Our friends traveled to Budapest over Christmas and their pictures inspired us to finally book the trip there during our next available long weekend, (a long four-day weekend is definitely not enough time in Budapest, we needed another three days for a full week at least). The direct flight from Stuttgart is under two hours. Great place to relax at the spa – honeymoon destination for sure if you enjoy the spa and history with some good beer and wine.
We stayed on the Pest side which was perfect booking a 4-star hotel apartment for about $50 a night in the center of the city which was cheaper than the 4-5 star hotels that ranged from just $80-100 per night. We started learning about the two sides Buda and Pest during our research of the hotels, with the Danube River separating the two lands. During a free city walking tour, we learned a bit more.
The currency is currently the Forint (Ft, HUF) and comes in denominations of 500+. The exchange rate to the dollar and euro is really good at the moment so all the more reason to go there. Flights were less than 150 each round trip and direct on Eurowings.
First is correct pronunciation: Budah – pescht.
Free Budapest Walking Tours meet everyday in the square by the Vörösmarty Statue with an open morning and afternoon tour. The company also hosts free Jewish Quarter tours and pub tours separately. Compared to other cities that offer free walking tours, this one was just ok, but it’s free and none-the-less a good intro to the city for our first day there.
Chain Bridge (Szechenyi lanchid): During the tour, we walked across the Chain Bridge to the Buda side. Going over to the other side is the only way to get a good view of the massive parliament building. It was freezing, which made the walk seem so long and the bridge less impressive than it likely is in warmer weather.
Fisherman’s Bastion: The best view point of Pest and the city center, a wall once maintained by fisherman acts as a fortress for the town above. Climbing up the stairs, there are a couple bars and restaurants in the wall towers now, our tour guide said that the Buda side is the most expensive side to eat on so we stayed away from everything there except the famous cake place.
Matthias Church: The most gorgeous church, and probably the highlight of all the historic things we saw during the whole trip. The outside it nice, but we have seen so many churches now in Europe, they start to blend. Go inside. There was a choir performing when we ventured in, no charge to enter though there are guards at the entrance letting people in and out a few at a time. The painting, mosaic, marble and detail covered every in ch of every wall floor to ceiling.
Eat Cake at Ruszwurm: While on the Buda side, the best recommendation of our guide was to stop at this cake shop, one of the oldest, located in the original building painted in green. The seating is tight, but if you wait, you can get a spot and service is fast. The book of desserts is overwhelming, and good luck trying to reach through the people to see the showcase, so it is better to just pick anything – at only two dollars a slice for the best traditional cakes ever, it will be worth a re-visit on our next trip over.
Also on the Buda side in walking distance from the cake and the church was the war bunker turned underground hospital. It was interesting because it only newly opened as a museum in 2002 from a nuclear bunker. There were way too many people on the tour though, they should cut it off at a certain number because the tunnels are small to get through and also hear what the guide is saying. The museum spaces are filled with wax figures so it was kind of creepy too. We did it, won’t do it again. Background: The underground hospital was secret and was extensively used in 1944-45 during the world war and in 1956 during the revolution. Several thousands of people found shelter here and were treated by the doctors and nurses in spite of the terrible circumstances. Many of them died though due to the shortage of water and lack of medical supplies especially during the last month of the siege of Budapest in January 1945.
Expensive, only takes you to a couple of rooms and ends in a museum. Interesting because of the history to and from communism, we did it, but again, we wouldn’t need to do it again for the price, plus they even charge to use the bathrooms in the museum after you pay over $20 for tickets…
Impressive gold and marble Catholic church on the Pest side. We went in because there is a right hand there from Stephen, the first King of Hungary in the reliquary. It cost two euro to get in.
Jewish Synagogue and the Jewish Quarter
We did not take the free Jewish walking tour, however, we got one better when we walked by the famous Synagogue. An older man named Peter started telling us the history then promptly offered to walk us around to a few of his favorite spots. Skeptical, he seemed Grandpa-like so we followed.
For no joke – the next two hours before we had to get going to head out to the airport, he took us to the spots that are behind walls and in private courtyards, and pointed out things we would never have noticed or thought to “sneak into” as tourists – as a local, he walked right in. Find Peter by the Synagogue – worth it.
The best for last: Széchenyi Baths (the list)
Built in 1901, much newer than the other baths there, but so good. It was so freezing that our towels froze when we left them on the bench getting in and out of the naturally steaming hot baths. Inside are over 20 pools with different temperatures, steam rooms, saunas and minerals for different purposes. The hour massages are amazing and reservations and tickets can be through the site booked online. We learned about another private lounge on the roof that must also be reserved in advance for next time too with heated lamps and palm trees.
The other one we wanted to go to was Rudas Baths from the 16th century with an amazing looking dome.
Doughnuts at The Box Donut: Thanks to Instagram search for foodies in Budapest, we came across square donuts for a breakfast stop. Little did we know, they were also cream filled too. Yum. We bought six – and ate all six that same day. The hours of the shop were quite odd however, opening at 7:42 a.m.
Best food of the trip: We did end up with some weird dishes we will not mention including raw egg in a weird bean soup with pesto, and fried gelatinous fat etc. at other restaurants, but this place called Sophie & Ben’s had the best pulled pork sandwiches, dinner salads and truly everything on the menu, fresh and delish. Go there.
Faust Wine Cellar: Book a wine tasting in the cave on the Buda side under the Hilton hotel. The six wine tasting (there is also a 9 glass tasting) took about 2 hours+ and came with small biscuits for about $40 per person or so. Worth it – amazing wine in Budapest, from all over the country with a map in view to see where everything was from – we like it much better than German wine, the sommelier said Hungarian is even recognized as actual wine by the French. Click here.
Favorite was Lehuto Craft Beer Bar – Best bar we returned to more than once which is not typical.
Jona’s Craft Beer House: In the mall that is architecturally shaped like a whale, the bar is cool. overlooking the ice rink and on the water.
Marionett Craft Beer Bar: Simple decor, late-night food and a good selection of new beers on tap, some sours too.
Kandalló Kézműves Pub or Kandallo Artisanal Pub: when we walked in, the American football game was on all the TV’s which was not what we expected from the look or vibe of the place at all. The food was decent, and it was a good spot to hang out and meet people with an upstairs and downstairs bar. We met some people from Britain and Scotland there who were also in our walking tour oddly enough, so they recognized us.
View the photo album click here.
Thanks for all the great tips! I’d love to go to Budapest someday and your advice is greatly appreciated!