As I made my way into Budapest, Hungary, I was astounded by everything around me. From the architecture, to the people, to the shops and the statues lining the streets, there is so much to take in that you almost don’t know where to start. Budapest is a city full of modern pleasures which have been integrated alongside historical markers, and this combination makes it the special place that it is today. Budapest was just one of many stops on my backpacking route through Central and Eastern Europe, but this city sticks out in my memory for many reasons.
If you only have a few days to spend exploring the wondrous Hungarian capital city, make sure the following 5 items are on your “must do” list…
1. Take a Free Walking Tour
Like many big cities, Budapest offers a variety of Free Walking Tours. Take advantage of them!! They are an excellent way to learn about the city’s history, familiarize yourself with the lay of the land, and meet new people who you can explore with. The “Free Walking Tours” company in Budapest has more specialized tours than any city I have ever visited in Europe- they offer a general tour of Budapest, a tour on Communism, a tour on Judaism, and a special bar crawl tour in the evenings. As the tours are offered in the morning and in the afternoon, it is possible to enjoy several of these tours in one day. If you only have time for one, make it the general walking tour, and do it on your first day in the city!
2. Soak in the Thermal Baths
Budapest has been influenced by many surrounding cultures, and thanks to this they have adopted the Turkish baths. Your visit to Budapest will not be complete without a soak in a thermal bath, so carve a few hours out of your day and pick a bath house to enjoy. My personal favorite is the exquisite Gellert Baths found near the Liberty Bridge. While you soak in the mosaic-encrusted pools, you can enjoy water temperatures ranging from frigidly cold to nearly boiling hot, and they even have steam rooms and a must-see wave pool on the top floor!
3. Eat Traditional Goulash
Budapest is known for Goulash, and the absolute best place to eat it is a place called For Sale, also near the Liberty Bridge. This restaurant has such a unique ambiance, that you will likely end up passing a few hours here without even trying. The walls and ceilings are lined with notes, business cards, and drawings from previous patrons, and the floors are littered with peanut shells. The portions are MASSIVE, so either come with a friend, or come ready to eat like a king.
4. Explore a Ruin Bar
The Ruin Bars of Budapest are such a unique experience that even if you don’t drink, you have to stop by and see what they’re all about. These ultra hip bars are located in old abandoned and somewhat decrepit buildings, and are filled with eclectic furniture, antique decorations, and graffiti art. From the outside, you typically can’t even tell the place is a bar, as most Ruin Bars are mixed right into the existing neighborhood, but once you walk in, there are large open courtyards and hoards of people, hanging out and enjoying the laid-back atmosphere. A great way to see a variety of Ruin Bars is through the Free Walking Tours pub crawl, however if you can only pick one to see, go to the Ruin Bar Mecca, Szimpla Kert.
5. Hike up to Mattias Church and Enjoy the View
This suggestion actually combines a few of Budapest’s wonders together. Not only is the Mattias Church architecturally stunning, but from here you can also see the cool Fisherman Bastion statue, and enjoy a great view of the city below. It’s a three-for-one suggestion, which is totally worth the walk.
Now I’m curious… Have you ever been to Budapest? If so, what were some of your favorite things to do and see? Leave a comment and let me know!