A really long list of things to do in Budapest

By |2018-11-05T22:19:21+00:00December 16th, 2016|Destination, Europe, Hungary, Popular, UNESCO sites, Urban, Weekend Trips|36 Comments

Budapest, Hungary

Admit it, I got you hooked with that title, right? Really makes you want to read this looooong and probably overly wordy blog post. But I promise it’s not half as bad as it sounds.

Budapest is an interesting city, you see. And it’s been on my radar for what seems like an eternity. This summer during my Interrail trip through Europe, I finally made it there and it was hands-down worth the wait.

So, what’s so special about Budapest, you ask? Well first of all, coming from Vienna I couldn’t help notice how alike these two capitals are. Vienna is super classy, whereas Budapest is a bit more vintage… or rough around the edges shall we say; things are more old and retro and it’s definitely cheaper!

Also, Budapest is really two cities: Buda and Pest. They were only joined in 1873, though still separated by the Danube river. Let’s take a look at Buda first.

MORE HUNGARY TRAVEL TIPS: GET MAPS, ITINERARIES AND HUNGARIAN PHRASES

BUDA SIDE

If Buda and Pest were twins, Buda would be the classy one. Hilly Buda is full of elegant architecture such as Gellért Bath, Buda Castle, Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church (and my favorite restaurant in Budapest: “Pest-Buda Bistro”). The area is calm and serene, and you can see everything in less than a day, although I ended up going here every day. Other things to see on the Buda side includes:

  • Buda’s caves (Szemlgőhegyi and Pálvölgyi)
  • Wolf Meadow cemetery
  • Park area

FISHERMAN’S BASTION

I stayed at the Pest side, where there’s a little more action, but first thing on my Budapest agenda was to visit the famous Fisherman’s Bastion on the Buda side. Fisherman’s Bastion (aka The Halászbástya in Hungarian) is a terrace in neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque style situated on Castle hill.

If you’ve seen photos of Budapest, you’ve probably come across this image once or twice ↓

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest, Hungary

Fisherman’s Bastion was built in the late 1800s to celebrate the 1000-year anniversary of the founding of Hungary. Aside from its impressive seven towers, it also has the best views of Budapest. You can see the Danube River, the Széchenyi Chain Bridge and the very impressive Hungarian Parliament Building from here.

Tip: If you’re a sunrise and sunset lover like me, you’ll want to be at the Fisherman’s Bastion in the morning for the sunrise. You get the best sunset view from the Chain bridge on the opposite side.

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest, Hungary

View of the Hungarian Parliament Building

See? I wasn’t kidding about the view.

Budapest, Hungary

MATTHIAS CHURCH

The colourful Matthias church is conveniently located right next to Fisherman’s Bastion so getting lost was not an issue for me this time around 

The church is over 700 years old and the vibrant ceramic roof is made of tiles from the renowned Zsolnay factory of Hungary. It’s super impressive and detailed!

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest, Hungary

BUDA CASTLE

A few minutes walk from the Fisherman’s Bastion is the Buda Castle. I didn’t go inside; I’m not even sure it’s allowed now that I think of it. I know for a fact that some sections of the castle are open, but I think the Royal Palace is closed off.

Budapest, Hungary

GELLÉRT THERMAL BATH

After visiting the castle district, I picked up my swimsuit and headed to one of the famous Budapest baths. The choice between Gellért bath and Széchenyi Bath (the most famous) wasn’t easy, but I ended up going to Gellért because of its famous Art Nouveau entrance hall and architecture.

Many of Budapest’s thermal baths lie on the Buda side, and while the baths in Buda tend to be more upscale and luxurious, those in Pest are more popular.

Thermal baths on the Buda side:

  • Gellért Bath (5100 HUF / $17 for entrance)
  • Rudas Bath (3200 HUF / $11 for entrance)
  • Kiraly Medicinal Bath (2700 HUF / $9 for entrance)

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest, Hungary

THE SZÉCHENYI CHAIN BRIDGE

Buda and Pest are separated by the mighty Danube river, and no less than eight bridges link the two city parts. The most well-known of these bridges is the Széchenyi Chain Bridge – high-five if you can pronounce that correctly! I got a really good view of Budapest from the bridge, including the Castle district and the Hungarian Parliament.

