A city trip to Budapest it is? Here you go! After several trip to Hungarian capital, I've gathered all my tips for Budapest for you in this detailed blog post. Let's get started!
Why even travel to Budapest at all?
Budapest is a city that is simply pleasant without exerting itself and without wanting to pretend anything. Pleasant in the sense of a large, vast and yet compact old town with magnificent buildings from different centuries. Pleasant in the sense of being able to stroll around the entire day. Pleasant in the sense of the incredibly beautiful thermal baths that invite you to relax. Pleasant in the sense of proximity to Austria and good accessibility from all over Europe. Pleasant in the sense of a short car ride from Austria.
Budapest is not just beautiful. Budapest has character. Budapest has angles and edges – as do its inhabitants. Budapest is so much more than just the fishermen's bastion (although everyone absolutely must have seen it!). Budapest is more than the union of the former cities Buda, Óbuda and Pest. Maybe Budapest is just beautiful after all?
City Trip Budapest: Sights and my Highlights
Budapest is one of those cities I keep visiting over and over again. And every time I go, I discover something new. Here are the top sights in Budapest and my personal tips for the city:
Highlights in Buda
The western part of the Hungarian capital is the hilly Buda, which makes up a good third of the city area. Buda means oven – today it is not quite clear how this part of the city came to this name, which used to be its own town. While Buda developed into a royal town in the Middle Ages, Pest experienced an upswing to become a successful trading centre. For a short time, Buda was even a university town – but shortly after, Pest took this title. Over the years, Buda developed into the intellectual and political centre of the country.
Castle Quarter Várnegyed
One of the most beautiful places in Budapest is the Castle Quarter, which is located on castle hill. The quarter is home to some of the city's most beautiful buildings and is on the to-do list of all visitors. Of course, the castle quarter is no longer an insider's tip. For beautiful photos, even without people, it is enough to be here before 8 o'clock in the morning.
My Highlights in the Castle Quarter
- Castle Palace: The largest building in the country today houses the National Gallery as well as the Historical Museum. The palace grounds are also a popular event location.
- Fisherman's Bastion: As if it had sprung from a Disney film, the Fisherman's Bastion rises mighty, impressive and at the same time playful on castle hill. For me, it is the most beautiful building in Budapest. In order to visit also the upper towers, a ticket for 1000 HUF (3€) is necessary. The view to the opposite Pest is also indescribably beautiful from the public terraces.
- Labyrinth: Castle hill has an underground cave system that can be visited in part. The labyrinth is one of the most popular attractions in the castle quarter.
- Matthias Church: In this church the coronation ceremony of Franz Joseph and Sissi took place in June 1867 on the castle hill. It is worth taking a look inside.
- Funicular: From the chain bridge, a funicular leads up to castle hill – a good option if you want to give your legs a rest.
Highlights in Pest
While castle hill dominates the Buda district, there are several interesting places and sights on the other side of the Danube. My highlights and recommendations can be found in this section:
Great Market Hall
Big, somewhat hectic, a mix of different smells – that's the Great Market Hall in Pest. Whether you come here with the intention to buy or not, make time for a short walk through the hustle and bustle. On the ground floor of the market hall, you will find mainly fresh goods like meat, fish, fruit, vegetables and spices. On the 1st floor, on the other hand, there are souvenir shops at one end and snack bars at the other.
Further information Great Market Hall
Opening hours: Monday 6am until 5pm; Tuesday to Friday 6am until 6 pm; Saturday 6am until 3pm; Sunday closed
The Hungarian parliament is situated directly on the Danube and can best be admired from the opposite bank or the castle hill. It is also the landmark of Budapest, the third largest parliament building in the world and one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. The Hungarian architect Imre Steindl was inspired by the Palace of Westminster when he made the plans.
You should have a look inside as well. A visit to the magnificent halls is only possible with a guided tour. The tour lasts about 45 minutes and is offered in different languages throughout the day. Among the highlights are the impressive staircase as well as the Hungarian Crown Jewels and the Stephan's Crown (= King's Crown).
Further information Parliament
Website Parliament | Opening hours daily April – October 8am until 6pm and November to March 8am until 4pm with restrictions during parliamentary sessions | Admission 3500 HUF for EU citizens (10.50€) – 6500 HUF for non-EU citizens (20€) | Tickets can be bought online in advance or on the same day at the ticket counter on the spot.
