Le bastion des pêcheurs
Le Palais royal
Le pont de la Liberté
Manger au restaurant Sir Lancelot
Le Pont des Chaînes
Budapest, the Hungarian capital is nicknamed “Little Paris of Central Europe” and “Pearl of the Danube” . And it’s merited! This is one of our favorite places: we have discovered the city in September 2010 and we returned to celebrate the New Year in January 2013. All the people who went there fell in love with the city. You need at least 3 days to see everything and to enjoy the amazing nightlife! The city is very modern and full of trendy restaurants and shops. Take advantage of your stay to visit the thermal baths , which is unique in Europe !
How to get to Budapest ?
Low-cost airlines Wizz Air and Ryanair offer cheap rates to travel to Budapest.
The airport is 15km from the city center. To get downtown , take bus No. 200E and 3 towards Újpest – Központ at the K?bánya -Kispest station . Alternatively, the train is less than 400 forints , it connects I Ferihegy (Terminal) to the Western Railway Station (Nyugati Palyaudvar).
What to see in Budapest ?
The city is divided into two parts separated by the Danube : Buda and Pest.
- PEST is the new city and in particular the majestic Parliament and the Church of Saint Stephen, which are among the most emblematic monuments of the city. Also make ??a trip to the covered market near the Liberty Bridge (where you can find souvenirs for cheap on the second floor as well as food).
It is in this part of the city you go to party at night.
- Cross one of the bridges, the Chain Bridge (Széchenyi lánchíd) or the Liberty Bridge (Szabadság híd) to find BUDA . From there you can climb the hill to reach the Royal Palace, close to it, you find the magnificent Matthias Church, the Fishermen’s Bastion and the Castle Labyrinth. A must! Enjoy the breathtaking view of the city from Fishermen’s Bastion. Look after an old blue Trabi parked near the maze, it is well known in Budapest.
If you cross the Danube by the Liberty Bridge you arrive directly at the Gellert Baths. Pools in a beautiful decor with columns and beautiful mosaics, the source comes from Mount Gelléert and has therapeutic value. The baths are attached to the hotel of the same name, a beautiful new Art building.
In the Northeast , you can walk in the City Park (Városliget), a large park that houses the Vaidahunyad castle surrounded by a lake in the summer and a huge ice rink in winter and the amazing Széchenyi baths . To get there, you have to go through the Andrassy Avenue and the Heroes’ Square .
What is really unique is to see the city at night, the view is superb and all the buildings are lit ! Stroll along the water, it’s well worth it!
The visit of the Parliament is free for EU citizens if you present your identity card. You have to go to the stand in the morning to withdraw your tickets, and return in the afternoon for the tour.
South of Budapest 10 km from the center, in the 22th arrondissement, find the park of giant statues of the communist regime (Lenin , Marx and Engels) and others. It is an open air museum. More info on www.szoborpark.hu . There is a direct bus from the center at 11am.
BEST HOSTEL to stay in Budapest ?
Book Paprika Hostel, clearly one of the best hostels where we stayed ! This is actually the apartment of Andi. The atmosphere is very cozy and warm. It really feels like home. In addition, the super cool staff can assist you in the best parties of the capital and are sometimes preparing Hungarian specialties for a few forints ! If our stay was as unforgettabl , it is largely thanks to this great hostel. And the hostel is located close to the train station, and has REAL bathrooms with a great shower! With Paprika Hostel, we were able to do the first evening in a bar in pajamas ! AWESOME !
We also tested the Retox Party Hostel, perfect to celebrate : you even receive a bracelet on arrival with details of the hotel and a taxi number in case you find yourself so drunk that you do not know where you are staying … and there is no check out time, which is unique in hostels … This is very cool and they have all the tips to go out. By cons , if you need a place to enjoy a long night’s sleep, go away !
Must do in Budapest :
- Make the Free Walking Tour. There are many organized tours in English daily. Program : a fairly comprehensive tour of the city with historical explanations and especially nice anecdotes. It is really worth to have a first view of the city, all in a group with other young people. And you pay what you want.
- The thermal baths : take at least one afternoon to dabble in the Széchenyi Baths (in City Park) and enjoy outdoor saunas and steam rooms, all in a beautiful flamboyant neo-Baroque style setting. It is the largest spa complex in Europe. Ask a cabin and remember well your number. Do not forget a towel and flip flops. Open daily from 6 am to 10pm, entry 2600 Ft with cabin. Outside, you can see chess players who can play for hours! No need of cap.
- Other baths: the Gellért Baths. You should know that the spa is not mixed (not very practical to have to separate when you come in a group or couple). In winter, the outer part is closed. The cap is mandatory in the facility.
- Visit the Castle Labyrinth, open from 9:30 to 6pm and 6pm to 7.30pm for the night session with torches (it’s fun). Entry : 1500 Ft. You can get lost in the cave of the castle hill that served as shelter for prehistoric people half a million years ago. The maze is full of surprises: a huge bottle of Coca- Cola, an old fountain which flows wine in honor of King Mathias …
- Not far away, you will find a bronze statue of a man on a horse. Its uniqueness ? It has a huge pair of balls. According to the custom, if you touch it, you will have a hot night very soon … Feel free to ride on (some climbing is required) to touch it
- If you’re a couple, hook a padlock around a tree called the Love Lock Tree and throw the key into the Danube, it is a tradition that should symbolize eternal love. You have to find that tree!
- Take a picture of the Danube and the Parliament from the Royal Palace. The view is magnificent !
Some suggestions of restaurants in Budapest
Do not go on “Vaci utca” pedestrian street which is really just a tourist trap . These restaurants are expensive (in Budapest) and not top quality level .
