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Hungary: Top Things To Do In Budapest On A Budget

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Ah Budapest! How beautiful you are. I mean talk about epic architecture, scenic rivers and hilly surroundings… this city seems to have a bit of everything.

From the grand Parliament building set on the tranquil Danube River to the historic Castle Hill, there are plenty of places to explore and top-quality sights to see for the city-loving traveller. The ruin bars of the Jewish Quarter transport you to the shabby-chic akin to Berlin’s alt warehouses, and for those that love to party, these bars are open till the early hours every single day. For those of you in need of something a little more relaxing, treat yourself to one of the many thermal spas dotted around the city, or take a trip to Margaret Island to practice mindfulness in nature. There is so much history to be learnt, from the Fascist invasion in World War II, followed by strict communist ruling for the next 40 years, the wounds of Hungary’s past can be felt throughout the city and spotted in the ornate crumbling buildings.

 
Beautiful architecture on the Pest side of the city

Beautiful architecture on the Pest side of the city

 

We loved Budapest, it has definitely made it onto the top of our favourite European cities list. If you are looking for a cheap place to spend a few days, breath-taking architecture and plenty of sights to keep you busy then Budapest sounds like the place for you.

Take a look at our suggested ‘Top Things To Do In Budapest On A Budget’…..


Get Hungry At The Great Market Hall

This epic hall houses the largest indoor market in Budapest and its expansive neo-Gothic architecture makes for an impressive experience.  The metal framed roof structure is a clear draw, giving the space a light and airy feel whilst imposing its Gothic form over the hall.  Split over 3 floors, you'll find a range of cooked foods such as lángos and goulash, Hungarian souvenirs and fresh groceries including fruit and veg, baked breads and pastries, local cheeses and cured meats... yum!  The cherry strudel is worth a try, as is the pogácsa (Hungarian scone).... we really are suckers for baked goods!  A good time to head there would be for lunch when you can pick up a selection of fresh foods and take them to the Danube for a munch.  Yes it is touristy, but there are also a lot of locals picking up their groceries too.

The market is open Monday to Saturday 6am-6pm but closes early on Mondays at 5pm and 3pm on Saturdays. Address is Budapest, Vámház krt. 1-3, 1093.

www.budapestmarkethall.com

 
The neo-Gothic Great Market Hall

The neo-Gothic Great Market Hall

 

Escape The City On Margaret Island

If you’re looking for green space and an escape from the erratic Hungarian driving then Margaret Island is the place for you.  Positioned in the middle of the Danube river, the island is a hub for sports, leisure activities and leafy spaces, offering tourists and locals a place to connect with fitness and nature.  There is a 5.5km running track which spans the island (make sure you run in the correct direction!), walking routes, cycle routes and plenty of places to hire bikes, tandems and pedalos.  The island also features its own medieval ruins, a lido and national swimming pool, a Japanese garden and some famous musical fountains (although these were being renovated when we visited).  In the summer, the open-air concert venue puts on shows to the public and the green spaces are filled with beer-drinking sun worshipers.  This is one of the most popular parks in Budapest and we would definitely recommend a visit.

The island can be accessed halfway along Margaret Bridge and is open day and night all year round.  Trams 4 and 6 stop just outside on the bridge and bus no. 26 from Nyugati station takes you all the way in. Otherwise it’s a 45 minute walk from the Jewish Quarter.

 
Wintery but still pretty, one of the greens on Margaret Island

Wintery but still pretty, one of the greens on Margaret Island

 


Learn About Hungary’s Tortured Past

A visit to the House of Terror is a must when coming to Budapest as it highlights the atrocities of both the Fascist and Communist rulings of Hungary during the 20th century.  The museum tells a sad story of Budapest, from the Nazi take over towards the end of the Second World War, the result was the mass genocide of thousands of Hungarian (and European) Jews. Those horrors were quickly followed by Soviet communist rule for the next 40 years. The country was brought to it’s knees and an unimaginable number of people lost their lives in horrendous ways at the hands of both regimes.  The museum is set in the former headquarters of the Fascist Arrow Cross party and later State Security services, where it was used as a prison and place of torture for those who were thought to have gone against the government.  Some of the prison area still remains in the basement and forms part of the exhibition, it’s very 1984! Scarily it is not known how far these cells went underground because the tunnels had been filled in with concrete by the time the Soviets had left.  The information is well written and engaging, but most of the memorabilia is not described or translated into English.

Entry is 3000 huf (£8.12) per person and the museum is open 10am-6pm daily, closing on Mondays.

www.terrorhaza.hu

 
The House Of Terror Museum

The House Of Terror Museum

 



Ride The Number 2 Tram

This was recommended to us by a Budapest local who goes out of her way to take this tram every day to work.  Running along the east side of the Danube river, the tram ride is ridiculously scenic, with views of Buda Castle, Liberty Statue on Gellert Hill and the Fisherman’s Bastion on the Buda side of the city.  The tram takes a winding route around Parliament building with spectacular views from 3 sides.  The tram itself is pretty retro, with pairs of window seats facing each other in a rickety-style carriage.  We really enjoyed this trip and for 350huf (95p) a go, it is definitely worth it!

You can catch the number 2 tram northbound from the architecturally award-winning Fovam ter station, all the way up to the entrance of Margaret Island on Margaret Bridge.  We would recommend sitting on the left-hand side for optimum views over the river and Parliament building.

Make sure you punch your ticket in the machine on the tram as they are hot on fines if you get caught!

 
The view from the number 2 tram window of the Parliament building

The view from the number 2 tram window of the Parliament building

 

Marvel At The Parliament Building

Rarely do I go to a city and think that the architecture is more impressive than Londons, but Budapest is definitely one of those cities that would give it a run for its money.  The Hungarian Parliamentary Building is a prime example of this, it’s grand scale makes it the one of the largest buildings in Hungary and it’s Gothic Revival-style architecture gives it an incredibly dramatic form from all angles.  This ginormous building has 20 kilometres of stairs and 691 rooms (I mean what could you possibly need 691 rooms for?!) and is the home of legislature, a workplace for members of parliament and their assistants, and guards the safe keeping of the Hungarian Holy Crown.  It is possible to tour this building costing around 3500huf (£9.47), but we were happy just looking from the outside.  For the optimum view of the Parliament building, head over to the Buda side of the river on the promenade for a full frontal view (cheeky!).

www.parlament.hu

 
The epic Parliament building, as seen from the Buda side of the city

The epic Parliament building, as seen from the Buda side of the city

 


Be Wowed By Szimpla Kert Ruin Bar

Touristy I know, but 100% worth a visit (or maybe even two), this ruin bar is an impressive conversion of a disused factory and now is a cultural centre for music, film, food and nightlife.  The space itself is an awe-inspiring shabby chic mishmash of quirky objects, graffiti, plants and lighting, making it look more like a post-apocolyptic filmset rather than a pub.  You can’t help but be amazed on first entry, the sheer scale and work that’s gone into the decor is pretty overwhelming.  The building contains many sub-rooms and hangout areas throughout, sprawling across 2 floors and an outdoor area, so you can always find a spot to suit your mood.  

