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Budapest: Ultimate Travel Guide

Ruin bars, open-air baths, Jewish heritage and more

Budapest is one of the top tourist destinations in recent years. We love the Hungarian capital very much and have written a lot about it. And now we have collected all the personally tested places in one big travel guide. And we will tell you where to walk and look at the beauty, in which ruin bars to drink cocktails, where to taste Hungarian cuisine and how to get to the underground attractions.

Budapest arose from the merger of the three cities of Buda, Pest, and Obuda. On the right, the hilly bank of the Danube, Buda, and Obuda (Old Buda) are the ancient and quiet parts of the city. On the left bank, on the plain, is Pest, more modern and dynamic. But both Pest and Buda are divided into neighborhoods, each with its own specificity, both in architectural development and atmosphere.

In this guide, we will tell you about the sights of both tourist and non-touristy districts, which baths to go to, where to listen to music and what to try from the Hungarian cuisine.

Budapest consists of 23 districts, each with its own name and numbering in Roman numerals. There are streets with the same names in different districts – poets and national heroes are especially popular, so in the guidebook the addresses of the establishments are listed together with the index. The second and third digits of the index are the district number. It is also worth paying attention to abbreviations: the word street (utca) should be abbreviated as u., not ut (because ut is an avenue). Especially often the pedestrian street Vaci is confused with the avenue Vaci far from the center.

 

Antique Budapest: Fortress, Water City and Old Buda

Várkerület (I, Várkerület), Víziváros (II, Víziváros) and Óbuda (III, Óbuda)Várkerület (I). Connoisseurs of history, antiquity, and leisurely walks should begin their acquaintance with the city from the right bank of the Danube. Dominating the Danube landscape is the hill, which is crowned by the Royal Palace. The palace, unfortunately, is a modest version of its former splendor: after the Second World War it was rebuilt in a simplified form, without architectural frills. It is worth a visit for the National Gallery with a collection of Hungarian paintings from the medieval Gothic to the 20th century, or the Museum of the History of the city. Thanks to archaeologists in the museum you can see the few surviving medieval fragments of the palace, such as the chapel. The castle is surrounded by a garden, where you can take a walk or visit an exhibition on World War I (Várkert Bazár, Ybl Miklós tér 2-6, 1013).

During the restoration of the Royal Palace, which was destroyed in World War II, many architectural details were lost. But from afar it still looks monumental and impressive

Buda Castle is the embodiment of the classic stereotypes of an ancient European city – with cobblestone streets and low-rise buildings. It is the Matthias Church and the 19th-century Fishermen’s Bastion, both products of a rich medieval imagination, that attract the greatest attention. The Middle Ages were the heyday of the Hungarian kingdom, but monuments from that era are not easy to find in the city. The tower of the 13th-century Church of Mary Magdalene (Mária Magdolna Torony, Kapisztrán tér 6, 1014), for example, is preserved.

Despite its name, the Fisherman’s Bastion never had a defensive value – it was erected in the 19th century as an architectural backdrop for the Matyáš Church. Photo: Tobias Reich / Unsplash.com

The promenade of Tóth Árpád sétány inside the fortress offers great views of Buda and its hills. The Old Pharmacy Museum (Arany Sas Patikamúzeum, Tárnok u. 18, 1014) and the underground labyrinth (Úri u. 9, 1014) are excellent examples of the past. Under the fortress there is a system of underground passages and rooms, some of which are open to visitors. There you can see the remains of medieval buildings, as well as historical exhibitions and art installations.

Vizivaros (II). The area between the fortress and the Danube is called Vizivaros, the Water City. It was built in different periods, so you can appreciate the eclectic buildings, for example, walk along Fő utca. Several impressive Baroque churches with sumptuous interiors have been preserved in the area: the Parish Church of St. Anne (Felsővízivárosi Szent Anna-plébánia, Batthyány tér 7, 1011) or the St. Francis Stigmata Church (Szent Ferenc sebei templom, Fő u. 43, 1011). After a walk you can take a break in the parks Városmajor or Millenáris. Near the former there is a remarkable modernist church of the Heart of Jesus (Városmajori Jézus Szíve-templom, Csaba Utca 5, 1122).On the right bank of the Danube there are traces of Ottoman Budapest. The city belonged to the Ottoman Empire from 1541 to 1686. There are three baths – Rudas, Kirai and Veli Bey – and the mausoleum of the dervish Gül Baba Türbe (Gül Baba Türbe, Mecset u. 14, 1023). The mausoleum has an observation deck and a lovely flower garden. “Gül Baba means “father of flowers” in Turkish.

The Fisherman’s Bastion offers great views of the Danube

Obuda (III). You can delve into Budapest’s even longer past in Obuda. The first settlements appeared here, and the Romans founded Aquincum. In the archeological park with the same name (Aquincumi Múzeum, Szentendrei út 135, 1031) you can see the ruins of amphitheaters, villas, thermae and military buildings. There is also a museum with an exhibition devoted to the life of the ancient Romans. The park is open from April 1 to October 31, in winter – only when the weather is dry and clear.

Obuda is worth a trip not only for lovers of Roman antiquities, but also for lovers of 20th century art. There are museums of the avant-garde artist Lajos Kassák (Kassák Múzeum, Fő tér 1, 1033), the sculptor Imre Varga (Varga Imre Gyüjtemény, Laktanya u. 7, 1033) and the founder of op art Victor Vasarely (Vasarely Múzeum, Szentlélek tér 6, 1033, to open after renovation on January 15, 2022).

