Hello everybody, a few weeks ago we spent 3 days in Budapest! This city has a lot to offer any curious traveler–beautiful sights, history, night-life and great food. And we certainly made the most of our short time there. Check out the things we did!
We first arrived to Budapest by train from Prague at 10:30pm. We were exhausted from the previous two days, and after checking into our Airbnb, we decided to rest up for the next day. We stayed in an apartment in the city center that sleeps up to 4 people. It was a very reasonable price and just 5 minutes walking to Parliament and St. Stephen’s Basilica!
Our first morning in Budapest, we discovered the most amazing breakfast place: Mr. Funks, where they make homemade bagels and donuts every morning. Luckily for us it was a mere two minutes from our Airbnb…so obviously we went there all three days. They have delicious bagel sandwiches and a variety of unique donuts, but on the last day we decided to go big and order the Freak Shake!
After our yummy breakfast, we headed out to visit St. Stephen’s Basilica. We learned that you can climb to the top for a 360 view of Budapest. It costs less than 4 euros and you can take an elevator most of the way up. As you know, I’m afraid of heights, but surprisingly this place wasn’t too bad for me (although I didn’t get close to the edge).
You can go inside the Basilica for free (they only ask for a small donation in the box at the entrance). The inside is one of the most beautiful I have seen (and I’ve seen quite a few). The walls were gleaming with gold and had stunning marble columns.
After this, we decided it was time to head towards the Danube River and Chain Bridge. While we were walking, we stumbled upon a memorial along the river. I had read about this before our trip but was unsure where exactly it was. This memorial is dedicated to the Jews who lost their lives during WWII in Budapest. Around 800 Jewish people were told to stand along the edge and take off their shoes. They were shot so their bodies fell into the river and were swept away by the current. Although this memorial is small, it’s very moving.
Next we crossed the famous Chain Bridge to the other side of the river known as Buda. (We were staying on the Pest side of the city). Our plan was to visit Buda Castle and we had read about a Funicular that takes you to the top of a the hill. When we reached the other side of the river however, the line for the Funicular was so long we decided to make the trek ourselves. It honestly wasn’t that long of a walk and it was nice to stop and take photos of the view on our way up. We also saved a few bucks too, which was great.
If I’m being completely honest, Buda Castle is nothing special. The views of the river are great, but the Castle itself is simply very large. (The Parliament definitely overshadows the Castle). If you’re interested, you can visit an Art Gallery inside but we didn’t have time for that.
After exploring this area for a while, we took the metro to visit the House of Terror. This is a museum about the Fascist and Communist regimes in Hungary during the 20th century. We spent almost 2 hours there, and learned a lot about the country’s difficult past. It was interesting but after a while, we were ready for lunch! We tried Spiler Original and found that the staff were very friendly and they had a good variety of pub food.
Since we were tired from our busy day, we headed back to our Airbnb for a nap before getting ready to head out for the night. We had dinner at Bestia, a restaurant / beer garden right next to St. Stephen’s Basilica. Considering how central the location was, the prices were reasonable and it was a very romantic setting. The waiters were friendly and their pear with goat cheese starter was ah-mazing!! Mark had the truffle Mac & Cheese, which we would also recommend trying!
For our first real night out in Budapest we had our hearts set on visiting some of the famous Ruin Pubs. Szimpla Kert was the first Ruin Pub in Budapest and opened in 2002. It was only a run-down building (formerly apartments and a factory) when it was transformed into a multi-room / multi-story bar! We were so fascinated by this Ruin Pub, we spent most of our first beer wandering around all the different rooms before finding a place to sit! There are a variety of different bars inside (cocktail bar, beer bar, wine bar, etc.) and each room is decorated with random pictures, things and graffiti of past visitors. Some rooms had different music playing and in one of the larger rooms there was DJ.
There were even sections of the bar that were outside, only covered by a tent. There were heating lamps to keep warm as well. It was definitely one of the coolest bars I have ever been to! Ruin pubs are so unique, so it’s hard to capture in just a few photos–you’ll have to visit Budapest yourself to truly understand!
We didn’t stay too late at Szimpla Kert because the following morning we had plans to be up at 6am. Our goal was to get to the Szechenyi Thermal Baths early before the crowds…and it worked! In case you missed it, check out our previous post about these outdoor baths & tips for visiting here).
After the baths, we decided to visit Heroes Square since it was very close by. This square is home to Hungary’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and has been an area for many political gatherings in the past.
Our next move was to head back towards the Danube and cross the Chain Bridge once again. This time we had plans to visit Fisherman’s Bastion, which is on the Buda side of the river. Built between 1895-1902 (and then later refurbished after WWII), this area is a viewing terrace for the river and Parliament.
I enjoyed this place because I thought it looked like Hogwarts! (The views here are much better than from the Castle). Fisherman’s Bastion was so beautiful that we even made plans to visit it again, later that same night!
Right behind Fisherman’s Bastion is St. Mattias Cathedral. It’s a beautiful area to walk around and explore.
If you walk straight up the street (past the plaza in front of St. Mattias) you can find a little place called Cafe Ruszwurm. It’s famous for it’s cakes and strudels so we decided to stop in for some tea and a snack! There’s limited seating but you can take some cake to go, or wait a bit since the seats seem to open up quickly.
After slowly making our way back down the hill and across the Chain Bridge, we decided to take some time to rest at the Airbnb. On our way there, we came across this memorial, which the Hungarian people were protesting. We read some of the papers hung on a rope in front of it and learned that people are upset because they believe the statue is falsifying history. The memorial was originally said to commemorate Hungary’s German occupation but was later changed to commemorate of the victims of the German occupation. The angel statue in the center represents Hungary and the eagle represents Germany. Supposedly, the angel is dropping the countries orb (people argue that it looks more like an offering) and the eagle is ready to swoop in and catch it. The people arguing against the memorial say that Hungary is not being held accountable for it’s past actions. Hungary was an ally of Nazi Germany and willingly allowed Hitler to take over. The memorial is suggesting that the state of Hungary bears no responsibility for the Genocide of over half a million Jews, however the country assisted in the deportation of it’s citizens to concentration camps. You can see the memorial and the written protests in the photo below.
Once changed for our evening out, we chose a quaint Hungarian restaurant for dinner (behind Parliament and near the American Embassy) called Csarnok Halvendeglo. The service here was amazing and the food was even better! It was also SO CHEAP! I tried the spinach gnocchi and Mark had the ham with potato dumplings. I highly recommend checking out this place if you’re visiting Budapest!
After dinner, we decided to make the trek up to Fisherman’s Bastion once again (to enjoy the view at night). It’s certainly more quiet there than during the day, so it was nice to stroll around with less people.
Finally it was time for our big night out in the city. We had booked tickets for a River Cruise. It started at 10:30 and went for 2 hours. You can purchase different kinds of tickets, but we chose to pay 19 euros which included 3 drinks for each of us. They have a DJ on the boat and a rooftop deck where you can go up and see the incredible views! We were also surprised to learn they had a professional photographer who took some amazing shots for us and then put them on their Facebook page for free!
The people hosting the cruise said that they usually have more than 100 people, but our cruise was a little smaller since it was a Monday and it was winter. Not many people wanted to dance but Mark and I had a great time nonetheless!! The cruise was worth the views alone.
Sadly, on Tuesday morning we had to say goodbye to beautiful Budapest and head to the airport. We spent most of our day traveling back to Sevilla, reminiscing on our trips high-lights and already discussing our desire to go back sometime in warmer weather. Budapest was certainly a city I’ll never forget.
Check out our video blog below to see more from our trip!
Much love, Amanda