Shoes on the Danube Bank
Never forget. There are 60 pairs of iron shoes right on the banks of the Danube. Together they are a memorial to the Jews who were murdered here during the Second World War.
Heroes' Square and City Park
The Heroes' Square with the adjacent city park and Vajdahunyad Castle with its agricultural museum are perfect for a beautiful walk. If you take Andrassy ut Avenue coming from the city centre, you will have a beautiful view of Heroes' Square from afar.
In the city park there is also a small lake, which can be navigated with small rental boats. In the northern part of the park there is also the Széchenyi Spa with 21 different pools. Every Saturday (with the exception of January) the pool area turns into a big party. If you are looking for a long night in Budapest, don't miss the Sparty Bath Party.
Relax in Budapest: Géllert Bath
During our city trip to Budapest I really wanted to visit one of the thermal baths in the city to relax and switch off for a day. The Géllert Bath in Buda and the Széchenyi Spa in Pest were the two we shortlisted. Ultimately, we decided on the Géllert Bath, as the pictures of the historic spa simply appealed more to us. And probably also that there are also large indoor pools in this spa.
The Géllert Hill springs have been used since the 13th century. In 1918, today's Géllert Bath were opened in Art Nouveau as part of the Géllert Hotel. If you visit the baths today, twelve different pools with different water temperatures await you. There are also steam baths and saunas, some of which have separate ladies' and gentlemen's areas. The sauna in the outdoor area can be used by everyone and is simply fantastic.
The main pool under the glass dome is already impressive, but don't get confused. The inconspicuous doors on both sides lead to further pools decorated with beautiful mosaics in different shades of blue.
Insider tips Géllert Bath
- The Géllert Bath opens its doors at 6 o'clock in the morning. At this time of the day, there are only a few Budapest residents there – otherwise it is very quiet and the pools are quite empty. Getting up early is worth it!
- Be sure to bring flip-flops or other slippers. The floor is not quite as clean as one would wish.
- You are only allowed to enter the main pool with a bathing cap. For 700 Forint (approx. 2€) you can buy a quite minimalist model at the towel counter.
- Aquafitness with a trainer is offered regularly in the main pool. Most of the participants are Hungarian retirees who welcomed me with smiling faces. And although we didn't speak the same language, we had a lot of fun! So, get in the water and join them!
- If you are looking for a quieter place and a deckchair, you will find a few on the first floor.
- I can truly recommend the massages offered. It's a great way to relax after a few days of exploring the city. You can book the massages on the spot.
Further Information Géllert Bath
Website Géllert Bath | Opening hours: Daily from 6am until 8pm | Admission: from 5900 Forint (approx. 18€) | Massages from 12500 Forint (approx. 37€)
Scuba diving in Budapest: Molnár János Cave
Um… what? I reacted in disbelief and fascination when someone told me about the diving possibilities IN Budapest. How is that supposed to work? The Danube is too murky. There is also no diving in the Danube but in the Molnár János Cave. Supplied by a warm thermal spring, divers can explore a network of caves. At the surface the water has about 28°C and the first thermocline is at about 10 meters, where the water has only 20°C.
But not everyone can dive there. If you don't have a cave diving permit, you can also book an introductory dive with theory input. The prerequisites are at least 70 logged dives, at least the training as Advanced Open Water Diver as well as a confirmation from the doctor that you are healthy and fit for diving. In addition a cave diving insurance is required. The DAN Sport Silver diving insurance, for example, covers this. Dive insurance for the cave for one day can also be arranged with the local dive center.
During our introduction to cave diving, the necessary equipment was also addressed. In caves – unlike in open waters – you dive with technical diving equipment. For us, this meant double tanks and a different regulator configuration. The equipment for the cave can/must be rented for €60 per day on site.
Afterwards, we had a detailed briefing and went off into the water. Over a handful of steps, we got from the main tunnel to the water and started the dive. I've been cave diving in the Mexican cenotes (also caves) and so I already knew the feeling of diving in a cave, but once again I was completely under the spell of diving.
Conclusion: A relatively expensive dive in Budapest – but also one I won't forget soon. So if you want to try it out, you should get some information at MJ Cave dive centre.
Tips for Scuba Diving at Molnár János
- It is important to contact MJ Cave Dive Centre a few weeks before the planned dive to check availability and the various options offered.
- Many dive in the cave with a dry suit, we opted for our 7 mm semi-dry suits from Camaro that kept us very warm. Also, the introductory dives are (unfortunately) not that long.
