After the relaxing atmosphere of the baths, it was time to do something a bit more energetic.
First up was the House of Terror (www.terrorhaza.hu), a must see for any Budapest tourist, history buff or not. Clearly labelled on most traveller maps, and opposite a tram/metro stop, the museum is easily accessible in the heart of the city. You get discounted entry if you’re a young person in the EU, which was ideal for us. Tickets and an audio guide came to 2,500 Ft (1,000 ticket, 1,500 guide), however I would not recommend the audio guide unless you’re really into the subject and want an extremely in-depth understanding of the events. Whilst it was beneficial and informative in some rooms, other rooms we tended to ‘switch off’ – the voice was very monotonic and slow.
You start on level two and work your way down to the basement of the museum, taking you on a historical journey of Hungary during Nazi, and then Soviet, occupations. Each room is extremely different from the last, and you never have that ‘stuffy museum’ feel. However the most eye-opening display is definitely saved for the end. The museum itself is the old headquarters for the secret police; many arrests, tortures, and confinements took place there. The basement is where the cells were, and these have been recreated with horrifying effects. The solitary confinement cell is literally big enough to stand in, and our guide told us that the small slit in the door had a bright light positioned in front of front of it, 24/7, so the inmate was unable to even sleep.
After a couple of educational yet somewhat uncomfortable hours, we decided to head to the market for some retail therapy. Central Market is the most popular and largest indoor market in Budapest, particularly known for its fresh produce and meat. As soon as you enter you are hit with amazing, tantalizing smells. Cheese, meat, fruit, vegetables, and lots and lots of Hungarian paprika fill the colourful stalls. Thanks to Budapest’s recent tourism boom, other delicacies have also become available in the market, if their cuisine doesn’t take your fancy (I have to admit, I’m not yet sold).
As well as the mountains of food on offer, typical tourist bric-a-brac and collectables are also for sale. I purchased a post card, for my collection, and a lovely pair handmade vintage-looking earrings. My friends also fell under the jewellery spell, purchasing rings, earrings and necklaces. Upstairs are the more ‘tacky’ items – shot glasses, funny t-shirts, novelty mugs, that kind of thing. Although there were some cool looking sign things, with old-fashioned cartoony images of Budapest on them, which a couple of my friends got for their bedrooms.
Once the market was complete we ventured where no traveller ever likes to admit they visit, but always does – McDonald’s. A few days exploring the city (and one too many drinks the night before for my friends) meant that we were exhausted and just wanted a cheeseburger and a (reasonably) comfy chair until our flight home later that evening.
Whilst I didn’t experience as much of Budapest as I would have hoped to, my friends did manage to collect a few tips that they’re eager to pass on.
- Take advantage of the freebies. Being students, our favourite word is ‘free’, and Budapest has its fair share of activities available for the savvy traveller. They went on a free walking tour, which they found very interesting, and a free bar crawl. Obviously tips are expected at the end of each event, but they’re a lot less than you would give for a paid tour, which offers exactly the same thing.
- Have a chimney cake! These odd shaped sweet treats are a traditional Hungary food, and come in flavours such as vanilla, cinnamon and chocolate. I can’t eat them due to dietary restrictions, but have been assured they are both tasty and filling!
- Public transport is not always necessary. Although we used the metro and trams quite a bit, if you’ve got time (and are not ill) walking is definitely more worthwhile. The unique architecture means that you’re never short of sites when venturing round the city, and obviously you’ll be saving a bit of money too. Nearly everything is accessible by foot, if you’re willing.
- One more, slightly quirky tip – blue capped bottles are fizzy water, pink capped bottles are still water, and green capped bottles are softly carbonated…this will come in handy, trust me!
I hope you’ve enjoyed my short summary of our time in Budapest – if you’ve been, let me know what you thought of any of the attractions mentioned, and anything else you’d recommend doing in the city – I plan to return one day!