Budapest, the capital of Hungary, is a sweet metropolis city enriched with culture, art and architecture, making it a heavenly destination for international students studying abroad. The River Danube runs directly through Budapest, splitting the city into two distinct areas. On the West lies Buda, famous for its natural beauty and for the historic Castle Hill. Pest in the East, makes up almost two thirds of the city. This buzzing central domain allows you to explore Hungary’s grand Parliament, dine in fabulous cafes as well as enjoy a thrilling nightlife.
Photo credit: framedbythomas
What do you get when you combine "Buda" and "Pest"?
Well, you have a city that has you constantly on your feet strolling down the romantic cobbled streets. A city that has almost 223 museums and galleries, beautiful buildings from the Gothic to the Art Nouveau period and UNBELIEVABLE panoramic views (It's no wonder that Budapest is nicknamed the ‘Paris of the East’). Hearty stews and goulash bursting with sweet paprika will tantalize your taste buds. And to top it all off, Budapest is an academic hub-- particularly strong in the science and veterinary studies.
Put it all together and you have a study abroad experience that will nourish your mind, body and soul!
Culture and Immersion
Wherever your interests lie, Budapest offers a wide diversity of activities to keep you firmly entertained.
Budapest blossoms with perfectly preserved UNESCO World Heritage sites that you can discover while wandering through the city. The Castle District is an area you could spend hours exploring. The central hub here is the Holy Trinity Square where The Holy Trinity Statue, the Old Town Hall, and Matthias Church are all located. If you crave chocolates then you will want to stick around Buda Castle in September for the Sweet Days Chocolate Festival. As you walk across Chain Bridge – another UNESCO site – you will feel like a part of history. This was the first bridge to connect Buda and Pest and it symbolises why the city is named the 'Pearl of the Danube'.
Budapest prides itself in classical music. Take this opportunity to listen to a dreamlike performance at Budapest Opera House. It is widely claimed that the horseshoe shaped arena is one of the greatest opera houses in the world for its acoustics, and a ticket can cost as little as 10 US.
If you are intrigued by the supernatural legends of vampires, originating from Transylvania in neighbouring Romania, then you will not want to miss one famous theatre performance celebrating these creatures. The Magyar Színház Theatre hosts the musical, Dance of the Vampires, which is based on Roman Polañski´s movie screenplay for The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967). More than 5 million people have watched this thrilling show.
You will be in dire need for relaxation after a busy few weeks of visiting famous attractions and enjoying the superb nightlife. Fortunately Budapest is titled the ‘city of healing waters’ because it holds an overwhelming amount of spas and thermal baths. These revitalizing hot springs have been discovered throughout the city dating back to the Celt and the Roman times. You cannot fully experience Budapest without treating yourself to a long day visit to Széchenyi Thermal Bath, one of the largest spa complexes in Europe.
Despite being a member of the EU, Hungary does not use the Euro currency but Forint. You will find that the cost of living here is pretty cheap compared to in the rest of Europe, like in the cities of Paris or Rome. 1 USD is the equivalent to approximately 223 Forints- carrying these high numbers might feel as though you are spending a lot of money when you are actually being quite thrifty!
Remember when you are heading on days out to bring your student card with you. This can give you a discount price when entering museums and galleries around the city.
To keep costs low you can buy food at various markets. The three floored Great Market Hall is an impressive 100 year old building where you can buy some Hungarian delicacies. You can try lángos, a deep-fried pastry, Pick salami and the festive Christmas bonbon.
Culture Shock and Support
Every student on a study abroad will eventually feel overwhelmed by the cultural difference between their home and their host country. Don't beat yourself up! It's totally natural to need a little time to adjust. Because of this, it is important to choose a program that provides good support systems so you will find it easier to acclimate to a new culture. If you find yourself in a more serious situation, there are various embassies like the British and the US that you can visit in Budapest.
But if you are used to the warmer climates then the weather in Budapest will come as quite a shock. During the winter months you are best to keep wrapped up warm, but at least the cold weather adds a mystic atmosphere to the historical city. There will be a drastic change when summer hits however as the average temperature can reach the mid-twenties (C).
- For great nightlife students like to spend their evenings at Ruin Pubs. These bars are not a chain but a collective name given to pubs, particularly in the seventh district, that were created at the cusp of the 21st century. Theses abandoned buildings were given their own unique artistic twist and opened as bars to the public. Szimpla Kert is one not to miss.
- Budapest has a flourishing café culture. To live like a local you will want to start the day with a strong espresso drank from a china cup. There are many unique coffee houses you will wish to visit-- like the oldest cafe in Budapest Ruszwurm, or Café Gerbeaud where you can treat yourself to a sweet mouth-watering cake.
- Hungarian is one of the most difficult languages to learn so don’t feel disheartened if you are unable to speak the language fluently even after months of practice. Natives will be grateful if you can say igen (yes), nem (no) and köszönöm (thank you).
- When it comes to tipping at a restaurant don’t leave your money on the table. Either a service fee will already be added to the bill or you will have to inform the waiter on the tip you are giving them.
Don’t let a lack of funds stop you from experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime study abroad trip to Budapest. There are many scholarships which can contribute to your expenses.
Written by Danielle Shields
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