Once again welcome back to ToscaTravels
I’m ready to guide you in a new city! This time we’re flying to Hungary, more specifically to its capital, which is often nicknamed “the Paris of the east”, the one and only, Budapest.
Here’s what you’ll find in this guide: useful and concrete information about the city, how to get there, what to see and where to eat. I hope you’re ready to be hit by the beauty of Budapest, because you will.
Without further ado, let’s get this guide started!
– USEFUL INFORMATION ABOUT BUDAPEST –
Let’s begin with some basic information, so you can have a clearer picture about Budapest:
- Location: Budapest is the capital of Hungary and it’s located in the north-central section of the country.
- Population: 1.750 Million
- Weather: July is the hottest month in Budapest with an average temperature of 21°C (70°F), the coldest is January with an average temperature of -1°C (30°F).
- The river Danube (Europe’s second longest river) flows through the city.
- Currency: Hungarian forint. (1€ ≅ 320 Hungarian forint)
- Before their unification in 1873, Buda, Pest and Óbuda (Old Buda) were three different cities.
- Budapest has more thermal springs than any other capital city in the world.
Even though Hungary is a European Union member, the Euro isn’t used in the country: Hungarian forint is the currency of Hungary. When it comes to exchange your money, you need to pay the right attention to avoid scams or high fees. Here’s couple tips:
- Current exchange rate is: 1€ ≅ 320 Hungarian Forint (1£ is exchanged for 350 Hungarian forint and 1$ for 290 Hungarian Forint).
- Do not change your money at exchange offices or at least leave this as your last option. They won’t give you the rate displayed and when you’ll notice you’ve been ripped off, it will be too late.
- If you have any kind of credit/debit card, use it as much as you can in order to avoid cash.
- Few places may won’t accept cards, so if you need cash, withdraw at ATMs.
- N26 cards are a great option with free ATM withdrawals in euros and real-time exchange rate (get your card for free at this link).
– HOW TO GET THERE –
Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport is an international airport located 16km (10 miles) south-east from the city center. The airport is served by many European airlines including low cost flights operating by Ryanair and WizzAir.
The airport is really efficient and after few minutes waiting for our luggage, it’s now time to go straight to city center.
Budapest metro doesn’t reach the airport, so you basically have to choose between taking the bus or a taxi.
- Bus number: 100E.
- Cost: 900 HUF (2,70€).
- Journey time: 40 minutes.
- Where to buy tickets: tickets can be purchased at the airport from BKK service points.
- When: every 10-15 minutes from 05:00 to 00:30.
Otherwise you can take taxi to save time. You can expect to pay around 7200 HUF (22 euro) for a ride to the city center, depending on the traffic.
– WHAT TO SEE –
It’s been really, and let me emphasize really, hard to just pick the following places in my list of what to see in Budapest, so take this as a personal choice. There are lot of other sights and museums to see, but in my opinion, this is what you can’t miss:
1. Budapest Parliament.
- I’m not here to state the obvious, but masterpiece is the only word that come to my mind when talking about Budapest parliament. Number one attraction of the city and symbol of Hungary, the parliament is the third largest in the world; the building is 268 meters long on the east shore of the Danube, and it is 123 meters wide and 96 meters high. You can easily avoid queuing for your ticket and buy yours online (guided tours are the only option to visit the building).
- Cost: 3200 Huf for EU citizens (≅ 10€) – 1600 Huf for EU students (≅ 5€; age 6-24); 6400 non EU citizens (≅ 20€).
- Opening times: 8am – 6pm.
2. St. Stephen’s basilica.
- St. Stephen’s basilica is one of the most significant tourist attractions and the third highest church in Hungary (96 meters high – equal to the parliament). Fun fact: current regulations prohibit the construction of any building taller than 96 metres (315 ft) in Budapest. It’s named in honor of Stephen, the first king of Hungary and since the beginning of 20th century one of the most remarkable sights in the city.
- Cost: Free entrance (offer); 400 Huf ticket for the panorama tower (≅ 1.20€).
- Opening times: 9am-5pm (10am-4pm during winter time).
