There is something quintessentially different about Budapest. It is charming at the same time rough around the edges. Even if you have been to the conventional European cities such as Paris, Rome and London; Budapest still surprises you. I call it the most inviting European city with a kick.
Here are 10 reasons along with travel tips included as to why Budapest is unique and merits a visit:
#1: Best of both worlds
Budapest can be divided as Buda (hilly side with Buda Castle, Matthias Church or the postcard city) and Pest (flat side or the real city with character) clearly demarcated by the Danube River. Both are very different from an architecture standpoint but equally gorgeous. You actually get to visit two cities at once.
Travel Tip – Since Pest is the more thriving part of the city, it is highly recommended to stay on the Pest side. Try and find something close to Deák Ferenc tér which is the major transport junction on the pest side. Most attractions are very close to Deák Ferenc tér.
#2: Thermal Baths
The city’s most popular attraction is the thermal bath where you can take a bath in approximately 700 years old mineral enriched hot water. The temperatures of the thermal pools are pretty warm and this is a perfect way to relax after a long day of hopping around the city.
Travel Tip – Take towels, flip flops and swimwear with you to avoid paying deposits for renting these items. The biggest bath is Széchenyi Medicinal Bath (On the M1 metro line) but you can pick and choose the one that you like the most.
#3: Ruin Pubs
This was the best part of my trip. Old dilapidated buildings have been converted into pubs using mismatched street art. This is a very popular trend in Budapest and you could bar hop to almost 30 different ruin pubs across the city.
Travel Tip – Szimpla Kert is the father of all the ruin pubs and a visit to this is highly recommended. A lot of these pubs are in District 7 near the Great Synagogue. Try Pálinka (fruit brandy popular in Eastern Europe) or FRÖCCS (wine with sparkling water).
#4: Spectacular at night
I have never seen any city look so gorgeous at night. The ‘Parliament Building’ and ‘Buda Castle’ are by a long stretch the most beautiful sights (read that they beat the Eiffel tower) I have seen at night.
Travel Tip – Take the river cruise with drinks at night. It is worth every penny. Pay less for it by combining it with a musical performance and purchasing combo tickets. Don’t take the dinner cruise though as you want to be outside looking at the grandeur that is Budapest rather than munching on food in doors.
Hungary has not yet adopted the euro and hence provides you with plenty of opportunities to splurge. You can have a decent meal is about 10 euros and a glass of wine is around 1.5 Euros.
Travel tip – Don’t exchange your currency at the airport. The rates are pretty obnoxious. Wait till you get to Deák Ferenc tér and ask a couple of places for the rate offered and pick the best one.
#6: English Speaking
Honestly, I am nervous when I set my foot into a country where I can’t speak the language. However, people speak good English in Hungary making your travel journey a lot easier.
Travel Tip – German is the next most common language. So it should be easy to survive with either English or German.
#7: Options for Day trips
From a thriving city like Vienna or Bratislava to a quaint town like Eger or Holloko, you have multiple options for a day trip. Danube Bend Tours which include visits to the towns like Visegrad, Esztergom and Szentendre are pretty good.
Travel Tip – The Danube Bend tour is extremely popular and highly recommended. While the Danube Bend is doable by public transport it is a lot easier going through a tour group.
Hungary has an authentic cuisine. From Goulash Soup (Beef Soup) to Chicken Paprika (Chicken in paprika Sauce with egg noodle dumplings), Hungarian cuisine also offers some lovely desserts such as the Gundel Pancake (creamy pancake with rum and walnut filling) and Dobos Torte(layered cake)
Travel Tip – Cake Rose near the Great Synagogue is highly recommended for not so expensive, no frills but extremely tasty goulash and chicken Paprika. Try the Langos (deep fried bread) in the market hall and cinnamon ring rolls around Deák Ferenc tér. There is also a street food joint right next to Szimpla that offers number of street food options.
#9: Reliable Public Transport
Though you can always use the hop on or hop off buses you really don’t need it. The public transport is really easy to use and connects all sites of interests. From buses, trams to metro, your points of interest never take more than 30 minutes if you are staying in the centre.
Travel Tip – The Budapest card offers free use of public transport and great discounts on sights plus 2 free walking tours. Highly recommend taking the card if you plan to stay in Budapest for at least 2 days.
#10: Paris of the East
Budapest was called Paris of the East. I actually found it more enchanting than Paris. If you do an actual comparison of sights you will find an equivalent for most sights. For instance Champs-Élysées would equate to Andrássy út and Arc De Triomphe would equate to Heroes Square.
Travel Tip – Must see sights include Heroes Square, Andrássy út, Váci utca Great Market Hall, Széchenyi Medicinal Bath, Danube River Cruise at Night, Matthias Church, St. Stephen’s Basilica, Fisherman’s Bastion ,Ruin pubs, Royal Castle and Parliament Building(from outside)at the very least. Statue Park provided you catch the 11.00 am bus from Deák Ferenc tér.
That said, I hope you enjoy your trip to Budapest and find it as interesting (if not more) as I did!