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest, Hungary

Two incredible stone lions guard the bridge at both sides

RIVER DANUBE

The Danube is Europe’s second-longest river and its banks in Budapest are a part of Unesco World Heritage sites. A very popular way to explore the city and watch the top sights is by taking a river cruise during the day or the evening.

Budapest, Hungary

I took this photo from Buda Castle

Budapest, Hungary

View from the Chain Bridge

Budapest, Hungary

Also from the Chain Bridge

Budapest, Hungary

The view from the Hungarian Parliament Building

PEST SIDE

Pest, Buda’s flat but hip twin, has a thriving nightlife, business and culture scene and a whole lot of sights. The most important being the Hungarian Parliament Building, but it also hosts tons of churches, vibrant restaurants, thermal baths and other interesting landmarks, including:

  • Thermal baths (Széchenyi Baths and Dagály Baths)
  • Central Market Hall (You can also do a food tour here)
  • Vajdahunyad Castle
  • The House of Terror

SHOES ON THE DANUBE

On a more serious note, I was faced with a very moving memorial while walking along the Danube promenade. The shoes on the Danube banks tell the horrific war story of the many jews who, during 1944-1945, were forced to strip naked on the banks of the Danube and face the river. A firing squad then shot the prisoners at close range in the back so that they fell into the river to be washed away.

The shoes are a fitting tribute to all those who lost their lives, but also a sad reminder of a very dark time.

Budapest, Hungary

HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT

Right next to the Shoes on the Danube is the magnificent Hungarian Parliament, the third largest parliament building in the world. And grand it is.

The Neo-Gothic building is open to visitors for a 45-50 minute tour at specific times every day, but only when the assembly is not in session.

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest, Hungary

View from Buda Castle

Budapest, Hungary

View from Buda Castle

NEW YORK CAFÉ

The New York Café prides itself of being the most beautiful café in the world. I live in the land of cafes and I must say that I tend to agree.

This café is extremely popular and very grandeur. It’s located inside Boscolo Budapest Hotel and basically looks like the place a Queen would sip her afternoon tea. So yeah, the New York Café is not exaggerating when it calls itself beautiful.

Budapest, Hungary

ALEXANDRA CAFE

However…. I found a similar version and much less crowded alternative to the New York Café. It’s actually a library, but behind the books is this Art Nouveau palace room with a fresco-style ceiling, chandeliers and a black-suited pianist. It’s called Alexandra Café.

I personally prefered Alexandra Café over New York, because it’s smaller, more low-key and much less popular. It seemed like a local spot, a hidden gem among all the touristy sights. And they have great pastries. Need I say more?

Budapest, Hungary

INDULGE IN THE FOOD

Staying on subject, I was quite taken by the food scene in Budapest. I mean, wow. And before you say anything… yes, it is a Greek dish you’re looking at, but bear with me for a second here. Budapest is a foodie town and it packs a punch when it comes to International food (including Greek) and Hungarian food. If you like paprika, sausage and goulash, you will like the local cuisine! I found out by joining this food tour, which I highly recommend.

Hungarian food, Budapest

STATE OPERA HOUSE

I just made a pit stop at the State Opera, which offers tours once or twice a day. It’s very up-scale and beautiful inside so I kind of wish I hadn’t been 1 hour late for the last tour 

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest, Hungary

STAY AT ARIA HOTEL BUDAPEST

What I did manage though was finding a classy and luxurious boutique hotel to spend the night. Budapest has quite a few luxury hotels, and I was fortunate to get a room at the majestic Aria Hotel Budapest, which is conveniently located right next to St. Stephens’ Basilica (aka it was super central). In all honesty, this one of the best hotels I’ve ever stayed at.

Click here to see the latest prices.

Budapest, Hungary

Lobby at the Four Seasons

Budapest, Hungary

The music inspired Aria Hotel

ST. STEPHENS BASILICA

My awesome location had me close to all the good restaurants and only 10 minutes walk from the Széchenyi Chain Bridge and Hungarian Parliament. My neighbor was St. Stephens Basilica (also known as Szent István-bazilika), a Roman Catholic church and also the largest church in Budapest.

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest, Hungary

The Neo-classical church was finished in 1905

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest, Hungary

View from Aria Hotel

THE JEWISH QUARTER

While walking to the train station I suddenly found myself in the Jewish quarter. It was a walled ghetto during World War II, but today it’s home to a vibrant Jewish culture including the grand Dohány Street Synagogue.

