Great architectural buildings, cheap food and drinks and a shared passion for paprika – when there is a city that has it all, then Budapest! Hungary’s capital combines the charm of an old town with the vibrant, always changing big city life.
So it’s not much surprising that it was ranked as the second fastest-developing urban economy in Europe. You walk from the ugly streets to the luxury shopping mile to the urban hipster district where all the cool people meet. That’s why Budapest offers a great mix of it all and is still very affordable in everything. Although it is similar to lots of other cities in Europe, there are some things you should know before going to Budapest though.
Here I’ve listed six of the things that I experienced during my stay in Budapest which I believe are important to mention. So if you ever want to go to Budapest, read this before and you will enjoy your stay in every way!
1. The thing with the currency
Although Hungary is part of the European Union, Hungarians don’t use the euro. Their currency is the forint (or short HUF). But you will see some shops or even restaurants where you can pay in euro. But the conversion rate is very low so you would pay more with euro than when you pay with forints.
Recommendation: Always pay in forints!
2. Where are the sport addicts?
Are you a fitness-freak, a professional athlete or do you just love sport as much as me? Then you will love Budapest. When I walked to the Margaret Island which is located in the heart of Budapest, I saw so many joggers running on the professional rubberized running track who got their workout done. It’s crazy how many people are running around the island during summer time (and probably during winter, too!) to stay fit.
You even have the chance to use the outdoor gym machines at the fitness exercise stations on the island. Just walk (or run) around and you will see: sweating there is definitely part of Budapest’s lifestyle!
Recommendation: Don’t forget your fitness clothing!
3. Getting from A to Z
Speaking of running… You can explore parts of Budapest great on foot. But if you want to see everything it can get tiring – especially when you’re just planning to stay a weekend. Good that Budapest comes with a great developed public transport system.
It not just includes the metro system, but also many bus lines, trams and trains going to and out of Budapest. It’s fast, easy to use and cheap compared to other big European cities. There are daily tickets available that cost about 1650 HUF (5€/6$). Once you have one, you can take any public transportation within the next 24 hours and get around Budapest.
If you don’t feel like using the public transport – especially during summer – you still have the chance to rent a bike to enjoy the city from the outside. Since Budapest is really bicycle-friendly you can also have a guided tour to see all the sights of the city.
Recommendation: Don’t be afraid of taking the bike or metro!
4. A toast to the history
If you walk around Budapest, you will notice a lot of bars and restaurants. So it’s no problem to hang out, talk to people and drink beer. But be careful when you want to bring out a toast or just want to clink beer glasses with friends.
It has to do with something that belongs to the past: when the Hungarians lost the war in 1849, Austrians executed most of the Hungarian generals and celebrated their triumph by drinking beer and clinking mugs. As a result of this, Hungarians vowed not to clink their beer glasses for the next 150 years. And still now, you barely see them doing that. But clinking other glasses is totally fine.
Recommendation: Be careful with clinking beer glasses!
5. 100% water fun
Maybe you know that I’m a professional swimmer and just love water. So for me one of the highlights in Budapest was the many thermal baths spread over the city. There are almost 125 thermal springs in Budapest, so it might happen that you pass by one or two baths automatically. Some baths like the Király look a bit rough from the outside. But I can assure you that the water is clean and fresh.
I even treated myself to a little massage. Some thermal baths offer this service, so when you step out of the entrance, you will feel very refreshed and recovered. But make sure to check the opening hours before you plan to go as well as the days when the thermal bath is open for everyone, because some baths might have male- or female-only days.
Recommendation: Bring your swimsuit, flip-flops and a towl!
6. Less cold as ice & please more spice
I always heard that people in East Europe tend to be a little rude or cold. When I visited Budapest and ordered something in a restaurant I actually noticed the bored behavior of the waitresses. Maybe they all had a bad day in the same week or there must be some truth behind it.
Anyway, I also must say that the food was also a thing I needed to get used to (or I never will). I had the traditional meal called Lángos which was very greasy and of course I ate the Hungary’s national dish goulash which could have been a bit more spiced. But maybe I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Recommendation: Stay friendly and smile! ☺
Now you should be prepared and know the most important things before going to Budapest. It’s a beautiful city and it’s definitely worth a visit. Next week I will post my Budapest City Guide, so stay tuned!