We travelled to Budapest at the end of March 2019 for 4 Nights. The weather was 25°C which was unusual for that time of year.
The trip into the city centre usually takes around 30 mins. A shuttle bus runs from the airport every 10 mins and costs about €3.00 (HUF 900). The buses can be very busy and if you would prefer a taxi direct to your hotel expect to pay £30.00 one way.
After a bit of research we decided to stay in district V on the Pest side of the river; from our hotel many of the main tourist attractions including Parliament Buildings, Chain Bridge, Buda Castle, Central Market Hall and Vörösmarty Square were all within a 15/20 minute walk.
We found Budapest to be a very easy city to get around. There are three distinct districts – Buda, Castle Hill and Pest. It’s worth reserving half a day to visit the Castle hill area which is Budapest’s oldest part.
It is an UNESCO World Heritage Site, situated on the west side of the river. It’s walkable via the Chain Bridge from District V and if you do not wish to walk the hill to the castle and palace; it can be reached by a Funicular Railway. Also, a hop on/hop off service operates from the bottom of Castle Hill at Clark Adam Square to the palace. We found this very convenient as it allowed plenty of time to visit the sprawling Buda Castle area and all the cobbled lanes of the city’s historic quarter. Behind Matthias Church in the historic quarter you will come across Budapest’s most famous look out point Fisherman’s Bastion and believe me it has some killer views.
The opposite side of the river – Pest is home to the very impressive St Stephen’s Basilica, Central Market Square (filled with bottles of Tokaji and a huge variety of paprika)
We stayed at the Intercontinental on the Danube Promenade – book a room with Riverview – the views are spectacular; morning, noon and night. Riverview rooms look directly over the Danube at the Castle and Palace opposite, which is all flood lit in the evening, well worth any supplement.
The Danube promenade runs from Elizabeth Bridge to Chain Bridge in Pest along the banks of the Danube. The area has some fantastic hotels overlooking the Danube, including the Sofitel, Hilton and Marriott. We visited in March but I’m told it’s also spectacular in December on the Christmas Trams that run along the side of the Danube are decorated with hundreds of lights.
Just behind the promenade you will see Váci Street, which I can only describe as Budapest’s version of Barcelona’s Las Ramblas. Personally, not my idea of fun but sometimes you have to obey! It houses every woman’s dream shop, like Zara and H&M plus many tourist aimed folklore shops. Just beside Vaci Street is Fashion Street which has the labels like Hugo Boss, Lacoste and Massimo Dutti.
A much better idea than shopping is a trip to Szechenyi Thermal Baths. Jump on one of the many trams stops in the District V and it’s about a 10 min ride (1 HUF) to Szechenyi. The baths are within a Neo-Baroque palace specifically built for baths in the Roman Era. It’s popular with tourists and locals; who were playing chess, chest high in the water. If you’re visiting over a weekend, it would be a good idea to invest in a ‘Skip the line’ pass in advance. Szechenyi has 21 pools and is one of the largest bath complexes in Europe.
If you have any energy left in the evening head down to VII District – the former Jewish Ghetto. This is where you will find the ruin bars. The bars we visited were set up in abandoned buildings which have been spruced up with local design and vintage plus mismatched furniture. It’s all about shabby chic bars and restaurants in a relaxed atmosphere. My tip would be to avoid the original Ruin Bar Szimpla Kert because of the queues, many other equally good alternatives in the area.
Finally do not leave Budapest without a walk up the Danube Promenade to the site of ‘Shoes on the Danube Bank’ It’s a memorial to the Jews killed in Budapest during World War II. It’s a very haunting tribute to this horrific time in history created by film director Can Togay and the sculptor Gyula Paver. The monument consists of 60 pairs of 1940’s style shoes, true to life in size and detail sculpted in iron. Maybe take a second visit at night when it glows with flickering candles.
We absolutely loved Budapest and would highly recommend it as a popular European City Break Destination.