by Mollie Macklow

Photos courtesy of Mollie Macklow.

One question that I was asked quite frequently leading up to my semester abroad trip was “Why Budapest?” and at the time I had what I thought was a rather concrete answer: central location, great for traveling and a university that offered credits that would transfer easily and count towards graduation.

In the past few weeks I have been asked that same “Why Budapest?” question a handful of times, and each time new reasons come to mind.  

Budapest as a whole is a beautiful city divided into two distinct areas by the Danube River. The “Buda” side is home to the famous Buda Castle within the picturesque medieval castle district. From the Buda side you can look across the Danube to the “Pest” side of the city, which is home to the iconic parliament building as well as the architecturally unique buildings that line the city streets.

It is a city unlike any I have ever experienced, with medieval architecture mixed with neo-baroque styles all within the presence of socialist era construction that still remains after the 1989 regime change.

Budapest also lends itself to being incredibly affordable, even for a college student who is really trying to stretch the dollar.

Hungary operates on the Hungarian Forint currency which goes a long way when you are used to the American dollar (280 HF=$1). To put it in perspective, a cappuccino usually costs around 500HF, so you can get an espresso coffee drink for about $1.90 (way less than you would ever spend at Dunks or Starbucks) and the quality is amazing. Hungarians love their coffee!

The affordability of Budapest makes it very easy to immerse oneself into the local culture, from grocery shopping at the Central Market, to visiting the famous thermal spas and enjoying the nightlife. I have yet to find a day that I have been without something to occupy my free time.

While I really do believe there would be enough to do in Budapest alone, I have been fortunate to take advantage of the central local and travel the surrounding areas with the new friends I have made abroad. Weekends in Bratislava, Prague and Krakow have given me the opportunity to experience different aspects of the Central European way of life, but more importantly they show me how glad I am to have chosen Budapest as my “home base” for the semester.  

Thanks to the amazing city and the amazing individuals I have met while here, one of the best parts of my week is stepping off a bus or train into one of Budapest’s stations. And from now on when I’m asked “why Budapest?” I will not hesitate to say that it is an amazing city for countless reasons and that it’s a city that anybody looking for an adventure should make an effort to visit.