Hungary is one of the top 15 most popular tourist destinations to visit in the world, so of course, I had to include it in my travel plans while in Europe. Budapest, the capital city, is also considered one of the world’s most beautiful cities. So here is my Budapest Travel Guide for you.
With world-class architecture, crazy fun nightlife, interesting culture and natural thermal baths, Budapest should not be missed.
When visiting Budapest you will notice there are three distinct areas. Buda is the city area west of the Danube river, while Pest is the city area on the east and is home to a more exciting city atmosphere. Buda and Pest are two separate cities.
The third area is Castle Hill, this is the oldest part of the city where you can find the major attractions such as the Castle, Mathias Church, Fishermen’s Bastion, and the Labyrinth (This area I found really beautiful, but the rest of the city was quite bland).
When you arrive, if you have not booked or planned your stay in Budapest, it is worth heading to the Tourism Office of Budapest, where you can find a free city map with attractions, a map of youth hostels in the country complete with prices, as well as free brochures and tips with what to see or do while in Budapest.
The office can be found on Bartok Bela ut 105-113. A separate tourism centre can be found on Suto UTC 2. Check out the official website for more information. http://www.budapestinfo.hu
If you have been travelling around several countries in Europe, chances are you’ll arrive by coach bus or train.
By train, Budapest is just a 12hour trip from Berlin, 7hour from Prague (19euro) and just a 3hour trip from Bratislava and Vienna (19euro). There are three train stations in Budapest. Keleti palyaudvar (Eastern), Deli palyaudvar (Southern), and Nyugati palyaudvar (Western).
Most of the international trains leave Keleti. *Do not expect the train station to be state of the art, super modern or super clean. Because it is not. I arrived at the Southern Deli Palyaudvar train station (where there was not even an A.T.M, the station was dark, dirty and open air. I then commuted to the Keleti station and it was better (there were some stores, seating and an inside area).
If you are travelling or planning to travel by coach bus, you can check out Volanbusz, for connections from Austria or Slovakia, (http://www.volanbusz.hu.en) or Orangeways, for connections from many other countries (http://www.orangeways.com/en).
There are four main bus stations. Most international buses arrive at the Nepliget Bus Station. All are located outside of the city centre, however, you can easily access public transport into the city.
Budapest Travel Guide – The Attractions
Castle Hill, on the Buda side of the city, is considered the most famous attraction in Budapest. The hill is home to so many individual attractions, beautiful architecture, famous galleries and historical structures.
The Royal Palace
This was where the first known buildings in the city stood, built-in 1458. The Palace has of course been remodelled since and now houses museums and other exhibitions.
Head up to the lookout terrace for an amazing view over the Danube and the Pest side of the city.
This courtyard has four lions that are on guard at the gate. If you pay attention you will notice that there are a lot of lions on guard at many of Budapest’s historical buildings.
The Savoy Terrace offers one of the best views over the city and the major attractions and is a must-see when exploring Castle Hill.
There are many other museums on Castle Hill, including the Historical Museum of Budapest, The Music Museum, The Military Museum, Marzipan Museum, Pharmacy Museum, and the Museum of Medieval Judaism.
The Danube Bridges and the Chain Bridge are really attractive and make it worthy to promenade along the river bank. You can even ride boats along the river, dinner cruises, party cruises, sightseeing cruises and more.
This church and grounds surrounding are absolutely amazing. The view from the walls from the top of the hill overlooking the Danube and Pest is amazing. It is free to explore the grounds and admire the church from outside, although if you wish to enter an entrance ticket will need to be purchased.
The House of Parliament
This would have to be my favourite building in Budapest. The Parliament is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and can be visited on a guided tour if you wish to enter the building.
On the tour, you can also view the Holy Crown, Hungarian crown jewels as well as many different parliamentary rooms and areas. If you don’t wish to purchase a ticket, simply wander the buildings surrounding it, it makes for a beautiful photograph at night.
