I can see why this ranks highly on Nomad List’s cities for digital nomads. There’s a huge expat community and everyone pretty much speaks English. Every bar, restaurant and cafe has free wifi (though it wasn’t fast enough to download my work email on my phone). It’s affordable though not incredibly cheap (not like Warsaw).
I first stayed near the river that separates the “Buda” portion from the “Pest” portion and it was gorgeous. The castles, buildings and bridges were beautiful to look out on. Other than that, it was very commercial and a bit boring. There is a huge shopping area full of tourists and overpriced stores. Tons of high end hotels and white linen restaurants that were bland and over priced.
I then moved to the Jewish Quarter in District VII and I could tell right away why this was the “hipster”/night life area of Budapest. There were tons of “ruin bars” and the nightlife went on and on and on. I visited one of the largest outdoor bars I’ve ever been to (Szimpla Kert). It was on Lonely Planet’s top 100 bars. It was cute. It was different. It tried very hard to be different.
It’s what Portlanders and Seattlites would make if you gave them a huge outdoor area with tons of different rooms to decorate (though probably with fewer scabies). There is a huge line out the door if you get there after 9pm so if you just want to go and check it out, get there a bit earlier and walk around. There’s already tons of people inside earlier in the day grabbing a drink and having what seemed to look like a deep philosophical conversation.
Surprisingly, Americans weren’t the loudest ones there–the Brits definitely were!
I also visited the outdoor thermal baths in Budapest. I’m not one for touristy things so I had mixed feelings but afterwards, I was very happy I went. Everyone seemed to be in a great mood (not sure if it was because it was in the dead of winter and freezing while running back and forth from the lockers to the baths) that I really enjoyed myself. You don’t need to pay extra to get your tickets earlier. The line went pretty fast and they accept cash or card. I suggest getting a “cabin”, which is no bigger than a bathroom stall but you can change in there and it locks so you can keep your things inside. Remember to bring your own towel and flip flops. You can rent towels there but I brought mine from the AirBnB (which were bright green so it made it super easy to spot them when I ran out of the bath back into the building).
I did go to the beer bath and it was a bit boring and overpriced. I could see it being fun in undergrad with a big group of people as you get all you can drink beer for the 45 minutes you are soaking but I found it boring.
Beer is super cheap, like in most places. Wine was expensive (and often they charged you per dL, which is the size of a shot) and liquor was very expensive (especially if you wanted a mixer as you had to buy the mixer separately). A guilty street food in Budapest is called langos. It’s a hungarian type pizza and it was delicious. The bread has the consistency of a funnel cake but it was savery. The traditional topping is with cheese, sour cream and garlic. And it was amazing.
I first tried to order one in a sit-down restaurant on a street that looked like the Budapest version of 5th Ave. After the service was super slow, I bailed and found this street vendor and it was one of the best things I’ve had. Another great little restaurant is a chain restaurant called Hummus Bar and this is where my love affair with shakshuka began.
In short, I would have liked to spend more time in Budapest exploring the city and meeting more expats/digital nomads. It’s a very cute city and they love Star Wars there as well as Irish bars!
And it’s a very beautiful city…
Tourist tip: Unlike US or UK, you will need cash on you as not all bars/lounges accepts card. I would say that outside of the commercial/hotel area, about 60% of places take cards. Of the places that do take cards, they take Apple Pay or Android Pay so you never have to whip out your card (much like in the UK).
Cabs are relatively cheap but make sure they turn the meter on. Late at night, the cab drivers sometimes don’t turn it on and then try to overcharge you by about 300-500%. If you complain, they often times all of a sudden knock down their asking price because it’s probably a highly illegal practice. There are a few cabs that say they take card but then when you get there, they pretend they don’t and try to take you to an ATM. Don’t do it. They almost always have a credit card machine that they whip out after you threaten to walk off.