Sure London is lovely, Paris is pretty, and Rome is really rad, but what about the cities of Eastern Europe? You hardly ever hear Gina from Brooklyn say, “Hey Marty! Me and the kids are going to Prague this Saturday.” No, it’s almost always Rome or Barcelona.
People just don’t realize how cool the cities of Eastern Europe are. In general, they are a lot cheaper, making them perfect cities for budget backpackers. They are no more dangerous than any Western European city. They are rich in history and culture, and not to mention great food. And in the great Hungarian capitol of Budapest, you will discover all this and more. It is my favorite European city and one I definitely recommend for a long term stay, a short holiday, or a backpacking tour.
Budapest In A Nutshell
Budapest’s place in history is prominent and enduring. In medieval times, it represented a bastion of Christian Europe against the Ottoman Turks. More recently, it became the birth place of the Austo-Hungarian empire. Finally, after the end of the Soviet Union, it has now grown into one of Europe’s largest financial and cultural capitols.
Like so many other great Eastern European cities, Budapest lies along the banks of the bountiful Danube river. In fact, it is split in two by it, breaking the city up into Buda and Pest (Pesht). The result is more than a dozen distinct and extraordinary bridges, each with their own story.
Although Budapest is large, it is not as big as say Paris. This means that every major attraction, including it’s multiple world heritage sites and over 80 thermal spas, can be walked to within a single day. However, you will definitely want to give yourself a bit more time than that. Be sure check out the Parliament Building and Buda Castle.
Budapest is also characterized by a strong and traditional food culture. The city is dotted with delightful cafes and restaurants. In summer they serve a dish known as Fruit Soup, which is the equivalent of drinking the most delicious piece of pie you have ever had. At anytime of year, you can enjoy traditional Hungarian Goulash, Beef, Boar, Venison, and Rabbit to name a few. An average meal for one at a nice cafe is usually between 10$ to 15$.
The night life in Budapest is unrivaled in Eastern Europe. Beers are cheap, the crowed is always friendly and welcoming, and many bars occupy the insides of what look like abandoned buildings. As a result, you can often hangout in private nooks and rooms with your friends. A Lonely Planet poll even ranked Budapest as having some of the best bars in the world. Be sure to check out, Szimpla Kert, Szoda Café, and Corvinteto.
The hostels of Budapest have a great atmosphere and usually contain some kind of attached bar. The prices are also considerably lower than Western Europe at around 15$ for a dorm. If you’re looking for something a little more up class, quaint hotels can be found for around 50$ a night. For hostels, check out Gandio Party Hostel. It’s not the cheapest, but is definitely good fun, and located right in the center of town.
How To Get To Budapest
Getting to Budapest isn’t as hard or as expensive as you might think. If you’re coming from North America, flights can often be found for 500$ one way. Also, due to low demand in the fall and late winter, flights to Budapest can even be cheaper at around 300$ one way. If you’re coming from the UK, flights can be found for as low as 30 quid. Check out Jet2.com for cheap flights to Budapest. For more info on finding cheap flights, check out my guide, How To Fly For Cheap, or contact me through facebook.
Budapest is a gem of Europe that most people have no idea exist. It is such a architecturally stunning capitol that it’s amazing we don’t see it more on posters at travel agencies or in airplane magazines. Not only does it provide all the excitement and attractions of a city in the West, but you can experience it all for nearly 40% less. Recommend it to anyone? Who wants to drink pie and party with legends!