The airport in Budapest is located about 30 minutes from the city by car. Taking a cab is the easiest option, but there is also a bus that goes to the center of the city. If you decide to take a cab, it is fairly priced as Hungary as a whole is relatively cheap. In order to get a cab from the airport, you must first get a paper slip from the taxis stand line that specifies your destination and this slip is handed to the driver.
The city is large, and actually is split into two halves (one side is Buda and the other side is Pest). Despite being large, it is a very walkable city if you like being on your feet. You can visit a lot of the key sites on foot. If you prefer not to talk, there is a tram and metro system that can be leveraged and there are also taxis all around, which are fairly cheap. Note that you may need cash when taking a taxi so ask in advance if they take credit card if you do not have cash.
I would recommend staying in District V, District VII, or District VIII. All three of these districts are centrally located and are easily accessible to key sites, restaurants, and nightlife. I visited Budapest twice where the first time I stayed in an airbnb near Vaci Street and the second time I stayed at the Marriott Courtyard Budapest City Center (Budapest, József krt. 5, 1088 Hungary). The hotel was nice and I would recommend staying here if you prefer hotels.
Check out Castle Hill where there are a variety of different sites to see. You can get up to Castle Hill by taking a funicular up or walking. The walk is not bad and only takes about 10 – 15 minutes. At the top, there are nice views of the Pest side along with different areas to walk around and explore. The spots we checked out up here were:
You can walk around the outside and can also visit two museums inside the Castle
Historical underground wine cellar in the Buda Castle
This area is about a 10 minute walk from the Buda Castle and is a well known monument in Budapest. The structure has a variety of arches and provides a panoramic view over the Pest side of the city. It is typically crowded with other visitors but is worth a visit.
Famous pastry shop
We got lunch at the oldest restaurant up there that was a typical Hungarian restaurant with Gypsy music
This church is located in the same area as Fisherman’s Bastion and has a beautiful tile roof
Gellert Hill is known for having a nice panoramic view over the city. You can climb up to the Citadella in about 20 minutes to enjoy the view. Gellert Spa is found at the bottom of the hill and is one of the bigger bath houses in Budapest. Note that one pool requires bathing caps and you should bring own towel and flip flops
Church in Budapest that you can go inside or can climb to the top
Big square in Budapest with the largest Christmas market here in the winter. If you’re here around Christmas time, definitely check this out! There are lots of food stands and little shops outside. It’s pretty at night with all the lights lit up
A well known bridge you will use to cross between Buda and Pest. It leads you to the bottom of Castle Hill on the Buda side and is beautiful at night when it is illuminated.
This is a square and city park that you likely pass by when going from the city center to the Szechenyi baths. The baths are located inside City Park and Heroes Square is the main entrance to the park. Apparently there is an ice rink in City Park in the winter but it wasn’t up when we were there.
This is the biggest bathhouse in Budapest with a lot of indoor baths and then three large outdoor baths. The yellow building is easy to spot. When visiting, you can book tickets in advance to avoid waiting in line upon arrival. You will want flip flops and a towel so either bring your own or be prepared to purchase some from the bath house. They do have towels you can borrow, but lines are long to retrieve them. You are provided with a changing area and locker where you can change and store your things while you are out and about in the baths. I recommend skipping the indoor baths and going straight outside. There are two exterior pools, one with a whirlpool on the interior and the other is slightly hotter. There is a lap pool separating the baths on the exterior. We spent about an hour in the baths, but did not need much more time here. They do sell drinks on the bath deck, but drinks cannot be brought in the water.
Major street that heads towards Szechenyi baths
This giant, picturesque building is a notable landmark for the city. It is beautiful on the outside, whether you see it up close, from a distance or from across the river. You can go inside, but you need to reserve a spot in advance if you are interested.
This is the most famous street in Budapest and runs from Vorosmarty Square to the Central Market Hall
Big market, mainly has fruits, vegetables, and meats on the bottom floor whereas the top floor has a few little places to get food and lots of vendors selling touristy things to clothing to other random items. Note that this is closed on Sundays
This is a memorial for World War II as the Nazis took the Jews shoes before they were killed. The memorial can be found on the Pest side between the Chain Bridge and the Hungarian Parliament Building.
Square with a large ferris wheel – Budapest Eye
Variety of companies offer Danube River cruises. They run during the day or have night cruises that include dinner. We did a standard cruise during the day. It was nice to see the city from the water, but was a bit too touristy. I would have preferred a smaller group boat cruise. There are some that offer Hungarian wine tastings as well, which adds a twist to the experience.
Park and recreational area where many locals run or spend time outdoors
Mediterranean restaurant located in the Jewish Quarter. The food is phenomenal and the atmosphere inside is unique. The service is slow, but okay if you are prepared for this and not in a rush. You cannot make reservations and can expect a long queue at peak meal times. I would recommend ordering a bunch of different items off the menu and sharing.
Traditional Hungarian restaurant not far from St. Stephen’s Basilica. The food was excellent and definitely provides the unique Hungarian meal experience.
Lebanese restaurant in the Jewish quarter with incredible food. If you do not have a reservation, you must wait for a table at busy times but the food is well worth the wait.
Hungarian grill restaurant located up in the same vicinity as Matthias Church
Hungarian restaurant with traditional goulash and other typical dishes. It is located in the Jewish Quarter and the food is tasty
Typical Hungarian restaurant where they play live gypsy music. It is located up on Castle Hill
Hole in the wall coffee shop that we stumbled upon. Easy to grab a coffee and breakfast pastry to go
Cafe that sells chimney cakes, a well-known dessert found in Budapest. They are essentially baked dough, but the inside is hardly cooked and the outside is crunchy. You can get different things on the outside or inside like cinnamon sugar, nutella, nuts, etc. My favorite was a cinnamon sugar outside with nutella on the inside.
Had a quick lunch here after the Szechenyi Baths and is located only 5 minutes from the bath house
In general, District V is a great nightlife area and the areas around it. While you are out, try the strong Hungarian alcohol – Palinka
Lively wine bar located by St. Stephen’s Basilica
All seem very cool and are fun to explore
One of the many ruin bars and is a two story bar with multiple bars inside the building. This was my favorite spot in Budapest and a must do. It was so cool inside. It’s a lot of foreigners, but still some locals and it’s all different ages. It was pretty reasonably priced too
Another ruin bar. This one is more like a club because we got there too early one night and it was almost empty. I wouldn’t go until at least after midnight, if not later. It seemed like it could be pretty cool though
This is one feels more like a club. It is one of the best known ruin bars with about 23 rooms, 6 bars and 4 dance floors
This is another club, and it’s on the same street as Instant. It was okay, not my favorite, kind of had a different crowd than I like, but still was cool
Hungary is on a different currency that definitely gets confusing, but in general Budapest is very cheap. As a whole, we felt very safe in Budapest (3 girls traveling together), but we were told to avoid the outer parts of districts VII, VIII, and IX at night.
Luggage storage: We stored our luggage just off of Vaci Street for the afternoon when we had to be out of our airbnb in the morning
Transportation and Accommodations
Things to do and see
Food and Drinks