After visiting Budapest, it’s no wonder the city is often referenced as “the Paris of Eastern Europe”. The charming cobblestone streets, beautiful architecture, romantic culture, and friendly locals made me fall in love with the city. While Eastern Europe rarely receives the same recognition as its Western neighbors, the Hungarian culture truly is remarkable!
One of the most interesting facts about Budapest is that the city was originally twin cities, Buda and Pest. While the two merged in the 1800s after the Chain Bridge was built, Buda and Pest each continue to have a unique flair separate to one another. Pest, the Eastern (flat) side of the city, has more of a city vibe with exceptional shopping, delicious restaurants, and a nightlife scene – as well as cultural aspects such as the Jewish Quarter, the National Museum, and the ruin pubs. On the Western side of Budapest, you will find Buda. Buda is a bit more touristy since you will find the castle district, Fisherman’s Bastion, and Buda Castle here – however, it’s incredibly charming (and a bit more peaceful) with all of it’s historic and colorful architecture built along the hills.
Whether you’re a history buff, foodie, romantic, partier, you name it – Budapest has something for everyone. I was thrilled Budapest was the start and finish of our road trip, but even after two stays in this beautiful city, I am still dying to go back! Check out my tips below on what to do, where to stay, where to eat, and more below!
WHERE TO STAY:
One thing is for sure – Budapest has no shortage of amazing hotels! When it comes to choosing the right hotel, be sure to consider what you want to do during your visit. Since it was our first time, we loved staying in Buda. It was easy to navigate, close to many of the must-see tourist spots, and had that “Eastern European” flair I had always imagined. That being said, if I was to visit again I would stay on the Pest side of the city to be more in the center of action and excitement. Both are great options either way.
- Baltazar – Click here to read my full review on our stay at Baltazar
- Pest-Buda – This hotel is in the same family as the Baltazar, so it has a similar vibe
- Hilton Budapest
WHERE TO EAT:
While I wouldn’t refer to myself as a foodie, I will say the food is Budapest was the best I’ve experienced on any vacation. As a vegetarian, I expected the Hungarian cuisine to be very meat-heavy, but I was pleasantly surprised by every menu. The food is incredibly flavorful, savory, and absolutely delicious! So whether you’re looking for some goulash or simply fine wine, these are some of our favorite picks:
- Rezkakas – This was by far my favorite meal of my entire trip. Aside from the delicious cuisine, the ambiance was perfect. We sat in a dark corner booth and loved listening to the local musicians play all night. It was our most formal dinner, but totally worth it.
- Baltazar – Aside from the ease of this restaurant being in our hotel, we would definitely recommend adding it to your list when you’re exploring the Buda Castle District.
- Spoon – Since cruising the Danube is a must when visiting Budapest, we recommend pairing it with dinner on the Spoon dinner cruise. Though the boat actually stays docked, viewing the sunset along the river and evening lights of the Parliament while sipping vino makes this a magical experience.
WHAT TO DO:
- Thermal Baths – You can’t visit Budapest without experiencing a thermal bath. I recommend checking out the Gellert Baths and the Szechenyi Baths – and if you plan your trip accordingly, stop by the SPArtys on Saturday nights at Szechenyi for a wild night of dancing and music.
- Visit The Ruin Bars – If you’re looking for a good time, be sure to stop by the ruin bars. These local dives have popped up all throughout the old Jewish Quater, many in old abandoned buildings left from WWII. Szimpla Kert is the most popular of all of the ruin bars, and we loved the ecclectic mix or decor from old cars to swinging gnomes and more. Grab a beer, smoke some hookah, and enjoy the lively scene.
- Great Market Hall – As the largest local market in Budapest, you can find everything from souvenirs to local foods and more. Note: the market is closed on Sundays.
- Cruise The Danube – If you don’t plan a dinner at Spoon, be sure to plan a river cruise. It’s a great way to explore the city, plus it’s a lot of fun.
- Ride The Budapest Eye – Whether you’re looking for new views of the city or simply want an excuse to rest your feet, hop on the Budapest Eye to see the city in a new light!
- St Stephens Basilica – The largest church in Budapest, and it was named after the first King of Hungray
- Chain Bridge – If you’re planning on walking between Pest and Buda, you can easily cross via the Chain Bridge. Considering it was the bridge that connected the two cities, it’s worth a visit. Plus it guides you directly to the Buda Castle Funicular that will take you up to the castle district.
- Andrassy Avenue – If shopping is your cup of tea, be sure to stop by Andrassy Avenue. Imagine the Rodeo Drive of Budapest. Trust me, it’s worth a visit!
- Fishermans Bastion – Back to historic hotspots, don’t forget to stop by Fisherman’s Bastion. It’s on the Buda side and has the best views of the city!
- Buda Castle – Book a tour to explore the Buda Castle was the first royal residence on Castle Hill (built in the 13th century!)
- Budapest is affordable
- Budapest has tons of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites
- There are two sides of the city: Pest and Buda (it was once called PestBuda)
- The Sziget Festival is one of the largest music festivals in Europe and takes place in Budapest every August
- Budapest is correctly pronounced Buda-pesht