Your Complete City Guide to Budapest
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BUDAPEST CITY GUIDE
Why should I visit Budapest?
What is there to see and do in Budapest?
How do i get to Budapest?
What is the best time to go to Budapest?
Where to stay in Budapest?
What's a good itinerary for Budapest?
Tips and facts for Budapest
Events and Festivals for Budapest
I'm looking for somewhere different to go to,
WHY SHOULD I VISIT BUDAPEST, HUNGARY?
Budapest is as cool as they come. Full of sophistication mixed with youthful energy, this city has something for everyone and is a joy to explore.
Individuals, families and couples will love Budapest for a holiday.
So where to start? The Pest side is alive with retail opportunities plus fabulous eating and drinking options including the trendy "ruin bars". Buda offers the stunning views from the Castle District and Gellert Hill. And no trip is complete without visiting the famous thermal baths. What a mouthwatering prospect, contact Sloveniaforyou for advice today!
Welcome to Budapest!
WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN BUDAPEST, HUNGARY?
Top Sights and Attractions
CASTLE HILL PRECINCT - BUDA SIDE
Being elevated gives the Buda side of the Danube a slight advantage over Pest due to the great views.
The major feature on this side is of course the Royal Palace or Castle District. It houses the National Library, The National Gallery and the History Museum.
You could easily spend half a day here or longer, especially if you are an art lover. Behind the palace in the Castle District are the most gorgeous cobblestone streets for you to explore. You can walk up or take the Funicular, the views of the Chain Bridge and Pest are amazing. There are plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from, but be reminded that as this is a tourist area, it's a bit pricier than the pest side.
For an inexpensive snack, sloveniaforyou.com recommends "lángos", deep fried dough served with cheese and sour cream, found at the food stall near the Chain Bridge and all over Budapest!
(beware this will ruin your dinner!)
GELLERT HILL - BUDA SIDE
Poor old St Gellert, the pagans didn’t approve of his campaign to convert the locals and he was unceremoniously rolled down the hill from atop of Gellert Hill in a barrel.
Today, the Citadella Fortress is situated up here and also the iconic Liberation Monument which was erected after WW2.
The views of the Danube and Budapest are spectacular and the thermal baths are found at the base of the hill.
Getting up here is tricky with public transport but well worth the effort, or just walk, it is steep from the base
but there are places to stop and admire the views.
VACI UTCA - PEST SIDE
The Pest side is brimming with fascinating architecture, shopping, dining and hotels. Walk past beautiful town squares, elegant streets and sidewalk cafes.
Marvel at such buildings like the Hungarian Academy of the Sciences before heading to Vaci Utca for some retail therapy.
The big name stores are here and you might come across colourful street artists as well!
All manner of Hungarian souvenirs are sold here (it is a longggg street!), but savvy shoppers will compare prices before purchasing as many stores sell the same items with differing prices.
Don't forget to try the amazing snack Kurtos Kalacs (or Chimney cakes) whilst here!
FISHERMANS BASTION - BUDA SIDE
Who can forget the sight of Matthias Church and The Fishermans Bastion? Just down from the Royal Palace on Castle Hill, this area is a tourist favourite.
The neo-gothic style of the ‘Bastion” is unique and beautiful. Stunning views of the Danube from here as well and for a nominal fee you can visit the upper towers
for a superb outlook over the Danube and across towards Pest!
Margaret Island is a huge 2.5km long island on the Danube and is a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle and enjoy some peace and quiet.
Bring the kids for a picnic and enjoy this wonderful green space. It is a favourite of swimmers, joggers, cyclists and sportspersons in general. Bikes can be hired.
Highlights include the Danubius Health Spa Resort Margitsziget, the Palatinus Pools with slides, a recently renovated Japanease garden, a musical water fountain with light show that runs nightly in the warmer months
and the Margaret Island Open-Air Stage that provides classical concerts in the summertime.
BUDAPEST THERMAL BATHS
One thing Budapest is definitely famous for is their thermal mineral baths. You cannot visit Budapest without sharing in this amazing experience. There are many across Budapest but the biggest and the best are the Szechenyi, Degaly, Dandar, Gellert, Kiraly, Lukacs and the Rudas. Some of these baths date back 500 years and the minerals in the water are renowned for their healing powers for certain conditions and diseases. The Szechenyi Baths is the grand daddy of them all and are the largest in Europe. This is a massive complex of 18 outdoor and indoor pools at different temperatures where the devoted come back time and time again for medicinal purposes or just to relax. They also offer a full service of steam chambers, saunas, massage, pedicure and fitness programs plus a full range of medicinal therapies.
