48 Hours in Budapest

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There is no doubt that the majority of eastern European countries are cheaper than the rest of the continent. Budapest is a prime example of this, consistently ranking among the most affordable holiday destinations, not just in Europe, but worldwide. History, culture, and striking scenery – Budapest has it all. Even better, the nightlife is amazing, but won’t set you back like other European destinations.

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Where to stay
Carpe Noctem Original. 
Perhaps my favourite hostel that I’ve stayed in to date. It is especially catered to solo-travelers and doesn’t permit larger groups so was perfect for me. It had a great social ambience which didn’t feel forced as it sometimes can in other hostels. The staff were always on hand to give you advice for navigating the city by day, and then join you on bar crawls by night. Prices start at £10.50 for a standard 8 people mixed dorm in low season, £26 for the same in high season. Book in advance as it fills up quickly.

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Carpe Noctem <3

Time difference
+1

Getting around
Before the unification of 1873, Budapest was actually three separate cities: Buda, Óbuda and Pest. Óbuda was located where the current third district is, with Buda and Pest lying either side of the river. You can always tell whether you’re in Buda or Pest because the former is hilly whereas the latter is extremely flat. Therefore, you can explore most of Pest by foot, or hop on the extensive metro or tram network if you’d prefer.

To easily access the higher points in Buda, we bought tickets for the Hop-on-Hop-off bus. Granted –  they are a little pricey, but they are valid for two days and you can use them as a form of public transport. It will help familiarize you with the layout of the city and come in handy when you’re dreading the ascent to Castle Hill.

Getting there
Direct flights using Wizz Air or RyanAir. Cheapest to fly from London. Typically around ~£150 return in high season and ~£90 return in low season. Flying time 2 hours 20 minutes.

Currency
Hungarian Forints

Day 1
Arrive early and spend your first day doing the majority of the sightseeing. Catch the Hop-on-Hop-off bus from Andrassy Ut. This shopping area is worth a stroll down, it’s the longest street in Budapest, and bares a striking resemblance to Champs Elysees – one of the reasons why the city is so often dubbed the ‘Paris of the East’. Get off at Gellért Hill (a UNESCO world heritage site) where you will find the Liberty statue and the Citadella for amazing panoramic views of the city. Hop back on and then get off a little further down at Castle Hill to wander around. Check out the Hungarian National GalleryBuda Castle, Matthias Church and the Fisherman’s Bastion all ideally located near each other. You can walk down from here and walk across Chain Bridge which will take you back across to Pest.

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Road leading up to the Liberty Statue
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View from the Citadella
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Fisherman’s Bastion
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Hungarian National Gallery

I’ve visited in both summer and winter, and I’d highly recommend going in the latter. Summer definitely has its perks: the weather, the musical festival Sziget, the parks. However, not only is it the low season in winter and therefore cheaper, I also found that it gave the city more of a magical atmosphere. Plus, you can take advantage of the markets. Definitely on parr with other top European Christmas markets, with an array of gifts, and better yet, food to feast on.

Have dinner at Drum Cafe, a trendy eatery which serves traditional Hungarian food. Portions are large and it is ridiculously cheap. Head back to the hostel to pre-drink with everyone else and then head to Morrisons 2 (not the supermarket, but a bar with six dance floors and a heated garden). You’ll pay an entry price of around £5. This entitles you to free drinks all night: actual ones, too, not ‘free drinks’ in the sense of a dodgy bar crawl where most spirits and anything half decent is off limits. This is the perfect time to try pálinka, the national spirit of Hungary. It’s a fruit brandy available in flavours like cherry, apricot and plum.

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Christmas Market
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Enjoying our mulled wine

Day 2
Soothe your hangover with a trip to the Széchenyi Thermal Baths. Since you’ve spent so little on your trip so far, you can even afford to indulge in a spa treatment.
This is ideally located within the park, which is adjacent to Heroes Square. This area also contains the Hungarian National Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts (although MOFA is currently being renovated until the end of 2017). Unless you have a burning desire to explore either, then I suggest skipping both and heading straight to the House of Terror for an alternative insight into Budapest. The museum is a memorial to those who were detained, tortured and killed in the building during the communist and fascist regimes which terrorized Budapest in the 20th century.

Also not to be missed are St Stephen’s Basilica, and the Shoes on the Danube Bank.  The latter is a poignant sculpture created by Can Togay and Gyula Pauer to honor the memory of the people (mainly Budapest Jews) that were ordered to take off their shoes before being shot by Arrow Cross militiamen during WWII. End your cultural day with a stroll along the river, where you can admire the Hungarian Parliament Building (which was actually modeled on Westminster’s Houses of Parliament).

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Heroes Square
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St Stephen’s Basilica
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The Shoes along the Danube
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The Hungarian Parliament Building

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For your second night out, head to the seventh district (the former Jewish Quarter) and begin with dinner at The Hummus Bar for a quick and healthy bite. You’re now perfectly located in the home to an array of quirky ruined bars, housed in abandoned buildings, where the average price for a glass of wine is 91p. Some of the best include SzimplaInstant and Aker’t. Depending on the days that you’re there, the hostels arrange an array of activities, including a boat party. I’m not a huge fan of the boat parties as I feel like they are kind of overpriced and not long enough to get a party vibe going. However, it is undeniably a beautiful way to see Budapest, especially the Hungarian Parliament building, lit up.

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Ruin Bars are the best
Ruin Bars are the best
The view of the Hungarian Parliament from a boat party
The view of the Hungarian Parliament from a boat party

Together Week Ibiza Review: Are Package Holidays Ever Worthwhile?

