Budapest - Europe's Hidden Gem?

This summer I decided to book a last minute holiday to Budapest. Having heard good things about it from various travellers, and wanting to experience a taste of Eastern Europe, I thought why not? I stayed at 11th Hour Cinema Hostel which had been recommended by a friend, and her recommendation was certainly justified. The hostel has a very ‘shabby chic’ feel to it with a sort of inside/outside smoking and relaxing area full of young travellers discussing their European adventures. As suggested by the name, the hostel has an arty cinema vibe to it with each room named after a classic film- I was staying in Pirates of the Caribbean. There was also a cosy cinema room with a projector and pretty much every film available to watch, serving as a nice antidote to the hustle and bustle of the busy city.

In terms of the city itself, it is incredibly beautiful. I decided that it combined elements of Paris, San Francisco and Vienna. There are two sides to the city, Buda and Pest, with beautiful bridges linking the two. In fact, Budapest is the home of the first suspension bridges to be built in Europe. The city is extremely clean but not clinical by any means. Unlike other cities, like New York for example, there is no sense of rush or intensity; it is a very calming atmosphere - perhaps due to the continual flow of the river Danube running right in the middle of Buda and Pest. I was told during my stay that I had to visit one of the thermal baths, a large part of Budapest's charm, so I visited the Szechenyi Baths which seemed to be the most popular. It is a whole day's excursion with there being multiple pools to sample of varying temperatures and sizes, including a huge whirlpool. It is an extremely relaxing experience, although possibly too relaxing as I found myself nodding off at some points, to the amusement of many others.

I decided to go on a bar crawl organised by the hostel, as a means of meeting new people and sampling Budapest’s nightlife. We were taken to the infamous ‘ruin bars’ which really were as beautiful as they are made out to be. Feeling like you’re in a historical site whilst also drinking incredibly cheap bear is an amazing contrast. The atmosphere is so friendly and inviting - everyone gets steadily drunk but not in a rowdy, annoying way. It’s as if the beautiful surroundings determine a certain level of sophistication to the evening. We then headed onto the club Instant which was absolutely incredible. It had 26 rooms all decorated in a really unusual way. It felt as if you’ve stepped into some sort of Time Burton film, giving a magical sense to the night.

So it was by lack of organisation and last minute chance that I stumbled upon the city of Budapest, but I am so glad that I did. With the combination of the incredibly interesting history coupled with the staggeringly cheap prices, there’s no reason not to visit!