The sheer size of Parliament will astound you as well as the attention to detail throughout its 691 (not all of which have ever been used) rooms and exterior as well. Highlights include The Sacred Crown in the Cupola Hall which was presented as a gift from the Pope to St. Stephen in 1000 AD. A tour is highly recommended but be aware that only a limited number of visitors are allowed per day. Also, EU citizens should bring their passports for discount eligibility on admission.
BUDAPEST CENTRAL MARKET
This huge food market is a colourful sight even if you don’t buy anything. Downstairs you will find all manner of culinary specialties from paprika,
salami and sweets to cured meats and wines. Upstairs is a souvenir hunter's delight and be prepared to squeeze your way past the throngs of tourists in the narrow aisle
way that rings the upper floor. Be aware that prices here will reflect the tourist atmosphere but it's still a lot of fun to have a look .
There is also a fish market and special events like cultural days where you can taste specialties from different nations!
To avoid the crowds at the Central Market, sloveniaforyou.com recommends you visit in the afternoon, rather than the morning. Great fun.
DRINKING AND EATING IN BUDAPEST
Like other European capitals, Budapest has an abundance of places to eat and caters for almost all tastes.
Yes, they like to throw paprika into everything but hell, why not? Goulash as a tradition is served as a soup before the main meal of Porkolt (Goulash as a stew? - meat, potatoes, paprika, mushrooms and lots of onions!).
They do pork particularly well (like the Slovenes) but you find almost anything you like here in Budapest. From high-end to all you can eat buffets, the range is far and wide.
Wash it down with a local wine, beer or palinka (brandy). You won’t go hungry in Hungary as the streets are lined with cafes and restaurants vying for your patronage.
Ask around for a place serving authentic local cuisine!
RUIN BARS AND GOZSDU UDVAR
Are you into hip and trendy? Well, even if you are neither hip, nor trendy, you still many want to check out District VII and it's "ruin bars".
Set up in disused residential courtyards and furnished with derelict furniture, the ruin bars are the place to be seen by the beautiful people these days.
Visit Szimpla kert, the original ruin bar on Kazinczy utca. Also in District VII, you should visit Gozsdu Udvar, a courtyard with six linked sections
which hosts a weekly artists market selling jewellry, clothes and homewares. At night, Gozsdu Udvar is home to some of the most popular night spots in Budapest.
Bring your dancing shoes!
HEROES SQUARE AND CITY PARK
Heroes Square is one of the most iconic spots in Budapest. It features the Arch Angel Gabriel and two curving colonnades of statues out of Hungarian history including saints and kings.
The square is popular with tourists, so best photo opportunities are probably taken in the early morning.
A short walk from Heroes Square is the lovely and peaceful City Park (Városiglet). Including bike paths, an ice rink, basketball courts, tennis tables, and large chessboards,
the City Park is all about leisure. It even includes a "folly", pretend castle, the Vajdahunjad Castle, which incorporates pieces of famous Hungarian castles throughout history.
ST STEPHENS BASILICA
St. Stephen's Basilica is Budapest's largest church. It was designed in 1845 by Joszef Hild and construction was completed in 1905.
The original dome collapsed in 1868 and the whole thing was demolished rebuilt by the architect Miklos Ybl.
What you see today is the neo-Renaissance style favoured by the Viennese court. The Basilica received much damage by allied bombing in WW2 and it was only fully restored in 1980.
The Basilica today features frescoes of Saints and the mummified right hand of St. Stephen. On August 20, St. Stephens Day, the relic is paraded around the square in a religious
procession. Admission to the Basilca is a recommended donation of 200 Forints and there are extra fees to visit the bell towers and the museum.
HOW DO I GET TO/FROM BUDAPEST, HUNGARY?
