I am proud to say that this is my 200th post on my blog, and how appropriate that I can dedicate it to one of my favorite cities in the whole wide world – BUDAPEST!
Just thinking about Budapest is enough to stir up the butterflies in my stomach and make me crave summertime in this city. I have so many fond memories of both trips I’ve taken here, and it’s definitely a place I’d consider living in for a while. The nightlife is invigorating but not pretentious. The food scene is hot and the prices are unbeatable. The people are friendly and welcoming to tourists. Budapest provides ample opportunities for sightseeing and relaxation.
If you find yourself here, I cannot encourage you enough to spend time just wandering both the Buda and Pest sides of the city, allowing yourself to get completely lost in its streets.
In a city of a long list of party hostels and accommodation options, this spot was a gem! The staff was very friendly and inclusive, always organizing bar crawls and other fun events for guests while providing awesome recommendations for anything you could possibly want. I felt like I was friends with the people working there after just a few days. It’s in a central location, with a fully equipped kitchen, rooms with bathrooms nearby or ensuite and strong security – there are large lockers in the dorms to secure valuables. They also cook a communal meal every night – you can sign up for about $2 to have one of the staff cook your dinner! This is really a great spot for longer-term travelers.
My first time in Budapest I stayed at Maverick Hostel. It was an amazing experience. Full kitchen, located right next door to a grocery store, located a short walk from all major attractions and the heart of the city. It is a very safe and clean hostel. I would highly recommend all travelers stay here, and I would certainly return for another stay in the future.
Overall, Budapest was an amazing experience that I wish could have been a full week. I look forward to returning someday- hopefully in the near future!
Top Things to See & Do in Budapest
Located on the Buda bank of the Danube, this plaza with statues and 7 towers is not to be missed! Not only does it provide beautiful architecture and is a plaza for the Matthias church, but it also gives a beautiful panoramic view of the Pest side of the Danube.
The Matthias church is a 14th-century Catholic cathedral that has a copper roof that sparkles in the sun, impressive spires and sits right in the plaza of the Fisherman’s Bastion.
This view of the bridge at night was taken from the banks at the bar Pontoon, one of my favorite spots we visited in the city, discussed in the food section below. Our legs dangled off the edge of the wall over the river.
Szechenyi Chain Bridge was the first permanent bridge to span the Danube, and it leads you from the Pest side of the city to the base of the funicular up to Buda castle, aglow in this picture behind the bridge. I love the way it’s lit up at night, feeding into the pulsing heartbeat of the lively city.
Central Market Hall
One of the things I regretted not making it to my first time in Budapest was Central Market Hall, and I must say I am so glad that we found time to visit on this second trip. It’s closed on Sundays, so be sure to plan your stop for a weekday or Saturday, and come hungry. I didn’t realize how many shops it had with prepared food, there were so many options, each looked more delicious than the last. This is also a great spot to buy artisan goods like artwork, clothing, and jewelry, which make for more meaningful souvenirs than some of the trinkets sold in other stores.
Situated on the Buda side of the river Danube, Géllert Hill is a beautiful park that is easy to hike up for an awesome view of Budapest. Be wary of some of the sketchy figures lurking, there are a bunch of scammers who run various rigged games and get tourists to bet money. I sat and watched for a while and it was entertaining, there are hustlers in every city, observing but not participating is the best route. At the top, there’s a plaza to enjoy a beer.
St. Stephen’s Basilica
An awesome free thing to do in Budapest. The interior of the church is beautiful and the stone composition makes it a cool retreat from the blazing summer heat.
Budapest is famous for Thermal baths, and there are tons to choose from throughout the city. When I first heard of them, the idea of a communal bath grossed me out, but after reading a slew of reviews that raved about the baths, I decided that soaking myself in sulfur water was something I had to check off my list.
It goes without saying (but I’m going to say it anyway) the baths are something not to be missed when in Budapest. I’d recommend arriving early to beat the rush and get a good soak in before it gets too crowded, and also to grab a lounge chair. They have lockers for your valuables and provide towels. Bring flip flops, sunscreen, a water bottle (stay hydrated!) and shower stuff/clean clothes to change in afterward.
Within the bath complex, there is a beer spa that gives you the opportunity to bathe in beer, while drinking beer. It sounded a bit ridiculous, but it was only €25 and we figured, why not? For a period of 45 minutes, you get to soak in a tub of beer ingredients that are (supposed to be, anyway) great for your skin, while having a tap of unlimited beer. You can book ahead or same day.
The first time I visited Budapest, I went to the Rudas bath. to avoid huge crowds of tourists and screaming kids. It was a super relaxing experience, soaking in the hot water and going from cold to hot pools was just a great way to spend a relaxed day (and get rid of a hangover).
