Join us as we explore the fascinating city of Budapest, Hungary
This post on Budapest is a quick capture of our travels as they occur. Though we often post on social media during our adventures, many have requested that we do so on the blog. The focus will be the photography and our first impressions while experiencing the city. The photos in this post will be from our iPhones vs. our Nikon since we can process them quickly while traveling.
Let’s pay a visit to intriguing Budapest.
A bit about Budapest
Budapest is Hungary’s capital and the largest and most populous city, with nearly 1.8 million people. It is located in the heart of Central Europe. This city is the country’s political, cultural, commercial, industrial, and transportation center. The capital consists of 23 districts and is divided by the Danube River. On the right bank is the Buda side, and on the left is the Pest side. On the right bank of the river, the Buda Hills are situated, while on the left bank, the Pest Plains spread out. The Danube, Central Europe’s biggest river, traverses the capital city at 19 miles from north to south. Budapest is also called the Queen of the Danube.
The city has a rich history, unparalleled architectural and cultural heritage, UNESCO sites, and national treasures that draw 4.5 million tourists annually. Budapest also has over 220 museums, including the National Museum, which has valuable artifacts and treasures of Hungarian history, starting from archaeological findings from Ancient Rome.
Budapest is known for its medicinal baths and open-air pools that bring tourists worldwide. The area has had an established bath/spa culture since Roman times. From medieval bathhouses to Turkish baths built during the Turkish occupation, those historical periods are echoed in today’s baths of the capital. One of the most famous is the 150-year-old Lukacs Thermal Bath, which is said to treat joint problems and muscle stiffness. It offers thermal pools, swimming pools, wellness spas, saunas, and many other services to make guests feel their best.
The top things to visit in Budapest are:
Parliament Building is one of the most beautiful parliament structures in the world.
Buda Castle and District: at the top, you get gorgeous views of the city below.
Shoes on the Danube Bank: features the moving Holocaust memorial, 60 pairs of men’s, women’s, and children’s shoes made of steel.
Heroes Square: a group of stunning statues listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Great Market Hall: where locals go for their meat and produce every day.
St Stephens Basilica: an architecturally beautiful structure that graces the Danube River. The Square in front of the Basilica is a favorite spot in the summer with its terraces and fountains.
Margaret Island: the island that is the greenest part of Budapest. Very similar to Central Park in NYC.
A boat trip down the Danube: View this magnificent city from the water.
Spend an evening doing a pub crawl in the Budapest Ruins. Originating in the city’s Jewish Quarter, mostly abandoned after WWII, the district has become this diverse area for a broad range of unique ruin bars.
Take the metro out to Heroes Square and Vajdahunyard Castle at dusk.
Our Budapest Visit Details
Four nights in late August 2022
First four nights of a 14-day trip that included; Bratislava, Vienna, and Prague
It is our first visit to Prague
(Hilton Points plus $48)
How we got around
Walked 36 miles in three and half days (our feet are in feeling it) and lots of public transportation,
10 Tasting tour WithLocals, Hungarian Parliament
The weather in Budapest was full sun with average temps in the low 90s. It was humid at times too! Even the locals were miserable. This heat was unusual for Budapest, we were told. We drank a lot of water!
Our favorite moments and highlights in Budapest
We loved everything about Budapest. The vibe and energy here are hard to describe; it captures the imagination and pulls you in. A place we were sad to leave, even after five days.
The castle district was a great place to stay. Our hotel was in the perfect spot. To be next to St Mathius and the Fisherman Bastion was exceptional. What a fantastic way to start and end each day. It was luck because we had Hilton points to use, which is why we chose it. The castle district has many great restaurants, gardens, churches, and monuments, all in a beautiful setting. The castle grounds are spectacular. It is easy to get off Castle Hill as the buses come often.
Our private food tour with Nelli was a perfect way to start our visit. Not only did we get a wonderful introduction to Hungarian food and enjoy a local market, but she also educated us on Hungarian history. She offered many suggestions for restaurants, wine tasting, and visiting sites in Budapest. Check out her website Nellicious for more info.
We booked in advance a Parliament tour. The tour was stunning inside and gave us valuable insight into Hungarian history. The lines were long to get a tour the day of, so it saved us time to buy before arriving in Budapest.
The Ruin Bar Simplza Kert is a unique and cool destination in Pest. We visited during the day with Nelli and then returned on our own in the evening. All we could say was, WOW. We had heard it was touristy, but we didn’t get that feeling, maybe because it was a weeknight.
