This past weekend I took my very first solo trip to BUDAPEST!! I have been planning it for a few weeks now, and I can’t believe I actually was able to visit. A few people asked if I chose Budapest because it was the number one country on my list of places to visit, but truthfully, I searched for the cheapest place to visit on the dates I had free! I want to go everywhere while I am in Europe, so the order of where I go is secondary. I was so nervous to go to a new country all by myself, but it ended up being such an incredible trip. I met quite a few new people, but also got to enjoy being my myself.
I flew out of Basel Airport on Friday, August 23, around 3:30pm. This allowed me to still go to my German lesson and even get lunch with a friend! I arrived at the airport with plenty of time, just in case it was busy, so I spent some time quizzing KJ on vet school stuff (also, shamelessly going to brag for a second, he just got a 100% on his first vet school exam. WHAT!!!) and talking to my mom on the phone before boarding the plane. After a quick 1:20 flight, I was officially in Hungary!
Thanks to extensive research, the process of getting from the airport to the hostel I chose was very easy. I purchased a round trip airport transfer ticket, which allowed me access to the specific airport-to-city bus. I also bought two 24-hour public transportation tickets. Those provided me an unlimited usage of any public transportation in Budapest. After purchasing these, I easily found the 100E bus I needed to take, and rode it right into the city, getting off at a stop only three minutes away from my hostel!
I chose to stay at a hostel called “Hostel 1 Basilica” based on an overwhelmingly large number of positive reviews, and I was truly BLOWN away by how great it really was! The man who checked me in, Filch, was so sweet and knowledgeable, showed me everything I needed to know for my stay, and even introduced me to a few people that were in the common room. Every night, the hostel has a family-style dinner, where I was able to meet a few new friends that I hung out with the majority of the weekend! After dinner, I went with them to a park across the street, had a glass of prosecco, and we all got to know each other a bit!
Each night, Hostel 1 puts on an ‘excursion’ to a different bar or club in town. We are all given wrist bands that allow us skip-the-line access through the Hostel. Friday night, we went to this place called Morrison’s. If you know me at all, you know clubbing isn’t exactly my thing. But I decided to embrace the time I had in Budapest to experience new places and things, and I went! It was probably the most fun I had the whole weekend. Goes to show how going a bit out of your comfort zone can pay off! The club was sectioned off into different rooms, each playing different genres of music. There were rooms for R&B, Karaoke, Throwback Hits (basically 2000s music that we all forgot we loved), a strobe light dance room and more!We stayed out until after 3am (another thing I don’t EVER do, if you know me!), but I barely felt tired. I danced and laughed for hours and really got to know my new friends.
Saturday morning was an early one, even though I was dead tired I didn’t want to waste any time. I went with my friends to Heroes Square, a large space that displays statues of 14 famous Hungarian leaders. Right behind Heroes Square is City Park, which was deceivingly small from the outside. There are gorgeous trees, a river, and even a castle! One of the most famous thermal pools in Budapest is in City Park, although after reading about how touristy and expensive it had become, we chose to pass on going in.
My friends had made some different plans, so I wandered off on my own to look at some other things I had on my list. Budapest is broken into two main parts on either side of the Danube River, Buda and Pest. My hostel was located on the Pest side, so I spent a lot of the late morning and early afternoon exploring places like the St. Stephen’s Basilica and the Andrassy Ut. I enjoyed a yummy lunch right by the Basilica while I waited for a walking tour to start.
The walking tour was 2.5 hours long, and we explored a bit of the Pest side but mostly found ourselves in Buda. Personally, I liked the Buda side of the river WAY more! Some highlights of the tour were the Szenchenyi Chain Bridge, the Matthias Church, Castle Hill, and finally the Fisherman’s Bastion. I made a friend on the walking tour, and we explored a bit more on our own after the tour, including walking into Gresham Palace, now the Four Seasons Hotel. I will be back to Budapest one day (probably far in the future), and I will most definitely be staying there!
Saturday evening, I met back up with my friends from the Hostel and went to explore the Jewish Quarter. We ate some delicious street food and then went to a ruin bar! We chose to go to Szimpla Kert, which is the first ruin bar in Budapest. A ruin bar, I came to learn, is just a bar that is built into abandoned or ruined houses and buildings post WW2. It was unlike any place I have ever been! It was similar to Morrison’s in that there were separate rooms, but it was not dancing or music. From the outside, it was very unassuming! But once you got in and ventured to the middle courtyard, you were suddenly in the middle of a hip, artsy, and funky bar bustling with crowds talking, dancing, and enjoying the laid-back atmosphere. It is incredibly eclectic; there is not a matching piece of furniture to be found, art all over the walls and tables, tons of random plants and flowers, and holes and other signs of damage on the walls. There was even a room with a bunch of bathtubs cut into couches! We stayed here for a few hours before getting some dessert on our way home to the hostel for an ‘earlier’ night.
Sunday was my final day in Budapest, and I wanted to make the most of it and do the last few things on my list before I left. I headed to the Danube River and walked all along it, stopping for a quick picture of the “Little Princess” statue that is all over Instagram. I kept going, though, until I reached the “Shoes on the Danube”. This is a rather chilling memorial to the Jewish people who were murdered during the Nazi occupation of Budapest. The victims were forced to take off their shoes on the river bank before being shot and falling into the water. It was definitely a more somber part of the trip.
For lunch, I met up with my friend Eileen from my walking tour, and one of her friends Talita, for lunch at a place called the New York Cafe. Yes, this was really the name! When planning my trip, I saw so many recommendations for this place, as it had won an award for “Most Beautiful Cafe in the World”! It truly lived up to the hype. It was so ornately decorated, and everything was delicious!
At this point in the day, I only had about three hours until I needed to return to the hostel to get my things. To finish up the trip, the three of us went to the Gellert Thermal Baths, a very touristy but very ‘must-do’ in Budapest. They are known for their thermal baths, so we couldn’t pass it up. We stayed there for as long as we could before I had to leave, going in every pool of all different temperatures, and even coincidentally running into my friends from the hostel!
My flight was a bit delayed, so I spent a few hours at the airport writing in my journal and reflecting on this trip. I feel so fortunate to get to take a quick weekend trip to a place like Budapest, and it is something I want to continually be grateful for and never take for granted! I couldn’t have asked for a better first solo trip. Budapest far exceeded any expectations that I had, and I can’t wait to go back one day!