Budapest, located in Northern Hungary, is still a rather underestimated expat destination. Yet, more and more foreigners discover that moving to Budapest is an excellent choice for their assignment abroad. The beautiful, historic center and the reasonable cost of living are just some of the reasons why expats choose to settle down in the Hungarian Capital.
The city belongs to the administrative county of Pest and is comprised of 23 districts. It is built by the Danube River, which divides Budapest into the hilly left-bank Buda and the plain right-bank Pest, lending the city its name. Three islands in the Danube also belong to the city. Budapest is not only famous for its rich history, but also for the remarkable cave system beneath the city. In addition, moving to Budapest lets you enjoy a number of thermal springs which are said to have healing effects.
While traces dating back to the Old Stone Age have been found on both sides of the Danube, the building of a Roman fort instigated the city’s development in earnest; in the second century BC, Budapest really began to thrive. When the Huns invaded Europe, they proceeded to move to Budapest and establish their settlement there. They were the first but not the only peoples to storm the Hungarian towns in the area. In the 1200s, the Mongols followed their lead, taking over (the then still separated) Buda and Pest. Throughout history, the city and its inhabitants had to face attacks by the Huns, the Mongols, the Turks, and, during World War II, the Soviets.
Still, the city flourished. In 1872, the three separate towns of Buda, Pest, and Óbuda were united. With about 150,000 inhabitants, it quickly became Hungary’s capital, inaugurating the country’s golden age. During the World Wars, Budapest was heavily damaged and suffered under Soviet rule for many decades. In the 1960s and 70s, the city began renovations and it soon became a major tourist destination.
Moving to Budapest will confront you with a variety of different neighborhoods and districts from which to choose your new home. Buda is comprised of six districts, while Pest has 16 all-in-all. (The 21st district, Csepel, is an island in the Danube River and belongs neither to Buda, nor to Pest). Most expats choose to move to the Buda side, as it is quieter and more residential, with plenty of green spaces. With 23 districts, Budapest has too many to talk about individually so here is a summary of just a few.
District 2: Pesthidegkút
Moving to Budapest’s District Two will take you to an area referred to as the capital’s ‘Beverly Hill’s’. The former German village is home to the rich and famous. This particularly applies to Roszadomb, or Rose Hill, the most upscale and expensive neighborhood in the district.
The district’s main attraction for expats moving to Budapest, however, is that it is quiet, clean, and has a mild climate. The castle is not far away, and many public schools and the city center lie in close proximity as well.
District 11: Újbuda
Újbuda, also known as New Buda, is in the city’s south-west. This part of town is home to various hot springs and spa hotels. It is overlooked by the Turkish fortress, situated on top of the hill. Although New Buda is home to many students, it does not lack the upscale housing options expats moving to Budapest might be looking for. Sashegy and Sasad are the preferred residential neighborhoods in the district, but they are also farther away from the city proper.
District 12 and District 14: Buda Hills and Zuglo
Moving to Budapest’s District Twelve takes you west of the Danube to a very green place known as Hegyyidék. Naturally, the neighborhood, also referred to as Buda Hills, gives you not only peace and serenity but also offers a beautiful view of Budapest. The highest point is St. John Hill (Janoshegy) at more than 520m above sea level.
While Zuglo is the preferred home of many expat families moving to Budapest, it is not that far from Pest’s urban hustle and bustle. Unlike many of the areas mentioned above, Zuglo is not too expensive and is a great choice for expats who move to Budapest on a budget. It is a very historic part of Budapest, with various major buildings dating back as far as the 13th century. Today, Zuglo is known for its zoological and botanical garden and for the Városliget city park.
District 13 and District 5: Downtown and Belváros
District 13, containing Újlipótváros and Angyalföld, is a clean and safe neighborhood, despite its downtown location in Pest. It has a few nice parks, shops, and cafés. Currently, a lot of new development is taking place in the district, increasing the residential space and local quality of living. Moving to Budapest’s District Thirteen will take you to a middle-class area that’s very affordable for expats with a smaller paycheck.
Belváros is considered the heart of the city. It is right on the Danube. Moving to Budapest’s District Five is a great choice for young, single expats who don’t want to miss out on the city’s nightlife. Many hotels are located here which makes it something of a tourist magnet. In terms of accommodation, it is quite inconsistent. While there are many fancy, expensive apartments for rent or sale, some are also cheap, yet may be rather run-down.
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