Budapest – home to great architecture, one heck of a river, a lot of history and lots of cool bars. A city which is definitely now firmly on the map, and will only get busier. We visited for 5 days in January to avoid the crowds and it absolutely worked – we had most of the city (and the snow!) to ourselves!
The centre is only a short cab ride away from the airport and as we arrived at 11pm, decided to take that option. We arrived in the snow. Budapest is split in to the Buda and Pest sides of the river (Buda is castle district, Pest is bar district). We stayed on the Buda side of the river in the Hilton with the most spectacular room view out over Fisherman’s bastion, the Danube river and the Parliament building.
There were so many highlights on this trip that it’s hard to pick a top selection, but I’ll try my best.
ONE. Fisherman’s Bastion
This view point was right outside of our hotel, and has spectacular views over the city. In winter, we had it almost completely to ourselves – and seeing it at sunrise in the snow was even more special (if cold!)
TWO. Gellert Hill
One thing to always remember about Budapest – if you’re venturing out of Pest – you’re going to be walking up hills. We walked from the Buda region to Gellert Hill. In total the walk took us nearly 2 hours with a small stop for breakfast. The climb was steep, especially in the ice – but the views over the Danube were worth it! There are also some ex-communist monuments on the top which were pretty epic. On the way down you can visit the cave church (but it was mid service when we arrived so we didn’t go in) or some thermal baths nearby.
THREE. The Parliament Building
This building is absolutely stunning – up close and from the river. We chose to do a sunset Danube cruise to see it in the twilight, but unfortunately the sun set later than planned that day so it’s still a clear sky! Oh well…you win some, you lose some.
FOUR. Religious Buildings
St Stephen’s Basilica, Dohany Street Synagogue and St Michael’s church were all beautiful to visit, and well worth a stop off on the itinerary. I particularly recommend going in to St Stephen’s as it’s beautiful inside.
FIVE. Food, drink and Escape rooms
The food in Budapest was SO. GOOD. Goulash is an absolute must. We also enjoyed chimney cake, strudel and the amazing Langos as well. On the drink side, we loved Palinka…but weren’t such a fan of Unicum. I definitely think it’s worth spending some time visiting the ruin bars and nice restaurants of Budapest to people watch and pass the time away with a drink or ten!
Budapest is also the home of Escape room games. Our favourite was Locked Room Budapest (and we played at 4 different locations), especially as you get a return discount if you fancy doing more than one in your visit.
The best of the rest in Budapest
- Shoes on the Danube bank – combine a visit to this moving memorial with visiting the Parliament building. It honours the Jews shot, killed and left to fall in to the river by the Fascist red arrow cross group in WW2, leaving their shoes behind
- Heroes Square and Vajdahunyad Castle – combine with a visit to the Szechenyi thermal baths if that’s your thing. This area of town is lovely to stroll around and if you have time, well worth a visit
- Museums – we visited 4 museums in Budapest:
- House of Terror which is an exhibit on the fascist regimes of the 20th centuries and a tribute to the victims.
- Hungarian National Museum which tells the country’s story from formation to the present day
- Miniversum – a giant miniature version of Hungary!
- Hospital in the Rock – a series of underground caves which were used as a hospital during WW2; we loved the tours they did of the tunnels! This is right near the Castle (see below) so good to combine the two
- The bridges – we walked over Chain Bridge, Elizabeth Bridge and Liberty Bridge, but our favourite was by far the Chain Bridge
- Buda Castle and Museum – you can ride the funicular up to the castle, where there are lovely views, an art gallery and a museum on the history of the castle; as well as fabulous views out to the Danube
Thanks for reading! Let me know if you’re planning to visit Budapest, have any questions, or what you thought of Budapest yourself in the comments below.