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Yes, Budapest is known for thermal baths but if bathing with other strangers is not your thing, there are plenty of other things to do in Budapest. Here are my top 12 recommendations on things you should do in Budapest, Hungary:
If you’re looking for a cafe that serves excellent breakfast or desserts, you must go to Gerbeaud. This cafe was started in 1858 and has been internationally acclaimed over the years. The interior is gorgeous with chandeliers, exotic woods and marble all around. They serve light meals and tons of delicious desserts.
St. Stephen’s Basilica is a Roman Catholic basilica and is named in honor of Stephen, the first King of Hungary. It’s a relatively young church compared to other European churches, completed in 1901. The inside of the church is lavishly decorated with red marble and gold everywhere. For an extra 500 HUF (less than $2), you can climb up the stairs to the rooftop to get a great view of Budapest.
Ruin bars started after the Soviet regime ended and the government sold these old buildings they didn’t take care at a cheap price. Couple of locals bought one of the buildings and started a little bar, but since they didn’t have much money to invest in the bar, they asked friends to donate anything they didn’t want and local artists to help paint the walls. From there, the ruin bars were born and now it is all the rage in Budapest.
There are lots of ruin bars in Budapest now but the most famous one is Szimpla Kert and once I visited, I understood why. This place is humungous and there is so much eye candy to look at in every corner. Szimpla Kert is so huge that they provide a map detailing what is in each section from the Farmer’s Market to Garden Stairs to Recordings Studio and more.
I tried to stop by here at night around 10pm but the line was ridiculously long, so I came back a second time during the day around noon and it was much better. It would have been fun to enjoy the nightlife in such an iconic bar but I was able to see more and explore at a leisurely pace during the day.
Right next to Szimpla Kert is an awesome outdoor area with loads of food trucks and you can try all the Hungarian street food in one place for great prices. I tried the Langos and Goulash here, both traditional dishes of Hungary, and although the goulash was tasty, I wasn’t feeling the langos too much. With that being said, the locals and tourists loved the langos because just about every other table had one of them. They also have beer, fresh juices, smoothies and desserts. You can really find everything here.
You can’t leave Budapest without seeing the Chain Bridge. It’s the famous suspension bridge that spans the River Danube between Buda and Pest. It was the first permanent bridge across the Danube in Hungary and it finished construction in 1849. It’s also featured in a lot of movies and music videos like Katy Perry’s “Firework”. The walk across the bridge is actually pretty short and only takes about 5-10 minutes to get from one side to the other.
Gresham Palace is actually a hotel owned by the Four Seasons and our tour guide recommended checking it out since it is beautifully decorated inside. The palace was built in 1906 and it was originally an office building but after the Soviet regime, it turned into a luxury hotel and retrained its original Art Nouveau architecture. It was gorgeous indeed and you’ll get some nice photo ops in the lobby and lounge area.
They also offer Afternoon Tea from 3-6pm in the Bar and Lobby Lounge if you want to relax and enjoy the beauty of the hotel a little more.
This statue is significant in Budapest because it was the first statue built after the Soviet regime. It was created by Laszlo Marton and it represents his daughter at age 5 who liked to dress up as a princess. It’s located in a nice area by the Danube River and there are some nice views behind her.
I just love the word funicular. Something silly about it. To get to the Buda Castle, you can either walk uphill or take a quick ride on the funicular. I did it both ways but taking the funicular was more fun. For a one-way ticket, it costs about $4 and for a roundtrip ticket, it costs about $6, so you can take the funicular up and then enjoy a nice leisurely walk back down if you’d like to. There will be a bit of a line in the middle of the day, so I suggest riding it in the morning.
The Buda Castle is a magnificent castle and palace that was originally built in 1265, but most of the site was built between 1749 and 1769. It used to be the home for the Hungarian kings. Now, it houses the Hungarian National Gallery and The Budapest History Museum. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
Around the castle is so much more to explore like the Presidential Palace, Matthias Church, Fisherman’s Bastion, House of Houdini and tons of restaurants, cafes and shops. You’ll also get fantastic views overlooking the Danube River and the Pest side of Budapest.
You HAVE to eat here while you’re in Budapest. I felt like a princess walking into a palace with it’s high ceilings and stone walls. The service was impeccable and it was one of the best fine dining experiences I’ve had. Even though it’s a fine dining restaurant, the prices are very reasonable for everything you get in this magical experience.
Memento Park is the final resting place for the fallen Communist statues and memorial plaques that were removed after the downfall of the Communist regime. Statues include Lenin, Marx and Engels and more. You get a glimpse of what communism and propaganda looked like.
You’ll want to buy the guidebook or have a guide with you while looking at the statues because the plaques don’t tell you much. I’m glad I got the guide book because it told me so much more about each statue. I took my time studying each one and the meaning of them. I spent a good hour here and that’s really all the time you need since it’s a fairly small park.
Before you leave the park, take some fun photos in the Trabant communist car! I don’t know why but I really love this car. Apparently, it was one of the worst cars ever made (loud, slow, poorly designed and badly built) but I still love it. I guess I’m just fascinated with how awful the car was but at least it’s kind of cute?
The park is a bit out of the way from the city center but it’s very easy to get to via bus and it’s worth the trip.
Ever since I did a free walking tour in Lisbon, I’ve been addicted to these free walking tours in Europe. I didn’t know much about Hungary before I visited, so it was great to learn so much more about it’s history, society and architecture. Plus, our lovely guide showed us all the cool spots to visit and even taught us some Hungarian phrases (which is a very hard language to learn).
The tour lasts about 2.5 hours and you will walk about 2 miles starting from the Pest side and ending on the Buda side on top of Buda Hill. Make sure to tip your guide at the end of the tour as they work on a tip based system.
Hope you enjoy Budapest as much as I did!