I visited Budapest for four days this summer. This beautiful city is full of great restaurants, bars, shops and culture. Here is my travel guide, including where to stay, where to eat, where to drink, and what to do.
I’ll be honest, Budapest was not very high on my travel list. But as I searched for somewhere that was a) a cheap flight from Athens (where I would be coming from) and b) inexpensive, Budapest kept coming up on top.
I knew very little about Budapest, but whenever I mentioned it to someone who had been, I heard a recurring theme: “Budapest is one of my favorite cities in Europe!” After spending four days there, I have to say that I agree. With gorgeous buildings, plenty of green space, a great restaurant and cafe scene, quirky bars, fantastic coffee, and an interesting (to say the least) history, it was the perfect end to my month-long stint in Europe.
Budapest is a small city, and you can see most of it in three to four days. If you have longer to spend, there are plenty of fun day trips just a train ride away.
The Danube river divides the two sections of the city, Buda and Pest. The Buda side is home to many of the famous sights, but is otherwise mostly residential. I recommend staying on the Pest side, in the Jewish Quarter, where you’ll be in the heart of restaurants, shops and pubs. I rented this Airbnb, which was in a perfect location. Just five minutes from the metro (including the M3 line to/from the airport), ten minutes to the river, and surrounded by restaurants, coffee shops and bars.
- Knoyvbar – one of the best meals I have had in recent memory. Try the spicy steak salad, the mushroom gnocchi and the chicken with sweet pea risotto.
- Pesti Diszno – get the Mangalica burger, made from an ancient and rare pig breed that grows hair and looks like a sheep. While I normally am not a huge fan non-beef burgers, this one was incredible.
- Hummusbar – a fast casual place with a few outposts throughout Budapest, great for a quick and healthy lunch.
- Budapest Bagels – great breakfast spot, go on the earlier side or risk them selling out of the most popular bagels
- Retro Bufe – stop by this nondescript kiosk and order langos, a popular deep-fried Hungarian street food. Look for a stripped awning (and a line of customers). Order the traditional langos, topped with garlic sauce, sour cream, and shredded cheese. Sounds bizarre, I know, but trust me on this one: so so good.
- Szimpla Kert – Budapest is known for it’s “ruin bars”, drinking haunts built inside crumbling buildings. This is the most famous. Go earlier in the afternoon to avoid the inevitable line that starts around 8pm. We went around 4pm and it was only half full.
- Csendes Tars – this cafe/wine bar sits on the edge of a quiet public park. It’s only a few blocks off the main drag in Pest, but it feels like you are much further away.
- Bar Pharma – check out this cool tiny bar, holding only six seats. It was unfortunately closed for vacation while I was in town, but many people have recommended it.
- Koleves Kert – Pest is dotted with little outdoor beer gardens, and this one is in the heart of the Jewish Quarter. Bonus: you can get two glass of wine for just $3. A perfect place to relax with a drink (or two or three…)
- My Little Melbourne Coffee and Brew Bar – I made daily trips to this little shop to fuel my latte addiction (despite having a Nespresso in my Airbnb). Their tagline says it all: “we love to make coffee for coffee lovers”
- The Goat Herder – a tiny espresso bar with great coffee and delicious cookies. A nice stop on your way back from City Park.
- Printa Kft. – a quirky art shop that also has good espresso and lattes
- Espresso Embassy – a popular coffee shop closer to the river (more delicious lattes!)
What to Do
- Take a free walking tour. Start your first day with this two-hour free walking tour and get a sense of the city as a whole. You’ll see all the major sights including St.Stephen’s Basilica, Chain Bridge, Castle District, Royal Palace, Matthias Church and Fisherman Bastion. The company also has a Communist Tour in which you get more of the cities Communist history from people who lived through it.
- Stroll on Andrassy ut. The wide avenue that leads from the river to City Park is also a World Heritage Site. You’ll pass the Hungarian National Opera House and Hero Square with the 7 Magyar monument.
- Wander City Park (Varosliget). Andrassy ut leads you directly to City Park and over 300 acres of green space. Depending on the day you may stumble across a concert or (as we did) a rousing game of something that looked like a cross between tennis and ping pong.
- Climb Gellert Hill and enjoy the views from the Citadel
- Take a ride on the public ferry. The Budapest 24 hour metro pass gives you access or you can buy a single ticket on the boat. The ferry zigzags across the Danube, stopping on both the Buda and Pest sides.
- Check out Margaret Island (accessible by the public ferry or footbridge).
- Explore the Central Market food hall, where many locals do their produce, meat and cheese shopping. Pack a picnic and take it to City Park or Margaret Island.
- Visit a traditional bath house. A gift left from the Ottoman rule of Hungary, Budapest is home to over a dozen bath houses. I ended up skipping them, as I have been to a few Turkish Baths in the past, but if you haven’t ever been I highly recommend. Gellert Bath and Szechenyi are two of the most popular.
- Go to Memento Park. This unusual park houses 42 pieces of art from the Communist era of 1945 to 1989. The park was created to house these statues after the collapse of communism in 1989. It takes about an hour to get there via Metro 4 and public bus 150 or 101, or you can pay extra for a direct bus from Deak Ferenc ter.
Have you visited Budapest? What was your favorite part of the trip?