Ultimate Travel Guide : Best Things To In Budapest
Budapest was one city I was most excited to visit during my backpacking trip to Europe. Frankly speaking, I don’t remember how my fascination for this city begun but I dreamt about it since my early 20s. Maybe it was through movies, or scrolling through instagram, but I was oddly drawn to it. And I am sure after reading this travel guide : ‘best things to do in Budapest’, you will be too !
When I visited in August, 2019 I insanely fell in love with it.
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Budapest is a dynamic mix of Eastern and Western Europe. From energetic ruin bars to thermal baths, delicious food from all corners of the world to impressive coffee, from historic landmarks to excellent shopping, Hungarian capital has something for everyone.
How To Reach Budapest ?
- Fly ✈️; The Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport (BUD) is located around 16km from the main city centre. Best and the cheapest way to get to the centre from the airport is either by a bus 200E or a train 200E, fare is 350 HUF and 300 HUF each.
- Train 🚆; There are 3 main international railway stations in Budapest: Eastern (Keleti), Western (Nyugati) and Southern (Déli). All three are connected by city’s metro, making it super easy to get around anywhere from the main train stations.
- Bus 🚌; The main bus stop is Népliget Bus Station. If you are travelling from nearby European cities, this could be the cheapest way to reach Budapest.
- River cruise ⛴️; If you are coming from Bratislava or Vienna, you can also take a river cruise to Budapest. Takes around 3-5 hours and cost 90€.
Read More : Best Budapest Christmas Markets 2019
Getting Around In Budapest
Walking probably is the best way to discover any new city and Budapest is no different. Most of the tourist attractions, cafes, bars, and thermal baths are within walking distance ( located in district 1,5,6 and 7 ) except Széchenyi Thermal Baths for which you will need to use public transport.
Public transport is pretty decent. Buses, metros, trams, and trolleybuses connect most of the city. A single ticket is 350 HUF ( 450 HUF if bought from the driver on some lines) but mostly you will need to buy the tickets before boarding. It can be bought from metro stations, tobacco shops, newsagents and vending machines at many trams and bus stops.
Remember; Each time you board a new vehicle you need to validate a new ticket. Transfers with the same ticket are only allowed on the metro lines. (Don’t make the same mistake as I did, was fined with 8350 HUF for this)
You can also get a 24 hours|72 hours |7 days pass for 1650 HUF |4150 HUF |4950 HUF.
How Many Days Do You Need ?
Ideally, I will suggest 3-4 days. In this, you can easily explore most of the Buda and Pest areas, see the main attractions, enjoy few thermal baths and get a good feel of the city. If you are a little rushed, you can still cover the main attractions in 2 days’ time.
Get Insured Before Traveling To Budapest
I never ever travel abroad without a travel insurance. Really ! In case something goes wrong , you must have a travel insurance. Frankly speaking, it will be stupid to head off to a new destination without one.
I will recommend World Nomads. Simply because they are backed by reputable insurers, 24-hour assistance providers and offer travel insurance to travellers from over 140 countries.
Even if you don’t get one from World Nomads, make sure to get your travel insurance sorted before you actually start traveling.
Best Time To Visit
Winters are really cold and gloomy. Average temperature hovers around freezing and nighttime lows are in single digit sometime in minus. Probably not the best time to visit. I will avoid December, January and February.
High season months are June, July and August. Temperature is pleasant but this also brings in heavy crowd. Prices on food, accommodation and attractions will be little higher.
I will suggest visiting in September, October and early November or April, May and early June. Great thing about shoulder season is limited number of tourist, nice weather, good price on accommodation and everything else.
Where To Stay ?
Budapest is actually made up of two cites : Buda on one side of the Danube river and Pest on the other. Main attractions on Buda side :- Buda Castle, Matthias Church, Fishermen’s Bastion, Royal Palace and most of the thermal baths. Pest Side has the famous Hungarian National Parliament, St. Stephen’s Basilica, Great Market Hall, The Great Synagogue, Széchenyi Baths and Danube Bank.
There are around 23 districts in Budapest. Here are my recommendations;
Regardless of where you are staying in these 5 districts, most of the attractions could be reached on foot.
