Budapest, the capital of Hungary, is a beautiful and vibrant city that offers a range of attractions and experiences that make it a great destination to visit. Here is the ultimate Budapest travel guide!
Why Visit Budapest?
Generally a more affordable destination than other European cities, Budapest is known for its exquisite architecture that uniquely combines Gothic and Art Nouveau styles. Its long and intriguing history is told beautifully through its historic sites, galleries, and museums.
If you're a foodie; Hungarian cuisine is hearty and delicious. Aa busy nightlife scene and plenty of cafes and restaurants will definitely keep you entertained and full!
10 things to do in Budapest
Here are 10 of the top things to do and see in Budapest:
This historic castle complex offers a show-stopping view of the city and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This scenic walkway offers beautiful views of the city's iconic bridges and the Danube River.
Danube River Cruise
A river cruise is a relaxing way to see the city from a different perspective and enjoy the scenery.
Wander through the neo-Gothic terrace, which offers panoramic views of the city and is a popular spot for photos.
Great Market Hall
The bustling historic market offers local and traditional food, souvenirs, and other goods.
This neighbourhood in District 7 is home to Budapest's Great Synagogue, as well as many trendy bars, cafes, and restaurants.
Take a tour of this impressive building in the heart of Budapest. It is also the largest building in all of Hungary.
This stunning neoclassical church houses the mummified hand of Hungary's first king, St. Stephen. And as the largest church in Budapest, it can accommodate up to 8,500 people.
Széchenyi Chain Bridge
Stroll across the iconic bridge connecting Buda and Pest. It's also a trendy spot for sunrise and sunset photos.
Budapest is located on an earthquake fault line. The hot springs deep in the ground are heated naturally by geothermal activity, which feeds into the thermal baths.
Best Season to Visit Budapest
There is no wrong time to visit Budapest - each season offers different pros and cons. It comes down to personal preference and what festivals or attractions you want to see.
- Spring: A great time to explore the city's gardens and parks and to enjoy walking tours and outdoor activities along the river. The average temperature ranges from 45°F to 68°F.
- Summer: Summertime is the busiest; the warm weather draws many tourists. Outdoor cafes, rooftop bars, the Budapest Summer Festival, and the Sziget Festival are all favorite summer activities. The average summer temperature is around 70°F but can get higher.
- Fall: Milder weather, fewer crowds, and autumn leaves are a perk of visiting in the fall. During the fall, the average temperature drops from 64°F to 43°F. The fall months are the perfect time to explore museums and galleries.
- Winter: The Christmas market, thermal baths, and winter sports are popular during the chilly winter months! The temperature hovers around 28°F to 34°F, so dress warmly. Mulled wine and hot chocolate are served in cafes and corner shops and pair nicely with a traditional pastry.
How to Save Money in Budapest
There are many ways to save money and stay on a budget in Budapest. Here are a few tips:
Budapest has an extensive bus, tram, and metro system. There's no need to navigate with a rental car or call a taxi with their wide-reaching public transit. 24-hour or 72-hour cards are available instead of paying per ride to save even more money.
Budapest offers many discount cards, which offer a discount on specific restaurants, attractions, and transportation.
Many free walking tours are offered and are a great way to explore the city and see the smaller attractions that may be missed by a tour bus. Although many tours are free, a small donation or tip is appreciated.
Visit Free Attractions
The Fisherman's Bastion, St. Stephen's Basilica, and the Hungarian Parliament Building are all free to walk through. Walking along the Danube Promenade, parks, or exploring the Jewish Quarter are also free.
Avoid overcrowded touristry restaurants and look for local restaurants with traditional Hungarian food. These tend to be more reasonably priced.
Getting around in Budapest
Budapest has an efficient and well-connected public transportation system, which makes getting around the city easy and affordable. Here are some of the transportation options available in Budapest:
- Metro: Budapest has four metro lines that connect the city's major districts and tourist attractions. The metro runs from early morning to late in the evening every day.
- Tram: The tram system covers many of the city's main roads and is a great way to see the city while getting around. Trams run from early morning until midnight, and some run 24 hours.
- Bus: The bus system is extensive and covers the areas that the metro and tram do not reach. Buses run from early morning until midnight, and some run 24 hours.
- Trolleybus: Budapest also has a trolleybus system, which uses electric wires to power the vehicles. Trolleybuses run from early morning until midnight, and some run 24 hours.
- Boat: The Danube River runs through Budapest, and boat services provide scenic views of the city. The hop-on-hop-off boats run from March to November.
- Taxi: Taxis are available in Budapest and are a convenient way to get around, especially at night or when carrying luggage.
- Bike: Budapest has a bike-sharing system called BUBI, which offers affordable and environmentally friendly transportation options. The city also has many bike rental shops and bike tours available.