Aside from a hefty entrance fee and a veeeery slow cashier lady (it took us almost 30 minutes to get through an annoyingly small line), I was impressed by the synagogue once I got past the metal detector and inside. I learned that the Grand Synagogue is the largest in Europe and second largest in the world. The area around it is interesting as well, so in the end I was glad to visit and learn the history.

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest, Hungary

THE FUNKY RUIN BARS

In walking distance of the Dohány Street Synagogue, I found one of Budapest’s ruin bars. These so-called ruin bars are abandoned spaces turned into clubs by locals with second-hand furniture and lots of creativity.

It’s a world apart from the extravagant New York Café or Fisherman’s Bastion, but that’s exactly what I like about Budapest. It’s so versatile and vibrant, and there’s something for any taste.

Budapest, Hungary

Szimpla Kert

Budapest, Hungary-33

Budapest, Hungary

TAKE THE METRO

I know this isn’t exactly a sight, but it’s an experience nonetheless. I mostly took busses or the tram around town, but occasionally I took the metro just for the fun of it. It’s really, really old. Not like in a bad shape or anything, but it’s just so retro.

Budapest, Hungary

PHOTOGRAPH BUDAPEST AT NIGHT

Budapest might just be one of the most popular places for night photography. If only I had known this before deciding not to bring my tripod – gaaarrh! Whether you’re a photographer or not, Budapest really lights up at night and it’s particularly stunning at the Danube where you have the best view of the landmarks.

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest, Hungary

At the end of the day, I only have praises for Budapest. I really, really like this city! It’s the perfect combo of cheap and luxe, the food is awesome and there’s lots of history and beautiful things to do in Budapest. I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely going back.

Budapest, Hungary

So, would you visit Budapest? It’s cheap and hip, let’s go, let’s go!

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Budapest, Hungary is the perfect combo of cheap and luxe, the food is awesome and there’s lots of history and beautiful things to do in the Hungarian capital. Get a list of all the best sights here.

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36 Comments

  1. Suzanne December 17, 2016 at 6:50 pm - Reply

    Hi Miriam:

    Just a quick note to let you know how much I enjoyed your blog about Budapest today. Your photographs are beautiful. I was fortunate to have visited Budapest on a river cruise a few years back, but from your blog entry, it looks like I missed a lot of good stuff! Now I must go back again. I love Budapest because it’s so unique.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Miriam December 18, 2016 at 1:41 pm - Reply

      I’m so glad to hear that, Suzanne. Thank you! I didn’t get to do the river cruise this time around, but I’ve heard it’s amazing. There’s definitely lots more to see for a second visit!

  2. Rachel December 17, 2016 at 10:45 pm - Reply

    What a great post! Budapest is one of my favorite cities! Also, your photos are fantastic!

    • Miriam December 18, 2016 at 2:00 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Rachel! xx Budapest is lovely!

  3. Leigh | Campfires & Concierges December 18, 2016 at 7:23 pm - Reply

    What a beautiful city, and lovely photos!

    • Miriam December 18, 2016 at 7:40 pm - Reply

      Thank you, Leigh! If you’re ever around these parts, I recommend going to Budapest. It’s so cheap compared to the rest of Europe, not to mention beautiful.

  4. Stephanie Craig December 21, 2016 at 10:59 pm - Reply

    I was just in Vienna and it got me SUPER curious about Budapest. Before I got to Austria, I had taken forgrated the Austro-Hungarian history. I pinned this for when I make it to Hungary.

    Thanks!

    • Miriam December 22, 2016 at 10:30 am - Reply

      Thanks, Stephanie! If you liked Vienna, you’ll love Budapest. It’s very similar, only cheaper 🙂

  5. Andrew December 30, 2016 at 9:10 am - Reply

    What an outstanding city … can’t wait until I get a chance to visit!

    • Miriam December 30, 2016 at 10:21 am - Reply

      Do go, you won’t regret it! Budapest is awesome!

  6. Danielle January 8, 2017 at 10:19 am - Reply

    Love this post! We’re headed to Budapest at the end of the month and are super excited! Thank you for sharing tips!

