Budapest highlights

Stay at…

Lavender Circus. I’ve already raved about this cheap but lovely, eccentric and laid back hostel, I can’t recommend it enough.

Kitchen and common area

Shop at…

Front and Insitu. Both run by the same company and less than 5 min walk from each other (and Lavender Circus!). They stock cool tees, lomography accessories, funky jewellery, cool design-y bits and pieces, toys and and fun things like big wall stickers. There’s another cool clothing/tee shop next to Insitu as well but I can’t remember its name.

Retrock. There are two but the original one (on Ferenczy Istvan utca – also near Lavender Circus) is better. They have some new printed tees and lots of cool retro and second-hand clothes.

Szputnyik Bazár. Similar stuff to Retrock but bigger and with more retro clothes (also a bit cheaper).

Eat at…

Trofea Grill. It’s an all-you-can-eat restaurant, but quite fancy. But cheap! And the price includes unlimited alcohol! (Beer, wine or soft drinks.) There’s a buffet but they also have a live grill where you point at what you’d like and a guy grills it up in front of of you. It’s DELICIOUS and you get to sample a lot of different Hungarian foods (and other, generally tasty things). Go hungry! The staff are really friendly and they’ll explain how it works in perfect English. We went to the one on Király utca: highly recommended.

Alexandra Bookcafe, Andrássy út 39. The bookshop is lovely but go up to the top floor where the cafe is. It’s beautiful and once again, crazy cheap.

Great Market Hall, near Szabadsag Bridge. Try the Langos (pronounced “lan-gosh”) bread on the top floor. Unhealthy but DELICIOUS. The market is good for gift shopping as well – we bought some lovely lambs’ leather gloves for an excellent price (the seller knocked it down without us even needing to haggle).

Great Market Hall

Go to…

The baths. There are three main ones: Szechenyi, Gellert and Rudas (the Turkish one). We went to Szechenyi and it was fantastic. Huge. So many baths, indoor and outdoor ones. And lots of different saunas, including an aromatherapy and a light therapy sauana.

The Opera House. It’s actually cheaper to buy tickets to see a performance than it is to go on a tour of the inside, which is worth seeing either way because it’s such a beautiful building. The majority of tickets are less than AU$10 but if you leave it until an hour before the performance only the most expensive seats may be left which are more like AU$80.

House of Terror Museum. A fascinating museum about the Nazi and Communist occupations of Budapest and Hungary. It’s housed in the very building that those regimes were run from: the basement was used as a prison with rooms for torturing dissenters. The whole exhibition is very well designed with visuals and sound combining to form a powerful experience. We spent about 3 hours there.

Memento Park. Home to giant, intimidating statues which lived in the centre of Budapest during its Communist occupation. It’s a bit outside of town – you can take public transport or you can pay a bit more and take the organised bus.

St Matthias Church and Fisherman’s Bastion. Walk across the Chain Bridge and up the stairs (or take the funicular if you’re a bit footsore). At the top are St Matthias Church with its beautiful tiled roof and Fisherman’s Bastion, like a fairytale castle with beautiful turrets. It also offers a great view of the famous Parliament Building on the other side of the Danube.

Fisherman's Bastion

Other things to see…

  • Andrássy Avenue (where Alexandra Bookcafe, the Opera House and the House of Terror are) is Budapest’s equivalent of the Champs-Élysées and is nice to stroll down.
  • Ride the yellow meto line. Budapest is quite walkable but this is the second oldest metro line in the world (after the London Underground) and it’s worth seeing for its charming carriages. It follows Andrássy street and it’s only 1 or 2 metres underneath the surface!
  • Vajdahunyad Castle near Szechenyi baths. It’s like a hodgepodge of different castles smooshed together into a random mixed up building.
  • Ngyugati Station, designed by Gustave Eiffel.
  • The McDonalds next to Ngyugati Station. Said to be the most beautiful McDonalds in the world (although I think the one in Porto is a strong rival for that title).

[more photos]

My 10 favourite European hostels

(And other budget accommodation.)

Where you stay in a town or city has a huge impact on your enjoyment of that destination. I loved the top three places on this list so much I’d recommend visiting just so you can stay there!

10. Hostel Room, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
(Availability and prices at Hostel World or Hostel Bookers)

The best part of Hostel Room is its colourful and relaxed common area which doubles as a cafe/bar also open to the public. They run different theme nights most nights of the week, the staff are friendly and helpful, and they have a cool resident dog called Lexie. :)

9. Residence Rooms, Sarajevo, Bosnia
(Availability and prices at Hostel World or Hostel Bookers)

Cheap rooms in a beautiful, grand building. The communal lounge area is spacious with high ceilings and is filled with big couches and even a grand piano! I believe it’s family run, but either way you end up feeling like a welcome guest in someone’s plush home.

