The one and only Budapest guide you’ll ever need! Budapest is the pearl of the Danube, and rightfully so. What a beaut!
Budapest should be right near the top of your Europe bucket list, and we’re going to tell you why! The architecture, art, natural beauty, bath houses, the cuisine, the people (so ridiculously nice!!), the Danube, the culture, need we say more?
On your trip to Budapest, you have to make sure you at the very least hit these highlights, but we suggest you make the adventure your own as well!
The Hungarian Parliament building is the 3rd largest on earth! The building was inaugurated in 1896 on the 1000th!!! anniversary of Hungary.
As the legend goes, Freddy Mercury attempted to purchase this gigantic gothic grandiosity. He was shot down by the Hungarian government of course, but you can see why he wanted to put in an offer. The pictures of this building just don’t do it justice, similar to pictures of the Grand Canyon. It is HUUUUUUUUGE and is a stunning site to see right off the Danube.
You can take a tour of the building, but the outside is better than the inside in our opinion. Take a stroll along the Danube right in front of the building. Trust us, you’ll be tired by the time you make it to the other end.
For you history buffs (from The Culture Trip):
The Hungarian Parliament Building has stood through two World Wars, a number of uprisings and revolutions, and a shifting urban landscape. Overlooking Kossuth Lajos Ter, named after the Hungarian lawyer and regent-president of the country during the 1848 – 49 revolution, the building was witness to the tragic events of 1956 when, during an uprising on October 25, against the ruling Communist regime, protestors gathered in front of the Parliament. While little is known about the circumstances, shots were fired resulting in the deaths of many. A memorial to this event stands in the square today.
Shoes on the Danube
Located directly in front of the Parliament building, this monument is said to remind the Hungarian government of what can happen if their power is used destructively. The monument is a tribute to a terrible event in Hungarian history.
This was my favorite monument in Budapest. Why? First off, there is a subtlety to it. You walk by and ask yourself, “Why is there 100 pairs of shoes by the river?” Your curiosity sparked, you research the monument and discover the devastating truth behind it. Subtle yet powerful.
Széchenyi Bridge (Chain Bridge) and Other Bridges
Budapest’s bridges connect the old cities of Buda and Pest. They are the symbolic and literal connector of the two towns, and therefore the glue that holds Budapest together.
Our favorite was the Chain Bridge, which stood out among the rest. The structure itself is absolutely gorgeous. 4 lions mark the 4 corners of the bridge, as a symbol of protection.
All of Budapest’s bridges were destroyed during a siege in World War II, so it is refreshing to see these beautiful buildings stand tall. Take a walk between Buda and Pest on our 3 favorites: Chain Bridge, Liberty Bridge, and Margit Bridge.
Read more about Budapest’s bridges here.
We spent a day at the Széchenyi Bath house in the heart of the city. However, there are TONS of bath houses spread around Budapest and Hungary as a whole.
Bath houses are really a distinct part of the culture, and we HIGHLY suggest you try one out. However, you have to do a little bit of research first. Some are men-only and some women-only, but we suggest you find a co-ed pool.
Here is what the Lonely Planet has to say about how to choose your Budapest bath house:
Rudas Baths The renovated Rudas Baths, with an octagonal pool, are mostly men-only during the week but have mixed nights on weekends. Vibe: Most famous of the Turkish baths
Gellért Baths The Art Nouveau Gellért Baths, now open to both men and women at all times, have the most beautiful indoor swimming pools in the city. Vibe: Get wet in a cathedral
Széchenyi Baths The gigantic and lavish Széchenyi Baths boast 15 thermal baths and three swimming pools; the water temperature is up to 38°C. Vibe: Hot water in a wedding-cake building
Veli Bej Baths This venerable Turkish bath, renovated in 2011, has five thermal pools and original clay pipes for pumping in the water. Vibe: Something old and something new
Király Baths The four pools at Ottoman-era Király Baths are very authentic though in need of renovation; they are open to both men and women on all days. Vibe: Ancient and very Turkish
Lukács Baths The waters of the Lukács Baths are meant to cure just about everything — from spinal deformation and vertebral dislocation to calcium deficiency. Vibe: For serious spa fans only
Danubius Health Spa Margitsziget The facilities at the Danubius Health Spa Margitsziget on Margaret Island are rather soulless but modern, and the choice of special treatments is epic. Vibe: Pampering and preening
Hike to the Citadella
In our opinion the PERFECT morning activity in Budapest. The hike up to the Citadella starts at the Danube, and is a quick 1 mile each way.