Wine tasting at Wine Not was a blast. Hungary has 22 wine regions, but their wine is rarely seen outside of Hungary. It deserves better marketing as it is excellent. We had a fun time exploring the wines of Hungary. The wine store was on the Pest side, and we found it utterly charming. Check out their website, Wine Not.
Loved, loved, loved the Great Hall Market on the Pest side. This is where the locals shop. Head downstairs for a less busy atmosphere. The produce on display is gorgeous.
Take a dip in a Turkish Bath. We did Lukacs Baths because it came free with our Budapest City Card. The water in the Budapest baths is reputed to be medicinal. When we went, it was packed with locals as this is an important piece of their culture.
There is a massive park on Margaret Island on the Danube between Pest and Buda. It feels a lot like Central Park in NY. It is bustling and lovely. There are also huge public pools. Lots of people were strolling, enjoying the great weather.
The Roman City of Aquincum is not far outside Budapest and is easy to reach by public transportation. Incredible Roman Ruins on a vast archeological site. So beautifully done! We loved our visit.
St Stephen’s Basilica, on the Pest side, is spectacular. Take the time to go to the top for gorgeous, expansive city views in all directions.
We did not do a Danube River cruise though they are popular. It didn’t seem necessary, but there were many choices along the river.
Walking along the Danube River on both the Pest and Buda sides.
The trip to Heroes Square is well worth it. Walk a bit farther and visit the marvelous Vajdahunyard Castle. We went at dusk and were blown away.
The Liberty Monument on the Buda side has expansive views. It is a bit of work to get up the hill, but breathtaking views await you.
Our special treat was being in Budapest for the delayed St Stephens Holiday. The fireworks celebrations are reputed to be the largest in Europe. We were able to watch this from our hotel on Castle Hill. It lived up to its reputation. Simply amazing!! Adore those unexpected events.
Observations and Commentary
The public transportation in Budapest is excellent. It is dead on time, frequent, and easy to use. Google Maps perfectly called it. They have trams, buses, trolleys, and a metro. It is on an honor system, with no ticket lines or kiosks.
We found food and site entries very reasonably priced. Budapest is an inexpensive city to visit as a whole.
The city is immaculate and well-maintained. It felt safe everywhere, even late at night.
The Hungarian people speak outstanding English. We had no communication issues despite not knowing a word of Hungarian. Even the most straightforward words are hard to say.
The locals are kind and gracious. At our hotel and at all restaurants, the staff is attentive and professional while giving you space. You never felt rushed.
Hungarian food is fantastic. Seek it out!
People do smoke a lot in Budapest. It was not allowed in restaurants or any place indoors.
The Budapest City Card was well worth the purchase. We purchased ours before arriving, and that was not necessary. Would not have chosen the card we bought. Wait until you get there.
The hotel concierge is a wealth of info. Tap them as a resource.
The Buda side is more quiet, upscale, and more residential. The Pest side is more lively and bustling.
Budapest is a young feeling city that is energetic and edgy. People were respectful and kind. The drivers seemed patient and easygoing. No one pushes or shoves to get on public transit.
The city seemed quiet almost, with no horns beeping, continuous sirens, or loud noises. It was surprising and very pleasant.
Where to stay when visiting Budapest
Our recommendation is to stay on Castle Hill as it is an ideal location to stay to visit the whole city. That said we don’t think there is a bad place to stay on the Pest or Buda side.
We believe it is important to price out properties on various sites. Expedia is a US-based company, whereas Booking.com is Europe based. Not all properties appear on both. If the establishment has a website, check the price there as well.
Thank you for joining us on our adventure through the city of Budapest. If you enjoyed the post, please leave a comment below.
© 2023 Wanderers Compass All Rights Reserved
Photo Gallery of our Budapest Adventure
Checkout our most recent blog posts
“To venture causes anxiety, but not to venture is to lose one’s self…. And…December 5, 2023
Want to learn about Wanderers Compass?
Our Top Recommended Travel Products and Resources
Our favorite travel insurance site!
If you book a trip, don’t forget to get travel insurance within 14 days of your first booking. We could not be stronger advocates of being well-insured. Not just for the little stuff but the big things like medical emergencies. We never leave home without it. Over the years, we have used many sites but have now found our go-to place. Squaremouth.com does a fantastic job; it has a user-friendly interface, uses top-rated and reputable insurance carriers, and most policies cover COVID-19 medical issues and cancellations. They also mediate on your behalf if you have problems with your policy.
