5 Travel Tips for Budapest

Budapest is a cool city. Matt and I did a lot of walking while we were there. There’s nothing more interesting than walking around a new city. I feel that walking around allows you to see unexpected things more frequently than when you just take public transportation. Matt and I walked everywhere in Budapest and we definitely got a great feel for the city for the amount of time that we had. Here’s some tips that we collected to help you navigate the city successfully.

 

Check out the view from the Fisherman’s Bastion and get a bite to eat.  This location provides a great lookout over Budapest. You can see the parliament building across the river. It is a great place to take awesome photos of the city. Matt and I also grabbed a bite to eat at the HB Cafe which is in the structure. Once again, it was an awesome view and we had some great food.

 

Walking around to see the sites. Matt and I managed to snag a hostel in between the river and where Heroes’ Square are. These two areas of the city are in opposite directions. We split our trip in half visiting each area. Walking along the streets we got to see the true character of city. Check out all the museums, castles, bookshops, and restaurants along the way.

 

Public transportation can be confusing. Plan ahead. Matt is awesome at figuring out our public transportation routes. We typically utilize public transportation solely to get to and from the airport. Budapest’s public transportation is a beast. Matt spent lots of time working out how to get to and from the airport. It was a bit more complicated considering we had taken the train in so getting to the airport was new for us in that city and we took a very early flight. It’s definitely doable but take the time to do the research and a lot extra time incase you get lost.

 

Take the tram up to castle hill. Sure, we could have walked up to the castle. But we didn’t want to. It was fun to take the tram up the hill even though it was a bit expensive. A panoramic of the city slowly comes into view as you ascend the hill. And it was nice to not have to walk up that steep incline.


Check out a Hungarian secret box.
Matt and I found these after we got off the tram on castle hill. We collected coins for my cousin during our trip and needed a box to put them in. This type of box is so cool. You have to remove secret panels in order to get to the key. It was an awesome souvenir to bring home.

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Lisbon: A Few Photos

Art in a Mall (Unfortunately I was unable to find the artist's name near the piece but it looks awesome so I had to share it.)

Art in a Mall (Unfortunately I was unable to find the artist’s name near the piece but it looks awesome so I had to share it.)

Ruins at Excavation Site at the Castle of S. Jorge

Ruins at Excavation Site at the Castle of S. Jorge

Trees in Courtyard of the Castle of S. Jorge

Trees in Courtyard of the Castle of S. Jorge

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Like these photos? Check out more on my Flickr photostream.

7 Things to Do in Krakow

Matt and I enjoyed Krakow a lot. If I could describe Krakow in one word and one phrase it would be cheap and high quality. I think that’s a combination that everyone can appreciate but doesn’t come across often. I hope to visit more of Poland in the future because of the great experience I had in Krakow. If you like older cities that have their own charm as well as great food, Krakow is for you. Krakow’s location also affords you a couple of great day trip opportunities (Auschwitz and Wieliczka Salt Mine) that are definitely worth seeing. Plus, it’s easy to spend a couple extra days there as the city’s atmosphere and cheap prices make you feel like you’re taking a lot in without doing typical tourist activities. Here are some activities you might consider adding to your list when you visit Krakow:

Gardens on Wawel Hill

Gardens on Wawel Hill

Visit Wawel Castle: This is one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions. It holds a lot of history for the local community as it used to be the country’s seat of power. Hands were changed, things were destroyed, but now the castle is restored to a great condition. Opt for the full tour and see the state rooms, collection of oriental art, armory, private apartments, dragon’s den, and, my favorite, the lost wawel. It’s a beautiful, ongoing archaeological excavation that you can visit by walking raised paths. The only downside is that I couldn’t take pictures. Don’t forget to visit the cathedral on site which has free entry.

See the Salt Mine: If you and your fellow travelers don’t mind going underground and a bit of adventure, check out the Wieliczka Salt Mine. I’m a big fan of visiting underground sites and caves so this was just my cup of tea. Take a tour to learn all about the mine’s history and see some interesting art made entirely out of salt. It’s a completely different world down there that you shouldn’t miss. And it’s only a twenty minute drive from Krakow. You can get there by using public transportation or you can book a tour in advance. See Krakow is a tour company that will pick you right up at your hostel/hotel. You pay a bit extra but I think it’s worth not having to deal with the stresses or arranging transportation.

Sunlight on Royal Castle, Wawel Hill

Sunlight on Royal Castle, Wawel Hill

Make the Trip to Auschwitz: Visiting Auschwitz is a heavy experience but I think it is something everyone should do when they visit Krakow. It takes about an hour or so to reach the site from the city. I arranged a tour through See Krakow and it worked perfectly. Auschwitz is quite busy; when you arrange a tour, your guides take care of everything for you so you don’t need to wait in line for tickets. Touring Auschwitz will impact you for the rest of your life. Don’t miss it.