- Drink a lot of water. It is very humid and warm in the cave – so you don't feel dizzy.
Hotels in Budapest: My Recommendations
One of my absolute favourite hotels in Budapest is the Continental Hotel in the old town of Pest. If I had to describe the hotel in two words, it would be chic and elegant. The rooms are comfortably furnished – especially the bench along the window invites you to read and linger. Why do I love the Continental Hotel? A huge breakfast buffet and an outdoor and indoor pool on the roof in combination with a parking garage make the decision quite obvious. Check the current prices and availability at the Continental Hotel in Budapest here.
You are looking for a different hotel in Budapest?
- Budapest Avenue Hostel: A good and cheap option to stay centrally in Budapest. The beds in the dormitories have curtains for more privacy. There are also private rooms.
- Maverick City Lodge: Also a cheap accommodation in good location in Pest. There are various dormitories and private rooms to choose from.
- Ibis Styles Budapest City: Located on the Danube, this hotel offers inexpensive rooms, parking and a 24-hour reception.
- Casati Hotel: The rooms in this hotel in the centre are cosy and chic. Plus points are the breakfast buffet, parking and the great location.
- Pest-Buda Design Boutique Hotel: Those who want to stay overnight close to the Fishermen's Bastion should book a room in this hotel. The stylishly furnished rooms correspond to a boutique hotel.
You have not found a hotel in Budapest yet? On Booking.com there are always great offers – maybe you will find your new favourite hotel in Budapest?
Eating and drinking in Budapest: My tips
In Budapest, there are restaurants with inviting dining rooms and interesting menus on almost every corner. We visited the following restaurants and cafés several times during our trip:
- Horgásztanya Étterem (Fő u. 27): The menu of the restaurant in Buda includes delicious fish dishes and typical Hungarian dishes.
- Macesz Bistro (Dob u. 26): This upscale Jewish restaurant in Pest is the perfect place for a finer meal with loved ones.
- Street Food Karavan Budapest (Kazinczy u. 18): Not far from the Macesz Bistro is a small street with various street food stalls. In the back area there are – albeit limited – seating possibilities.
- Große Markthalle (Vámház krt): On the first floor of the Great Market Hall there are several small shops offering Hungarian snacks and meals from Langos to Goulash.
- New York Café (Erzsébet krt. 9-11): This café was already on my wish list during my first trip to Budapest. Even though the café is really beautiful, it is completely overcrowded and more of a spectacle for tourists than an authentic coffee house. The prices there are completely overpriced. Drinks under 7€ are not on the menu.
Tips for your City Trip to Budapest
When to go? Budapest is a city that can be visited at any time of the year. Personally I prefer spring and autumn, but the city in the snow is also magical. Budapest is a top destination in Europe and can get very crowded during the summer months – this also affects the hotels – more expensive and much is fully booked. During this time it is worth getting up early to have public sights like the Fishermen's Bastion and the City Park to yourself.
How long to stay in Budapest for a city trip? That depends on what you like to do. The highlights like castle hill and around the parliament can be visited in one day. Plan at least half a day for a visit to the thermal spa. My recommendation for the ideal length of stay in Budapest is 3 to 4 days.
Vignette. For the Hungarian motorways a vignette (toll sticker) is mandatory. You can buy it either at the last motorway service station before the border or directly at the border.
Parking. Public parking is often a rarity in Budapest. It is best to book a hotel with an (included) parking garage.
Is a city trip to Budapest worthwhile?
Absolutely! Those who know and like Vienna and Prague will also feel at home in Budapest. Whether day trip, weekend trip or longer city trip – Budapest has a lot to offer and is very diverse. If you are looking for good food, beautiful buildings, warm thermal water or a unique dive site, Budapest is the place for you.
Mazda3 – the perfect companion for a city trip
As on other trips before – like our road trip through Slovakia – we were on the road with the new Mazda3. What can I tell you? With the red speedster comes driving pleasure! The Mazda3 may look like a small car from the outside. Get inside and see for yourself: it's big! A real wonder of space is also the trunk, where we have not only stored the diving equipment of my husband and me, but also our normal luggage. The Mazda3 is also ideal for city trips because of its size – even small parking spaces are no challenge and with the magical 360° surrounding monitor, parking is possible every time. Short and long journeys are always comfortable thanks to the ergonomic seats and the built-in BOSE sound system makes listening to music really fun.
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