    • Miriam January 8, 2017 at 5:30 pm - Reply

      How exciting! Budapest is amazing so I’m sure you’ll have a great time there 🙂

  7. Jolene January 31, 2017 at 11:56 am - Reply

    Totally love this! So glad I found you through Instagram!! I’ll be sure to include this in my itinerary for July

    • Miriam January 31, 2017 at 12:14 pm - Reply

      I’m glad you found me, too! 🙂 Budapest is epic, and the food…. mhhm!

  8. Susan March 9, 2017 at 10:33 pm - Reply

    Loved this post, really gave some good insight into Budapest! What camera did you use to take these photos?

    • Miriam March 9, 2017 at 10:44 pm - Reply

      I’m really glad to hear that, Susan! Thanks for reading.

      I use a Canon EOS 750D for photos.

  9. Alana March 17, 2017 at 1:42 pm - Reply

    Amazing post! I am spending a month in Budapest very soon and this is giving me so much to look forward to!

    • Miriam March 19, 2017 at 12:01 am - Reply

      I’m glad to hear that, Alana! Have a great time in Budapest, it’s an amazing city!

  10. Chloe May 17, 2017 at 2:36 pm - Reply

    I’m going next month and can’t wait to use this post! Also, what was that ruin bar called that you posted about?

    • Miriam May 24, 2017 at 6:56 pm - Reply

      So glad to hear that, Chloe! I’m not sure of the name, but it’s located in the Jewish quarter – it’s easy to find 🙂

      • Patrick October 24, 2018 at 6:34 am - Reply

        Szimpla Kert is the name of the ruin pub featured above – it’s also converted to a farmer’s market on Sunday mornings.

        • Miriam November 5, 2018 at 10:17 pm - Reply

          Thanks for pitching in, Patrick!

  11. Lisa May 25, 2017 at 2:56 am - Reply

    I spent five days in Budapest before we left for Vienna. I loved it. Great food and lovely places and loads to see. And cheap!! Thanks for the pics. It brought back lots of good memories of our trip in September.

    • Miriam May 26, 2017 at 3:09 pm - Reply

      Glad you enjoyed it, Lisa! I’m definitely up for a return-visit to Budapest soon, it’s a beautiful city.

  12. Elizabeth Newcamp June 2, 2017 at 2:48 pm - Reply

    Love this so much. Thanks for all your wonderful idea. I’m headed to Budapest in October and can’t wait to check this all out. So many great ideas.

    • Miriam June 7, 2017 at 8:59 pm - Reply

      I’m so glad to hear that, Elizabeth! Have an amazing time in Budapest 🙂

  13. Sam DeCampo August 23, 2017 at 5:40 pm - Reply

    I’ve been to Budapest but I absolutely want to go back. My girlfriend and I rented an apartment across the alley from the opera house. It was a very positive experience and a great introduction to world travel. The people were happy and the city was very beautiful and vibrating with energy. It’s also very affordable. We’ll definitely use some of your tips on our next visit. Cheers.

    • Miriam August 23, 2017 at 9:55 pm - Reply

      Glad to hear you had a great trip. I was really smitten with Budapest too and had an amazing experience there. It definitely deserves a revisit.

  14. Budapest Man June 6, 2018 at 7:31 pm - Reply

    Wonderful pictures and text. You are best traveler!

  15. Kenny McLean October 2, 2018 at 2:11 am - Reply

    I found your blog when researching a visit in a couple of weeks.
    I just wanted to say thanks for so many tips.
    My wife and I can’t wait to follow in your footsteps

    • Miriam October 10, 2018 at 2:14 pm - Reply

      You’re very welcome, Kenny! I hope you and your wife have an amazing trip to Budapest 🙂

  16. Alex Stan October 8, 2018 at 11:02 pm - Reply

    Hi, I don’t usually comment on blogs but I just wanted to say that I stumbled upon this post and was swept away, your photos are fantastic! This has helped me so so much with my Budapest itinerary. Thanks, Alex x

    • Miriam October 10, 2018 at 8:03 pm - Reply

      Alex, thanks so much, that’s really kind of you. I’m so glad you found it helpful!

  17. Ingrid October 10, 2018 at 1:59 pm - Reply

    Wow, I will write down Alexandra Cafe for my next week’s visit! I would take the less crowded places at any point in time, the place still looking amazing from your picture.

    • Miriam October 10, 2018 at 8:04 pm - Reply

      Great idea! I personally liked it better than New York cafe, it was much more low key but still really impressive.

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