Budapest Travel Guide

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Last updated: October 4, 2018

Budapest is one of Europe’s most beautiful cities and is ideal for those who want to relax at high-class spas, enjoy the Hungarian cuisine, shop and live luxuriously without having to spend a fortune.

Budapest is a city that is very close to my heart, partly because I have family from Hungary, but also thanks to all the city has to offer. 

In this travel guide, I share my best advice both before and during the trip.

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AttractionsSpa & Thermal baths
TransportationFood and Drinks
Recommended hotelShopping

Tourist Attractions in Budapest

Hungarian Parliament

The Hungarian Parliament is one of the world’s most famous landmarks, and daily guided tours are available that showcase all the sculptures, statues, paintings and the beautiful interior and exterior.

It is also here that you can have a look at the holy crown of St. Stephen and the Hungarian crown jewels. The best views of this magnificent building can be seen from the other side of the river, at the Fishermen’s Bastion.

Address: Kossuth Lajos tér 1-3.
Metro station: Kossuth Lajos ter. Line M2.

Heroes Square

Heroes’ Square is a beautiful attraction that’s also included on the UNESCO list of world heritages. On this square stands the Millennium Monument with statues representing the seven chiefs who founded Hungary in the 800s.

In the middle of the monument stands a giant statue depicting the archangel Gabriel. On the same monument, you can see 14 sculptures of various compatriots who have made great contributions to Hungary throughout history.

Metro station: Hősök tere. Line M1.

Matthias Church

Matthias Church in Budapest is one of the most beautiful churches I’ve put my foot in. The church was founded in 1015 and offers a dreamlike architecture, both on the inside as well as the outside.

Matthias Church is located on the Buda side next to the Fisherman’s Bastion; about 5 minutes walk from the castle. It costs about 40 SEK to go into the church, but it is well worth it if you like old buildings.

It is a magical feeling and certain calm that hangs over this church which is still used by locals, both for praying and weddings.

Address: Szentháromság tér second

St. Stephen’s Basilica

St. Stephen’s Basilica is one of Budapest’s most visited tourist attractions. The basilica is Hungary’s main church building and located right in the heart of the city, near Vaci Utca. This church is also where they keep King Stephen I’s mummified hand.

St. Stephen’s Basilica offers a fantastic architecture, including a beautiful spiral stair leading up to the dome. For about 4 Euros, one can go to the top of the church and enjoy an excellent view of the city.

Address: Szent István tér first
Metro: Bajcsy-Zsilinszky út. Line M1.

St Stephen's Basilika

Great Market Hall

The Great Market Hall in Budapest offers a classic marketplace that attracts both tourists and locals. People come here to buy Hungarian sausages, fruits, vegetables and other local delicacies.

In addition to food, there are also plenty of crafts, porcelain, and lots of souvenirs. If you get hungry, there are plenty of food stalls serving traditional Hungarian dishes at reasonable prices.

The large market hall is a must place to visit, and although there are a lot of people, there’s still a homely atmosphere and mood.

Address: Vámház utca 1-3.
Metro station: Fovam ter. Line M4.

Hungarian State Opera House

Classical Music and Opera is not my personal favorite, but if there is anywhere in the world to go to the Opera, it is in Budapest. The Hungarian State Opera House was built in the late 1800s and is considered one of the best and most beautiful opera houses.

Best of all is perhaps that it’s so cheap, but still give you a five-star performance.

Address: Andrássy út 22nd
Metro Station: Opera. Line M1.

Buda Castle

Budapest Castle is located on the other side of the river, more precisely, on top of a hill on the Buda side.

This tourist attraction is also a part of the Unesco world heritage, and on the castle grounds awaits royal architecture, great views and fun activities such as crossbows and traditional Hungarian archery.

For those who are more interested in what’s inside the castle, there are guided tours to attend

The fastest way to get here is by cable car which goes all the way up, but it is just as easy to walk (about 10-15 minutes). It is free to enter the castle grounds, but it costs if you want to get into the castle itself.

Address: Szent György tér second

Buda castle

Spa & Thermal Baths

With over one hundred different thermal springs, it is not surprising that Budapest is nicknamed “the world’s spa capital”. Budapest is a city that will make your body and the soul smile.

Here are everything from old Turkish baths to traditional Hungarian spas and thermal baths, which both offer a great bathing experience, but also history and beautiful architecture.