3. Metropolitan Ervin Szabó Library.
- It’s now time for the biggest surprise of the trip, Metropolitan Ervin Szabó library. A public library that will instantly make you want to grab a book and sit down in one of the many Neo-baroque rooms. Despite you may think the whole library looks like this, just the fourth floor was part of an aristocratic palace. Maybe paying to visit a public library isn’t fair, but for 3€ I didn’t hesitate for a second.
- Cost: 1000 Huf (3€).
- Opening times: 10am-8pm.
4. Fisherman’s bastion.
- Drum roll, please… my favorite place in Budapest! Fisherman’s bastion is the essence of Buda side of the city. A magical place, especially at sunset and right after, to enjoy the best panoramic view of the city. Built from 1895 to 1902, it counts 7 turrets to represent the 7 Hungarian tribes who founded the present day country in 895.
- Cost: Free (1000 HUF ≅ 3€ to enter the main tower)
- Opening times: all day and all night (main tower and terrace: 9am-11pm)
5. Matthias church.
- We’re lucky enough to have another place to see just couple steps from Fisherman’s bastion: Matthias Church. When it comes to architecture there’s no thing I love more than gothic style and a multicolor tile roof. The church was founded in 1015, but destroyed and rebuilt couple centuries later.
- Cost: Adults 1800 Huf ≅ 5€ (1200 Huf ≅ 3.5€ for over 60 and students).
- Opening times: 9am-5pm.
6. Vajdahunyad castle.
- Harry Potter fans, this is our moment. While visiting Vajdahunyad castle, you’ll feel like your owl finally found the way to bring you that magical admission letter. Despite its medieval look, the castle was built in 1896 as part of the Millennial Exhibition. You’ll need a short underground ride to arrive here, the nearest stop is Hősök tere (M1).
- Cost: Free.
- Opening times: courtyard opened all day and all night (towers: 10am-5pm)
7. Chain bridge.
- Chain bridge is the most famous bridge of the city and one of Budapest most iconic sights. It connect Buda and Pest, with a lenght of 375 metres. I highly recommend to have a stroll on Danube’s riverside at night to enjoy the bridge fully lighted up.
- Cost: Free.
- Opening times: All day and all night.
8. Tram n.2
- Hopping on Tram No.2 is considered one of the most beautiful and cheapest ways of sight-seeing in Budapest, ad it goes by the riverside of Danube. The tram goes by the Parliament, Chain Bridge and gives an overview of Castle District on Buda side.
- Cost: 350 HUF (1.2€)
- Opening times: Tram no.2 runs 6am-11.45pm.
– WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK –
1. Most bisztró.
- This is where we had our first dinner in Budapest and couldn’t be happier of our choice. Most Bisztró offers a various range of local and international food, I highly recommend their goulash, super delicious.
- Cost: €€€
2. Paprika Vendéglő.
- It’s now time for my favorite place to eat in Budapest: Paprika Vendéglő! A small, cozy restaurant located near Vadjahunyad castle. Not close to the city center, but I can’t recommend it more, especially if you plan to visit the castle. The food is just too good to be described with words and the interior is literally something else, a rustic thatch ceiling will bring you back in time. I went for paprika chicken with noodles, I wish I could have some now. (Bill: 6900 HUF ≅ 22€)
- Cost: €€€
3. New York Palace Café.
- No, this isn’t a frame from “The great Gatsby”, this is the iconic New York Palace Café. I have no doubt this is the most fancy café in the city: Renaissance-style interiors, golden details, impeccable service and even live violin and piano music playing. There’s no need to say this place is expensive, but well worth the whole experience.
- Cost: €€€
4. Belli di mamma.
- Wait wait… I know what you’re thinking, “why do you eat pizza abroad instead of local food?”. Since we already tried Hungarian food, mother Italy called us and we looked for a good pizza. Belli di mamma was the best choice we could make: real italian pizza, super friendly staff, beautiful location. (Bill: 6215 Huf ≅ 22.70€)
- Cost: €€€
I hope this guide will help during your trip to Budapest or maybe inspiring you to book your next trip in Hungary’s capital.
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See you next time with a new city guide!