My trip to Budapest was one of the most spontaneous trips of my life. There were bank holidays coming up in Poland, so I decided to book a ticket three days before the trip.
I’ve always wanted to visit Budapest, but somehow it never got to the top of my list. Now I’m living so close to the city, I just had to go and I’m so glad I did – it’s wonderful!
Getting to Budapest by bus
Because it was a last minute decision, flying to Budapest wasn’t an option. There are direct flights from Krakow to Budapest and they only take an hour, but being so short notice the prices were way too high. So instead, I decided to take the bus…
The bus turned out to be a seven-hour bus, and unfortunately it wasn’t as pleasant as my bus trip from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur because there were no VIP buses. The seats and road were fine, but we only stopped once for 10 minutes, so my legs were killing me by the time I arrived. You can also get to Budapest from Krakow by train, which was also cheaper than flying, but the route took 11 hours.
The bus dropped us off at a very dirty station with no taxis. Luckily there was a metro station and the app called BKK FUTAR, which helped us figure out how to get to our apartment. Apparently the metro in Budapest is the oldest one is Europe, but it was pretty fast and clean.
Where to stay in Budapest
Budapest was made of two cities and even though now it is one, you can still see the difference and choose whether to stay in Buda or Pest. There is something special about rooms in Budapest. No matter if you stay in hotel or small airbnb, they all very unique and stylish
Buda is on the hill, it’s more historic and quieter. There is a castle and stunning viewpoints that look out over the entire city. Pack your comfiest shoes to cope with all the walking up and down.
Pest is more modern, with the added benefit that it’s flat if you’re exploring on foot. There are lots of restaurants, a Jewish district, shops and nightlife.
What to do in Budapest
Take a soak in the famous baths
I can’t write about my personal experience as I didn’t get the chance to visit any, but experiencing a thermal bath in Budapest should be a must. The city has the best spas in Europe with over 20 active bath complexes. They are all over the town but the famous ones are Szechenyi Baths and Pool and Gellert Baths.
2. Admire the views of Buda and Pest from Gellert Hill
A little hike or short bus ride will take you to a panoramic and wonderful view of Buda and Pest. On the hill, in the middle of the route, you will see the Gellért Monument. At the very top you can admire the massive 130m Citadella and Liberty Statue. In addition to the landmarks you’ll see, it’s also a popular place to watch the sunset.
3. Explore Buda Castle
The castle was destroyed during the war so unfortunately it’s not possible to see all the historical rooms. Now, it’s home to several paid attractions like the National Gallery, Budapest History Museum and the Museum of Music History.
If you’re not interested in those, you can enter without paying and walk in the courtyard, but we got there during a folk festival so we had to buy tickets. The festival was also interesting, featuring several different countries, with souvenirs and performances. The castle is worth a visit for its stunning view of the city alone.
4. Visit Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church
This place was my favourite of everywhere we visited in Budapest. The church was stunning and had an incredible history, having been the scene for the coronations of kings.
The bastion was also very beautiful. Built in the Neo-Romanesque style at the end of the 18th century, the bastion is a series of towers and terraces, painted white and built on the hill with another incredible view. It only takes 20 minutes to get here from the castle, but it is quite a hike!
5. Take a photo of Parliament
The parliament building is one of the most famous in Budapest. It’s built in the neo-Gothic and Baroque styles and is considered one of the largest parliament buildings in the world.
6. Walk on Széchenyi Chain Bridge
Arguably the most beautiful as well as being the oldest bridge in Budapest, Széchenyi Chain Bridge is guarded by huge stone lions on both sides. It was the first bridge to connect the cities of Buda and Pest over the Danube river.
7. Visit St. Stephen’s Basilica
This is the largest temple in Budapest, so it should definitely be on your bucket list. The basilica is dedicated to the first Hungarian king, Stefan, and it has a wonderful 96m dome that you can visit.
8. Take a romantic walk at Margaret Island
The island lies on the Danube river between Buda and Pest and is the perfect place for a picnic or romantic walk in beautiful gardens. There are also cycle paths, a tiny zoo, numerous pools and even some ruins to explore.
9. Visit Vajdahunyad Castle and city park
The most beautiful and romantic park in Budapest, there are ponds, secret paths and monuments, like stunning Vajdahunyad Castle. You’ll be blown away by the range of architectural styles, from Romanesque, to Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque.
10. Visit Hősök tere
Hősök tere – the heroes’ square – is one of the most important squares in the capital of Hungary. It’s here that the most important demonstrations and mass meetings take place.
What to eat in Budapest
The typical Hungarian kitchen doesn’t serve up the lightest dishes, so don’t plan to diet while you visit! The cuisine is similar to Polish, Austrian and German, so I knew I’d love it. That’s why I had to share my favourite dishes and some of the best places to eat them in Budapest with you.
Slow cooked beef served as a soup or stew. It comes with paprika, onions and sometimes with potatoes. A restaurant called Kiosk was recommended to me and it was so good, I visited twice!
This dish uses different parts of chicken depending on the restaurant, cooked in Hungarian paprika seasoning and vegetables too. Altogether, it is very tasty! I ordered this dish at Meat Boutique, a restaurant that also serves very good hamburgers.
Deep fried flatbread served with butter or sour cream and grated cheese. Personally, I didn’t love langos, but it was worth a try. If you want to try it too, head to Karavan. This is a little street food courtyard in the Jewish District, where you can find everything from Thai food to burgers and pizza.
This was the dish my husband was most excited to eat. We’d tried it before in Germany and Poland, and visiting Budapest finally meant we could try the original. It’s really just charcoal roasted dough dipped in sugar, cinnamon or other flavours. You can also get it at the Karavan and many other spots in the city.
Where to party in Budapest
Budapest is one of the most popular destinations in Europe to party. The most popular area is the Jewish District, where you will find many ruin bars and nightclubs.
The oldest and most famous place is Szimpla Kert, but with its fame come the crowds. It’s a massive bar in an old building, filled with surprises like fountains and trees, which are best seen in daylight.
Koleves Kert has a beautiful secret garden, Alcatraz Garden has great beer, 360 Bar has the best roof-top view and Basic Bar is a great spot if you’re looking to keep things simple.
For a fancier destination, try Mazel Tov for dinner and drinks, but do make a reservation. When I went, the line was very long! There’s no shortage of bars in Budapest, so hop from bar to bar to find the one you like best.
If you’re looking for something more than just a quiet night with a beer, go to the biggest ruin bar called Instant. You could also try Fogas, which is next door. Both are nightclubs with amazing interiors and interesting music. The best thing about it? It’s free to get in, so you can go in, explore and, if you don’t like it, move on to somewhere else.
Check out these five epic destinations for nightlife and visit some of the best places in the world to party.
Budapest is a wonderful city. Home to amazing views, wonderful architecture, tasty food and great nightlife – there’s so much to experience. So, if you’re on the fence about booking your flight, trust me and do it. You’re going to love it.
What are you most looking forward to doing in Budapest?
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