Dine Out: Like I said, Krakow is cheap. You can eat at a good restaurant for a reasonable price. With my boyfriend, we would each get a drink, appetizer, main meal, and one dessert for $30 (US Dollars) total. The cheap prices mean that you don’t have to feel guilty about splurging on a big meal once a day. It’s definitely worth it. If you’re like me and don’t usually dine out while you travel, make an exception for Krakow. It’s a steal.

Take a Walk By the River: Once you’re done your tour with Wawel Castle, enjoy a stroll by the river side. It’s peaceful there. Go back at night to see the city lights play off of the water. Plus there’s a fire breathing dragon statue that looks spectacular at night. You can’t miss it when you come out of the dragon’s den part of your Wawel Castle tour.

Wawel Cathedral

Wawel Cathedral

Wander Around Market Square: Sure Market Square is expensive. Sure there are lots of people. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a cool place to wander around. Check out all the souvenir stalls in the market building which is smack dab in the square’s center. Wander the streets adjacent to the square to find some cheaper restaurants and souvenirs. Sit down and people watch. It’s busy and entertaining.

Run through the Park: Or walk. The park in the center of the city surrounds the market square so you’re going to have to go through it anyway. It’s worth it to enjoy the green space in the city. Matt and I also used it as a place for our morning runs. It’s a great spot for people and puppy watching.

Things To Do In Edinburgh

Edinburgh was a beautiful, walk-able city for a tourist. A lovely, green park separates the older section of the town from the new. You could take public transportation if you want but walking affords lots of photograph opportunities and the possibility of stumbling upon an interesting café or shop. I would go back to Edinburgh in a heartbeat. It’s a happy, welcoming city that makes you want to come back again and again. Here’s my list of activities to partake of while you are in Edinburgh.

  1. The Edinburgh Castle: Going to this site should be an all-day event. Straight up, it’s a bit pricey but totally worth it. Cut down costs by bringing your lunch with you. Buy the tour book (you’ll see it at the ticket counter) and forgo a tour (which is more expensive). Plus it gives you the opportunity to explore at your own leisure. There are a few museums on the grounds that are jam packed with exhibitions plus there’s the castle itself. You will easily fill your time.
  2. Ghost Tour: While in Edinburgh, you might hear of the possibility of going on a ghost tour. If you want a different type of tour, definitely take advantage of the opportunity. Matt and I did a two hour ghost tour with City of the Dead tour company. We had fun hearing the stories and Matt eagerly took pictures of various locations to see if any ghosts would show up in the resulting images. It definitely made me want to learn more about the history of Edinburgh so I could figure out where the ghost stories fit into everything.
  3. Sunbathe at the Princes Street Gardens: Remember that lovely, green park that I mentioned? It’s smack dab in between the new and old portions of Edinburgh (Princes Street and the Royal Mile). Grab a coffee and go sit out on the grass or in a bench. It gives you a different perspective of some of the city sites as the park is in a large sloping grassy area. There are bridges that traverse this park so you can kind of get a perspective of how much it slopes. Spending some time to relax in this garden is a great way to take a break from all the tourism you’ll be doing.
  4. Get Out of the City: Edinburgh is a great jumping off point for tours to the Scottish Highlands. Matt and I used a free (well, tip what you think the tour was worth) tour service called the Hairy Coo Tour. It was a great experience that I would recommend to anyone. There are tons of other tours though that include whiskey distilleries and more extended excursions into the Highlands. They can get pricey though but the Scottish Highlands are definitely worth seeing.
  5. Support a Local, Independent Coffee Shop: Matt and I indulged at Castello Coffee Co. a couple of times while we were in Edinburgh. It’s on Castle Street right off Princes Street where all the major shopping is. I absolutely love going to independent coffee shops so this was lots of fun for me.
  6. Check Out the Free Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art: Want to see some cool art? Check out these museums. They’re free which makes them even better! While Matt and I visited Edinburgh, we mainly focused on the Generation exhibition that they had going on which was a cool way to become more familiar with modern and contemporary Scottish art. I’m sure that they’ll be putting on other great exhibitions in the future.
  7. Visit the Farmers’ Market: Buy and eat some local food while staring up at Edinburgh Castle. Farmers’ markets offer foods that are comparable to the prices of grocery stores or better. You’ll support the locals and may even get to experience something new. The farmers’ market on Castle Terrace runs on Saturday mornings to the early afternoon. You can grab breakfast there, buy a lunch for later, and then work your way to the castle. Matt and I did this and it worked perfectly.