Useful phrases in Hungarian
Learning a few basic phrases in Hungarian can help you navigate the city, order food and drinks, and communicate with locals. Here are some useful phrases in Hungarian:
- Hello: Szia (see-yah)
- Goodbye: Viszlát (vee-slahht)
- Thank you: Köszönöm (kerr-seh-nohm)
- Yes: Igen (ee-gehn)
- No: Nem (nehm)
- Please: Kérem (kay-rehm)
- Excuse me: Elnézést (ell-nay-zesht)
- Sorry: Bocsánat (boh-chah-naht)
- How are you?: Hogy vagy? (hoh-dj vahd-y)
- I don't speak Hungarian: Nem beszélek magyarul (nehm beh-seh-lehk moh-djahr-oohl)
- Can I have...?: Kaphatnék...? (kah-pahth-nehk)
- Cheers!: Egészségedre! (eh-geh-sheh-ged-reh)
Hotels in Budapest
Budapest has a wide range of accommodation options, including hotels that cater to different budgets and preferences. Here are some popular hotels in Budapest:
Maverick City Lodge
This centrally located hostel offers private rooms and dormitory-style accommodation, with a communal kitchen and a rooftop lounge.
Hotel Central Basilica
This hotel is in the heart of Budapest, near St. Stephen's Basilica, and has comfortable rooms, a breakfast buffet, and a 24-hour front desk.
The Three Corners Hotel Art
This modern hotel is near many of Budapest's main attractions in the city center and offers comfortable rooms, a breakfast buffet, and a sauna.
This boutique hotel is near the Hungarian Parliament building in the city center and has stylish rooms, a breakfast buffet, and a wellness area with a sauna and gym.
Hotel Clark Budapest
This boutique hotel is located on the Danube River, near the Chain Bridge, and has modern rooms, a rooftop bar, and a fitness center.
Mercure Budapest City Center Hotel
This centrally located hotel is near Váci Street, one of Budapest's main shopping areas, and has comfortable rooms, a breakfast buffet, and a fitness center.
The Ritz-Carlton, Budapest
This five-star hotel is in the city center, near St. Stephen's Basilica, and offers elegant rooms, a spa, and a rooftop bar with views of the city.
Buddha-Bar Hotel Budapest Klotild Palace
This luxurious hotel is in a historic palace in central Budapest and has stylish rooms, a spa, a restaurant, and a bar with an Asian-inspired atmosphere.
Aria Hotel Budapest
This boutique hotel is in the heart of Budapest, near St. Stephen's Basilica. The hotel has a music theme, stylish rooms, a rooftop bar, and a spa.
Dining in Budapest
Budapest is a culinary destination offering various dining options, from traditional Hungarian cuisine to modern European dishes. Hungarian cuisine is known for its flavorful, hearty dishes that often feature paprika. This spice is widely used in Hungarian cooking. Here are some popular Hungarian foods:
- Dobos Torte: This layered sponge cake is made with chocolate buttercream and often topped with caramel.
- Goulash: This stew is made with beef or pork, onions, and paprika and is often served with potatoes or noodles.
- Halászlé: This spicy fish soup is made with paprika and other spices and is served with bread.
- Kürtőskalács: This sweet pastry is made by wrapping dough around a spit and roasting it over an open fire, then sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon.
- Lángos: This popular street food is a deep-fried dough topped with sour cream and grated cheese.
- Paprikash: This stew is made with chicken or pork, onions, paprika, and sour cream, often served with dumplings or noodles.
- Somlói Galuska: This is a dessert made with three types of sponge cake, rum, chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and walnuts.
- Töltött Káposzta: This dish is made with cabbage leaves stuffed with ground pork or beef and rice and served with sour cream.
Festivals in Budapest
Budapest is known for its vibrant cultural scene and hosts several festivals yearly. Here are six of the most popular festivals in Budapest:
Budapest International Documentary Festival
This festival, held in January, features a selection of the best international documentaries from around the world.
Budapest International Book Festival
Held in April, this festival celebrates literature with book readings, panel discussions, and book signings by local and international authors.
Budapest Fringe Festival
This festival, held in June, features a wide range of performances, including theater, dance, and music, by local and international artists.
This is one of the largest music festivals in Europe, held in August on Sziget Island on the Danube River. It features various music genres, art exhibitions, and cultural events.
Budapest Wine Festival
Held in September at the Buda Castle, this festival celebrates Hungarian wines, with over 200 wineries showcasing their products.
Budapest Christmas Fair
Held in December, this fair celebrates the Christmas season with traditional Hungarian food, handmade crafts, and live music performances.
Budapest Culture Tips
Hungarian culture is generally polite, formal, and respectful, with a high value placed on those traits. Overall, be observant of your surroundings, be courteous and respectful of the people around you, and you're unlikely to offend anyone in Budapest.
Greet People Properly
When entering a shop or a restaurant, it's courteous to say "jó napot" (good day) or "szia" (hi). It's also polite to say "Viszlát" (goodbye) when leaving.
Remove Shoes Indoors
Removing shoes when entering someone's home or even certain shops and restaurants is customary; follow the lead of the locals.
Respect Personal Space
Hungarians prefer a larger personal space bubble than other cultures. Invading someone's personal space could be considered rude or invasive.
Wait until everyone is served their food before eating and keep your elbows off the table. Place your knife and fork parallel on the plate when you've finished eating.
Hungarians can be more reserved and dislike drawing attention to themselves. Being excessively loud or disruptive in public could be considered rude and annoying.
Long Story Short...
Budapest is a beautiful and historic city that offers a range of attractions and experiences, from stunning architecture and thermal baths to delicious food and affordable prices. We hope this ultimate Budapest travel guide has inspired you to go!
Written by Andrea Jeschke