Where do I begin, my love affair with Budapest started about fifteen years ago. The capital of Hungary appeared moody and mysterious to me. Imagine stepping into a time machine that whisks you away to a medieval wonderland. Tales of heroic knights and majestic castles come alive here.
This time around things have shifted, I guess we both matured. Budapest, Hungary’s enchanting capital will captivate your senses and leave an indelible mark on your travel memories.
Budapest is a city unlike any other in Eastern Europe, with plenty to see and do, whether it’s for a short break or a long stay. Lovely architecture, vibrant culture, and rich historical heritage, all in proximity to the Danube River. Here are some of the very best things to do in Budapest (Magyarország).
Budapest: one city of two
Budapest stands proud as a city with a dual personality. Divided by the majestic river into two distinct parts, Buda and Pest.
What is Buda and Pest?
While these contrasting sides may seem worlds apart at first glance, together they create a harmonious blend that defines Budapest’s captivating charm. With their distinctive personalities deeply intertwined yet fiercely independent.
Which side is Buda and which side is Pest? Is Budapest two cities? A question that may arise in the minds of travelers setting foot in Budapest for the first time.
Here’s a simple way to remember the division of Buda vs Pest:
- Buda is on the “B” side, which stands for the west bank.
- Pest is on the “P” side, which stands for the east bank.
Several bridges connect the two sides of the city, Buda and Pest. The most famous of which is the Chain Bridge (Széchenyi Lánchíd), providing easy access between the two parts of the city.
Buda side of Budapest
On one side of the river lies Buda, adorned with its ancient castle district and charming cobbled streets. Here, history whispers through every stone wall and intricate façade.
Lose yourself in the labyrinthine alleys while admiring stunning architecture that harks back centuries. Immerse yourself in tales of kings and queens as you explore historical landmarks atop Castle Hill or soak in panoramic views from Fisherman’s Bastion.
Pest side of Budapest
On the other hand, Pest represents Budapest’s vivacious alter ego – energetic, bustling, and brimming with life. Cross over to Pest for a vibrant contrast that exudes life at every corner. This bustling urban paradise flirts with contemporary flair without ever losing sight of its storied past.
Surrender to the allure of grand boulevards lined with eclectic shops or indulge your senses at world-class restaurants serving both traditional Hungarian delicacies and international cuisine.
Things To Do in Budapest Budapest
Things To Do in Budapest
What is Budapest known for? I’ve decided it is time to share my list of favorites and must-sees:
Experience the ultimate relaxation at Budapest’s iconic thermal baths, where the healing waters promise to soothe your senses and leave you refreshed like never before. There are many options in Budapest. The Gellért Baths and Szechenyi Baths are definitely worth a visit. I tell you everything on the latter in my Guide to Szechenyi Baths in Budapest, Hungary
Perched like a fairytale fortress upon Castle Hill, Fisherman’s Bastion proudly unveils a whimsical panorama of Budapest, where its graceful arches dance with the Danube’s waves, whispering enchanting tales of a bygone era.
Step into the historical splendor of Matthias Church, where you can admire its stunning architecture, intricate stained glass windows, and climb the bell tower for panoramic views of Budapest.
A symphony of neo-Gothic splendor, Budapest’s Parliament Building stands as a regal maestro along the riverbank. Its intricate spires conducting the aspirations of a nation towards the future.
The Budapest Opera House embraces the audience with the hushed elegance of a velvet curtain and a world of opulence. Each performance an aria that captivates hearts and elevates souls to the realm of dreams.
Immerse yourself in the vibrant Jewish Quarter, exploring its rich cultural heritage, visiting synagogues, and experiencing the unique blend of history, art, and contemporary culture that defines this lively neighborhood.
Szimpla Kert a.k.a Ruin Bar
Embrace the unique and vibrant spirit of Budapest at Szimpla Kert, a captivating ruin bar that embodies the city’s artistic charm, providing an vibrant nightlife experience amidst its eclectic and captivating atmosphere.
St. Stephens Basilica
Immerse yourself in the awe-inspiring beauty of sacred art and architecture. Ascend to the panoramic lookout for breathtaking views of Budapest’s skyline. You can read more about it in this post: St. Stephen’s Basilica: a must-visit in Budapest
Heroes Square beckons you to witness the grandeur of Hungary’s history through its monumental sculptures. It pays homage to the nation’s legendary figures, while also serving as a vibrant cultural hub for events and festivities.
