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A Story That Needs to be Told

Everyone loves Budapest, and for good reason. For the architecture, romance and potent palinka. For the rickety trams and hot springs combined with a sad history, spoken by a beautiful but impenetrable language, and for a people who live life to the fullest. Witness the bullet holes and shrapnel pockmarks on buildings from WWII and the 1956 Uprising. Float past the glittering lights of Parliament House on the Danube. Budapest is a story that needs to be told, and one you will never forget.

Top Tips

  • Budapest is nicknamed ‘the Paris of the East’.
  • Take a Danube River cruise for amazing views of both Buda and Pest
  • Celebrate with the locals and enjoy the fireworks from the banks of the Danube on St Stephen’s Day (August 20th)

1. Buda Castle Hill

Once its own individual city, Buda is where you will find a lot of the most popular tourist attractions up on the hill. The Royal Palace is free to wander around the courtyard area, while you will need to pay for some museums and attractions like the Matthias Church and the National Gallery. During the golden age of Buda under the reign of King Matthias, the grounds were remodeled from its humble beginnings, but have been remodeled several times after different wars and invasions since. .

2. St. Stephens Basilica

St Stephen’s Cathedral or Szent Istvan ter is the highest church in Budapest. Walking in the main entrance you are greeted by spectacular mosaics and stained glass windows that will take your breath away. There is a quirky chapel to the left side of the altar known as the “Chapel of the Sacred Right Hand”. This is the very strange and surreal surviving St Stephen’s right hand in a glass box that you can view. For a small fee you can climb to the very top of the Basilica to get great views of the city.

3. Parliament Building

People get confused when they see the magnificent Parliament Building in Budapest, thinking it’s the Royal Palace sitting by the river Danube on the Pest side. The Hungarian Parliament is the largest Parliament building in Europe and is modeled on England’s Parliament but is actually one metre wider and longer! The building is so huge that they need to reinforce the soil along the Danube with huge 7-foot deep concrete fountains to support the weight of it all. A tour inside of the building is definitely worth your time to see the treasure inside under the cupola – the Hungarian Crown Jewels.

4. Széchenyi Baths / Bath Houses

Bathhouses in Budapest have been around for centuries making use of the natural underground thermal waters that bubble away. There are several bath houses in the city but the largest one in the city is the Szechenyi Baths built in the early 1900’s. Visiting the thermal baths is the best remedy after a day out on the town exploring all the sights. The thermal waters are said to have healing qualities and there are also fountains in the baths where you can soak under for a powerful massage. With many pools inside and out it’s hard to choose where to go, but the most popular one is the large outdoor pool with an area for people to set up their chess boards and play whilst floating in the thermal waters.

5. Central Market

The Central Market Hall in Budapest is one of the most visited attractions with tourists and locals. Just to the edge of the city centre at the end of the Vaci Ut shopping street, you’ll find the oldest covered markets in the city. This is the best and cheapest place to purchase Hungarian souvenirs from local brandy -palinka, paprika goulash kits and clothing, and eat traditional Hungarian food such as langos and sausages in their busy food market. Closed on Sundays!

Eats

1. Spinoza Cafe

For somewhere with a bit of old charm, head to Spinoza Café that has cool 1940’s decorations, a little old man playing the piano at dinner time and a gramophone. The menu itself is fantastic from breakfast to dinner. Highly recommend visiting this sit down restaurant.

2. Drum Café

Drum Café is a great restaurant dishing up typical Hungarian food such as guylas and creamy chicken dishes, langos, garlic soup and much more.

3. Coffeehouses (kávéház)

There are many coffeehouses in Budapest that take on a somewhat Viennese style with their ornate walls and ceilings in a classically furnished setting. Visiting one of the coffee shops is a must on any traveler’s itinerary. The oldest coffee shop in the city, Ruszwurm has traditional feel in a dollhouse sized coffee shop on the Buda side of town. Any coffee shop in town is great to sit down, enjoy a coffee and a delicious cake.

4. Firkász / The Scribbler

If you want to experience the old style of Budapest head to Firkász, nestled in the backstreets of the 13th district. The menu itself is like a Hungarian grandmother; serving you meals that are heavy on duck, game, cabbage and none of those fitness salads that are all the rage. The name Firkász or The Scribbler is derived from the newspaper men that use to eat there back in the day.

5. Klassz

Klassz is a very high standard restaurant owned by the local wine society. Here you will experience great food but it really is all about the wine. You can try up to four dozen different wines to sip and compare. Food on the menu can change from time to time, but regular fixtures are the foie gras, native mangalica (a breed of pig) pork, veal stew and lamb and vegetable ragout.

Drinks

1. A38 Ship

Voted as the number bar venue by Lonely Planet a couple of years ago, the A38 Ship is a concert venue, cultural centre and restaurant located in an old Ukrainian cargo ship floating on the river Danube. The views from the ship are just beautiful. There are indoor and outdoor stages playing all sorts of genres from pop, rock, alternative, jazz, electro, and progressive styles.

2. Szimpla Kert (Simple Garden)

Szimpla Kert voted by Lonely Planet as the 3rd best bar in the world is a fantastic place to start your exploration of the trendy ruin bars that flood the city. Szimpla was Budapest’s first ruin pub and is a landmark bar in town for the locals and tourists. There is also an open-air cinema, regular film festivals and exhibitions, and flea markets held here on different occasions. The décor is something one can only understand once being inside, featuring bric-a-brac, graffiti and all sorts of random art installations.

3. Abszolút Pálinka

Abszolút is a bar in Budapest with a unique interior serving up the potent Hungarian brandy – palinka. The owners say the bar is like having an all year long palinka festival – dangerous! They say if you tried a different flavour every day, it would take you over a year to get back to the same one again.

4. Akvárium Klub

Located in Erzsebet Square and the adjacent Deak Square, the Akvarium Klub is a very popular spot for young people to meet up in town. People hang here night after night to chill out in the park at the simple bar / culture centre. There’s always a good concert or exhibition going on here to check out.

5. 360 Bar

360 Bar is situated on the roof top of the classy Paris Department Store on Andrassy Avenue. The bar is a great place to sit and chill out to low tempo tunes, enjoy some excellent wine whilst watching the sun set or looking at the sparkling city lights. There’s no dress code here so you can casually relax and enjoy a 360-degree view panorama of Budapest from the highest rooftop bar in the city.

Click the coloured pins to find out how to get here

Recommendations

Our guide told us the best place to get some real palinka. Woah!"

Greg, Australia