When I was planning our trip to the Europe for some reason Budapest never was on top of the list. I was wrong, I was ignorant and I was totally misguided by what I read about the place. Budapest shocked me, it’s the most beautiful cities of Europe.
Danube River may be an iconic waterway but it actually is more than that. Back in 1873 it was dividing between two cities BUDA and PEST where the bridge connected it to become Budapest. Buda on the west side of Danube is known for its hilly, quieter and classy residential look. Pest on the other hand is the wilder neighbourhood, place where tourist hang out to have some fun.
Budapest left us with a lasting imagine with some of its iconic structures. Give Budapest a chance it will surely surprise you.
TIME TO VISIT BUDAPEST
Everyone have preferences of weather while picking a holiday. Since we love to explore a place on foot we always like to pick summer or fall. Budapest however I am told is loved and enjoyed both in the winter and summer.
March to May and September to November is considered to be the ideal time to visit. March to May has less tourist, cheaper hotels and flights and there are also festivals to enjoy. September to November with fall approaching the summer crowds have gone home and there are also better deals to pick on. I would recommend planning a trip based on your budget and liking.
We ended up visiting in October and were very happy with this decision. The place did have crowd but was just enough for us to enjoy it. We loved exploring the city on foot.
TRAVELING AROUND BUDAPEST
We had opted for the overnight train from Prague to reach Budapest. The bookings were done online after monitoring the prices and choosing our date. We didn’t have any issues with booking or during our travel. From Budapest we were traveling to Vienna so again we had taken the morning (3 hour journey) train.
During our time in Budapest we preferred to walk wherever possible with the help of Google and city map we didn’t struggle. When not walking we decided to use the metro lines or tram lines to reach places. There are 4 metro lines and we did use them to certain places. We didn’t struggle traveling as everything was simple to follow. Trams no.4, 2, 47, 49 are the main ones useful for tourist. Do try siting on Tram 2 and enjoy the ride as it runs along Danube, we did ride with no set itinerary and loved what we saw.
There are single tickets, single transfer tickets, metro section tickets, 24 hour travel card, 72 hour travel card, 7 day travel card and 24 hour group travel card. As the name suggest you can pick as per your preference. We choose the 24 hour travel card and it worked out perfectly. The tickets are available at Ticket Vending Machines and Newspaper Kiosks.
There is also the Budapest Card which had additional benefits on entry frees. Personally we felt the Budapest Card worked out expensive for us as we didn’t plan on doing everything the card offered.
There are also taxis, car rentals and bike rentals. Unfortunately we never used any of them.
WHERE WE STAYED IN BUDAPEST
We stayed at Ibis Style Budapest Centre with breakfast plan for 2 nights. Our main reason for choosing this hotel was the location. Since we love to explore places on foot and wanted easy public transport access this fitted perfectly well.
Although the hotel is centrally located we didn’t experience it to be noisy. The staff were friendly and welcomed us warmly. Our rooms were typical styled Ibis rooms which was clean and comfortable. The breakfast had good variety and we were happy with the whole options. I would recommend the hotel.
THINGS TO DO IN BUDAPEST
With Budapest being divided into BUDA and PEST side we decided to see it also the same way.
THINGS WE SAW IN BUDA SIDE
BUDAPEST CASTLE HILL FUNICULAR
A link between Adam Clark Square and Szechenyi Chain Bridge and also which takes you to Buda Castle. The original line was destroyed in World War II and then again reopened. There are two trams running parallel to each other. The ride gives you a historical feel, it is a short one and can easily be avoided as the walk up is only 10 mins. But for me personally it was an interesting one to get a feel for history.
The massive Baroque palace was first completed in 1265. In the past it was referred to as the Royal Palace or Royal Castle. A UNESCO World Heritage Site declared in 1987. The castle is now an art and history museum.
It is on the Buda side but its beauty is best seen from Pest side. Walking inside you will come across many architecture and designs. There is plenty to see and during the walk you do lose sight of time. A perfect place to capture pictures of the Chain Bridge, Parliament, Danube River and the pest side.
This was my favourite place if I had to pick one from Budapest. It gives an awesome panoramic view of Budapest and I feel the best place to start. The Neo-Romanesque lookout terraces although always is busy is one of its kind.
As you walk along the stairs you will see on the right and left warriors from 10th century guarding the gate. On the north and south side there is a long corridor which connects both sides, another excellent lookout point.
Then there is also statue of Stephen I in the southern court. The base of the statue is built in Neo-Romanesque foundation which has an interesting story of its own.
