Budapest: Complete Guide
Updated: Nov 25, 2019
If you’re thinking about a little trip to Budapest, I’ve only one thing to say: DO IT! This city took me by total surprise, and I already put it on my list of places, that I have to go back to! Everything from the food, the nightlife and the architecture – it’s just stunning! Pack your bags and get on the next flight! Hungary was my country number 52, and I’m so happy that I’ve added it to my list. I only recommend places, that I’ve tried myself, so I can fully vouch for everything. Here’s a full guide to enjoy Budapest to the fullest.
Where to stay – Buda vs. Pest
Before going, I knew nothing about Budapest, so I had a hard time figuring out where to stay. Every time I googled where to stay in Budapest, it would just say something like “stay on the Pest side” or “stay in the 7th district” – but I had no clue where those areas were!
So, let me explain it a bit better – Budapest is two cities that are now one. So on the left side of the river you have Buda and on the right side Pest. Buda is the older part of the city, with the castle, Fisherman’s Bastion, the citadel, amongst others. Pest is the newer side with the Parliament, the shopping street, the party area, and so on. There’s without a doubt more life on the Pest side, so that is where I’ll recommend you to stay.
We were so lucky and got a hotel in the 7th district (the Old Jewish Quarter), which is close to Astoria Metro station. We stayed at Dubai Hotel, which is located right in the center of the party area – which was perfect for us. It’s just down the street from Szimpla Kert, which is the original ruin bar (more on this later). The hotel wasn’t anything remotely fancy or anything, but it was cheap, had what we needed, and we could walk to everything!
Where to drink
First of all – there’s a lot of places to drink in Budapest! And it’s cheap as crazy! So prepare yourself for some good drinks, and maybe a headache or two.
FIRST Craft Beer & BBQ
This place is amazing! We were there 3 times in only 4 days, because we enjoyed it so much. FIRST is the first craft beer place that opened in Budapest, and they’re on the top of their game! They have so many different beers, with everything from mango, to chocolate, to just a regular pilsner, so there’s something for everyone.
The cozy settings at FIRST. Really rustic and what we Danes would call “hyggeligt”
Tuk Tuk Cocktail Bar
This was without a doubt the best cocktails in the city! And also the ones that are served in the funniest way. We got a cocktail served in a bowl with a small bird cage on the side – how fun is that? And the bartenders at Tuk Tuk are fun too! You’re guaranteed a great night here!
Sorry for the bad quality but it was rather dark. But it was such a nice place!
Doblo Wine Bar
A really cozy little wine bar with live jazz music every day – which is something close to heaven for me. You can buy small or big glasses, a whole bottle, or even a tasting menu. They also have small snacks that fits to every wine. If you want to taste the best wines in Hungary, Doblo is definitely worth a visit.
Another cute setting. I love a wine bar that looks “old”
Szimpla Kert Ruin Bar
THIS! Is the best place in Budapest! Hands down! Budapest has many of their famous ruin bars, each amazing in their own way. But Szimpla Kert was the first ruin bar, and is also the biggest and best one. The old building is transformed into one big party on two floors with multiple bars, including a craft beer bar, a wine bar, a cocktail bar, and a sisha bar. The cocktail bar can be found in a half open space, and if you continue past that you’ll find a small garden with a beer bar. The beers here are super cheap (1€), and it’s easy to find people to talk to and have an amazing time. They care a lot about the environment, so everything sold at Szimpla Kert is locally grown, and from Budapest, and every weekend they have a brunch on the top floor. I could go on and on about this place, it’s the best place in Budapest!
Inside the “main room” of Szimpla Kert. The different bars are on each side
Where to eat
There’s many places to drink, and even more places to eat. One thing is sure – if I lived in Budapest, I’d get fat. It’s so cheap, and so good!
FIRST Craft Beer & BBQ
As mentioned earlier, FIRST also serves food – and it is delicious. When we came the first time we spotted their burgers, and we knew that we had to come there to eat. So we came back the next day for lunch, and tried their burgers, fries, nachos, corn, and mac’n’cheese. It was all so good, it’s definitely a place we’d come back to next time we’re in Budapest.