To empower you as a consumer, we suggest you read our blog post on the importance of travel insurance and how to get the best coverage from top-rated companies for an affordable price.
Medical transport back home from anywhere in the world
They are the premier global air medical transport. One caveat to travel insurance is that medical evacuation usually gets you to the closest facility to care for you. Medjet gets you back to the U.S. to the hospital of your choice once you are stable enough to fly. They cover COVID-related transport as well.
Medjet carries its own policies. The policy is only for transport and no other aspects of travel insurance. They have individual trip policies starting at $99 and annual policies for around $300. Most of their policies limit the age to 74 and younger. Prices are not based on age below that.
To learn more about how Medical Evacuation membership with Medjet Assist works, check out our blog post for a more detailed review.
Hotels, home rentals, BNBs, flights, and other transportation & tours
Expedia is a US-based company whose mission is to power global travel for everyone and everywhere. Whether planning a family vacation, booking for business, or organizing the trip of a lifetime, they are a fantastic resource. Wanderers Compass focuses on independent travel, and using sites like Expedia makes that possible. Every aspect of travel you need, from airfare, accommodations, rental car, and cruises to activities to do at your destination, can be booked on Expedia.
Hotels, Home rentals, BNBs, Flights, and other Transportation & Tours
Booking.com connects millions of travelers to memorable experiences, various transportation options, and incredible places to stay – from homes to hotels and much more. It is one of the world’s largest travel marketplaces for established brands and entrepreneurs of all sizes.
We always check Expedia and Booking.com to verify prices. At times, one is sold out of rooms while another at the same place has rooms. As well we often find some European hotels, especially smaller ones, on Booking.com but not on Expedia. It could be they are a Europe-based company. Try both before booking accommodations.
Are you traveling with a family or having an extended stay at your destination?
With over 2 million bookable vacation rentals, VRBO connects homeowners with families and vacationers looking for something more than a hotel for their trip. The VRBO community offers families or groups various rental property types such as condos, cabins, lake rentals, beach houses, etc.
VRBO is under the Expedia group ownership now, which many were worried about, but it hasn’t panned out to be a concern. It is a massive network with access to all lodging forms should issues arise. Joelle has used VRBO for many years with her family with no problems.
As the leading marketplace for travel experiences, Viator believes that making memories is what travel is all about. And with 300,000+ experiences to explore—everything from simple tours to extreme adventures (and all the niche, interesting stuff in between)—making memories that will last a lifetime has never been easier.
With industry-leading flexibility and last-minute availability, it’s never too late to make any day extraordinary. This one site has it all and has experiences throughout the world. We use them often during our travels, especially for food tours. We especially take the time to read the reviews provided.
An excellent source for travel essentials and guides
We now have our own Amazon Storefront with all our favorite travel accessories and gear in one place. Check out our travel store at the link below.
Amazon is one of the most comprehensive online shopping sources in the world. On behalf of their customers, teams worldwide provide lower prices, better selection, and rapid delivery. They offer a vast inventory, and their 1.7 million small and medium businesses worldwide selling on Amazon.com offer extensive options to customers.
We buy most of our travel books, accessories, and luggage from Amazon. We have ordered up to two days before travel and get what we need.
(Airport and sightseeing service)
A global leader in ground transportation for travelers. They help hundreds of companies worldwide enhance their services and boost their revenue with our 5-star ride experiences and hassle-free automation.
Founded in 2015 in Athens, Greece, Welcome Pick-ups goes above and beyond the standard transfer service as the first company to deliver a holistic, in-destination travel experience. From the moment a traveler arrives at a new destination until they return home, Welcome accommodates all their travel needs (transfers, travel products, things to do, information) as the easiest, friendliest, and most personalized solution.
Do you feel like you are wasting time visiting an on-site photographer only to be embarrassed by the photo? Would you like control of the final product? Get the perfect VISA or passport photo online with PhotoAID.
When traveling, you often need to apply for official documents such as a passport, ID, and different kinds of licenses or cards. Those applications require a picture that must meet specific conditions to be accepted, depending on the country. Now, it is possible to take this picture at home without the help of a professional photographer. PhotoAiD allows you to take the perfect biometric photo that will be approved by you without leaving your home.
This article contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you!