurking in the different exhibition rooms. The building of the museum was used both as a Nazi and Communist office, and thus the exhibitions take you through a story of Hungary in occupation from both the Nazis, the Communists and then finally the story of independence. There was definitely a lot to see, including a creepy basement where prisoners were kept in dingy cells. We agreed that the museum was aimed to attract the young and had some pretty vibrant ideas going on; the unexplained maze of wax bricks being our favourite. The exhibition of all the Communist propaganda was probably my favourite room of the museum.
As we left the House of Terror, the rain continued to pour, so we stopped at the Opera House to get some shelter. The Opera House really is magnificent, with beautiful architecture even a teenager would appreciate, although we didn’t even bother to check for Opera shows due to our student budget. We then walked down to St Stephen’s Basilica which was truly amazing. It’s the kind of place that makes you wish your Granny had Vine so you could show it off to her. We were really lucky to witness the church choir practising for a show later that night, so the beautiful church was lit up by their voices and we were so impressed that we sat for a while amongst the more avid church visiters to enjoy the choir.
Of course at some point so much culture would need to be balanced out, so we decided to check out the shops on the famous Vati Utica shopping street. My map reading skills are not strong enough to give an accurate record of which end of the street we were on, as the guide book had informed us that one end was more for shopping and one was more for food, although I have strong suspicions we were at the shopping end. After we had spent perhaps too much of our budget on clothes (naturally) we navigated our way through the metro back to my cousin’s apartment. We only had a few moments to sit down until we were back out again.
We went to a restaurant that was absolutely packed, even on a Wednesday evening and stayed there for a few cocktails after the meal. Following that my cousin took us to Instant, one of Budapest’s ruin bars, although as she is rather upmarket she clarified she wouldn’t usually come here but wanted to show us. The bar was very peculiar indeed, with art features in every corner and each room decorated with some arty idea. I can imagine it to be full of students in the summer with a dance floor located underneath the bar area.
Thursday – we visit the Castle District
On Thursday the weather was much better so we decided to visit the castle district on the other side of the Danube. We walked across the famous chain bridge and had a few selfies with the lions at the entrance to the bridge. Cursing ourselves for spending so much on clothes we climbed the many steps instead of taking the funicular you had to pay for. Thankfully we weren’t too unfit so it wasn’t a huge chore, and when we got to the top it was definitely worth the effort.
We went to the Fisherman’s Bastion first, placed right next to St Matthias church, which both me and Emma thought could be in a Disney film. It had a lovely view over the whole of Budapest and was flooded with tourists taking pictures. We even payed a small fee to look around St Matthias church and explored its exhibition. Then we wandered towards the palace picking up some odd looking Translylvanian street food on our way that we both surprisingly enjoyed. We looked round the palace for a bit but generally more at the outside and decided not to go into the museum inside the palace. On our way back to my cousin’s we passed the Parliament but although Emma was extremely keen to look inside we couldn’t quite work out where the entrance was. Our trusty guide book also informed us you could only have a proper look if you were on a guided tour, which we of course had missed, being disorganised students.
Instead, we went to the Museum of Ethnography just behind the Parliament building. There were two main exhibitions we spent some time looking at and a third which contained photos of rocks which didn’t quite capture our attention. The two ones we enjoyed were the permanent exhibitions of a collection of Hungary’s artefacts and a temporary exhibition of photography. There were a lot of Hungarian weird and wonderful artefacts that we found humorous although the photography exhibition seemed more popular.
Again, in the evening we went out for a meal, this time Sophia took us to a more Hungarian restaurant, The Strudel House. This proved difficult for Emma as a vegetarian, as much of Hungarian cooking involves meat, although my goulash was delicious. Following our meal we went out for some more drinks at a bar with some of Sophia’s Hungarian friends, and then on to a club called Trafiq which was in a cool building and had a really great vibe. Me and Emma went on later to another club, Urimuri as Trafiq started to lose all its people, which was more arty but made all the clubs we go to back in Bristol look awful.
Friday – we relax at the baths
Naturally, on the Friday morning our energy levels were dipping so we decided to have a relaxing day in the famous Budapest baths. We choose to go to Gellert baths which was in a posh hotel, on the Buda side of the river. The bath itself had beautiful architecture and I can imagine it is amazing in summer with the outdoor pools, but the organisation of the bath itself wasn’t quite there. For example, we got redirected to the changing rooms about ten times by different staff. It was also slightly annoying that we could not swim in the main pool at Gellert spa as we did not have swimming caps with us, but what 18 year old is going to own a swimming cap! However, it was a lovely way to spend the day and we spent most of the time in the warm outdoor bath which was quite picturesque with all the autumn leaves and trees around it. We even had a view of the Liberty statue from our bath.
Having started late in the day we got back pretty late and so just grabbed a bite to eat in one of the nearby Asian restauraunts before going out again. We had some drinks with friends and headed out pretty late, to the club Hello Baby which seemed pretty upmarket, although the prices were reasonable. Me and Emma really upped our cocktail game here, trying different ones as they were nicely made and not too expensive.
We had a long night here as it was a Friday night so was extremely busy and full of international people. In fact it was surprising how everybody in the international community seems to speak English. Me and Emma only had schoolgirl French at our aid so felt very fortunate that everyone was able to understand us.
Saturday – time to go home to Bristol
On Saturday we just had a lie in and relaxed with Sophia until we had to go catch our flight in Budapest’s lovely modern airport! Overall we had an amazing cultural and fun time in Budapest, which I think is a really cool city to live in or just to explore. Budapest definitely has a lot to offer and at very reasonable prices.
More articles from Sophie-Anne’s travels
What Mum (Heather) enjoyed in Budapest
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