Király Bath and the Rudas are two Turkish baths that I highly recommend, both built during the 1500s where much of the old architecture has been preserved.

Gellért

This bath opened up its gates as early as 1918 and is perhaps the most famous Spa in Budapest. Here awaits a magnificent bath house in pure Art Nouveau style. Gellért has both outdoor pools and indoor pools at different temperatures.

The water comes from a mineral-rich spring that is particularly rich in magnesium, calcium, sulfate, and chloride, to name a few. The water is said to heal several ailments and will be particularly effective for people with musculoskeletal, metabolic disorders and nerve pain.

Besides swimming, you are also offered a wide variety of treatments and massages. It is also possible to book a romantic spa experience with a private pool for two people.

Address: Kelenhegyi out 4. On the Buda side.

Szechenyi bath

In another part of Budapest, you will find another famous spa – The Szechenyi Bath, which is at least as impressive as Gellert. Szechenyi Bath is a bit outside the center, thus offers a more local and traditional experience.

There are many pools to choose from, just as it is with their spa treatments: mud baths, foot massage, and medical healing massage just to name a few.

In the summers you’ll also see old Hungarian men playing chess in the pool area.

Address: Állatkerti körut 11. Just next to the metro station.
Metro station: Szechenyi Baths. Line M1.

Szechenyi Bath in Budapest

Shopping

Budapest has a broad range of stores and shopping centers and has in recent years emerged as one of fashion cities in Europe. Here you’ll find everything from exclusive designer boutiques to local designers and international chains.

When it comes to shopping, Budapest has something for everyone, regardless of taste and budget.

Vaci Utca

A popular pedestrian street lined with shops and international restaurants. H & M, Pull & Bear, and Zara are some of the stores located here. Personally, I’d rather go to one of the shopping centers, but a walk along Váci Utca is always nice.

Metro station: Ferenciek tere. M3 line.

Andrassy ut

Do you have a slightly more upscale taste than what is offered on Vaci Utca? Then you should go to the Andrassy Avenue. Here are all the major fashion houses represented along with luxury designer jewelry and other branded stores.

Andrassy Avenue runs all the way from the Hungarian State Opera to Heroes’ Square, but the majority of shops are located in the part that lies closest to the State Opera.

Andrassy Avenue is also one of the World Heritage sites of Budapest, in addition to shopping, you can also go and admire the beautiful architecture and the well-preserved houses.

Metro Station: Opera – Opera. Heroes Square – Hősök tere. Line M1.

Westend City Center

WestEnd is one of Europe’s largest shopping center and, with its 400 different shops, it offers a broad range of shopping to suit all tastes. Here is everything you can imagine including a food court with various restaurants. Metro line number 3 stops just below the mall.

Address: 1062 Budapest. Váci út 1-3.
Metro station: Nyugati Pályaudvar. M3 line.

Arcade shopping center

Arcade is not as large as WestEnd, but virtually all international chains are represented, such as H & M, Mango, Zara, and Bershka just to name a few.

Address: Örs vezér tér 25th
Metro station: Örs vezér tér station. Line M2.

Arena Plaza

This shopping center has a similar range as WestEnd and Arcade. Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but most of the clothes I purchased in Budapest have been found at Arena Plaza.

Address: Kerepesi út 9th
Metro Station: Keleti pályaudvar (Train Station). Line M2. Next one, or take bus 178 or 95th

Get around

All around Vaci Utca and the central parts, it is easy to get around by foot, but if you want to go to attractions in the outer part of the city, it’s better to use public transport.

Public transportation in Budapest is both efficient and well-developed. You can choose between the metro, bus, and tram that takes you around to the different parts of the city. If you know that you’ll use public transportation a lot, it pays to buy 24 or 72-hour ticket.

Tickets cost about 6 and 13 Euros.

The underground system is easy and goes to most places of interest. Hungarians are generally very helpful and kind, so even if it’s unlikely to get lost, you can always ask someone who walks by.

Taxis, however, should you be used with caution. Always use an official taxi company such as Buda Taxi or City Taxi. Or even better, get an Uber, it’s both cheaper and more convenient.

