Budapest is an amazing city and I would definitely recommend a trip there. My friends and I were there technically for 5 days and 6 nights but with travelling we only really had 4 proper days to do activities. I didn’t really have many expectations about Budapest so I think that contributed to how much I enjoyed it. The city is absolutely gorgeous and really chilled. The weather was glorious for us, sitting at around 20-24°C every day, which surprised us in mid October. Because there wasn’t really particular things that we reaaaally wanted to see it made the planning process quite interesting – we all did a bunch of research and then tried to align which things could be in which day based on the location of them – I think we did a good job of having varied activities, being all over the city and also we pretty much explored everything by ourselves – we only went on an actual tour with a guide once!
We stayed in a really great Airbnb in the Jewish Quarter of Budapest which is super close to everything actually, including the super cool Szimpla Kert and Street Food Karavan which I’ll talk about later on. If you’re planning on going to Budapest I would absolutely recommend checking out Marionn and Gabor’s apartment here.
Day 1: Great Market Hall, Gellert Spa, Danube River Cruise
We kicked off the first day with a bit of exploring! First stop was the Great Market Hall which is full of all sorts of stalls. We picked up some souvenirs for our family, checked out the stalls and got some gorgeous sweet langos for breakfast. After the market we had a wander along the riverside and walked across the bridge to get the views of Pest. We spent the afternoon in the gorgoeus Gellert Spa thermal baths which was really chill and lovely – they have a few different indoor pools and also an outdoor one. My absolute fave was the 40°C pool! After our fingers getting thoroughly pruney we left the spa, got changed and had dinner before getting on a Danube river cruise by night. Honestly this is the one thing we did that was a disappointment. It was a two hour boat ride and because it was a dinner cruise there was no sort of tour guide or explanation of what we were looking at. We weren’t having dinner on the boat so were kind of trapped inside in the bar area and had to walk a fair bit to actually get on and outside deck so we could actually see. The one saving grace was seeing the gorgeous Parliament building all lit up at night – absolutely gorgeous. After we escaped the boat we went for some drinks and chilled out!
Day 2: Invisible Exhibition, City Park, Vajdahunyad Castle, House of Terror, Szimpla Kert, Street Food Karavan
Day 2 started off with something a bit different, we got on the Metro and went a bit out of the way to do the Lathatatlan Invisible Exhibition which is basically a guided experience where you discover different situations in a pitch black room and learn a lot about what it would be like to be blind. Our guide was great and full of humour, I’ll never not laugh when I think about some of the things that happened as we fumbled around in the dark! Definitely a unique and unforgettable experience where I learned a lot and gained a lot of perspective.
We then went to hang out in City Park and had a look at Vajdahunyad Castle and Heroes Square which was very pretty and a fun walk. We happened to be there whilst a Chimney Cake festival was on so there was loads of activity, stalls and entertainment in the park.
In the afternoon we visited the House of Terror which is a museum dedicated to the Nazi and Soviet occupations of Hungary. It was really interesting and we learned a lot, never having paid attention to how Hungary had been affected by the war. It was crazy to learn that the Soviet occupation of Hungary literally only ended in 1991.
In the evening we went to the famous ruin bar the Szimpla Kert – it’s such a cool space with loads of different bars and random things all over the place. As it was the weekend it was pretty busy but we found a seat and had a drink in the good vibes. Pretty much next door there is also the Street Food Karavan which is a wee park filled with street food vans. We took that opportunity to try all sorts of different things so we picked up a traditional cheese and sour cream langos, a hungarian sausage, goulash and some nachos and shared them all along with some cocktails. For dessert we had a good ol’ chimney cake. Strong day.
Day 3: St Stephen’s Basilica, Buda Castle, Labyrinth, Fisherman’s Bastion
Now that we had passed the weekend we thought it would be safer to visit the castles with less crowds. On our way down to the river we popped into St Stephen’s Basilica which is an absolutely gorgeous church building. We had planned to take the funicular train up the hill but actually it was closed for maintenance the week we were there so we ended up hopping on a shuttle bus service instead. It was a roasting day by the way! Our first stop was Buda Castle which is home to a couple of museums but we weren’t too fussed about them and just wandered the grounds enjoying the castle and the view from the top of the hill. Afterwards we went to visit the labyrinth of tunnels underneath the castle. This was actually quite creepy but in a cool way. There was a pitch black maze of tunnels to go through and in the scary process of that we lost Kaylin – after Hannah and I emerged we spent the rest of the time hunting the labyrinth trying to find her (which we didn’t actually do til we got out). When we did escape we went and grabbed a drink in the sunshine with a great view of the city and if that chill time wasn’t enough we also stopped for some cake at the Ruszwurm Confectionery before heading to Fisherman’s Bastion. This is the most beautiful place, it looks like a fairytale castle – there were also some great views and different things you could do. Hannah and Kaylin were particularly buzzing because there was a violinist playing Game of Thrones music. We didn’t go at a meal time but having dinner in the restaurant at the top of the tower would be absolutely amazing!
