The former cities of Buda and Pest are known as their collective name: Budapest. The Hungarian capital has become a popular destination for all kinds of travelers. Because Budapest has everything: history, beautiful architecture, art, relaxation, food and partying. All at budget prices.
Budapest is a big city with glamorous Art Nouveau and Baroque architecture from the Austria-Hungarian Empire, Gothic castles, beautiful parks and churches and history, and art museums. There is truly never a dull moment in Budapest.
I only spend three days here and felt like I didn’t even scratch the surface of what Budapest has to offer. But here are my main recommendations:
1. Join a walking tour
The best way to get to know any city is by doing a walking tour. And because Budapest is so big, you may have to do more than one. Most tours focus on the citadel and the area around the Danube, but there are also specializes Communism tours or tours that explore less visited parts of the city. Budapest has a fascinating history and an abundance of beautiful sights so you won’t be bored.
2. Relax at a thermal bath
Budapest has a long tradition of bathhouses. Several natural thermal springs supply the many bathhouses in the city with fresh mineral-rich water. There are bathhouses for every budget and taste. As I had limited time I decided to go to the biggest and most popular bathhouse: Szechenyi. This stunning baroque spa has 15 different baths, sauna’s and steam rooms as well as a large outdoor space. The perfect place to spend a sunny morning or afternoon. Since this is the most famous bathhouse, it gets pretty crowded, so it might not be the most relaxing experience unless you go early in the morning. For a truly unique evening, visit the spa at night for one of the summer parties.
Unlike most European spa’s, these bathhouses require a bathing suit. To save some money, bring your own towel, flip flops, food, and water.
3. Visit a Museum
There are plenty of museums in Budapest to keep art lovers, and history buffs occupied for days. The Hungarian National Gallery is located in Buda Castle with permanent Renaissance and Baroque exhibitions as well as more modern and international temporary exhibitions. The Hungarian National Museum is where you go if you want to learn everything about the rich history of the country. To dive into the darkest period of the countries history, visit the House of Terror Museum. This museum is dedicated to the victims of the fascist and communist regime.
4. Shop at the Central Market Hall
I love a good market. Especially markets where the locals shop, instead of just tourists. The Central Market Hall is a beautiful old industrial building right by the Danube. Inside this big hall, you find all kinds of shops: vegetables and other produce, traditional artisanal products, souvenirs, and even some small restaurants. The perfect place to buy some mementos to take home and fill up on delicious Hungarian food.
5. Party the night away
Budapest is one of those cities that never sleeps. Cheap alcohol, cool bars, huge clubs, party hostels, and booze cruises, Budapest is a young backpackers dream. Probably the most famous event in Budapest is the Sziget festival, an open-air extravaganza on a little island in the Danube that draws thousands of people every year. But there is just as much going on every other time of the year. One of the things Budapest is known for is the unique ruin pubs. These bars have been built into run-down old buildings, creating a distinctly cool atmosphere. The oldest (and best) is Szimpla Kert, go and see it for yourself. If you want to see a one of a kind view of the Danube, join one of the twice-weekly river cruises. All you can drink open bar (don’t expect too much), music, deck top dancing, and a stunning view of Budapest lit up at night. If you don’t want the party to stop, book a stay at one of Budapest’s party hostels, such as Retox. You won’t get much sleep, but a hangover is guaranteed.