To tell you the truth, Budapest was always on our bucket list, but not ranked very high. In January 2016 we booked our flight to Dubai (via Wizz air) from Budapest and decided to spend some time there before our flight. Idea was just to quickly look around Budapest and jump on our flight, as Dubai was our goal and destination. But, when we got there, what a surprise Budapest was!! It is lovely European city with a lot of culture, amazing architecture & parks, but also rich art & club scene, for all age travelers. It felt like we saw a lot in 2 days, still we decided to stay 1 more day after visiting Dubai (Dubai Video), to scratch under the city surface. Al in all, we had great time in Budapest and you can see full video on our YouTube channel: Budapest video
If you’ve seen our channel and other videos, you know we usually do videos followed by cool music, at least we think is cool :). With this blog I want to give you more background on where we started, how much we’ve spent, what surprised us the most and generally share the story.
Our home base is in Split, Croatia; from where is very difficult & expensive to fly anywhere during the winter, if you are on budget and we most definitely were. Our only option was a bus. We took a bus to Zagreb and then transferred to bus to Budapest. There are several low cost buses from Zagreb to Budapest, we decided on Orange Ways. One way ticket per person was 16 EUR.
We searched on Booking.com & Airbnb for the best options and decided to go with „12 Revay Hotel“. Hotel was recently opened and had very fair prices, which seemed good money value – and it certainly was! We got a standard double room for 60 EUR per night, with breakfast included. The Hotel was brand new with very helpful staff, rich breakfast and most importantly in city centre, right next to Stephen’s Bazilika & Opera house.
When we flew back to Budapest, we were on tighter budget, since adding 2 more nights wasn’t in our initial budget (you will find out soon, I am all about budgeting). We found a double room for discount price in „Star Inn Hotel Budapest Centrum” on Booking.com, for 37 EUR per night. They had 24/7 reception, which we needed (having 3 am arrival and 4 am departure from hotel). Unfortunately, we didn’t try breakfast, but it was included in price. Oh, I almost forgot, but you probably can find out from their name, hotel is in center, right next to the Opera house and several good bars (like Szimpla) & clubs (like Hello Baby).
* Keep in mind, when choosing accommodations, that Pest side, where we stayed, is close to many historic sites, restaurants, shopping areas and has a lot of nightlife. There are also more metro stops, making it easier to get around.
You can walk everywhere! Well, not everywhere, but you get the point. Budapest also has trams and metro’s, which are very good connected and worth of using, if you need to get to other part of city quickly. Tram number 2 is the most famous one, we didn’t realized why until we took a ride (it looks like most other trams in city). Tram 2 route is nice scenic ride around city’s top locations.
* We were ripped off by one taxi on our arrival, which was quite a bad experience. We advise not to take a taxi off the street’s, but ask hotel staff to order it for you.
Most attractions are in city core, making it easy to see if you have just a few days in Budapest.
St. Stephen’s Bazilika This was our starting point, being close to our Hotel. It was a nice experience, don’t get me wrong, but not what we excepted. They charge separately entrance to church (plus you can leave donation, which is silly if you already paid them) and cupola (view of the city). Other beautiful attractions in Budapest are more affordable. Plus, the view is not as stunning as from Castle Hill or Buda Castle.
Next stop was Buda side of city, therefore we need to get to the other side of Danube River. What better way to do it than via historic and beautiful bridge, Chain Bridge. Downside is, everybody had that idea, so it was crowded with tourists. Do visit it by night also, when lighten up it looks beautiful.
Castle Hill, Matthias church, Buda Castle & Fisherman’s Bastion
These attractions are all bunched together on Buda hill. You can walk up or take Castle hill funicular. Price for funicular was 3,5 EUR per person, one way. We were amazed by amazing architecture and view. In our opinion you have the best view of Parliament building & city from there. There is a little bar in one of Fisherman’s bastion towers, where it is nice to relax and souk up the city vibe.
Labyrinth of Buda Castle
Labyrinth is on Castle Hill and we bumped into it while searching for something to eat. Entrance fee is approx. 7 EUR per person. It is large complex with caves and cellars, mostly in dark. Ask them to give you lanterns or take phone with good flashlight. We had so much fun there in complete dark or dim light, just wandering around, listening to weird sounds. We’ve shared pictures on DianoMaya Facebook page, so you can get better idea about it.
Parliament + Kossuth Lajos Square
On our way back to the hotel, we stopped to admire Parliament house, which is located on Kossuth Lajos Square. By night it looks magnificent! That is not even word strong enough to describe it. You can find picture on our Instagram page. You can also go inside we didn’t have time, unfortunately, but outside architecture is mind blowing enough.
Shoes on the Danube Promenade Memorial
Take tram 2 or walk on Danube promenade towards Parliament building and you will find it. We were there by night and took some amazing pictures.
Gellert Hill + Liberty Statue + Citadel
Second day was exercise day 🙂 we decided to walk up to the Gellert Hill, because it is right there, you can see it from the city – it wasn’t. It is long way up, so if you are on short getaway, get some transportation at least half way there.
Still, it was nice to walk around hill, surrounded with amazing nature and many attractions on the way. When we got up there the Citadel was closed, no sign and nobody to tell us when will be reopen! Such a shame. At lease we got to see Liberty statue and have nice rest on view point benches. We were in winter season, so in front of Citadel was some kind of Christmas market with food (sausage’s of course) and hot drinks.
Cave church + Liberty Bridge + Central Market Hall
We run into Cave church walking down from Gellert Hill and decided to go inside. There is small entrance fee to pay and you get headphones with it – which is very cool, because you get to hear the entire Cave church story. We have never been to cave church before and we really liked it. It is about 20-30 minute nice stop.