Day 4: Parliament tour, Museum of Sweets and Selfies, Szechenyi Baths
This day had a lot of activities that were quite spread out so we decided to get around using the Lime electric scooters – these are so much fun and a much faster way to scoot around but as you need two hands you can’t really check your map so we used it for journeys that were familiar or quite straightforward. Be sure to check that where you’re going isn’t in a no-park zone because that caused some drama for us outside the parliament – eek! Nevertheless we did a tour of the parliament building which was actually really great. It only lasts around 45 minutes so always exciting and there’s no time to get bored. The parliament building is absolutely gorgeous and our tour guide was very funny. Shout out to the soliders guarding the crown with their massive swords. There was also a couple of exhibitions in the parliament that explained the building, what happened when the country was occupied and how the legislation was set up – an interesting morning.
After a pause for Greek lunch and doughnuts we got back on the move and went to the Museum of Sweets and Selfies. This is the single most milennial thing I have ever done. That being said, it was a lot of fun! There is a series of sets and props you can use to take cool, colourful pictures. There’s nothing else to tell you really, but the photos to explain!
Reunited with our Lime scooters we had the satisfying drive going all the way up Andrassy Avenue in the bike lane to get back to City Park where we visited the Szechenyi Baths. It was a roasting hot day so we were buzzing to get into the water and chill out in the sunshine. Szechenyi is the most famous thermal bath in Budapest and so it is really popular – the place is bloody beautiful and with clear blue skies overhead it felt like heaven. They have 3 outdoor pools and 18 inside as well as saunas and steam rooms. We explored all the options but the indoor pools smelled a bit like feet and it was sunny outside so we chilled there til the sun went down – bliss.
Food & Drink
There was so many great places we went for food and drink. We tried our absolute best to try all the traditional hungarian dishes too so we have langos, goulash, unicum, palinka, hungarian noodles, dobos cake, chimney cake and basically anything else with paprika in it. Some were delicious, some were regretful (unicum) but at least we tried it! Below I’ll tell you about some of my favourite food & drink places we went:
Street Food Karavan & Szimpla Kert – we were so fortunate to be right beside these two gems so we could dip in and out. The Szimpla Kert is famous for a reason and it is just so cool, good vibes, a unique setting and bars – what more could you want? Street Food Karavan is exactly my kind of thing too – I love being able to try all sorts of different foods and you could go back countless times and still be happy with something new. Would definitely recommend. My fave food here was the goulash!
Gozsdu-udvar – This is another really cool spot that was close by to us, it’s basically an alley lined with different restaurants and bars. So much choice and definitely a great place to explore. Our particular favourite was the Jardin Bar where we got some incredible cocktails – they were beautiful and came in novelty cups but also tasted really great! One of my drinks was in a wheelie bin and the other was in a panda – winning, right?
Ruszwurm Confectionery – when we were up beside Fisherman’s Bastion we got gorgeous cake at this wee gem – the waiters were lovely, we sat outside in the sun, they have a huge menu full of cake slices, strudel and much more sweet goodness. I had a traditional Hungarian Dobos Cake which is sponge, chocolate buttercream and caramel but we all tried a bit of each other’s cake.
Mr Funk Doughnut – another but of gorgeous sweetness was provided by Mr Funk – I had a delicious salted caramel doughnut, Kaylin’s looked like a unicorn and Hannah has a lovely pistachio one – all super cute and tasted great.
New York Café – probably the boujiest place we went and the boujiest place you could go – it’s a café restaurant that looks like a castle or a theatre or something – very lavish but not so fancy you feel like you shouldn’t belong. We had breakfast here and it was nice but it is a lil on the expensive side.
Rumpus Tiki Bar – this was such a great place – it was a busy Saturday night so we were glad we booked a table but this tiki bar has a huge cocktail menu with loads of fun things to enjoy and delivered in awesome tiki cups with smoke and all sorts. It was here that we tried the dreaded unicum but luckily I had a couple of tasty cocktails to wash it down. Would definitely recommend a visit.
If you’re planning on going to Budapest sometime then take a look at the map below where I’ve marked out the places we visited as well as some bonus restaurants we came across when we were researching but didn’t have time to visit.