Here’s my guide to the best things to do, where to eat and where to stay with three days in Budapest, Hungary.
I was recently going through some of my Europe photos from last year and stumbled upon all the Christmas shots from Budapest. So, I thought it was definitely time to publish my guide – before the season ends and I have to wait another year 😉 From the best things to do to where I recommend you stay, here’s how I spent a winter’s long weekend in Budapest, Hungary.
THINGS TO DO IN BUDAPEST
HOP ON THE TRAM
I rode the tram when I first arrived in Budapest as a matter of convenience. But the number two tram route is said to be one of the most scenic in Europe. It’s a cheap way to see many of the city’s sights if you’re short on time as well.
SEE CENTRAL MARKET HALL
After I arrived in Budapest, I went looking for something to eat and somehow ran into one of my hostel dorm mates from Prague. Honestly what are the chances when we were staying at different Budapest hostels? Anyway, I ended up walking with her to Central Market Hall (also known as Great Market Hall). To be honest, I found it to be a little underwhelming. There weren’t a lot of great food options and the souvenir stalls were quite generic. But I would visit the market if you’re looking for cheap produce.
DO A FREE WALKING TOUR
These free walking tours were the busiest I saw in Europe (even beating Dublin). There were several groups following the same route, even in winter. The tour is very comprehensive, as you check out both the Buda and Pest sides of the city. At the end of the tour, don’t miss enjoying a piece of cake or strudel from Ruszwurm while in the neighbourhood. You finish at Matthias Church and Fisherman’s Bastion, which has become an Instagram famous location.
SEE ALL THE BUDAPEST ATTRACTIONS
If you don’t do the free walking tour, the Budapest attractions you have to visit include the Chain Bridge, Buda Castle, St Stephen’s Basilica and Matthias Church.
PHOTOGRAPH THE CITY AT NIGHT
I’m not usually one to walk around at night alone, but the sun set so early that there were plenty of people wandering around these Budapest attractions when I took night photos at 6pm! I highly recommend checking out the Chain Bridge and St Stephen’s Basilica at night. From the Chain Bridge you can capture Buda Castle glowing across the Danube.
WARM UP IN A STYLISH CAFE
When you need to warm up in Budapest, visit either Cafe Gerbeaud (one of Europe’s most traditional coffeehouses) or New York Cafe. The latter is known as one of the world’s most beautiful cafes, due to its opulent interior. It’s one of those grand European premises that has to be seen to be believed.
VISIT THE CHRISTMAS FAIR AT VOROSMARTY SQUARE
Let’s be honest: I don’t have a lot of food recommendations for Budapest because I ate a lot of meals at this wonderful Christmas Fair. There were stalls selling handmade Christmas presents and so much good food. I may have sampled some pizza, a chimney cake for breakfast one morning (breakfast of champions I say), and Langos for one or two dinners. Langos is a fried flatbread covered with garlic, cheese and sour cream. I held off on the sour cream but it was delicious 🤤.
SHOP ALONG VACI STREET
There are plenty of shops along this street, which is next to Vorosmarty Square. But I personally fell in love with Flying Tiger. Have you heard of this Danish store? It was my kind of place, filled with unique present ideas and cool Christmas accessories.
STROLL ANDRASSY AVENUE
If you are not on a budget in Budapest, Andrassy Avenue is known as the city’s Champs Elysees. I went for a long wander up the street to Heroes Square. Two key landmarks along the way are the House of Terrors and the Opera House.
VISIT VAJDAHUNYAD CASTLE
After visiting Heroes Square, you can continue walking towards the famous Szechenyi Thermal Baths. On the way, stop and have a walk around the Vajdahunyad Castle complex. This place was a welcome surprise.
SOAK IN A THERMAL BATH
A highly-recommended winter activity in Budapest, I felt a little uncomfortable visiting a bath while I was travelling solo. But there is a whole website dedicated to baths in Budapest.
HAVE LUNCH AT KARAVAN
Located in the Jewish Quarter, I loved Karavan. It made me feel like I could’ve been back in Melbourne, if it weren’t for the interesting food options like langos burgers. I had a serving of goulash in a bread bowl.
ENJOY A FREE URBAN ART TOUR
Oh yes, I did do two free walking tours in one weekend in Budapest. On this urban art tour, our guide took us for a walk through the Jewish Quarter, where he explained the stories behind some of the neighbourhood’s most interesting murals and artworks. He told us how the area was known as the ghetto during World War II and street art was illegal until a City Colour Project in 2008. Now there’s amazing pieces everywhere. He also pointed out some interesting ruin bars, including the infamous Szimpla Kert – also known as the world’s third best bar.
WALK PAST DOHANY STREET SYNAGOGUE
While in the Jewish Quarter, I recommend walking past Dohany Street Synagogue as well. The largest synagogue in Europe, it was built between 1854 and 1859. The Moorish Revival-style architecture is amazing. It’s also home to the city’s Jewish Museum.
ENJOY A BURGER AT MARKET BDPST
One other meal I didn’t eat at the Christmas Fair 😉 Market BDPST was located next to my hostel and had different food options inside, like Mexican and a burger bar. Although I love tacos, I decided on a burger and didn’t regret my decision.
WALK ALONG THE DANUBE
On a rainy afternoon I went for a walk along the Danube – from the Chain Bridge to the Parliament Building. The Shoes on the Danube memorial is along the way.
ON MY BUDAPEST BUCKET LIST
These are the places I didn’t get to check out in Budapest – due to weather or the fact I ate practically every meal at the Christmas Fair 😳
VISIT LISZT FERENC SQUARE
Apparently I completely missed this street as I strolled down Andrassy Avenue, but I have read good things about the food at Menza and Kiado.
CHECK OUT THE VIEW
I wish the weather had cooperated a little bit more in Budapest, because I heard the view from Gellert Hill was worth the hike. You can also ascend the Basilica for a different viewpoint.
MORE BUDAPEST FOOD RECOMMENDATIONS
Look, I did my research before I visited Budapest. Here are MORE restaurant recommendations for Budapest. Pest-Buda Bistro is located near the castle and is one of Hungary’s oldest restaurants. They serve “Grandma’s home-style Hungarian” food. If you’re not craving Hungarian, check out the French cuisine at the award-winning Comme Chez Soi or Töltő and its inventive hot dogs, Finally, The Donut Library has coffee, donuts and books. What more could you want? I also really need to return to Budapest just to eat, no? 🤤
DRINK ALONG NAGYMEZO STREET
If you’re looking for cheap bars in Budapest, my sources say to visit Nagymezo Street.
WHERE TO STAY IN BUDAPEST
I stayed at another Wombats Hostel in Budapest (the same hostel franchise I stayed at and recommend in both Vienna and London). Its common area wasn’t as inviting as in other Wombat hostels, but it did have a bar, cheap onsite laundry and a reasonably-priced breakfast. I stayed in a 5-bed female dorm and got lucky when the one single bed was available when I arrived.
HOW TO GET TO AND AROUND BUDAPEST
I got the FlixBus from Vienna to Budapest. In Budapest, I used the tram once and then the metro once. I found the metro a little confusing as there weren’t a lot of English signs, but there are staff around to point you in the right direction.
For fellow solo travellers, I did walk around the city centre alone at night, but there were so many people around due to the Christmas Fair that I didn’t feel uneasy at all.
I hope this post helps you plan a visit to Budapest. Don’t let the cold deter you, as the winter weather equals magical Christmas markets.
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