From Budapest to/from Ljubljana
DISTANCE: 470km, TIME TAKEN TO CENTRE: 5 hours
PRIVATE TRANSFER: To reach Ljubljana centre from Budapest or Budapest Airport, contact us by email for a quote here
CAR HIRE: If you wish to hire a one-way car rental from Budapest then contact us by email for a quote here
TRAIN: Trains go daily in both directions taking about 8 hours - see details about timetable/prices HERE
From Budapest to Split
DISTANCE: 770km, TIME TAKEN TO CENTRE: 8 hours
PRIVATE TRANSFER: To reach Split centre from Budapest, contact us by email for a quote here
CAR HIRE: If you wish to hire a one-way car rental from Budapest then contact us by email for a quote here
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT BUDAPEST, HUNGARY?
JULY-AUGUST - Peak time, can be very hot with clear skies and humidity.
APRIL,MAY,JUNE - Not a bad time with Spring blossoming but weather can be unpredictable.
SEPTEMBER - The best month in our opinion, still warm and kids go back to school.
OCTOBER-NOV - Getting colder and cloudier with rain but the autumn colours are beautiful.
DEC-JAN-FEB-MARCH - The least likely time to visit as winter brings the cold but at least there are few tourists.
WHERE SHOULD I STAY IN BUDAPEST, HUNGARY?
There are lots of choices in all categories in and around Budapest.
Peruse the options listed below and pick one that suits your needs, all bookings help keep the website going!
Here are our top picks, book using our links and enjoy your stay!
"Everything at Hotel Moments Budapest was perfect. The room, the cleanliness, the staff, the breakfast, the facilities, and the location. The room was spacious and quiet, very comfortable bed and lovely bathroom. The breakfast had a large variety and the sauna was an added bonus.
I would highly recommend this hotel and will definitely stay here in the future.”
"ABT Karoly has a perfect location and big terrace with great views. Beds are comfortable and the kitchen is completely equipped. Air-conditioning works well, there is an extra-toilet and even umbrellas.
Thank you Alex!”
WHAT'S A GOOD ITINERARY FOR BUDAPEST, HUNGARY?
Budapest is a large city spread over two sides of the Danube. With this in mind it makes sense to break up your day by focusing on certain areas rather than
trying to see the whole city in one go!
In two days you could also use one day each to explore both sides of the city.
If using Budapest as a base then of course you could base yourself here for 3-7 days and explore the city and take day trips as noted above. Here are some suggested itineraries and ideas:
Budapest in one day -
After breakfast, take the train to the Buda side Szeli Kalman ter and walk up to the Castle District.
Explore the Castle District including the Royal Palace, Fisherman's Bastion and surrounding streets
Admire great views from all sides of the Castle Hill
Lunch, eat at one of the many restaurants here like Pest-Buda Bistro (try the Paprika Chicken!)
Walk to the base of the hill and cross the Chain bridge for views of the Danube
Turn left and explore the Parliament area and Shoes on the Danube tribute.
Walk back into town via Szabadsag ter and have a drink on Oktober 6 Utca
Turn left and admire St Stephens Basilica
Walk through Erzsebet Park to Vaci Utca
Browse for souvenirs along Vaci Utca.
Spend the evening at Gozsdu area with trendy ruin bars and restaurants, very hip!
Budapest in two days -
Explore the Castle Hill district in more detail In the evening window shop in Vaci Utca and have dinner and drinks in Gozsdu.
Head to Gellert Hill for views of the city and Danube.
Then cross again back to the Great Market Hall for lunch and browsing.
In the afternoon head to Heroes Square and City park before crossing the road and relaxing at Szechenyi baths.
Have dinner back in town perhaps besides the Danube.
Budapest in 3-7 days -
A longer stay means you can explore the city more plus take day trips like the Danube Bend to Szentendre,
Visigrad and Esztergom.
You could visit the Gellert Baths and spend time at one of the many museums like the National Museum.
A tour of the Parliament building is highly recommended as the interior is stunning!
TIPS for visiting Budapest -
Euros - Some attractions and restaurants accept Euros in Budapest to make it easier for tourists, however the rates in euros will generally be more expensive than the rate in Forints just for that privilege!
Taxis - Do not take taxis that show "Freelance" on the side unless you have no choice as they will set their own excessive rates and then let you haggle. Best off taking an official taxi that uses set rates as stated on the stickers inside the cab so you don't get ripped off!
DID YOU KNOW? FUN FACTS FOR BUDAPEST, HUNGARY
1. Budapest or Buda only became the capital after the Mongolian invasion in 1241-1242 when King Béla IV moved the Royal Seat to Buda which they thought offered more protection.
