I must admit that my first impression of Budapest wasn’t the greatest. The streets are dirty, 80% of the buildings are falling appart (even in the city center) and there is a lot of drunk people wandering the streets night and day. The general atmosphere is almost creepy : no lights in our street, deep dark at 4:30.
Starting from here I asked myself : why do people say it is such a beautiful city? What is beautiful here? And that is what I came to :
First of all : food. Cheaper than the food in France in the grocery stores and restaurants (if you don’t stay in the 2 most expensive streets Vaci and Andrassi utca).
In the fast food, you have to pay for every sauce you take. In France ketchup and mayonnaise are free but we have to pay for the rest. Prices vary from one fast food to another (3 sauces for 129FT at KFC while it is 100FT each sauce in McDonalds).
Hungarians eat a lot of meat (mostly pork) and starches but the grocery stores are stocked a variety of things including an amazing variety of chocolate barres/
They also have a lot of ham and salami in multiple flavors for less than 1 euro/10 slices.
Hungarians eat well, the dish are generous and tasty. I’ll dedicate a blog post to only food (as you know I always do).
Of course, not ALL buildings are in ruin, the most important and touristic one are taken care of. The Central Market Hall, the museums, the castle…Etc are absolutely beautiful. Cultural activities are quite expensive so if your budget isn’t THAT big, choose wisely.
Hungarians are very friendly, they are used to tourists. If you ask for something they’ll help you and most of the people I had the chance to talk to spoke english (sometimes not at all but sign with your hands for what you want in this case, like I did at the apothecary when my daughter had a bad fever and I needed some tylenol).
Talking about that, the Airbnb we stayed in was rented by two of the nicest hungarians I know (I only know 2 FIY but anyway). They knew we were coming for our 3rd wedding anniversary and gifted us a bottle of wine and chocolate for my girl. We saw each other during the week because we had trouble with the washing machine and I learned that Eva was pregnant. If you know me, you know I can’t resist, I bought a little outfit for the little boy and was absolutely thrilled to buy baby clothes again. So cute and tiny.
Anyway, the flat is absolutely perfect. It is clean, nice and not far from the center (20-25 minutes walk), it is well furnished (blow dryer, toiletry items, flat iron…etc). The building looks very scary from the outside but we had no problem, the neighborhood is safe.
With a child, I can’t tell you much about Budapest’s night life even if I heard good things about it. What I can tell, though, is that beer is way cheaper than in numerous countries we visited and there are a lot of pubs/bars. Ruin bars are an absolute must see : creepy and cool.
I have read a lot of things about the thermal baths but unfortunately you can not go in there with a non toilet trained toddler so we passed on that and will hopefully come back to try it!
We finally visited Buda, the castle, the Gellert hill and everything is richer, well taken care of and shiny. Prices are higher than in Pest as you can imagine. The atmosphere is really different once you’ve crossed the bridge that separate Buda from Pest. People wear a lot of fur and are, from what I saw, somewhat grumpy. The castle is absolutely beautiful but you’ll have to pay to enter the different museums that are in the castle. The church there is incredible when lit at night, we were amazed. There is also a big mall (Mammut) full of shops and restaurants.
I really preferred Pest side : more authentic, people are smilier and this is the real life, the life I like to discover when we are traveling. Doesn’t need to be beautiful, just find what makes you happy.