Budapest

Do you ever visit a city and honestly think, ‘I could live here.’? That’s me in Budapest, the capital of Hungary. Considering I barely speak a word of Hungarian, I feel so at home here and if life was different,  I’m sure I would of tried living here during my twenties.

This month I visited this unique city for the third time and I’m so excited to share the best bits with you. Let’s pop the kettle on and dive into the perfect weekend escape!

Where to stay in Budapest

Honestly, your accommodation options here are never ending! My three recommendations are all budget friendly, centrally located in Pest and utterly charming- you really can’t go wrong!

The stylish hotel

In downtown Budapest you can find the boutique hidden gem, Casati. Tom and I stayed in one of their 25 uniquely designed rooms, back in March 2016, and it was the perfect spot for a romantic weekend. A stunning, adults only hotel, it’s located a stones throw from the lively ruin bars, the shopping haven Andrássy Avenue and all the main tourist spots. Plus you have a metro station on your doorstop if you wish to travel a little further afield.

The Tuk Tuk bar is a great addition and our welcome cocktail was the perfect way to start our trip! You’ll find more on the Tuk Tuk bar below.

A weekend in March would cost approximately £95 per room, per night.

Exterior of Casati Hotel, Budapest, Hungary
Casati Hotel
The quirky hostel

Entering Lavender Circus Hostel was my first impression of Budapest, and this unique find sums up the Hungarian personality perfectly. I’ll use the term ‘hostel’ very loosely, and remove all thoughts of a sweaty, over-crowded dormitory and shared showers from your mind! Every room at Lavender Circus features a doubled bed, most have a private bathroom and some even have the addition of a kitchenette.  I visited here with my best friend Sam in July 2014, and the quirky shared living space was the ideal place to escape the hot, summer sun.

Illustrations on wall of Lavender Circus Hostel, Budapest
Lavender Circus Hotel

The real charm to this home from home? The illustrations which grace the walls, ceilings and very other surface you can find. This hostel has been lovingly created and the passion the owners show is not only in it’s decor but in their hospitality too. If you are travelling alone, I can imagine this place would feel like walking into a great, big hug from your closest friend. Utter bliss.

A private room, staying over a weekend in July would be around £45 per room, per night

Illustrations on wall of Lavender Circus Hostel, Budapest
Lavender Circus Hostel
The cheap and cheerful hotel

Have you ever used Accor hotels? My guess is that you have without even realising, as that’s exactly what I found a few months back.

Accor partner with chain hotels such as Ibis, Mercure and Novotel and offer a fantastic loyalty membership programme, Le Club. The programme is free to join and you gain points each time you book through Accor and stay at one of their partner hotels. The more you book, the more points you receive and these points result in rewards! Rewards include discount off future trips and eventually swapping the points for that dream holiday or golden event ticket.

So imagine my delight when I log on, find I have already accumulated points and have a nice little discount waiting for me- which leads me to our the hotel I spent last weekend in, Ibis Centrum Budapest! 

Tree painted onto wall of Ibis Centrum garden, Budapest, Hungary
Ibis Centrum Garden

Nestled in amongst restaurants and bars, the Ibis is situated a short walk from Tram and Metro stops and still close enough to reach the main sights on foot. Yes, the rooms are a little basic but the whole hotel was spotlessly clean with staff on hand for anything you might need. For the price, you really can’t beat it! I loved the decorative tree painted onto the garden wall, which was visible from our room too!

A weekend in November costs approximately £35 per room, per night when you join Le Club Loyalty Programme.

 

How to get around Budapest

Transport in Budapest is relatively cheap and easy to use. On arrival at the airport, follow the black line to the FoTaxi office or the orange line to the shuttle bus. I have used both options, and whilst the shuttle is more cost-effective, you can wait up to 40 minutes for your ride.

FoTaxi are quick and reliable. Simply tell the booth operative where you are going and they print you a ticket with your taxi’s registration number and the exact price you will pay. Find your taxi from the adjacent line and hop in! Our taxi cost around 6500 HUF, which is approximately £18.50, with the journey taking between 20-45 minutes depending on traffic.

Yellow tram outside the Central Market Hall
The famous tram outside the Central Market Hall

In the city you have buses, trams and an underground system to choose from! Tickets are valid on all transport modes, but must be purchased from the machines (Select English language mode and it’s super simple) and VALIDATED in one of the orange machines before boarding a train or tram, or as you board the bus.