Before that, Esztergom, the birth and coronation place of St. Stephen the first king of Hungary, was the capital of Hungary.
2. Unlike many other cultures, Hungarians use their surname first and their given name second, any second given names come after that, but many don’t have second names.
3. Due to a fault line shaping the course of the Danube Valley, a great number of thermal springs come to the surface in Budapest (hence the famous thermal baths!) Budapest is the world's only metropolis which has more than 130 thermal springs and wells beneath it.
4. Budapest used to be not two, but three cities before 1873: Buda, Pest, and Óbuda. These three settlements were united by the Habsburg rule.
5. Did you know that the first subway line of continental Europe was built in Budapest? The Millenium Underground Railway line was constructed for the Millennium Celebration of 1896, commemorating the Hungarian Conquest of 896. It is the third oldest underground railway in the world after “Tünel” in Istanbul, and the London Underground.
EVENTS AND FESTIVALS IN BUDAPEST, HUNGARY
There is always something happening in Budapest all year round.
Here is a calendar of the major events.
You may want to plan your holiday to coicide with these events!
JANUARY/FEBRUARY - Farsang Carnival Festival
Hungarians love a good excuse to party and the Budapest Carnival season is an almighty 40 day blow out before the austerity of Lent begins. The Budapest Carnival season, known locally as Farsang, starts just after Epiphany and is an almost endless series of masquerades and balls, coupled with the noisy warding off of winter. By the time Ash Wednesday comes around the Hungarians are exhausted, fatter, and ready to sit quietly in the corner until Easter arrives. The traditions in place have been nurtured and followed for centuries, and while they often have the same religious roots, the bizarre adaptations mean each of them has a life of their own. The Budapest Carnival season is a festival of life, colour and joviality to be enjoyed by all, regardless of religious belief. For many, it has become more than a social event, with traditional events like Busójárás expressing the country’s roots and culture, while bidding farewell to winter and heartily welcoming the arrival of spring.
FEBRUARY/MARCH - Budapest Dance Festival
The most influential troupe of contemporary dance world comes to Budapest! Three international productions, three Budapest premieres, three co-production premieres and the gala evening and dance history lecture of the Hungarian Dance Academy are included in the program of the Budapest Dance Festival organized in Budapest's four most prestigious cultural institutions: Müpa - Budapest, the National Theatre of Hungary, the Liszt Academy and Pesti Vigadó.
MARCH/APRIL - Budapest Spring Festival
The Budapest Spring Festival awaits visitors with a programme that involves many of the arts, with events in classical music, opera, jazz, world music, dance, contemporary circus, theatre and the visual arts. With the best Hungarian performers and real world stars. The Budapest Spring Festival is a truly special occasion, presenting premieres and co-productions with partner institutions. There will be dozens of venues used: in addition to the Müpa Budapest and Liszt Academy, Bálna Budapest, Vigadó, Budapest Music Center, Akvárium Klub, Várkert Bazár (Castle Garden Bazaar) and other Budapest theatres, cultural institutes and museums will also be home to outstanding events.
MAY - Mayfest at the Opera House
World-famous musicians perform at the Budapest Opera House during the Mayfest at the Opera music festival. Miklós Ybl’s neo-renaissance palace has remained virtually unchanged in the 130 years since and continues to attract admirers of opera and ballet alike. Each year, thousands of tourists visit the building to take in one of Budapest’s most impressive 19th century national monuments. Mayfest usually has a different theme every year coinciding with anniversaries and the like of historical events.
JUNE - Danube Carnival
Budapest hosts one of the most colourful cultural series of events of the Hungarian summer every June. The Danube Carnival awaits you with a wide range of phenomenal programs on several spots of the city: enjoy the folk, symphonic and world music, traditional and contemporary dance and the colourful folklore of the participating countries! Virtuoso and breath-taking fusion of symphonic and authentic folk music will impress the audiences of the Gala concert at the Margaret Island Open Air Stage. Spectacular scenes performed by the best Hungarian professional dance troupes will make the experience unforgettable.
