Budapest should be an indispensable part of your personal travel list as one of the most popular city trip destinations in Europe. Thanks to its numerous historical buildings, magnificent museums, and overall diverse cultural landscape, Budapest is ideal for a short city break. What makes Budapest so special is the city's unique atmosphere, one you need to experience first hand.
Budapest is the beautiful capital of Hungary and the second-largest city on the Danube after Vienna. In any case, the Danube is the lifeline for Budapest, which helps determine the city’s special aura. The river meanders through the city and offers you dreamy riverbank landscapes from which you can admire the mirrored Art Nouveau buildings of Budapest. The Danube is the most important landmark of Budapest and is crossed by bridges over and over again. There are nine bridges in total in Budapest. These shape the idyllic cityscape and connect the hilly Buda district with the rather flat Pest bank – the city’s two halves. These two parts were separate cities until 1873, but when they merge, Budapest was born, which today has 1.8 million inhabitants. Buildings steeped in history, cozy coffeehouses, and a carefree atmosphere also attract over three million holidaymakers every year to the city, also known as the “Paris of the East.”
In addition to the Danube, countless thermal springs also flow under Hungary’s capital, providing relaxation and recreation in many wellness oases. In addition to the healing springs, Budapest is rich in cultural offerings and is suitable for shopping tours and enjoying a wide variety of culinary delights. Reason enough to discover the city on the Danube during the day and relax in the evening’s numerous spas.
When you arrive in Budapest, the romantic flair is sure to take your breath away immediately. Baroque buildings, picturesque bridges, and historical monuments make the city skyline a real feast for the eyes. But don’t just admire Budapest from afar, the numerous sights can also enchant you in the city center.
A good introduction to the large Pest district, to the west of Budapest, is a walk along the Danube banks. This is the best place to get to know the architectural gems of the city. The first attraction in Pest that will catch your eye first is the neo-Gothic parliament building, in whose dome the coronation jewels of Hungary are kept. With its imposing length of 268 meters and height of 96 meters, this building is one of Budapest’s largest. Almost 700 rooms are located in the government building, which was built between 1884 and 1902 and was intended to symbolize Hungarians’ national consciousness. Since then, the Hungarian Parliament has been the seat of the National Assembly of the country.
In fact, the British Palace of Westminster was the architectural model for the builder Imre Steindl. However, if you also want to convince yourself of the magnificent interior, you can marvel at some of the rooms as part of a tour. The highlight is, of course, the riches of the former King St. Stephen – namely his crown, his scepter, his orb, and his sword from the Renaissance period.
The fisherman’s bastion is as old as the parliament building and equally enchants with its architecture. The 140-meter-long neo-Romanesque building on the Buda side has seven towers, which symbolize the historical Hungarian tribes. The fisherman’s bastion owes its name to the location at a former fish market and the fishermen’s guild, which once defended Budapest’s fortification walls.
Be sure to run to the top of the building because you have the best view of the city. The neo-romantic complex with its numerous arcades and towers is also a good vantage point at night when the city with its numerous sights is illuminated.
A few steps away from the Fisherman’s Bastion, on the hills of the castle district, you will discover the Matthias Church. This is the most famous church in Budapest and is also known as “the Coronation Church” due to the high number of coronations, such as Charles IV.
Inside the church, you can expect beautiful murals, which testify to the high visits of Empress Sissi, among other things. The chapels, the organ, and the neo-Gothic pulpit are sure to amaze you. In the in-house museum, you can learn more about the most important Catholic church in the city and end your tour perfectly.
Then you can pay a visit to the castle palace from 1733, which rises majestically over Budapest. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987 and is considered to be the heart of the Burgviertel, the most beautiful part of the city. The imposing castle palace was once the Hungarian kings’ residence but now houses numerous museums, such as the Hungarian National Gallery. Here you can marvel at the works of Hungarian artists from different centuries. You also can see the historical city museum of Budapest and the national library in the Castle Palace. To do this, however, you first have to take a few steps. If you want to approach your visit more comfortably, you can take the cable car to the castle palace.
After you visit the museum, you should take a short walk on the castle hill, because there is still a lot to discover around the palace. In addition to impressive statues and towers, you can also marvel at the Habsburg staircase and the Habsburg gate.
The castle district also has a lot in store for you:
- Vienna Gate
- Trinity Square
- Holy Trinity Column
- Castle Quarter
- Place of honor
- Treasurer’s Alley
Great market hall
Also worth seeing and a pleasure for all the senses is Budapest’s large market hall, where you can buy many local specialties and goods. The impressive hall has existed since 1897 and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
If you want to shop here, you should bring enough time, because almost 200 stands with colorful goods of all kinds await you here on a total of three floors. Whether spices, meat, dairy products, or fruit and vegetables – you will find everything your culinary heart desires here. If you want to buy something typically Hungarian, you should reach for spicy salami, Hungarian goulash spices, or hot chili. But you don’t have to look far for a suitable souvenir either because, in addition to food, there are also Hungarian handicrafts and clothing here. Just let yourself be infected by the hustle and bustle of the market and stroll through the numerous aisles of the large market hall. Then it would help if you tried some of the Hungarian specialties in one of the bistros on the top floor.
If you need a little more in your shopping bag, the Váci Utca, the most famous promenade in Budapest, can be reached quickly from the Great Market Hall. Here you will find numerous shops as well as rustic restaurants and hip cafes.