Since opening in 2002, Szimpla Kert has had a green and eco outlook; by promoting sustainable urban living, by giving up-and-coming musicians a platform to perform from, and by serving locally grown food produce to its customers.  Every Sunday the venue hosts a farmers market, where locals can pick up good quality sustainable produce at affordable prices.  It also gives the opportunity for the consumer to re-connect with the farmers which is a huge issue that needs to be addressed in our food industry today.  

Overall, this is a lovely place to come down for a coffee or beer on an afternoon, or for a few drinks in the evening with friends.  If you’re lucky enough to be around on a Sunday then the market runs from 9am-2pm, and if you can afford a bottomless brunch for 5000huf (£13.50) then you will be reassured in the knowledge that you are eating some top quality produce and supporting a sustainable food industry.

Open daily 12pm-4am, and 9am-4am on Sundays.

www.szimpla.hu

 
Szimpla Kert by night, palm plants and colourful lighting

Szimpla Kert by night, palm plants and colourful lighting

 


Take A Stroll Up To The Historic Castle Hill

The Castle District on the Buda side of the city is home to a number of key attractions including the ornate Matthias Church, the Disney-like Fisherman’s Bastion, the popular funicular and Buda Castle itself.  This medieval UNESCO World Heritage site offers spanning views over the Danube river and city, and makes for a lovely morning or afternoons exploration along the cobbled streets of the Old Town and leafy hillsides.  The neo-gothic style Fisherman’s Bastion was actually built in the early 20th century specially as a viewing platform and sits next to the colourfully tiled gothic Matthias Church.  You can walk along the old castle walls of Buda Castle for great views out over the city and explore inside the courtyards for free, and for the contemporary architecture-lovers out there, you’ll enjoy the oxidised steel staircases that lead you up to the old castle walls.

The funicular, which takes you from Chain Bridge up to the top of Castle Hill, is the second oldest of its kind in the world and was built 150 years ago.  Amazingly, it functions on a system of weights and counterweights, maintaining its traditional engineering systems.  If you want a quick and novel way of getting up the hill then this is for you but to be honest we were happy with the stroll.

We visited in February and it wasn’t too busy, but this is apparently the most popular tourist attraction in all of Budapest so expect it to be bustling in peak season.  Apparently a good time to visit is just before sunset when most tourists have headed back to the Pest side for the day.

Castle Hill is open all hours of to explore, but if you want to go into specific buildings then standard opening hours will apply.  It’s free to walk around outside so is great for the budget traveller, but you have to pay for entry to any of the attractions.

 
The colourful tiled roof of St Matthias Church on Castle Hill

The colourful tiled roof of St Matthias Church on Castle Hill

 

Enjoy The View At The Citadel

The walk up to the Citadel is a pleasant meander around the leafy hillsides, with many routes and paths leading up to the top.  As you ascend the path, views over the Danube and Pest side of the city unfold before you, until you reach the top of Gellért Hill with its beautiful panoramic views over the city below.  The citadel itself is a 19th century fortress made from stone, still with bullet holes displaying the tragedies of Hungary’s troubled past. Gellért Hill is a nice spot to bring a picnic, with grassy places to sit down and plenty of benches to perch on.  There isn’t loads to do at the Citadel other than to enjoy the view, but this is one of the free things to do in Budapest so it’s worth a trip.

You can get to the Citadel walking paths by crossing either Elisabeth Bridge or Szabadsag Bridge and then walking up.

 
Me and my bump at the top of the Citadel viewing platform

Me and my bump at the top of the Citadel viewing platform

 

Get Inspired At The Ludwig Museum Of Contemporary Art

A walk down the promenade from the Great Market Hall to the Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art is a must as it’s one of the only car-free sections next to the Danube River.  The gallery itself is the only public collection in the country that houses art from both local and international artists, and therefore is crucial to the contemporary art scene.  The museum was founded by Peter and Irene Ludwig, avid collectors of contemporary art, who owned a whopping collection of 12,000 pieces!  They needed somewhere to store their collection right?! And since 2005 the Ludwig Museum has been located in the architecturally impressive building, Palace of Arts.  Although the collection on display wasn’t my favourite, it still made an enjoyable mornings activity and I would say that the building itself is worth a visit (if you like modern architecture that is).  The museum has a perminant collection of artworks and a temporary exhibition space which changes 8-10 times a year.

Entry is 2,400huf (£6.50) for both the permanent and temporary exhibitions and the gallery is open Tues-Sun 10am-8pm.

www.ludwigmuseum.hu

 
Contemporary architecture at The Ludwig Museum Of Contemporary Art

Contemporary architecture at The Ludwig Museum Of Contemporary Art

 

Soak Up The Vibe At The Jewish Quarter

If you are looking for trendy eateries, cool bars and somewhere to let-lose then the Jewish Quarter is the place for you.  Ruin bars such as Szimpla Kert, Instant and Fogas Ház offer clubbers a place to party until the early hours (any day of the week) in a fun and care-free environment.  The Jewish Quarter is the hub of eating out with a huge array of international cuisines being served from Thai to American-style burgers, and Vietnamese to European dishes.  You can pretty much find any food you want here including very cheap donner kebabs served from a man in a booth!  There are plenty of lovely coffee shops to relax in, independent boutiques such as the inspiring concept store Printa, and small art galleries like The Kahan Art Space to explore.  We spent a lot of our time here, wondering the beautiful streets and stopping off for the odd coffee/beer to relax our legs.  The Jewish Quarter is a great place to base yourself for your trip to Budapest.

 
Inside concept store Printa with its plywood fittings

Inside concept store Printa with its plywood fittings

 

Food

Reading of all the Hungarian foods we wanted to try before our trip, we were super excited at the thought of Lángos (a fried bread smothered in cream cheese), goulash (a beef soupy-stew with spices), Kürtös Kalács (chimney cake which is a tube of sweet bread rolled in sugar) and all the various cheeses, cured meats meat soups and cakes, we were really sad to say that we were disappointed all round and didn’t find any of what we tried that tasty.  We mostly went to étkezdes which are Hungarian home-cooked food style cheap eateries, but each time we found the food a bit underwhelming in flavour and there just wasn’t very much of it! The Lángos was probably the biggest let down, I mean surely you can’t go wrong with bread and cheese right?  But apparently you can and the whole thing was just oily and flavourless despite going to one of the most popular stalls in town, Retró Lángos Büfé.  The best thing we probably ate was a Hungarian desert of walnut dumplings with vanilla sauce (which was a bit like an English bread pudding with custard) but other than that we didn’t feel like there was much to shout about.  Sorry Hungary, did we miss something?!  

 
Believe it or not, this was the best thing we ate!

Believe it or not, this was the best thing we ate!

