Welcome to Budapest, the city that has been becoming more and more popular in recent years due to the abundance of river cruises sailing down the Danube. And few European cities can rival this glorious setting and local bohemian atmosphere.
Hungary’s capital fashions a flourish of new design hotels, fabulous food markets, cosy coffee houses, open-air bars, fine museums and charming corners. In this city of spas, you’ll be ticking things off your list you should have had on it a long time ago…
Spas and Baths
Don’t Leave Without Taking To The Waters
Budapest sits on top of lots of thermal springs and for centuries has offered bath houses where you can swim, bathe and relax in the mineral rich waters.
This won’t be like some of the hotel chain spas you may have been to in the past though as waters can reach temperatures of 40C (or be as cold as 10C), also containing minerals that rejuvenate your skin. You’ll find dozens of spas all over the city, so weigh up your options before you go…
These are the most famous baths in the city and the site that have been running since 1881 and are in fact the largest spa complex in Europe. The spring pools containing calcium, magnesium, sodium and sulphate will give your skin the refreshing boost that just tops off your glorious city break.
Believe it or not, the locals will sit and play chess in the water whilst others will lounge in the mud baths. Children can enjoy the whirlpools and large outdoor swimming areas; not to mention, the baths are open all year round with a discounted price in winter months. In-summer entry price is around £10 and there’s also nearby gardens, a zoo, an amusement arcade as well as a small, local market.
Introducing the second most famous baths in Budapest: known for its beautiful pillars, art nouveau tiling and lounging areas. If you wanted to go all out and have spa treatments and massages you’d be better off having them here as these baths are less busy than Szechenyi. They sit on the Pest side of the river for an incredible atmosphere like no other.
Did you know? Budapest used to be split into the Buda and Pest side; the two areas developed almost completely independently from each other until the 1800s. This means that each side had a distinct feel to it and you’d find different styles of buildings, traditions and customs on each!
Alternatively, why not head to the Rudas baths instead? They are far quieter but have beautiful Turkish style bath areas if that tickles your fancy. Lie back in the pools and stare at the starred ceiling, or sit in the rooftop pool that boasts stunning views over the Danube. Entry price is also lower here for those on a city break budget, only costing you around £7.
Whichever spa you choose you’re sure to have a blissful afternoon of total relaxation as you soak your troubles away…
Top Tip: Be aware that some bath houses have a series of baths outdoors so these are best visited during the summer months (where the city really comes alive). Don’t get us wrong- the pools are heated but aren’t quite as much fun if it’s raining…
Head To The Top Of The Hill
The Views Are A Climb Away
If getting all pruney isn’t your idea of fun then you might want to head to the Buda side of the river and climb the hill to the Buda Castle District. Awaiting you up the top are stunning views, interesting museums and a variety of shops and restaurants…
If you stand at the top of Fisherman’s Bastion you get a fantastic view of the Danube and the Hungarian Parliament and as you wander around, take a look at the seven towers which represent the seven Magyar tribes who settled in Budapest over a thousand years ago.
Whilst here, visit the small shops dotted around nearby which sell everything from art pieces to tourists trinkets, from home-wares to local cloth. From the other side of this hill you can look out at the Pest side of the river for the picturesque hills and districts nearby…
Buda Castle isn’t just a castle- it’s also home to the Hungarian National Gallery, the Budapest History Museum and the National Library. The art lovers amongst you will love the Gothic Altar pieces and Hungarian artists. For the most interesting of the art collections (which include 20th century art or Baroque pieces) then head to the top floors of the gallery!
Did you know? Buda Castle also offers wine tastings in the Faust Wine Cellar. You’ll be able to sip a wide range of fine Hungarian wines in the relaxed medieval setting! But remember, it’s recommended that you book in advance.
Take Your Pick
Budapest has lots of bridges which you’re sure to notice if you sail through the city on a river cruise! Each of the nine bridges is a little different to the next and you’ll find that the most famous of these is the Chain Bridge.
It was the first permanent bridge to connect the Buda and Pest sides of the river and serves as one of the city’s most famous landmarks. Walking along the Chain Bridge gives you a great view of either side of the river and stays as the perfect spot for the most picturesque holiday photos to take away with you…
This hedonistic city has been made famous by its bizarre bars that are uniquely weird and wonderful. Ruin bars have only been built in the last decade and a half inside of abandoned buildings with most of them being found in the old district of town. Previously unused spaces have been transformed, with no rules for design leading to trendy unique hubs.