For the best value, purchase 10 single tickets for 3000 HUF (around £8.50) and use one ticket per journey.

What to see in Budapest

There is lots to see and do, and you never know, maybe you’ll spend three weekends in three years soaking it all up too! If not, the following two jam-packed two days will get most things ticked off!

Hungarian Parliamentary Building from the Danube, Budapest Hungary
Hungarian Parliamentary Building
Day one- Explore Pest
  • Central Market Hall
  • Vaci Utca
  • St Stephens Basilica
  • Liberty Square
  • Shoes on the Danube
  • Hungarian Parliament
  • Grand Synagogue
  • Városliget

Did you know Budapest was originally two cities, separated by the Danube- Buda and Pest? It wasn’t until 1849 that the first bridge between them was built and another 24 years until they merged to become one. Crazy stuff. I’ve always stayed in the flatter and livelier Pest, and that’s where we’ll begin today.

Morning

At the  Central Market Hall  you’ll find a breakfast nibble from the three floors of fresh vegetables, meat and baked goods. Open from 6am-6pm, I’d recommend avoiding the very early mornings, when the locals like to shop and head there a little after 9am on route to starting your day.

Ground floor of Central Market Hall, taken from the first floor
Ground floor of Central Market Hall
Food stalls at Central Market Hall, Budapest, Hungary
Food stalls at Central Market Hall

From here you are a mere 2 minute walk from Vaci Utca, which leads on to Vörösmarty Square. The pedestrianised Vaci Street is popular with tourists and features a number of chain and independent stores. It’s a nice walk to take, but be aware. Locals wouldn’t tend to shop here, therefore the hiked prices reflect that.

Vaci Utca, Budapest, Hungary
Vaci Utca

Continue onto Erzsébet Square, and take a ride on the wheel for your first views over this gorgeous city for around £6 per person.

St Stephens Bascilica, Budapest, Hungary
St Stephens Basilica

St Stephens Basilica is one of the most photographed buildings in Budapest, and once you see it for yourself, you’ll see why.  The Neo-classical church was completed in 1905 and is named in honour of the first king of Hungary. Admission is free but there is a small fee to take a lift to the observation deck at the top. The views are spectacular and the church is breathtaking, so it’s worth investing time and money into both.

St Stephens Basilica, Budapest
St Stephens Basilica
The view from St Stephens Basilica
The view from St Stephens Basilica
Walking around the viewing platform of St Stephens Basilica
Walking around the viewing platform of St Stephens Basilica
Inside the domed ceiling of St Stephens Basilica
Inside the domed ceiling of St Stephens Basilica

Make sure you have a 200 HUF coin spare too- you’ll find St Stephen’s mummified right hand not far from the entrance and the coin will ‘light it up’. I kid you not.

St Stephens Mummified hand in St Stephens Basilica, Budapest
St Stephens Mummified hand

On route to the Parliament building, head past Liberty Square and take a moment to read the information left in protest of the controversial Memorial to the victims of the German Invasion

Memorial to the victims of the German Invasion, Budapest, Hungary
Memorial to the victims of the German Invasion

I won’t get too deep into it there has been a number of protests held against the fixture which  was erected in the middle of the night. Read what the protesters have to say, before continuing to pay your respects down on the embankment at Shoes on the Danube.

Protest to the memorial to the murdered jews statue
Memorial protest
Shoes on the Danube, Budapest
Shoes on the Danube

If you are thinking ahead- book onto a tour of the Hungarian House of Parliament. For only 2200 HUF (currently around £6.20) you can have a peek inside one of the most beautiful parliament buildings in the world. Not that it counts for much, but it’s possibly my favourite building. I just adore it, and it gives me goosebumps every time I set eyes on it.

Hungarian Parliament, Budapest
Hungarian Parliament
Hungarian Parliament, Budapest, Hungary
Hungarian Parliament
Hungarian Parliament, Budapest, Hungary
Hungarian Parliament

As breathtaking as the exterior is, the inside also has the wow factor. The Grand Stairway would blow even Cinderella’s mind and the Dome Hall, which houses the Crown jewels is simply spectacular.

