The Crossroads of History
Trip Cost ($ – $$$): $
Time to Hit the Highlights: 4 days
Must See: Buda Castle, thermal baths, Parliament, Fisherman’s Bastion
Time of the Year to Visit: Any Season! We went in winter and it was wonderful.
- Chances are you learned about Budapest at some point in school, but in the textbooks you may have been reading about Buda, Óbuda and Pest. That’s because Budapest used to be divided and at the center of history for centuries. It was the crossroads for many wars and takeovers, giving the city interesting and diverse history, culture, and architecture.
- A lot has happened since Budapest was the highlight of your social studies class, but it should now be the highlight of your european vacation. Budapest is an amazing culture center and architecture lovers dream as a city whose historic sites peak out above modern buildings. If that doesn’t make you smile, then you’ll simply love the low cost of living in Hungary, where visitors can live like a king or queen on very little.
- You can learn more about Budapest on the city’s website here: http://www.budapest.com
- You can fly into the Budapest airport on many major airlines all year round. Depending on the airline you will likely have a layover somewhere else in europe, unless you live in near a european airline hub.
- We flew LOT (the Polish airline) out of Budapest and stopped through Warsaw before heading back stateside.
- Another great option for getting to and from Budapest is the train. Budapest was the final stop on a 3-city trip we did via train, following stays in Munich and Salzburg. An added bonus of taking the train is seeing the beautiful Keleti Train Station.
- The train can take you to many amazing destinations in the area. It is worth pulling out a map and looking at the region to see if there are potential destinations to diy your own multi-city trip.
- Once on the ground, we took taxis and rideshare services to get around. The metro and walking is also a great way to see the city.
- There are a variety of hotels and houses/apartments for rent throughout Budapest and thankfully a lot of the sites you’ll want to see aren’t too far from each other making the city easy to navigate regardless of where you stay.
- We stayed at the Boscolo Budapest Hotel in District VII- the Jewish Quarter. This is a great neighborhoods just set off from the river on the Pest side. There are countless restaurants and bars in the area, including the beautiful New York Cafe.
- The Parliament of Budapest is the largest building in Hungary and the tallest in Budapest. Even if it wasn’t, it would still stand out due to it’s incredible Gothic Revival style architecture.
- Completed in 1904 the building was erected to house the parliament of the newly combined cities that made up Budapest.
- The building sits on the Danube River, but can only be accessed by visitors via Lajos Kossuth Square.
- You can simply walk around the beautiful building or explore the inside upon purchasing a ticket. Ticket prices are 2400 Ft or €8 for EU adults and 6000 Ft or $23 USD for non EU adults.
Széchenyi Thermal Bath
- This is the oldest medicinal bath in Europe having been built in 1913 and still one of the largest with 3 outdoor pools and 15 indoor pools.
- The water comes from two thermal springs and the temperature tends to stay around 75°F/24°C.
- Depending on what time you arrive, how long you want to stay and what level of services you require the price for a daily ticket starts at 4,600 Ft or about $18 USD.
- Another pro for this thermal bath is that it is located in the City Park which is really beautiful and great for walking around.
Széchenyi Chain Bridge
- Like many great European cities, Budapest is home to some fantastic bridges. The Danube River is pivotal to Budapest’s history as it was the border line for Buda and Pest. The Chain Bridge was the first bridge built to connect these two cities into what we know today as Hungary’s capital.
- The bridge is hard to miss. You’ll find it right in the middle of the inner city on the Pest side and it leads you across to the Buda Castle on the Buda side.
- It is hard to not notice the Buda Castle since the Buda side sits up on a hill from the rest of the city and the castle stands right at the top. It is big. It is beautiful. And it is worth exploring.
- The Buda Castle is very large which allows it to house 7 different museums. Of these museums we strongly recommend the Budapest History Museum and the Hungarian National Gallery. These two museums will give you a great overview of the amazing history of Budapest which you’ll carry with you as you explore the rest of the city.
- If you’re lucky enough to be in town during one of the 6 festivals hosted at or around the Buda Castle you should definitely check them out!
- Just down the Danube River from the Buda Castle you’ll stumble upon the Fisherman’s Bastion hiding behind the beautiful Matthias Church.
- Built at the turn of the 20th century as a lookout tower, this super cool building still delivers on its original purpose. From this spot you can lookout over the river for incredible views of the Pest side.
- Most of the structure is free to walk around, except for the tallest tower which requires a ticket of 800 Ft or $3 USD to enter.
- There is also a cafe here and small chapel!
Gellért Thermal Baths
- Another thermal bath option is the beautiful Art-Nouveau style Gellért Spa. Originally built in the early 1900’s this spa survived being bombed during WWII and has now been restored to its original splendor.
- Located under Gellért Hill, near the Liberty Bridge, this spa draws its medicinal waters from the springs on the hill that fill the 2 effervescent pools, 8 thermal baths and 3 outdoors pools.
- Day passes for this spa starts at 5,300Ft or $20 USD.
- Our mouths still water thinking about the delicious food we ate in Budapest. There are must try local dishes, typically with lots of meats and vegetables, that are sure to satisfy:
- Stews: Goulash (always goulash!!!), Pörkölt, Paprikás
- Nokedli – yummy dumplings
- Winter Salami
- Give hungarian wines a try! We still talk about the amazing wines of Hungary. They are inexpensive and very good. Distribution of hungarian wines isn’t large throughout the world, so their deliciousness is widely unknown. Take advantage while you’re there!
- Be careful about where you eat! We made the mistake of eating at hole in the wall late night walk-up gyro place and let’s just say it didn’t sit well with us. Use your best judgement and nose when choosing where to grab your meals.
- A lot of places take credit or debit cards throughout the city, but it is always good to have some forints on hand.
- You can exchange money before you arrive or once you’re in country, we personally prefer to just take currency out of the ATM as we need it. Just make sure your bank won’t charge you extra for international cash withdrawals.