We consider Budapest as one of the most ideal destinations for a city trip. Our first visit was over ten years ago and we have been Budapest fans ever since.
Budapest is an ever changing extremely vibrant and young city. We find new hipster cafes every time we visit and this is one of the things we love most about Budapest: that despite the many historic and magnificent sights, there is always something new to discover.
In this travel guide, we will share with you our tips for sightseeing in Budapest. Discover the best things to do and see in Budapest.
1. Budapest Travel Guide: Top things to do & see
As far as typical touristic sights are concerned, we would be considered minimalistic in that sense because we don’t feel the need to see all the hotspots. Instead, we prefer to enjoy our time and avoid the stress that comes with the city hustle-bustle.
The following list of attractions therefore, is a selection of what we consider worthwhile visiting. Unfortunately, the Margaret Island was closed during our visit due to a flood, therefore it has not been included in this list.
The Baroque Castle District
Roughly speaking, Budapest is divided into two parts: Buda and Pest. (Hence the name Budapest.) We suggest you to start with the main highlights of the city: the Castle District up on the Castle Hill in the Buda district. Here you will find the main attractions such as the Fisherman’s Bastion and the Castle Palace. You will also have a wonderful view of the city from high above.
To get to the Castle District, you can either go up with the (expensive) funicular rail – the price for a single trip is 1,200 Forints (just under 4 Euros), or you can simply walk. There are many different footpaths, which lead up to the Castle Hill.
Our Secret Tip: Budavari Retesvar
If you get hungry during your visit, you should avoid restaurants up on the Castle Hill. Most of them are classic tourist restaurants and simply overpriced. But we have a good tip for you: In the tiny bakery called Budavari Retesvar, near the Fisherman’s Bastion, you will find the most wonderful strudel variations in Budapest. We came back several times to try out all the flavours: curd cheese, apple, poppy seed and cherry strudel, as well as other freshly made delicacies. The bakery is located in a small street opposite the meadow of the Fisherman’s Bastion.
The Landmark of Budapest: The Chain Bridge
The Chain Bridge crosses the Danube and connects the two districts of Buda and Pest. It’s a really nice walk over the Chain Bridge and we combined this with a visit to the Castle District.
St. Stephen’s Basilica
The St. Stephen’s Basilica is located north of the Old Town and is easily accessible by foot. The church itself is beautiful but what we really came for was the view. From the dome, you have a 360-degree view over the city and you can reach the dome after a short climb. In total, there are only about 350 steps to conquer and the entrance fee for the dome costs about 4 Euros.
Váci utca Promenade
On the other side of the chain bridge is the Pest district. Here you will find the Old Town of Budapest as well as the city’s most famous shopping street. Along the Váci utca, you will find your typical fashion brands such as H & M and Zara. It’s certainly nice to stroll down the streets here with an ice cream in your hand.
Our tip: We recommend you to stay away from restaurants in this area (especially right on the Váci utca), as these are very overpriced for the most part. Nearby, you will find the Café Kuglóf, which we also visited – it’s one of those super nice cafes you wouldn’t expect to find in such a touristy area. They serve delicious coffees and also very good pies and cakes. In the small outdoor terrace, you can recharge your batteries and do some people watching.
Budapest Culinary: The Great Market Hall
Imagine a very large and very photogenic Hall with market stands aligned one after the other. You will find a variety of produce and items on offer such as fruits, vegetables, meat, sausages, and of course your typical souvenirs. Although you can spot quite a few tourists here, the typical “local” market feeling is still predominantly there.
For example, you can combine the Market Hall with a visit to Váci utca. The Market is located at the southeast end of this well known street.
High above Budapest: The Citadel on the Gellért Hill
You have one of the best views of Budapest from the Citadel, located up on Gellért Hill. To get there, you can either take the Bus 27 or the car, like we did. From the parking lot it’s just a short walk to the Citadel.
Alternatively, it is also possible to walk from the Castle or Fisherman’s Bastion to the Citadel – you pass through some beautiful gardens and there are several pathways, but it should take you between 40-50mins to the top of Citadel from there.
The alternative District of Budapest: Elizabethtown
In the 7th district of Budapest, you will find an incredible amount of old and some very run-down houses to see. At the same time, there is also a young scene developing here, so you can stroll around and browse the various chic second-hand shops and enjoy a nice meal in one of the many restaurants.