Recommended hotels in Budapest

Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace

A luxury hotel that opened its doors already in 1906. The hotel is located just in front of the Chain Bridge and offers a beautiful view of Buda and the Danube. Rooms at the Gresham Palace are spacious and nicely decorated. The staff also does their utmost for their guests. Nor should I forget to mention the hotel’s luxurious spa, indoor pool, and sauna.

From here you have walking distance to most of the city sights. The hotel restaurant is of high class and serves Italian and Hungarian cuisine.

Looking for a luxury experience in Budapest? Then Gresham Palace is an excellent choice.

Price level: Luxury.
Star rating: Five.

Click here to see photos, reviews, and prices

Eurostars Budapest Center

A relatively new hotel that has existed since 2010. The Eurostars Budapest Center is close to Vaci Utca and the Ferenciek Tere metro station. From here you can enjoy most attractions within walking distance while staying at a budget hotel with high standards.

The hotel’s restaurant serves Hungarian and international gourmet dishes at reasonable prices. Eurostars is a hotel that I highly recommend.

Price level: Medium.
Stars: Four.

Click here to see photos, reviews, and prices

Queen’s Court Hotel & Residence

This hotel is located near all the famous sights in Budapest. Queen’s Court Hotel & Residence is the perfect choice when you want to feel pampered without having to empty your wallet.

The hotel’s suites are spacious and fresh decorated. As if that were not enough, you also have access to the spa, featuring an indoor pool and whirlpool.

Price level: Medium.
Star rating: Five.

Click here to see photos, reviews and prices

K9 Residence

For those who prefer to travel cheaply and put the money on experiences and other things, K9 Residence is a great option. The hotel is about two minutes away from the metro station Deak Ferenc Ter and has everything you could possibly need when traveling to Budapest.

The hotel is centrally located and all the rooms have a kitchen, bathroom, and free wireless Internet access.

The standard is admittedly simple, but to be a budget hotel so keep K9 Residence a high budget class, which is also reflected by all the top reviews from previous guests.

Price level: Budget.
Star rating: Three.

Click here to see photos, reviews and prices

Food and Drinks

Hungary has a strong food culture that goes way back in time, all the way to the mongols and the seven chiefs. The most famous dish is goulash, which of course is a must to eat when visiting Hungary.

But Hungarian cuisine has a lot of other good dishes to offer, including my personal favorites: Pörkölt, paprikáscsirke, langos, Hortobágyi palacsinta, rántott Csirke and Töltött káposzta.

Besides great food, there are also good wines to enjoy. The finest Hungarian wines come from Tokaj region, but also Egri Bikaver and Törley is popular. If you prefer beer, there is no reason to be disappointed.

Hungary, has a whole bunch of domestic beers, of which the best known are: Dreher, Kaiser, Borsodi and Arany Ászok.

Last but not least are two liquors that Hungarians are very proud of. These are Palinka (a kind of brandy) and Unicum (liquor made from herbs). Palinka is a personal favorite that comes in several varieties of flavors, with peach, plum and pear the most famous ones.

Drinking pálinka is definitely one of the must things to do when you travel to Hungary.

Hungarian Goulasch

Good things to know

Time zone

Budapest: GMT +2.

Average temperature in Budapest

From April to October the average temperature is between 15-25 degrees. During the summer months it can be up to 30-35 degrees. From November to February, the temperature drops and lies about 5 degrees with some days around 0 degrees and some days with temperatures upwards of 10 degrees.

The climate of Budapest is pleasant for most of the year and the best time to visit the town according to me is from May to June and September to October. When it is less tourists, yet comfortable weather.

Currency and debit cards

Hungarian Forint (HUF). Cards are accepted in many shops and at most major hotels and restaurants.

Visa & Passport Conditions

Hungary is a member of the EU and thus no visa is needed if you’re from Europe. For other nationalities please check current visa status. A valid ID card should be enough, but I still recommend everyone to bring your passport to be on the safe side.

Electrical outlets

220 volts. No adapter needed if you have a standard European plug.

Tap Water in Budapest

It’s fine to drink the tap water in Budapest. Tap water is safe to drink, but can contain a different bacterial flora that cause a minor reaction for sensitive people, such as diarrhea. However, it will be just fine for most people.

Population

Approximately 1.7 million people.

Language

Hungarian. English is also widely spoken, at least among younger people. Older generation often speak less english, but within the city most people speak basic english.

Religion

Christianity (Catholic).