Ceremonial Budapest: The House of Terror, the Monumental Charm and the Embassy Mansions

Belváros-Lipótváros (V, Belváros-Lipótváros), Terézváros (VI, Terézváros), Zugló (XIV, Zugló)On the left bank of the Danube, opposite Buda, is Pest, which before unification was a separate city. Pest was built mainly in the second half of the 19th and early 20th century, so the buildings are dominated by Historicism – Neo-Renaissance and Neo-Baroque.Belvaros-Lipotvaros (V). The fifth district consists of Belvaros (inner city) and Lipotvaros (City of Leopold) – the most touristic part of Budapest. Tourists stroll along the pedestrian street Váci, taking pictures of luxurious institutional buildings, shopping in souvenir stores and dining in ethnic restaurants. The Basilica of St. István (Szent István-bazilika, Szent István tér 1, 1051) towers over this part of town. The basilica has an observation deck with a view of the Buda. Another good option for seeing the surroundings is the Ferris wheel (Erzsébet tér 1051).

The Basilica of St. István has an observation deck overlooking the Buda and Pest

Another landmark building in District V is the monumental Neo-Gothic Parliament. Its facade is richly decorated, but the interiors are even more pompous. To get inside, it is worth buying a ticket in advance online. The space near parliament often becomes a place of political struggle, real and symbolic. Rallies and tent cities are held here, protesting. From time to time the government removes unwanted monuments and installs new ones. For example, the monument to Hungary’s Hungarian leader Imre Nadj has been replaced during the 1956 revolution by a pompous monument to the victims of the red terror. On the centennial of the Trianon Treaty (under which Hungary lost most of its territory after World War I), a memorial was unveiled in front of the parliament. It is a black corridor leading to the flames, on the walls of which are the names of cities, both current Hungarian and those that Hungary lost after World War I.

In neighboring Freedom Square (Szabadság tér), a monument to Soviet soldiers neighbors the monuments to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. To the south of the square is the Monument to the Victims of the German Occupation of Hungary, which has been the subject of controversy since its installation in 2014. Hungary is represented here by the archangel Gabriel, who is attacked by the German imperial eagle. Many were outraged that this memorial only shows Hungary as a victim, even though the local fascist party came to power in 1944. That’s why a counter-exposition appeared across the street – residents bring photos, documents, items and notes to this site explaining Hungary’s own role in the dark events of World War II. Of the monuments on this theme, the most poignant is the shoe on the Danube embankment, the site of the mass shootings of Jews by the Hungarian “Crossed Arrows” party.Sculpture in general occupies an important place in Budapest’s public spaces, and there are more monuments in the city every year. There are monuments to Lieutenant Columbo, Steve Jobs, and recently a monument to Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of bitcoin. Instagram Statues of Budapest tells us about the city’s most iconic sculptures. There are also two dozen mini statues created by Uzhgorod sculptor Mykhaylo Kolodko; trying to find them all is a great version of the city’s quest.

Statue of Anonymous is one of the most famous medieval Hungarian authors. In 57 chapters he described the history of the settlement of the Hungarians, but his identity is not established

Terezvaros (VI). The central districts of Budapest are named after the Habsburg emperors and empresses. Terezvaros (VI) is named after Empress Maria Theresia. The main axis of this district is Andrássy Avenue (Andrássy út), a peculiar showcase of the city, which with its neo-Renaissance chambers and expensive stores demonstrates prosperity and well-being.

Laoša Košut Street in the V district with luxurious historic buildings

Terror Haza, Andrássy út 60, 1062, is a former building of the State Security Directorate, the Hungarian equivalent of the KGB. In the basement of the museum there is a real tank, on the floors above there are reconstructed courtroom, torture and prison cells, gallery of victims and executioners, materials about the anti-communist uprising in 1956. Sometimes it is not only the museum exhibits that speak of the uprising, but also the facades of the houses, which still have their bullet marks.The farther you get from the beginning of the avenue, the more the rows of blocks of flats give way to villas. The eastern part of Terezvaros is an area of diplomacy and art. You can stroll among the mansions occupied by embassies, or immerse yourself in the artistic life of the city. The University of Fine Arts has a garden (Szondi utca / Munkácsy Mihály utca) where failed models, blanks and sculpture fragments are piled. The Museum of Asian Art (Hopp Ferenc Ázsiai Művészeti Múzeum, Andrássy út 103, 1062) displays art from the Far East, mostly Japanese and Chinese. The Rath Villa (György Ráth Villa, Városligeti fasor 12, 1068) has a nice collection of Art Nouveau, and the Q Contemporary (Andrássy út 110, 1062) is home to contemporary artists. Also in District VI is the Museum of Photography (Mai Manó Ház, Nagymező u. 20, 1065) and the gallery of photographer Robert Capa (Robert Capa Kortárs Fotográfiai Központ, Nagymező u. 8, 1065).

