The capital city of Hungary, Budapest is an mazing city to explore as part of a European trip or as a stand-alone visit. It is relatively easy to get around with a good public service system and a Uber-like car service called Bolt (download the app). Registered taxis also work quite well, although can be difficult to find in busy times.
The city is bisected by the Danube River into 2 sides - Buda and Pest. We stayed a few nights on each side, just to make getting around a bit easier (as traffic crossing the bridges during peak hour can be a little busy). Pest in general is quite easy to explore on foot, whereas Buda is more spread out and required a car. The underground Metro works really well to get from one side of the river to the other.
2 to 4 day is probably a good amount of time to plan for a visit to Budapest if you want to see the main features. There are some wonderful cultural and historical places to visit, in addition to amazing food and nightlife. Below are some of the things I would recommend as a must when you visit Budapest.
Amazing architecture & incredible views over the Pest side of the Danube. This was my favourite location for photography in Budapest.
Originally built in the 1700's the walls were a fortification for Castle Hill. There have been numerous renovations over time, with the current facade that faces the Danube River being completed in 1902.
I suggest reaching early morning if you want photographs without lots of tourists, as this place gets extremely busy. There are lots of different spaces to explore and for Instragrammers this is a must visit in Budapest.
Entry is free for the majority of the location and you can enter from the East or the West side of the fort. To explore the upper walls between the towers, there is a small entry fee (approx USD3).
Google Maps: Fisherman's Bastion.
The largest thermal/medicinal baths in Budapest - the complex has 18 pools including indoor and outdoor thermal baths and swimming pools. Szechenyi Baths are only a short distance from the city centre and very easy to reach. The water is supplied by 2 large thermal springs and contains a number of minerals including calcium, magnesium and sulphate - believed to provide therapeutic benefits. The temperature of the water is around 35 degrees celsius.
The outdoor baths are set in a neo-baroque palace which adds a unique experience for visitors. There is a range of different ticket options and packages (including massage treatments etc). We chose for a single entry/daily pass (USD38) which includes storage locker, changing cubicle, robe etc. We took our own towels and flip flops. You will need to bring your own swimwear which must be worn.
It does get very busy within an hour of opening, so if you don't like a crowd, I suggest arriving early. You can book passes online and this is recommended if you want to avoid missing out.
Google Maps: Szechenyi Thermal Baths
If you enjoy nightlife, the ruin bars of Budapest should be top of your list of places to visit. They are a completely unique experience, with the bars being located in an area of Budapest that was badly damaged during the war. The buildings were mostly in a state of disrepair and falling down, until people decided to turn them into places people could visit - live music, craft drinks and quirky decor.
The bars are a great place to meet locals and other people visiting Budapest. They have an amazing atmosphere and make for a really entertaining night.
I recommend trying Szimpla Kert (probably the most popular), Instant (more like a nightclub) and Mazel Tov.
4. Freyja - The Croissant Story:
I couldn't make a list without including something for the food-lovers. If you loves cafes and especially if you love an amazing croissant, then definitely do not miss out on visiting one of the two Freyja cafes.
Shortly after opening there will be queues out the doors and down the street, and they will often sell out of popular flavours. They change the variety of gourmet croissants frequently, so you can be assured of experiencing something new and unique.
The coffee is really good, the atmosphere is great and the croissants are worth the hype! Enjoy :)
The Danube River is the main geographical feature of Budapest and many significant landmarks line its banks.
Particularly on the East or "Pest" side of the Danube is a great walk and you will visit places like the Hungarian Parliament Building, Atilla Jozsef Statue and the Shoes on the Danube Memorial - an incredibly sad memorial to the many people who lost their lives at that location during WWII.
Walking north along the Pest bank, you have a nice view over the river of Buda Castle and Fisherman's Bastion
On the West or "Buda" side of the river is the Funicular that carries people from the river up to Buda castle. The ride is well worth doing for great views back over the river and Pest. The chain bridge at the base of the Funicular is the most impressive of the bridges crossing the Danube - unfortunately it has been undergoing quite a bit of restoration.
South of Buda Castle is the Citadel, which has numerous trails to walk up from the banks of the river. There are some really nice views from the top looking back over the city and the river.
There is a great spot to view the Parliament building on the Buda side of the river which is perfect for sunrise or sunset when the lights are all on. It is easy to access and looks directly at the Parliament.
From Margit Bridge to the north is also a nice view down the river and of the Hungarian Parliament.
6. St Stephens Basilica:
Another of Budapest's most iconic landmarks. From the outside, the building has an ornate facade and neo-classical design. The large dome is one of the prominent features of the city's skyline. The area around St Stephen's Basilica is one of the busier and more touristy in Budapest.
It is possible to visit inside, a large open area with stunning alters, beautiful artwork and intricate stained glass windows.
You can then climb the stairs to the top of the dome, the last part is up a winding staircase that makes for some great photos. The view from the top is one of the best in Budapest, with a 360 degree view over the city - something great do either at the start of the end of your visit to get perspective.
Google Maps: St Stephen's Basilica
We flew direct to Budapest from Dubai with flydubai.
We stayed in Buda in AirBnb and in Pest at Hotel Moments Budapest
Related Article: Best Photography Spots in Budapest
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