The BEST things to do in Budapest
Take a Sight Seeing Bike Tour
|Prices from 16 Euros per person|
We spent our first day in Budapest touring round the city on a bike with Budapest Bike Breeze and we think it was the PERFECT way to spend a first day in Budapest: It's a great way to see all the must see attractions like: City Park, Budapest Castle District, Parliament House and St Stephen's Bazilika. It helps you get your bearings of this awesome city and it gives you a good introduction into Hungarian history, culture and food.
Cycling round Budapest is a great idea, it's really, really flat (apart from the climb to Castle District) and there are plenty of bike lanes. Although you won't see absolutely everything in one day, you will see a good chunk of Budapest which will leave you 'Hungary' for more.
[For more information, check out our full review of Budapest Bike Breeze.]
And to book your own tour head on over to their website or TripAdvisor.
Go on a Hungarian Food Tour
|Prices from $90 per person|
Taste Hungary is the perfect way for foodies to explore Budapest (and the surrounding areas). And when I say foodies, I mean anyone and everyone who loves food, because these tours and evening events are perfect for everyone: from wine snobs to food novices.
We tried a Hungarian-Vegetarian Food Tour with Taste Hungary, and loved it so much that we came back later in the week for a dinner party at the Tasting Table. If you have time, we highly recommend both of these. They were real highlights of our time in Budapest.
[For more information, check out our full review of the Hungarian-Vegetarian Food Tour and our full review of Thursdays at the Tasting Table.]
And to book your own tour/evening head on over to their website or TripAdvisor.
Yes, Szimpla is touristy, yes the bouncers are rude and won't let you take liquids in (like I'm going to spend $50 on wine and then down it in the club?) BUT you've SIMPLY got to visit Szimpla! Get it? (Okay, maybe I should tell you 'Szimpla' is pronounced a bit like 'simp-la' and simpla sounds like simply... note to self, if you have to explain your jokes, they're not funny...)
Appalling jokes aside, why do you simply have to visit Szimpla? Because it's SIMPLY the best!! (Someone stop me.)
Szimpla is one of Budapest's ruin bars. The ruin bars are basically ruined buildings that students bought so they wouldn't be demolished, and they then turned them into funky, hipster bars. Graffiti is encouraged and certainly adds to the ambience - that and the wacky items you can find in there, which include: a gigantic kangaroo seat, carrots in a jar, diapers, a teddy in a cooking pot and a room filled with fairy lights and old computer screens:
What we really liked about the Szimpla bar (other than the decor) was the fact that they've turned each little room into a bar in its own right: there's a wine bar, a cocktail bar, a beer bar, a food bar and even a shisha bar. Another great thing is that this isn't just a place for annoying tourists (like us), real locals do hang out here too and they only accept Hungarian Forint here (i.e. the local currency, which isn't Euros).
For more information, check out our vlog where we took our friend Flo to Szimpla bar:
Ever since I saw every other travel blogger visit/write about/make videos about cat cafes I've been dying to go to one. Somehow we didn't make it to one in Asia, but never fear, Budapest has got a cat cafe!!
Sure the staff are kind of rude, and the 'Cat-uccino' was dreadful (but then I hate milk in coffee so I'm not sure what I was expecting), BUT it's still a nice place to sit down, relax and get some much needed pet loving which you just don't get when you're travelling and not House Sitting. ALSO the crappy cat-uccino had an AWESOME cat outline in it:
It's definitely worth a look in! They also sell kitty treats that you can give to the cats, but they limit the amount given out per hour. Also note that this tubby one shouldn't be given treats:
When we visited there were kittens! But our favourite cat was this massive tiger:
You HAVE to visit one (or more) of the Thermal Baths when you come to Budapest: Hungary is the third most thermal country in the world (after Iceland and New Zealand) and Budapest is the only city in the world with healing thermal baths!! You have to visit!
The question is: which do you visit? Well, we tried out a few just for you (not for ourselves at all)! ;)
What they all have in common:
In all of them, the layout is kind of similar (an outside pool or two, lots of inside pools of different temperatures and lots of saunas and steam rooms).