 

On our last day we spotted a budget cafe in a food hall called Mangalica Heaven which was actually much cheaper than the other étkezdes we had visited, such as Kádár Étkezde and Frici Papa.  You can get 2 courses for around 1200huf (£3.25) and the place was really busy at lunchtime which was a good sign.  For those of you travelling on a budget, be aware that most of the étkezdes are only open in the weekdays for lunch and then are closed in the evenings and weekends.  Perhaps you just need to spend a bit more to get tastier Hungarian food?  I really hope you have better luck with the food than we did!

 
Lángos, it looks the part but just tastes like grease!

Lángos, it looks the part but just tastes like grease!

 

Where We Didn’t Get To….

Our trip was cut a bit short due to Mark getting the flu for 3 days and so there were a couple of activities that we wanted to do but didn’t get round to.  Although they are a bit on the expensive side, we would have liked to have gone to one of the famous spas such as the Gellért or Széchenyi Baths, both known for their thermal waters and healing qualities.  There is Memento Park, a sculpture park on the outskirts of the city displaying all the communist monuments and sculptures that once stood in Budapest during the soviet regime.  If we had visited outside of the winter months when the leaves were on the trees then we would have taken a trip out to the Buda Hills, an expanse of green space in the city where you can find trekking routes and perfect spots for a picnic.  The Hungarian National Museum was being renovated when we visited, but it would have been interesting to see some national artefacts and learn a bit more about the countries history.   If you can spare 16 Euro a ticket (ouch!), then the Dohány Street Synagogue looked like it would have been worth a visit as it’s the largest synagogue in the world outside of Israel.  Other than that, I think we covered most of the main attractions that we were interested in, and mostly it was just interesting to walk around and explore the city.

 
The Dohany Street Synagogue

The Dohany Street Synagogue

 

We hope our article 'Top Things To Do In Budapest On A Budget’ was helpful for you, feel free to leave any comments in the box below (especially if you have any more suggestions about the food!).

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Sri Lanka: 5 Reasons Why It's The Perfect Destination For The First-Time Backpacker

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Tipped as the top travel destination for 2019 by Lonely Planet, Sri Lanka has it all for the outdoorsy traveller. From turtle sanctuaries and stunning white sanded beaches in the south, to the world famous tea plantations sprawled across the countries mountainous centre. 


If you are into animal watching, then you can spend your days bouncing around in an open topped jeep on safari, trying to spot wild elephants, crocodiles and leopards in the lusciously green national parks.  Mountain trekkers can head to a number of well know ranges, and can hike up some of the nations favourite peaks such as the steep and sacred Adams Peak at sunrise.  Head to the bustling and rugged city of Jaffna to soak up the culture of every day Sri Lankan life.  There are ancient temples, historical sights and plenty of religious ceremonies to attend. 

A climb to the sacred Adam’s Peak is well worth the reward….

A climb to the sacred Adam’s Peak is well worth the reward….


Whatever you choose to do in this diverse country, you really won't be disappointed because the standards are high and the quality of your experience is valued and welcomed by the locals.  Tourism is integral to the country's economy and in recent years they have seen a significant boom.  So for the first time backpacker, you have the peace of mind that the route is well trodden and the Sri Lankan people will treat you like family.  

Here are 5 reasons why we think Sri Lanka should be on the top of your to-visit list for the first time backpacker....

  1. The Friendly People

Not all people you meet on your travels will greet you with open arms, but the Sri Lankan’s are some of them.  After travelling in 16 countries over 10 months, we decided that the Sri Lankan's are some of the warmest and most welcoming folk that we've ever met.  Men would buy us coffee in the street, hosts would spend hours making us the most delicious home-cooked food from scratch, people are always on hand to help you get on the right buses, locals will share their food (and seat) with you on the train, and sometimes people will even walk down the street with you just to have a chat! You can’t get much friendlier than that.

Locals on the train to Nuwara Eliya who shared their food with us

Locals on the train to Nuwara Eliya who shared their food with us


Obviously there will always be the odd few rotten apples that are trying to get something for nothing, but on the whole we found the Sri Lankan's very trustworthy and helpful.  Impressively, nearly everyone speaks English due the empire, so if you are ever in need of help then just ask the person next to you and I'm sure they will do their best.  The hospitality in hostels and guest houses is next level, and hosts will really go out of their way to make your experience the best that it can possibly be.  We really don't have a bad thing to say about anyone we met!

2. It's Just So Cheap!

Sri Lanka is very well priced to travel around and on some days we would spend around £12 per day between us, that's with eating in the 'hotels' which are actually restaurants where the locals eat.  It's possible to find accommodation for around £6 for a double room per night on booking.com, and if you are happy to eat like the locals then a couple of kottu's (a Sri Lankan street food of chopped roti bread, vegetables and meat gravy fried on a hot plate) would set you back between £1.50 to £3.00 for 2 portions. That's a whole lot of bang for your buck!  A beer at an off-licence will be around 300 rupees (£1.50) which isn’t so bad. 

Well-priced produce at a local store

Well-priced produce at a local store


Travelling by bus is very cheap indeed, ranging from about 50p to £4 per journey (the £4 journeys would be if you were travelling for 5 hours across the country), and the train can be even cheaper but slower and far more crowded.  A train ticket to Colombo from Kandy is around 100 rupees for 2nd or 3rd class, or you can travel in 1st for only 500 rupees (£2.50)!  A rickshaw in the capital is around 50 rupees per kilometre, which isn’t too shabby.  


Visits to the national parks can however be pricy (they have to make their money somewhere right?) so if you are trying to keep your costs down then just choose to visit only one or two of them on your trip.  For example, a visit to the Kaudulla National Park on an elephant safari set us back £50 per person, and a trek in the knuckles mountain range with a guide and driver was £50 between us.  Compared with the costs of food, travel and accommodation, these prices seem extremely high, but if you acknowledge that you are paying for one or two people’s time and consider it a once in a lifetime experience then the costs aren't so bad after all.  I mean, you get to see elephants in the wild!  If you are happier eating in tourist restaurants for peace of mind of hygiene then there are many to choose from, and prices will be more like £3 to £6 for a main meal.  We ate at the local restaurants 3 times a day and never got sick, so if you want to taste real Sri Lankan food and pay cheap prices then find the nearest 'hotel’.

Kaudulla National Park on an elephant safari!

Kaudulla National Park on an elephant safari!


3. Easy To Get Around

Transport in Sri Lanka is great for the backpacker.  You can pretty much get anywhere by bus, or if you want to travel at a slower pace then taking a train is a good option.  If you don’t want any hassle with transport and money is no option then just take a cab or tuk tuk.  Remember to negotiate hard because most likely the first price will be far too high. 