8. Hotel Des Abassadeurs, Toulouse, France
(Availability and prices at Hostel World or Hostel Bookers)

Ambassadeurs is definitely family run, and it’s the best thing about this little budget hotel. The staff are welcoming, funny and incredibly helpful. We didn’t know what to expect from Toulouse but we left wanting more thanks to the excellent recommendations given to us during our stay.

7. Seven Hostel, Sant’Agnello, Italy
(Availability and prices at Hostel World or Hostel Bookers)

Seven Hostel feels like someone just finished building a fancy hotel then decided to fill it with bunk beds. The rooms are clean and airy and the hostel has its own bar/restaurant attached which serves great food (with a discount for guests). We used it as a base to visit Sorrento (within walking distance) and Pompeii (accessible by train).

6. Old Town Hostel, Split, Croatia
(Availability and prices at Hostel World or Hostel Bookers)

Located right in the heart of Split’s old town we had a really lovely time at this hostel. It has a colourful little common room with couches and a big TV hooked up to a stack of movies and it just had a really nice, relaxed vibe, we enjoyed just hanging out. It’s also a stone’s throw away from a wonderful little restaurant (we loved it so much we ate there twice).

5. Kolega Guesthouse, Zadar, Croatia
(Availability and prices at Hostel World)

A beautiful little guesthouse with just three bedrooms run by a nice and helpful guy called Marin. The shared kitchen/lounge area is lovely and we were sad that we were only staying for one night. I think we’ll be back!

4. Het Colettientje B&B, Bruges, Belgium
(Availability and prices at Hostel World)

While a B&B Het Colettientje is cheaper than some of the hostels we stayed in (hello Amsterdam, hello Rome) and Maria is one of the most fantastic B&B hosts we’ve ever had. She prepared fabulous breakfasts for us and and we had a lot of fun brushing up on our patchy Italian in conversation. (Maria was born in The Netherlands but spent much of her life in Italy.) She also gave us lots of great recommendations about what to do and see in town and where to eat delicious food sans tourist prices. Also: incredibly comfortable beds!

3. Lavender Circus, Budapest, Hungary
(Availability and prices at Hostel World or Hostel Bookers)

A great place and a fantastic atmosphere for a super cheap. The hostel sprawls across the top floor of a fabulous old building and the walls, ceiling and shelves are covered in paintings, pictures and knick-knacks. The staff are very friendly and helpful and on arrival they make sure you are armed with a map covered in dozens of recommendations for things to do in town. It might not be for everyone because it feels a little bit like living in a cool share house, but we loved it. The area is quite cool too and the main street nearby has some very cool arty shops.

2. Yes! Hostel, Lisbon, Portugal
(Availability and prices at Hostel World)

Until we stayed at hostel number 1 on this list this was the BEST hostel we’d ever stayed at. Great location, very cool design, excellent facilities, super friendly staff and lovely rooms with big beds including every possible convenience: a sink in the corner, big lockers for your luggage, a privacy curtain around each bunk, a reading light and powerpoint for every bed, even a little shelf to rest your phone/camera on while it’s charging. To top it all off, they host a fantastic €8 home cooked dinner every night. This is a great way to meet other travellers and you get incredible value for money: it includes soup, bread, a main, dessert and three alcoholic drinks. For 8 euro!

1. Hostel Majdas, Mostar, Bosnia
(Availability and prices at Hostel World or Hostel Bookers)

Quite simply The. Best. Hostel. you will ever stay at. Majda is wonderfully welcoming from the moment she picks you up from the station, to offering you coffee and treats while recommending the best things to do in Mostar, to the amazing home cooked breakfasts we didn’t even expect. Her brother Bata is crazy and heaps of fun: his world famous tour is as life changing as all the reviews say. DO IT! Plan to spend much longer than you expect here because you’ll find yourself not wanting to leave. The walls are plastered with letters and drawings from previous guests proclaiming their love for Majda’s and my favourite was one that had a ticket stuck to it with a message that said something like: “This is the ticket I originally had to leave Mostar. Here I am 31 32 33 days later, definitely leaving this time, but I wish I could stay longer!”

A special mention goes to Montenegro Hostel, Kotor, Montenegro. (Availability and prices at Hostel World or Hostel Bookers.) There’s not much choice for hostels in Kotor and to be honest this place probably had the dirtiest shower I’ve ever seen, but it’s right in the heart of the old town, super cheap, and it seemed to be really conducive to making new friends: we travelled on with some of the people we met at Montenegro Hostel and we’re still friends with them now. They also have a great deal with a local cafe for cheap eats and they run a fantastic all day tour of Montenegro which I highly recommend. They have lots of other tour options too (including a day trip to Albania) but if you can only pick one do the Montenegro one: you’ll see the best of the whole country in a single (very full) day.