6 Things That Surprised Me About Budapest – Travel Journal

On a foggy Tuesday afternoon, I found myself standing on platform 6 of Budapest Keleti train station, marvelling at the fact I had finally made it to Hungary’s capital.

Budapest has been on my travel bucket list for years and years. In fact, I even wrote a post earlier this year about A City I Want To Visit This Year – the city was none other than Budapest. In the post, I explained that Budapest had been shortlisted as the travel destination several times but never made the cut. So, two weeks ago, I decided it was time – if I am going to see Budapest in 2022 it is now or never. At the time I was in Munich so heading to Budapest was quick and easy (I went via Vienna). 

I am currently working on the perfect Budapest travel itinerary for you. Until that is ready, here are the 6 things that took me by surprise on my first visit to this city. Please note that these insights are from my personal experience as well as what the local tour guides shared with us. I have linked detailed articles for more information where appropriate. 

Overall, Budapest is a stunning location and I can’t recommend going enough. I am already planning to return next year to do all the things I wasn’t able to do this time around.

1) Just how affordable food and drinks are

Budapest is known for being an affordable city break, however I was still surprised just HOW affordable food and drinks were. Most meals were around 5-8€ for a main, I got the most filling plate of pasta for a measly 4€ at lunch (check out Madal Cafe)  and prices for coffee ranged from 1-2.50€. In comparison, my coffee the day before in Vienna was about 4.50.

You can also get the delicious local chimney cakes or a piece of strudel for about 1.50€. Honestly the perfect city for foodies.

2) Almost everyone speaks impeccable English

Before I talk about this I want to say that when visiting a new country, I don’t expect them to speak English. If you grew up in an English-speaking country, it can be easy to forget that English isn’t the default for the majority of the world. However, you are the one visiting their country, so it is disrespectful to expect English. Ideally, you should memorise some basic sentences in the language of the country you are visiting.

That being said, I was surprised to find that pretty much everyone I spoke to in Budapest conversed in fluent English. Especially the younger generation. There was this local coffee shop close to my accommodation with freshly made pastries and the girl serving me spoke better English than me. Personally, it took me moving to the UK and being forced to speak English to learn it, so I was pretty amazed.

3) The history behind Buda and Pest

While in Budapest, I took part in two of the free walking tours (I highly recommend them – they are local guides and you pay what you can). The guides explained in detail that the Hungarians actually often refer to Budapest as Pest Buda or just one of the two and how each part experienced different invasions and leaders over history. The river Danube that divides Buda and Pest, and hence nowadays the city of Budapest, used to divide completely different regimes, with bridges across the river often destroyed during the wars.

Buda and Pest are still very different – Buda’s hills filled with imperial glory contrast starkly with Pest’s flat expanse of bars, restaurants and shopping. 

4) The importance of the number 96

Keeping with the rich history surrounding Budapest, the number 96 holds great importance in this city. In fact, no building can currently exceed the height of 96 metres and only two are allowed to stand at this exact height – St Stephen’s Basilica and the Hungarian Parliament Building. 

So why 96?

896 marks the year the first king of the Magyars (Hungarians) was crowned and hence the birth of the Hungarian state. 

5) The massive cave system underneath both Buda and Pest

I thought I knew the main things about Budapest before visiting but I had no idea the whole city lies above a massive cave system. The caves are one of the capital’s incredible natural assets, created by the thermal and karst water which infiltrated the crevices of the limestone and marl in the ground. 

You can visit the caves mostly on the Buda side and I have been told it’s one of the most incredible experiences. 

6) The many uses of the hot springs

Budapest is well known for its thermal baths, but did you know that the geothermal hot springs are actually also used to heat some of the biggest apartment blocks around the city? Our tour guide claimed some of the springs are so hot they in fact have to be used for heating before entering the baths in order to be the right temperature. Pretty cool system if you ask me.

I tried to find more information online and couldn’t find much, to be honest. This doesn’t mean our tour guide was wrong, it simply means the information isn’t easily accessible, especially in English. If these heating units have been around for a long time, their record may be buried under years of files. It looks like a few geothermal heating projects for greener energy are currently ongoing though, which would be a great alternative to the nuclear power that currently supplies around 50% of Budapest’s electricity.

If you are looking for more travel inspiration, check out my other travel content here


  1. Oh I would LOVE to visit Budapest one day. My step family lives in Paris and I would love to park myself there and then travel to other parts of Europe. Thank you for all this interesting information. I am a bit of a history buff so love learning about things like this.

    Allie of

    1. You should totally do that, travelling Europe is one of my favourite things to do! Glad you enjoyed reading 🙂

  2. The cave system sounds incredible; I would love to visit Budapest and explore all that it has to offer. Thanks for sharing these surprising things!

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