After so many invasions and occupations, Budapest holds onto their culture, history and independence with great pride. They have restored much of their architecture destroyed first by the Ottoman’s, then the Nazi’s and finally, the Soviet Union. They move forward without forgetting the horrors they endured. Today the city has a fantastic vibe with great food, tons of museums, boats to ride and a mideviel castle high on a hill that begs to be explored. The city is made up of two parts, the Buda side and the Pest side with the Danube dividing the two. The Buda Castle is found on the hilly Buda side of the city and deserves a few hours of exploration. Pack good walking shoes for this trip, as well as a bathing suit to wear in the thermal baths located throughout the city. Don’t confuse the onsons of Japan with these thermal baths, you WILL need a bathing suit here. Thank you, Budapest. Thank you.
We flew non-stop from London to Budapest on a quick 2 hour flight. If you’re flying from New York, LOT airlines flies non-stop 3 days a week on their dreamy Dreamliner plane.
Things to See and Do
Explore the Buda Castle – This was a favorite of mine. We actually walked from our hotel, across the Elisabeth Bridge, along the Danube River and then up the many steps to the castle. Visiting the castle district is free, however, an admission ticket to the Budapest History Museum within the castle walls will give you access to almost all parts of the castle interior. There is so much information and so many sections to explore….at one point we couldn’t even process anymore information and just needed ice cream.
Visit the Fisherman’s Bastion – Right down the road from the castle you will find the Fisherman’s Bastion. It is literally like walking around inside the pages of a fairy tale (minus Prince Charming). One section of the Bastions has a small entrance fee which is paid right at the base of the stairs before you go through the turnstile. The other section is free. There’s also a restaurant here called Halaszbastya with mesmerizing views of the Danube and the city below. Fun fact : The 7 turrets represent the 7 Hungarian tribes who founded the present day Hungary back in 895.
Enjoy the view from the Matthias Church bell tower – Right next to the Fisherman’s Bastion is the Matthias Church with an incredibly colorful tiled roof and beautiful stained glass windows. You can buy a combo ticket to the cathedral and the tower, or buy the entrance tickets to just one or the other. Tickets are sold across the street. We opted for the tower tickets because it made sense to climb a 197 step spiral staircase in 95 degree heat.
Spend time in the House of Terror – No. It’s not a haunted house at an amusement park. That would have been less scary. More like a memorial demonstrating the ongoing terror that the Hungarians faced throughout their history created by the German occupation, the Holocaust and then the Soviet takeover. A sobering experience. Admission was 2,000 HUF (aproximately $5.00 USD) , worth the education gained.
Shop at the Market – This place was filled with delicious food and hundreds of vendors. They sold everything from local honey to paprika.. all kinds of produce, leather goods, scarfs and a plethora of Budapest t-shirts.
Take a Boat ride on the Danube – It was an easy 5 minute walk from where we stayed in Pest to the boat dock and the magnificant Danube. There are several different boat rides you can take from here…I opted for the cheaper one. Are you surprised? I’d rather spend my money on wine. The boat ride takes you down the Danube River, passing the Buda Castle and Parliament and making several stops along the way. We hopped off at Margaret Island. This was a great place to spend a few hours… or more! So what is there to do on Margaret Island?? We started by renting bikes, not the expensive ones advertised in the brochure, but the “donkey republic” bikes locked up on the left when you first land on the island. You just need to download the app and put in your credit card info to unlock them with your phone. Well….you travel with someone who will figure out how to download the app, put in your info, and unlock the bikes. My job was simply to look confused. Our bikes cost $12.00 total for 4 hrs. The fancy bike rentals were $35. I win! More money for wine. So after we jumped on our rustic bikes, the tires fell off. Just kidding. We rode to the ruins of a crumbling monastery. Next we went to the ruins of a Dominican convent, followed by an hour or two at the Palatines Baths. (details below) We also had lunch at a small cafe before catching a few songs at the dancing fountain and returning our bikes in time to catch the boat back.
Swim in one of the local baths – Budapest is known for it’s public baths that can be found throughout the city. We went to the Palatinus Baths while visiting Margaret Island. It costs 3,600HUF (about $9) for all day admission to the pools here. There are indoor baths, outdoor pools and even a wave pool! Yes…I went in the wave pool along with around eighty 3rd graders. I was the only one screaming. The pools are all different temperatures and are heated thermally, like natural hot tubs. 11 pools in total, open year round!
Hike to the top of Gellert Hill – The views were amazingly amazing. The ascent was slightly challenging mainly due to the fact that my son didn’t want to do the climb, therefore climbed up full speed ahead without stopping to make me wish I hadn’t suggested it.
Visit a Ruin Bar – Ruin Bars are trendy edgy bars in old dilapidated buildings with garage sale furniture and / or old retro communist propaganda. We went to Red Ruin which was within walking distance from our hotel. I feel like the most authentic ones are in the Old Jewish Quarter.
Where To Stay
Millennium Court Marriott– Fantastic location!!!!!! Rooms were good and the hotel was so accommodating when we had an issue. They also have full kitchens and some rooms have separate bedrooms.
Where To Eat
Anna cafe – Great place for breakfast. Indoor and outdoor seating.
Gold Barrel restaurant – This was a good place to stop after exploring Buda Castle all morning. My son fell in love with the Hungarian dish; Chicken Paprika here!
Cucina Italian Kitchen – The food is so amazing here. True Italian food..
Red Pepper – This place was amazing! I had the stuffed cabbage. The food is traditional and incredible! Oh…the dessert!
For Sale Pub – Across the street from the Market. Really cool atmosphere with notes attached to every inch of wall and ceiling…left by tourists.
Tips and Suggestions
- Hungary is not on the Euro. They use the Hungarian forint (HUF).
- Staying on the Pest side of the city seemed better because it was more centrally located and seemed to have more shops and restaurants.
- Bring good walking shoes. We walked almost everywhere, but found the public transport easy enough when we did use it.
- There is a bus that runs from the airport to Pest city center. We only had to walk a few blocks to our hotel. The bus is located right outside of arrivals and the cost to go to city center was 4 USD.
So, if you want to visit a European city with a lot of character, fascinating history and amazing food, head to Budapest. The Hungarians were so friendly and the shopping was endless. You can get around easily by walking, riding the tram and taking the ferry. If you go, make sure to visit at least one of the thermal baths in the city. The “baths” are said to have healing powers that come from the hot springs that provide their water….You might even leave looking and feeling younger.
Interesting post and fabulous pictures, Christine! Budapest is yet another place that we will have to add to our ever-growing list. Thank you for sharing your adventure!
Thank you for being a fan and reading my posts!! Put Budapest high on your list… our dollar went so far there this summer! I bet it’s beautiful in the fall !
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Good to know. We’re always looking for ways to save $$.
I went Budapest in March and I loved it. The baths were lovely and the boat trip is really intresting! Thanks for the extra tips and days out Christine!!!!!
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Thanks for taking the time to read my post! Safe travels wherever you go next!
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