As you may have seen on my Instagram, this place serves some insane milkshakes, donuts, and bagels. You can buy them separately or together, like we did. It’s super sweet, so your stomach (and heart) have to be ready for a real sugar attack! But it’s so good, and such a cool experience to visit Mr. Funk. I’d say it’s a must see in Budapest!
The insane milkshake donuts of Mr. Funk! How cute are they?
Budapest is home to a couple of Michelin restaurants, and here they only cost like 1/10 of what they do in many other countries. Therefore we of course had to go to one! We went to Borkonyha because they were the only one with vegetarian courses on their menu, but we’re so happy we did! The waiters were so nice, and there wasn’t a snobby vibe, as you can maybe get on other Michelin places. Everything from beginning to end was so good, so we can really recommend Borkonyha. Just remember to book at least one month in advantage – and that counts for all of the Michelin restaurants.
Our delicious entres at Borkonyha. It was definitely as good as we expected!
This is one of the places to go for a good brunch! They have so many different things on their menu, and it’s displayed really good! Their coffee is delicious, and there’s a nice vibe in their restaurant. If you want a good and cheap brunch, London Coffee Society is definitely worth a visit!
Taken from the top floor of London Coffee Society. It’s a really cute little place
When you’re in Hungary, you need to taste some real Hungarian food. We walked by Gettó Gulyás one night, and it looked so nice, that we went in. They didn’t have a table, so we booked one for the next day. It was really fun to try some real Hungarian food! For starters, I tried Hungarian Pancakes with mushrooms, and my friend got the traditional Hungarian Goulash. The pancakes were a bit fun, since it was real pancakes packed with mushrooms and in a gravy. The goulash was so rich in flavour, and really good! For main, I got a Hungarian mushroom stew with Hungarian egg noodles – WARNING! Hungarian egg noodles have nothing to do with noodles! It’s more like small pasta “lumps”, and to be honest they didn’t taste of much. Some might like them, but they weren’t for me. My friend got a Hungarian veal stew with paprika, which was really tasty! So if you wanna try nice Hungarian food, Gettó Gulyás is a good place to go!
Gettó Gulyás’ beautiful and cozy settings
Yet another great place to have breakfast! I got their breakfast bagel, and I almost cried when I took the last bite because there wasn’t any more – it was so good! FatMama has a nice setting, and it’s pretty cheap. I understand why Mama is fat!
How good does this look? My mouth is drooling just thinking of the food from Fat Mama
Chez Dodo Macaroons
Hands down the best (and cutest) macaroons I’ve ever tasted! It’s located right next to Borkonyha, and they have the cutest display. It’s also fairly cheap, and it was hard to choose between them all! I regret not buying 10 of each.
I still regret not buying every single one!
Bors Gasztro Bar
I’ve saved the best for last. Bors is THE BEST(!!!!) sandwiches in the entire world!!! I cannot point out enough, how fantastic they were! Before going to Budapest everyone told us to try Bors, and I’m so happy we did – more than once. You can find them next to Szimpla Kert, there’s always a line, and they mainly do takeaway. And I’m still dreaming about their truffle spinach sandwich.. When you go, please bring me one!
The inside of Bors. Always busy and always wanted
What to see in Budapest
I fell head over heels in love with some of the landmarks in Budapest. I was surprised of how beautiful this city is. Luckily it’s possible to walk to almost everything!
On the Pest Side
Hungarian Parliament Building
This is probably the most famous building in Budapest, so it seems appropriate to start the list with this. Hungarian Parliament Building simply breathtaking, and I could stare at it for days! It’s located right next to the Danube river, and you can’t miss it. It’s simply huge. Not many knows, but the Hungarian Parliament Building is actually the biggest building in entire Hungary! How cool is that? When you see the building, maybe you won’t be as surprised. It’s also possible to get guided tours inside the parliament.
