The few days I spent in Budapest were some of my favorite throughout my time in Europe. I did not expect to love this city as much as I do. I know this city isn’t obscure or a “secret” gem among European travelers, but I was genuinely shocked by how interesting and beautiful this city is. The city is split by the Danube, with Buda on one side and Pest on the other. There is so much that I loved about this city, so I’m going to list some of my absolute favorite things to visit in Budapest.
I visited Budapest in April, which seemed to be the perfect time of year to plan a trip to the Hungarian capital. The Budapest Spring Festival happens in April, complete with adorable stalls of interesting crafts and delicious street food. The weather during this time of year is also perfect for enjoying outdoor baths at the thermal stalls.
Each side of the river has a different personality. Buda is hilly and relatively quiet, perfect for afternoon strolls along the beautiful Fisherman’s Bastion, which has great views of the Parliament building and the rest of Pest. The Royal Palace and Gellert Hill are two other popular attractions on the Buda side. My friends and I toured the area around Fisherman’s Bastion, enjoyed ice cream in a grassy square, and took the funicular down Castle Hill before walking across the famous Chain Bridge back to Pest where we were staying.
While Buda is peaceful and historic, Pest is lively and bohemian. The city has so many coffee shops and new trendy restaurants that add to a young, hip vibe. I absolutely loved walking along Vaci street, a popular shopping area. I’d recommend visiting Parliament when walking along the Danube, and taking a moment to stop in St. Stephen’s Basilica to enjoy the extravagant church. The Great Market Hall on Pest is a great place to stop for lunch or look at traditional Hungarian foods and goods.
A trip to Budapest is not complete without a trip to one of the famous thermal baths. There are so many to choose from, each with its own atmosphere. I visited the Szenchenyi Baths, housed in an elaborate yellow building with many different sections and styles of baths. I wish I had the chance to “take the waters” (as the Hungarians say) at more baths, but I enjoyed my experience at this bath. I reserved my ticket with a personal changing cabin ahead of time and my friends and I had a relaxing day, enjoying drinks in the sun, people-watching a mix of tourists and locals.
Finally, my absolute must-do in Budapest is a visit to one of the ruin bars. These bars were my favorite part of this city. These popular bars are built into old, previously abandoned buildings and serve as the venue for Budapest’s best night life today. The most famous ruin bar is Szimpla Kert. This isn’t my favorite bar, but if you only have time to visit one, this might be a good bet because you get the full experience – eclectic decor, sprawling, crowded rooms, grimy-but-captivating atmosphere. My favorite ruin bar, Instant, doubled as a dance club, complete with secret bars and late night ska band. Fogas Haz es Kert was another favorite ruin bar for my friends and I.
Have you ever been to Budapest? What was your favorite part?