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Living in Budapest: Is It the Place For You?

Are you thinking of visiting or maybe even living in Budapest, Hungary? I have personal experience doing both, and it has become one of my favorite cities in Europe.

The beautiful capital city of Hungary is a place that keeps coming into my life. My Budapest journey began as a young child in the early 1980s, when Hungary was still under Communist rule. We lived in London, England, at the time, and for some reason, my dad accepted a 2-year work contract and took my mom and me to live in Budapest.

It was a difficult transition for our family. But, looking back, my parents said it was a positive, life-changing experience where the good far outweighed the negative. Despite being too young to remember my time living in Budapest, I do believe it helped to shape my wanderlust and appreciation for all the things that travel teaches.

Fisherman's Bastion Budapest
Me at Fisherman’s Bastion in 2020 as lockdown relaxed slightly

Fast-forward to adulthood, and I have now visited Budapest several times. I go to enjoy the unique nightlife, the incredible architecture, the delicious food, the interesting culture and to use the city as a base to explore the lovely towns and countryside of Hungary.

In 2020, I unexpectedly found myself living in Budapest again for five months when the world shut down during the pandemic. Nathan and I were in Sicily at the time when we got the notification that Italy was closing its borders. We took the first flight out of Italy, which happened to be going to Budapest. Little did we know that this was to become our home for a while. But that’s a story for another time.

Today, Budapest is well-known as a great tourist destination with lots to offer for all ages, including solo travelers, couples and families. But what may not be as well known is that living in Budapest is also a great choice for expats and digital nomads.

10 Reasons To Consider Living in Budapest

Little Princess statue
The Little Princess statue sits along the Riverside tram tracks

1. Cost of Living

Let’s face it, most of the world is experiencing an increase in the cost of living, and Hungary is no exception. However, Budapest remains one of the more affordable cities in Europe, especially when you factor in all it has to offer.

In 2023, the average basic cost of living for a single person will be $1200 USD per month. A family of four would be looking at about $2,600 USD. Of course, if you were willing to live further outside the city center and didn’t spend much on dining out or entertainment, those costs would drop a fair bit.

2. Central Location in Europe

Hungary is a small, land-locked country located in the heart of Europe, bordering seven countries. This means it’s quick and easy to get to Slovakia, Romania, Ukraine, Austria, Serbia, Slovenia and Croatia.

Furthermore, Budapest has a good international airport that is within three hours or less of anywhere on the continent making it easy to explore Europe. It’s also served by airlines flying all over the world.

Tram 2 living in Budapest
The route of Tram #2 is a great way to see many of Budapest’s sights

3. Easy to Get Around

Budapest has a well-priced and efficient public transit system that includes extensive metro, tram and bus lines. Plus, the city center is very walkable and enjoyable with all the beautiful buildings, parks and squares. Exploring the city by foot is one of our favorite pastimes when we’re in Budapest.

If you’re living in Budapest long term you may want to consider a car for exploring outside the city but in the city itself a car isn’t necessary and can be more of a hassle than it’s worth.

Szimpla Kert Ruin Bar in Budapest
Szimpla Kert is the most famous of Budapest’s unique Ruin Bars

4. Vibrant Nightlife

The nightlife in Budapest is world-renowned and very popular with young people coming in for a party city break. On any given night, the famous Király Street, lined with bars, clubs and restaurants, will be lively and fun. Also, the unique Ruin Bars offer a quirky setting for a night out with friends.

However, there are plenty of options for an older crowd or a quiet drink. The city is full of everything, including wine bars, craft beer pubs, rooftop cocktail bars with a view, and cozy, hidden back-alley haunts.

5. Affordable Healthcare

Many Hungarian nationals receive free healthcare, but even as an expat healthcare is very affordable. The only downside is it can be a bit more work to find an English-speaking doctor but that is becoming much easier.

Dentistry in Hungary is also very affordable, and many people travel from other parts of Europe and the world to access good dentists at a more than fair price.

Rooftop Cocktail Bar
Rooftop Cocktail Bar

6. Great Food Scene

Hungarian cuisine may not be world-renowned but in my opinion it’s very underrated. Delicious, hearty meals like goulash and chicken paprikash are a must-try along with dozens of other specialties.

Budapest also has a wide array of international restaurants, including Italian, Greek, Asian and even Georgian cuisine. Foodies will definitely want to visit one of the markets, especially the famous Central Market Hall. This is the same market my mom would shop at for fresh produce, meat and dairy, although now it is also one of the city’s main tourist attractions.

Matthias Church Budapest
Matthias Church

7. Beautiful Architecture

The architecture in Budapest is an amazing kaleidoscope of historic styles. As you walk the streets, expect to see Baroque, Neoclassical, Art Nouveau, Gothic and Bauhaus styles, as well as the not-so-pretty Socialist Classicism.

In my opinion, one of the most spectacular cityscapes in Europe is witnessed along the banks of the Danube in Budapest. The first time I took a river cruise we docked in the evening in Budapest, and the sight took my breath away. Here you can see architectural wonders on both side of the river (Buda and Pest) including the beautiful Hungarian Parliament Building, Buda Castle and the Széchenyi Chain Bridge, among many other sights.

Budapest Sczechenyi Baths
The iconic Sczechenyi Baths are a great place to spend a few hours

8. Family-Friendly

Although Budapest is known as a hotspot for nightlife, it’s also a great city for families. Despite the old city center not being very green (on the Buda side), there are plenty of playgrounds and parks scattered around to keep young kids entertained.

City Park has year-round activities, including the Budapest Zoo, a replica castle, an amusement park and a circus. There are also seasonal attractions there, like a skating rink in the winter. Among other family-friendly things to do in Budapest are a visit to the Children’s Railway and a day at Margaret Island.

Riverside Craft Beer Hall
Riverside Craft Beer Hall

9. Plenty of Activities and Entertainment

There is always something to do in Budapest no matter what the weather or time of year. One of the top things to do in Budapest is visit the thermal baths. Budapest sits on 123 thermal springs and the city has nine public baths including the famous Széchenyi and Gellert Baths. 

Budapest is also full of museums, theatres, festivals, art galleries and churches. In the warm months people flock to Margaret Island for picnics, water slides, walks and concerts. On the Buda side you can head to the Buda Hills for a hike or visit the lovely Fisherman’s Bastion and Gellert Hill.

Chain Bridge Budapest
Chain Bridge

Budapest is a Safe City

Hungary is a peaceful country, and its capital city of Budapest is one of the safest cities in Europe making it a great place for ex-pats to live. Violent crime in the city is very rare but as with any big city there are things to keep in mind when it comes to safety.

For the most part, crime in Budapest is limited to petty theft, like pickpocketing and street scams. Just be aware of your belongings and use standard common sense as you would anywhere.

Would You Live in Budapest?

Above are just a few of the reasons Nathan and I could easily see ourselves living in Budapest again. It’s an affordable, beautiful, vibrant, centrally located city with so much to see and do. But, of course, nowhere is perfect. Some of the cons of living in Budapest are the high cost of utilities, the language barrier, complex tax paperwork for expats and changeable weather. However, the pros far outweigh the cons for us. What about you? Do you think you could you live in Budapest?

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