Last Updated on June 22, 2020 by Laura Cooper
Picture yourself walking along the beautiful Danube River, which splits Budapest, Hungary into two: Buda and Pest. With each part of the city having its own story, and history dating back to the 5th century, visit Budapest for a true European experience. The city is known for its thermal springs, earning it the name of City of Spas. With plenty of relaxing bath houses, along with intricate caves, baroque churches, and festivals aplenty, Budapest has something for everyone. Visit the World Heritage Site of Budapest’s Buda Castle District where you’ll find tourist-heavy areas of historical sites in the oldest part of the city. Visit the Chain Bridge for a beautiful view of the river, or Matthias Church, which dates back over 700 years. With plenty of romance, charm, and history, Budapest can be seen by foot, coach, or river cruise.
Not convinced yet? Budapest is about to get a little closer to home: Air Transat begins their weekly service to the Hungarian capital from Toronto and Montreal on June 17. These weekly direct flights mean trying traditional goulash, wandering the cobblestone streets, and experiencing the stunning architecture in Budapest is one step closer.
Who will like Budapest?
Visit Budapest and step back in time by visiting the historic churches, baths, and architecture of days gone by. Budapest is a great destination for river cruisers looking to extend their stay (or those looking to take a break from their sea legs), history-lovers, travellers looking for spas, and for those interested in religion and historic churches. Though there are activities fit for children (the Budapest Puppet Theatre and Budapest Zoo are always favourites), children not interested in walking all day and visiting museums and historic sites may not be the best travel companions.
Visit Budapest any way you please: a great destination and stop along Danube river cruises, and a popular tour destination, it’s easy to travel Hungary with a group and in an organized fashion. If you’re looking to fly solo or break off from the group, Budapest is always accessible and safe for individual and self-guided travel. Take a walking tour of the city, or a guided tour of the castle district, and piece your vacation together the way you want, with the help of a tripcentral.ca travel agent.
What to see in Budapest
Az Országház (Hungarian Parliament building): The third largest Parliament building in the world, the House of the Nation was built in 1902. Housing the Hungarian Crown Jewels and boasting a whopping 691 rooms, the building is not only picture perfect along the Danube River, but offers tours every half hour by guides who walk visitors through the history of the building. The Gothic Revival architecture of the building is enough to have you standing and staring for hours, while its interior includes 10 courtyards, and 27 gates (a photographer’s paradise!). For the best view of the House of Nation, we recommend a Danube river cruise or viewing the building across the river from Batthyány Square.
Széchenyi Fürdő: Budapest is known for its thermal baths. With many thermal springs, Budapest is rich in thermal waters with healing qualities; visit the Széchenyi Fürdő – the largest medicinal bath in the world and one of Europe’s largest public baths – and soak in one of the 18 pools (15 have spring-fed water!). Budapest is also one of the few cities offering traditional Turkish baths dating back to the 16th century. Experience Budapest while soaking in one of these thermal baths, and rejuvenate your body and get your feet ready for more exploration.
Heroes Square: Find the Millennium Memorial at the end of Andrássy Avenue, Budapest’s main shopping area. Heroes Square is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to both the Museum of Fine Arts and the Palace of Art. Imagine yourself in Budapest years ago as you remember those that helped build Budapest, standing out the base of the cenotaph. The archangel Gabriel overlooks the cenotaph, with the Holy Crown of St. Stephen, the first king of Hungary.
Before bidding goodbye to Budapest, you don’t want to miss Matthias Church, Buda Castle, the Dohány Street Synagogue (the largest in Europe), the Shoes on the Danube memorial, the quaint cafes and food trucks in the central historical court, and the Great Market Hall. (Don’t forget to tell us which sightseeing stop is your favourite!)
Where you should stay
Stay close to heart of the city and don’t waste your vacation time travelling in to visit Budapest’s top attractions and your vacation itinerary. With Budapest accommodation options from hostels to boutique hotels, family-friendly hotels, to luxury 5-star accommodations fit for a king and queen, there are plenty to choose from for your Budapest vacation. We recommend staying in Pest, on the east side of the Danube River, for the best selection in accommodations, but if you’re looking to explore the roman ruins of Acquincum, Buda Castle, or Matthias Church: staying in Buda may be your best bet.
The Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace: *****
Voted the top hotel in Europe by TripAdvisor, the Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace is a luxury 5-star accommodation with stunning views of the Danube River. Just steps from the Chain Bridge and St. Stephen’s Basilica, the famous Matthias Church is just a 15-minute walk away.
Intercontinental Budapest: ****
Located on the banks of the Danube River, minutes from many of Budapest’s top attractions, the Intercontinental Budapest has 402 rooms and suites. With picturesque views of the river, a spa and fitness centre, on-site restaurants, and a friendly staff willing to give top Budapest recommendations, you can’t go wrong with a stay here.