Also in all of them, the layout is super confusing and you could easily miss an awesome room or two. Try and get your hand on a map, and don't be surprised if you walk towards something, to find you can't go in that way and you have to turn around and go another way.
In all of them you must wear a swimming hat in the swimming pool. You can bring one with you or buy one there. We just didn't bother going in the swimming pools, there are enough other pools, baths and saunas to keep you occupied, and frankly after an hour or two in those relaxing pools, you're not going to want to go swimming. Saying that though, I was super jealous of a few ladies who had the most beautiful flowery swimming hats.
Essentially no mater which bath you go to, you're going to get to try out some awesome baths and saunas, and you're going to go back to your hotel feeling as soft as a baby's bottom, but, despite their similarities, each bath still had something unique:
Szechenyi bath is probably the most famous bath in Budapest, with its iconic outdoor pools. These are pretty big and very warm, which was disappointing as we went on a hot day, and felt like lobsters. We're told it's magical in the winter!!
We enjoyed the inside a lot more, where there are lots of baths of all different shapes and temperatures.
Out of the three we went to, we found Szechenyi to be a bit 'lads on tour' like. There were lots of 'lads' there buying beer at 11am and vegging out. Perfect if you're a lad on tour, but if you're a young couple, with a prudish old-fashioned attitude (like us) it probably won't be your favourite pool. We still recommend going though as it's still a beautiful place.
But if you only have time/money for one pool we'd definitely say go to:
Gellert was the second bath we went to and our favourite one over-all. Their outside pool has a wave machine (which Germans like Tanbay love) and it was a much more reasonable temperature for a hot summer's day (i.e. it was cold).
We also loved the decor of Gellert - it was so pretty inside!!
If (when) you come to Gellert make sure you go to the pools on both sides of the swimming pool, we nearly missed the pools on the rhs and they were the prettiest!
We really loved the saunas and steam rooms here too.
Rudas was the third and final pool we went to. We were a little disappointed with the size of their outside pool (it's tiny):
but the temperature was perfect for the summer (not too hot like Szechenyi and not bordering on too cold like Gellert). This outside pool got extra points because it was the only one with cool views of Budapest:
Rudas has one section of baths of different temperatures which is nice, but very modern and not that aesthetically pleasing. No, what we loved about Rudas was the other section of baths which are super old and gorgeous!!! Make sure you don't miss the old section!
Our personal favourite:
Personally, we loved Gellert the best, it's perfect for couples/singles/people who love pretty architecture. Rudas is perfect if you travelling just as girls/just as guys because they do guys only days (Mon, Wed, Thurs and Fri) and girls only days (Tues). Sat and Sun are for all. Szechenyi is perfect for families and large groups.
Whichever pool(s) you visit you must be brave and do this: relax in the hottest pool you can find (usually around 40 degrees celsius) and then jump into the coldest one you can find (usually around 20 degrees). You won't want to, but submerge yourself in that cold one and I promise when you get out (which will probably be immediately whilst saying a couple of swear words), you will feel like you SPARKLE!!
Wine Cruise Along the Danube
|Prices from 20 Euros per person|
You can't miss the Danube when you come to Budapest as it literally divides it - on one side you have Castle Hill, and fancy apartments in Buda, and on the other side, in Pest, you have the Jewish Quarter, Parliament House and St Stephen's Basilika (among other things).
One way to really enjoy the Danube is to go on a river cruise. If you're anything like us, you might find river cruises a little boring which can be cured by going on a wine river cruise!
We went on one with Budapest River Cruise, it including 7 glasses of Hungarian wines and traditional Hungarian music. To find out more, read our full review here.
Liberty Bridge is our favourite spot in the city. They've shut it off to cars and trams, so pedestrians are free to roam along it and even climb up the sides! This is the perfect place to drink a bottle of wine and watch the sun set:
You might even catch a wedding shoot or two:
Be careful though, I cut my elbow open on some broken glass :(
check out the moment it happened here!