We took several local buses to get to the base of Adam’s Peak in central Sri Lanka

We took several local buses to get to the base of Adam’s Peak in central Sri Lanka


The buses are the best way to get around though, and they’re are hilarious!  Travelling on one is such an experience, and in some ways they are the funniest part of the trip.  These are the local buses where the driver blasts out Sri Lankan bhangra for 4 hours straight, everyone is stuck to the sweaty leather seats, there is a line of people standing all the way down the isle clinging on for dear life, whilst the driver over-takes at full speed like a maniac.  So obviously the speedy dangerous driving is not a plus side of travelling by bus, but you will be guaranteed to get there quickly.  We would recommend sitting towards the back for safety, and not looking out the front (for obvious reasons).  Ignorance is bliss they say.  The bus assistant will be the one taking ticket money, and will tell you where to put your oversized bags.  The benches on the buses are made for small bottoms, so you will most likely be squashed up against the person next to you.  But for a couple of pounds per journey, who really cares?!  The buses are clearly marked in English where they are headed for, and there is always an assistant on board to ask if you are unsure.  Sri Lanka is the perfect sized country, because you can pretty much travel across the whole of it within a day.  

Local kids waving the train on by…

Local kids waving the train on by…


4. Diverse

Sri Lanka is a unique country with so much to offer.  Depending on what you’re into, every traveller can have a completely different experience.  If you like tropical beach breaks, sun bathing, surfing, turtle conservations and whale watching, then head to one of the many beaches that sprawl the lengthy coastline.  Along with beachy vibes brings chill out bars with like-minded travellers, parties and fun times.  

A beautiful sunset at Negombo beach near Colombo

A beautiful sunset at Negombo beach near Colombo


Looking for more of a nature-inspired trip? Well this is the place for you.  Never have we seen so many exotic animals in one country before… elephants, eagles, monkeys, crocodiles, mongoose, leopards, giant squirrels and wild boars.  The list is literally insane.  Each national park has a different focus, some are the home to the leopard whilst others of the elephant, so choose which one you visit thoughtfully.  It’s worth noting that entry to these national parks is in the form of a jeep safari, so don’t think you will be able to trek in there to enjoy the nature! 

The middle of the country is more mountainous and hilly, so for nature lovers and those into trekking you can head to the likes of the Knuckles Range, Sigiriya, Horton Plains, Adam’s Peak, Ella, Haputale and Lipton’s Seat.  There are plenty of walks to do without paying for entry to the National Parks, and luckily there are lots of local buses to get you away from the main towns and cities to start your route from.  The tea plantations are spectacular, and are free to roam around for the enthusiastic walker.

The view from our guesthouse at Nuwara Eliya, surrounded by leafy tea plantations

The view from our guesthouse at Nuwara Eliya, surrounded by leafy tea plantations


If history, culture and religion is your thing then this a country rich in all of these areas.  With Portugese and Dutch attempted invasions, British actual invasion, and civil war between the Tamils and Sinhalese lasting several decades, it’s hard to hide the very recent wounds of history, particularly in hard-hit areas like Jaffna where bullet holes are visible in the crumbing buildings.  The majority of the Sri Lankan people are of Buddhist religion, with a small proportion of Hindu’s, Christian’s and Muslims.  There are many incredible temples and places of worship to visit along with religious sights such as the ancient Mihintale and Polonnaruwa ruins.  One of our favourite moments was experiencing a Hindu ceremony at the decorative Nallur Kovil temple where men took their shirts off with the sound of live percussion instruments playing.

Nallur Kovil Hindu temple in Jaffna

Nallur Kovil Hindu temple in Jaffna


5. The Food

If you’re a foodie like us then you will probably be salivating right now at the thought of eating delicious Sri Lankan food.  Imagine coconut milk curry with an explosion of spices, beautifully balanced with chunks of sweet butternut squash, and spicy beetroot curry with home-made coconut rotis… it’s just too delicious!  The coconut milk is freshly made and my god does it taste like it.  Rice and curry is the staple, but really when you order it you end up with about 6 components including daal and fresh vegetables too.  No one goes hungry in Sri Lanka!

Fresh fruits at a homestay in Kandy

Fresh fruits at a homestay in Kandy

The kottu is incredible, it’s a street food of fried roti bread, vegetables and sometimes egg covered in meat gravy.  It’s one of the cheapest dishes you can get and it’s probably the tastiest because it’s so god damn naughty.  One of the funnest things is choosing between the surplus of fried street snacks, the Sri Lankan’s do love a deep fried snack!  Nearly anywhere, you can pick up vegetable rotis (that look like a vegetable samosa), dosa (fermented pancake), egg hoppers (crunchy pancake in the shape of a bowl), string hoppers (well-seasoned stringy noodles you eat for breakfast with your fingers), jackfruit balls… the list is endless.  And then there’s all the sweet stuff too… coconut pancakes, buffalo curd with plant nectar (like honey), and all the fresh fruits.  It’s worth going to Sri Lanka just for the food alone, we were so excited to be eating it every day that sometimes we just worked our schedule around the food!

The legendary Kottu street food. We had definitely put on a few pounds after 4 weeks of eating this bad boy.

The legendary Kottu street food. We had definitely put on a few pounds after 4 weeks of eating this bad boy.


We Dig It!

I feel like I could go on and on about all the great things that Sri Lanka has to offer, but really it would be better for you to just go and experience it for yourself.  For the first-time backpacker, this really is a fantastic country to visit because as far as travelling goes; it is relatively easy, the people are lovely, it’s got so much to offer and it’s cheap.  I would say that 2 weeks is probably the minimum amount of time to spend there, we went for 4 weeks and in that time we only went to 2 beaches!  So if you do want to visit then I would strongly suggest not trying to cram everything in and rushing around to much.  It’s a relaxed country to be in, and it’s all the small moments that make this place so special; like sharing a dinner of home-cooked food, or watching the sunrise up on Pidurangala Rock. 

For the first-time backpacker, you really won’t regret a trip to the incredible Sri Lanka….

A tranquil sunrise on the top of Pidurangala Rock, just watch out for the sneaky monkeys!

A tranquil sunrise on the top of Pidurangala Rock, just watch out for the sneaky monkeys!



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Lifestyle: Why I Gave Up My Career In Fashion For The Unknown

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There's 26 year old me, a Senior Designer in my company, designing fast fashion clothing for some of the biggest brands on the highstreet (names of which I probably shouldn’t mention). 

On busy months I'd design hundreds of items, maybe 30 styles of which got booked, and of those 30 styles, maybe a couple of hundred thousand units of garments would have been produced in factories and shipped into store. To give you an idea of the scale of the production, I could walk around a festival and every few hours probably point out someone who was wearing something that I had designed.  It was a crazy business.  You could literally have an idea, sketch it out, get a sample made in a day, and within 6 weeks it would be in someones shopping bag.  

 

For the first few years of doing this I was living the dream.  The company I worked for gave me so much responsibility and creative freedom, and looked after me well to keep me there.  It was very much a sales job too, we would have to pitch our styles to our clients every few weeks and try to convince them to buy our product over someone elses.  The people buying had such huge budgets due to good sales, that sometimes you could walk away from a meeting knowing that they had just ordered 200,000 units worth of clothing.  Occasionally a buyer would ring up our office and say “I have 2 million pounds to spend on blouses this week, what can you deliver into store quickly?”  

