Budapest vs Amsterdam
This year, two of our biggest European Marathons are happening on the same weekend! With that in mind, we thought we'd use this occassion to compare Amsterdam and Budapest on everything from things to do in the city, to the food you can feast on post-race. Naomi ran Budapest last year, whilst Lucy ran Amsterdam so they each give their take on the cities and what they have to offer.
Budapest is a city which has it all: a fascinating history, beautiful sights to see and an exciting nightlife scene. Running a marathon had been on my bucket list for as long as I could remember, and when I saw the opportunity to combine that goal with a trip to this great city, I jumped! Here’s my guide to the Budapest marathon weekend, and why I think there’s no better place to conquer 42.195kms.
Amsterdam is an exciting place to visit, let alone run around for 26.2 miles. Whatever you're looking for in a city, you'll find in Amsterdam, from its collection of delicious food and the beautiful canals to its history and museums. I loved every moment of my time in Amsterdam and for sure would head back to see even more sights and drink even more beer.
Things to do
There is so much to do in Budapest that you’ll be far stretched to tick it all off in one short weekend. Buda Castle, the thermal baths, the shoes on the Danube… the list is endless! As we were both staying and running on the Pest side of the city, I was keen to use my free time on saturday to visit the Buda side. You can choose to walk up Buda Hill but, wary of tiring out my legs before the big day, I opted for the lazy way and took the Funicular. At the top, you can visit Buda Castle and Fisherman’s Bastion, all while enjoying spectacular views over the Danube.
We had such a varied itinerary whilst we were in Amsterdam. We spent the Friday grabbing a cheap pizza and chilling in Vondel Park - a perfect way to relax post-flight. The Saturday was packed full of fun, we first took a trip on the canal seeing the pretty sights and points of interest. After that, we were really keen to check out the Body Works museum - this is filled with cool dissections and bodies (extremely interesting if you're not squeamish). That evening we headed to the red-light district for a walk around, and then to a funfair to get rid of our pre-race nerves. Other highlights from the weekend including the I Amsterdam sign, the RIjks Museum and the Anne Frank House.
If, like me, you dread the sight of even a slight incline when you’re on a run then this is the course for you! It sticks firmly to the Pest side of the city, making it almost entirely flat (hallelujah). The course begins and ends in Heroes Square, crosses the famous Chain Bridge, and runs all along the banks of the Danube. As it was my first time in the city, this was the perfect way to take in as much of the city as possible in a short space of time. The only minor downside (and the only reason I haven’t given the course a full 10/10) is that it does loop back on itself a few times which can get a bit tedious when you’re on your 20th mile. But hey - we don’t call it a challenge for nothing! The best thing about the course in Budapest, and the reason why it is my firm favourite, is just how close you are to the Szechenyi baths at the finish line. Me and the team headed straight there from the finish line - what better way to celebrate a marathon than taking a soak in a giant thermal bath?
Similarly to Budapest, the Amsterdam course is flat too making it a dreamy course to run. The race begins at the historic Olympic Stadium, where over 16,500 runners gather. Dancing, singing and stretching before heading out around the city, through the Rijksmuseum, Vondelpark and the cute winding streets of Amsterdam. The support around the race is great too, little children giving out homemade cookies, randomers giving out hugs and holding entertaining signs - all in all a great way to keep going. Oh, and did I mention they have a whole section next to the canal? That was by far one of the best bits, complete with a beautiful windmill and crazy on-the-water entertainment.
The Hungarians aren’t exactly famous for their food, and I headed to Budapest not really knowing what to expect. Like most major European cities, the food is pretty multicultural and, if you want to, you can probably get away with eating pretty much as you would at home, but I was keen to try as much of the traditional local cuisine as possible. Being a veggie, this wasn’t exactly easy! Probably the most famous Hungarian dish is Goulash, a sort of meat stew which is usually served in a bread bowl. I did my best hunting for a vegetarian option - but no such luck. However, around 5 mins walk from the hostel was one of my favourite discoveries of the trip: a bar dedicated entirely to falafel. For just 1,200 Forint (around £2.80) you can get a giant bowl of hummus, 10 falafels and as much pitta bread as you can manage. Veggie paradise!
One of my favourite things about visiting a new city is always the food, and Amsterdam did not dissapoint. From the cheap Italian restaurants, providing a plethora of pizza for £5 or the waffle vans with endless toppings to fill all your carb desires - it was great. One of the best ways of replenishing your calorie-deficity is the sugar-filled Stroop Waffle, a delicious snack you can get from all supermarkets & good bakeries. The only reason it's not listed as a higher score, is that my group didn't explore too many of the food outlets on our trip. Next time, it's a higher priority so it can get a fairer score.
Budapest is known for its Ruin Bars and I was definitely looking forward to trying them out. You’re naturally a little limited on how much partying you can do on a marathon weekend - I definitely didn’t fancy running 42.195km with a hangover! But by Sunday night, when the marathon was complete, I was ready to hit the bars. The plan: an all-night-long bar crawl. We began at Szimpla Kert, a huge, two floor, multi-room bar with about ten different bars and pretty spectacular decor. The only downside was the rickety, spiral staircases leading up to the second floor - not a good match for my achy legs! In the end, the night didn’t exactly go to plan. Despite my best efforts, I was pretty knackered and had to call it a night and go buy a burrito from a cart outside at around 12.30. While I’d give the nightlife a 10/10 on any other weekend, I’ve deducted a few points for its lack of suitability for tired, post-marathon me. I will definitely be heading back to give the bar crawl a second go!
Amsterdam was made for evening entertainment. Whether that be a sober night exploring the bright lights of the red-light district and going on the rides at the funfair. Or, heading to any one of a number of fun bars amongst the city. Although, on a post-marathon night out it may not be the most boisturous or long of nights (I think most of us were in Mcdonalds by midnight to get soem nuggets before heading to bed), the city definitely has some fantastic places to celebrate. One of our favourites will always be the piano bar - great fun for everyone.
All in all, I think it's safe to say that Amsterdam and Budapest are both great candidates for a four-day weekend, and a marathon too. But don't just take our word for it. Check out our events pages for more info on how you could come with us to experience the marathon weekend for yourself next year!