I recently spent a long weekend in Budapest. If you are planning a trip to Budapest, be sure to read this before you go. If you are not planning a trip to Budapest, I would suggest adding it to your list 🙂
Budapest was originally two separate places. Buda on one side of the Danube River and Pest on the other.
Here are the best bits of both …
- Gellert baths
- Gellert hill, gardens, monuments, statues and amazing view points
- Church in a cave, Gellert Hill
- Gellert Hill Monument
You can see this from the road, but it is quite hard to find. Walk up Gellert hill to the monument at the top, near the citadel. Take a right and if you keep walking straight you should find it.
- Rudas baths
The Rudas has the best of both worlds. The authentic pool brings you back in time and the new extension provides modern luxury. We spent our Saturday night on the roof top pool. Read Budapest baths below, for opening times.
- Buda castle hill funicular
Take the funicular up to the castle district. It’s about £3 one way or a steep climb on foot. We bought a one way ticket so we could walk down the other side near the National Gallery. I recommend this, it’s an enjoyable walk. I believe there are chair lifts up to Buda hill, but we didn’t see any when we were there.
- Castle district
- National gallery
- Royal Palace
- St. Matthias church
- Fisherman’s bastion
- Labyrinths, below castle district
- Hospital on the rock. A secret military hospital and nuclear bunker in a cave under Buda hill
- Parliament building
English tours run 10.00, 12.00, 13.00, 14.00, 15.00. The tours book up fast. Go early or book online at http://www.jeymester.hu. Present yourbooking reference at the desk, you don’t need to print the tickets. The tour is about £5.
- Jewish shoe memorial
A memorial dedicated to the Jews that were lined up, told to remove their shoes, and then shot into the river. You will find it on the edge of the Danube River, on the pest side, near the Parliament building.
- Freedom square
- St. Stephens Basilica
302 steps up to the top. The entry fee is £0.70 to go up and about £0.70 to get inside.
- The Great Synagogue
- Szimpla kert, ruin pub
Szimpla is in the Jewish quarter. Read Ruin Pubs below for more information on Budapest’s quirky drinking holes.
An outdoor eatery beside Szimpla ruin pub.
- Szechenyi baths
A 10 min tram ride from Deak square, near St. Stephens Basilica. £10 for full day entry. They have pool parties here at the weekends.
- Hero Square
Near Szechenyi Baths.
The shopping area is between Chain bridge and Elizabeth bridge on the Pest side. I’m not really into shopping, but there’s a lively buzz about this place, and plenty of restaurants, but you will pay more here.
- The Great Market
- Boat trips are around £7.
- Chain Bridge
The oldest and most famous bridge. It leads to parliament/Jewish shoe memorial/St. Stephens Basilica on the pest side and castle district on the Buda side.
- Elizabeth bridge (between chain and freedom bridge)
- Freedom bridge (leads to the great market on Pest, and Gellert on Buda)
- Margaret bridge (leads to Margaret island)
Things we found along the way
- Bronze statues
- Bizarre ice-cream flavours
Fancy some camembert, olive or ginger ice cream?
- The bar with 1000 notes
We couldn’t find this place, but here is a link to a picture we found on Pinterest. If you find it, please let me know.
Things I learnt about Budapest
- Buda = quiet, Pest = busy
- Currency: Hungarian Forint (£1.00 = approx. 440 Hungarian Forint)
- The three things you cannot miss in Budapest are the baths, the castle district, and the ruin pubs.
- Room escape games are big in Budapest.
- There are some great music festivals in Hungary. Check what’s on before you go.
- Entrance/admission fees are really cheap.
- There is a free walking tour that starts at the Sofitel hotel on the pest side near chain bridge.
- The airport taxi service in Budapest is great. We were very impressed, especially after our episode with a nasty taxi driver, who ripped us off in Prague.
- The food wasn’t great, which didn’t bother us really. We were eating on the go so we could make the most of our short time in Budapest. We had good burgers in the Karavan outdoor eatery. We also had a really tasty meal in The Terminal, in the park near Deak square (pest side). The Knezitsutca restaurant was recommended in a blog I had read.
- The beer however, is great!
- Everything is within walking distance except Szechenyi baths/hero square. Szechenyi is a 10min tram ride from Deak square. £3.50 for an all-day ticket. You don’t really need the Budapest card that is advertised.
- Budapest is the cheapest city to stay. £117 = costs of an average person, including food, drinks, sightseeing and accommodation. (Boston is most expensive £417).
- The average price of coffee is £1.15.