 

That was really the heyday of highstreet fashion where almost everyone was doing well.  Customers just seemed happy to fill up their baskets with any old stuff because it was cheap and accessible.  People were proud to have found the cheapest possible item going; tops for £2, shoes for £5, and there seemed like no limit for how cheap it could be.  When I was younger I was definitely guilty of shopping in that way too, it was the rise of the cheap highstreet brands.  But after some time I sort of realised that I didn’t value cheap clothing and my respect grew for skills found in the manufacture of vintage or second hand clothing.  I didn’t want to wear the same thing as everyone else, and also maybe I started to know a bit too much about the industry and the consequences of this kind of mass production.

 

A few years later, we had a few seasons of bad trading and had to let a few people go in our company.  We had predicted that sales were going to continue at the rate we had been used to but for whatever reason it didn’t happen and we were scraping by.  The work days seemed to get slower and longer, and I had a lot more time to think things over.  I always loved working at our office because the people made it amazing.  We had our own little family there where we looked out for each other, people of all ages and all backgrounds were friends, all working together in this funny melting pot.  Some of the older ladies would cook lunch for us on almost a daily basis, and we called them ‘mummy’ because they really treated us like their kids.

Me and the oldest employee there, Pat who's a staggering 75 and got more energy than anyone on the team!

Me and the oldest employee there, Pat who's a staggering 75 and got more energy than anyone on the team!

 

That’s one of the reasons I stayed at my job for such a long time, because I couldn’t bare to leave the work family.  It breaks my heart a bit now to think that I won’t be working with them anymore, but I knew that I couldn’t stay forever for that reason.

 

Anyway, so trading seemed to be getting progressively worse, and there was a lot of pressure to get right the orders that we did have.  Sometimes if sales weren’t good in store, we would be waiting for some sort of ‘mistake’ to be found on one of our garments so that they could be sent back to us, to get them out of badly-trading stores and to claw back some money for the client.  These sort of tactics are all part and parcel in the business but it’s obviously not a very ethical way to trade.  There was also a lot of pressure from the clients to get product made very quickly based on demand.  In effect, that would put a lot of pressure on the factories, and if they were late for whatever reason then we would get fined.  It can almost be like a lose lose situation in our industry at times; if you say you can’t get something made quick enough then you don’t get the order, or if you say you can do it and are late then you get fined.  It seems pretty tough going to me, especially when we are talking about investing hundreds of thousands worth of pounds in product, and the welfare of everyone working in the factories.

 

And then there’s the wastage.  These clothes that we are making here aren’t exactly designed and made to stand the test of time.  These clothes have been manufactured as quickly as physically possible using fabrics that have been engineered to be made in the cheapest possible way.  You will be lucky if they last a few years at most.  Some of them will shrink beyond wear on the first time you wash them, or the dye will run into your other clothes in the wash.  The fact that we are making ‘fast fashion’ clothing means that they will probably go off trend within a couple of months.  And even if there is nothing wrong with the garments, who wants to wear something that is out of fashion?  I mean the scale and quantity that we are talking here is just sickening.  It’s not just my company doing this, we are talking about hundreds, maybe even thousands of suppliers all making product in this way. 

 

On a weekly basis I would go to the shops and have a look at new garments in on the highstreet.  There were hundreds of new styles in store every week and regardless of whether the old stuff on the shop floor has sold or not, they have to make space for the new.  We are talking constant change, and constant marking down of clothes into sale.  And then there is wastage in all aspects of the chain….. garments that have been made wrong, garments that aren’t selling, fabric that has been produced incorrectly….. the list goes on.

 
This is probably where half the clothes I have designed end up, in a trash heap or floating in the sea.

This is probably where half the clothes I have designed end up, in a trash heap or floating in the sea.

 

 

Sometimes when I did my weekly trip to the highstreet I would look around in despair at the sheer scale of the industry and physically feel sick.  I knew that I was contributing to this mass global consumerism, and I was responsible for this enormous unnecessary waste.  The fact that I wasn’t the one buying these clothes was no comfort to me any more, because I was doing an even worse thing.  I was the one designing the stuff purely to sell on a mass scale and the guilt was too much to bare.

 

I stayed at my workplace another few years before I found the courage to leave.  It has been an 8 and a half year rollercoaster of success, then realisation, but all made bearable because of the amazing team that I worked with, which made day to day life enjoyable.  In the end, I had stayed such a long time because it was the easier thing to do then to confront my morals and find a new path.  Me leaving was never anything personal against my company because they had always looked after me so well, but I was having problems with the industry as a whole, it’s ethics and it’s wastefulness.

 

In the summer of 2017, I left my workplace to go long-term travelling with Mark.  A 10 month adventure that gave me the time and space to fully think about what I was doing in life and where it could take me.  I had done the hard bit, leaving not only a career but a family behind.  And now that the first steps had been taken, the opportunities seemed endless.  I can’t believe I hadn’t done it before now!

On the road to nowhere...

On the road to nowhere...

 

Travelling for 10 months was probably the best choice we ever made, in some ways even exceeding our decision to get married.  We realised that we could have quite easily stayed on the treadmill of living to work, without ever stepping back to think about whether it was truly what we wanted to do or not.  It’s so easy to get wrapped up in what you are doing, and I knew deep down that designing mass-produced clothing in the fast fashion industry wasn’t right for me any more, but I couldn’t see a path outside of it.  

 

Whilst we were in minus 15 degree weather in a yurt in Mongolia, Mark and I came up with an idea.  “Why don’t we set up a yurt camp of our own back at home.  We could make a really cool experience for people; we could design and make all the furniture, curate all the textiles from our travels, prepare some homemade foods and just give something back to others.”  We had experienced a warming openness from the Mongolian people and wanted to share the ethos back at home.  Although the yurt camp is still our ultimate goal (a very small one mind you with only about 3 yurts in a back garden), it’s going to be a long while before we get there mostly because it’s a big thing to set up, and we currently live in a flat in London.  We would need to sell up, have enough equity to buy a property with some land, and start building some yurts (along with a load of legal jargon that we haven’t even looked into yet!).  So to make this happen in small steps, we first want to set up a furniture/ product business, making and selling things that we have crafted by-hand, that we care about.  These pieces of furniture will hopefully work in our yurt camp one day, or we would have gained enough experience to design and make some new things to go in there anyway.  We want to try to make a living out of making things, and for us it’s not just about the products but the process too.  It’s the opportunity to experiment, to develop our skills and to be creative, maybe to end up as a skillful craftsman, who knows!

Where the idea started..... in a yurt in minus 15 conditions!

Where the idea started..... in a yurt in minus 15 conditions!

