Stephanie from Australia has been an expat in Budapest since Feb 2012. Her expat blog about Budapest, learning Hungarian, etc. is at SziaSteph. She has some beautiful sunset photos of Budapest on flickr at Budapest Twilight.
What was your first reaction when you got into the city of Budapest?
I was amazed at the snow and how beautiful the architecture is. I was also very cold!
Did you have any preconceptions about Budapest that proved to be wrong?
I didn’t realise that so many people spoke English!
What are your favourite hidden gems in Budapest? (any attractions, museums, parks, cafes, playgrounds, baths, etc.?)
I really like the area around Király Utca, with the cute design shops and nice bars. I also like Drop Shop, a wine bar in the 5th district.
Have you tried any of the thermal baths or lidos? If so, which did you like / dislike?
Yes! We have been to Gellért, Széchenyi Bath and Lukács. Gellért is beautiful, but it is expensive. The wave pool there is great fun in summer though! Lukács is nice because there are hardly any tourists and there is a very hot bath indoors that’s so nice in the cold months! Széchenyi is the one we have been to most because it’s got a good range of pools, indoor and outdoor, and it’s so picturesque. I love bathing at night there.
Do you have a budget tip for budget travellers?
Budapest is quite inexpensive but I think some restaurants in Budapest focus on “tourist menus” and the food is overpriced and not so great. I think you can find cheaper places to eat that are away from where waiters are begging you to come inside. Also, it’s definitely cheaper to get a transport pass of some kind if you’re using public transport a lot, than to use single tickets. Having a pass is much easier anyway.
Is it worth splurging on something in Budapest?
A massage at one of the thermal baths, or something unique and handmade from one of the many design markets, like a beautiful leather handbag or a piece of jewellery.
Let’s assume you need to take a friend to a good restaurant in Budapest for a casual dinner. Where would you take him / her?
We recently took friends from home to Gerloczy. It’s not the cheapest place in Budapest but I have only ever had amazing meals there. The service is excellent. For a really casual dinner, I would go to Parázs Thai Restaurant – best Thai in town!
Is there any traditional Hungarian food you would really love to take home with you?
Cigány pecsenye (Gipsy pork dish), stuffed cabbage and good gulyas leves! And the bread! The bread here is delicious.
If you can share some dos and don’ts with visitors to Budapest, what would be your top choice(s)?
DO: Walk around the city in the evening and look at the beautiful lit-up monuments. Cross the Chain Bridge on foot during the day and at night. Take a boat cruise around sunset along the Danube. Visit the baths and relax. DON’T assume that all the souvenirs around are genuinely Hungarian (especially the embroidery) Look for local, handmade gifts to take home. Don’t travel on public transport without a valid ticket!
Is there anything you really hate(d) about Budapest?
The number of people who smoke!
Is there anything you absolutely love(d) about Budapest?
The huge number of festivals in the city of Budapest over summer. (Wine, chocolate, pálinka, beer, sausage, craft…) The excellent public transport. The long summer and the fact that Hungarians love to swim and relax with water nearby.