FYI: these are all my personal opinions and experiences!
By Isabelle Lydon, Eotvos Lorand University, Hungary
I began my first week in Budapest feeling extremely nervous yet excited. Luckily my first week did not just consist of apartment hunting – my parents and I made sure we did loads of sight-seeing as well. On our first day we just walked around the city to get our bearings. One thing you should know about Budapest is that it’s actually quite a big city. I should probably mention as some people don’t actually know that the city is split into two parts by the river Danube – Buda and Pest. I would say that Pest is much more touristy and where a lot of the shops and nightlife is. Buda is much more rural and quieter. As ELTE is in Pest, this is where I am living.
On our first day, we just walked around the city centre and tried to get our bearings – we visited the main opera house and St Stephan’s Basilica. Initially I noticed that most of the buildings and architecture are really grand and historic. That evening, we walked down the Danube and noticed a lot of people starting to gather. We wondered what was going on so asked someone and they told us that there was going to be a firework show for St Stephan’s Day in Budapest which was the week before, but the show had been cancelled because of a storm. We decided to sit and wait for the show which wasn’t for another hour and a half, but it was worth it. Honestly it was one of the best fire work shows I’ve seen, and I’ve been to Disneyland!
The next day we wanted to go see some of the main landmarks, so we walked across the Elizabeth Bridge (Erzsebet Hid) to Buda and saw Buda Castle and the Fisherman’s Bastion. This is quite a lot of walking so definitely wear comfortable shoes and bring water. You can either get a Lime (electric scooter) or bike over the Elizabeth Bridge but I think walking is better as you can see the views across the Danube as you walk. Also, you can get a Funicular up to Buda Castle which is basically a lift but I think this was like around £8/adult. Buda castle was lovely, but the Fisherman’s Bastion was really spectacular and definitely my favourite sight to see so far. We then got the tram back over Margaret Bridge (Margit Hid) bridge and walked to the Hungarian Parliament Building.
One thing that has taken a bit getting used to is the currency which is Hungarian Forint (HUF). As the current exchange rate goes £1 is 468 HUF. So if you go to Budapest, don’t be surprised when a meal out is costing 10,000 HUF because its only around £20. As for the language barrier, I was apprehensive at first because Hungarian is not an easy language to learn/understand. I was actually surprised at how many people would speak English here so getting by has actually been very easy. I have been learning how to say Hello (Szia), Bye (which is also Szia) and Thank You (Koszonom or Kosz). Hopefully as the year progresses, I will have learnt more Hungarian.
Overall, I have settled in well and had a really great first week in Budapest and I’m excited for the next months to come!