Budapest is a special city. Previously considered a lesser destination than Prague or Vienna, in the last few years, Budapest has come to the top of many backpackers’ European itineraries. But why is Budapest such a popular destination for backpackers? Here are 10 reasons why backpacking Budapest is awesome, some of which may surprise you!
Why is Backpacking Budapest So Great?
Backpacking Budapest is Cheap
I’m kicking off with this one as let’s face it, backpacking on a budget helps to keep you travelling for longer! Hungary is still one of the European countries which are way cheaper than its northern and western neighbours. Couple that with all of the free things to do in Budapest, and you’ll find that backpacking Budapest on a budget is easy!
There are lots of hostels in Budapest to choose from, the wombat’s Hostel Budapest where I stayed is right in the centre of the action. Food, drink and activities aren’t expensive, and there are plenty of things to do in Budapest without spending a penny – or at least without breaking the bank. The metro system is great value, costing just 350 forints for one journey which is about $1.20 USD.
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Budapest is a Beautiful City
Wow. I mean wow! On the banks of the Danube River, Budapest is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen. The Parliament building is a gorgeous piece of architecture and looking across the river from Fisherman’s Bastion has to be one of the best views in Europe.
Although some buildings bear the unmistakable ‘functional’ style of the communist era, there are plenty of unique buildings to admire. A trip down the Danube is a must, whether you choose a river cruise or just hop on a public ferryboat, you can’t help but fall in love with the city.
You get 2 Cities for the Price of 1
Did you know that Budapest is actually formed from two separate cities – Buda and Pest? Once separated by the Danube River, Buda and Pest merged in 1873 to create the Budapest we know and love today.
Each side still has a unique feel to it, with Buda on the west side of the river housing the grandiose Budapest Castle, Matthias Church and Fishermen’s Bastion, and Pest on the east side providing the beating heart of the city where backpackers will probably spend most of their time.
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Food in Budapest is Delicious
Feeling hungry in Hungary? (sorry for the pun, I couldn’t resist!!) Traditional Hungarian food is hearty and flavourful, and now modern cuisine is also deserving of a mention.
Check out the markets in Budapest to buy fresh food to cook up in your hostel kitchen, or sample of the local specialities like lángos (fried flat bread with sour cream and cheese), goulash, delicious duck dishes and some decadent sweet treats like the chimney cake Kürtőskalács.
You’ll also want to try Hungarian wine too which was a revelation for me, I had no idea how good Hungarian wine was before sampling some in Budapest.
The History of Budapest is Fascinating
Budapest has been inhabited since the 4th century BC when Celtic settlers made their home here. Since then, everyone from the Romans, Slavs and Mongols to Ottoman Turks, the Habsburgs, Nazis and Soviets have occupied the city in one form or another and all have left their mark on the city.
The spa baths are thanks to the Turkish influences, the bizarre Memento Park is filled with old Communist statues which show a glimpse of the past under the ‘Iron Curtain’, and the Jewish Quarter has memorials to the horror of the Second World War. All around the city you will see different styles, influences and culture coming together to create the magic that is Budapest!
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Relaxing in Budapest is Easy and Fun
After a long day sightseeing in Budapest, you’ll want to some time to chill out, and where better than one of Budapest’s thermal spas?
There are 15 public thermal baths in Budapest to choose from, the most popular ones are Széchenyi which is the largest with 15 indoor and 3 large outdoor pools, where they also host night-time “Spartys” in the summer, and Gellért, which has beautiful Art-Nouveau tiling. Smaller spas like Kiraly are more popular with locals than tourists, but they all have their charm.
Budapest has Incredible Street Art Scene
If you’re a fan of street art (and if you’re not then you should be!) you should definitely take a street art tour in Budapest to see some of the murals, artwork and hidden sculptures which are all over the city. One artist has left miniature bronze statues in various locations – see if you can spot the mini Rubik’s Cube along the riverside.
READ MORE: A Budapest Street Art Tour & Cultural Walk
Nightlife in Budapest is Unreal
The Ruin Bars in Budapest are unique and make perfect use of the empty buildings which were left empty after hundreds of Jewish residents were forced out of their homes and businesses during the war. Now they are taking on a new life, filled with knick-knacks, junk and funky artwork, a drink in one of the Ruin pubs can quickly turn into an all-night adventure as you explore the maze of rooms and hidden corners.
READ MORE: Things to do in Budapest at Night
Szimpla Kert is the original and most famous, and also hosts various community events during the day like the Farmer’s Market and brunch buffet on Sunday. Backpackers often join a pub crawl in Budapest, or just pick a couple to go to yourself. If you’re into festivals then don’t miss Sziget in August, one of the largest music and cultural festivals in Europe.
It’s Easy to Explore Europe & The Rest of Hungary from Budapest
If you’re backpacking Europe, Budapest is close to several other fantastic cities to explore too. Prague, Vienna and Budapest are often combined in one trip, but if you have longer then don’t overlook Bratislava, Zagreb or Belgrade, just a few of the other must-visit cities in Central and Eastern Europe.
And don’t forget the rest of Hungary! There is much more to see in Hungary than just Budapest, even if you just take a day trip or two then Lake Balaton, and the UNESCO listed Tokaj wine region should also be on your backpacking itinerary.
Have I convinced you to go backpacking in Budapest? I hope so! Backpacking Budapest is great fun, you won’t regret your time here, I promise.
Where to Stay While Backpacking in Budapest
Did you know that Budapest used to be two different cities? Buda, on the west side of the Danube, is home to the castle district, but Pest on the east side of the river is where you’ll find the real heart of the city.
Hostels in Budapest
As the #wombatsTraveller ambassador, I stayed at the wombat’s BUDAPEST hostel, which is in a great location for exploring the Jewish Quarter and Budapest nightlife in general, and for me is the best place to stay in Budapest on a budget.
It is also close to a metro station and tram stop so it’s easy to get around the city. It is in a busy area, so I felt safe walking to and from the metro station at night, and it is just a few minutes’ walk away from the Ruin Bars.
There are dorms and private rooms available, an in-house bar and breakfast served in the morning for a few extra forints. The staff are friendly and have some great tips for exploring Budapest on a budget. The bar also has various evening events during the week, including karaoke, DJ nights and pub crawls, so you don’t even need to leave the hostel to find something to do in Budapest at night!
Alternatively, you can check out all of the hostels in Budapest here.
Cheap Hotels in Budapest
There are a lot of hotels in Budapest to choose from, but some of the best-reviewed hotels include Hotel Moments, which is next to St Stephen’s Basilica and gets excellent reviews while offering affordable rates.
For a splurge, look no further than the fabulous 5* Aria Hotel which is right in the centre and has a lovely roof terrace overlooking the basilica. Check availability at all hotels in Budapest on HotelsCombined.
Airbnb in Budapest
If you have never used Airbnb before, use this link to sign up & get up to $52 credit to use on your first trip! Read more about the Airbnb first time discount code and my full Airbnb guide or click below for your Airbnb coupon.
If you’re looking for travel insurance for your trip to Hungary, get a quote now from World Nomads.
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