This central European city has quickly become one of the “must-see” destinations for tourists both young and old traveling around the continent.
Recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage List for cultural and architectural significance of the Banks of the Danube, the Buda Castle Quarter and Andrássy Avenue in 1987, the Hungarian capital city of Budapest is a vibrant city filled with history and culture with an exciting youthful presence. While on exchange during my third year of university, I had the pleasure of spending a long weekend in Budapest.
Looking to spend a couple of days in this great city? Here’s how to make the most of your trip!
Only a few short hours away from many of the major European cities, Budapest is easily accessible bus, rail or by discount airlines such as Ryan Air, Easy Jet and Wiz Air. The capital area used to be two cities divided by the Danube, with Buda just west of the river and the busy city of Pest to the east and connected by grandiose bridges.
The most recognized is the Chain Bridge (Széchenyi lánchíd) that was, at the time of its construction in 1849, the second-largest suspension bridge in the world with four iconic stone lions on the ends of the bridge. Be sure to visit this bridge in the day and at night, as it is beautifully lit up during the evening.
Some of the most iconic tourist attractions are found on the Buda side in Castle Hill where the Royal Palace, National Gallery, Fisherman’s Bastion, Matthias Church and Lions’ Courtyard are located. For one of the best views in the city, take a casual hike up to the to the top of Gellert Hill to the Citadella.
Then, travel over to the bustling downtown of Pest where the neo-gothic Parliament Building, St. Stephen Basilica, Great Synagogue and the Jewish Museum (and many other notable museums) are located.
Indulge in the great culture and arts of the city by visiting the State Opera House or one of the major concert halls in the city. Stop by and take a tour of the architectural masterpieces found in these historic buildings, or spend an evening experiencing the art by attending a performance.
Get outside and take a stroll through the City Park where the Heroes’ square, Museum of Fine Arts, Vajdahunyad Vára Castle and many other sites are located.
Food + Drink
One of my favorite things to do while traveling is to experience local dishes. Thankfully, the affordable prices in Budapest make trying these dishes extremely accessible. Often infusing their local dishes with paprika, Hungarian dishes are comforting and delicious.
Be sure to try their traditional goulash soup (gulyás), fishermen’s soup (halászlé) and a stuffed cooked cabbage dish (töltött káposzta). Known for their sweet dessert wines, finish your meal with a glass of Tokaji or the Hungarian spirit palinka made from a variety of fruits including plums, apricots, cherries and pears.
- Central Market Hall (Vámház krt. 1-3) Stop by and stroll through the endless aisles of the largest indoor market in Budapest where you will find a variety of produce, meat, traditional pastries, pickled vegetables, spices and spirits. If you’re feeling adventurous, wander up to the second floor to try the Hungarian deep-fried snack lángos.
- The Macesz Huszár (Dob utca 26) Located in the Old Jewish district of Budapest, this restaurant offers guests a new take on traditional meals. Bringing the comforts of the old country to your table, this restaurant aims to bring a younger generation in touch with their Jewish ancestry though their exceptional dishes.
- Pesti Diszno (Nagymezo str.19) Looking to try a variety of Hungarian dishes on your trip? This tapas inspired bar creates small dishes and bites that are perfect for sampling in a relaxed and beautiful setting.
Whether you are looking for a bar, club or somewhere to just relax in evening, there is something for everyone in this vibrant and youthful place. As the weather gets warmer, the open-air clubs throughout Budapest are some of the hottest places to be. Many of the baths also host local pool parties during the summer. For a quieter evening, seek out the historic ‘ruin bars’ that are becoming some of the trendiest places to drink.
- Szimpla Kert (Kazinczy u. 14) Hosting a regular farmer’s market and flea market during the day, Szimpla Kert is the original ruin bar in the city. This bar is a cult favorite with its kitschy décor, charming atmosphere and great drinks.
- AnKert (Paulay Ede utca 33) There is always something fun to do in this large seasonal club that houses a large courtyard, various bars, dance floors and even a sandy beach. Open in the warmer months, swing by for some food and a drinks during the day or stop by at night to let loose.
- Instant (Nagymez? u. 38) Explore the labyrinth ruined bar decorated with quirky retro elements and bizarre pieces. Located in what used to be a two-tenant house, Instant is a gallery, café pub and cultural hub all in one.
A trip to Budapest isn’t complete without a visit to one of their iconic thermal baths. One of the lasting relics of the Turkish culture in Budapest, these public bathhouses offer of variety steam baths, massage services and other therapeutic remedies. Prices and services range, but it is worth the trip inside just to see the intricate tile work that line these historic walls. With tons in the city to choose from, the most history are the Széchenyi Baths in City Park, the Art Nouveau Gellért Baths on the Buda side and the historic Király Baths.
Heading to Hungary or have been there already? Let us know about your favourite spots!