You won't see us recommend churches/cathedrals that often, especially in Europe as they mostly look the same, but St Stephen's Cathedral is definitely something else! St Stephen made Hungary Christian. His hand was said to be sacred, and when he died they cut it off and preserved it for fear of grave robbers.
If you go into St Stephen's (free, though donations are encouraged) you can actually see this mummified hand! It's kind of gross but at as it's a 1,000 years old it's worth a look:
The other reason we recommend St Stephen's is because you can go on the roof! You do have to pay for this (it's really cheap) but you get a wonderful 360 degree view of Budapest!
Dohany Street Synagogue
Whilst we're recommending religious structures, we recommend giving Dohany Street Synagogue a look too. This is the second largest synagogue in the world, after Emanu-El of New York, making it the largest Synagogue in Europe!
We never went inside (as you have to pay a fee and we don't believe in doing that for religious structures, unless you get something in return like a great view).. BUT we loved the outside! So pretty!
Budapest Bike Maffia
Budapest, sadly, has one of the highest rates of homeless people in Europe. Apparently the government tries to keep them out of sight of the tourists, which just isn't right!
What is right, is the project Budapest Bike Maffia have got going: using donations, they buy sandwich ingredients for the homeless, then they get together to make the sandwiches and cycle round the city to give them out.
We joined them for two evenings and it really is a great project, you can have fun hanging out with like-minded people and cycling round the city, but you can also do something meaningful and kind.
Perhaps you don't have enough time on your trip to go along with them, so instead please consider giving them a donation.
You can also read more about them in our blog post How to Help the Homeless in Budapest.
One of the reasons we choose to stay in Budapest for so long was for its location, which is great. Not only can you easily reach all the best parts of Hungary (like Lake Balaton) from here, you're also ideally positioned to visit lots of other countries in Europe.
We flew into Hungary extremely cheaply (15 Euros) from Italy, we also took the buses from Budapest to Bratislava, Prague and Zagreb.
These buses were also cheap, and although the journeys are long-ish, they're doable. We passed through Slovakia and the Czech Republic with no problems. But getting into Croatia requires and an annoying passport stop.
|Prices from 221 Euros|
We spent the night at the Aria which was voted the number one hotel in Budapest. It deserves this title, it's a comfy, luxurious hotel with a perfect pool and sauna. Check out our full review here.
And to book your own room head over to their website or find them on your favourite booking website: Agoda | Booking.com | Expedia | Hotels.com
As we stayed for so long in Budapest, we decided to rent out a place on AirBnB, as AirBnB offer great discounts for weekly or monthly stays.
We loved the AirBnB we stayed at (you can check it out here). And were glad we stayed with AirBnB because we had 'luxuries' like a washing machine and a kitchen.
If you're new to AirBnB, have a £20 AirBnB discount voucher on us! :)
Unfortunately, we didn't get the chance to try out House Sitting in Budapest, but maybe you'll have more luck! Browse house sitting in Budapest to find free accommodation in return for looking after a house and pet (or two)!
If you'd like to try House Sitting, don't forget to sign up to our mailing list [see bottom of page] to get a 10% discount to our favourite house sitting website - TrustedHouseSitters and if you'd like some tips on being a first time sitter, check out our ebook.
We make daily vlogs on YouTube, so if you're looking for more information on any of the above tours/hotels and/or you just fancy vegging out and watching a playlist, be sure to check out our Budapest playlist!
Hopefully it's clear at this point that we LOVED Budapest, it's a fun, pretty, cheap city and one of our absolute favourites places in Europe.
There's lots to do in Budapest, no matter what your tastes are and so hopefully this post has given you some ideas to add to your own Budapest bucket-list.
Be sure to pin these to your bucket-list:
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Over to you: have you been to Budapest? Did we miss anything off this list?
We're Laura and Tanbay, a British/German couple who have successfully weaselled our way out of the rat-race and want you to do the same! We also want to make it clear that we sometimes use “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we use personally and believe will add value to our readers.