Have your ever wanted to travel to Budapest, Hungary? If I’m being totally honest, it was never on my “must visit” list until recently. It wasn’t on that list mainly because I didn’t know much about it, which is truly such a shame. That is why I am sharing this travel guide with you now, to raise awareness about this beautiful country that doesn’t get talked about as much as say, France or Spain. Let’s dive in because there is so much to share!
To get things started, Budapest is split into two sections - Buda and Pest, with the Danube river flowing down the center. Buda is the quiet and older part of town. And by older, more historic. It’s a bit sleepier too! Pest is livelier, and where we spent most of our time. Overall, Budapest is an extremely affordable city to visit. Food and lodging were fairly inexpensive, among many other things, in comparison to many other European cities we have visited. If you are on a budget, traveling to Budapest might be something you should look into! We spent about 3 days there, but it was split up due to our travel schedule (1.5 days at the beginning and 1.5 days at the end), we probably could have used 1 more day, but overall we feel like we saw and enjoyed a lot.
We were in Hungary/Austria/Slovakia November 11th - 21st, and in most of the cities we visited the Christmas Markets were in full swing. Just keep those dates in mind as you read through our recommendations. Our first few days of our trip, the weather was mild during the day (in the low 50s), but towards the end of the trip the weather was pretty frigid (30s-40s + lots of wind), so I suggest bringing layers, and obviously checking the forecast before you travel. We like to do a lot of walking and spent a lot of time outdoors, so I highly advise bringing a hat, gloves, scarves and more.
We love Rick Steves and made sure to watch his shows on each of the cities we were visiting and purchased his books for each of the countries we planned on visiting. Some of the activities he likes to do while traveling differ from what we like to do, so we use his books as a starting place and don’t necessarily follow all of his recommendations.
WHERE TO STAY:
We split up our time in Budapest so we ended up staying in two different places - one Airbnb and one hotel. I really liked the location of our Airbnb the best, which was on Paulay Ede Utca. It was near public transportation, which we used often, but it was also convenient to walk to a lot of the of places we wanted to see as well. It truly was in the center of Pest!
We ate so much food, so much GOOD food. It was hard to keep track of where we ate because a lot of times we were just grabbing snacks as we saw them. We didn’t sit down to eat much in Budapest, except dinner. So this is a culmination of things you must try, and if I could remember where we ate it and loved it, I made sure to note that. Keep in mind my husband and I are picky eaters (especially me!), and we ate good here. :)
Food trucks - Karavan - This was the first place we stopped on our first night. We were starving and it was delicious, a great intro to food in Budapest because there were so many options. We had a basic Langos (imagine pizza/pastry dough with sour cream and tons of cheese), which is a must try if you are in Budapest. It sounds crazy, but it is good.
Chimney Cake - You will see these being sold everywhere. Some are plain, some have different flavors, and some are even stuffed with ice cream! Take your pick and try one. We had a simple cinnamon sugar coated one and it was delish!
Chicken Paprikash - I am kicking myself for not being able to remember the name of the restaurant we ate this at. We just walked in on a whim and it ended up being my favorite meal in Budapest. THAT good! It was served in traditional metal pots too, which was over the top amazing.
First Strudel House of Pest - Yep, that is the name of the restaurant and it is yummy! They are constantly making strudel and we were lucky enough to sit right against the window to watch them in action. The goulash here is a must and was delicious! We also bought some apple strudel to go, which was amazing too!
Artizan - A great quick stop for delicious breakfast pastries.
Rapaz - A quick place to grab a bit to eat, my husband’s chicken sandwich was the best (I think it was called and OMG? Not sure!). Large portions and super tasty!
OUR FAVORITE SITES IN PEST:
Szechenyi Baths - The baths are a must when you are in Budapest. There are several different baths to visit throughout the city, but this one looked the best to us, and I believe it is the largest. We went around 4pm, so just as the sun was starting to set (we took the train and then walked from the nearest stop). We brought our own bathing suits and rented towels and decided to save the extra cash and just use the communal locker rooms (you can pay a little more to rent a private changing room). There are tons of different baths, indoors and outdoors. We found that some were warmer than others, so try them all!
Hero’s Square/City Park/ Vadjahunyad Castle - All three of these are right near each other and we knocked these out pretty quickly because it was cold out (we went after the baths), but even if it is cold, it’s worth a quick walk.
River Cruise - There are tons of river cruise options out there, taking off from all different parts along the river. Find your favorite and go for it! We decided to take the cruise at night, which turned out to be really beautiful (probably better at night then during the day, in my opinion). All the major landmarks are lit up and it makes for a beautiful and relaxing way to end the day. We snuck on some apple strudel and ate that during the ride. Our boat was covered and heated, and was pretty much empty for our cruise.