This area is home to large and very tall statues of chiefs and kings from Hungarian history. In the same area as Heroes Square, you can find the more exciting Vajahunyad Castle, the beautiful City Park and the Szechenyi Thermal Bathhouse.
The Vajdahunyad Castle is a beautiful complex of buildings dating back to the 19th century. It is free to enter the castle grounds and courtyard. At the entrance of the castle, there is a beautiful pond, with ducks and other birdlife.
However, if you look closer you can see the pond is all artificial, complete with light poles and a built-up barrier around the outside. The pond actually converts to an ice skating rink in the winter! (glad this summer-loving girl was not around to see that).
Szechenyi Thermal Bathhouse
Budapest is home to so many thermal baths and the Szechenyi Thermal Baths in the City Park is the largest spa complex in Europe. Many of the thermal baths in Budapest are over 500 years old. A daily ticket to the Szechenyi thermal bath costs 4500HUF. Simply bring your bathing suit and flip-flops. Lockers are provided.
At the bathhouse, you can also use the jacuzzis and saunas. There are small stores where you can purchase water, tea, coffee, alcohol, and other drinks and snack foods (or you can bring your own and store it in your locker). There is also the option to book medicinal massages, pedicures or a for an extra fee.
For more information, prices, hours, and other services offered at the Szechenyi Baths you can check their website at http://szechenyispabaths.com
Money-Saving Tips for Visiting Budapest
If you are looking to save money on transport while travelling through Europe, why not take a look at the rides being offered on Blabla Car(an international European-based car-sharing website). Simply search the city you are travelling from, enter the destination and date you wish to travel.
You then are shown a list of rides offered, complete with prices and references from people who have travelled with the driver in the past. It is a great way to meet people, and if you travel solo you can have a more enjoyable trip with someone rather than sitting on a bus for hours staring at your phone.
Renting a car can be a great way to explore Budapest and its surrounding areas. There are several car rental companies in Budapest that offer a variety of vehicles at reasonable prices. With a rental car, you can easily visit popular tourist destinations at your own pace. However, it is important to note that when driving in Hungary, you need to familiarize yourself with local traffic laws and parking regulations before embarking on a journey.
Explore by foot
Budapest is easily explored by walking – with most of the major attractions in the centre of the city. If you’d like to explore outside of the city centre, or maybe your accommodation is far from the centre, then it might save you money to purchase a one, three or seven-day transport card for unlimited travel on public transport, rather than purchasing many single-use tickets.
During my time in Budapest, I used public transport one time (just from the train station to my accommodation as I had my suitcase, no map and did not know where I was in regards to my accommodation. All the attractions listed are within easy walking distance from one another – and I explored all of the night scene photographs in just 3 hours (walking slowly, taking photos, and videos, and navigating with my map).
Accommodation is much cheaper in Budapest than the likes of Berlin or Vienna. Hostel accommodation starts from around US$12, and although it is of course basic accommodation, if you are a budget traveller, or wishing to meet other travellers – then a hostel environment can be perfect. One thing I really prefer about hostels over hotels is that in a hostel you get the use of a fully equip kitchen and large lounge room.
Supermarket food over restaurants
If you are travelling long term, a few months, a year trip, a travel lifestyle, then purchasing food from the supermarket and preparing it yourself will not only be healthier but saves you a lot of money. Budapest food prices are also much lower than in Western Europe.
All around Europe there are discount supermarket stores, such as Aldi, Hofer, Lidl and many others. *(And if you are vegan then it is almost impossible to not do so, as there are sausages and cheese in everything).
I hope this post was helpful or inspires you to visit Budapest, it really is an affordable city for backpackers easily compared to some Southeast Asian destinations, like Bangkok (if you enjoy staying in a hostel, mostly preparing your own food, and exploring the city independently).
If you are looking for other posts on backpacking Europe, tips and attractions you can find in various cities find the related links just below.