Embracing our tradition of celebrating New Years in a different place every year, we chose to welcome 2020 in Budapest. It was a fairly spontaneous decision as we haven’t booked or planned too far ahead. Usually the way we prefer to travel.
As we both work full-time jobs in Prague, we couldn’t take more than 4 days off, including New Year’s Eve and the first of January. While researching cheap and nearby getaways for the festivities, we found a great deal on Booking. At the same time České dráhy, the Czech railway operator, was advertising a sleeper train to Budapest. So our travel plans were sealed.
How to get to Budapest from Prague
If you want to keep your expenses in check, we recommend to take the Flixbus, Regiojet or the České dráhy. The latter sometimes has good deals, especially on departures that are either very late or very early.
Taking a sleeper train for the first time turned out to be an adventure. When we entered our wagon, we could not imagine fitting six people in this cramped space. Each one of us occupied a bunk bed, with three beds stacked on top of another. Only one person at at time could stand in the wagon to store luggage and prepare the bed, while the others had to line up in the aisle.
Finally we were all lying. Sitting was not an option as you would hit your head on the bed frame above. Luckily, it was late night and everybody used the time to sleep or rest. We left at 10pm from Prague main station and arrived around 8am at Budapest Keleti. Out of this 10-hour trip, the train was parked under some very bright lights for about 4 hours.
Budapest accommodation and budget
We stayed in the newly opened Maverick Student Lodge, which is located close to the Liberty Bridge (Szabadság Híd) and the Citadella. The hostel did not have a kitchen at that time, but they should have completed the works by now. They offer private rooms and dorms. We stayed in a 6-bed dorm, furnished with spacious bunk beds. Each one of them comes with curtains and power plugs. We paid about €22 each for a bunk bed. For the dates around New Year’s Eve, this was the best we could get.
Price per person per night: 7,924 Ft (€21.81)
Our total (2 nights): 31,696 Ft (€87.36)
In the hostel itself, the prices for breakfast, snacks and drinks are reasonable, but cheaper prices can be found elsewhere. Beer is still cheap. Before you head out to explore the city, you can sit in the lounge and use the wifi to plan your itinerary.
If you want to eat and drink somewhere else, there are plenty of affordable places in the vicinity. Many restaurants in Budapest offer a full 3-course meal with prices around €10. Finding a decent place with a quick meal can be a bit harder, especially when many food places are closed around NYE.
Budget Eat Out Options
Burger and Pasta
pasta “Primavera”: 1,950 Ft (€5.36)
spaghetti: 1,850 Ft (€5.09)
fries: 450 Ft (€1.24)
big chicken hamburger: 1,300 Ft (€3.58)
Indian Street Food
Vegetarian Biryani: 1300 Ft (€3.58)
Tikka Masala: 2000 Ft (€5.51)
Beer and snacks
Beer (Ászok): 550 Ft (€1.51)
Nachos: 790 Ft (€2.17)
1.5 liter bottle of water: 69 Ft (€0.19)
Pastries from supermarket: 129 Ft (€0.35) each
Bag of chips: 299 Ft (€0.82)
Coca Cola (0.5 l): 229 Ft (€0.82)
Can of beer (0.5 l): 239 Ft (€0.66)
Budget-friendly things to do in Budapest
Budapest is a charming city with a lot of history and culture in store. After spending 3 days we have just seen a fraction of what the city can offer. During winter time, the city doesn’t come as much to life as in the summer months. Despite the freezing cold, we grit our teeth and made those 3 days count. How? Check it out in our photo story.
Explore Buda castle and take a view from Fisherman’s Bastion
It was an ice cold noon when we took the walk up to Buda Castle with its splendid views over the city. Such a view can be taken from one of the enchanting balconies of Fisherman’s Bastion.
Get a photo with the iconic chain bridge
Your Budapest trip is not complete if you haven’t discovered a good spot to capture the legendary chain bridge, the city’s very first bridge to connect the old town (Buda) with the new town (Pest).
Visit Heroes Square
If you want to meet all the important figures of Hungary’s history, check out Heroes Square.
Take a stroll around Vajdahunyad Castle
If you are longing for some nature and quiet within city’s reach, you will find it at this fairy tale castle park. Inspired by Dracula’s castle in Transylvania, this replication is admired by locals and tourists alike. Does this architecture remind you of Prague?
Greet all those bronze statues
If you ask me, what makes Budapest so unique, I would say it is the abundance of bronze statues scattered all around town. Due to our short stay, we could only explore a couple of them, mainly in the center. However, for the future, we are keen to check out all these off the beaten path statues, as seen in this comprehensive article. For a list of Budapest’s hidden mini statues, check out this post.
Learn about the shoes on the Danube riverside
The iron shoes on the Danube riverside are a must on your Budapest trip. Although the story behind is utterly sad, it’s important to hear it. The shoes along the riverside shall remind us of the WWII victims. It’s the only thing they left behind, after they were shot and their bodies sank to the ground of the river.
Soak up the street art scene
Not only the charming bronze statues characterize Budapest’s unique cityscape. Vibrant pieces of street art can be also found wherever you go. How about classic cars turned into gardens? If you love street art and happen to be in Prague, check our complete and up to date guide.
Check out Szimpla Kert
Budapest is famous for its ruin bars, with Szimpla Kert being one of the most popular. The outside is just as intriguing as the inside. It might look abandoned, but it is not. Curious about abandoned places in Prague? Keep it in mind for your next trip.
Enjoy street food and drinks
Check out the courtyard street food market next to Szimpla Kert. The prices were not in our budget range but anyways we enjoyed the atmosphere.
Hike up to the Citadella
The Citadella with its famous Liberty statue guarding the city, is a must-see on your Budapest trip. While you hike up to the giant lady holding a feather in her hands, you will be rewarded with gorgeous views.
Despite the crowded and buzzing city life, we enjoyed our stay. Our mission, to keep our expenses down, didn’t allow us to try traditional Hungarian dishes. However, Hungarian beers turned out to be a cheap alternative. Our days were long, packed with sightseeing and little adventures. We are looking forward to come back one day, preferably at a warmer time of the year. Visiting Budapest for the first time left us behind in awe. This city is truly full of magic.