On the grounds of the University of Fine Arts is a garden where failed models, blanks, and sculpture fragments are piled

Zugló (XIV). But the main places for art lovers are at the end of Andrássy Avenue, already in the XIV district of Zugló, the Museum of Fine Arts (Szépművészeti Múzeum, Dózsa György út 41, 1146) and the Műcsarnok Exhibition Palace (Műcsarnok, Dózsa György út 37, 1146). Both are located on Heroes’ Square (Hősök tere). In the center of the square there is a column with the Archangel Gabriel, at the foot of it are the leaders of the Hungarian tribes, who brought them to the Danube. The ensemble is complemented by two colonnades with figures of rulers and heroes, the composition of which has changed several times due to the turbulent political history of Hungary.The large-scale transformation of Budapest, including Heroes’ Square with Andrássy Avenue, was carried out to celebrate the millennium of the homeland in 1896 in a big way. In 896, the Hungarian tribes, led by their leaders, migrated to the Danube. For the 1896 celebrations, temporary pavilions were erected in the city’s Városliget Park behind Heroes’ Square, including the Historical Pavilion. This Frankenstein’s architectural monster consisted of elements of about 20 disparate buildings of historical value to Hungary. The pavilion proved so popular that it was later erected in stone. Nowadays this unusual castle (Vajdahunyad vára) is occupied by an agricultural museum. Near the pond and the castle is especially romantic to walk in the evening.

In Varoshliget Park you can have lunch in a restaurant, which is located in one of the pavilions, built in the historical style

Budapest non-ceremonial: ruined bars, Jewish heritage, and an ancient cemetery

Erzsébetvaros (VII, Erzsébetváros), Josefvaros (VIII, Józsefváros), Ferencvaros (IX, Ferencváros)Erzsebetváros (VII) is the center of Budapest’s party life. There are plenty of rundown bars (romkocsma), nightclubs, party-hostels, street art, restaurants with cuisines from various countries, designer stores and third-wave coffee shops. And it’s all in historic buildings from the 19th and 20th centuries. The area itself is heterogeneous and is divided by Erzsébet körut (Erzsébet krt.) into two parts. Budapest’s tenement houses have an interesting structure – in the courtyards you can see that the apartments are connected to each other by open galleries, which make interaction with neighbors unavoidable, thus creating a peculiar community of residents of each house.The VII neighborhood is known as the Jewish Quarter. At the end of the 19th century, Jews, attracted by the scale of commercial activity in Pest, began to settle en masse in Erzsebetvaros. There are now three synagogues here. The most famous is the Great Synagogue (Nagy Zsinagóga, Dohány u. 2, 1074) in the Neo-Moorish style. You can see the synagogue from the inside with the Jewish Tour Hungary, the ticket includes a visit to the entire complex and the Jewish Museum. There you can also buy a ticket to another Neo-Moorish synagogue, designed by Viennese architect Otto Wagner (Rumbach Sebestyén u. 11-13, 1074). The third synagogue on Kazinczy Street (Kazinczy u. 29-31, 1075) was built in the Secession style (the Austrian equivalent of Art Nouveau).

Главная синагога Будапешта построена в неомавританском стиле. Фото: Linda Gerbec / Unsplash.com

In general, Jews settled in different parts of Budapest. For example, there are interesting synagogues on the Buda side – a medieval synagogue (Középkori Zsidó Imaház, Táncsics Mihály u. 26, 1014), or an empire-style synagogue in Obuda (Lajos u. 163, 1036). There is also a Hasidic synagogue hidden in the courtyard in District VI (Vasvári Pál u. 5, 1061).In 1944, Jews were driven into the ghetto in Erzsebetvaros. In the second courtyard of the house at Kiraly utca 15, you can still see a fragment of its wall. In District IX, there is the Holocaust Memorial Center (Páva u., 1094) in a former synagogue building, with an exhibit focusing on personal and family stories. There are also several monuments to righteous people of the world. This is the name given to the non-Jews who saved Jews during World War II. There were diplomats working in Budapest who saved tens of thousands of Jews. The Swede Raoul Wallenberg, the Swiss Karl Lutz, the Spaniard Angel Sanz-Bris and the Italian Giorgio Perlasca, who was not a diplomat, but after Sanz-Bris left, posed as one and continued to help people. There is a cenotaph of Wallenberg in the memorial park at the synagogue, and near the Italian Center (Bródy Sándor u. 8, 1088) there is a bust of Perlaska. At Dob utca, 2, a mural in honor of Sans-Bris is painted, and a monument (Dob utca, 12) depicts Lutz hovering and reaching out to a man prostrate on the ground. There is a memorial room in the so-called Glass House (Üvegház, Vadász u. 29, 1054), where Karl Lutz sheltered Jews.Josefvaros (VIII). This area has a bad reputation, it is considered disadvantaged. It is perfectly safe here, but the buildings are not in very good condition. On the one hand, it has a very touristy part between Kiskörút and Nagykörút boulevards. There are university buildings, late 19th-century palaces, the National Museum (Magyar Nemzeti Múzeum, Múzeum krt. 14-16, 1088) and the city library with luxurious interiors (Fővárosi Szabó Ervin Könyvtár, Szabó Ervin tér 1, 1088).

