Budapest was such an awesome city! Although not at the very top, it comes a very close second! It is very open and spread out, yet it still had its nooks and crannies to get lost in. The city reminded us of Brooklyn in NY, it had a trendy/hipster feel with a lot of young people. The nightlife was outrageous, with tons of restaurants to eat at and bars to socialize in, for all sorts of tastes. There were parks to lay around in or many shopping streets to keep you busy. There is something for everyone in Budapest… except a beach which is why Barcelona is still our favorite city visited so far.
Budapest has 23 districts and they are usually indicated by Roman numerals. The more central districts, like downtown, have lower numbers while the outer districts have higher numbers. The best districts to stay in are district V and VI as within these 2 districts you can find a lot of the major landmarks & attractions, along with the widest selection of restaurants, cafes, pubs and bars. Most, if not all, are walkable. We barely used the Metro system but it was very easy to navigate when necessary.
There were countless accommodation options in Budapest especially a huge range of hostels. Booking the day before still allowed us over 40+ hostels to choose from. We ended up staying at 11th Hour Hostel and Cinema which was located right in the middle of downtown. Some other popular hostels in a great location are Wombats, Big Fish, Downtown Oasis, Maverick City Lodge.
What to do in Budapest
Szechenyi Baths and Pool – One of the largest spa complexes of its kind in Europe. The entry ticket is (5000 HUF/ 16 €) which includes the usage of a change room, locker, multiple different pools, saunas, steam rooms and fitness centre. We spent a couple of hours here relaxing in the pools & sweating it up in the saunas. Note: bring your own towel & lunch as there isn’t a large selection of food!
Conquer Budapest Walking tour visiting St Stephen Basilica, Matthias Church, Danube Promenade, Chain Bridge, National Opera House, Castle District (Royal Palace, Matthias Church, Fisherman Bastion). Our guide for this was one of our favorites of our Europe trip so far and we’ve done a lot of ‘free walking tours’. The tour was never boring even though we are slowly but surely getting tired of churches and history, he kept it interesting and fun for the whole 3 hours. The Fisherman Bastion is shown below.
Central Market Hall– A 3 story hall combing shopping and eating. Fresh fruit and vegetable stalls, meats, cheeses, souvenirs, shopping and most importantly a selection of food stalls with portions bigger than you can ever imagine. Classic Hungarian dishes are sold here but come hungry and forget trying to count calories.
Vaci Utca – Vaci Utca is one of the main shopping streets in Budapest and also a very popular tourist drag. The street is lined with cute cafes, great shops and a tonne of thai massage parlors which we indulged in (do shop around).
Margaret Island – A 2.5km long central island laying in between “buda” and “pest”. A very well kept island with ample to do during the summer months. It’s a beautiful spot to spend an afternoon during the spring/summer. The island has a pool, water park, wildlife park & athletic centre. We strolled here from downtown Budapest or you can take the number 26 bus which is the only vehicle allowed on the island.
Gellert Hill – Panoramic views over Budapest. You can climb the Gellért Hill starting at the Elisabeth Bridge near the Gellért Monument, or you can take the steeper route starting at the Gellért Hotel. You can also take a bus or get there by taxi.
Eating in Budapest
Eating in Budapest was a welcomed treat after indulging in so much pasta and pizza in Italy. Hungary had their typical cuisine but also every other type, so there was never too much repeating. It was cheap, the portions were often of a good size and there were countless restaurants to choose from.
Street food is also very common and convenient in Budapest. At Karavan you can find numerous food trucks in this little outdoor area. Perfect for a quick dinner or a late night snack after spending time at the famous ruin bar, Szimpla Kert.
Below is a list of the typical Hungarian dishes you should try if you are to visit the city! And before you finish, don’t be alarmed when we mention that we did eat all of them.. a few times.
- Langos (shown above)- A deep fried round flat bread with sour cream and cheese on top, however, you could get multiple other toppings if you wanted too. A definitely calorie buster but quite delicious.
- Beef Goulash – Served as a soup or inside bread.
- Túró Rudi- An interesting combination of a sweet ricotta cheese filled chocolate bar. It is found in the Yoghurt section of a grocery store.
- Kürtőskalács The English name? A chimney cake. A cylinder dough cooked over a charcoal fire and then covered in cinnamon sugar and optional Nutella, nuts, caramel inside…..o.m.goodness wasn’t this delicious. A never ending donut basically.
- Chicken Paprika – Chicken in a creamy paprika sauce often served with (surprise!) sour cream and accompanied with pasta or rice.
- Somlói Galuska (Somloi trifle) – A dessert made of three different types of sponge cake (plain, walnut, and chocolate), raisins, and walnuts, drizzled with dark chocolate rum sauce and topped with cream. Another famous Hungarian dessert, often served after your 2 course meal!
You can easily sample all of these on your own throughout the city but if you enjoy food tours then we suggest signing up for one of the many tours Taste Hungary has to offer.
Hungarians typically eat their biggest meal during lunch so many restaurants offer a “Tourist Menu” which involves a three course meal for less than $6 (100 HUF), this is often cheaper than ordering just one dish. However when we weren’t eating a 3 course meal, you could find us at some of our other favorite restaurants:
Bors Gasztrobar – Always a line, freshly made baguette sandwiches, homemade soups & cheap cheap!
Drum Cafe – Cheap, classic Hungarian food.
Fruccola – Healthy, fresh, create your own salads/sandwiches.
Magyar – Classic 3 course restaurant with generous portions. Close to the Grand Central Market but surprisingly not a tourist trap as we had first thought.
Nightlife in Budapest
Just like restaurants, the nightlife options are endless and generally are within walking distance. We weren’t in Budapest over the weekend but each night had something going on.
Some of you may be aware of what a “Ruin Bar” is, some not.. well Budapest is famous for these types of bars. It is simply a bar/pub, inside or next to an old building. The buildings have usually been abandoned and turned into bars by decorating them with many different type of objects, such as paper statues, foreign licence plates, unique lanterns and seats made from cushions, old cars, duck tape, you name it. If you use your imagination you can usually get a picture for what they look like. None of the interior makes sense and generally doesn’t have a theme except looking like ‘designed junk’. If the walls aren’t covered with pictures and objects then they are painted.
Some of the most popular Ruin bars in Budapest are Szimpla Kert, Grandio, Instant, Yellow Zebra Bikes & Bar and Anker’T. If you have to go to only one, make it Szimpla Kert! So much fun and so unique. It’s open during the day, so you can get a better look at the interior. Grandio is a hostel as well as a bar so don’t stay here if you’re wanting to sleep!
Gozsdu Courtyard is another popular area in downtown. Although they aren’t ruin bars, the courtyard/long street has variety of beer gardens and restaurants and is both popular with locals and tourists. Check out Spiler, one of the biggest restaurants in the area with a solid menu both for food and drinks. The lamb burger was super tasty & recommended.
We were really sad to leave Budapest but until next time…..
Married days survived: 175