In Hungary, there is a big tipping culture: give 10% of the total bill to the server, you are not obliged to do so, but it’s the least we can do because they live really with few money and they are often very nice!
For a cheap but substantial snack, go to the second floor of the cover market and take a Langos (pronounced lahn-goch), a sort of fat salty paste where you can choose all kinds of food to put on (mushrooms, ham, salad, cheese … ).
We tested these restaurants in Budapest:
- The pub Fore Sale, a restaurant near the covered market with a surprising design: go there and dispose waste peanut on the floor. Everything is in wood, a little bit western style, with straw on the ground and cards stuck all over the walls and even the ceiling. We did not really like our food but we took some risks. According to friends, the goulash is excellent and not expensive at all.
- Immerse yourself in the Middle Ages at the restaurant Sir Lancelot (Podmaniczky u 14) with a typical medieval decoration and cuisine. Eat with your fingers delicious chicken legs sitting around a large table with other guests. You drink in buckets and attend some fighting demonstrations and shows. It is plentiful and prices are correct. It is possible to take gargantuan menus.
- the Belvarosi Lugas Etterem (Bajcsy Zsilinsky C 15), a small restaurant where you can taste delicious Hungarian specialties. Count 1700 Ft for a dish.
- the Menza , a beautiful restaurant style “50s” where Hungarian stars meet. It is delicious and not too expensive. Our friend had taken a meat with honey and said it was the best meal of his life! We have tested garlic soup served with langos and cheese to die for! The goulash was also very good. The restaurant offers a really cheap weekday lunch menu.
- Darshan “THE restaurant” where our friend who did his Erasmus ate every week, quite cheap but you will not taste Hungarian specialties there (but pizza, steak and chips …) .
We also tasted the pancakes stuffed in a tiny restaurant with two floors, the Nagyi Palacsintazoja (Hattyu 16) in front of a Shell station . The snack bar offers a huge map of sweet and savory crepes. Look up and you’ll see a fresco depicting a giant crepe at the ceiling. It’s not expensive at all!
Here are some other suggestions that have been tested by a friend in Erasmus in Budapest:
- Castro Biztro (Madach tér 3), a very good but smoky Serbian restaurant. The plieshkavitsa and other tchevaptchitcha are always great , and you end up with a tufahiye (delicious dessert apple) which is a real pleasure.
- Cafer Kor quite a traditional restaurant , very good and not too expensive.
The Nightlife in Budapest
Take a glass (Palinka , why no) at Szimpla Kert (Kazincy utca 14), one of the trendiest places in town. If you can not find, ask people because everyone knows. The eclectic decor is a bric-a -brac of every kinds of objects, fancier than each other and green plants, all in an abandoned building. A little bit more expensive drinks than elsewhere, but it is always very crowded. There is also the possibility of smoking shisha in couches to the left of the entrance.
Spend an evening of madness in Morrisson 1 or 2. Morrisson is the place to party ! the first is smaller near the Opera House on Andrassy Street, the second much larger ( Honved Utca , No. 40). This small club is packed with Erasmus or international crowd. We went with people from the Youth Hostel. Every Monday evening , you get 3 free beers for 50 cl paying between 500 and 1000 forint entry and arriving before 10pm ! Karaokes late at night are great! Different rooms of different ambiances : karaoke, bar, dancing.
Go to Budapest for New Year festivities
If you spend the winter holiday season in Budapest, there are some activities you can not miss especially the Party in Bath Széchenyi. It’s a bit expensive and it’s shielded by backpackers (do not expect to find locals), but honestly it ‘s worth it to try at least once in his life. DJ, fireworks, fire shows , it’s magic ! And it is also the opportunity to party in swimming suit while it is minus 10 degrees outside. Furthermore, as you can imagine, the guys are almost all in heat, so do not be surprised to see many couples in action.
Another must : the Christmas market near the Saint Stephen’s Church, where you can taste the kurtos kalacs , a large spiral pastry, and the huge outdoor ice rink at City Park .
For New Year’s Eve, book a bar in advance , you pay half the price and you are sure to get in. For 2013 , the backpackers were given appointments at L’Instant . We tested the Morrisson where there were mainly Hungarian and a great atmosphere.
Budapest in practice
Transportation in Budapest
The city can be explored on foot. You will not often need to take public transport. But if you want, there are attractive packages for metro tickets : the ” Three Days Travel Card ” at 13 or 20 for 15 trips .
The transport ticket is valid for 1 hour and must be validated. Tickets can be purchased at tobacco shops or office .
At night, you may need to take night buses. They keep the same numbers as the bus day, but begin with the number 9. The 906 bus follows roughly the same route than trams 4 and 6 and can tour the clubs and bars.
Shopping in Budapest
The currency is the Forint , symbolized by Ft or HUF .
35 = 10 000 Ft. =>1 = 284 Ft => 35 = 10 000 Ft
Banks offer the best rates. You can withdraw forints on site through vending machines, many in the center.
There are many supermarkets and two large supermarkets :
- Kaiser Szupermarket (Klauzal ter 11, the old Jewish quarter , inside the covered market), a German super market. Closed on Sundays.
- Spar Szupermarket (in the bottom of Batthyany ter). Closed on Sundays.
Regarding shopping , major chain stores are located in the fashionable Vaci street or Andrassy. The prices are the same as ours , if not even higher.
For your souvenirs (boxes paprika and other crafts ) think of Covered Market next to the Liberty Bridge on the second floor . This is the cheapest place to buy your gifts.
Did you know ?
The video of Katy Pery “Firework” was shot in Budapest, you can see the beautiful lights of the city by night !
Some interesting sites to prepare your trip to Budapest
A question ? Other tips to add ?
Share your experience with other backpackers to enrich this article! Feel free to ask questions or leave comments below, we will answer with pleasure!