24 Hours in Budapest
In the middle of my month-long stay in Germany, I decided I wanted to see as many countries as I could before I left Europe. This led to me planning (which basically involved booking hostels the night before my trips and having a vague idea of the main attractions in the cities I was visiting) a five day trip, during which I visited a different country each day. I purchased a Eurail Global Pass and chose the “5 days within 1 month” option, which cost around 200 euros. Eurail overnight trains require a reservation, and certain daytime trains do too, so I ended up paying an extra 20-30 euros to reserve sleeping accommodations on night trains and 3-4 euros to make a reservation at all. As such, I would definitely look into the prices of booking individual train tickets in comparison to using Eurail for future travels.
Where to Stay
The first stop on my five-countries-in-five-days trip was Budapest. After taking the night train from Munich the night before, I arrived in Budapest at 11 AM to begin my 24 hours in Budapest. I met up with my friend who was backpacking Europe, and we headed to the Adagio Hostel 2.0 Basilica. The hostel offered free tea and coffee all day, had a relaxed vibe, and was clean, but there was a weak sense of community. Thus, I would not recommend it for solo travellers looking to meet new people. However, it was in a relatively central location of the city, and we were located right next to our first attraction, St. Stephen’s Basilica.
St. Stephen’s Basilica
St. Stephen’s Basilica was built in a neoclassical architectural style in 1905 and is a majestic sight with its marble columns, gold elements, and colourful interior. Visitors have the option of taking the elevator or climbing the stairs up to the dome of the church, but we chose to stay at ground level because of the large crowds waiting to go up to the dome.
Next, we walked toward the castle district and crossed the Chain Bridge, an iconic bridge separating the former cities of Buda and Pest (the two cities joined to form Budapest in 1873). From the Chain Bridge we were able to get a beautiful view of the Pest side of the city, which holds the Budapest parliament, among many other landmarks.
Continuing into Buda, we crossed into the Castle District, which includes the sites of the Royal Palace (or Buda Castle), Matthias Church, and Fisherman’s Bastion. Here, visitors have the option of either taking the Castle Hill Funicular to the castles or taking a 5-10 minute walk up the hill. We decided to walk up the hill as it gave us the opportunity to stop at various lookout points and see the city from different angles. As we were coming down from the hill, we stopped at a food stand and tried the popular Hungarian snack Lángos. It is essentially a piece of fried dough with various toppings – we ordered one with sour cream and cheese. I would highly recommend trying one as it is a fairly cheap, delicious, and filling meal option. The Castle District embodies both the Baroque and Gothic styles in its homes and landmark buildings, and walking around there gave me the feeling of having travelled hundreds of years back in time.
After leaving the Castle District, we crossed back into the Pest side and took a stroll along the River Danube. We walked along the path of Budapest’s tram no.2, ranked one of the top 10 most scenic tram rides in the world. On a side note, we happened to be in Budapest on one of the most exciting days – Hungary was playing in the UEFA Championship for the first time since 1972. There was also a game between Germany (my #1 team) and Slovakia that day, which we watched on a big screen at the Széchenyi Turkish Bath (Germany won!). We purchased the general admission ticket for 4300 HUF (roughly 15 USD), which gave us access to the pool and lockers through a wristband. There was also an optional towel rental for 1000 HUF with a 2000 HUF deposit (10 USD altogether). The bath was one of my favourite parts of Budapest (partially due to the game), and I would highly recommend checking it out.
We ended our day by attending a public viewing of the soccer game between Hungary and Belgium. Every restaurant, cafe, bar, and anywhere else with a TV had hoards of people gathered around watching the game. We tried to watch the game in a park with a large screen, but the sheer amount of people there made it impossible to see anything. I’m fairly certain that nearly the entire population of Budapest was outside that night, cheering on their team. I have never been surrounded by the unbelievable amount of excitement and energy shown by the Hungarian people than during that game. Even after Hungary lost to Belgium 0-4, the Hungarian people were in the streets cheering and parading well past 2 AM (the game ended before 11 PM).
Overall, I highly enjoyed the city of Budapest. The people there seemed noticeably more guarded and less inclined to start casual conversation than people in some Western European countries that I’d visited, but this is also a city of people who have overcome many obstacles and defeats in the history of their country. My 24 hours in Budapest gave me the urge to return to this city and spend more time getting to understand the city and locals on a deeper level.