Being one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, Budapest is usually placed in the top most visited destinations every year.
With a population of almost 2 million inhabitants, the city is divided into Buda, the historical part, and Pest by the Danube River.
With humid continental climate, it seems to only have two strong seasons with below cero cold winters with frequent snowfall and boiling hot summers, when the outdoor pools and baths are very convenient.
Known as the place to go for natural thermal springs, Budapest, also called the “City of Baths”, is rich in thermal waters with healing qualities.
The biggest perk of being located in middle Europe, is the possibility to travel to the neighbor countries which are only a couple hours away by car or train.
Having lived in this city and based on my own experience, I would say you could visit the Hungarian capital in a weekend using the following plan as a guide:
BASIC THINGS TO KNOW
- Currency: The country’s official currency is called forint (HUF). Considering its location, it is a much more affordable country than those others in western Europe.
- Festivals & Events: http://en.budapestinfo.hu/festivals
- Public Transport: Public transport in Budapest is very well connected, fast & cheap based on 4 metro lines, 32 tram lines (main ones * nº 4, 6 and 2), 268 buses, 15 trolley buses & trains. (As well as boats, a funicular and chain lift). Daytime services are available between 4:30 am and 11:30 pm, while at night you can get around with night buses, or Tram No. 6.
There are several taxi companies in the city, but make sure you choose a “Licensed Budapest Taxi” which are yellow and the standard fare is HUF 280 per kilometre
- Important Phone Numbers:
Hungarian prefix: +36
Ambulance service: 104
Fire brigade: 105
General emergency line: 112
- Arrive at Liszt Ferenc International Airport (BUD) Terminal 2 (Terminal 1 is closed down).
There are a few ways you can choose to get to the city center:
-Taxi (20 mins, HUF 5900 – 6500)
-Train to Nyugati Station (20-25 min, HUF 400)
-Bus 200E to Kőbánya-Kispest Metro Station (30 mins, HUF 350), or bus 900 for late night services.
- Andrássy útca: Main boulevard in the city center where you can find luxury boutiques, theatres and some of its finest restaurants. It runs between Erzsébet tér and Városliget.
- Opera House: Must stop as it not only offers a wide repertoire with musicals, opera and ballet shows in their programme throughout the year, but the building itself is worth a visit with a guided tour.
Location: Andrássy út. 22
- Saint Stephen´s Basilic: The cathedral hosts concerts and is the place to go if you want to see the Holy Right Hand of King St. Stephen.
- Sziget Eye: New 65 meters tall Ferris wheel located in Erzsébet tér from where you can enjoy some amazing views of the city during the 10 minute ride.
Opening hours: Mon, Tues, Wed, Thurs: 10.00 – 24.00 & Fri, Sat: 10.00 – 2.00
Tickets: Adults HUF 2400 // Kids HUF 1500
- Synagogue: Being one of the biggest and most beautiful synagogues in the world it is considered a must stop, not only for religious people.
Location: Dohány útca
- Váci útca: Main pedestrian shopping street full of stores and restaurants along the beautiful buildings. It ends in Vörösmarty tér.
Opening hours (shops – they may vary): Mon – Fri: 10.00 – 18.00 & Saturdays: 10.00 – 13.00
- Central Market Hall: Besides its beautiful architecture, the market is the perfect place to find Hungarian souvenirs such as paprika or salami and even textiles, which makes it a must visit.
- National Museum: Founded in 1802, holds collections of the history, art and archeology of Hungary.
Location: Múzeum krt.
- Bálna: Commercial, cultural, entertainment and leisure centre opened in 2013. Apart from shops and restaurants, it holds the New Budapest Gallery with modern art exhibitions.
- Margitsziget: Island in the Danube river with numerous parks, fountains, historical ruins, swimming pools, running tracks, a mini zoo with pony riding areas, as well as hotels and restaurants. It is the place to go for open air shows and concerts. Definitely worth a visit.
- Parliament: One of the most emblematic buildings of Budapest’s landscape. Offers organized tours for visitors.
Website (tickets): http://www.jegymester.hu/eng/Production/480000/Parliament-visit
- Chain bridge: Most known bridge out of the 5 that cross the Danube river in Budapest.
- Castle Hill: You can take the funicular at the end of Chain Bridge, bus no. 16 (Várbusz) from Széll Kálmán tér or take the steps up to the hill. From the Castle District the views are some of the best of the city. Here you can visit the Fishermen’s Bastion and Matthias Church.
Website (funicular): http://www.bkv.hu/en/en/buda_castle_funicular_
- Labyrinth: Being one of the Seven Underground Wonders of the World it is a much recommended visit. It offers daytime and nighttime tours with lanterns.
- Gellért Hill: Good place for hiking if you want to capture the best panoramic view of Budapest. Here you can see: Citadella, a fortress at the top of the hill behind the Statue of Liberty, Saint Ivan’s Cave Church and the Gellért Thermal Baths.
Website (thermal baths): http://www.gellertbath.hu/
- Danube boat cruise: You can end the day having dinner on an evening river cruise with live music. There are also daytime cruises and guided tours.
- Hősök square: Emblematic plaza with Corinthian columns and the statue of Archangel Gabriel. It is located at the end of Andrássy street.
- Museums: On both sides of the square you can find:
Museum of Fine Arts (Currently closed for renovation until the spring of 2018) http://www.szepmuveszeti.hu/main
Hall of Art. http://www.mucsarnok.hu/new_site/index.php?lang=en
- Városliget: Right behind Hősök square you can find this popular Budapest park where you can visit:
Vajdahunyad Castle: Constructed in 1896, showcases the architectural evolution throughout the centuries in Hungary. The castle hosts festivals, concerts and the exhibitions of the Hungarian Agricultural Museum. Offers guided tours and the towers are now opened for visits.
Zoo and Botanical Garden: http://www.zoobudapest.com/en
Amusement park: http://www.zoobudapest.com/en/holnemvolt-park
Szechenyi Bath: With outdoor and indoor pools, saunas, steam baths and several treatments and physical therapies, it is worth a visit as it would make a relaxing day in the snowy winter or a fun way to beat the summer heat.
City Lake: Boats can be rented during the summertime, but in winter the lake is converted as an outdoor ice-skating rink. (Műjégpálya)
-Opening Hours: 9.00 – 13.00 / 17.00 – 21.00
-Tickets: HUF 1000 Mondays & Tuesdays; HUF 1500 Wednesdays, Thursdays and Friday mornings and HUF 2000 Friday afternoons, Saturdays and Sundays.
- SZIMPLA KERT: Famous ruin pub which has become a must stop in Budapest. Recommended for an alternative vibe night out.
Location: Kazinczy Street, 14.