It's Luke! Back for another guest post.
After exploring Athens for the second time during our layover, we were in line and finally ready to board. We began talking to a couple in front of us from California. They recently graduated college and were doing their own Europe backpacking tour. We boarded on the plane and we were wheels up for Budapest, Hungary.
We landed in Budapest after a quick 2-hour flight.
It was about an hour and a half journey with a combination of busses and metros to get to our hostel in the city center. Walking through the airport we found a airport shuttle that took us directly to our hostel for almost the same price as the metros, and in half the time. We paid our fare and waited at a café in the airport for our shuttle to arrive. We walked out to the pick up spot and loaded our bags into the van. Coincidentally, the California couple we had met earlier were also in the van and we talked with them the whole way to our hostel. They told us that they were also traveling for 6 weeks, but that they were planning as they go and didn't have any set travel plans. After hearing about their experiences, we felt pretty happy about how well we had planned our trip and the fact that we haven't had any major set backs.
We arrived at our hostel, which was located just a block from St. Stephen's Basilica. We were buzzed in and walked up the apartment complex to the hostel office. We were greeted by a very friendly staff that set us up with multiple maps and tourist "to-do" guides. The apartment complex that the hostel was located in was very spacious with a courtyard in the middle. The receptionist walked us up to our unit, which was a two-bedroom one-bathroom unit with a shared kitchen. The room was fairly big and very clean (a big relief).
Our unit also had big pieces of butcher paper taped up on the walls with lots of different suggestions written on them from visitors from all over the world!
By the time we got settled and unpacked it was almost 9:30pm. We were exhausted from the layover and the two flights. We went down to the street our hostel was on which had numerous restaurants and cafes. Across the street was a burger shop called "Jack's" (very American). We got a light dinner and decided to walk down to the Danube river that connects Buda and Pest. The Buda side is where Castle Hill is and our hostel was on the Pest side.
We continued to walk around our neighborhood, passing lots of pubs and clubs. We passed the Opera house and then decided to turn back and save the rest for the next day.
We woke up the next morning and walked down to find a light breakfast. Luckily, just a couple doors down was a coffee shop. We stopped in for a quick bite and some coffee and continued on. One of the many attractions on Budapest are the bathhouses scattered around the city. They are large buildings that house numerous pools and spas. We made reservations to visit the Széchenyi bath, which is the largest in Europe. Our ticket included a private changing/locker room and an hour couples massage (which were much needed). After our massages, which were great, we explored the numerous indoor hot tubs, steam room, cold tubs, medicinal pools, and saunas the bath house had to offer. After a couple hours of indulging we grabbed our things and headed out.
On our way out of the bath house we came across a bike sharing bike rack and decided to rent bikes to get back home. The two-mile walk seemed too daunting after our massages. The bike share program in Budapest was very extensive with numerous bike stations and an app to help with directions and station locators. We got a 24-hour rental for just $1.80 per bike. It was the most efficient way to get around. We made it back to our hostel and locked the bikes up at a station around the corner. Still exhausted from the previous day, we napped for a couple hours before getting up for a late dinner. Once again we found ourselves back at Jack's restaurant across the street from our hostel. However we were surprised when we found out that they were having happy hour and everything on the menu was 2-for-1. We ended up getting 2 pieces of pizza, 2 tall can beers, and two half liters of lemonade for only €4.
We walked back up to our room, took a quick shower, and got ready to head out to check out the Budapest nightlife. Budapest is known for their ruin bars which are clubs and pubs that are built underground or from old ruin buildings around the city. We were told to check out "Instant" ruin bar, which was about 10 minutes from our hostel. The club was about 4 floors with 7 bars and 27 different rooms, each with a different theme. In short, the club was massive. Alex enjoyed €2 ciders, while I had a great whiskey sour with fresh made sour mix. At the bar we met a girl from Oregon who had been in Budapest for a week. She named off numerous places for us to visit in Budapest and was very friendly. With her were two guys from Canada who were actually traveling alone. We were surprised by the number of people we've seen or talked to that are actually backpacking around Europe by themselves.
The club was open until 6am but there was no way we were making it that long. We left around 2:30am and headed back for our hostel.
We got up the next morning and checked out of our hostel. We had to check out at 11am and our night train to Prague didn't leave until 8pm, but we were able to leave our bags behind the reception table of the hostel, which was a big help. Since we had the whole day still to explore and a couple hours left on our bike rentals, we biked over to a breakfast cafe called Blue Bird that we had seen near the opera house. Blue Bird was also mentioned several times on the suggestion wall in our hostel.
After a delicious breakfast we biked back across the Danube to the Buda side. At the bottom of the hill there was a short trolley that took people to the top of the hill. After learning that the ride was only about 30 seconds and cost €7 per person each way, and being the frugal backpackers we are, we decided to just walk up the hill ourselves.