Our last couple days with the family were spent exploring Budapest or what many travelers we have met along the way consider one of the most underrated cities in Europe. The current city is actually comprised of two former cities divided by the Danube River, Buda and Pest, which were combined in 1873. With a very young culture rooted in old traditions, it was certainly a great end to our quick sprint through Eastern Europe.
The architecture along the Danube River is unmatched anywhere in Europe, bosting some of the most incredible sites, especially after dark. Below are our recommendations of must see places (many on every travelers list when visiting the city).
Fisherman’s Bastion & Matthais Church – This unique terrace is a place worth visiting twice – once during the day and once in the evening. With the Matthais Church and its beautiful mosaic roof at its center, the 7 turreted lookout towers offer some of the best panoramic views of the Pest side.
Buda Castle – While we didn’t visit the museums within the Buda Castle, the surrounding area is a great place to wonder for a little while. Don’t miss the curved entrance tower and wall along the south side, complete with access to some underground tunnels.
Hungarian Parliament Building – A magnificent example of Neo-Gothic architecture, the Budapest Parliament building is the third largest Parliament building in the world with 691 rooms, 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) of stairs and standing 96 meters (315 feet) tall. Impressive at all hours of the day, but a magical sight from the Buda side at night.
Gellért Hill Cave Church & Citadella – For a good climb to yet another panoramic viewpoint, head to Citadella. This park is on the southern part of the Buda side and a beautiful place to spend a sunny afternoon. On your way don’t miss the Gellert Hill Cave Church. This Grotto chapel in a hillside cave network was formerly used as a monastery & a WWII field hospital. One of the most unique churches we have visited.
Széchenyi Thermal Baths – After a whirlwind 10 days, it was time for a little R&R and what better place than the Thermal Baths. The least expensive entrance fee offers use of a locker in the communal changing rooms (hint- the lock is linked to your wristband which you press against to lock/unlock). For a few more dollars, you can “upgrade” to a private changing room. Entrance allows access to both indoor and outdoor pools. All the pools are at different temperatures, so feel free to be indecisive!
Vajdahunyad Castle – Situated in the park nearby the baths, this castle is quite elaborate and shows the evolution of Hungarian architecture. To us, it was much more “castle like” than Buda Castle.
Kispiac – This small little
restaurant serving an ever-changing menu of seasonal dishes was by far our best meal in Budapest! We started off with grilled goat cheese served with a salad of pears and endive. Their house pickled vegetables complete with spicy peppers and green tomatoes were both interesting and delicious. For the main courses, we opted for a Majolica Pork Tenderloin served with creamed spaetzl and a pork belly rolled and baked, leaving the skin crispier than any we have ever had. Paired with a couple glasses of regional wine, this is a must go for a refreshing twist on traditional Eastern European Cuisine.
Central Market Hall – Ah, the Hungarian central market! This restored neo-gothic hall for traders features grocery produce on the ground & souvenirs/prepared food on the 1st floor. The highlight was a new type of Hungarian street food – a bread cone filled with two types of sausages, sauerkraut, onions, cheese sauce, ketchup & mustard.
Drum Café Budapest – This small casual spot is popular with the younger crowd however it serves tasty traditional Hungarian food at a great value.
Két Szerecsen – This lovely little café/restaurant offers a great mix of Mediterranean “tapas” and a light take on traditional Hungarian dishes. With a decent wine list and its intimidate inviting atmosphere, it’s a perfect place for a memorable meal.
Ruin bars – Occupying former dilapidated buildings and courtyards, these cool and interesting new establishments is a must visit while in Budapest. One of the largest, Szimpla Kert, does attract a younger crowd later in the evening, but it’s assortment of gardens and dozens of graffitied rooms (each with a different type of bar or food counter) is a fun experience.
- Near-by is Gozsdu Udvar, a beautifully restored passageway and courtyard, once the core of Budapest’s Jewish quarter, packed with restaurants, pubs and bars. Popular with the locals and a great place to spend the evening bar hopping.
Our Stark Perspective (Tips):
- If you are traveling with a group of 2-5 people and plan on using public transportation often, buy a BUDAPEST 24-HOUR GROUP TRAVEL CARD for 3300HUF per day for unlimited travel on all transportation within city limits.
- You will have to go to the second screen on the ticket machine to find this specific ticket type
- A trip on the Budapest Castle Hill Funicular is quite costly and the views are identical to those at the Buda Castle grounds.
- Hungary utilizes its own currency – the Hungarian Forint (HUF). Most places take credit cards, however it cannot be guaranteed. Like other countries with their own currency, many places will take Euros in a bind, but at a poor exchange rate.
- At restaurants – tip/service charge is generally included in your bill.
- Public Transportation to/from the airport takes close to 1 hour and requires a couple of easy transfers. There is an express bus to city center for approx. 6€
- When departing from the Budapest airport, you cannot go through security until 2 hours before your flight.
- Download the Free BKK App for easy directions on using public transportation
- Guide on Public Transportation to/from Airport http://www.bkk.hu/apps/docs/terkep/repter.pdf