Straddling the Danube River with magnificent natural setting and beautiful architecture along the banks, Budapest is referred to as “Queen of the Danube”. The capital of Hungary is, along with Paris, Rome and London, a tourist hotspot in Europe. So what is it like when traveling to Budapest? This blog will serve as my Budapest travel guide.
And of course I will also recommend some places to visit and things to do in this Budapest travel guide.
1. Everything you need to know about Budapest
Before sharing my Budapest travel guide, let’s talk a bit about this capital city of Hungary:
1.1. About Budapest
The capital of Hungary consists of two parts, Buda and Pest, which are located on the opposite sides of the Danube River. These two halves were two separated cities until 1873.
Buda is the classier and more residential side of the city, Pest is associated with urban living where you will find the majority of cafes, restaurants, nightlife and museums in town.
The capital city of Hungary welcomes around 12 million international tourists per year, making it a favorite tourist destination in Europe.
Buda is the classier and more residential side of the city (Photo: @lucy.truong.44)
1.2. Why Budapest is called “the Queen of the Danube”
Originating in Germany, the Danube passes through 10 countries and 5 capital cities before draining into the Black Sea. Budapest is the largest city on the Danube with a population of over 3 million people.
The Danube river is considered as the natural border which separates the hilly left bank of Buda and the plain right bank of Pest. This topographical contrast brings about some amazing landscapes along the river banks.
There was no permanent connection between Pest and Buda, but a pontoon bridge. After the inauguration of Chain Bridge along with the unification of Buda and Pest, the spectacular growth of the city began in earnest. 7 more bridges were built providing essential connections between the two halves of the city and also some sort of city landmarks. Margaret Bridge, Liberty Bridge and Elisabeth Bridge to name a few.
Moreover, the central area of Budapest along the Danube River is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some prominent buildings include the Hungarian Parliament Building and Buda Castle.
Amazing landscapes along the banks, iconic landmarks facing the Danube, rich history and culture crowns Budapest “The queen of the Danube”
One of the prominent buildings along the Danube is the Hungarian Parliament Building.
1.3. Is Budapest safe to travel
As a tourist hotspot in Europe, you might wonder “Is it safe to travel” when planning a trip to Budapest. In my opinion, Budapest is safer when compared to Paris, Rome or London.
You can roam freely around Budapest without paying too much attention to your belongings. And there are barely any scams in tourist attractions.
|You-may-not-facts about Budapest|
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2. Best time to visit Budapest
2.1. Budapest climate overview
Budapest experiences continental climate, with cold winters and warm summers. The temperature varies from -3°C to 27 °C (and rarely reaches below -11°C or above 32°C) over the course of the year.
a. Spring: Spring brings about longer daylight hours, abundance of sunshine and flowers in full blossom. However different weather situations occur in the first half of spring. You’ll have some sunny days, but the following days will be gloomy and cold. After that, the temperature starts to rise markedly in April and exceeds 20°C in May.
b. Summer: Summer is warm and sunny (average temperature ranges from 25°C) with July being the hottest month. Afternoon thunderstorms can occur which drive the precipitation to reach its peak in early summer (in late May and June)
c. Autumn: Autumn is initially mild and pleasant in September and the temperature can stay above 20 °C during daytime. However, things are gonna change in mid October. First frost arrives, along with cloudiness and rain become more frequent.
d. Winter: The capital of Hungary experiences a cold winter in which the temperature may fall below −11°C and snowfalls can be heavy.
Budapest welcomes me with sunny days and pleasant weather
2.2. Best time to visit Budapest
The best times to visit Budapest are from mid April to May and September to mid October. These months experience fewer crowds, nicer weather and of course cheaper travel costs.
Budapest welcomes me with sunny days and pleasant weather in late May although thunderstorms and heavy rains are forecasted by almost all weather apps or websites. When I saw the weather forecast, I didn’t expect anything but the trip was awesome.
However if you are a night-life craver, summer months will definitely be the best option. My sister spent a month in Budapest for summer school and it turned out to be a boozy study tour. She and her friend gathered every available time after school hours.
Summer is the best time to grab some drinks
3. How to travel around Budapest
The Budapest public transport network includes buses, trolley buses, trams, subways, and suburban trains. However, you only need to use trams and subways when traveling to Budapest.
a. Tram: Budapest has over 40 tram lines that run throughout the historic center. The tram lines serve as the second most important backbone of the transit system (after the bus network).