Seats in Parliament, Budapest, Hungary
Seats in Parliament
Grand staircase, Parliament, Budapest, Hungary
Grand staircase, Parliament
Afternoon

Still got some energy left?! Take the metro down from Parliament to Deák Ferenc Square and after a short walk you’ll find yourself at the Grand Synagogue . 

Grand Synagogue Towers, Budapest, Hungary
Grand Synagogue Towers

I would of loved to have visited the Synagogue and the Hungarian Jewish Museum, but not only were we short on time- in my opinion it’s a little pricey. 4000 HUF per person (currently just over £11.)

Take a walk around the Synagogue and you can still pay your respects at the weeping willow located at the rear.

Weeping Willow, Holocaust Memorial Centre, Budapest
Weeping Willow, Holocaust Memorial Centre

Return to Deák Ferenc Square and take the iconic yellow Metro 1 up to Hősök Tere. This Metro line is the third oldest in the world, has been granted  UNESCO World Heritage Status  and is one of the nicest ways to travel through the city.

Yellow train on Metro Line 1, Budapest
Famous Metro Line 1

At Hősök Tere you’ll be greeted by Heroes Square, at the entrance to City Park. 

Heroes Square, Budapest
Heroes Square

The park where Hungarians enjoy some much needed downtime, is very popular in the summer months. A walk around Vajdahunyad Castle, a dip at Széchenyi Medicinal Baths or a skate around the ice rink are all wonderful ways to end your first day in Hungary.

Hall of Art, Budapest, Hungary
Hall of art
Vajdahunyad Castle, Budapest, Hungary
Vajdahunyad Castle
 Széchenyi Medicinal Baths, Budapest
Széchenyi Medicinal Baths

 

Day two- Explore Buda

Time to visit the beautiful, hilly and the quieter half of the capital, Buda.

View of Buda from Pest over the Danube
View of Buda from Pest
  • Castle Hill
  • Mátyás Church
  • Fishermans Bastion.
  • Uri Utca
  • Royal Palace
  • Castle Gardens
  • Gellert Hill
Morning

Walking across the iconic Chain Bridge is the best way to travel from Pest to Buda. You’ll no doubt join me to stopping on numerous occasions to take in the views on both Buda and Pest plus the lush Margaret Island to your right.

The iconic Chain bridge, Budapest
Chain Bridge
The famous lions guarding the Chain bridge, Budaoest
The famous lions guarding the Chain Bridge

Once you reach Buda, save your legs and jump on the Castle Hill Funicular  just like the one I took in Lisbon. The 3 minute journey runs every 5 minutes between 7.30am and 10pm and costs 1800 HUF return (approximately £5).

Castle Hill Funicular travelling up to Castle Hill,Budapest
Castle Hill Funicular

First thing to do at the top? Admire that view!!! You can really appreciate the architecture over on Pest from the hills of Buda and it’s worth watching the daylight fade to see the city come alive at night below you.

View of The Chain Bridge and St Stephens Basilica from Castle Hill
The Chain Bridge and St Stephens Basilica
View of Parliament from Castle Hill, Budapest
Parliament

You have two choices, turn left towards Gellert Hill and Buda Castle, or to your right Mátyás Church and Fishermans Bastion.

Castle Hill, Budapest
Castle Hill, Budapest

I favour the latter, so we’ll head there first. You’ll pass some pretty coloured buildings, and being the quieter part of the city, it feels almost fairy tale-esqe. You’ll recognise Mátyás Church from its decorative roof made of Zsolnay ceramic tiles, which reminds me of tapestry. The church was closed during our recent visit, but it is usually open to the public for a small fee.

Matayas Church, with its decorative roof, Budapest
Matayas Church

Fishermans Bastion is one of the cities most popular spots, which is obvious from the hoards of tourists you’ll find surrounding the iconic arches.

Statue of St Stephen, Fishermans Bastion, Budapest
Statue of St Stephen, Fishermans Bastion
Soldiers guarding Fishermans Bastion
Soldiers guarding Fishermans Bastion

Don’t let this put you off, enjoy the structure and take in the views before walking towards the Starbucks coffee shop and approaching the stand advertising the cafe terrace on your right. For a few pennies you can head up to the highest turrets.