PS- If you are new to Airbnb, use my code and get €38 off on your first booking.
- District I ( Castle Hill ) ; Located on the Buda side of the river, this area as I mentioned earlier has some of the prime attractions. Mostly a residential area thus you can expect this to be peaceful at night. The neighborhood is filled with colorful buildings, cobblestone streets and traditional cafés. Thanks to the hilly layout, this neighborhood also has stunning panoramic views of the Danube and Pest.
- District V (Budapest Downtown); This is the heart of the city. It’s a bustling area filled with tons of bars, cafes, restaurants, souvenir shops, and the majority of Budapest’s main attractions. There are plenty of budget hostels and some good hotels to choose from. I stayed at Hostel Maverick. In terms of location and cleanliness, it was 10/10. I will highly recommend it. Great value for money.
- District VI ; Adjacent to district 5, this neighborhood is very lively yet relatively quiet. It has more of a local feel than district 5 which is extremely touristy now. The highlight for me was iconic Andrássy Avenue. Some even call this elegant boulevard as the Champs Elysees of Budapest.
- District VII (Jewish District) ; This is a small but very busy area. Touted to have the city’s best bars and clubs, so if you are looking to dance the night away, this is the neighborhood for you. The Great Synagogue of Budapest, which I feel is a must, is located here.
- District VIII ; If you are looking to stay among locals, I will suggest this neighbourhood. Less touristy still close to the main centre. It also has city’s largest university, thus lot of student crowd in the area. Well not the liveliest nightlife but plenty of casual eateries, cafes and restaurants could be found here.
Being Vegan/Vegetarian In Budapest
Budapest was the most vegan/vegetarian friendly cities in Europe I have been to. Although authentic Hungarian cuisine is dominated by meat, yet this city has a lot to offer for plant based foodies. Maybe its because of the growing vegan culture among youth or probably because of huge number of tourist visiting the city, for whatever reasons you won’t have to look hard to find delicious variety of vegetarian/ vegan food in Budapest.
Here are few of my favourites ;
- VEGA CITY ; This has to be my number one. Everything Vegan you could imagine, you will find it here. Asian, burgers, sushi, curries and local pottages. They also serve meat free versions of traditional Hungarian dishes like goulash and popular gyros.
- VEGAŻŻI ; This one is located at Ankert Ruin Pub. Offer vegan variety of the southern Italian dishes. Try thin-crust Neapolitan pizza, so so so good..
- KARAVAN ; This is a food court located in jewish quarter. Las Vegan is the food truck you will find here. They offer delicious seitan and veggie based burgers. Ask for sweet potato fries as a side, umm drooling.
- Lángos ;
This is a Hungarian food speciality, a deep-fried dough, made into a round, flat shape topped with cheese, sour cream and garlic. God its delicious ! You can find them at plenty of places as its very popular among tourist.
Best Things To Do & See In Budapest
Budapest is often called as Paris of the East and after being there I can see why. Beautiful architecture, elegant boulevards and bustling streets are bound to take your heart away.
Here are best things to do and see while in Budapest ;
- Buda Castle (Castle Hill)
Also known as the royal castle, built in 1700s this marvellous piece of architecture sits atop of castle hill. Since Hungary doesn’t have any living king or queen, this castle is home to the Hungarian National Gallery and The Budapest History Museum.
Advice; Entry to the castle district is free, this includes the entire premise of the castle but not the interiors. If you are interested you can book the guided tour.
- Matthias Church (Castle Hill)
One of the most beautiful landmark of castle district is Matthias church. Interestingly, it’s foundation was laid by the first Hungarian king, today it’s among the most touristy sights of the city. Mainly famous for its gorgeous tiled roof, this church also venues classical concerts every month. You can check for the dates here, if thats something you are interested in.
- Fishermen’s Bastion (Castle Hill)
One of the most instagrammable spot in Budapest, located next to the Matthias church and holy trinity square. There is no admission fee if you want to walk around the cloister, but to get to the tower, ticket is 700HUF. Although the bastian itself isn’t big but the view of the Danube and Budapest city is breathtaking.
Pro Tip: To get perfect picture, beating the crowd go early in the morning, right after sunrise.