Moreover, trams offer some sort of scenic ride around the city. Take tram line no.2 which passes by some of the famous landmarks of the city namely Chain Bridge, the Hungarian Parliament and the Central Market Hall and you will not regret.
b.Subway: There are only 4 subway lines which are easy to navigate. Deák Ferenc tér is considered as central station as three of subway lines pass through
When I travelled to Budapest, there were no ticket barriers in some subway or tram stations, but a line of staff. The staff shows up sometimes to see whether commuters hold the ticket or not.
Extensive public transport network of Budapest
c. Taxi: There are several taxi companies operating in Budapest. The officially licensed taxi cabs uniform themselves by yellow colour, with the sign ”Minősített budapesti taxi / Licensed Budapest taxi” displayed on the front left door in both Hungarian and English. So make sure to get in the right cab.
The fare is composed of 3 parts: Basic fee (700 HUF), Per kilometre rate (300 HUF/km), waiting fee (75 HUF/min.)
Keep in mind that Uber is not available in Budapest. but there is a great app that you can use instead, which is very similar to Uber or other ride-hailing apps called Taxify.
4. Where to stay in Budapest
The central neighborhoods of Budapest are relatively compact.which is easy to walk or hop on public transport to get around. Moreover, it is not difficult to find affordable options for accommodations in Budapest despite being a tourist hotspot in Europe.
However, it will be more difficult to decide where to stay in Buda or Pest as the two halves have their own characteristics.
My recommendation is to stay in Pest side for better commuting and an abundant choice of restaurant. Try to book your accommodation in district V, VI, VII which is just steps away from certain tourist attractions and activities.
5. Budapest places to visit
5.1. Buda Castle
Buda Castle is undoubtedly the most famous tourist attraction in Budapest. This massive 18th-century, Neo-Baroque-style structure was previously where the Hungarian kings lived. The historical castle and palace complex now become the Hungarian National Gallery and The Budapest History Museum.
Located at the top of Castle Hill, Buda Castle also offers impressive panoramic views overlooking Pest part and the Danube river. And the imposing castle can be spotted from the other side of the river.
5.2. St. Stephen’s Cathedral
St.Stephen’s Cathedral is the most important Catholic church and most significant tourist attraction of all Hungary. The Neoclassical cathedral was named after the first King of Hungary – Stephen I, whose “incorruptible” right hand is stored in the reliquary.
Equal with the Hungarian Parliament Building, it is one of the two tallest buildings in Budapest at 96 metres. Rising above Budapest’s skylines, St. Stephen’s Cathedral offers some of the best views overlooking the main districts of Pest.
St.Stephen’s Cathedral is the most important Catholic church of Hungary
5.3. Hungarian Parliament Building
Striking an imposing and impressive figure on the bank of the River Danube in the heart of Budapest, the Hungarian Parliament building (Országház in Hungarian) is one of the most notable landmarks of the city.
Being built in the Gothic Revival Renaissance Revival architecture, the Hungarian Parliament looks like a castle which can only be seen in Disney movies.
5.4. Chain Bridge (Széchenyi Lánchíd)
Among all bridges stretching across the Danube River, Chain Bridge is the most iconic one as it is the first to connect Buda and Pest.
Not long after inauguration, Chain Bridge became a marvel of engineering and architecture, a symbol of national awakening and the linkage between East and West.
The bridge was built in stone with 2 main towers which are connected by the long-wrought iron chains. And here comes the name “Chain Bridge”.
Moreover, the bridge is not only famous for its beauty, but also for some urban legends about the stone lions situated at both bridge’s entry points.
Chain Bridge is a marvel of engineering and architecture, a symbol of national awakening and the linkage between East and West.
5.5. Heroes Square (Hősök tere)
At the end of Andrássy Avenue lies one of the major squares in Budapest – Heroes Square. The central feature of Heroes’ Square is the Millenium Memorial – a nearly 40m column and colonnade structure.
This imposing monument commemorates the Hungarian conquering of the area a thousand years before (hence the name) and the founding of Hungary in 1896. The square has played an important part in contemporary Hungarian history and has been a host to many political events.
5.6. Fisherman’s Bastion
Fisherman’s Bastion was built from 1895 to 1902 which served as viewing terraces along with look out towers for defence and military purposes. When castle defence was no longer a necessity, this complex was opened to the public in 1905 and then became a favorite tourist destination.