Explore the historical splendor of Buda Castle, where centuries of royal heritage unfold within its walls, and stroll through its charming courtyards and gardens for a taste of Budapest’s regal past.
Take a captivating journey through time, meandering along medieval streets, visiting quaint shops and cafes. Revel in the treasures that grace every corner of this enchanting neighborhood.
Capture breathtaking views of Budapest’s cityscape, and embrace the serenity of nature as you wander through its lush greenery and discover the historic Citadella.
Embark on a scenic hike where you can explore nature trails, soak in breathtaking vistas of the city. From here you can visit landmarks like the Gellért Hill Citadel and the Statue of Liberty for a memorable outdoor adventure.
New York Café
Step into the opulence of the New York Café and savor its legendary coffee while basking in the grandeur of its ornate interiors. Trust me, nothing beats a live orchestra playing during a coffee break. Read more about it in my blog post: Visiting World’s Most Beautiful Café: New York Café Budapest
Ervin Szabo Library
Lose yourself in the treasures of knowledge at the Ervin Szabo Library, a cultural oasis where you can indulge in reading amidst the captivating charm of its architecture and tranquil surroundings.
Where to Stay in Budapest, Hungary
In my blog post Best Place to Stay in Budapest, Hungary: The Ultimate Hotel Guide, I list all of the best hotels per district and area. But below you’ll find an overview.
Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest: This luxury hotel houses in a historic building and overlooks the Danube River. The rooms are beyond elegant and the service is top-notch. This hotel will give you the best views of the Chain Bridge and Buda Castle. For my full hotel review read Staying at the Four Seasons Budapest Gresham Palace
Anantara New York Palace Budapest: A luxurious hotel with a rich history, offering a blend of modern comforts and historic charm, located in the iconic New York Palace building.
Kempinski Hotel Corvinus Budapest: In this hotel you will find modern and comfortable rooms and a rooftop bar with panoramic views. Because its location in the city centre, you get easy access to Budapest’s attractions and shopping areas.
Aria Hotel Budapest by Library Hotel Collection: A hotel inspired by music AND in the city centre? Think stylish rooms, a rooftop garden, and a luxurious spa.
Baltazár Budapest: Nestled in the historic Castle District, Baltazár Budapest is a boutique hotel with a cozy and intimate ambiance. The hotel’s rooms mix contemporary and vintage elements, creating a charming and relaxed atmosphere. The on-site restaurant and wine bar offer delightful culinary experiences.
Hotel Parlament: Hotel Parlament offers elegant and modern rooms with a focus on comfort and sophistication. The hotel’s welcoming ambiance, personalized service, and wellness facilities make it a popular choice for travelers seeking a boutique experience. Bonus points for being just steps away from the Parliament Building.
Where to lunch & dine in Budapest
Kollázs Brasserie & Bar: Kollázs offers a sophisticated dining experience with a focus on modern European cuisine. The elegant brasserie boasts beautiful views of the Chain Bridge and the Danube River.
New York Café: This historic café is not only a visual masterpiece. It also offers a delightful dining experience with its rich desserts, coffee, and elegant ambiance. I consider it a great place for a luxurious afternoon tea or a sweet treat.
Onyx Restaurant: With Michelin stars to its name, Onyx Restaurant celebrates its exceptional Hungarian cuisine presented with artistic flair. The restaurant’s refined setting and attentive service create an award-winning dining experience.
Central Market Hall (Nagyvásárcsarnok): This iconic market hall is an excellent place to explore Hungarian cuisine and sample local delicacies. You can find traditional dishes like goulash, langos, sausages, and various pastries. It’s a perfect spot to experience the vibrant local food culture.
Musza Bar: This trendy spot offers a creative and modern take on Hungarian dishes. It’s an excellent place to enjoy delicious food and drinks in a vibrant setting, lively ambiance and stylish decor.
The Budapest Card: Your Key to Unlocking the City’s Hidden Gems
This little gem is more than just a simple card; it acts as your golden key, unlocking countless treasures in this charming metropolis.
With the Budapest Card in hand, you become part of an exclusive club granted access to incredible discounts and privileges at various attractions, museums, restaurants, and cultural events
There are plenty of options to choose from. I chose to get a Budapest 72 hour Plus card and got 20% on the most attractions.
Planning a trip to Budapest?
Make sure you check out my other tips and guides on things To Do in Budapest
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