Budapest Csaszar Hotel: ***
This hotel is centrally located in Buda, just a 5-minute walk to the Margaret Bridge and Pest. Perfect for families, the Budapest Csaszar Hotel offers access to the Komjadi Sports Centre pools for guests. If you’re looking to add some relaxation to your Budapest vacation, this hotel is next door to the Lukacs Thermal bath and 15 minutes (by bus) to the famous Gellert bath.
Getting around Budapest
Arriving into Budapest by air will bring you into the Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport (BUD). Usually reached with one connection within Europe, from most major Canadian gateways. Air Transat does offer direct service to Budapest from Toronto and Montreal June through September, with prices ranging from $1,164 to $854.
Getting into Budapest from the airport:
An Airport minibus runs from the airport and downtown Budapest and is a reasonably priced way of travelling in to the city. The public airport bus, BKV number 200E, travels from M3 station blue line and takes passengers into the city centre of Budapest.
Trains travel between the airport and Nyugati Railway Station in Budapest 51 times daily on weekdays and 38 times daily on weekends and holidays.
The arrivals hall of Budapest Ferihegy Airport includes offices of most major car rental companies. A taxi to the centre of Budapest is estimated to cost between 3,500 and 8,000 HUF. Fő Taxi company offers fixed rates from the airport to different parts of the city. In Hungary, it is considered common courtesy to tip taxi drivers approximately 10% of your full fare.
Arriving by river cruise will have you travelling down the Danube River, where you’ll find many popular attractions within walking distance. Budapest is a popular river cruise destination, with itineraries allowing you to explore both traditional and cosmopolitan sides of the city, before continuing on to tour stunning eastern and central Europe.
If you’re looking to travel Budapest on your own, the city is walk-able, though it also features public transportation by bus, trolley, streetcars, and Metro. You’ll find pedestrian districts of the city, and much of the city is divided into smaller neighbourhoods perfect for exploring between Metro or bus stops. Bus and metro tickets must be bought prior to boarding, with runs daily from 4:30 a.m. until 11 p.m. on a frequent schedule (every 2 minutes at peak times!). For the best area to take in by foot, visit the Chain Bridge: you’ll find a pedestrian-only area here perfect for taking in the local scene and strolling along the river at your own pace.
For a view of Budapest you can’t beat, consider a short Danube river cruise: these run for several hours and offer a great view of the city to see the architecture, local scene, and experience the magic of the river way…all on a budget.
When is the best time to visit?
Budapest, Hungary winters are cold and snowy while the summer months can see temperatures reach 30C. We consider the summer travel months to be April through August, which see the low in the high teens and high in the early 30-degree range. Travelling to Budapest in July and August will see you in more line-ups, with high tourist season and many people travelling alone and on tours, while travelling in the winter may see you missing some attractions due to cold weather. With an average low of -2C and a high of 3C, Budapest winters are often accompanied by lots of snow, making travel difficult.
We recommend visiting Budapest in April or May, or through September and October: the temperatures will be bearable, flights may be cheaper, and you won’t find yourself standing in long lines to get into attractions or catch a cab as high tourist season is over. Budapest is definitely a walking city, with many smaller neighbourhoods close together, perfect to travel on foot. With a comfortable pair of shoes, and comfortable temperature, you’re sure to enjoy this city.
How long should you visit?
We recommend at least three full days in Budapest: but the more the better! Get to know the neighbourhoods and cafes and small, local restaurants for a true feel of Hungarian cuisine and culture. Depending on what you’re hoping to do while away, you’ll want several days of sightseeing…and perhaps more time tacked onto your trip to train to neighbouring Austria.
Approx. flight price of $1200-1500 for high-season (July) and shoulder season (September), depending on departure gate. During high tourism periods, expect to pay approx. CAD $100/night for a hotel. Meal prices are reasonable and comparable to Canada.
Language: Hungarian, though English is often spoken in tourist-heavy areas and at attractions and tourist sites.
Currency: Budapest’s official currency is the Hungarian Forint (HUF), though some high-tourist areas also accept the Euro. ATMs can be found throughout Hungary, and these machines accept all major credit and debit cards. If you’re looking to make a purchase in a shop or restaurant with a credit/debit card, it’s recommended you inquire in advance: a sign stating they accept cards should be displayed in shop windows.
An acceptable tipping amount when visiting Budapest is 10% of your bill. An average restaurant meal is estimated to cost 35000-5000 HUF or 14-20 Euros. A taxi will range from 250-300 HUF (1-1.2 Euros) and a museum entry fee may range from 500-1200 HUF (2-5 Euros).
PLAN YOUR BUDAPEST VACATION:
Wonderful article, makes me wish I was there 😉 Looking forward to reading more of your work, Laura.
Thanks, Phil. Glad to have you following along. I’m definitely dreaming of Budapest these days, too!