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As Together Week have just released their early bird Ibiza packages for next year, I thought it was time to do a review of the experience I had with them in June earlier this year (2016). While it seems a little too good to be true, rest assure it’s not a scam. When we first saw a package for five nights in Ibiza for £199, we were convinced it was a hoax and spent days googling different reviews to try to put our minds at rest. It’s completely trustworthy. The organization was pioneered in 2011 and they also run similar packages to Majorca and Barcelona.

It is good value for money, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that you’ll pay the £239* and that’ll be your trip paid for. Aside from all of the add-ons (with entry to the clubs averaging around €30-40), the transport to various clubs is also going to cost you. Together Week provide shuttle buses to the venues, but these aren’t free. The drink prices in clubs are also ridiculous. As if the entry prices weren’t enough, we couldn’t help but laugh when we were charged €18 for a tiny bottle of water. The water from the tap comes from the sea, so there’s no escaping succumbing to the ludicrous prices unless you manage to sneak in your own bottle. It’s worth a try, the worst they can do is confiscate it and then you’ve only lost €1. Alcoholic drinks are even more extortionate so your best bet is to make sure you pre-drink A LOT before you go out.

* Looking at their website, the prices for 2017 seem to have risen in comparison to previous years, no idea why. This is also the cheapest package, prices vary throughout the season.

ACCOMODATION

We were so lucky with our accommodation. We had booked our package for three people, but they gave us a four person room. Two practically adjoining rooms, with four beds, and a balcony (we paid about £20 extra for the balcony). Considering the price, it was definitely worth it. The hotel was decent, and there was a breakfast buffet included in the price. There was also a small pool, and bar/restaurant. It was annoying that they didn’t let you take any of your own drinks/food to the pool, obviously to encourage you to use their facilities, but prices weren’t too bad. Next year, I plan to stay somewhere like Jet Apartments or Ushuaia, but it was comforting to be able to relax by the pool during the day before heading back out again at night. I imagine at the more party oriented places, chill time is a laughable concept!

SCHEDULE

SUNDAY

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Arrived and checked in, after accidentally being taken to the wrong hotel from the airport. Settled into our room.

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They have a ‘Welcome Party’ by the pool which we decided to admire from our balcony as it didn’t look very busy. At around 1am we paid an additional €40 to join them to go to Space Sundays.

MONDAY

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During the day we attended the Holi colour paint party wich was included with the package. Make sure you bring clothes with you that you don’t mind potentially ruining! It was staged in an abandoned zoo (the place that is usually home to Zoo Project).

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Before
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After

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There was the option to go to with the group to Sankeys for an additional price, but instead we went to the strip in San Antonio which was conveniently located a five minute walk from the hotel. I noticed this drew more of a younger crowd than the club scene in Ibiza and had more of a Magaluf feel to it. My favourite bars were definitely the 80s/90s bar and Soul City.

TUESDAY

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We skipped the Pool Party at Jet Apartments (which I regret now) to head to the beach and check out the cute stalls and bars along the harbour.

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Tuesday night is Together at Amnesia (tickets included with the package) and we got to see Rudimental, Gorgon City and Wilkinson. Probably my favourite night of the week, despite the stress beforehand. Basically, there was a large group of us who were waiting at the allocated time to depart to Amnesia and the promoters had already left. Thankfully, we still managed to get in, but other people weren’t so lucky as they only had a limited amount of wristbands when we finally caught up with them at the door.

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WEDNESDAY

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There was a Boat Party during the day-time but we decided to skip this as there was a lengthy delay in the boat arriving and it would’ve meant us missing the Ibiza Rocks event we’d planned to go to later that evening. We spoke with the promoters before making this decision, to check that we wouldn’t miss out on too much but compared to other boat parties, it did seem somewhat lacking. It was my first time in Ibiza, so I’m not the best of judges, but others said that in comparison to those ran by the likes of Ibiza Rocks, that it was kind of lacklustre. For example, they didn’t provide any activities alongside, such as the usual banana boat rides

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We could’ve gone to Pacha (price included in package) but instead we decided to head to Ibiza Rocks to watch Fuse OD and Lethal Bizzle.

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THURSDAY

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Ocean Beach Club Party – we skipped this to go and hang out at Ushuaia early in preparation for the DJ set later on.

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Sunset Strip was included for Thursday evening but as mentioned, we decided to purchase the add on to go to Ushuaia instead.

FRIDAY

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Checked out and spent the last few hours by the pool before flying home in the evening. Would definitely recommend getting a later flight home so you don’t have to stress about an early departure when you’re out on Thursday night. Maybe have a drink on the plane home to soothe your post-holiday blues. Or just refuse to except that it’s over, and continue your self delusion by heading back out the minute you land back home (convenient, since you fly back on a Friday).


FINAL THOUGHTS

Overall, it was a great week, but you do have to be very organized. I suppose we could’ve taken more advantage of the free events on offer, but a lot of the time we simply weren’t aware that a daytime event had already started and by then, it was too late to join. Make sure you double-check all of the event times and departure schedules of shuttle buses as they can be subject to change. The promoters can be a little flaky and won’t take responsibility for those who lag behind or misunderstand instructions.

The atmosphere was pretty good, but it wasn’t as sociable as I expected it to be. Even if we were taken somewhere as a group, on arrival everyone went their separate ways. The promoters definitely could’ve done more to encourage more of a group mentality. While the opening parties were still amazing, next time I’d definitely opt to go later in the season when it’s in full flow and there are better acts.

If you’re interested, head to Together Week’s Website to secure your tickets here

Bring on Ibiza 2017!