Lisa Owen

I fell in love with Budapest the very first time I visited. Since then, I’ve visited the beautiful Hungarian capital another three times - and it just gets better and better. Budapest is split into two sections – Buda and Pest - which are separated by the mighty Danube River.

budapest

You’ll most likely be staying on the Pest side, which features an array of accommodation options, restaurants and activities. Over on the Buda side is the Castle, Gellert Hill and several thermal bath complexes.

If you’re visiting Budapest for the very first time, here are my tips on getting around, what to see and do, and moving on from Budapest.

When To Go

Budapest can be visited year-round, but summer is the peak time to visit Budapest. The city is very walkable with beautiful buildings everywhere you look, and summer days are perfect to enjoy the river, local parks and outdoor thermal baths.

Like the rest of Europe, the most popular tourist months are July and August, so you may want to plan your visit in the shoulder months of June and September.

If you love Christmas markets and don’t mind the cold, December is also a wonderful month to visit. Budapest has a lovely vibe in the lead up to Christmas, with markets lining the city centre, and the streets smelling of roasting chestnuts and cinnamon.

budapest

Getting Around

Getting to and from the airport is easy using the metro, but it will take about an hour. From the airport, take the 200E bus to Kobanya-Kispect, the start of the Blue metro line. The metro station is across the road from where the bus drops you off. You will need two transport tickets, which you can buy in the arrivals hall at the airport. You can also buy travel cards for unlimited public transport use for 24, 48 or 72 hours.

Budapest’s metro and trams are an efficient and easy way to get around the city. Tickets can be purchased at machines at each station, and are 350 HUF for a single ticket. Make sure you always buy a ticket and validate it in the orange machines as there’s lots of ticket inspectors around.

budapest

What to See and Do

You can’t miss the dominating Castle Hill, which hosts a grand palace and castle overlooking the river. Allow at least half a day to explore the castle district – it’s bigger than you think.

You can walk up Castle Hill – it only takes about 10-15 minutes from the Chain Bridge or take the funicular.

From the top of the funicular, you can explore in and around Buda Castle, through the cobblestone streets of the castle district, and over to the Fisherman’s Bastion for a great view of the city and the Danube River. Another good city and river viewpoint nearby is the Liberty statue on Gellert Hill.

buda castle

The Hospital in the Rock is located at the back of the Castle Hill district (follow the signs).

This is a military hospital under the castle district that was built in a natural cave system carved out by water over time. It was first used as a hospital in World War II and then during the 1956 Budapest uprising. Entry is only by guided tour, available in English. Tours depart on the hour from 10am.

The impressive lion statue-lined Szechenyi Chain Bridge is a must see. The stone bridge was built in 1849 but was unfortunately nearly destroyed during World War II, but was rebuilt to its former glory by the end of 1949.

budapest

One of the best views of Budapest is from the top of the St Stephen’s Basilica. You can climb up to the top of the basilica for a small fee and get a 360-degree panorama of the Pest side.

If you want to check out the nightlife in Budapest, then head over to one of the ruin bars. The ruin bars were once old warehouses that have since been converted. Szimpla Kert was the first ruin bar and is always a tourist favourite.

Soaking in a thermal bath is a rite of passage when visiting Budapest. Thermal baths are scattered throughout the city, but the most popular and largest is the Szechenyi Spa Baths in the City Park.

thermal baths

The complex was built in 1913 and has 15 indoor baths and three outdoor pools – ranging from very hot to around 20 degrees. Entry prices vary depending on if you’re going on a weekday or weekend.

Budapest’s Parliament House would have to be the most beautiful Parliament building I’ve seen. You can take a stickybeak inside with a tour. English tours are offered daily at 10am, 12pm and 2pm.

parliament house

Not far from Parliament House is Margaret Island. During the summer months, one of the biggest drawcards on the island is the musical fountains located at the north and south of the island. But you can also visit the ruins of various religious buildings on the island dating as far back as the 12th century.

Money

The currency in Hungary is the Hungarian Forint. There’s plenty of money exchange offices across Budapest where you can easily change Euros or US Dollars. ATMs are also easily accessible in Budapest, usually inside or outside banks. You’ll need a combination of cards and cash in Hungary. Cards are accepted at chain stores and large restaurants, but cash is best for transport, bars, cafes and some tourist attractions.

budapest fountain

Where To Stay

Budapest has hundreds of accommodation options ranging from hostels to fancy hotels. Most of the things you want to see and do are located on the Pest side so it’s best to stay here. If you’re on a budget, I recommend Avenue Hostel or Wombat’s Hostel.

Food & Drink

Hungary is home to some delicious hearty food. You can easily get your hands on langos, deep fried dough typically topped with sour cream, cheese and sweet chilli sauce, and definitely try a bowl of goulash – a cross between a soup and stew made with beef. No trip to Hungary is complete without a few shots of the traditional fruit brandy, palinka – or topping your meal with hot paprika.

budapest bridge

Moving on from Budapest

If you’re looking to explore outside of Budapest, one of the local’s favourite spots is Lake Balaton, the largest lake in Central Europe. It’s only a couple of hours’ drive south east of Budapest, and is where many Hungarians go for their summer holidays.

Heading out of Hungary, a number of trains depart from Budapest’s Central Train Station onto neighbouring countries such as Serbia, Austria, Germany and Romania.

 

Lisa Owen is a pint-sized Australian following her dreams to travel to as many places as she can, and loves to share her photography, travel hacks, hiking adventures, and food discoveries along the way. At last count, she has travelled to more than 60 countries in between working in public relations and discovering hidden gems in Australia's great outdoors. Instagram: @thelittleadventurer. Facebook: The Little Adventurer Australia.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the Policy Documents available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.

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