I recently became an ambassador of Budapest, and thought that along the individual recommendations I give, I should be able to point to a couple of notes. So here it goes.
Buda hills: Gellért Hill & Castle
Start your day with a nice walk from Gellért Square up to the Gellért Hill to the Liberty Statue and Citadel. Especially, if you’re along your new romantic interest. Speaking from experience, it’s lovely to just stroll in the park and have a peak of the city from each station, good way to have a conversation, so you’ll get to know each other. It’s got some lovely angles of the city.
Walking down the hill to Erzsébet Bridge, you’ll face Rudas Thermal Bath, that should be nice if you’re up for that. They also have single-gender-only days.
Make sure you get off at Szentháromság Square, from where you’ll have a lovely view, the Matthias Church, the Fisherman’s Bastion and Jamie’s Buda Restaurant. Jamie’s is quite new in the city, not the cheapest and not the nicest of the restaurants but still a good spot. You never know who you run into there, while having lunch with your boyfriend. (Hint: your HR director 🙂)
Don’t go into the Church, you won’t have time, the Fisherman’s is okay but can be missed. Instead, take a nice walk in the streets and take a picture of the Parliament Building and Chain Bridge from where you can. Also the National Széchenyi Library and National Gallery is in walking distance (until it’s moved to Pest). That’s the square you can recognise from a Katy Perry video if you’re interested in that.
Pest: where there are the things you’ll enjoy
Get to Deák Square or Erzsébet square, and from there you can walk to the St Stephen Basilica. In the corner you’ll have a nice Italian restaurant that I’d recommend (Academia Italia), and for the gays among you, there is a fancy club called Tütü in the side street.
If you want to drink and eat cheaper, go and have a walk instead on Király utca and Gozsdu Udvar. Gozsdu is not my personal favourite but it’s not bad at all. You’ll be close to Andrássy Avenue which is our own poor Champs Elysées, there’s the Opera there for the more sophisticated. If you plan to eat fancy again but with a Hungarian twist, I recommend Menza on Liszt Ferenc Square. I love how they change the menu every season, using fresh ingredients. It’s a nice ambiance resembling the Hungarian school cafeteria (“menza”) in its design, but fused with international cuisine to give a truly European experience.
There are nice places in streets like Dob, Wesselényi or Kazinczy Street. The streets smell of dog piss but the food is excellent if you like international cuisine from French to Hebrew. Recommended places you can check out on TripAdvisor or Foursquare: Cirkusz, À table, Mazel Tov, Most, street food trucks of Karavan. I love the eggs Benedict at Cirkusz, the ham and cheese croissants at À Table, and the schawarma at Mazel Tov. Most is the best for street food like experience but within a restaurant environment.
My absolute favourite is Egyetem Square and Ferenciek. The city’s best fair trade freshly roasted coffee is at Madal, so avoid Starbucks at Egyetem tér if you’re up for a nice coffee experience. I go there every Sunday save when I go on Saturdays. Lovely staff with excellent coffee. Good spot for a quiet morning/afternoon being immersed in your book/laptop, but also for a nice catch-up with friends.
If you still have time in the day, do visit the Heroes’ Square (the statues of the leaders of the 7 founding tribes), you can quickly take a couple of pictures of the square, and two museums, and the whole Andrássy avenue. So it’s a nice shortcut.
Ruin pubs are all the range, but there are two that I’d personally recommend: Szimpla Kert. It’s a nice place to go to have a pint in the evening. Looks like the design from Saw but has nice areas to have a chat with your group or places to talk with your boyfriend/girlfriend.
Tips and tricks
- If you fancy a walk in a fancy old street riddled with questionable quality and overpriced restaurants, then Váci utca is yours. Avoid at all costs.
- Cards are not widely accepted save for shops, so make sure you have approximately 20,000 HUF on you. That can cover an expensive meal for 2 plus a taxi.
- Mass commercial beers should cost no more than 1,000 HUF (3.25 EUR) at a bar or restaurant, and that’s wildly expensive then.
- Dinner for two with alcoholic drinks can amount up to 8,000 HUF (26 EUR) per person, but shouldn’t really go above that.
- Street food per person: 500 to 1,800 HUF (1.50 to 6.00 EUR)
- Fair trade coffee is up to 800 HUF (2.60 EUR), international chains (Costa, Starbucks) are more expensive.
- A cheeseburger in McDonald’s is about 290 HUF (0.90 EUR).
- When in trouble, call emergency services at 112. Don’t expect police constables or ambulance to speak English, but you can demand an interpreter when dealing with the police.
- All taxis are yellow, but never get into any cab that has only Taxi written on their sign. The safest option is City Taxi, who have an app. Uber was forced out of Hungary and the taxi maffia is pretty cruel. You can try Taxify – works similarly as Uber but with fixed taxi prices.
- Buy daily tickets from vending machines using bank cards: these are the safest option, as it’s extremely rare to find an English speaker at a manned counter. Use Futár app, available for Android and iOS, to check for the next bus or tram.
- There are only 4 metro lines in Budapest, of which 2 are of terrible state. Buses usually have dedicated lanes so I recommend them and the trams. Don’t spend money on Hop On buses. These are the lines that give you almost the same experience:
- Tram 2: alongside Danube river
- Bus 16: from Deák Sq to the Castle
- Bus 105: Heroes’ Sq through Deák Sq to Clark Ádám Sq and beyond
If you spend more than 5 days in Hungary, then I definitely recommend visiting a couple of places outside the city, but more on that later.
Have a safe and exciting time in Budapest!