If I were a betting man, I’d say that Budapest was well on its way to becoming one of the Top 5 most visited cities in Europe. It has that sort of potential. Not only is the city an absolutely stunner, and full of great photo opportunities, but it’s steeped in history, Budapest is home to world-class museums, international and local cuisine, and a stunning array of architecture spanning multiple centuries.
Beautifully set along the Danube River, Budapest is one of those European cities that is so easily recognized giving it the same iconic appeal cities like Venice, London, and Paris have. So, if you’re hoping to visit Budapest, I’d highly recommend visiting soon. Within a few years, it could easily be covered with that same heavy number of tourists as those other European destinations.
Overview of Budapest
Budapest is actually split into two cities, one on each side of the bridge. Pest is flat, and busier. It’s where most of the hotels, shops, and locals are located. Chances are, you’ll be based over in Pest. Things are significantly cheaper over on this side. Buda is the old side of the river where the castle district is located. This hilly region is much more expensive to base yourself, for the most part, but is considerably more quiet. The two sides of town are connected by bridges you can walk across or metros and trams.
Budapest has a lot to offer visitors. It’s not the type of destination you can visit on a weekend trip and cover the whole list of things to do. In fact, I’ve spent a couple weeks total in Budapest and still have only scraped the surface. This is one of those places that takes time. But it’s also one of those fantastic destinations where you can do quite a bit for free and independently. These are some of the things I’ve done and recommend.
- Castle District Walking Tour: This is my favourite part of Budapest. Not only do you get great views, but there is a heap of history. There are free walking tours that go around this area each day. Ask at your accommodation for times as it varies depending on the time of year.
- Walk the Chain Bridge: Szechenyi Bridge, or the Chain Bridge as it’s known to tourists, is one of the iconic structures in Budapest. From the bridge you’ll get cool photos of the bridge itself as well as fantastic views of both the Pest and Buda sides of the city.
- Parliament: The Parliament building in Budapest are the other iconic structure in town. They are impressive inside and out. And well one side of the building is still in use by government, the other half is open and walking tours are available.
- Szechenyi and Gellert Baths: Both of these baths are worth a visit. The Szechenyi baths are the more famous of the two, and if you can only visit one head there.
- Heroes Square: This wide open square near the Szechenyi Baths has a very Soviet feel to it. It makes for some fun photos ops, and is definitely worth a visit.
- The Synagogue: The synagogue on Dohany street is a beautiful building, but it’s the history that draws people here.
- Saint Stephen’s Basilica: Likely the heart of the Pest side of the city, Saint Stephen’s is a stunning building. Don’t miss out on climbing the tower for amazing views of the city.
- Caving: Believe it or not, there is awesome caving over in the Buda Hills. I had a great time doing this, and it’s definitely something different than the usual European city experience.
- River Cruise: Especially in the summer, the Danube River fills with boats taking people up and down to enjoy spectacular views with a cocktail in hand.
- Sunset at the Citadella: This is the best place to sit and watch the lights of Budapest come alive in the evening.
- Covered Market: The covered market in Budapest is starting to get a bit touristy and over-priced, but it’s still worth a bit of a wander.
Where to Stay in Budapest
There are heaps of places to stay in Budapest, and that number is growing. I’ve stayed in three different types of accommodation in the city and all have had their advantages. What I would say is try to find accommodation in the area of Saint Stephen’s Basilica. It doesn’t have to be right there, but within a kilometer or so would be ideal.
- Aria Hotel Budapest: This is the #1 place to stay in Budapest, hands down. It’s definitely not a budget option, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a more beautiful place to stay in the city in such a great location.
- 7×24 Hostel: This is a small homey hostel just off a pedestrian street full of good food. They have big private rooms as well as nice dorms.
Where to Eat in Budapest
One of my favourite things to do in Budapest is eat. There are a tonne of great food options in the city. And though there is obviously good Hungarian food, there is also a lot of fantastic international options.
- Aria Hotel Budapest: The hotel has a small but beautiful menu, and at reasonable prices. The best part about it are the view from the rooftop bar!
- Zeller Bistro: One of the most highly regarded restaurants in the city. Serves both local and some international foods.
- Local Korner: A pizza place that is always packed.
- Ramenka: Looking for Japanese noodles? This small place serves up great ramen.
- Soul Food: The jambalaya is amazing, as are the curry dishes. They also serve po’boys and gumbo.
- La Pampa: Not cheap, but La Pampa must serve the best steaks in the city.
- Covered Market: You can find market-style eateries in the covered market. It’s a bit over-crowded, and I think it’s also quite over-priced. But, if you come on a quite day, it’s a treat.
- Budapest Baristas: Up by the museum, this is likely the best coffee spot in the city.
Best Places for Photography in Budapest
Undoubtedly, Budapest is one of the best cities in Europe for photography. These are my favourite places to shoot from:
- Citadella: Sunset views up here are amazing. This gives you the classic angle of the Chain Bridge and the Parliament Buildings.
- Gellert Hill: Also a good place for sunset, you have a view down the Danube River and a wider panoramic of Budapest.
- The Chain Bridge: There are cool views to be had from right in front of the chain bridge and on the bridge itself.
- Saint Stephen’s Basilica: Not only in front of the basilica, but you can also shoot photos from the top of the tower!