Divided by the river Danube, Buda & Pest form the the largest and most known city in Hungary. The buildings are pure K & K monarchy - the people, the restaurants, bars, cafes and shops are pure "Urban Culture". Budapest for sure is a place you have to visit one day in your life. I've been in this city many times, here you find my experiences I made on my recent 5 day trip to the Hungarian capital.
where to stay and how to get around
Depending on your style and way of traveling you can choose whether to stay on the more quiet side of town called Buda on the west side of the Danube or be directly in the heart of urban living in the city part of Pest.
I recommend to stay in the eastern part of the city - for me District 5 - Belváros-Lipótváros - is the place to be. From there all mayor sights and bridges are easy to reach. You have tons of restaurants, bars and cafes in walking distance so go and spend some more money on your accommodation to safe some time while in the city.
Budapest has a pretty cool public transport system. You'll find over 40 tram lines on top to the Subway. The prices for single tickets a really affordable and fair - around 0,90 EUR in 2023. I don't think that weekend passes are necessary since you will be walking a lot anyways. Unfortunately Budapest is not offering a ticket machine on every subway station, which is really a pain in the ass. Traveling without a ticket is absolutely not recommendable since the fines a really high. Look for black and white round signs with the letter "M" close to the stations - there you will find your tickets to get around.
sightseeing in pest
On this side of the Danube you will find a variety of wonderful old monuments, churches and gigantic buildings. In between the streets of these hoary architectures you can jump into a modern, urban, fancy street life.
Heroes' Square and the Millennium Monument might be a good start for you. This wonderful photo spot is located a bit outside of the main town - you can take the subway line M1 and go to "Szechenyi Fürdö" station. After that you might want to walk back all the way to the Danube river.
On your way you will pass the Opera House which is kind of impressive inside and you will find the St. Stephen's Basilica on the end of your walk back in town. Dedicated to St. Stephen the holy king and founder of the state - this building has to be on your list when in Budapest. I actually didn't get into the Basilica but I heard that the interior is breathtaking. You might want to give it shot.
I found some really nice impressions of the university library on instagram. So I thought I might give it a shot. Located in Ferenciek tere 6 - this library is free to enter for everyone, so make sure to check it out.
Next on my list: The Great Market Hall. We are heading further down to the Danube. Right before Szabadság híd (The liberty bridge) you find one of the most wonderful markets I've been to. The building itself is very impressive and a great piece of architecture - build around 1880, partly heavily destroyed in world war 2 and rebuild in the early 1990s. For me this hall represents all what Budapest stands for - a variety of of hand craft stuff build with love, by very nice people - and a lot of goulash soup.
The market has 3 floors - so there is a lot to see and a lot to taste - still it will only take you about 1 hour to see all of it - so you can squeeze this sight between some other stuff you are about to do.
Hungarian Parliament Building and surrounding
Probably the most famous and most photographed sight in the city is the Parliament Building right on the bank of the Danube.
This place is so gigantic, you will only get it on one picture if you are on the Buda side - still you really want to explore all the surrounding on the Pest side as well.
If you have enough time you can spend about 6 Euro (in 2023) for the entry to explore the whole building. I have to be honest I skipped that - as you already know my way of travel - I'm more into hanging out eating and having a good glass of wine in a busy street. Still I heard that if you are into architecture this place is a must-visit.
Behind the parliament you find a nice little park that gives you a place in the shade to rest your feed for a few minutes before you start exploring the town again.
Right on the promenade of the Danube you find 2 further very interesting sights. "The shoes on the Danube bank" tell a really sad story. This memorial was built to honor 800 Jews who were massacred and shot into the Danube by Hungarian fascists during world war 2. For me these memorials are always hard to visit, still they are so important just to remind Europe and the whole world what happened in the 1940s and to make sure that horrifying acts like these will never happen again.
Not far from the shoes you will find a very cool statue of Attila Jozsef, who was an hungarian poet in the 20th century. He is sitting and chilling on the bank of the Danube right next to the parliament building. I don't know this dude but still I like the way he is spending his day - so have a seat right next to Attila and enjoy the view on the Danube for some minutes.
crossing the bridges
There are several bridges in town - but I would say that there are 4 main bridges. The already mentioned "Liberty Bridge" next to the Great Market Hall, the wonderful white "Elisabeth Bridge", the majestic "Chain Bridge" (also really nice to visit at night!) and the "Margaret Bridge" which gives you the opportunity to get onto Margaret Island in the middle of the bridge.
For me the "Liberty Bridge" and the "Chain Bridge" are the most beautiful - you can get really nice pictures there and the architecture is just stunning. On the other other ones the traffic is just to busy to get a good shot of the city or the bridge itself.
Have a seat in front of the Great Market Hall and wait till the typical yellow tramways are crossing the Liberty Bridge. Anyway - all the bridge lead to the Buda side - and there is a lot to see as well.
sightseeing in buda
When you've crossed one of the beautiful bridges, a total different city appears. Buda is pure pomp. On gigantic building next to another. Next to castle Buda the Fisherman's bastion is the absolute highlight on that side of the Danube. This in the 19th century build place gives you a panoramic view all over Budapest.
I would recommend at least 2 hours to stroll around on this massive area. If you find time and want to spend some extra money, there is a nice little cafe with the perfect view on the Parliament Building. You might give it a shot if you find a free spot - it's as you can imagine always pretty busy.
food and drinks in budapest
Budapest is full of gorgeous restaurants, bars and cafes. To start your day right I recommend the "Cafe Brunch Budapest" right next to the Liberty Bridge vis a vis of the Great Market Hall. Delicious Eggs Benedict and wonderful juices. I also loved the breakfast at "Fekete" located in a wonderful little patio. These guys serve great pastry - highly recommend - be there early, this place is always busy.
A place you can either visit for lunch but also at night time is the "Street Food Karavan Budapest". Also located in a huge patio this Food Court serves Burgers, Burritos, Curries and Hungarian cuisine. At night this place turns into a small little party location, you should really check it out.
Looking for a good glass of wine in a fancy little place? „Vinikli - wine & bike“ is just about right for you! Lovely staff and a huge variety of wines makes this place a must visit. If you are more into Pubs, for me there was only one in Budapest which really outdo the others. „Jack Doyle's Irish Pub & Restaurant“ might be one of the best Pubs I visited on all of my travels. It is always packed with english tourists, the serve tons of different beers, there‘s live Music and the Nachos with bacon are just out of this world. You have to go there when in Budapest!
5 things you don't wanna miss
- Visit Buda and Pest
- Enjoy a sunny day at Margret Island and let your soul dangle
- Explore the Great Market Hall and enjoy a original Hungarian Gulash
- Stroll on the bank of the Danube and cross all bridges
- Visit the gigantic Fisherman's Bastion and have a coffee while enjoying the view down