The Budapest City Library is worth a visit to sit with a book surrounded by luxurious interiors. Photo: kkmarais / Flickr.com

However, once you cross Nádkörút Boulevard, you get into the atmosphere of Budapest before the tourist boom. The most interesting street is Népszínház utca, whose houses are decorated with panels and bas-reliefs in various styles. All this is complemented by a slight dilapidation, mysterious signs and local bars. In the VIII district there are also a botanical garden (Illés u. 25, 1083), a natural sciences museum (Magyar Természettudományi Múzeum Ludovika tér 2-6, 1083) and the old Kerepesi cemetery (Fiumei úti sírkert, Fiumei út 16-18, 1086) – a kind of open-air museum. Here were buried the famous Hungarians: politicians, scientists, and artists. Among the graves, decorated with statues, there are also family tombs, arcades and memorials.

At Kerepesi cemetery famous Hungarians were buried: politicians, scientists, artists, so there are many graves, decorated with beautiful statues. Photo: Ken Owen / Flickr.com

Ferencvaros (IX). It is worth a visit for a gastronomic experience. First, there is the Central Market and Restaurant Street (Raday) plus the Zwack Unicum Hungarian Bitters Museum (Unicum Ház, Dandár u. 1, 1095). “Unicum” – is a bitter herbal liqueur that Zwack has been producing since the late 18th century, keeping its formula a secret. The Hungarian equivalent of Becherovka or Jägermeister. In the IX district is a cultural center. It includes the Palace of Arts with the Museum of Modern Art (Ludwig Múzeum, Komor Marcell u. 1, 1095), the new National Theater with a strange park, where the colonnade of the old theater is drowned in a pond, and a ziggurat for viewing the neighborhood. A strange and scary concrete bunker with a memorial and exhibit about those taken away for forced labor (Málenkij Robot Emlékhely, Fék u. 6, 1097) was recently opened to visitors.

A trip to Budapest would not be complete without music. Hungarians are very proud of their musical traditions and the airport in Budapest was named after Franz Liszt. You can listen to opera in the luxurious Magyar Állami Operaház (Andrássy út 22, 1061) or in the modern National Opera (Nemzeti Színház, Bajor Gizi park 1, 1095). Thanks to Imre Kalman, operettas are very popular, and there is a separate theater for them (Operettszínház, Nagymező u. 17, 1065). Symphonic and chamber music is played at the Music Academy (Zeneakadémia, Liszt Ferenc tér 8, 1061) or the Palace of Arts (Müpa, Komor Marcell u. 1, 1095).

Budapest non-touristic

Nova Buda (XI, Újbuda), Buda Hills (II and XII), Kőbánya (X, Kőbánya), Csepel (XXI), Budafok-Tétény (XXII, Budafok-Tétény)Nova Buda (XI). For those who have been to Budapest several times and are tired of the touristy Erzsebetvaros, there is an excellent alternative – New Buda (Újbuda, XI district). The main attractions of Nova Buda are the hill and the Gellert baths. In this area there is a youth atmosphere, bars and clubs, a cool park on the Danube dam (Kopaszi gát) and several concert venues – barge A38 and clubs Barba Negra, Dürer Kert. You can also find churches in atypical for church architecture forms. For example, the Reformed Church in Kelenföld (Budapest-Külső-Kelenföldi Református Egyházközség, Ildikó tér 1, 1115) is an inclined concrete hexagon decorated inside with a metal structure resembling a crystal grid. The architecture of the Church of Hungarian Saints (Magyar Szentek temploma, Magyar Tudósok Körútja 1, 1117) is built on the collision of forms and materials: a stone triangular bell tower is embedded in the metal dome, and masonry contrasts with brick and wood. In the same area, a mosque (Budapest Mecset Fehérvári út 41, 1119) is located in a building that looks more like an office center.

One of the main attractions of Novaya Buda is the Gellert Hill, which offers a gorgeous view of the Danube and Budapest bridges

Buda hills (II and XII). Districts II and XII, which occupy the space between the Buda Fortress and the Buda Hills, are considered the most prestigious in the city. These areas are built up with villas, and the local elite live here. Some of the villa complexes were built in the interwar period, during the heyday of modernist architecture. The most famous is on Napraforgó utca (Napraforgó Street). The neighborhood is also home to some bizarre churches, such as the brutalist concrete Church of All Saints with its surrealist stained-glass windows (Budapesti Farkasréti Mindenszentek Plébánia Hegyalja út 139, 1124).

Among the luxury villas of the Buda hills is the brutalist concrete Church of All Saints. Photo: KovacsDaniel (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Another is the unfinished monumental Church of the Holy Land (Szentföld-templom, Heinrich István u. 3, 1021), which looks more like a stadium. Connoisseurs of unusual architecture will enjoy the museum center dedicated to the works of Imre Makovecz (Makovecz Központ és Archívum, Városkúti út 2, 1125). Makovec built in the style of organic architecture, fitting his buildings into the landscape, using curved forms inspired by nature and plant motifs. According to him, buildings should look as if the bottom grew out of the ground and the top came down from the sky. Most of his works are in small towns and villages: Paks, Piliščáb, Eger and Mako. In the Budapest house that Makovec built for himself, his archive is collected and exhibitions about his work are held. In the XX district there is a Unity Church of his design (Pesterzsébeti Összetartozás-templom, Mátyás király tér, 1204).Kőbánya (X). There are several interesting places in this area as well. A new cemetery (Új Köztemető, Kozma u. 8-10, 1108) with WWI and WWII war memorials and Jewish cemeteries (Kozma utcai izraelita temető). There are also several Secession-style buildings. Eden Lechner, the Hungarian Gaudi, built a school and church here (Szent László-templom, Szent László tér 25, 1102). And the synagogue building in this style was bought by the Pentecostal church (Mindenki Temploma Cserkesz u. 7-9, 1105).The most interesting places in the area are underground, and you can get there only a couple of times a year. This is a complex of underground cellars (Kőbányai pincerendszer, Bánya u. 37, 1105). It was the site of a limestone mine, from which many Budapest buildings were built, such as the Fishermen’s Bastion and the pylons of the Chain Bridge. When mining was shut down at the end of the 19th century, the underground spaces were used as wine and beer warehouses. Gradually the warehouses fell into disrepair, and since the early 2000s excursions are organized there twice a year. Once during the upcoming weekend of June 27 (St. Laszlo’s Day) and again during the European Heritage Days in September.

