Looking to travel to Budapest on a budget? Here are five things you can do that won’t cost you a penny…
I was in Budapest a couple of weeks ago and it was like something out of a fairytale; charming snow-lined streets, intricate architecture and glittering fairy lights draped around every bar and restaurant. With the long boulevards, yellow taxis, and the freezing cold temperatures it also had a touch of New York about it. We visited museums, searched out the ruin bars (a must-see) and even had a dip in the Szechenyi thermal baths, which was a slightly surreal experience in December. We also did a lot of stuff that didn’t cost anything. Here are my top free things to do in the Hungarian capital…
1) Climb Gellért Hill to get a close up view of the Liberty Statue, which commemorates those who sacrificed their lives to Hungary’s independence. As you can see, the views from the top are absolutely stunning. I can’t tell you exactly how long it takes to climb because we did it in the snow, and while my Bershka boots were perfectly adequate from trotting around the city I don’t think they were designed with hillclimbing in mind. There was A LOT of slipping. However, the views of the city more than made up for it and I felt especially lucky that we were able to see everything dusted with a beautiful frosting of snow. You can also warm yourself up with a mulled wine at the top. Delicious.
2) Go the Great Market Hall, which is the largest market hall in Budapest. Bearing in mind, this is a list of free things to do, my advice is to visit straight after breakfast when you’re less likely to be tempted by all the delicious looking food on offer. This is where I first spotted the traditional Langos I wanted to try. Take your time having a wander around; it’s a treasure trove of traditional food, Hungarian paprika, clothes, bags and more matryoshka dolls than I’d seen in my life. If you’re anything like me and you’re on a budget Ryanair flight home you certainly won’t have any room for souvenirs, but it’s lovely to see and it gives you a real sense of what Budapest is all about.
3) Get ‘the’ Instagram picture at the magical Fisherman’s Bastion in the Castle District. Bear in mind I had no idea this was the photograph to get until a queue suddenly unveiled itself in front of us and I had to wait ten minutes to get anywhere near this window. The good thing was that I picked up some posing tips from the people in front of us. Make sure you leave plenty of time to wander around here, as it’s pretty hard not to be charmed by the views and fairytale castle architecture. Every photo you take will look like it’s come out of a Hans Christian Andersen book.
4) Cross the Chain Bridge. Before we arrived in Budapest I’d been researching things to do and one of the things I remembered reading was the story of the architect of the Chain Bridge. He was convinced he’d achieved perfection with his design and was devastated when it was pointed out that the lion sculptures at either side of the bridge didn’t have tongues. Despite the tragic ending of the story I was excited to see the lions which were spectacular, tongues or not, and you’ll also enjoy glittering views of both the Buda and the Pest if you cross it in the evening, like we did.
5) Visit Heroes Square. We stumbled upon the square on the way to the Szechenyi thermal baths, but I’m so glad we did because it’s beautiful. Cross the street and you can also take in the views of Vajdahunyad Castle with the famous ice rink set in front of it. Please note: the ice skaters are intimidatingly good. There was figure skating. There were people skating backwards. There was no edge to hang onto at the side. That’s why I ended up passing on ‘doing’ and simply watching.