- Danube Promenade
Banks of the river Danube are listed among UNESCO World Heritage Site. Budapest promenade lies on pest side of the city between Széchenyi Chain Bridge and Erzsébet Bridge. Any trip to Budapest is incomplete without spending some time at this gorgeous Danube. You can also see majority of attractions from here.
Its here you will find ‘memorial for the jews’ of Budapest who lost their lives during the world warII.
Often you will find people taking selfie here, which is little disrespectful, as it’s a memorial for dead people and definitely not a spot for instagram. Its important to be considerate and thoughtful about these things while traveling.
- Great Synagogue
Centre of Neolog Judaism, this the largest synagogue of Europe. Its located in Jewish district of Budapest (district VII). The entry fee is 4000HUF. Official Website
- Hungarian Parliament
It’s the third largest parliament in the world and the most notable landmark of Hungary. Located at the banks of Danube on pest side of Budapest. Loud gothic architecture is impossible to miss. Although anyone can admire its gorgeous facade from outside, a real treat is in visiting from inside.
You can also book a guided tour in advance.
- House Of Terror
This may sound like a haunted house but it’s not. This is a museum to commemorate the victims of Nazi and communist regime in Hungary. The building was a former headquarter of Nazi party and its basement was used as a prion.
Tip: Being in the same room where thousands of people were imprisoned and tortured could be really overwhelming. If you are little sensitive it may take a toll. Plan on going later in the evening, and give yourself few moments to recover.
- St. Stephen Basilica
This neo classical cathedral is the largest church in Hungary, originally built in memory of Hungary’s first King. More than a cathedral itself, views from the top were real highlight for me. Go here for the highest 360-degree views of the city.
Entry to the church is free but to get to the top deck, there is a nominal charge of 500HUF.
- Margaret Island
In the middle of Danube, is 2.5 km lush green Island. A perfect getaway from the hustle bustle of main city. You will find many locals coming here for picnics and other recreational activities. I would describe this as Budapest’s own central park.
- Great Market Hall
This is a 3 storey central market located at the end of Szabadsag Bridge, on the famous shopping street Váci utca. Anything local you could imagine, most likely you’ll find it here. From range of Hungarian paprikas, to sausages and salamis, from fresh local vegetables and fruits to dry fruits, from art and craft to fabrics and embroidery.
Its an amazing place to get the feel of Hungarian culture. Not only popular among tourist but locals also prefer to shop here.
- Thermal Baths
No trip to Budapest is complete without dipping into at-least one of these thermal baths. In fact Budapest is sometimes refereed to as ‘the city of baths’ as it has more than 100 natural hot springs beneath it.
Many of these baths are century old, in fact even roman have enjoyed these baths. Since hammam style baths were famous in Ottoman empire, turks have built many Turkish style baths in Budapest which are still in operation like Rudas Baths, Király Baths, and Veli Bej Baths.
There are plenty of modern style baths as well ( built around 100 years ago ). The two most famous ones are ; Széchenyi and Gellért . ( Ticket including cabin and a locker is around 4500HUF-6000HUF ). I went to Széchenyi, found it extremely relaxing. I will advice going early in the morning when its relatively less busy.
Pro tip: Budapest’s most famous baths can get busy, as both locals and tourists visit them. Go early in the day, and/or purchase skip the line ticket in advance to help things go smoothly.
- Ruin Bars
These are cool, artisty, funky and hip drinking joints built in the ruins of abandoned buildings, shops, stores and more. From outside they look like a regular home, no loud music or long queue of people. But once you enter you will be surprised with the lively environment. Don’t miss this experience. Having few drinks in these ruin bars is a must when in Budapest.
Most of the ruin bars are located in old jewish district of the city. Each bar has its own personality. The most famous one is Szimpla Kert located at Kazinczy utca .
Pro Tip: If you are visiting first time I will suggest taking a pub crawl. Not only you can experience few of these bars in one night but also a good way to meet new people and have a great time ! You can book one here.
Hopefully this will help you in planning your Budapest trip more successfully !!
Still have some questions ? Don’t worry… Just leave it in a comment down below or write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would be happy to answer them😉😁
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