Installation in a complex of underground cellars (Kőbányai pincerendszer), accessible only twice a year. Photo: Christo (CC BY-SA 4.0)

You can also visit an abandoned villa with the interiors still intact (Havas-villa, Halom u. 42, 1105). Another complex is a reservoir with brick vaults from the late 19th century, from which water is drained twice a year for cleaning and tourists are allowed inside (usually in March and September, Kőbányai víztározó, Ihász u. 29, 1105). And in one of the sunken limestone mines are scuba diving. It is already a high level diving, so it is desirable to have experience in open water diving. People prone to claustrophobia, most likely, will not suit this entertainment.In the XIX area is worth a trip for a walk through the idyllic garden city Wekerletelep (Wekerletelep). A utopian idea was tried in the early 20th century, creating a suburb with a geometric layout, plenty of greenery, and fabulous houses in the Transylvanian style with wooden details.Chapel (XXI). One goes here for the industrial architecture. Part of the area is occupied by an industrial complex, the center of which is the former Manfred Weiss steel plant. Some of the factory’s premises can be visited by checking out the Csepel Művek Museum (Színesfém u., 1211), the underground club 2-ES Bunker (Duna-lejáró utca 8, 1211) or the art studio (Gabor M Szoke Studio, Bronzöntő u., 1211).Budafok-Teteny (XXII). District XXII, where Memento Park (Memento Park, Balatoni út / Szabadkai utca sarok, 1223) is responsible for the socialist aesthetic. This is where the socialist sculptures that were dismantled after 1989 were placed. Not far from the park is a huge Oceanarium (Tropicarium Oceanárium Nagytétényi út 37-43, 1222). If you walk around this area, you can find traces of its former grandeur – the semi-abandoned country residences of the 19th-20th centuries Törlei kaštej and Šacellari kaštej (Anna u 1-3, 1221).

Open-air thermal baths

Budapest is located in an area with thermal waters, and the Romans were the first to appreciate them. Even the name of the first settlement on the site of Budapest – Aquincum refers to water. The Ottomans could not miss this natural treasure and built a few bathhouses, which survived to this day: Kirai (temporarily closed), Rudas and Veli Bey. The heyday of bathing culture came at the beginning of the 20th century, when they built the luxurious huge Szechenyi and Gellert.In general, the baths are arranged roughly the same way – several pools with thermal water of different temperatures plus several types of saunas and steam rooms. They differ in the presence of outdoor pools, atmosphere, additional services and prices.The sections are best suited for a first visit. There are both beautiful interiors and a large selection of pools, including three outdoor pools. They are especially fun to visit in the winter when it snows and the steam from the hot water pools, creates a mysterious atmosphere. Sechenyi has one disadvantage – these are the most popular bathing areas, so the pools are often full, and in the summer it is difficult to find free sunbeds. Almost all year round (from February to December) on Saturdays in Sechenyi there are Sparty parties with electronic music and light shows.

The Széchenyi Swimming Pools are the most popular in Budapest, so the pools are often full, and in the summer it’s hard to find free sunbeds. But they are still perfect for a spring visit – there are beautiful interiors and a large selection of pools. Photo: Victor Malyushev / Unsplash.com

Gellert is the most beautiful baths with Art Nouveau interiors. The pools are smaller than in Szechenyi, but there is a wave simulation pool. In addition to the open-air rooftop pool, the Rudas have night sessions on Fridays and Saturdays from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. These are the most popular bathing areas.These baths are the most popular, and a visit costs about 6,000 forints. At the lesser-known Lukacs and Dandar baths, it’s almost half the price. There are fewer pools and no beautiful interiors, but far fewer people. The ticket price at the baths includes the use of changing rooms with lockers, for a fee (about 1000 forints) you can rent a dressing booth.

Gellert – the most beautiful baths with Art Nouveau interiors Photo: Roberto Ventre (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Google map with sights

Food and drinks: goulash, smoked paprika, pancakes with raisins and nuts

The basis of Hungarian cuisine is meat, usually fried and then stewed with onions and paprika. The main dishes are thick goulash soup, meat stewed with onion and paprika pörkölt (pörkölt), sometimes with the addition of sour cream paprikás (paprikás). As a side dish they usually use potatoes or local pasta tarhonya. A special pride of Hungarian cuisine – dishes from the Hungarian breed of Mangalitsa pigs.Traditional cuisine. The largest concentration of traditional restaurants (distinctive feature – red and white tablecloths) in District V. We recommend Retek Bisztró (Mérleg u. 10, 1051), Kispiac Bisztró (Hold u., 13), Kisharang étkezde (Október, 6. u. 17) or Tüköry Étterem (Hold u. 15, 1054). In all of them you can find goulash and other traditional dishes, but the choice of dishes for vegetarians is limited. Even dishes that are completely suitable for vegetarians have a catch: in Hungarian cooking it is customary to fry the ingredients in pork fat.