Budapest is known for its opulent wellness temples, characterized by centuries of tradition and architectural sophistication. The Gellért Bath is one of the most popular bathhouses in the city and has been impressive in Art Nouveau architecture since 1927. Here you have the chance to relax and unwind for little money and enjoy an architectural masterpiece at the same time.
The healing properties of the thermal water will certainly do you good after a strenuous sightseeing trip. The bathing pool with thermal water between 35 and 38 degrees Celsius helps you concentrate on yourself and relax.
Heroes’ Square is the largest in the city. In the middle of the center, you can see the column of Archangel Gabriel. You can also marvel at numerous statues of the Hungarian conquerors and the country’s former rulers, who are the country’s celebrated heroes. If you have taken enough souvenir photos, you can visit the Museum of Fine Arts and the Marncsarnok Art Gallery, which are not far from Heroes’ Square. If you want to take it easy, the city park lures you with a well-deserved break.
The so-called City Park is the ideal place to pause for a moment after all the steps and impressions you have made. The local recreation area entrance opens up from the southwestern Heldenplatz, where you can slide over an artificial ice rink in winter.
Nine beautiful bridges mark the cityscape of Budapest. The oldest of them and also the best known is the Chain Bridge. It connects downtown Pest with Castle Hill in Buda. The bridge was built in the 19th century and was impressive, with 375 meters in length and 2,000 tons.
Unfortunately, the Chain Bridge looks back on a sad past because it was destroyed in the Second World War and was only accessible again in 1949, the 100th anniversary of its opening. Immortalized on postage stamps and coins, however, it gained fame and marks Budapest’s beautiful skyline.
Budapest makes your heart beat faster, and you are already planning a trip to Hungary’s wonderful capital? Don’t let that stop you, but take some valuable tips with you on your Budapest vacation.
Ideal travel time
Budapest’s weather is slightly colder than New York City during the winter and about the same temperature during summertime. Budapest is lovely in spring and autumn, while it can get scorching and stuffy in summer. In contrast, winter surprises with icy temperatures, whereby the prices for a trip to Budapest are again very cheap.
Many American airports fly to Budapest – around 8-9 hours direct flights from the East Coast. You land at Budapest Airport, which is only about 16 kilometers from the city center. Whether you use public transport or take a taxi is up to you. Of course, a rental car, train, or bus will also take you safely and comfortably to your destination. If you are planning to visit by car from another European destination, roads are great. However, it would help if you considered traffic jams, especially around big European cities and nearby Hungary’s capital.
If you want to combine a city trip and a beach holiday in Hungary, you should take a closer look at Lake Balaton as a travel destination. It is only around 1.5 hours by car from Budapest and offers a nice selection of affordable accommodation.
Out and about in Budapest
The oldest subway in Europe awaits you in Budapest, and you should definitely take it for a ride. With a day ticket, you can get to almost any destination of your choice by metro, tram, or bus, which is why you don’t have to rent a rental car in Budapest for a perfect weekend trip. If you stay longer in the city, the best thing to do is get a Budapest Card, with which you can not only use all means of transport free of charge but also visit numerous museums and exhibitions for free or at a reduced price.
However, if the weather is nice, it is also worth exploring Budapest by bike. 160 kilometers of cycle paths and numerous rental stations enable you to enjoy a safe and inexpensive tour through the city.
In Budapest, of course, you can expect typical Hungarian specialties influenced by Austria, the Balkans, and Turkey. Hardly any dish here can do without the Hungarian paprika, which tastes more fruity than spicy and provides the right flavor. Of course, you will also find goulash on almost every menu, and so the goulash soup with beef, vegetables, potatoes, garlic, and paprika is one of the most famous specialties in the country. But other soups, such as fish or bean soups, are also ideal as a hearty starter.
For the main course, you can order foie gras, Porkölt (stew with meat, onions, and paprika), or Lecsó (ratatouille made from tomatoes, paprika, and onions). The paprika chicken or the stuffed peppers are also a delicacy for meat lovers. In fact, vegetarians should rather visit the city’s modern restaurants, because eating Hungarian in retro canteens usually means eating meat-heavy, but extremely tasty and cheap. To toast, you can order the famous Hungarian pride: Tokay wine, with a powerful, sweet taste.
Hotels & accommodations
Speaking of cheap – in Budapest, you can stay very cheap in a first-class hotel. Modern hotels for young people ideally complement long-established traditional hotels. But there is also no lack of cheap hotels, pretty boutique hotels, and affordable luxury suites in Hungary’s capital.
Which hotel you ultimately choose is entirely up to you. However, it is recommended to book the hotel with breakfast only and to have lunch and dinner individually in Budapest, because it is definitely worth it. You should also stay on the Pest side if you want to be delighted with more restaurants, bars, and shopping opportunities.
- The Parliament building in Budapest: Laurent Bartkowski | CC BY-ND 2.0 Generic
- Matthias Church: Hans Permana - Flickr | CC BY-NC 2.0 Generic
- Gellert Baths Budapest: Heather Cowper - Flickr | CC BY-NC 2.0 Generic
- Chain Bridge in Budapest: Pank Seelen - Flickr | CC BY-NC 2.0 Generic
- Traditional Goulash: RitaE - Pixabay
- Chained Bridge aerial view: nextvoyage - Pixabay