Budapest is the top destination I recommend for travelers planning a Eurotrip. It excels at the best reasons to travel; delicious food, breathtaking views, great nightlife, and amazing street art. Even though I visited during the peak of the summer season, I found plenty of broad and gorgeous viewpoints, affordable local restaurants, and plenty of fun and free events.
First, I want to clarify the common misconception that Budapest is one city. This was definitely my understanding until I learned that Buda and Pest are separated by the Danube river and connected by stunning bridges. A simple way to distinguish them is that Buda is the side of town with the Castle District and Pest, which is pronounced “pesht”, is the one with the Ruin Bars, aka the fun part of town!
I really recommend booking a walking tour so as to hear all the amazing history behind every district and authentic castles. I took Generation Tours and was very pleased since the tour guide started by handing out a cheat sheet with some basic Hungarian:
Szia/Sziasztok = Hello
Jó napot = Good morning
Viszlát = Goodbye
Köszönöm = Thank you
Szeretlek = I love you
Jó = Good/Ok
Igen = Yes
Nem = No
Egészségedre = Cheers
Bor = Wine
Sör = Beer
Must-See Landmarks in Budapest
These are the best views of Pest! Fisherman’s Bastion overlooks the Danube River and the stunning Hungarian Parliament. AND where you can find free balconies to take some great pics from. It’s located in the Castle District in Buda from where a castle used to be, but now, as with any top tourist attraction, there are also some cafés in the area. These take up some of the viewpoints. I wouldn’t have minded sitting in the shade for a minute with the gorgeous views, enjoying an overpriced coffee or beer BUT there was a line to get a table being that I visited in August.
The Parliament is located in Pest, but you get the best view from across the river in the Castle District in Buda. It is an enormous and gorgeous gothic building by the Danube river. Check out the website for up to date visiting hours and prices.
Holocaust Memorial Along the Danube River
There are a few sculptures of shoes along the Danube River, in front of the Parliament Building. Their purpose is to remember all the Hungarian women, men and children killed whose bodies were thrown to the Danube river during WWII. It’s very emotional and definitely worth a visit.
After traveling most of Europe, I see how overrated a lot of churches are. This is not the case with the beautiful St. Stephen’s Basilique. It’s located in the city center and it’s the biggest church in Budapest. It showcases classical concerts during peak seasons. I would have loved to give this a try if I had the time and money. It is also something to consider if you’re traveling in a large group since it becomes more affordable.
AKA Dracula Castle! “Dracula’s character was most probably inspired by Vlad the Impaler, the 15th-century Transylvanian prince, also known as Vlad III Dracul of Wallachia, who was imprisoned by John Hunyadi in Vajdahunyad Castle for years.”(source) The castle is next to the famous Széchenyi Baths, for which I dedicated an entire post since Budapest Baths are a must no matter the season. Ironically, the castle is now an Agriculture Museum, but the surrounding park and the castle itself are both gorgeous and eerie. They date back over 100 years! Maybe that’s not impressive to Europeans, but coming from the “new continent”, it seems ancient to me.
If you’re visiting during the summer, you’ll be able to hang out and party ON the bridge. The city closes the bridge to vehicles for the weekend so locals can picnic, play music and games on the bridge. There’s local artists performing, as well as some hammocks hanging for your convenience. Stop by the market and get some cold beers or a bottle of wine to share, along with some snacks because there are no sellers on the bridge. Seems like a missed opportunity, but I’m guessing it has to do with this being a sort of new tradition.
“This is definitely one of those moments that will stay with me forever. “
This beautiful stone-bridge is known for its lion statues. It is said that during the inauguration, a child noticed that the lions lacked tongues. So the architect decided to jump off the bridge after hearing about his unforgivable error because that’s a normal reaction (sarcastic tone). I’m sure this is just a rumor since other people say the tongues can be seen from above. Still, makes for a fun story.
Another thing worth mentioning about Chain Bridge is that locals enjoy the gorgeous sunset on the steps next to the bridge on the Pest side of town, overlooking Buda. Public drinking is permitted, so bring a bottle of wine! The view is indescribably beautiful. My friend and I literally gasped when all the lights on the bridges and castles in Buda were lit. This is definitely one of those moments that will stay with me forever.
