by Katie McCabe | @awelltraveledpair | August 28th, 2021
As we drove into Budapest for the very first time, we were in complete awe. What I can only describe as a mix between New York City and Paris, this stunning city is filled with gorgeous architecture, amazing restaurants, and an undeniable energy. We were in town to celebrate John's birthday, and little did we know that Budapest was about to become one of our favorite cities ever.
If you're planning a trip to Budapest, first of all, I'm very jealous. Secondly, get ready to be impressed. Not only will the spectacular architecture blow you away, but the incredible food is enough to keep you coming back for more. I am constantly thinking about when John and I will return to eat more langos and goulash.
To help you plan your trip better, I've created a list of the best sights to see in Budapest, as well as some fantastic restaurants to try. Enjoy!
The Parliament Building
Serving as the iconic symbol of Budapest, the Hungarian Parliament Building is an absolutely exquisite structure to see. Built from 1885 to 1904, and sitting on the Pest side of the River Danube, the "House of the Country" is currently the seat of the National Assembly of Hungary. Its Gothic and Renaissance-style facade, and perfectly placed river-side location are enough to attract millions of tourists each year. There's no way you can visit Budapest and not get a glimpse of this beauty.
Tip: You can only enter the Parliament Building with a guided tour. Prices differ depending on your nationality. EU residents pay €7 EUR and Non-EU residents pay $20 USD.
Located on the opposite side of the river, on the Buda side, is the beautiful Fisherman's Bastion. What is probably the most beautiful structure in all of Hungary, Fisherman's Bastion consists of seven intricate towers, each one symbolizing the seven chieftains who founded Hungary in 895. The monument is free to visit, but if you want to enter the towers there is a fee of $3.50 USD.
Tip: The towers are open and free to visit from midnight until 9:00am.
Szechenyi Chain Bridge
Spanning across the River Danube, connecting the Buda and Pest sides of Budapest, the Szechenyi Chain Bridge was initially a symbol of advancement, a linkage between East and West. Today, the bridge is one of the most photographed sights in the city. Its iron chain links and magnificent towers make it one of the most beautiful bridges in the world.
Sitting on the southern tip of Castle Hill is the elegant Buda Castle. The historical building was once the home of the Hungarian kings in Budapest, but now houses the Hungarian National Gallery and The Budapest History Museum. The gardens and surroundings of the castle are free to visit, but tickets must be purchased in order to enter the gallery or museum.
Tip: The gallery and museum hours are 10:00 - 18:00 from Tuesday to Sunday. They are both closed on Monday. Entry tickets for the National Gallery are $11 USD, and History Museum tickets are $8 USD.
The best views in all of Budapest can be found on Gellert Hill. After a thirty to sixty minute uphill walk, visitors are rewarded with sweeping views across the city. From Gellert Hill, you can see the River Danube, the Parliament Building, Fisherman's Bastion, Buda Castle, and more. It's a great way to get a little exercise while taking in some incredible views.
Another great way to explore the city is by boat. Local tour companies offer daily and nightly cruises along the River Danube, some even serving dinner and drinks. Whether you're looking for a quick jaunt down the river, or a slow-paced evening with food and fun, a river cruise surely won't disappoint.
Known as one of the most beautiful cafes in the world, the New York Cafe brings Italian Renaissance decor, sparkling chandeliers, and exceptional coffee all under one roof. Even if you only have time for a quick cup of joe, be sure to do so inside this plush place.
Sure, the sights in Budapest are amazing. There's no denying that. However, the food is also remarkable. John and I find ourselves talking more about the foods we ate in Budapest instead of all the gorgeous sights we saw. From traditional goulash and palinka to langos and palacsinta, I mean, I just can't get over how delicious everything is. No matter where you go in the city, I'm sure you'll have an exceptional dining experience. But some of our personal favorites were definitely Hungarikum Bisztro, Mazel Tov, and Tereza.
Named in honor of the first King of Hungary, St. Stephen's Basilica is a Roman Catholic basilica located in the prime area of Budapest. There is a 200 HUF / $0.70 USD "donation" to enter, and inside you will be wowed by the second largest church in Hungary.
Shoes on the Danube is a tribute to remind people of the horrific treatment of Jews during World War II. More than 20,000 Jewish people were forced to remove their shoes along the Danube before being shot dead into the river. Although somber and chilling, this sight is a must-see in Budapest. The monument consists of sixty 1940's-style shoes sculpted out of iron, and is located on the Pest side of the river.
Created inside a renovated neogothic hall, the Great Market Hall offers two floors of goods. The first floor is filled with local grocery and produce markets, while the second floor is jam-packed with souvenir shops. Also located on the second floor is one of the most popular langos vendors in the city. If you don't know what a langos is, it's deep fried dough traditionally topped with sour cream and cheese. It's a food staple in Hungary, and it's incredible!
Tip: The Great Market Hall is open Monday to Saturday from 6:00 to 18:00. It is closed on Sundays. It is free to enter.
Open daily from 7:00 to 19:00, the Szechenyi Thermal Baths is the best place in the city to relax and unwind. Known as the largest medicinal bath in Europe, Szechenyi has fifteen indoor baths and three grand outdoor pools. There are also cooling pools, plunge pools, saunas, and steam rooms. Guests can opt for a massage before or after a nice soak for the optimal relaxation experience. Tickets start at $20 / USD, and can be purchased on the official website.
When to Go: Budapest is a great place to visit at any time of the year, but I find March to May and September to November to be the best time, due to the comfortable weather and low crowds. Summer is warm and crowded, while winter is cold and often snowy, but the crowds are at their lowest.
Where to Stay: There is often a debate about which side of the river is better - Buda or Pest. To give you an idea of the two areas, Buda has a more residential feel, and it's where the Fisherman's Bastion, Buda Castle, and Gellert Hill are located. Pest is the more lively side. There are tons of bars and restaurants, and the Parliament Building, Shoes on the Danube, St. Stephen's Basilica, Szechenyi Thermal Baths, Great Market Hall, and New York Cafe can all be found there. We stayed on the Pest side and loved it! We could walk everywhere, and there were tons of great restaurants to try.
English is widely spoken in Budapest, but the official language is Hungarian.
The Hungarian forint is the official currency of Hungary, but the euro is also widely accepted. Most places accept credit cards, but some of the smaller shops and food stands only accept cash, so be sure to carry some around with you.
Budapest has a terrific public transportation system, and a lot of the city is walkable.