Fisherman Bastion’s complex includes 7 high-pitched stone towers, viewing terrace with arches, Matthias Church and Statue of Stephen I of Hungary by Alajos Stróbl
The name of this building originated from a guild of fisherman who protected this area since the Middle Ages.
5.5. Gellert Hill
Gellert Hill is the highest easily accessible point of Budapest. The hill was named after Saint Gerard who was thrown to death from the hill.
The 235 m high hill offers panoramic and unobstructed views overlooking the Danube river and Pest side of the city. From the top of the hill, it is clear to spot the geographical difference between Buda’s hill and Pest’s flat terrain.
The way to Gellert Hill view point
6. Best things to do in Budapest
Previously two cities, Budapest has so much to offer from amazing architecture, rich history to incredible nightlife and nice thermal pools… which are waiting to be explored.
You can find my recommendation for best things to do in Budapest below (for full details, kindly see this post):
- Take a selfie with Orszaghaz
- Visit Buda Castle
- Walk across Széchenyi Lánchíd
- Climb up St.Stephen Basilica’s dome
- Eat Goulash
- Ride tram line No.2
- Shopping at Nagy Vasarcsarnok
- Chase sunset at Gellert Hill
- Wait until city lights turn on
- Drink the night away
Don’t forget to take some photos for Instagram
7. Budapest travel itinerary
7.1. Budapest travel itinerary
3 days is enough to see the essence of Budapest. It is recommended to spend one day in one part of the city. And don’t put too many places in one day.
My friend took me around Budapest on the second day of the trip. She took me from places to places, from Buda to Pest. And the majority of time we spend is on public transport, not in tourist places.
You can find my Budapest travel itinerary below and remember not to follow it:
DAY 1: We arrived in Budapest at 9:00 pm, so we got to the hostel and took a rest.
DAY 2: Szent Istvan Street – Chain Bridge – Fisherman’s Bastion – Heroes Square – Vajdahunyad Castle – Central Market
DAY 3: Buda Castle – St. Stephen’s Cathedral – The Hungarian Parliament Building – Liberty Bridge – Gellert Hill
DAY 4: We took the early train to Vienna
Inside a small alley
7.2. Budapest travel map
For more information, kindly see my Budapest travel map below (I also add some restaurant in this interactive map):
8. Budapest travel budget
Budapest is more affordable when compared to ọther cities in Europe. it takes me 142€ for a 3D3N trip (I spent 348€ for Paris and 175€ for Rome).
You can find my Budapest travel budget below (please note that this budget is for reference only):
|1. Flight Nottingham–Budapest||14,000 HUF||* Depend on the journey being made|
|2. Train Budapest–Wien||5,920 HUF||* Depend on the journey being made|
|3. One-day-pass 2 day||3,300 HUF||* Buy on ticket machines|
|4. 3 nights accommdation||10,800 HUF|
|5. St. Stephen Basilica’s Dome||400 HUF||* Giá sinh viên|
|6. Buda Castle’s Cable Car||1,200 HUF|
|7. Souvenir||1,400 HUF|
|8. 3 days eating cost||13,400 HUF|
|TOTAL||50,420 HUF||≈ 142€|
9. What to eat in Budapest
Budapest is not only known for its distinct architecture, the River Danube that runs through the city and also its representative for Hungarian cuisine. That is the reason why you can find most of the country’s specialties in this capital city.
Some of the must-eat Hungarian dishes includes langos, goulash, chicken paprika, kürtőskalács, töltött káposzta, palinka…
Lángos is one of the must-eat dishes in Budapest (Photo: @lucy.truong.44)
10. Summary: Budapest travel guide
10.1. Budapest travel tips
– If you can’t plan where to go and what to do, the Hop on Hop Off Bus tour is definitely a good option as it will take you to favorite tourist destinations. Kindly see this page for more details.
– Remember to keep an eye on your belongings when strolling around though Budapest is safer when compared to other tourist hotspots in Europe
– Book hotel and activities in advanced to avoid disappointment
So this is all I want to share in this Budapest travel guide. As Budapest was the first city I travelled to in Europe, I made some mistakes in planning the trip. However, the trip was still memorable.
This is all I want to share in this Budapest travel guide. If you need any more information, kindly see other posts:
Keyword: Budapest Travel Guide & Best Places To Visit