Travellers can expect bars with sewing machines plastered into the walls, drinks served from campervans, outdoor bars with rowing boats instead of stools to sit on and tables made from parts of cars! You can see more of the trippy interiors in the video below…
If you only have time to visit one then we’d recommend a trip to Szimpla-kert which has five different ruin bars inside. It’s always busy with both locals and tourists, serving up a great atmosphere to relax with drinks, new-found friends and local beer.
There’s also a little photo booth inside for you and your companions to get your picture snapped to document your memory in the bar itself! Depending on what time of year you visit there may also be a food market, film festival or live band playing here so if this is your type of thing then research your dates!
Jump On A Tram
Best Way To Get Around
The city’s yellow trams rattle along all over the city and are an easy way to get around and a day pass only costs around £3 with the trams running until midnight if you’re extending your day out until the night…
If you can’t face navigating them (although you really shouldn’t be put off – it’s pretty simple over there), then a taxi is fairly inexpensive for the cost of convenience. Look out for taxis that have meter prices on the side – this means that you will pay by the meter and there won’t be any hidden costs.
Alternatively, hop on a Boris-style bike that you can rent for the day. You can’t miss the bright green florescent bikes that whizz around the city and they’re a great, cheap way to get around from one landmark to the next. You’ll enjoy the first 30 minutes of your bike ride for free and pay £5 for a three hour ride; you can pick up a bike from one of the 76 docking stations over the city.
Top tip: Remember that the Hungarian currency is initially a little hard to get your head around. The current conversion rate is one British pound to 374 Hungarian Forints. This can make paying for things a little difficult as some people assume prices are extremely high (when they aren’t) or think that 100,000 forints isn’t a lot (when it kind of is!) Download a conversion app for your phone to keep you on track of your spending.
On the Pest side of the river there’s a set of steep steps up to the castle district. You can either climb them or you can wait in line to take a funicular (a tram like car) up to get to the top. It’s also more scenic to take the car than the steps as the path takes you through the forest whereas the cars give you a great view of the Danube for around £4 return.
Alternatively side step this problem (literally) by heading up along the road instead of the steps for a less steep climb which will take you right up to Fisherman’s Bastion along a less harsh gradient.
If you’re really feeling adventurous you could try a Segway tour of the city and spend three hours whizzing around the Pest side of the river. It’s a great way to get around some of the steep hills and allows you to see around the inner pest streets (without walking a step!) You’ll pick up your Segway from a designated meeting point and be escorted round by an enthusiastic tour guide for around £40 per person.
Enjoy A Bit Of Culture
Tick A Few Off Your List
Many tours in Budapest will take you to the Opera House for an impressive show or to walk along the iconic Hungarian Parliament but where else in the city can you go to soak up a bit of culture?
Travel to Memento Park and see the Soviet Communist statues which have been erected to remind people what it was previously like to live in communist Hungary. The collection of propaganda posters give you a stark and interesting insight into the city as you walk around the statues that were removed from around the city once the regime had fallen.
Similarly, a visit to the Shoes on the Danube will give you a sobering but worthwhile trip. Here, iron shoes have been left on the shoreline to honour Jews who were ordered to take off their shoes on the shoreline before being shot.
For something a little less heavy, you could visit the Basilica of St Stephen. After visiting the vast gothic building you should definitely try some of the local restaurants nearby. A visit to Hungary wouldn’t be complete without trying some of the local paprika! Rezkakas Bistro serves particularly fine traditional food including goulash and local musicians play whilst you eat.
And One Thing Not To Do
If you have to give something a miss on your trip to Budapest then you can afford to leave a visit to the Central Market Hall. Whilst widely advertised as a great way to spend an afternoon, the produce is actually fairly overpriced and despite being in a large indoor market the wares being sold aren’t particularly unique.
Do you agree with our thoughts on Budapest? Have you been before? Which looks like it’d be your favourite thing to do in Hungary’s capital? Let us know in the comments below or discover more of our city break guides below!
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