The hallmark of traditional Hungarian restaurants is red and white tablecloths. Photo: Retek Bisztró / Facebook.com

Vegan. Therefore, for vegans and vegetarians we recommend specialized Kozmosz (Hunyadi tér 11, 1067), Vega City (Múzeum krt. 23, 1053) and Las Vegan’s. Also a large selection of vegetarian dishes in Indian restaurants – Rajdhani (Kertész u. 41, 1073), Indigo (Fény u. 16, 1024). In general, Asian food is very popular in Budapest and can be found all over the city. There are excellent Vietnamese and Thai places – Pho & PadThai (Üllői út 2-4, 1082), Vietnam Gourmet (Mester u. 28, 1095), Im-oon (Klauzál tér 15, 1072). On the two main restaurant streets, Raday and Kazinczy utca (Raday utca, Kazinczy utca) and in their neighborhoods there are many establishments, offering cuisine of different countries of the world. Another place where restaurants are concentrated is Gozsdu Udvar Passage. Separately, it is worth mentioning Jewish establishments from District VII: the kosher Carmel restaurant (Kazinczy u. 31, 1075) near the synagogue and the more modern Mazel Tov (Akácfa u. 47, 1072) with Israeli street food.

In Budapest, it is not a problem to find vegan restaurants. But be careful in non-specialized restaurants – even meals that are completely suitable for vegetarians can be fried in pork fat

Street Food. The most popular street food in Budapest is kebab. There are especially many kebab kiosks in the VII district and near metro stations. Unlike other establishments, many kiosks are open until morning – Berlin Kebab (Tantuni Wesselényi u. 33, 1077), Antalya Kebab (Teréz krt. 3, 1067). They are competed by pizzas and pastas from small takeout places and soups. The soups at these places are served in cups and the menu varies every day, usually there are two or three soups to choose from. In summer you definitely get Hungarian cold fruit soups, the most famous of which is cherry. It is more of a dessert than a soup, but the sour cream or cream in the soup makes it hearty.The most popular place to find soup takeaway is Bors Gastro Bar (Kazinczy u. 10, 1075), and there is usually a line, but it moves quickly. By the way, the takeaway pasta is great there too. Unfortunately, the place only accepts cash. A traditional Hungarian street food is lángos (flatbread) with cheese and other toppings on top. The Retró Lángos (Bajcsy-Zsilinszky út 25, 1065) and Mama Lángos (Király u. 89, 1077) are excellent. Edy’s French Taco makes an unusual straight-food mix of French toast and Mexican tacos. The large taco portion costs 2,750 HUF and will fill you up for at least half a day. Tacos can be accompanied by a bottle of Hungarian craft beer or cider. The owner of the place serves the customers himself and you can try to learn his secret how he has kept a 5.0 rating on Google Maps for two years (now it’s 4.9).

At Edy’s French Taco you can eat a big taco that will last at least half a day, and the owner serves it himself.

Desserts. For dessert lovers in Budapest, there is no shortage of sweet treats, as local chefs have tried to invent new desserts in the face of competition from Vienna. Although no pastry shop can do without the classic strodel, called retes (rétes) in Hungarian. For example, the restaurateur and author of “Little Hungarian Cookbook” Karoj Gundel invented Gundel pancakes – thin pancakes filled with nuts and raisins covered with chocolate. You can try them in the expensive Gundel restaurant (Gundel Károly út 4, 1146) and in less expensive places as well.Kürtőskalács is a cylindrical pastry. It is cooked on an open fire and sprinkled with sugar, cocoa, nuts or cinnamon. Kürtőskalács is especially popular at Christmas markets, but it is sold all year round (and is three times more expensive in the center than in kiosks near the subway).

Kürtoskalács is a popular Hungarian pastry, cooked over an open fire and sprinkled with sugar, cocoa, nuts, or cinnamon

In Budapest’s pastry shops, you should try Dobos (sponge cake with chocolate cream), Esterházy (walnut cakes with cream), Zerbo (with apricot-nut filling). Even better is shomloi galuska (somlói galuska). This is the quintessential Hungarian dessert – slices of various biscuits soaked in rum with nuts, raisins and cream. A large selection of classic desserts at Nándori Cukrászda (Ráday u. 53, 1092) and Hauer Cukrászda (Rákóczi út 47-49, 1088). Gluten-free, sugar-free and vegan-friendly desserts are made at Fittnass (Zichy Jenő u. 43, 1066). In addition to pastry shops, desserts are also served in restaurants and coffee shops, but the selection there is usually smaller.Coffee. Hungary is a very coffee country, and secondly, Budapest is full of third wave coffee shops. You can drink coffee in luxurious interiors at New York Café (Erzsébet krt. 9-11, 1073). For a coffee alternative go to Espresso Embassy (Arany János u. 15, 1051), Early Bird Coffee (Nagy Diófa u. 9, 1072) or Cube Coffee Bar (Hunyadi tér 8, 1067). Two great atmospheric spots happen to have Russian literature in their names – Zsivágó Café (Paulay Ede u. 55, 1061) with retro interiors and the coffee shop at English-language Massolit bookstore (Nagy Diófa u. 30, 1072). If you want to work remotely, go to Központ (Madách Imre út 5, 1075), Matinee (Benczúr u. 2, 1068), Madal (Ferenciek tere 3, 1053) or Flow Specialty Coffee Bar & Bistro (Andrássy út 66).