Fishermans Bastion, Budapest
Fishermans Bastion

They seem to be top secret as we had the whole turret to ourselves! Here you’ll gain the best views of Parliament, Mátyás Church and the rest of Fishermans Bastion, in peace and quiet!

View of Parliament from Fishermans Bastion
View of Parliament from Fishermans Bastion
View of Fishermans Bastion
View of Fishermans Bastion

Continue on to Vienna Gate and The Church of Mary Magdalene and walk back down the colourful and elegant Lords Street (Uri Utca).

Vienna Gate, Castle Hill, Budapest
Vienna Gate

Colourful houses and old buildings, Budapest

Colourful streets of Budapest

If you spy a statue of Andras Hadik upon a horse on said walk, go over a rub the horses, ahem, balls. Yes you did read that right. Legend has it, rubbing the area brings luck, hence why they are now the only shiny part of the statue.

Statue of Andras Hadik
Andras Hadik
Afternoon

Hopefully you’ll arrive at Hungarian Presidential Palace on the hour, in time to watch changing of the guard!

Guard at Presidential Palace, Budapest
Guard at Presidential Palace

Royal Palace / Buda Castle are also home to the National Gallery and Budapest History Museum. It’s a great spot to stop with a coffee and take in the beautiful surroundings.

Royal Palace, Budapest
Royal Palace

Gellert Hill is worth the walk if you have the energy- with the Citadel, Statue of Liberty and Cave Church amongst the must see’s. Alternatively, stay closer the the Castle District and explore the Castle Garden before heading back to Pest.

Castle Gardens, Budapest
Castle Gardens

Where to eat in Budapest

Hungarian food will not leave you hungry!! There is lots of highly regarded restaurants in Budapest, alongside some amazing street food and impressive cafes, so we are really only scratching the surface with my suggestions!

Restaurants

For a special dinner for two, book a table at Ruben. This small restaurant is on a side street off Muzeum Korut and wouldn’t be generally noticed, so it’s a real hidden gem! Excellent food, beautifully presented and extremely reasonable!! We enjoyed a main and dessert each, plus a bottle of wine and water, which came to 13000 HUF, around £37! I’ve eaten at Ruben on two occasions and have eaten two superb meals at similar prices, so it’s no fluke.

Salmon Risotto at Ruben
Salmon Risotto at Ruben
Roasted Pork Fillet at Ruben
Roasted Pork Fillet at Ruben

It does get very busy, so I’d suggested dropping them an email to book a table before hand. The staff speak very good English and have always been very accommodating!

Chocolate dessert selection at Ruben
Chocolate dessert selection at Ruben
Creme Brule at Ruben
Creme Brule at Ruben

For an  ‘all you can eat’ like no other, Trofea Grill is a must. A stylish restaurant, with slick waiter service and a delicious buffet with every type of Hungarian delicacy. For between 5999 and 6999 HUF (Around £17-£20) per person you can eat AND DRINK as much as you can in a 2 hour period. Local beer, wine, champagne, soft drinks and coffee, as many and as often as you like! They also have a live cooking station where the chefs will prepare any meats or fish of your choice before you select your own accompaniments. It’s a great chance to try a wide range of  Hungarian dishes such as goulash, venison stew, meaty pancakes and stuffed cabbage, all of which were tasty! There is three Trofea Grill’s in the city, we visited the one located on Kiraly Utca.

The only downside? The food was so good I forgot to take any pictures!!! Doh!

Street food vendors

Ever since our trip last March, I’ve thought about a meal I devoured on our last day. A stuffed Langos from Retro Langos Bufe,  near St Stephens Basilica at Arany Janos Metro Station.

Street Food Vendor Retro Langos Bufe
Retro Langos Bufe
Street Food Vendor Retro Langos Bufe
Retro Langos Bufe

The Langos is almost like a doughnut, deep fried and then usually topped with cheese, sour cream and meats. A stuffed langos, however, has the filling deep fried inside the dough. Calorific and truly scrumptious. The best piece of street food I’ve ever tasted. If you want to try a langos- there is only one place you should go!!

Stuffed Langos
Stuffed Langos from Retro Langos Bufe

At breakfast time I like food on the go, such as a coffee and a croissant. Princess Bakeries  offer fresh pastries and hot drinks and are situated in most metro stations. You’ll find they charge much lower prices than we’d have at stations in the UK! I enjoyed a honey and poppy seed twist with a cappuccino, for a tasty way to start my day!