- The average price for a 3 course meal for two with a bottle of wine costs £25.63
- You’ll need an adaptor
- Go to an information kart or a tourist information shop and lift these three brochures/maps we found most useful…
What I learnt on this trip
We decided if we were going to have to take photos in the rain, we would buy a nice umbrella to brighten up our rainy pictures. We found someone selling rainbow coloured umbrellas in the metro station. By then we were looking forward to the rain so we could use them, ha-ha! Don’t let the weather bring down your mood or ruin your photos.
“I hate all those weathermen, too, who tell you that rain is bad weather. There’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing, so get yourself a sexy raincoat and live a little.” Billy Connolly
Experiencing a different way of life is one of my favourite things about travel. Rudas baths opened at 10pm-4pm, so instead of partying people can chill and relax in the baths or enjoy a drink on the roof top terrace. It made me wish we had this facility at home. We spent our Saturday night in the healing waters of a geothermal roof top pool with the Danube River on one side and Buda hill on the other. Hungarians have the right idea.
“Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” Mary Ritter Beard
Walking is the best way to get a feel for the place and find hidden gems. We found the church within the cave by accident. There was a wedding in the church which made it even more special. I also enjoyed feeling tired at the end of the day and relaxing at night in the nice apartment or at the baths.
We decided not to do the free walking tour because we were enjoying finding things by ourselves and feeling a sense of achievement. We also enjoyed being silly on our own walking tour.
“Let’s not do the free walking tour, because then we can’t get on like eejits” Denise Braithwaite
There will always be city bike stands, Starbucks or McDonalds at major tourist areas. Look out for these if you get lost. You can also follow the big crowds. Sometimes you can sneak to the back of an english tour guide and hear snippets of information about a place.
The Budapest city of spas brochure lists all the baths, with photos, descriptions, and opening times. They also list the water healing properties of each bath so you can pick and choose which you want to go to.
We picked, Rudas, Gellert and Szechenyi. If you have kids I would suggest Palatinus, Romai, or Punkosdfurdo.
The water comes from natural geothermal springs and the medicinal waters have a multitude of healing effects.
You can bathe naked in Rudas on men/woman only days.
There are 15 baths in Budapest, one for each district.
- szechenyi 06.00-22.00 outdoor pools
- gellert 06.00-20.00
- rudas 06.00-22.00, and night bathing 22.00-04.00 Fri/Sat
- st. lukacs 06.00-21.00
- kirayl 09.00-21.00
- dander 06.00-20.00 + 06.00-14.00 Sat/Sun
- csillaghegyi 06.00-20.00 weekdays 06.00-17.00 Sat/Sun 08.00-19.00 summer season
- dagaly 06.00-20.00
- palatinus 09.00-19.00 until 15th June 09.00-20.00 after 16th June
- romai 09.00-20.00
- paskal 09.00-19.00 09.00-20.00 Sat/Sun
- punkosdfurdo 09.00-19.00 Mon-Thurs 08.00-20.00 Fri/Sat
The ruin pubs are simply derelict buildings, warehouses, cellars, or unused carparks which were transformed to provide cheap places for locals to drink and they are still used today. The furniture is bizarre, eccentric and mostly junk, and recycled items that make the space feel like a quirky collectors museum. The walls are covered in graffiti and you can can chain your bike up anywhere in the bar.
There are 10 or more ruin pubs in an around the Jewish quarter. If you have time grab a drink or just stroll around each one. We went to Szimpla Kert but if we had had more time we would have visited a few more.
- szimpla kert
- corvinteto durer kert
- ellato kert eleszto
- grandio bar gondozo kert
- koleves kert
If you’re stuck for time these were our favourite bits…
- Rudas baths (at night time)
- The church in a cave, Gellert Park
- Fisherman’s bastion. A beautiful, fairy-tale building and stunning views from Buda hill
- Szimpla ruin pub for a quick beer.
- Szechenyi outdoor baths
Where we stayed….
I can’t stress enough, how much I love Air BnB. I don’t think I’ll ever stay in a hotel again. This modern apartment, centrally located on the Buda side with views and a balcony overlooking the Danube River. The mezzanine level bedroom means you can watch the river flow by from your bed. It was spacious, clean and all the furniture and fittings were of the highest spec.
I love having a kitchen when I am away. You can make yourself a quick breakfast to save time and money, and you really feel at home.
The owners were there to let us in and show us around even with our late arrival (12.am). We were able to check out whatever time we liked, and they texted us with information, and answered all our questions. This is extremely useful when you don’t know the countries holidays and what days/times the supermarkets/muesums are closed.
I also really enjoy reading the Lonely Planet guide books before my trips to avoid missing anything really special. Follow the link below for the Budapest Lonely Planet Guide book.
I hope this blog has been useful. I am keen to hear what you think about the blog, and any more tips about Budapest you may have.
You can have a look through my Budapest Pinterest board via the link below;
You can also follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest;
Enjoy the adventure and return safely,
The wandering boomerang 🙂