Matinee Coffeehouse makes great coffee and has a place to work on your laptop

Alcohol. Classic Hungarian drinking establishments are wine bars (borozó) and beer houses (söröző). Hungary is famous for its winemaking, the most famous local wines are dessert tokai and Egri bikavér (Egri bikavér). Wine bars are often combined with stores where you can buy a bottle of wine as a souvenir. For example, Kadarka (Király u. 42, 1061), Doblo (Dob u. 20, 1072) or Cintányéros (Bókay János u. 52, 1083). Hungary also produces beer, but less successfully than wine, and many breweries specialize in Czech or Belgian beer, so the best choice in Budapest is craft beer. For Hungarian Kraft you can go to Élesztő (Tűzoltó u. 22, 1094) and for international beer to Hopaholic (Akácfa u. 38, 1072).The most popular bars in the city are the romkocsma (romkocsma) ruin bars. It is thanks to them VII district became the center of attraction for tourists and youth. Almost twenty years ago the neighborhood was practically abandoned, and Szimpla (Kazinczy u. 14, 1075) was opened in one of the empty crumbling houses with crazy interiors of graffiti, greenery, and old objects. Several other similar places followed its path, which was followed by the gentrification of the neighborhood and the opening of stores, hostels, and hotels.District VII is also known for its clubs – the biggest and most popular is Instant & Fogas Ház (Akácfa u. 51, 1073), a complex of 18 bars and seven dance floors with parties until 6 am. For those who like the aesthetics of ruin bars but don’t like the noise and parties, there’s Csendes Létterem (Ferenczy István u. 5, 1053). Many romcoms have not survived the covid pandemic, and the peak of their popularity has passed. Cocktail bars like Hotsy Totsy (Síp u. 24, 1075), Black Swan (Klauzál u. 32, 1072) are trending now.

Thanks to the ruin bars of the VII, the neighborhood has become a center of attraction for tourists and young people. Photo: Nick Night / Unsplash.com

What to bring home as souvenirs

Edible souvenirs are paprika – regular or smoked, salami, marzipan or alcohol. In addition to wine, Hungary also produces fruit distillates pálinka and herbal bitter Unicum. Alcohol is conveniently available in wine bars such as Tasting Table (Bródy Sándor u. 22, 1088) and pálinka at Magyar Pálinka Háza (Rákóczi út 17, 1088).The most popular place to buy souvenirs is the Central Market (Vámház krt. 1-3, 1093). The first floor sells food and the second floor souvenirs. The sellers speak English and have everything in one place, but the prices are higher than in some stores. Food souvenirs can also be bought at other markets or supermarkets. The best place is the Sunday farmer’s market in the courtyard of the ruined bar Szimpla.

On the first floor of the central market you can buy food, and on the second – souvenirs

On weekends you can buy souvenirs at Gozsdu Udvar (Király u. 13, 1075). At the fair, where they sell handmade products – mostly textiles, jewelry. Designer souvenirs are sold at Printa (Rumbach Sebestyén u. 1075) and Rododendron (Semmelweis u. 19, 1052). And Urban Sidewalker (Stollár Béla u. 18, 1055) sells souvenirs based on designer cards. Several times a month on Sundays are held designer fairs WAMP.Retro souvenirs should be bought at the Ecseri flea market (Nagykőrösi út 156, 1194). In Budapest there is a whole street with antique stores Falk Miksa utca. Two places where vintage is combined with modern designer clothes are Retrock (Anker köz 2-4, 1061) and Szputnyik.

There is a whole street with antique stores in Budapest – Falk Miksa utca

Transport

In Budapest transport is not just a means of transportation, but also a tourist attraction. In 1896 the first subway line in continental Europe (M1) was started in Budapest to commemorate the millennium. Thanks to the historical carriages and the interior of the restored stations it is possible to travel back to the beginning of the 20th century. For transportation fans, there is also the Underground Museum (Földalatti Vasúti Múzeum), equipped in the hall of the old station (Erzsébet tér 14, 1051).You can also travel back in time by taking the Schiklo cable car, which connects the embankment with the Buda Fortress. Also in Budapest you can take a ride on retro streetcars and buses (for now they do not run because of the covid, for updates you can follow on the website). But even regular streetcars are suitable for tourist purposes. On streetcar No. 2 you can explore the Danube promenade, and on streetcars No. 4 and No. 6 the Great Boulevard (Nagykörút).

You can go back in time by taking a ride on the Šiklo cable car, which connects the embankment with the Buda Fortress. Photo: Alexey Elfimov (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The public transport system includes the river streetcar. It competes with numerous river cruises. The most convenient way to get a ticket for a Hop-on Hop-off cruise. You can combine bus and river excursions by taking an amphibious bus ride. From May to September the Danube is also actively ridden on sapas (Sup Budapest) and canoes (Hunscapes).For the subway, buses, trolleybuses, streetcars and HÉV commuter trains there is a single ticket system within the city limits. A ticket for one trip costs 350 forints, with one change – 530. There are also passes for one, three or seven days. Tickets are easy to buy from vending machines located near most stops.On land transport you can buy a one-stop ticket from the driver – for 450 forints. The main thing is to remember to punch a ticket when you enter a subway station or a surface vehicle. On tourist routes, especially on the M1 subway line, there are often controllers. The fine for fare evasion is 16,000 HUF, with the fine reduced to 8,000 HUF if paid immediately on the spot.