Buda Castle and the Funicular
The Funicular is a gondola/lift cart system to take people up Castle Hill to Buda Castle. The Castle is a beautiful, extensive and historical building. There are various offered guided tours throughout the day. Of course, I happened to get into a cart with a bunch of people from Wisconsin. The world scares me how small it is sometimes.
The Hungarian Parliament building is a really pretty and unique architectural construction. Various tours of the Parliament are offered, mainly to show the Hungarian Crown Jewels. It is the largest building in Hungary.
Shoes on the River Danube
The scatter of iron shoes on the banks of the Danube on the “Pest” side is a memorial tribute to Jews that were shot into the river during World War II by the Arrow Cross fascist militia group. The shoes are all of a 1940s style and there are 60 pairs. The memorial was constructed in 2005. It is a nice free tourist thing to observe during a walk along the river.
Chain Bridge was the first bridge to connect Buda and Pest. Opened in 1849, it was an engineering marvel of the time. It is situated near the foot of the Buda Castle on the Buda side of the river and leads over to a street that connects to St. Stephens Cathedral and other attractions on the Pest side. I am glad I took the time to walk over the bridge both during the day and at night, as it is lit up and very beautiful and provides a nice view of the castle which is also illuminated through the evening. In various parks and public places along the river, young people were gathering to enjoy a drink and the views of the city.
Budapest Opera House
A long walk down the famous Andrássy út leads to this famous square, which hosts statues of famous Magyar chieftains of Hungary as well as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Museum of Arts and it serves as the entrance to the beautiful city park. This was probably one of my favorite *free* things to do in Budapest.
Eat & Drink
This is a fantastic outdoor bar right on the banks of the Danube with a view of Buda castle and chain bridge. Pictured below is a Berry Moscow Mule, need I say more? It has a cool outdoor vibe, reasonable prices considering the location, and overall awesome, summer atmosphere. Grab a drink and sit on their “patio” which extends right to the edge of the river, and watch the boats cruise by.
Ruin Pub Crawl
Even if you aren’t a bar crawl person, GO ON A PUB CRAWL IN BUDAPEST! Seriously, they are so much fun and the bars you go to are so unique and unlike anything you’d experience on a generic bar crawl in a different European city. Ruin pubs are converted houses that provide an artsy venue with outdoor, interior spaces for drinking and visiting with people on the crawl. Each one is unique, showcasing different art, whimsical furniture, mismatched decor and brow-raising sculptures, with fantastic lights and music to boot. On our crawl, we visited Ankert, Ellatohaz, Kuplung and Ellato Kert. Go on a crawl, drink, make friends, dance around, live the Budapest tourist life!
This is probably the most famous ruin pub in Budapest. It’s a massive maze of different rooms and lounges, an outdoor patio in the center, multiple levels, stairs and bars to get lost in while on a night out. I love this place because it was the first ruin pub I experienced while visiting for the first time in 2014. I remember weaving from the different rooms that were like improvised mini-nightclubs, with blaring music and flashing lights, to retreating to the outdoor patio for a conversation with a stranger that had become a friend. The warm summer air had the lingering smell of cigarette suspended in it and I felt at ease with a tall beer to quench my thirst.
This is a little cafe that’s perfect for brunch! Awesome menu selections and fantastic iced coffee. I had a classic Benedict, Molly had the Florentine, and if I had to go back I think I’d do the Florentine. A delicious way to start the day!
Brunch was definitely the most important meal of our time in Budapest, and thankfully, there’s no shortage of trendy cafes and foodie havens. This spot was awesome, I’d love to go back to try their other menu items. I will say the portions were a bit small, and I could’ve done without the pancake “sushi” and done a more protein-heavy side instead.
You have to try this while in Budapest. It’s deep fried dough with toppings. We chose sour cream and cheese. I hope you weren’t expecting more words to convince you to try it.
Here I enjoyed a three-course Hungarian meal paired with wine. It was a delicious experience, I would highly recommend this restaurant to anyone looking for Hungarian food.
This place is a fantastic stop for cheap eats in Budapest. It’s all Hungarian/Eastern European food, and all for dirt cheap prices, while still having a nice, sit-down atmosphere and service. Definitely go here for at least one dinner and try the chicken paprikash with dumplings 🙂
Another fantastic breakfast spot.
If you’re not sure what you want to eat, or you’re with a big group of people with different tastes and culinary interests, this is THE PLACE to stop. Located in the Jewish Quarter, it’s a collective of different food trucks, selling a diverse range of foods from all around the world. Definitely stop by and grab something – and bonus – it’s open LATE!
If you’ve never been to Budapest, put it at the top of your European destination bucket list! It’s a city of vibrancy and culture that evokes feelings beyond words. It’s a place I hope to bring lots of friends and family so they can experience it like I have.