Central Market Hall is right across the river and closest crossing is Liberty Bridge. Liberty Bridge is different from other city bridges, being completely green.
We weren’t really impressed with Central Market Hall. It was too crowded and chaotic. It is local, but touristy, market with a lot of paprika and salami. Many overpriced souvenirs and food. We bought food there – be careful – price you see is not final price; every extra ingredient costs more and they keep offering you to add more ingredients. Be aware more ingredients means higher the price. We were sitting next to a couple who didn’t realized that and were shocked with their final price (almost double then they thought price was). You could smell bathroom “scent” around market, which was really disgusting.
Hungarian National Museum
Entrance fee is 5 EUR per person. We spent about 2 hours there, which we considered short (National Museums in big city should be at least 5-6 hour experience on several floors). There is only one floor where permanent exhibition is presented (Hungarian history is much richer than that). Plus, they are charging photo permission (you have to glue it to your shirt, otherwise you have problems with Museum security – they really look if you have it when they see you taking pictures). It is only 2 Eur, but we found that silly.
Heroes’ Square + Vajdahunyad Castle + Szechenyi Baths and Pool
We came to Heroes Square by Metro, exit is right next to square. It was amazing!! We saw it in sunset and by night. Such amazing pictures! There is so much history there and amazing architecture.
Close by is ice ring (nice activity if you know how to ice skate) and Vajdahunyad Castle. Castle looks amazing by night. It is different from other Castle’s in Budapest. We had a felling we stepped into Dracula castle, because it is sort of imitation Transylvanian Castle.
Castle has Museum and nice Park area surrounding the Castle, where we bumped into Anonymous’ Statue. We got there by night, so it really looked scary, but cool scary. Worth to stop by for picture.
Szechenyi Baths and Pool, are in same Park, but we didn’t have enough time & wardrobe to actually use it. Big fail was not bringing swimwear & towels with us.
This is a long pedestrian street on the Pest side of the city. It is mostly shops, cafes and restaurants area. It’s nice to stroll down, but a bit of a tourist trap, I think. We were missing some clothes (because our trip got longer than expected), so we went for quick shopping. If you are in need for new clothes, you are in right place.
Margaret Bridge and Island
We decided to go to Margaret Island and best way to do it is over the Margaret bridge. Half way across the bridge, there is a smaller bridge to Margaret Island. This was ours first time crossing “3 exit bridge”, didn’t even know bridges like that exist.
Margaret Island is a nice place to walk around. There, you can find small zoo with local animals, old buildings, ruins and Water tower with Outdoor theater in center of park. Island also has Music Fountain, but we visited it in January and it was closed. Japaneses garden are at the far end of Park, but we could find only green European plants, being winter. It is big park, so we advise renting a bike. You can rent electric carts or pedal carts if you wish, also.
House of Terror Museum
We almost missed it, due to our travel schedule – DON’T MISS IT. They do not allow pictures inside, which is too bad, because there is too much to show! What they did inside is just amazing! History of this House is so deep and impressions we left with will stay with us forever. Thank you for this experience.
This is apparently the biggest synagogue in Europe, and it is a beautiful building inside and outside. We visited it after working hours, by night, but on our last day 12 EUR per person sounded too much either way. We took amazing night pictures and admired it from the outside 🙂
FOOD & DRINKS
Menza – It is decorated simple and very quiet, with good staff. Food was very very good! Try garlic soup, but keep in mind to take something very light for main course – it is very heavy!
New York Palace – We were amazed by it’s indoor and food serving. For one scoop of pistachio ganache you pay 8 EUR and juices are from 7 EUR. Mix of sweets on tray is 60 EUR. Too expensive, if you ask me, but being Michelin recommendation we wanted to see what the fuss is about.
Morrison’s Opera– There is entrance fee (approx. 2 EUR) you need to pay, but you get 1 free drink, which is ok. Bar is underground and very cool decorated, like bunker. Staff is amazing!! Girls really now their job. Sit at the bar if you can. Try Palinka (local spirit), it is very good!
Szimpla Kert – We were recommended this place by our friends who visited Budapest and they were right – it is a place “must see”! It looks old and ruin (as all ruin bars in Budapest), but it is very clean and spotless! Toilets are the best! There are 2 levels, many rooms and bars (has outside grill where you can smoke cigarettes). On several different bars you can order beer, wine, cocktails, food and even Shessha. There is souvenir shop inside with very cool items and nicest staff. Take picture on photo machine at the entrance – very very cool add on!
Spiler Original – The restaurant is very cool decorated, basement VIP area is very modern. Food is ok, but not great. Smaller portions than nearby restaurants. Tables are too crowded; you are almost connected to table next to you. Service fee is not included in the price (they stamp that notice with big letters on your invoice – in case you forget). We leave tip everywhere, everywhere, everywhere we go and we didn’t leave any to them! The service was so so bad. We waited 15 minute for them to take our order and when it arrived we were missing one drink (4 items were hard to remember, obviously). After we let them know about mistake, we waited additional 10 minutes and didn’t received it and had to ask them again for our drink. Now we were sitting for approx. 35 minutes without drink. After the dinner we waited for the invoice 15 minutes!!! I wanted to get up and leave without paying, but if they are bad I don’t have to be. We paid our bad dinner bill and result was no tip. Restaurant was mid busy, so that wasn’t a problem. They were to busy talking and gossiping with each other to give us our bill to pay! Only bad experience in our 3 day stay. Our advice, try other nearby places!
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