|Glorious interior of The Great Synangogue|
Budapest is an absolute gem. If you need proof, the city itself along with specific places in it - Andrássy Avenue, Castle Hill, and the Danube River - are all on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. It is easily one of my favorite cities in Eastern Europe and is reminiscint of what Prague was when it first hit the travel scene: slightly off the radar, achingly beautiful, and very inexpensive.
WHAT TO SEE
BUDA SIDE: Head up to to Castle Hill via the Chain Bridge/Széchenyi lánchíd (best enjoyed early to have it to yourself or late to see it lit up) and see Mattias Church from the outside (amazing roof), Fisherman’s Bastion (great views of Pest and the Danube), Magdalene Tower (remains of a church that was bombed during WWII), Royal Wine Cellars (Hungarian wine tasting…try the Tokaj which is similar to Moscato), and stroll around the Royal Palace. If you have time, check out the Liberty Statue and Citadel on Gellert Hill. Sink into the palatial indoor pool at Gellert Baths.
|View of the Royal Palace from Pest|
|The beautiful rooftop of Mattias Church|
|Communist statues and monuments at Memento Park|
|View of Parliament and the Danube from Buda|
|Exterior of The Great Synangoge|
|Auditorium of the Hungarian State Opera House|
|Mandatory shoe covers for the guided tour of the Hungarian State Opera House|
|Striking exterior of the House of Terror|
|Heroes' Square: stoic by day and breathtaking by night|
|Outdoor pool at Szechenyi Baths|
WHERE TO EAT
After scouring food blogs, news articles, and travel books, these were the restaurants that made the final cut on my trip to Budapest.
ONYX RESTAURANT: One of two Michelin star restaurants in Budapest (Costes is the other one). It's much cheaper than what you would pay for a star anywhere else. You will see all the usual suspects here - foam, technical skill, unusual ingredient pairings. Go with the Hungarian Evolution tasting menu (21,900 HUF/95 USD for a 6 course meal + cheese plate in 2012). The bread was killer.
Address: Vörösmarty tér 7-8, Budapest
|Carb heaven at Onyx. Try them all!|
MENZA: This place came highly recommended, but it was hit or miss. My food was good, but B's food was...meh. Be smart about what you order by observing what others are eating. The restaurant was filled with locals and that's always a good sign.
Opening Hours: Daily 10am-12am
Address: Liszt Ferenc tér 2, Budapest
GUNDEL RESTAURANT: A solid choice for brunch. Recommended by every travel guide and blog. It's right by Heroes Square and Szechenyi Baths. The food display was a feast for the eyes. Service was great too. A bit expensive by Budapest standards (6,400 HUF or 28 USD), but it gets bonus points for the killer dessert spread. Opening Hours: Sunday brunch 11:30am-3pm and 6:30pm-11pm. Monday to Saturday 12pm-4pm and 6:30pm-11pm.
Address: Szentháromság St 7, Budapest
GREAT MARKET HALL: Come here for real (and cheap) Hungarian food. The food court is on the top level to the right. Paprika was sprinkled on everything. If you find a booth that serves a long log of stuffed cabbage - buy it immediately. It was delicious. I had my heart set on trying the famous street food, lángos, but it didn't live up to my expectations (it's fried! with sugar! how can it not be good?!). I tried the sweet version though so maybe savory is the way to go? This is also a great place for souvenirs.Opening hours: Tuesday to Friday 6am-6pm. Monday 6am to 5pm. Saturday 6am-3pm. Closed on Sunday.
Address: Vámház körút 1-3, Budapest
|Beef goulasch, stuffed cabbage, and langos from Great Market Hall|
Opening hours: Daily 9am-10pm
Address: Vaci Ucta 31, Budapest
|Fresh Kürtőskalács! Yum.|
Hours: Daily 9am-9pm
Address: Vörösmarty tér 7-9, Budapest
PRACTICAL INFORMATION AND TIPS
HOW TO GET TO THE CITY: Public transportation from the airport to the city is complicated. Your best best is either pre-booking your airport transfer (usually a minibus/van) with the airline you’re flying (we flew Wizz Air and were able to arrange it through them) or pay for a legal taxi (Főtaxi is the official airport taxi company). With the taxi option, queue at the official taxi stand, get a quote, and pay when you get to your destination. It should cost between 22-28 euros. Whatever you do, don't just hop into a random (and unregulated) taxi.
WALK AROUND: One of the highlights of the city is the city itself. Take your time and enjoy the small streets, facades, and colorful rooftops. Chat up some locals, make some new friends.
VALIDATE YOUR TICKETS: If you take public transportation, make sure you validate your tickets once on the actual bus/train/tram or prepare to pay a fine (if caught).
SZECHENYI VS. GELLERT: If you only have time for one bath, I recommend Szechenyi (where you can see half naked Hungarian men playing chess in the outdoor pools). All the pools are co-ed.
BATH HOUSE ESSENTIALS: Bathing suit, flip flops, towel, change of clothes (or at least clean underwear), and toiletries. If you've been to a public bath house anywhere else in the world, the etiquette is pretty much the same. If you haven't, here's a quick rundown of how it works.
Pay for entry. Head to the female or male changing room. Find your locker. Put on bathing suit. Shower with shampoo and soap (your body needs to be clean before entering the shared public pools). Wander around (to the pools/sauna/steam room/massage area/etc...the order here is not important). Shower again (or at least rinse off all the minerals) before leaving. Return key.
BASIC HUNGARIAN: Hello=Szervusz (SER-voos). Please=Kérem (KEY-rem). Thank you=Köszönöm (KØ-sø-nøm). Yes=Igen (EE-gen). No=Nem (nem). Goodbye=Viszontlátásra (VEE-sont-la-tash-rå). Do you speak English=Beszél angolul (BE-seyl ÅN-go-loul).
I don't understand=Nem értem (nem EYR-tem).