Roman Catholic Church located in the Holy Trinity Square in front of the Fisherman’s Bastion. It was said to be the second largest church of Buda and the seventh largest church of the Hungarian Kingdom.
It is majestic and impressive from outside and the inside also has a lot of beautiful art. A beautiful part of the history is nicely preserved inside the church. From outside the facade and roof of the church is in Gothic styled.
It is decorated with colorful and glazed roof tiles which are unique. For me personally I feel this was the prettiest church from out, maybe because of its colors.
FOUNTAIN OF KING MATHIAS
Very close to Buda Castle is the popular landmark. It is also referred to as the Trevi Fountain of Budapest. The group includes the hunting party led by the king of Hungary, Matthias Corvinus. The back of the fountain has two pairs of giant Corinthian columns. King Mathias is standing on the highest rock. I personally found it to be an interesting theatrical fountain, one showing a hunting scene. It can be easily missed, we happened to stumble on it and loved what we saw.
SZECHENYI CHAIN BRIDGE
This bridge is in between the Buda and Pest side. It was the first permanent bridge across Danube.
The famous lion statues at the end of the bridges gives it a fierce look. Walking along the bridge seeing the thick chains you can relate to how it got its name.
We choose to walk along the bridge on our way to Buda Castle and enjoyed seeing the details. At night during our Danube boat ride again we saw the place light up showing a completely different side. I am not sure which I preferred as both had its own beauty to it.
THINGS WE SAW IN PEST SIDE
HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT BUILDING
Situated in the Pest side in the eastern side of the Danube banks. It is the largest building in Hungary which has received the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The view of the main facade is beautiful both during the day and at night. It is another Gothic revival style which has a symmetrical facade and a central dome. The facade displays statues of the Hungarian rulers, Transylvanian leaders and famous military figures. On the window the coats of arms of the kings and dukes are depicted.
The view of the Parliament Building from the Buda Castle and from the Danube River cruise at night was the highlight for us.
Located on the pest side but seen beautifully on the Buda side as well. We loved seeing everything around Danube River and it provided a perfect backdrop in most of our photos.
To enjoy it more we walked along Danube Promenade which is from Szechenyi Chain Bridge to the Ersebet Bridge. We enjoyed this place on foot and also in Tram no.2. There are benches along the way for you to sit and enjoy it even more.
We loved it so much we decided to do the nice cruise along Danube River. The cruise itself we opted for was simple one but the views it offered as Budapest lit up was spectacular. This is one thing which I would recommend everyone to do.
SHOES ON DANUBE BANK
In April 2005 it was erected as a memorial in honour of the Jews killed during World War II. They were told to take off their shoes and after being shot their bodies were carried away by the river.
It is on the pest side, a sad place but the history is displayed with a fantastic idea, very impressive. The bronze replica of the different kinds of shoes makes you visualise the past.
ST STEPHEN’S BASILICA
A Roman Catholic basilica named in honour of Stephen, first King of Hungary. Equal to the Parliament Building at a height of 315 ft. It is the two tallest buildings in Budapest.
The church is beautiful both inside and out. The facade has two large bell towers. Inside the basilica it is filled with rich fine arts. The dome above the sanctuary shows the representation of the God. I particularly loved the cupola and the windows depicting St. Margaret ad St. Elizabeth.
CENTRAL MARKET HALL
The largest and oldest indoor market in Budapest. It is located on the pest side of the Liberty Bridge at Fovam square. The building is stunning and there are lots of fresh food stalls on the ground floor with the top selling souvenirs for tourists.
The place has received mixed reviews overall. Although we didn’t experience anything bad we heard it’s pricey and the food were soggy. We actually didn’t feel so maybe we choose the right one on our given day. It was a lovely experience seeing the locals in another way.
The Seven chieftains of the Magyars and other important Hungarian national leaders have their iconic statues in this complex.
On top of the column is the Archangel Gabriel who holds the Hungarian Holy Crown and the apostolic double cross in his hands. There were many statues each telling a story like the man with a snake that symbolises war, the couple of labour and wealth and many more. Although the place is in a busy intersection there is a lot of things to appreciate about it.
A beautiful square with a lot of history to it. We saw it during the day but I had seen photos were it looks equally pretty at night.
THE MILLENNIUM UNDERGROUND RAILWAY
The oldest line of the Budapest metro and is known as the “small underground” by the locals. It was quirky and authentic and I loved it. We used it as it had the history of being the oldest and was near to Heroes Square. Don’t forget to buy the tickets and validate it. There is a huge fine should you not have a valid ticket and the officers are always waiting to catch you.
