This is probably one of the more relaxed trips that I have been on, meaning that we had a list of things we wanted to see, but we didn’t really restrict ourselves to any kind of set times. It was nice to be able to just casually walk around and kind of run into the things we had on the list, because most of my trips are planned so intricately.
We had our Airbnb host set up a taxi ride for us from the Airport to our Airbnb since we arrived at midnight. We didn’t want to risk trying to figure out the trains and figured it was just a safer option to go with someone who knew what they were doing. It was prime location and right next to the St. Stephan’s Basilica and linked below. We did run into an issue with them not giving us toilet paper and they brought it a few days later, but I would say for the price and location, I would still recommend it.
Food and Drinks to Try: Langos, Goulash, Chicken Paprikash and Pálinka
A FEW TIPS:
1. Budapest was a very walk-able city, but we did walk a ton over the 4 days that we were there, so make sure to bring comfortable shoes. The train system was simple and easy to use, so if you get tired, that's always an option. We chose to walk almost everywhere just to take it all in and get the full experience of our surroundings.
2. Sometimes the airlines won't let you check in until you get to the airport, but if you can, do it ahead of time and print your boarding pass. Sometimes they will charge you extra for having to print it there.
3. Make sure that you have baggage prepaid for. We went through a third party site and thought that we could handle baggage when we got there, but it wound up being more of a hassle and more expensive. So, always check to see what baggage is included in your airfare price and if you'll need to pay for checked bags.
4. I thought there was going to be a huge language barrier here, partly because I didn't know what to expect, but everywhere we went spoke English. I think we only had to use Google Translate a few times and that was when we were looking back at receipts.
Below is a breakdown of our day-by-day itinerary.
CLICK HERE TO SEE ALL OF THE FOOD WE ATE WITH LOCATIONS LINKED.
We started our day with walking across the Szechenyi Chain Bridge to grab brunch at ZONA, which was a place we found that was near some of the things we wanted to explore that day.
Since the Budapest Castle Hill Funicular was 2 minutes from here, we started heading that way to check it out. The funicular will take you straight to Budapest Castle and back down the hill and you can find a ticket office at the very base. We decided to walk up, instead of taking the funicular, so that we could enjoy some of the incredible vantage points along the way. There were a few small bridges that you could walk across as the funiculars were going up and down, which turned out to be a good picture stopping point. The overall walk to the top was easy and took less than 20 minutes. When we got to the top we got to see the Budapest Castle and just happened to catch the Changing of the Guards. It was much less crowded than when I saw this in London, which I kind of liked, because I was actually able to see what was going on.
We continued our afternoon walk towards the Fisherman’s Bastion. I knew that by getting here around noon it was going to be extremely crowded, so at that time, we just scoped out the area so we knew where we would want to come back for sunrise. I think we spent most of our time looking at the Matthias Church, which is right beside Fisherman’s Bastion. That building will still go down as my favorite one in Budapest.
NOTE: During the day time, they have people guarding the upper levels of Fisherman’s Bastion to where it looked like you had to pay to get up there. When we went back for sunrise, it was free and you could roam around as you pleased, so save your money and go early!
Needing a quick pick me up before dinner and the boat tour we decided to make our way back over the bridge to our Airbnb. We made a pit stop at Cat Café where they have tons of cats roaming free in the restaurant. Some of them would come up to you at your table and let you pet them and then others kept to themselves, but we had several fluffy visitors while we were there enjoying our Catpuccinos.
If you have the chance to make it to High Note SkyBar, you absolutely must. It had such an incredible view of St. Stephen’s Basilica and was right next to our Airbnb, so it was very easy to get to. The atmosphere was enough for me, but to top it off they had great bar bites menu and cocktail selection. We made a reservation online just to be safe, but since we went during the middle of the week, we didn't have to worry about it being too crowded.
We only did one tour in Budapest and it was a night river cruise that took us down the Danube River. There were several options that you could choose from on their website, whether you want to do a day tour or night tour and some packages include dinners and drinks. We chose the 10PM Night Cruise that comes with 2 cocktails and they gave us the tickets for the free drinks and you basically have 1.5 hours to roam the boat as it takes you around. The highlight of the tour, was definitely going passed the Parliament Building while it was lit up at night.
I don’t typically go out too much when I’m traveling, because well I’m closer to 30 than I am 21 and the hangovers just aren’t as easy to deal with. However, the Ruin Bars are something everyone raved about, so that was our plan for the night. We started with Szimpla Kert and I still am trying to find the words to explain how cool of a place this was. It was a massive building with probably 12 different themed rooms, some having bars in them and some just being places to hang out. The entire place was eclectically decorated with random trinkets and graffiti. I took an obscene amount of pictures while I was here, because there was just so much to see!