Along the way you get the real treat: the view of Budapest from above! The Parliament Building, all the stunning bridges, the church steeples, you get the best view of ALL of them on the hike. Best place for an Instagram shot.
At the top you’ll come upon Hungary’s version of the Status of Liberty, called the Liberty Monument. She looks over Hungary as a symbol of resistance and freedom, and looks damn fine doing it!
There is a lot more to do on this walk, if you want you can spend the entire day on Gellert Hill!
Local Pub for Food and Pálinka
As with any city, OF COURSE you have to try the local cuisine! In Budapest, you have to know up front that you’re going to get some paprika. We LOVE paprika, so pour it on!
Number 1 on the menu has to be goulash. Did your grandparents ever make this for you growing up? Ours did, and sorry Grandma but I gotta say Budapest’s chefs are pretty damn good.
Number 2 in our opinion is Hungarian chocolate. As self-proclaimed chocolate connoisseurs, we ALWAYS love when a city has its own take on chocolate. Budapest did not disappoint! There are almost too many chocolate bar options to choose from!
Pálinka is Budapest’s local liquor choice, and we may have had one or three too many. We loved it, especially when the bar is cheering you on because they LOVE when outsiders order a round of Pálinka. We even had to get some for our wedding back in the states! It’s that good.
Can’t say no to fried dough! Langos is flat bread made with flour, yeast, water and salt. You’ll frequently see it topped with mashed potatoes, sour cream yogurt, grated cheese, ham or sausages. Definitely a staple at the Central Market Hall.
Finally, you have to dive into some sausage. Eastern Europe knows how to do sausage better than just about anywhere in the world, and that’s coming from a couple Midwesterners.
Churches and Opera Houses
Budapest’s architecture is unbelievable, and in our opinion is best captured in a tour of these 4 buildings (in addition to Parliament of course):
St Stephen’s Basilica – The largest church in Budapest, this was dedicated and named for Hungary’s first King. The church still displays Stephen’s mummified hand even! For real, it does.
Matthias Church (from BudaCastleBudapest) – Full of surprises, mysteries and treasures, the church has a breathtaking interior with colours inspired by orientalism and romantic historicism. Its mystically exotic atmosphere paired with its Neo-Gothic features differentiates it from any other church
Fisherman’s Bastion – Another stop with a PERFECT panorama of the city. You can see it all, and grab some fresh seafood as you’re there!
Hungarian State Opera House – We assume this a great place to catch an Opera, but to be honest we had a great time walking around! The art and architecture throughout the building is marvelous and a must-see on your trip to Budapest!
In our opinion the most underrated thing to do in Budapest. GO TO MARGARET ISLAND!
First off, you get to walk the Margit bridge on your way, and halfway through the bridge you head down the stairs to the island! Our recommendation, rent a pedal car. For goodness sakes YOU HAVE TO!
The island itself is extremely big, so getting a pedal car will make it much easier to see the whole thing. Plus, they are ridiculously fun to ride around in.
On Margaret Island you should spend some time at the central fountain, the zoo, and if you have time put a blanket out and have a picnic in the park!
The Pearl of the Danube
All in all, Budapest was top 3 in our favorite places in Europe. The food, architecture, natural beauty, and people all made it amazing!
When you get there for your adventure, make sure to ask the locals for their favorite food and drink stops!
Our Instagram Posts in Budapest
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