Budapest is beautiful, fun, and affordable. It has a great mixture of nightlife, food, sightseeing, and relaxation. This city should be on everyone’s bucket list.
Where to Stay:
I guess it depends on what experience you’re looking for. The Danube River divides Budapest into “Buda” and “Pest”.
The Buda side of town is more laid back and probably better for families and older people. Attractions there include the Royal Palace and Fisherman’s Bastion.
The Pest side of town is probably better for most people who want to be close to all of the action. This area is the heart of shopping and night life. I stayed in an Air BNB in District VI. It was perfect, because most attractions, restaurants, and nightlife were within walking distance. District V and District VII are also good options. District VII is where most of the bars are.
What to See:
Fisherman’s Bastion: This is on Castle Hill on the Buda side of town. It’s a viewing terrace that overlooks the Danube River. The architecture is absolutely breathtaking but the views are equally as stunning. There’s also a little cafe up there next to the arches. I had a Palinka cocktail at a cafe there, and it was one of my favorite moments of the trip. [As a side note, Palinka is a Hungarian liquor. The menu made it sound like a sangria, but it most certainly is not that. It’s more like a fruity brandy.]
Thermal Baths: There are a few baths Széchenyi, Rudas, and Gellert. I only made it to Széchenyi, the largest spa complex in Europe. I thought it was lovely but my friends thought it was dirty. It was less than $20 to enter. It’s some fine architectural work and the medicinal springs are filled with water from deep within the earth filled with all these minerals. Couldn’t tell you what minerals these are, but I know they’re great for you and I left feeling relaxed and refreshed. I was so sore from walking 10-13 miles a day around the city and it felt like miracle water to me.
Danube River: There are tons of cruises that line the river but also lot of boat restaurants. We opted for a night cruise that was included with our hop on hop off ticket. It was lovely to see the city lit up at night. They served alcohol on board too.
Heroe’s Square: Right near the famous Szechenyi baths is Heroe’s Square. It’s a large plaza with a center column and statues throughout.
Funicular – You can take a tram car up the mountain. It’s a super quick trip and lets you off right by Buda Castle and other beautiful scenary. You can see the whole Pest side of town – bridges, Parliament, etc.
Other things to Consider: Opera House, Parliament, Museum of Terror (if that’s your thing), Synagogue, St Stephan’s Basilica, Buda Castle, Budapest eye (ferris wheel).
I will preface this by saying I was in Budapest mid-week. But the night life was still booming. It seems to be acceptable to go out every night of the week. However, the majority of late night party goers were definitely college aged students and tourists. I’m sure it’s entirely different on the weekend. But either way, it’s fun!
Budapest is famous for its Ruinous pubs. These are concentrated in District VII and are bars in run down buildings that each have their own unique flair to them. It kind of reminded me of Rainey Street in Austin Texas. The main night life streets are Kiraly Street and Kazinczy Street.
- Szimpla Kent – probably the most famous ruin pub and a must see. It’s the first one created. It’s located in a run down building with a court yard and some weird decor from a hanging gnome to a Barbie straddling a keg.
- Gozdu Uvar – This is more like a “mall” of bars and restaurants. There are a lot of choices here of places to eat and drink. We just happened to stumble across it when walking home from dinner. We went to Vicky Barcelona there which was tiny but had a great DJ. I entered with my leftover pizza box from dinner which I wouldn’t recommend LOL.
- There is a party complex. I can’t tell you the name of it because it’s composed of over a dozen different bars/clubs. I believe the famous bars within are Instant and Fogas. We ended up here every night in Budapest. It’s perfect because you can roam from bar to bar each with it’s own feel and music. Our favorite room was under a giant parachute.
Our Air BNB host also recommended these places, although I didn’t have the opportunity to check them out.
- Wine Bars: Doblo Wine and Bar, DiVino Wine Bar, Kadarka Bar
- More Ruin Pubs: Corvinteto is a rooftop above an old supermarket, Ellato Kert, Ellato Haz
I also grabbed a drink at this place called 360 bar. It was 1,000 forints to get in and it did have views of most of the city. Definitely over priced compared to the rest of the city, but it’s got nothing on New York.
What to Eat:
I’m a picky eater, so not the best to recommend food. However, I know these items are fairly unique / popular in Hungary
- Chimney Cake – Pull apart bread rolled in topping cooked rotisserie style. I didn’t have one while there (biggest regret) but I have had one before covered with cinnamon sugar and filled with a little nutella.
- Stews & goulash
- Anything with paprika
- Kifli – Shaped like a crescent, but bread. I had this once there – wasn’t impressed.
- Langos – Hungarian deep fried dough made with mashed potatoes and flower. I had a chicken burger on this bread from a food truck at this food truck lot called Karavan and it was A-mazing. But it looks like they also turn this into their own unique pizza-type thing.
Know Before You Go:
- You can get a lot for your money there. When I was there $1 USD = 280 Hungarian Forints. To put that into perspective a cocktail was 1,000 forints. It equated to like $3. I was able to get a fancy meal out with drinks for $20.
- Do bring money with you or grab some from an ATM, many places were cash only.
- We were warned about the taxis from several different people. Seems they take advantage of clueless tourists that don’t understand the currency. We experienced it ourselves when the taxi driver claimed to have a broken credit card machine after picking us up from the airport. When she discovered we had no cash and there were no ATMs on the block her machine magically worked.