Budapest is the best. If you’re looking for a cool city to party, eat good food, explore rich art and history, see some amazing sights and do it all for cheap: Budapest is for you. The city has a charm like no other I’ve experienced; an enthusiasm and infectious joy that has grown as a result of huge changes over the last 70-80 years. Decimation in WW2, Soviet occupation, revolution and most importantly the fall of communism during the 1980’s, have fashioned an atmosphere of rejuvenation amongst it’s proud population.
We’d just come from a luxurious weekend relaxing in Lake Balaton and were eager for some big city exploration.
Note – Pricing will be in pounds sterling, as trying to count in Hungarian Forints is ridiculous. In the cost summary I will provide the current exchange rate.
We arrived via the rental car that we hired for our Lake Balaton excursion; dropping the car off near the airport and getting a taxi to our accommodation, which cost us about £20.
Flights to Budapest from London start from £37 one way flying Ryan Air, however at the time we used Wizz Air; departing from Luton for £76 return each. The first leg was accounted for in the Lake Balaton post, the return leg will be accounted for here.
Train connections are cheap and easy from neighbouring countries. Popular journeys are from Prague (7.5 hours, from £17), Zagreb (6.5 hours, from £13) and Vienna (2.5 hours, from £25).
Buses are worth looking at as they quite often take a similar amount of time as the train, but prices for long journeys in this area are often more expensive.
Another option worth considering is ride-sharing. Sites like BlaBlaCar often have rides faster than the train at a similar price or cheaper. Hitch-hiking would also be a reasonable option in this area, check out Hitchwiki for info.
Hint – If you get local taxis, talk to the driver! They will have great information about what’s going on in the city.
We stayed in a fantastic Airbnb apartment in Pest, right near Margaret bridge. It cost us £55 per night for the whole place, including a beautiful roof terrace that we didn’t get to use because of the weather (our stay in Budapest was punctuated by torrential rain storms, which dampened everything but our spirit). This was one of our first Airbnb experiences and our incredible host solidified the community to us as a viable option; his restaurant and activity recommendations made our time in Budapest truly special.
Current Airbnb apartments in Budapest range from £10 to £100 per night, depending on a private room or the whole apartment and the type of luxury you want.
Hostels in Budapest have dorm rooms starting from £5 per night and private doubles from £10 per night per person. I was going to list some of the best hostels, but there really are too many to choose from, so decide whether you want party or chill and do some research using the helpful links page.
Hotels start from around £50 per night for anything decent and the sky is the limit. There is all kinds of luxury in Budapest.
Where you stay in Budapest depends on what you want from your time there. If you fancy relaxing around a beautiful hotel with views over the city in a picturesque part of town then stay in Buda on the west side of the river. If you are planning on more activities like restaurants, clubs and shopping; stay east in Pest, which is where all the action is. Tourist attractions are both sides of the river so expect to cross it multiple times during your stay. Public transport is very good and relatively cheap, we used the Metro (subway), trams and buses while we were there and found them all easy to navigate.
There’s a lot to see and do in Budapest, you can easily spend two full days just wandering the streets from monument to cafe, admiring the beautiful neo-gothic architecture. Check out the parliament building on the banks of the Danube river, climb the cupola of Saint Stephen’s Basilica (£1.20), walk the Andrássy Avenue all the way to the imposing Hero’s Square and the city park, where you will also find the renowned Széchenyi Thermal Bath’s.
Széchenyi Bath’s are well worth a few hours, a weekday afternoon ticket costs £11 per person and includes a locker. I have a little bit of a public swimming pool aversion, but Széchenyi Bath’s are very clean, not too crowded and are absolutely beautiful. Even if group bathing isn’t your thing, I recommend you give this place a go for the architecture alone.
Buda Castle, Castle Hill and the whole Castle district can easily take a day or more to experience, although you could probably do it in a half-day if you are fit. You can pay for guided tours of the castle itself, but we were satisfied just exploring the grounds and taking in the views over Pest. Definitely go see the Fisherman’s Bastion and walk the terrace, the Liberation Monument, a huge edifice overlooking the whole area, and check out 700 year old Matthias Church which costs £3.70 and an additional £2.50 to climb the tower. Descend the hill from the monument and cross the Chain Bridge on your way to grab a bite at the Budapest Central Market.
Another place well worth visiting is the House of Terror Museum. Housed in the building used as the Nazi headquarters in 1940, the museum’s permanent exhibition highlights the sacrifices and triumphs of the Hungarian people during the fascist and communist regimes in the 20th century. The museum is part memorial part interactive exhibition and is set to wonderful music throughout. Admission is £5 and although it is a harrowing experience, I would recommend it.
On our first night we ate at a fantastic traditional restaurant called Lugas Éttrem, all up our meal with wine cost £13 for two people and was incredible. Try the stuffed cabbage! Definitely check out the amazing Book Café, with fresco ceilings in a beautiful hall. Our daily breakfasts were at the bakery down the street and most other meals were street food and delicious kebabs (change your perspective of kebabs type of delicious).
For a night out we went to the awesome bar Szimpla, it’s a huge multi-leveled bar with a ton of different spaces and rooms and a really good vibe. Also worth a look is the ‘for sale’ pub; Atlas Obscura, where you can leave messages all over the walls and ceilings.
Also, check out Stag Kiss Budapest – a Budapest blog written by Budapest locals.
Hint – For something a little different, try the Museum of Music History in Buda. As musicians we found it fascinating, but it would be interesting for anyone. Entry is £1.50.
Budapest for two nights;
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