Things to Do
Boat Cruise: Can’t pass this up! Go on a river cruise down the Danube at night. All of the buildings are lit up so brightly, it’s the most stunning thing you’ll see. The Parliament Building is my favorite building in the world, and you gotta see it at night. If you're wanting a party, most hostels can also hook you up with a booze cruise option - it's wild.
Buda Castle: Take the funicular up for awesome panoramic views.
Castle District: This is the “old” part of the city on the Buda side. Walk across the chain bridge when going to this area. The Chain Bridge is the first bridge to connect Buda to Pest (they were originally two separate cities). Not-so-fun-fact: none of the bridges in Budapest are the original. They were bombed during the Nazi occupation and rebuilt to their original look.
City Park: A little further outside of the city, but known and loved by locals. Botanical gardens, a zoo, and the famous time wheel are all found here - and if you're in Budapest in the winter, the lake is used for ice skating!
Danube Promenade: Take a stroll along the river and take in all the sites - don't miss the Parliament Building.
Faust Wine Cellars: Located under the Buda Castle, you can sample wines from the local region!
Gellert Baths: Although the Szechenyi baths are world-famous, we also love Gellert. On the Buda side, these thermal baths are located inside the fancy Gellert Hotel (straight out of Grand Budapest Hotel) and are so aesthetically beautiful. The bath house is decorated in the art nouveau style, and there’s a wave pool outside during the summer! So you really can’t go wrong.
Gellert Hill: Right next to Gellert Baths is Gellert Hill, which is a favorite place to watch the sun set. Our recommendation is to spend the day at the baths and then, about an hour before sunset, take the easy hike up the hill. Grab a few beers along the way and enjoy. This view gives the perfect panoramic shot of the city and you can watch Budapest slowly light up at night. Make sure you walk all the way up to the Liberty Statue.
Great Market Hall: An awesome place to wander, shop, and and eat.
House of Terror: This is really the only museum we recommend you see. The building used to be the headquarters for the Hungarian Nazi party and the Soviet Union’s Secret Police with the Nazis and Soviets occupied Hungary, respectively. The building is now doubles as a museum to explain what life was like during those years and also as a memorial to those who went missing. It’s a very heavy and moving experience, but it is done well. Make sure you get the audio guide.
Jewish Quarter: The old Jewish neighborhood and Ghetto. It’s now a very hip area with creative shops, boutiques, restaurants, bars, cafes, and street art. It’s also where all the Ruin bars are located.
St. Stephen's Basilica: Such a beautiful church! Make sure to pay the small fee to go up to the very top - the views are absolutely worth it.
Szechenyi Baths: Another awesome bath house, that's so strikingly beautiful. If you're looking to splurge, you can get massages or facial treatments.
Places to Eat
Cirkusz Cafe: Go-to brunch spot.. Eggs Benedict is the move. Also the Bloody marys. And the Mimosas…
Corinthia: brunch on Sunday if you’re feeling fancy! For about $30, you get a brunch buffet and bottomless wine and champagne. It’s in one of the fanciest hotels in Budapest and men play string instruments in tuxedos.
Itoshi: All you can eat and all you can drink sushi during the day. If you’re feeling some type of way, go for it!
Koleves Vendeglo: One of our favorite restaurants in Budapest! Modern twist on Hungarian food. Vegetarian friendly.
Kazimir: Good traditional Hungarian spot; you can try goulash here.
Karavan: Empty lot with food trucks; can find vegan goulash.
London Coffee Society: If Hungarian food isn’t your cup of tea, try this trendy European cafe. Has the best avocado toast in Budapest. Also amazing cappuccinos and coffee drinks.
Funky Pho: Really good pho spot. The owner lived in Vietnam for years to train.
Falafel Bar: Best falafel we've ever had in our life (no joke.). The owner is from Israel so that speaks for itself. Make sure you go to the one on Wesselenyi Utca.
Pizzica: Favorite pizza place. Very hip. They cut pizza with scissors so there’s that.
Porc and Prezli: Upscalish place with more "traditional" Hungarian food.
Retro Langos: A very "hole in the wall" place with amazing street food
Bors: creative sandwich shop with a pop culture/Star Wars theme. The Barack Obama sandwich is meant to be awesome (I’m a vegetarian so I haven’t tried it).
Mazel Tov: Eastern European Jewish restaurant Beautiful courtyard. Their shakshuka is dope.
Places to Drink
Faust Wine cellar: Consistently one of the top places to drink wine in Budapest.
Corvin Club: Inside part of an old department store and has a good rooftop.
Fogas-Instant: Open later than most of the bars. It is the largest Ruin Bar and has many different rooms to explore.