Walk along the River (Danube Promenade)- Nothing super fancy here, but I highly suggest you take the time to just walk along the river on both the Buda and Pest side. Great spots to view all the bridges, statues, and take photos!
Ruin Pubs - Whether you are a drinker or not, stopping into one of the many ruin pubs in the Old Jewish Quarter is worth it. We stopped by Szimpla one evening and walked through the entire space. It is huge and made up of several floors and multiple bars, each serving something different. They also serve some small snack type bar food. The ruin pubs/bars are popular and unique because well, they are ruins. Basically untouched ruins of abandoned buildings, stores or lots after the war.
Vorosmarty Ter - We somehow stumbled upon this square on our first night, as it held one of the largest Christmas Markets (more on that below). It is a large square with tourist shops, historic cafes and restaurants. It even has the famous “Budapest” sign.
Great Synagogue - Worthwhile visiting, even if you aren’t a fan of history or museums. We didn’t go inside, but we walked around and even saw the beautiful silver tree, which is known as the Emmanuel tree, and is a Holocaust memorial.
Andrassy Ut - A popular and ritzy street, like New York’s 5th Avenue! Just take a stroll down the beautiful, grand street and take in all of the historic buildings. On your way you’ll see the…
Opera House - It was closed for renovations when we were there, so I can’t say too much, but I think it would be worth your time to visit on your trip. Do it for us since we couldn’t see it! :)
Hungarian Parliament - A huge and beautiful building, best seen on the river cruise at night, but still beautiful during the day on land.
OUR FAVORITE SITES IN BUDA:
Castle Hill - A beautiful part of town with cobblestone streets and huge, historic buildings. The Hungarian National Gallery, the Royal Palace, and Budapest History Museum are located here, as well as some amazing views. It was interested to see the Citadella from here, which is listed below.We had one of the best hot chocolates we had on the trip at a little stand at the top of the hill! We didn’t get to do a ton of exploring due to the pouring rain, but still worth a visit.
Fisherman’s Bastion - Another thing we didn’t get to totally see and enjoy due to the pouring rain, but I do suggest visiting! We saw it from a distance in the pouring rain, but that was about as far as we got. It has a fairytale-esque look!
Matthias Church - GO! Pay the extra money and go inside, it is worth it! It is a beautiful and absolutely unique church, and we have seen a lot of churches on our European adventures, this one sticks out.
Gellert Hill - We decided to hike all the way up on our own, which turned out to be a bit longer and steeper of a climb than we had anticipated. Unless you are looking for that, I suggest taking the bus up to the top! Nevertheless, once you arrive you will see some of the best views of Budapest from every single angle. Soak it up!
Citadella - This is the fortress located at the very top of Gellert Hill, which is where you will find the Liberty Statue.
Falk Miksa - Known as “antique row.” If you are into antiques, this will be your jam. Some places are pretty pricey, but there are some great hole in the wall places that aren’t too expensive. It’s worth it just to walk down the street and peek into the storefronts.
Deak Utca - Nice street full of nice stores!
Vaci Utca - Another nice street full of stores, but more touristy places.
Great Market Hall - A huge market place that you need to see! The first floor is mainly food - meats, cheese, fruit, etc. It is a fresh food overload! The top floor has a couple food stands, restaurants and touristy shops. A fun and unique place to visit. We grabbed some snacks on the top floor when we were there!
Andrassy Ut - A beautiful boulevard that leads to Hero’s Square. You’ll find some great shopping and historical places like the Opera House along this boulevard. This is Hungary’s Champs Elysees or 5th Avenue, if that helps you imagine it!
We walked A TON, which is normal for us on trips like this. We also used the train and bus system a lot, which was pretty easy to navigate once figuring it out. We ended up getting a Budapest pass, which was helpful (and affordable) and works for the trams, bus, and train. Don’t forget to punch your tickets when you enter and when you exit each mode of transportation! Some stops they have people checking tickets, so be aware. Even if you don’t plan on using public transportation, its worthwhile to visit one of the train stations. The escalators are pretty intense! They are SO deep and move really fast. It’s fun to see and ride!
The timing of our trip and Christmas Markets in Budapest didn’t line up perfectly, but we were able to visit these two towards the end of our trip, which was great!
Varoshaza Park (smaller market of the two)
That’s about it folks, that is what we saw and enjoyed on our trip to Budapest, Hungary last winter. I’m sure there are a lot more things to do in the summer, but then there wouldn’t be any charming Christmas Markets. :) Let me know if you plan to visit Budapest in the future and if this was helpful for you.
In the same trip we also visited Salzburg and Vienna, Austria and Bratislava, Slovakia. These travel guides are in the works and will be coming soon!