Honey and Poppy seed Twist
Honey and Poppy seed Twist
Cafe culture

Gerbeaud  in Vörösmarty Sqaure and New York Cafe within the luxury Boscolo Hotel, are the priciest coffee shops in the city but well worth a visit on your trip! On both occasions, our friendly waiters quickly served up the most delicious Latte’s and traditional Hungarian cakes.

Macarons at Gerbaud
Macarons at Gerbeaud
Gerbeaud, Budapest
Gerbeaud

At Gerbeaud we opted for the Salty peanut apricot slice, and the Strudel selection at New York Cafe. Portions are designed for one, but it was just enough to share as a mid morning treat!

Salty peanut and apricot slice from Gerbeaud
Salty peanut and apricot slice from Gerbeaud
Latte at New York Cafe, Budapest
Latte at New York Cafe
Strudel selection at New York Cafe
Strudel selection at New York Cafe

Prices are pretty identical in both cafes, with two coffees and a cake to share totalling £18-£20

New York Cafe, Budapest
New York Cafe
New York Cafe, Budapest
New York Cafe

Something stronger

Booze can be super cheap in Budapest. Especially if you stick to local wines, beers and spirits. You just need to find the right place!!

Tuk Tuk Bar adjacent to the Casati Hotel is a great spot for a night cap. Designed with 1920’s Shanghai in mind, their cocktails pack a good punch whilst not leaving a dent in your wallet.

Most cocktails cost between 1400-2000 HUF, approximately £3.50-£5.70. Much cheaper than our UK cocktail prices!!

Finally, we must mention Szimpla Kert!

Szimpla Kert, Budapest
Szimpla Kert

Budapest’s first ruin bar, and still the main attraction on the tourist bar scene, the brand has gone from strength to strength. The graffiti covered, warrens which taper off from the main bar area, have to be seen to be believed. Main attractions include a bath tub couch, chairs hanging off the ceiling and the old Trabant car usually occupied by a loved up couple.

Szimpla Kert
Szimpla Kert
Szimpla Kert, Budapest
Map of Szimpla Kert

The garden area is also host to a giant cinema screen and if you get peckish you can even pop next door to the food market. Try the langos burger- it looked epic!

Karavan food market, Budapest
Karavan food market

If you have also been inspired to visit Berlin, there is even a Szimpla recently opened there too!

 

Off the eaten track

For another side to Budapest, the Zugligeti Libegő / János Hill Chairlift is the way forward. It truly is off the beaten track and it will take up a morning or afternoon. However, this could easily be slotted into your day exploring the Buda side.

The 291 bus from main train station, Nyugati Palyaudvar takes you directly up to the chairlift.

Bus 291 from Nyugati Pu
Bus 291 from Nyugati Pu

You’ll be taking the bus from the first to the last stop, so there is no need to worry about missing your stop! The bus arrives every 20 minutes and the 25 minute journey takes you through the beautiful suburbs of the Buda Hills.

 Zugligeti Libegő Office
Zugligeti Libegő Office
Map of Zugliget
Map of Zugliget

A return journey on the chairlift costs 1400 HUF (approx £4) and is worth every penny. I’d recommend having the right money with you, as tickets can only be purchased from the yellow machines. You will then take your ticket out to the staff at the chairlift, who will send you on your way up!

Chairlift ticket machines
Chairlift ticket machines
Chairlift, Budapest
The famous chairlft!

 

On your journey up keep a look out for Erzsébet Lookout Tower and if you have the energy, head there on foot once you arrive at Janos Hill. Stood 526 metres high, the tower is a quiet, picturesque spot with incredible view over Budapest and beyond!

 Erzsébet Lookout Tower
Erzsébet Lookout Tower

 

Views of Budapest from the lookout tower
Views of Budapest from the lookout tower

We decided to stop for a coffee and strudel in front of the roaring fire before enjoying the most amazing views on our 15 minute journey back down!

 

View of Budapest from the chairlift
View of Budapest from the chairlift

 

I hope you inspired to visit beautiful Budapest!

If so, why not add it to your Pinterest board to remind you of these amazing places when you book your trip?

Budapest Pinterest Graphic

Budapest Pinterest Graphic 

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