JUNE-AUGUST - Budapest Summer Festival
Hungary’s most versatile festival hosting more international artists than ever this year delivering a high-quality cultural programme for all distinguished guests who come to town between June and the end of August. Just like in previous years, the choice will be yours as we present great productions in a wide array of genres featuring world stars from every continent performing on Hungary’s most impressive open air stage. Enjoy this unique chance, sit back and let us entertain you! Features first class operas, marvellous concerts, stunning musicals and a unique ballet performance, various jazz, world music and cross-over concerts.
JULY - Hungarian Grand Prix
Hungary first hosted a Grand Prix in the 1930s, but following the Second World War it was not until the 1960s that motorsport began to find a place in the country. At the start of the 1980s there was a general wish for a Grand Prix to be held behind the Iron Curtain. At first a street race through Budapest was suggested, but in the end the decision was taken to build a brand new circuit in a valley 19 kilometres outside Budapest. The track opened in 1986 and it held its first Formula One event in August that year. It was a huge success and almost 200,000 fans showed up. Although tight and twisty, the circuit has been known to throw up some great races, the most memorable being Thierry Boutsen's win in 1990, beating Ayrton Senna by 0.3 seconds, and of course the 1997 race where Damon Hill in the Arrows sensationally passed Michael Schumacher's Ferrari only to be denied the win by mechanical failure on the very last lap.
AUGUST - Sziget Festival
Sziget Festival is a multi-genre island festival in Budapest, Hungary, in August. Now one of Europe's most iconic music festivals, it has become famed for its diverse lineups that span everything from EDM, house and techno to rock, pop and indie. Lighting up the city for a whole week, Sziget brings some of the world's biggest artists to its island, with recent names including Muse, Rihanna and David Guetta. But Sziget isn't just about the music, with there also being a host of other activities to get involved in and experience, from an amusement park, workshops and beaches, to surreal venues and installations dotted around Budapest.
SEPTEMBER - Jewish Cultural Summer Festival
The Jewish Cultural Festival in Budapest (formerly Jewish Summer Festival) is a great opportunity to find out everything about Hungarian Jewish culture. The Jews played an important part in Hungary’s history. The city’s Jewish community has started to reborn in the previous couple of years. This cultural event reflects this ambition. The festival is organized by the Jewish Tourism and Cultural Centre (ZSIKK in Hungarian). Come to the Hungarian capital at the end of summer, and visit some of the programs of this unique event to make your stay even more memorable! The first Festival was held in 1997. The center of the event was the beautiful Dohány Street Central Synagogue in the historic Jewish Quarter.
OCTOBER - Oktoberfest Festival
Oktoberfest Budapest, This event showcases products like the city's biggest celebration of the favorite malty beverage, about 100 domestic and international beer types to beer-lovers, Well known breweries along with lesser-known microbreweries will showcase their products in City Park, plenty of tasty fare to pair with your beer and several live performances and much more etc.
OCTOBER - Budapest Palinka and Sausage Festival
Palinka & Sausage Festival in Budapest (or simply Budapest Palinka Festival) is about two things Hungarians like and are passionate about: Hungarian brandy, a strong fruity spirits called ‘Palinka’ (pah-lin-kah), and the other one is sausage or ‘Kolbasz’ (kohl-bus), which is probably the closest to the Spanish chorizo type of sausage. We assume that no health fans or fitness enthusiasts are reading about this festival, so let’s focus on the fun. You may not learn about the secret ingredients and special treatments of palinka and sausage, but you may thoroughly enjoy them. Or who knows? Some secrets may be revealed after a few shots. Two yummy things in a spectacular place: Palinka & Sausage Festival takes place in the Buda Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Budapest. The festival is not only gastronomical with all day palinka tasting and kolbasz munching, but also cultural due to the various programmes organized by the Hungarian Palinka Marketing non profit organization.
NOVEMBER/DECEMBER - Christmas Markets and Fair by the Basilica
What makes many of the Christmas markets really enticing and outstanding in Budapest is that there is a real focus on trying to preserve authentic Hungarian folk art, traditions and offer really good quality handcrafts rather than commercialized kitchy Christmas gifts. So the Xmas fairs in Budapest are more about buying little hand made gifts, drinking mulled wines, nibbling Hungarian pastries (like the chimney shaped cylindrical ‘Kurtos kalacs’), eating traditional street foods (sausages, snacks, roast chestnut, etc.), and having fun by meeting, mingling, chatting and listening to the nice Christmas concerts on the stages of the markets.
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