Why Do Backpackers Love Budapest?

It’s cheap.

It’s still beautiful.

It’s always been beautiful, but the Iron Curtain was peeled back something like 25 years ago, and now you can discover a guaranteed-to-love city at a discount. The city still prices itself like nobody should want to be there – this is a delight if you’re coming from the historically promoted cities like London, Paris, Rome, Venice, or Barcelona. It’s not as rare though for places that were raped by dictators in the 20th century, where for some reason travellers over age 35 still put in their ‘B’ destinations – Lisbon, Berlin, Krakow, and Budapest all offer tremendous, almost untouchable value for what they are.

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Really, it’s the travellers over age 35 that sell Budapest to travellers under 35.

Who wants to go where their parents went? Who wants to love what their parents love? (And we all know, don’t we, that we’ll be old and afraid of meeting someone with dreads eventually.)

Anyone who does, they’re probably not leaving home anyway. They’re taking the safe route, sneaking away to some beach and some bland, beige hotel for two weeks at a time. Never take a risk that isn’t calculated, right? Never hop on a train with a reservation, right?

Instead, it’s the elusiveness of cities in countries like Hungary or Portugal or Poland or Croatia – which, I repeat, still remain so cheap after so many years of freedom and despite so many reasons they shouldn’t be. It costs to walk through history in Paris, where you have to pay hundreds to do the same things Hemingway did when he was broke. It costs to stay in the heart of Rome; it costs to stay anywhere in London. In Budapest? Not so much. You can spend all day in the gorgeous, ancient baths for the cost of a beer. You can eat overflowing meals or soup and meat for the price of McDonald’s. You can do it all without ever feeling a noose around your neck, with the wallet in your pocket still heavy.

But Budapest has been around for a while, and it will be replaced or maybe just joined by other challengers very soon.

It’s the dangers of the ‘C’ destinations that are crawling back and will be the Budapests of tomorrow, or maybe they already are: Plovdiv in Bulgaria, Belgrade in Serbia, or Kyiv in Ukraine.

Have they had wars and riots? Sure. But so has Vancouver.

Budapest in Winter, from way up high. (Photo: Andrés Nieto Porras/Magnus Manske, via Wikimedia Commons) Budapest in Winter, from way up high. (Photo: Andrés Nieto Porras/Magnus Manske, via Wikimedia Commons)

Szechenyi Bath, Budapest. (Photo: MJJR, via Wikimedia Commons) Szechenyi Bath, Budapest. (Photo: MJJR, via Wikimedia Commons)

Shoes on the Danube, a memorial for Jews killed in World War II. (Photo: Dennis Jarvis/Einstein2, via Wikimedia Commons) Shoes on the Danube, a memorial for Jews killed in World War II. (Photo: Dennis Jarvis/Einstein2, via Wikimedia Commons)

Chain Bridge, Budapest. (Photo: The Photographer, via Wikimedia Commons) Chain Bridge, Budapest. (Photo: The Photographer, via Wikimedia Commons)

Dorm Room in Big Fish Hostel, Budapest. (Photo: Big Fish on Facebook)
Dorm Room in Big Fish Hostel, Budapest. (Photo: Big Fish on Facebook)
The halls of Maverick Hostel, Budapest. (Photo: Maverick Lodges on Facebook)
The halls of Maverick Hostel, Budapest. (Photo: Maverick Lodges on Facebook)
Budapest Boat Party, from Carpe Noctem Vitae Hostel. (Photo: Carpe Noctem on Facebook)
Budapest Boat Party, from Carpe Noctem Vitae Hostel. (Photo: Carpe Noctem on Facebook)
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