The 235 m high hill overlooks the Danube in Budapest. The hill is named after Saint Gerard who is said to be thrown from the hill. This has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the Banks of the Danube. We really wanted to see this place but only saw it from a distant.
OUR ITINERARY IN BUDAPEST
Below map can be used a guide to plan the order of visiting each places.
- From Budapest Keleti station we walked (roughly 10 mins, 850m) to Ibis Styles Budapest Centre. Requested for an early check in.
- We then took bus no 5 (another option is bus no.178) from Blaha Lujza Ter M and got off at Alagut Utica and walked 600m to Budapest Castle Hill Funicular.
- Took the Funicular ride up to Buda Castle, you can also walk (200 m). Explored Buda Castle on foot.
- 2 mins walk you will get to see the Fountain of King Mathias.
- Walked to Fisherman’s Bastion (roughly 15 mins, 950m). Enjoyed walking around and seeing the place.
- Mathias Church was 1 min away so we went there next.
- Walked around in the lanes with no set itinerary and explored the Buda Side more.
- From Mathias Church we decided to walk to Chain Bridge which is 1 km. Should you not want to walk then you can also take bus no.16.
- From Chain Bridge we took the metro (M2) from Deak Ferenc Ter and got off at Blaha Lujza Ter and walked to our hotel.
- From our hotel we had decided to visit Heroes’ Square first. There are various options to use, we choose the metro. We took the M2 from Blaha Lujza ter and changed to M1 from Deak Ferenc Ter and got off at Hosak Tere and walked to reach the place.
- We wanted to use the The Millennium Underground Railway so we took the M1 from Hosak Tere to Bajcsy-Zsilinszky ut. From here we walked 500 m to reach St. Stephen’s Basilica. We explore the place more on foot.
- We wanted to enjoy a ride on Tram 2 so we took the tram from Eotvos ter and got off at Fovam Ter M. Central Market Hall was 2 mins (150m) so went there next. Enjoyed shopping and had our lunch here.
- Took Tram no. 2 and headed to Hungarian Parliament Building. We got off at Kossuth Lagos ter M and walked for 2 mins to reach it. Enjoyed the place more on foot.
- We then went to walk along the Danube Promenade (roughly 7 mins). We came across Shoes by the promenade.
- Got on Tram no. 2 from Szechenyi Istanbul Ter and got off at Marcus 13 ter. There is a 1.5km walk to reach Gellert Hill from here which we didn’t do as we were pressed with time.
- Came back to Danube Promenade using Tram no. 2 and headed to an evening in Danube River cruise.
- We then took the metro M2 from Kossuth Lagos Ter and returned back to our hotel.
- Walked to train station from hotel
- Took the morning train to Vienna.
THINGS TO NOTE IN BUDAPEST
- In Budapest Euro is not accepted, you have to change your currency to Forint (HUF). There are few shops which do accept Euro but conversion rate is usually low. Plan with care.
- City tax is being charged which is 4% of the room rate/person/night.
- Tipping of 10% roughly is expected, higher if you are very happy with the service. It is however considered rude to leave the tip on the table, hand it directly to the staff.
- Hungarians never clink their beer glasses due to the Hungary revolution and their victory in Vienna. The locals won’t get you into trouble but it’s out of respect to avoid as they still believe in it.
- Definitely try the local wines, Hungarians love their wines.
- Would highly recommend visiting the thermal baths. We didn’t get a chance to do this.
- Taxi drivers are known for cheating tourist. Advisable to insist on using the meter.
- Budapest card is advised everywhere as it has many benefits. It will work for those who plan to visit all the free places and avail to the discounts given. We personally never used one as we didn’t think it gave us much benefit.
- Do try out the local cuisine. Paprika is locally grown and we did find most of the food spicy but we loved it. Some of the local foods to try includes Goulash, Paprika’s,Lecso, Halaszle, Ujhazy chicken broth, Langos, Kolbasz, Rakott Krumpli, Porkolts and Toltott Kaposzta
- The Military Museum has free admission on the last Sunday of every month for those under 26 years.
- If you are citizen of EEA then there are few free entries.
- Most locals do speak English so we didn’t struggle communicating.
- I found Budapest to be safe and didn’t face any issues. We weren’t scammed during our visit.
- Before our visit we read Hungarians can at times make you feel unwelcome in their place and so we went with that perception. This was totally not the case with us, the people we met were very friendly and always smiled when we spoke to them.