 

Ultimately, we are trying to get out of the constraints of working full time for someone else.  We figure that if we have our own business, then maybe we can break out of some of the norms, ie if we want to take a month off to go travelling then we can do that, and hopefully we can find a bit more balance in our day to day lives.  Maybe when we have kids we will both get to spend more time with them, and they will see us being creative at home.  It’s also important to us to be working on something that we both care about that is in line with our moral values.  Surely hand-crafting 30 products a month is much more sustainable then producing 200,000 of them that fewer people care about. 

 

I’m not saying that I have all the answers yet for how I can sustain this ideology, because I am only at the very beginning stages of setting up a business and it’s not currently sustainable (financially anyway), but at least I have the confidence in knowing that I tried to step away from something I didn’t believe in and changed my path.  

 

We’ve got a hell of a long way to go.  Many many hours of working to make this business a success, and hours of doing all the boring stuff that comes with it too like tax returns and paperwork.  But there is also a lot of amazing stuff to look forward….. like being in control of what my day looks like, and having the time to be creative and experiment with cool materials.  I can take time off when I want to, no more holiday approvals or just the statutory 20 days off a year.  Hopefully I will have the satisfaction of knowing that my products are giving someone joy to use, or that our blog is inspiring someone to make those changes too.

 
The first product I have designed and made to sell in our shop!

The first product I have designed and made to sell in our shop!

 

 

I’m not saying this sort of lifestyle is possible for everyone because not everyone is in exactly the same situation as me.  But I do ask you this.... are you happy with your life?  Are there any small changes that you could make to find a more balanced lifestyle?  Perhaps you could work a 4 day week and spend the other day doing something that you truly love, or you could try something new that you have always wanted to do like a course in carpentry.  And even if you don't know what that thing is yet, why don't you give yourself some time to figure it out.  Sometimes the idea of making a change can be scary, or can overwhelmingly take you into a dark hole of anxiety, but I assure you that when you come out the other side there is light and freedom.  You just need to find the courage and believe in yourself to take those first difficult steps……

 

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Jordan: A Bedouin Camp In The Wadi Rum Desert

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As I'm sure you well know, we are avid fans of travelling on a budget.  With only £25 between us per day, we usually opt for the cheapest accommodation possible, eat with the locals, and pick and choose our activities carefully.  We started doing this out of necessity, we had saved up enough money for 10 months and needed to stick to the budget carefully or risk going home early!  But after a few months of doing this, we decided that it was our preferred way to travel.  You meet so many more people when you are trying to save money, whether that be through hitchhiking or eating in cafes with the local folk.

 

But when our friends Dom and Elly came to join us in Jordan on a 4 day holiday, it seemed like a great excuse to take a holiday ourselves away from the paired-back travel life we had grown so accustom to.  We booked a cool-looking Bedouin camp in the Wadi Rum desert on Elly's suggestion, and crossed our fingers that it was going to be worth the splash out.  For 25JD (£26) per night, this is what a Bedouin camp in the Wadi Rum desert looks like......

 

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The journey in......

Our host picks us up from the visitor centre in an open-air truck and we bump along the sandy desert floor, marvelling at our first glimpse of Wadi Rum.  There are a few other 4X4's speeding around, trying to find the best spot for sundown.

 

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The camp

We arrive at our camp just before sundown, the shadows are long and the sands are a stunning shade of orange in the low lighting.  We had booked the cheapest double possible with a shared bathroom, but on arrival we were told that we had been upgraded for free into one of their luxury tents with a panoramic desert view.  It really was our lucky day!

 

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Geometric dreams

No curtains.... just this view for the next 14 hours.  We feel as though we've hit the jackpot.  I don't know about you but I've never stayed anywhere quite as epic as this.  The oversized window makes you feel as though there is nothing between you and nature, that the desert sand almost continues onto your bedroom floor.  

 

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A sunset to remember

Before feasting on a Bedouin dinner, we climb up onto the rocks nearby and silently watch the sun go down.  What's better than nature, the sunsetting, and our friends to share it all with.

 

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Morning meditation

The sun comes up and we are keen to make the most of our time in this incredible place.  We head out for a walk to the mountains ahead, and on our return spend the next 15 minutes meditating in front of this stunning view.  No one's around, it's just us and the landscape.

 

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Bedouin hang out

The central focus in the camp is the fire, and everything else works around it.  There is always 3 pots of tea brewing on the flame; lightly sweetened mint tea, sweetened mint tea, and crazily sweetened mint tea.  I opt for the least sweet option, thinking that it's going to be bearable, but it's so disgustingly sweet that my teeth are furry after only a few sips.... I think I'll pass and avoid any future decay!

 

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The happy traveller

Mark's enjoying the comfort of the open-air camp after 9 months worth of slumming it! Goodbye damp dingy rooms, and welcome tribal fun camp.

 

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Quiet time

On the other side of the camp behind a huge rock, is more seating for those looking for a quiet spot to read in.  In the afternoon this will be flooded with sunshine.

 

 
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ethnic textiles

The Bedouin people make up over a third of the population of Jordan, and are known as animal breeders and herders.  Some even adopt a nomadic way of life, moving at various times of the year for the benefit of their livestock.  It is common to see ethnic textiles like this in hotels and camps around Jordan, and these days it is mostly mass-produced.  Traditionally women would have hand-woven textiles in designs similar to this, and they would have been used to make shelter for their families.  Bedouin camps used to be called 'Beit Al-Sha’ar' which means 'house of hair', for the fact that it was all woven from goats hair.  

 

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Eggs and zataar

For those of you that don't know, zataar is a delicious spice mix popular in Jordan and the middle east.  The locals love to eat it on everything, and after visiting Jordan we shared the same love for it.  For our breakfast we got to eat it with eggs, flatbreads and cheese, lucky us!

 

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A quick tour

We book in for a quick tour of the surrounding area, and try to squeeze in as much as possible before getting back to Amman.  2 hours in the 4X4 sets us back 35JD (£35) between the 4 of us and we get taken to some sand dunes, a viewpoint, to see some ancient rock inscriptions and a carving of Lawrence Of Arabia.  It isn't the best tour we've ever been on, but it's pretty fun riding round the desert at high speeds.  

 

What we say....

A trip to the Wadi Rum desert definitely isn't the cheapest thing to do in Jordan, but actually we think it's worth the splash out for spending at least a night there.  The scenery is just unworldly, the camps are very relaxing, and it's one of those experiences that will stick in your mind for a long time afterwards.  This is where they filmed the 60s classic blockbuster 'Lawrence Of Arabia' and the less classic 'The Martian'.  We were half expecting Matt Damon to pop out from behind a rock and shout..... "Matt Damon".

 

costs involved and how to get there

If you are trying to visit on a budget then just bear in mind that there are a few hidden costs involved; dinner is around 10JD (£10) per person at the camp, but you can bring your own if you want to.  A taxi back to Aqaba costs around 35JD (£35) where you can catch a local bus to Amman.  There is no direct bus to Wadi Rum from either Amman or Aqaba, but you may be able to jump out on the main road if your bus is passing.  On leaving Wadi Rum, you could potentially get to the Desert Highway and try to hitchhike to Aqaba or Amman from there.  Tours cost around 35JD (£35) for a 2 hour ride in a 4X4 and that's to see 4 tourist sights.  Breakfast is free at the camp.  

