Budapest surprised me in every way imaginable… with it’s amazing food, incomparable nightlife, rich history, unique culture, architectural beauty, and of course it’s unparalleled ruin pubs. I think what may have shocked me the most about Budapest was how large of a city it is, and how much there was to see and do. There aren’t just two or three top attractions, the city encompasses enough culture and history to fill up days worths of itineraries.
The phenomenal quality of Budapest is that it is foreign and mysterious. With a blend of history that meets a modern day food scene, just when you think you’ve got the place pinned down you turn a street corner and see something that surprises you. Although I only had a few days in Budapest, I felt like I was able to take in plenty of what the city had to offer, and I wanted to make a guide for first-timers (or returnees if you missed something!) on some of my favorite spots and stops in Budapest.
Try Traditional Goulash
Goulash.. it’s the medieval food that comes to mind whenever you think Hungarian food. It’s hearty, it’s salty, it’s quite possibly the most delicious thing I’ve ever tasted. It is a must-try when in Budapest. Try to avoid the tourist traps and go to a more traditional restaurant to chow down with the locals.
Enjoy the View at the Citadella
The Citadella is a Hungarian fortress atop Gellért Hill. It possesses a striking view over the cities river and famous bridges. It is the ideal location to snap a few photos, try Hungarian street food and get a souvenir from the local vendors.
Take a Coffee Break at the New York Cafe
How do I explain the New York Cafe? To start, it’s been called “The Most Beautiful Cafe in the World.” It’s like the Beauty and the Beast library meets my childhood tea party fantasies times a thousand. It’s luxurious with angel carvings, sculptures and gold trimming on all the walls and ceilings. Classical music will be playing, and you will feel like you’ve been whisked away to another time and place. This is a place you sit and stay awhile, and enjoy your company. But fair warning, it is a little pricier compared to the other spots in Budapest.
Hang Out at the Ruin Pubs
Drum roll please… The ruin pubs were some of the most unique and enjoyable aspects of our trip to Budapest! I never knew that Budapest had such a bustling night life! The awesomeness that is ruin pubs is almost hard to describe without experiencing it first hand. “Ruin bars” are bars built in the ruins of abandoned warehouses, stores, or lots. These bars are all peculiarly decorated with string lights, mitch-matched furniture, and abstract art! I felt like I was in a scene of Alice in Wonderland.
Our favorite, and the original ruin pub is called Szimpla Kert! A bonus is that all of the ruin pubs have extremely reasonable drink specials. To really soak up the Hungarian culture, try a shot of Palinka, a traditional fruit brandy invented in the middle ages!
Enjoy a Danube River Cruise
Taking a river cruise is erring on the side of touristy, but it is still very entertaining. We took a nighttime cruise up and down the Danube that lasted around 45 minutes. We captured some marvelous shots of the Parliament Building and Buda Castle lit up at night, so I would strongly recommend taking an evening cruise! Take a stroll around the river walk to browse the different ferry companies and select the one with the best deal for you.
Marvel at the Parliament Building
The Hungarian Parliament Building, which is made in gothic style, is the largest building in Hungary. The building is gorgeous to see during the day, and dazzling at night when it is illuminated with its golden lights. To quote my boyfriend, “from an architectural perspective, the Budapest Parliament building is the most beautiful building in all of Europe.”
Walk the Chain Bridge
The Széchenyi Chain Bridge is an immense suspension bridge that stretches across the Danube River and connects Buda with Pest. The Chain Bridge is one of the most well known landmarks in Budapest, with its marvelous stones and lions sculptures. You can walk across the bridge from either side, and appreciate the views.
Stroll the Inner City
The inner city sits along the banks of the Danube, and is part of the old historic town of Budapest. It is now a thriving commerce area, with plenty of restaurant options and high end shopping areas. It is a pleasant area to wander around and maybe grab a bite to eat!
House of Terror Museum
“Having survived two terror regimes, it was felt that the time had come for Hungary to erect a fitting memorial to the victims, and at the same time to present a picture of what life was like for Hungarians in those times.” The House of Terror Museum is a monument to the memory of those held captive, tortured and killed in the building it was built around. It is a very, very interesting activity to do for those who enjoy history and museums!
Stop by the Hősök Tere (Heroes Square)
Hősök Tere is one of the main squares in Budapest. It is known by its iconic statues of the he Seven Chieftains of the Magyars. The square is surrounded by the Museum of Fine Arts and also the Hall of Art, and it is also in close proximity to the Széchenyi Thermal Baths.
Széchenyi Thermal Baths
The thermal baths were like something out of a dream for me. There’s just something so soothing about floating around hot spring water with brisk air and a beautiful building surrounding you.The Széchenyi Medicinal Bath is the largest thermal bath in Europe, and is over 130 years old. Entrance to the baths is around 16 Euros, and you can also purchase a cabin, towel, robes, and food and drink for an additional cost.