Day 2 was an extremely laid back day, where we just walked around and explored. We wound up running into several things on our list, so it worked out perfectly.
We started the day off at lunch at Ciao Bella’s, which was right by the Dohany Street Synagogue. This was something that we just walked by and took a few pictures of, but didn’t go inside. We made our way down to the Central Market Hall, which had tons of local vendors selling fruits, vegetables and clothing.
Since we wanted to be up very early for sunrise, our last main stop of the day was Zoo Café. They bring different animals to your table, every so often, and you can switch them out as wanted. While we were in there drinking coffee, we got 3 animals brought to our table: a guinea pig, chameleon and a bunny. This spot also had birds flying around and cats roaming, like the Cat Café. I think it was a cool experience, but I had my fair share of animals and cafes on this trip.
If you do one thing on this entire list, make it catching the sunrise at Fisherman’s Bastion. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more breathtaking sunrise before in my life, with the castle-like buildings and incredible layers of architecture for miles, this is something I can’t even put into words. Not only was it like a fairy tale setting, but the sunrise seemed like it lasted forever, allowing us time to just take it all in and be in the present.
I didn’t have too many places saved for food on this trip, but brunch at Szimply was one of them. We tried the day before but they had a really long wait, so it worked out perfectly going right after sunrise, because that put us there right when they opened up. I knew that their food was going to be good, just from all of the reviews that I had read, but I wasn’t expecting them to be so unique. They had a lot of flavors that you wouldn’t think to pair together, but somehow tasted amazing in the same dish.
The first time we took the train in Budapest was to get to the Széchenyi Thermal Baths. They have a ticket kiosk area right outside the terminals, which makes it incredibly easy to buy the ticket that you need and walk right down to catch the train. We used Google Maps the entire time, which allows you to put in your start and end location and then it will tell you exactly what train and/or bus you need to catch.
Buying tickets ahead of time for these thermal baths isn’t necessary as you can buy them right when you walk inside. There is a flat rate for the daily use and you can have it include a private cabin, which is a private little room to change in. As long as you are comfortable changing in a locker-style room, you don’t need to pay extra for the cabin because you are still able to put your things in lockers and lock it while you are enjoying the baths.
NOTE: If you have a towel to bring, bring it! Otherwise, you will have to pay a little extra to rent one.
There were tons of inside thermal pools and one main one in the back (the popular one with yellow in the background). There was a map that showed you the layout of the whole building, but we found it easier just to ask how to get back there.
Aside from Goulash, Langos was the only other thing I HAD to try while in Budapest and Retró Lángos Büfé was one of the spots that kept popping up. It was a cute little stand that was in the middle of a park area, with about 3 people working inside: a cashier, cook and the one at the front putting the toppings on. I liked how you could choose whatever toppings you wanted at this spot and since I tried the traditional sour cream and shredded cheese the night before, I got it Greek Style this time.
Our last night in Budapest was spent exploring more Ruin Bars. This time we went to one called Instant and quickly found out that the entire strip was connected. The whole building inside had 10 or so bars, with different themes and it just kept going further and further down.
NOTE: If you keep your cup here and return it at the end of the night, you will get a small amount of money back (very small).
On our last day, we had a train that was taking us from Budapest to Prague later that evening. Since we had to check out of our Airbnb, we took a bus to the train station where we found baggage storage lockers. You pay with coins and just put in the allotted amount for how long you will be leaving your luggage.
While we waited for it to get closer to our train time, we got some rainbow lattes at Mokka Cukka and walked down by the Parliament Building for one last view of the beautiful city waterfront. We managed to fit in one last main site and that was the Shoes on the Danube. This is such a powerful memorial to honor the Jews that were killed during World War II. The shoes stand for those that were forced to strip naked in front of a firing squad and were shot at close range to fall into the river. You will often see candles and flowers that are still left in the shoes today by relatives. It’s definitely a moving piece and worth walking by if you have the time.
We bought our train tickets ahead of time at the link below, but we did see a lot of people buying them there. When buying your ticket online, make sure you are buying the eTicket version so you can print it. Otherwise, you might have to pay an extra fee, from what I saw. Since the signs weren’t very clear once you were downstairs in the terminal, we had to ask several people how to get to our platform. I would say get there with plenty of time so you aren’t rushing and don’t miss the train. Once on the train, there were places to put your luggage, bathrooms and plugs, so we were all set until we got to Prague.