We stayed at one called 'Wadi Rum Dream Camp' but there are many more around that you can find on booking.com.  We had a free upgrade to stay in their luxury double room tent with a bathroom, and it cost us only 25JD (£26) for the night.  We heard about a couple that booked somewhere to stay online and sadly the camp didn't exist, just make sure there are plenty of reviews and ratings before you book somewhere.

If money isn't an issue for you then we would recommend staying for a few nights unless you are one of those people that gets easily bored.  There are plenty of walks to do around there for free, 4X4 tours, camel riding and just generally chilling out at the camp.  We would love to go back and spend some more time in Wadi Rum.  There is something very special about being in the desert and at the mercy of mother nature.  All in all, it's a very invigorating experience.

If you have any questions then just hit us up in the comment box below!

 

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Jordan - A Bedouin Camp In The Wadi Rum Desert, by Studio Mali
 

 

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Jordan: Patterns And Colours Of Petra's Sands

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When you invisage Petra, you will undoubtedly think of the enormous sandstone carvings of the Treasury and the Monastery, those huge structures that we have seen so many times in photographs as one of The World's 7 Wonders.  

Well for those of you that haven't been, Petra isn't just these two monuments.  It's a site the size of a city and is situated on one of the most fascinating geological sites I have ever been to.  It is expected that 20,000 - 30,000 people used to live there 2500 years ago, and the creators of the site had carefully selected this location based on the beautiful layered sandstone that makes up the rock.

Jordan, Petra - layered coloured sand pattern
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Jordan, Petra - layered coloured sand pattern

Incredibly, this rock was formed up to 540 million years ago by ancient river beds that transported the sand into these layers and patterns.  The colours vary so much due to the chemical break up of minerals in the sand, the reds containing iron and the others with manganese oxides and hydroxide minerals.  I was amazed to see the sands so colourful, the pictures I have seen previously of Petra are really just of tan coloured sand and not much else, so it was such a surprise to see these unique rock formations.  It was honestly like looking at a work of art; an abstract painting with expressive brushstrokes, marbled patterns and layered colours.  I was in my element, exploring the hundreds of caves that make up the site and discovering the natural artworks on nearly every wall.  I probably took about a zillion photos for 'inspiration' which I'm sure Mark wasn't too happy about!

Jordan, Petra - layered coloured sand pattern
Jordan sands 13.jpg
Jordan, Petra - layered coloured sand pattern

Some of the cave tombs use this patterned rock almost like a mural inside, a display of the richness of the land, it's natural beauty and an important marker for the dead.  These intricate wallpapers are something that have stood the test of time and have remained unchanged for the last 540 million years, or so.

Jordan, Petra - layered coloured sand pattern
Jordan, Petra - layered coloured sand pattern
Jordan, Petra - layered coloured sand pattern
Jordan, Petra - layered coloured sand pattern

I am looking at these sandscapes, to me they look like classic asian ink paintings, similar to the wave paintings that we see so much on Japanese scrolls.  The colours however are fierce, beautiful hues of blood red, apricot, mustard, aubergine, nude and then subtly contrasted with grey/blue.  It look so considered, and yet so organic in its form.

Jordan, Petra - layered coloured sand pattern
Jordan, Petra - layered coloured sand pattern

I can't help thinking this would be the perfect inspiration for our next design project.  Perhaps we can incorporate these beautiful patterns and shapes into our furniture somehow, maybe dying wood into these colours, trying to capture some of the organic shapes that make up these naturally-occurring patterns.  

Jordan, Petra - layered coloured sand pattern
Jordan, Petra - layered coloured sand pattern
Jordan, Petra - layered coloured sand pattern

If you do ever get to visit Petra, make sure you allocate enough time to explore the vast geological site and monuments within it.  The locals say that you could spend a week there and see something new every time.  We spent 3 days there in total, and trekked in from Little Petra Siq across the valleys and around the edge of the mountains which was a clear highlight.  The path between Little Petra Siq and Petra is actually part of the Jordan Trail, a trekking route that runs from one length of the country to the other, taking 40 days in total to walk it.  The hike from Little Petra Siq to Petra takes around 3-4 hours and is relatively straight forward, just make sure you take enough water and avoid walking if rain is forecast due to flash flooding.  

 

If you have any questions or need any help on your trip then just let us know and we would be happy to get back to you.

 

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Jordan - Patterns And Colour In Petra's Sands, by Studio Mali
 

 

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Armenia: 8 Things To Do In Yerevan

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Yerevan’s modern aesthetic might just take you by surprise.  Located in the Caucasus, this neat capital city is more Westenised then you might imagine and yet is deeply rooted in a turmoil of history from the barbaric Armenian genocide to over half a decade of repressive soviet rule.  And yet against all odds it has come out the other side, offering a plethora of high quality experiences for the traveller, from delicious traditional foods to well presented museums.  

 

This is the perfect place to visit for the budget backpacker, where you can enjoy a pint of beer in a cafe for as little as 800 dram (£1.20) and entry to some of their top museums for only 1000 dram (£1.50).  We loved Yerevan’s relaxing setting and ended up staying for 5 nights, enjoying the fresh bread from the bakeries and climbing up to the viewpoints over the city.  As far as capital cities go, this one feels very homely and there is plenty of activities to make this a must-visit destination.  Here are our top picks of things to do in Yerevan....

A fun aztec-style carpet in the Centre of Popular Creation

A fun aztec-style carpet in the Centre of Popular Creation

 

Appreciate Armenian Craftsmanship At The Centre of Popular Creation

This small museum is home to some of the finest examples of folk art in Armenia, and holds a strong collection of woodwork, metalwork, textiles, carpets, traditional costume, lace and embroidery.  The collection has developed over the last 90 years and still to this day the museum supports and displays works of current Armenia artists and craftsmen.  We were told that many artefacts were lost during their troubled history, in the years of the genocide and then later in soviet rule, which is why lots on display has been created in a strange time-hoping timeline.  We were particularly impressed with the woodwork, the hand-carvings of geometric patterns and inlays are so intricate and immaculately done that we left feeling very inspired.  The museum is quite small and not very busy, but definitely worth a visit for only 1,000 dram.  Entry is from 11am-5pm and is closed on Mondays.

Intricate wooden inlays and other handicrafts

Intricate wooden inlays and other handicrafts

 

Enjoy A Refined Breakfast At Lavash

Everyone needs a treat once in a while, and what better way to treat yourself than to eat some tasty food in an enjoyable setting.  In warm months you can sit outside and enjoy breakfast in the fresh air, with a coffee in-hand choosing from a menu of delicious sounding dishes.  The mushroom crepe is a must and comes in two parts so you can share with a friend, and the honey, walnut and butter wrap is probably one of the most intense things we have ever eaten!  An insanely sweet pudding with a thick wedge of butter inside.  We didn’t know whether to love it or hate it. 