The Best Thing About Budapest… Ruin Bars 🤘
I know that after a day of exploring the city, either in the scorching sun or the freezing winter wind, it isn’t easy to go out and party at night, but when in Budapest, RUIN BARS ARE A MUST! I also recommend checking them out during the day. It’s a completely different experience since you’ll be able to appreciate the random decor best during daylight.
Here are Some Ruin Bars I Got to Visit:
This is the most popular one in Budapest, and for GOOD REASON. It has maaany bars to choose from. Most have similar menus and prices with slight variations. For instance, some carry craft beers. This is definitely one of the bars with a completely different vibe at day vs. night. During the day you’ll notice all the random objects, plants, paintings, murals, graffitis and mirrors decorating the endless venue. At night, however, you’ll experience the ambiance the colorful lights give, as well as enjoy the local DJs and bands performing.
During the day, make sure you check out the Design shop at the entrance. It has endless creative designs of anything you can think of: jewelry, art, toys, bags, decor, souvenirs, etc. All by local artists. FYI, they’re closed on Mondays. Also, be mindful of the exchange rate. I suck at math and fell for my own mistake, but NO REGRETS, because I bought some original artwork that makes me smile every time I see it in my room.
It is not the biggest ruin bar, but definitely worth checking out. It has some interesting art on its walls. Although, I’m not sure how often they update it since it seemed like fresh paint.
Known as a nightclub, but you can still go in casual clothes like in all ruin bars. It’s up to you if you rather dress to impress or be comfortable for a long night out. I personally, like doing a bit of both, with a cute cotton dress and sneakers, but lipstick on because “primero muerta que sencilla”… you get cool points if you understand this saying. 😉
Quick Tip Worth Knowing
Remember that Hungary’s currency is the Hungarian Florints (HUF or FTS). As of August 2018, 300 HUF is about 1 EUR. Not easy to remember, so be mindful of the conversion rate. Especially when tourist places charge in EUR.
I got cash from several ATM machines and found out that OTP Bank near the center only charged the equivalent of about 1 EUR for the withdrawal. The exchange rate was also the best in comparison to other banks.
Food… The Number One Reason for Traveling!
Do not be fooled by the name. This place was recommended by a local when I mentioned I wanted to try some legit Goulash. For Sale Pub has a “cowboy saloon” look and feel. It covered with random decor like hay on the ground and peanut peels all over the floor. The food, however, is very Hungarian. The portions are HUGE. I wasn’t able to finish my Goulash, so I took it back to my hostel and had it for dinner for the next 3 days! The food is not only big, but it’s also delicious and quite homey. The Goulash came with all the sides you pour into the stew. It very much reminded me of Mexican pozole.
I’m not sure if it’s only open during the summer, but we kept coming back to this cute little garden during our short visit. The Vegan Garden has food trucks with all types of food, and of course, a bar where you could play Hungarian trivia. My favorite dish I tried here was the vegan gyro pizza that I still dream about! I completely adore Tzaziki sauce, and the fact that it’s dairy-free, made me want to overdose on it!
Best Souvenirs Shops
Always remember to be mindful of the exchange rate.
This shop offered the largest variety of souvenirs, as well as the some of the best prices. There are other local shops that had more creative designs of magnets, postcards, etc, but Paprika has everything with paprika! From honey to jam and even Pálinka with paprika.
Pálinka is the local liquor. It has a high alcohol percentage and it’s mostly fermented with different fruits such as pear, grape, berries, etc. My favorite was the spicy version I tried at this market. I, unfortunately, did not purchase a small bottle so I could get a bigger one at the airport. BIG MISTAKE. Nobody else carries Pálinka with paprika. If you like spicy food or drinks, I suggest you ask for a sample. You’re also able to taste the many and diverse sauces, jams, and honey available. People at this shop, and all over Budapest for that matter, are the friendliest.
There are plenty of other things to see and places to visit while in Budapest. I didn’t include all the gorgeous and unique castles in Buda nor the street art, which I’ll save for another post. I’m sure you’ll enjoy your time in Budapest no matter what you do. Other nearby cities I recommend are Vienna, Prague, and Krakow. Have fun and remember, even when the weather is bad, BE PRESENT and enjoy every moment! Follow me on Instagram for updates on travel pics and tips @joyzcortez