At the entrance to public transport you have to punch your tickets – on popular routes (especially on the M1 metro line) there are often controllers

For route planning it is convenient to use Google Maps or the BKK Futár app. Other modes of transport have their own fares and are not included in the regular pass. The exception is the river streetcar, which is available on weekdays with a one-, three- or seven-day pass. Cab fares in Budapest are uniform regardless of company, time of day or holidays. It costs 700 forints to board and 350 per kilometer. You can take a cab in the parking lot, call by phone, through the application of individual companies or the aggregator Bolt.Budapest has several unusual modes of transport: cable car Libegő – 1200 forints, children’s railroad – 800 forints and the cogged streetcar number 60. They all lead to the hills of Buda, where you can walk in nature and admire the city from above. There are several viewing platforms on the hills in different ways, one of them designed by Imre Makovecz Imre-kilátó.Another way to escape from the city to nature is the caves. For example, Szemlő-hegyi or Pál-völgyi can be visited with guided tours and walk through narrow passages and staircases, appreciate the acoustics and examine the mineral formations up close. A complex ticket costs 2000 forints (each separately for 1400). If you want to relax in nature without going far from the center, the best option is Margaret Island. There are bike rentals, a Japanese garden, a rose garden, medieval ruins, and the outdoor pools of Palatinus Baths.

Accomodation

When choosing lodging in Budapest, you should consider which neighborhood it is in. Most hotels, hostels and cheap apartments are located in the VII district. On the one hand, this area is optimal price ratio, close to all attractions and tourist infrastructure. But there is a minus – very noisy, as in the neighborhood there are many bars and clubs, where crowds of tourists walk at night. For lovers of party atmosphere, the best choice is party hostels with parties and events, such as The Hive. Cool hostels are the chain Maverick, Das Nest, and Netizen. And Baroque Hostel & Coworking has historic interiors – stucco, high ceilings, and antique furniture – and it’s away from the party streets and across from the park and the Szechenyi baths.

The Baroque Hostel & Coworking has historic interiors – stucco, high ceilings, and antique furniture – and is located away from the party streets across from Sechenyi Park and Baths.

In contrast to the VII, the VI is quieter and quieter, especially in the part that is closer to the city park. In this area there are many apartments and hotels, including inexpensive. When choosing an apartment in the summer, pay attention to the availability of air conditioning, and in winter the type of heating (this is especially true in older homes with high ceilings). In the very central area V prices for accommodation are higher, but there are many stores, restaurants and attractions. Most of the five-star hotels are located here.Of the areas further from the center, you can consider options in IX and VIII, especially in the part that is adjacent to the V district. The farther away, the lower the prices, but you will have to spend time to get to the major attractions.In this respect, it is inconvenient to live in Buda – and housing is more expensive, and to get because of the hills and transportation is more difficult. But it is a good option for those who come to Budapest not for the first time and want to learn the city from a new perspective. An interesting option for accommodation in Buda is a boutique hotel in the building of the old Capuchin monastery Monastery Boutique. This is one of the hotels of the Accent Hotel chain, which also has several hotels for flashpeople: inexpensive and with a modern design: Roombach and T62.By the way, many hotels used the pause due to the coronavirus to make a redesign, so there were several places that relied on the work of local designers and artists. For example, the four-star Alice, H2, Memories. As for the five-star hotels, in Budapest there are quite standard hotels of large chains – Corinthia, Marriott, Hilton, Intercontinental, Kempinski. But there are also luxurious Matild Palace, Four Seasons, Párisi Udvar, which occupy the historic buildings.

When to go to Budapest

In terms of weather, the best time to go is late spring and early fall. In summer the city is too hot and there are a lot of tourists. In winter, it can be dank and foggy, and also cold indoors due to the lack of central heating. Budapest gets a large influx of tourists during the Sighet festival in August and before Christmas, when there are fairs. There are interesting events in Budapest in every month.

The best time is April. The weather is good, there are not many tourists, plus the centennial celebration of the Budapest 100 with guided tours and concerts organized by locals. It makes sense to visit and the national holidays (March 15, August 20, October 23), because you can not only catch the colorful celebrations, but free visit to most museums.

Tips and things to know

  • Cards are accepted almost everywhere: hotels, stores, cafes, vending machines, and many cabs. Cash can be useful for shopping in small shops or small cafes.

  • Cash is best withdrawn from ATMs of banks. Avoid ATMs Euronet – there is both a commission and an unfavorable rate.
  • In most exchange offices there is a commission, and the rate can vary significantly. Good conditions are usually in the most competitive locations: around the subway stations Ferenciek tere, Astoria, Oktogon. In some exchange offices on the street Vaci you can also change the rubles, but the rate is very unprofitable.
  • In some stores, including Spar supermarkets, you can pay in euros, but the rate is very unprofitable.
  • On Sundays and holidays, most stores are closed, only small grocery stores are open.
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