Is Budapest Worth Visiting? What Makes it a Must Visit European City?
Is Budapest Worth Visiting?
Whether visiting Budapest has been on your bucket list for a long time, or has just come on your radar, I’m going to tell you now:
Not only does Budapest have thermal baths, historic sites and perhaps one of the most beautiful parliament buildings in the world, but it’s cheap too, making it appealing to travellers on any budget!
When Should I Go to Budapest?
I’ve been lucky enough to have visited Budapest in both the winter and the height of summer and each experience has its own charm and appeal.
Winter in Budapest, as you can probably imagine, is cold. And I mean cold! January temperatures teeter around the 0°C level with the mercury usually peaking at around 2 degrees – brrrr! However, if you’re willing to layer up, Budapest is a beautiful place to wander around in winter. Walking along the banks of the Danube or cycling around Margaret Island are great activities that can be done year-round (even if you can see your breath!). If you prefer something a little more cosy, pop into one of the world-class bakeries to enjoy a hot drink and a picture-perfect patisserie.
Summer, on the other hand, is a totally different story. Budapest basks in glorious mid-twenties temperatures and the parks are awash with both tourists and locals enjoying the sunshine. The Budapest baths (despite being thermal) are also a popular choice for summer days with people treating the spa setting as a local lido with kids splashing around and old men playing chess! If you are going to travel in summer, be aware that temperatures are warm and the sun powerful, so if you plan on hiking up Gellert Hill or walking around the castle, make sure you take plenty of water and pack the sun cream!
How Long Should I Spend in Budapest?
As with anywhere, the answer to this could be “how long is a piece of string?”. Budapest is a cultural city jam-packed with parks, attractions, restaurants and buildings that are well worth a visit. That being said, a long weekend of around 4-5 days is a decent length of time to get an insight into the city.
A long weekend in Budapest allows you to explore the city’s baths and parks, dine on some traditional Hungarian cuisine (think: paprika-spiced goulash and dumplings), enjoy the quirky nightlife and perhaps discover a museum or gallery.
One of the best ways to see the city is just to stroll around the streets, taking in the differences between Buda and Pest and finding little cafes, shops and attractions along the way.
Best Area to Stay in the City
The city of Budapest is split into two main sections: Buda and Pest, which were only officially joined to form the capital Budapest in 1873.
Buda is the hilly section of the city located on the West side which is home to the Fisherman’s Bastion on Castle Hill, the Gellert Hotel and Spa and the Liberty Statue. This side of the city is the quieter, greener, more peaceful region so is great for those looking to kick back and relax during their stay. Buda is perfect for families or mature couples and groups of friends who won’t be out partying until the sun comes up!
The East is known as Pest (the S pronounced as “sh”) which is the more urban part of the city. This area plays host to the famous Parliament Building, the Vajdahunyad Castle, the Széchenyi thermal baths and a whole host of bars, restaurants and shops. Pest is perfect for those who will be looking to enjoy the capital’s nightlife or who want to shop ‘til they drop along Váci Street and Andrássy Avenue.
For those who want a perfect balance of both Buda and Pest, staying close to one of the many bridges across the Danube is a great choice. This makes it easy to wander back and forth between the two districts while having the opportunity to witness the spectacular views of each side from one of the eight picturesque bridges.
(Margaret Island lies in between the two halves of the city, floating delicately in the middle of the Danube. Although you can stay on Margaret Island, accommodation options are limited and I’d suggest choosing Buda or Pest for ease of access and a wider range of amenities nearby.)
What Sights Are Worth Seeing in Budapest?
This section could be never-ending but instead of rambling on about my favourite spots in Budapest, I’ve broken down the list into categories. If you can manage at least one of each attraction then you should get a decent taster of what Budapest has to offer.
Thermal Baths: Budapest’s Signature
The Széchenyi thermal baths are probably the most famous in Budapest with the steaming blue waters contrasting with the charming yellow façade of the spa building. Spend a day enjoying the varying temperatures of the baths and saunas or why not book yourself a relaxing massage to really top off your day?
The Király Baths are another great option. Constructed in 1565, the Király Baths have Turkish influences and boast an on-site pool, Jacuzzi, fitness room, steam chamber and hot air chamber. These baths are open daily and are only available to people aged 14+ giving them a more tranquil atmosphere.
Hungarian Architecture at it’s Best
Perhaps one of my favourite buildings of all time, the Hungarian Parliament Building is a sprawling display of Gothic architecture. Its perfect symmetry, riverside setting and decadent interiors all make it a site worth visiting. A guided tour of parliament is available which takes you through the main entrance and staircase, parliament hall and even lets you see the Hungarian Crown Jewels.
Vajdahunyad Castle is perched on the edge of a lake in City Park in Pest and is a quaint castle with a number of architectural influences. Combining Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles, the castle is a sight to behold. Although the Agricultural Museum inside may not be of interest to everyone, just wandering around the park and the castle is a lovely way to spend an afternoon.
Parks – Why Not Relax While in Budapest?
Margaret Island is essentially one big park and you can easily while away a few hours of the day cycling around the island. Explore the Japanese Gardens, climb the water and visit the musical fountain for a fun-filled day for all the family.
City Park is one of the largest parks in Budapest and is accessed through the large Heroes Square at the end of Andrássy Avenue. The park is home to both the Széchenyi thermal baths and the Vajdahunyad Castle so it is the perfect place to combine a number of attractions in one day.
Ruin Bars – Nightlife in Budapest
Set in abandoned buildings in the old Jewish quarter of Budapest, Ruin Bars are a must for anyone wanting to experience the city’s nightlife. Each Ruin Bar looks simple and unassuming from the outside but once you step inside they hold an array of colour, eclectic décor and flowing drinks to ensure a quirky night out in the capital.
Szimpla Kert is perhaps the most famous Ruin Bar and was the one that started the trend back in 2001. The upcycled factory setting features a courtyard, cocktail bars and plenty of ramshackle rooms in between so you can find your own little spot in this mystery maze to enjoy your evening.
Budapest is Easy to Get Around
Although the language barrier can be somewhat difficult when trying to purchase tickets or find the right route, locals and transport officials will do their best to help you!
It’s arguably worth taking the Line 2 tram along the Danube for the views alone!
Is Budapest Expensive?
I could just leave it at that but I’ll give you a little more information so you can gauge how inexpensive Budapest really is.
Local Beer/ Regular Coffee: 450 F = $1.60/£1.20/€1.40
Coke: 290 F = $1.05/£0.80/€0.90
Main Meal for One: 1700-4000 F = $6.20/£4.70/€5.25 – $14.50/£11.90/€12.35
Day at Thermal Baths: 5500 F = $20.00/£15.00/€17.00
I hope from this overview you’ve been persuaded that a trip to Budapest should certainly be on your list. Come rain or shine Budapest has a wealth of activities to keep everyone entertained. At the end of the day this will be your trip. Walk down the back streets, dine in little local restaurants, visit quirky musuems and most of all discover your Budapest!
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