We’ve heard that the traditional Armenian cheese balls are a hit but didn’t get round to trying them, maybe you can let us know how they were.  The decor is pleasingly natural-looking and considered, imagine speckled plates and crisp glassware neatly laid out on tables.  Generally the portion sizes are quite small, but the richness of the food seems to make up for it, so order an extra plate to share if your budget allows.  Lavash is open 8.30am-12am and they open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Our bill came to £7.85 for 2 dishes and 2 coffees, so not the cheapest, by local standards but great by European. It’s worth the splash out for a high quality experience.

Delicious mushroom crepes with yoghurt dip

Delicious mushroom crepes with yoghurt dip

 

Visit The Armenian Genocide Memorial & Museum

You can’t help leaving the museum with the heaviest heart and anger at what happened a hundred years ago to the Armenian people.  During Turkey’s last empire, The Ottoman Empire, the imploding Young Turks government callously exterminated 1.5 million people in Armenia including men, women, children and the elderly on the basis that they were Christian, which they believed diluted the strong Islamic traditions of the empire.  The Ottoman government used World War I as an opportunity to invade and coverup their atrocities, as they knew the focus would be elsewhere at the time.  It wasn’t until years later that the rest of the world became aware of the scale of the massacre, and it was too late to stop it.  The modern museum is dedicated to explaining the atrocities of the genocide, the invasion by the Ottoman Empire and the devastating impact it had on the people of Armenia.  It’s pretty heavy going as you can imagine, but it’s important to raise of what happened as recognition of the genocide.  The museum is situated on the top of the hill on the western side of Yerevan city and has an amazing view of Mt Ararat, along with a contemporary metal sculptural memorial marking the remembrance of the genocide.  Entry is free and is open from 11am - 4pm, closing on Mondays.

The stark genocide memorial sculpture

The stark genocide memorial sculpture

 

Have A Rummage At Vernissage Market

This open air handicraft market covers handmade, mass produced and second-hand Armenian products, from laser cut wooden items to resin jewellery, and antique brassware to musical instruments.  It makes for an interesting afternoons stroll wondering down the long market lanes browsing the wears.  Some of the products are standard tourist fair, but actually lots of the stalls are offering something different from one another.  Refreshingly, the sellers are not too pushy, maybe just keen to show you their items if you vest some interest.  There are a number of locals selling antique Armenian carpets and throws, many of which are in mint condition and are as old as a century.  Another highlight is seeing the hand painted artworks by the local artists.  The content of the artworks is generally quite traditional, so expect to see fruit bowls, landscapes, cheesy horses running through water etc, but occasionally you’ll see someone doing things a bit differently.  It’s best to visit at the weekend when more sellers turn out, and if you are looking to do a bit of haggling this may not be the place.  The price given does tend to be the final price but there’s no harm in trying to get a better deal.  The market is open 7am - 6pm daily.

Rugs, rugs and more rugs!

Rugs, rugs and more rugs!

 

Eat Lahmacun With The Locals

If you don’t already know, Lahmacun is a delicious flatbread with a spicy layer of meat on top and is served like a pizza.  You can get Lahmancuns in many neighbouring countries but in Armenia they are also known as Armenian pizza.  The locals love eating this as a snack, and they like to fold each slice over before taking a bite.  If you head to the restaurant next to Lavash on Tumanyan street, you will see many locals eating Lahmacuns there, and if meats not your thing then they also do a vege alternative with Zatar (middle eastern herbs, sesame seeds and oil) on bread.  Both pizzas are utterly morish, and for 900 dram and 750 dram, you really can’t go wrong.  If you also fancy a pint to wash it down then they sell draught beer for 800 dram, which is cheap for Yerevan.

Zataar flatbread pizza, yum!

Zataar flatbread pizza, yum!

 

Get Up To Date At The History Museum Of Armenia

This national museum holds the largest collection of historical artefacts in Armenia, many of which were discovered in 1950’s when the water level at lake Sevan decreased by 20 meters in height and revealed acres of unseen before land.  The museum collection is extensive and consists of Bronze Age artefacts, ceramics, arms and weapons, information on the Armenian genocide, and an incredible wooden chariot excavated from Lchashen near the lake.  The signage is generally good and each room has an information board explaining the timeline of events and all other relevant info.  It’s strictly no photography inside the museum and there are many invigilators walking round to enforce the rule.  Entry is 2,000 dram for adults and the museum is open 11am-6pm daily but closed on Mondays.

No photos inside, so the entrance it is then.

No photos inside, so the entrance it is then.

 

Try Some Traditional Dishes At Tavern Yerevan

This restaurant popular with the locals is a great place to get to know Armenian cuisine as the menu is extensive, the dishes are freshly prepared and the prices are affordable.  There are a few of these restaurants scattered around Yerevan and the one we went to on Teryan street had an open bakery kitchen where you could see some very skilled workers baking the bread that they serve, rolling out flat breads the size of small tables and putting them into a tandoori oven in the ground.  We were mesmerised by the speed that they were making them and ordered a bread basket for only 300 dram to sample the yummy goodies.  The plates are starter size so you can order a few to share, or a couple for yourself if you are dining solo. You will leave feeling very full after two plates. We went for the pumpkin soup (which was deliciously creamy), tabouleh salad (very well seasoned), stuffed aubergines and bread which came to 4,400 dram between two people. That’s really not bad for fresh food, bready entertainment and great service.  The only problem you will have here is choosing from the 20 page picture menu!  Tavern Yerevan is open daily from 10am-12am.

Homemade breads, Tabouleh salad and stuffed aubergines

Homemade breads, Tabouleh salad and stuffed aubergines

 

Climb The Cascade Complex

This impressive outdoor limestone staircase offers incredible views of Yerevan city and the stunning Mt Ararat.  It was designed in the early 70s during the Soviet rule and was only completed in 2009, 18 years after it Armenia became its own republic.  The structure is unique in style, like nothing I have ever seen before, and has a strange contemporary yet minimal Soviet theme.  Water fountains are formed by 3D geometric patterns protruding from the limestone, with half circle curves that look like they’ve been borrowed from an Art Deco building.  The water fountains weren’t on when we visited, which perhaps even added to the oddness of the design.  The climb up the giant staircase might be a challenge for some, so take a few breaks and enjoy the view of the city behind you.  If you don’t feel like walking then you can jump on one of the seven escalators that run up the inside.  This is a must-see when in Yerevan and is free to access.  The monument is open at all times of day and night.

Sculpture in the Cascade Complex, Yerevan, Armenia

 

We really wanted to visit the Cafesjian Centre For The Arts but run out of time on our visit, so if you are into contemporary art then why not pop into this gallery at the same time as seeing the Cascade Complex (it’s situated just inside).

 

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Armenia - 8 Things To Do In Yerevan, by Studio Mali
 

 

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