The Ultimate Budapest Travel Guide
Have you ever dreamed about visiting Budapest, Hungary’s Capital? Have you ever wondered what’s it like to cross the magnificent chain bridge or get into the famous Hungarian thermal baths? Well, I did both and, believe me, it’s amazing!
This year I had the opportunity to explore Budapest during the summer months, but I’ve also been to the city during the fall a few years ago. Both experiences were unforgettable as this charming city has a lot to offer regardless the season.
First Impressions of Budapest, Hungary
Unfortunately, our first impression of Budapest on this trip was an extremely negative one thanks to Hotel Timon. We booked the place three months in advance, but they refused to give us a room upon arrival, which resulted in an anxiety attack.
However, we were lucky enough to have extra cash and find great accommodation for a reasonable price considering Sziget Festival had begun a few days before. We booked the Hid Hotel and once we checked in everything seemed better.
I love Budapest because every time I go there the city amazes me in a different way. This time, the weather was just perfect, and I was stunned by the breath-taking sights in front of me. So, even though many of the people I communicated with were just rude and grumpy, the city itself captivated me.
The place in general
Budapest is an amazing city, a beautiful mix of history and modern life. Wherever you turn you see glorious buildings – Budapest is a true architectural gem!
I enjoyed walking around, looking around and simply soaking everything that surrounded me. However, I must say that I had several negative experiences with locals as many of them refused to speak in English or were extremely unfriendly. Most of the employees at Sziget and the employees at the stores/restaurants I visited were nice though.
Well, we generally stayed away with the car from the central area as we had the Budapest City Pass that allowed us to use public transportation throughout the city. However, we managed to discover several parking zones around the city, whose hourly rates ranged between 175 HUF and 440 HUF.
You insert coins in parking meters and some of them accepted Euros as well. Sunday was free parking. I don’t have any info regarding parking garages as I didn’t really see any.
As we said before the Budapest City Pass is a MUST! Not only do you get unlimited public transport use (for the days purchased), but you get a free pass to a thermal bath house or a swimming pool of your choice, access to several museums, and discounts to many places all over the city.
There are always trains and buses to get you from point A to B with minimal waiting time, while you get to avoid purchasing several tickets or paying high prices for taxi.
We loved Budapest for many reasons; however, our walk in the Varosliget Park was one of the most impressive experiences. This is a large park which hides a small castle, lovely lakes and thermal baths. Plus, it leads you right at the Hosok Tere, which is a must-see Budapest landmark.
Moreover, you can visit the Margaret Island too, which is a green island in the middle of the Danube River. All in all, Budapest has a lot to offer to nature lovers.
Budapest is a huge city and you can easily find shops, markets, souvenirs shops, shopping malls etc. Of course, these are most commonly found in the central area, but there are numerous local shops outside the center too.
In terms of prices, I’d say that Budapest is reasonably priced as long as you stay away from fancy shops; our experience during the road trip showed that Budapest was cheaper than Slovenia and Croatia, for example.
I personally enjoyed the food in Budapest. I admit that a few times, I had McDonald’s, but traditional Hungarian food is delicious.
During my latest stay I even booked a BiteMojo Trendy Budapest Food Tour, which was an excellent opportunity to try several things in one go. Some things you must try when in the city include gulyas, langos, Hungarian sausage, paprika and fish soup.
Even though Hungary has joined the European Union back in 2004, the country still uses Hungarian Forint rather than Euro. So, I advise you to check the exchange rates before visiting the country; at the time of this writing 1 EUR was 324 HUF.
Finding an exchange office outside the central city area was a challenge, but around top tourist spots you won’t have any problems finding a legit exchange office.
If you’re traveling by car, motorbike or camper it’s good to know that the country doesn’t have pay tolls; in Hungary you need to buy a vignette instead.
We were traveling from Serbia to Budapest and bought vignette on the first gas station after the border crossing. We bought a 10-day D1-category (automobiles for up to 7 persons) vignette for 2,975 HUF, which is around 10 EUR. You can check out the other prices here.
During the Stay
During our stay we didn’t really discover anything of importance. I can say that buying the Budapest City Pass was a great decision.
Those traveling on a budget should stick to supermarkets rather than eating in restaurants. In terms of souvenirs, I’d say explore a little before buying anything because the price difference was significant.
Another advice would be to visit major attractions, if possible, during business days; this applies especially to the thermal baths, which are crowded.
Things to see in Budapest
- Parliament Building – Along the Danube River an amazing Gothic building hosts the Hungarian parliament. Can’t miss it really;
- Buda Castle – Home to the Hungarian National Gallery, a wonderful gem of architecture;
- Fisherman’s Bastion – Possibly my personal favorite, I just adore the Fisherman’s Bastion. You can explore it for free from the outside, but climbing on top of it comes for a price;
- Matthias Church – In front of the Fisherman’s Bastion the Matthias Church stands tall. It was built in the 11th century and rebuilt in the 15th century;
- Chain Bridge – One of Budapest’s top landmarks is the suspension bridge, which was built in the 19th century and had Will Smith dance on top of it;
- Hosok Tere – Heroe’s Square is another top landmark, which represents the seven tribes that founded Hungary;
- Varosliget Park – A must visit park; you can rent a pedal boat, take a walk, take photos of an amazing small castle and visit the Szechenyi thermal bath;
- Szechenyi Thermal Bath – Built in 1913, features a cupola, three large pools and water jet massagers. The water is warm, so a perfect spot to visit even during the winter season;
- St. Stephen’s Basilica – A Roman Catholic basilica, impressive building, found in the new part of Budapest;
- Other Landmarks – Budapest is a large city and has numerous landmarks; these include Margaret Island, Great Market Hall, State Opera, Gellert Thermal Baths, the pedestrian Vaci Street, Doyany Street Synagogue, Shoes on the Danube Bank and the Citadella.
Verdict: Sad to Leave Budapest
Budapest was the third stop of our road trip, but I was sad to leave it. I had a great time in the city and at the Sziget Festival. Everything I experienced in those 4 days was like a dream; wandering around a beautiful metropolis, bathing in thermal baths, listening to Dua Lipa, MO and Shawn Mendes live.
- Numerous landmarks
- Not as expensive as other top EU destinations
- Many things to do
- Great any time of the year
- Good public transportation
- Many unfriendly and rude locals
- Often gets rainy (raincoat solves this)
- Extremely strict authorities (result – waiting for hours on border crossings)
- Hard to find English-speaking people
I did have a few bad experiences; first, the issue with our accommodation and then with several extremely unfriendly locals. Nonetheless, the general Budapest adventure was unforgettable, and I would gladly visit the city many more times.
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