No pictures can ever do its beauty justice
We took a sunset cruise down the Danube river, which is from where these pictures of the parliament is taken. On the boat we bought some glasses of wine, and just enjoyed the breathtaking views on both sides. I’m so happy that we booked a cruise, it was so beautiful to see the city with all the lights on! We booked our cruise through Silverline Cruises, and it was just fine for the price.
Not a bad view from the boat right?
Shoes on the Danube Bank
Right next to the parliament you’ll notice a group of people standing really close to the river bank. That’s where you’ll find the Shoes on the Danube Bank. As the name suggests, it’s shoes (of iron) that are standing on the river bank. This is probably one of the most dark and saddest monuments I’ve seen in Europe. The shoes represents the fallen Jews under WWII. They were executed right there, being asked to take of their shoes before being shot, and as a result falling into the river, leaving nothing but their shoes behind. It’s quite moving, since people still bring flowers and candles for the fallen.
It was a really beautiful and moving memorial. Scary to think about right?
Soviet War Memorial
Staying with the war memorials, the Soviet War Memorial not too far from the Shoes on the Danube Bank, is also a quite moving one. It’s a display of old suitcases, toys, and other personal belongings from the victims in WWII. Also here, people still bring flowers and candles for the fallen.
Notice the wire with suitcases and personal belongings.
Sankt Stefan Basilica
This church is the third biggest church in Hungary, and is named after the first Hungarian king. It’s simply stunning, both inside and outside. If you want to go inside and have a look, their way of queuing might be a bit confusing. There’s a queue to the right when you enter, where people have to pay 7€ to visit the bell tower. Many think this is also to get into the church itself, but you actually have to walk past that queue, and you’ll find a small door into the church. They charge 2€ to enter.
It was even prettier inside, I swear.
No one can be in Budapest and not try one of their many baths, which the city is so famous for. They actually have so many, that it’s hard to decide. We tried the Széchenyi Bath (good luck pronouncing it), which is probably the most photographed one, and the tickets are only 21€. It was so stunning! But we would prefer to visit in summer, since it was quite cold running around outside between the hot springs. Also, I strongly advice you to bring flip flops, the floor was disgusting! And the place is huge, so you walk a lot – and good luck not getting lost. This bath has 3 outdoor pools and 15 indoor pools. I have absolutely no idea how much of it we saw, since it was hard to find our way around, and we unfortunately had too little time, because we had to go to the airport. It’s definitely worth a visit!
Imagine this place in summer. It was fun now too though!
I know. I could talk for days about this place, that’s how much I loved it! Szimpla Kert is simply an experience you cannot miss! If you’re not so much for their parties, visit for their farmers markets on weekends! After all, it’s the very first ruin bar in Budapest, and is simply the heart of the nightlife.
On the Buda Side
Clearly seen from the Pest side og the city, Buda Castle is just as majestic up close. If you don’t feel like walking all the way up the hill, you can take a small funicular both up and down. At the top of the funicular you’ll find the castle on the left side. This castle is where all the old Hungarian royal families used to live.
Well, if you’re following me on Instagram, you’ve probably seen quite a lot of photos from this place. I could stare at it for all eternity and not get tired of it! Fisherman’s Bastion is probably my favourite place in Budapest – in direct competition with the Hungarian Parliament! You’ll find it if you turn right at the top of the funicular instead of left. It has a stunning view of the Pest side and the parliament.
No pictures will ever be able to do this place justice! An absolute must-see!
How cheap is Budapest
Just to give you an idea of how cheap Budapest is, here’s some every day things, and their estimated prices. Side note: we met some French guys who still thought it was kinda expensive.
The national currency of Hungary is Forint (HUF). 100 HUF is 0,32 € or 0,39 $.
A beer: 293 HUF / 0,9 € / 1,1 $
A Gin&Tonic: 1674 HUF / 5,3 € / 6,6 $
A knit shirt in Zara: 5.862 HUF / 18,7 € / 23 $
Full brunch: 2094 HUF / 6,7 € / 8,2 $
I hope these tips are useful, or that they inspired you to visit beautiful Budapest! I myself can’t wait to go back!