As a starting point, we recommend the Kazinczy utca. This lane is also home to the well-known and very trendy bar – Szimpla Kert (which you absolutely cannot leave out). From there, just wander around the small quaint streets and let Budapest work its charm on you.
2. The most beautiful Lookout Points in Budapest
It goes without saying that we are always looking for the most beautiful views over the city and Budapest is one of those places that offers amazing panoramic views. One of the most beautiful lookout points in Budapest is the Gellért Hill, near the Citadelle. From here, you have a magnificent overview of the entire city.
Our secret tip: The 360 Bar. It is located on the roof terrace of a building near the Oktogon Metró station. This place is perfect to enjoy a Sundowner while overlooking Budapest.
You can find our more detailed article with all the best viewpoints here: The Most Beautiful Viewpoints in Budapest
3. Cafés and Restaurants in Budapest: Our Tips
There is a fantastic cafe culture in Budapest, with a nice mix of both timeless historic coffee houses as well as young hipster cafes. We also happened to have found the best Flat White for coffee lovers at: Espresso Embassy.
In addition, there are many nice restaurants in Budapest, most of which are very affordable. One of our favourites is the lovely Dobrumba which serves Israeli food. Comes highly recommended by us!
4. Accommodation in Budapest: Our Hotel Recommendations
Rum Hotel Budapest: Excellent & Affordable Boutique Hotel
The Rum Hotel Budapest is one of those hidden gems. We discovered it during our recent stay in 2017 and came back twice – super delighted with our choice. The rooms are very small, but stylish – the decor may be a little sterile for some, but we personally found the style to our liking.
The location is fantastic, as you are basically in the middle of the Old Town. One of the highlights was actually the restaurant of the hotel, which deserves a high praise. The breakfast was excellent, rarely do we come by such good breakfast coffee like that. The hotel also has a really cool rooftop bar. All in all: can highly recommend!
You can view and book the hotel here: Rum Hotel Budapest
Kempinski Hotel Corvinus: Luxury Hotel in the City Centre
If you want to splash out a little more for a really nice hotel, then you are in good hands here at the luxurious Kempinski Hotel Corvinus. The location could not be any more optimal and this is one of the most comfortable hotels we have ever stayed in. In all seriousness, we cannot recall the last time we slept so well in a hotel bed – and we have very high standards.
The breakfast is incredibly delicious and offers an excellent selection – those who are used to the Kempinski Hotels would agree. Our favourite was definitely the Muesli Corner – if you haven’t figured out by now, we are huge Muesli lovers.
You can view and book the hotel here: Kempinski Hotel Corvinus
5. More Travel Tips for Budapest
Getting to Budapest
Since we are based in Vienna, which is not that far away, we almost always travel by car to Budapest – the journey takes about 2.5 to 3 hours. However, there are road tolls in Hungary, so you will need to purchase an electronic vignette (Road Toll Pass) in order to drive in the country. You can easily buy these at the border and there are different categories depending on how long you will stay. For example: the 10 day e-Vignette (Road Toll Pass) costs about 11 Euros.
Alternatively, you can also get there by train or bus. The main train station (“Budapest Keleti Pályaudvar”) and the bus station (“Budapest Népliget”) are located just outside the city centre, but both are directly connected to the metro network.
For those coming from much further away, it may be more practical to travel by plane. From the airport, you need about 45 minutes to reach the city. First you take bus number 200E to the metro station Kobanya-Kispest. From there you can take the metro directly into the city. An airport-to-city transfer ticket costs around 530 Forints (1,70 Euros).
Travel Guide for Budapest
For our last trip to Budapest, we used the Lonely Planet Pocket Budapest Travel Guide, which was published in 2019 and we were very satisfied with that. This particular guide is a great pick if you want to get an overview of the main neighbourhoods and attractions in Budapest.
In terms of Apps, we currently use CityMaps2Go on almost every trip because it’s so easy to mark and save restaurants and sights. Would definitely recommend!
More blog articles for Budapest
Transparency: Affiliate Links & Invitation
This blog article contains our personal recommendations in the form of so-called affiliate links. If you book or buy something through these links, we will get a small commission. For you, this does not change the price at all. A million thanks from both of us! We were invited by the Kempinski Hotel Corvinus for two nights during our stay in May 2016. However, our review of the hotel will always be our own honest and unbiased opinion.
Have you ever been to the Hungarian capital of Budapest? We would love to hear your personal tips for this city, so feel free to write your suggestions in the comments below – we look forward to reading them.