Budapest is a beautiful city, with the great Danube river cutting between the two sides of the city – Buda and Pest. Both sides are packed full of beautiful and ornate structures that twinkle at night with stunning illuminations. What’s more, a trip to Budapest can be a perfect budget getaway, as food, drink and much of the entertainment is very low-cost in comparison to the UK.
There are plenty of accommodation options available in Budapest, and all the major hotel chains are represented.
Hotels.com are currently offering 40% off hotel bookings, and there are certainly some great deals to be had. 5* hotels, such as the well placed and stunning Iberostar Grand Hotel start at £99 a night – a steal for such luxurious surroundings. You can find plenty of hotel rooms for just £60+ a night, however if you go down the apartment route, your stay can be even cheaper. Godzsu apartments in the Jewish area start at just €30 per night. The area is very lively, with late night bars and restaurants lining the area. If you are going to Budapest to experience its nightlife, then this is an ideal location. If you are going for some peace and quiet, you are better off staying elsewhere as the partying continues until 6am.
The Hungarian Parliament in Budapest
The Hungarian Parliament building is a must-see attraction that dominates the riverside in Pest. The vast and ornate building is covered with rich and detailed patterns and gold paint, and contains sculptures, pillars and even the crown jewels are on display here. The beautiful stained-glass windows survived fighting that destroyed a large percentage of the building during World War II by being removed from their frames and hidden in the basement. At Christmas, the Parliament building is transformed into a gigantic advent calendar with light displays projected onto the front and can be viewed from the river. A guided tour of the parliament building is just 1750 HUF, which works out around just £5.
Castle Hill in Buda
On Castle Hill, on the Buda side of the river, you can walk from the Fisherman’s Bastion, which looks like a fairy tale castle, past the president’s residence, to the enormous Buda Castle, which now houses the the National Gallery, the National Library and the Budapest History Museum. You can even try your hand at archery on the grounds. The route overlooks the Danube and allows you to get some amazing panoramic pictures. If you are stopping for lunch, try Cafe Miro and if you just want a nice relaxing drink, try the cocktails in the bar housed within the turrets of the Fisherman’s Bastion. The views are spectacular and your delicious cocktail will be accompanied by live jazz musicians, making this the perfect place to while away the hours.
Citadella – Gellért Hill
Another place to explore on the Buda side of the river, is the Citadella. This is a walled fort on Gellért Hill. Head up to the memorial statue at the peak of the hill for the best views. There is also a hotel, a casino and some restaurants and shops on the hill, along with an intriguing display of tanks and other Second World War memorabilia.
Boat Tours on the Danube
A trip up and down the Danube on a boat is recommended, particularly at sunset, when you can watch the spectacular buildings on either side begin to illuminate as the dusk draws in. There is also a point on the boat trip where you can see all of the bridges lined up in a row down the river – an amazing scene. Boat trips vary, but you can get an hour long trip up and down the river for as little as 2400 HUF (just £6.75) for the day trip with tea and coffee or slightly more for the evening sight seeing cruise which includes an on board drink.
Dining in Budapest
Much of the exploration can be done for free, and many restaurants and cafes are very cheap and serve great food in pleasant surroundings, but there are a few exceptions. For example, if you choose to eat at Spoon, which is the restaurant boat housed on the river bank, be sure to just go for the smaller steaks, as you could end up paying £80 for a large one. Although the meat will be cooked to perfection and well worth the money, no doubt you will end up leaving around £30 worth of steak left on your plate – which doesn’t make for a cheap break.
Another must-do attraction, are the spa baths. Natural hot springs gush from a fault line in the limestone, and feed a number of spa baths, that reportedly ease some ailments including arthritis and high blood pressure. The baths vary in price, but if you have opportunity to treat yourself, go to the more expensive Gellért Baths, which start at around £13 a ticket. Note that many of the baths are single sex on specific days, so you need to check before you go.
Budapest’s Ruin Bars
Aside from the sight-seeing, Budapest is famed for its cool nightlife scene. The Ruin Bars in the Jewish quarter are a series of underground bars that have been formed in abandoned buildings. They each have their own individual style, with lots of eclectic items such as dentists chairs and other junk. The furniture doesn’t match and holes remain in the wall with pipes exposed. Although they sound like a mess, they are artistic and appeal to a young and hip crowd. These unique bars define the city’s nightlife and are unique to Budapest, so well worth a visit. Drinks are very cheap, so any budget can provide for a good night in the bars of Budapest.
The Christmas Market in Budapest
Book your trip during the Christmas market and enjoy the Glühwein, or mulled wine, as you amble through the wooden stalls selling traditional Hungarian goods, accompanied by musicians and entertainment along the way.
Check out our guide to visiting Budapest below.