Budapest is known for their Ruin Bars. These are buildings that were destroyed during the Nazi and Soviet eras, and, rather than being rebuilt, were left as is and converted into bars. Each has its own theme and feels underground. They’re popular with the locals, and usually have a kitchen inside of them.
Ellato Kert: Another ruin bar. Go if you like Mexican food.
Ellato Haz: A ruin bar that used to be a prison (according to one of the bartenders).
Grandio bar: Part of Grandio party hostel, this bar has a gorgeous courtyard and is the perfect spot for day drinking. The building itself used to be a boarding school for Jewish girls.
Kuplung: One of our favorite ruin bars. It has an aquatic, underwater theme (really cool jellyfish lights) and has live music on Fridays and Saturdays.
Szimpla: This is the original Ruin Bar. It was an abandoned factory, until an entrepreneur wanted to revive the Jewish Quarter and came up with the idea to put a bar inside the abandoned building. He couldn’t afford to decorate it, but the community loved his idea and they donated recycled materials. Everything in that bar is donated from a Hungarian household. They have such random items, from old TVs, to bikes, to telephones booths, and chairs made of tires. We recommend walking around during the day to see Szimpla in the daylight (and then of course coming back later). You don’t need a buy a drink to have a look around.
360 bar: Rooftop bar with a killer view. Might have to pay a cover in the summertime.
Palinka: National spirit, comes in different fruit flavors. Ask the bartender what their favorite is (we usually go for the plum) and try a shot!
Unicum: Another spirit native to Hungary. You can visit and tour the distillery. It's....strong.
Wine: Make sure to try Hungarian wine, they have 4 different wine regions! Eger wine is our favorite.
Places to Stay
Budapest Party Hostels are the way to go. If you’re going to Budapest to meet people and experience the nightlife (which, if you’re not, then why are you going?), they have the perfect fit for you!
The four hostels include Carpe Noctem Original, Carpe Noctem Vitae, Retox, and Grandio. Carpe Noctem Original is the best for solo travelers who want to meet people, sight see, and socialize at night. All the hostels host nightly events, but Carpe Noctem enforces quiet hours so guests can actually get sleep. It has a very homey vibe, and you feel like you’re hanging out with your group of friends. Grandio Party Hostel is our recommendation for those looking to party all day and night. It has a bar at the hostel (it’s actually a ruin bar!) and a beautiful courtyard. Really can’t go wrong with any of the four hostels, all of them have such an inclusive and welcoming vibes, it just depends on what you’re looking for!
Hungary outlawed Uber, so your only choice for transportation is public transport or taxi. If you go in a taxi, make sure it is run by a company (FoTaxi is reliable and has an app). Unmarked taxis are notorious for ripping off tourists. You should never pay more than 2000 HuF within the city, 5000 HuF from the airport to city center.
There’s a very convenient tram and metro system. Make sure you buy tickets AND VALIDATE THEM (make sure the machine punches the ticket). They are very strict on the metro and will fine up upwards of $50 (trams are usually more lax, it just depends on how discreet you are/how willing you are to risk it, but I say better safe than sorry!)
Although Budapest is known for its nightlife, there is a city-wide noise curfew at 9PM. Respect the culture and the locals and please, for the love of god, don’t scream drunkenly in the streets. It’s rude and you can/should get fined.
Avoid the strip clubs.
It’s a very cash-friendly city. Make sure you always take cash out of banks and never the ATM machines.
Don’t expect everyone to speak English. Although we'd say most younger Hungarians know English, many in the older generations who lived their entire lives under Soviet rule weren’t exposed to English. It’s also just a nice gesture to learn some quick words (Hungarian is a very tough language, so bonus points for any phrases you attempt!)
Hello = Szia (see-yah)
Goodbye = viszontlátásra (vee-sont-laa-taash-ra)
Thank you = Köszönöm (keu-seu-neum)
You’re Welcome = Szívesen (see-ve-shen)
Yes = Igen (ee-ghen)
No = Nem (nehm)
Sorry = Sajnálom (shoy-nah-lawm)
Cheers = Egészségedre (ag-eh-sheg-ad-reh)
Best time to go is during non-winter months (Apr-Oct). Although we recommend the peak season, Budapest is still relatively a hidden gem, so you won’t get the crowds of Paris or Florence. It gets very hot in July and August, but cools off at night. Our favorite months are May and June. Hungarians celebrate the founding of their country on St. Stephen’s Day, which falls in August. Fun fact, they have a parade and carry around their relic of St. Stephen, which is his mummified hand...welcome to Hungary!
Never do drugs in Hungary. They are scary strict and don't have different classes of drugs. This means that heroin and weed are the same under law.