Last weekend, I met 5 friends for a long weekend in Budapest and I’m still impressed that we managed to agree on a destination, a weekend and a hotel without any use of voodoo. Upon deciding on a destination, our criteria were cheap alcohol, sightseeing and within 3 hours flight which gave us quite a few options. Eventually, we decided on Budapest because it met all of our criteria and offered a selection of thermal baths as a bonus + most of the girls had never been to Budapest before. This was my second visit to Budapest, and while my first visit was in late spring last year where I walked around in shorts in 23 degrees, I also looked forward to seeing Budapest in autumn shades.
Budapest is perfect for a deluxe girly getaway (shopping), a weekend with the lads (cheap beers), or even a romantic getaway, if you’ve found a person worthy of sharing food with. You can easily find cheaper accommodation and go on a lower budget than I did, but relative to other European capitals, you get so much bang for your buck that going deluxe won’t leave you broke. Here we go, enjoy my five tips for Budapest!
We stayed at Continental and paid €510 (€255 per person) for a double room for 3 nights, which I think is very reasonable for a 4 star hotel, breakkie included and access to 2 pools, jacuzzi and fitness. I booked through booking.com and chose the option with free cancellation and no prepay. If you want an extra notch of exclusiveness, I can also recommend Corinthia which I stayed at during my first visit to Budapest. If you sign up to Corinthia’s newsletter, you’ll be notified when they have a 50% offer on their rooms. Both hotels are 20 mins walk from St Stephens cathedral, and 30 mins walk from the Szechenyi baths.
2. WALKING TOUR
Budapest is a very walkable city and exploring on your feet lets you enjoy and take in all the sights at a perfect pace. A pair of comfy shoes are recommended and you can expect to be walking for 2.5 hours. We went on a tour with Free Tours, but there are also other tour providers that offer free walking tours (you tip your guide at the end of the tour), and within 2,5 hours, you will have seen the main sights of Budapest such as St. Stephan’s Basilica, The Chain Bridge, Buda Castle, The Matthias Church, Fisherman’s Bastion with small stops in between, where you’ll get bite sized tales of Hungarian history. Tours are running twice a day and we tipped €7-10 per person.
3. THE BATHS
Oh ma goodness, I can’t even write about the baths without taking a second to close my eyes and recall how relaxing it felt to submerge into the hot water. Going to a bath is obviously a must for your trip. If you don’t go, you haven’t actually been to Budapest. If you’re not a fan of public baths, just go anyway. Budapest and other areas of Hungary have natural, underground hot springs and that’s why there are so many thermal baths in Budapest. I’ve been to two of the baths and I loved both of them, but they were very different, and I can’t choose one over the other – here’s why:
Szechenyi: Large, outdoor baths with a big 36c bath, a 27c swimming pool (you have to wear a head condom aka swimming cap to enter the swimming pool) and another warm bath with a whirlpool in the middle, plus an impressive number of baths, saunas and steam rooms indoor as well. You can easily spend 2-3 hours here. I really enjoyed Szechenyi for it’s big outdoor pool and for the variety of baths. We were there on a cloudy, grey day and it was perfect to have an air temperature at 10-12 degrees, while floating around in warm water. Wrinkly raisin is the look you’re going for. Bring whatever you’d bring when you go swimming – towels are essential. If you can, visit on weekdays or as early as possible during the weekends. Go for a ticket with a locker (4700F) and remember to drink plenty of water during your stay. Great for groups!
Gellért: Art nouveau bath, beautiful decor, Roman inspired, smaller and less crowded than Szechenyi. Gellért also has outdoor baths, but it’s not as impressive as Szechenyi’s. However, Gellért has two stunningly beautiful thermal baths indoor and they are definitely worth a visit. Because Gellért was less crowded, it had a more exclusive and intimate feel, so this would be a great place to go with your significant other (but keep your hands above the water, puh-lease!). The two thermal baths are 36 and 40c, and the 40c was my favourite. Imagine the relieving feeling as you descend into the warm water and the tension in your muscles and joints leave your body. You can’t help but close your eyes and doze off. 40c was juuust on the verge of being a little too warm for me, but at the same time, I liked the tingling sensation on my skin and the warmth all the way into bone and marrow.
4. FINE DINING – TANTI
Budapest has a wonderful dining scene that boasts of five 1 star Michelin restaurants and Tanti is one of them. I’m particularly talented at eating and I always look forward to exploring the local cuisine, when I’m traveling. I booked a table at Tanti two weeks in advance and was surprised that there was a table available for 6 on a Saturday evening. Tanti has a peculiar location at the front of a small shopping center far from hustle and bustle of the Danube and the Castle district on the Buda side. The vibe was welcoming and laid back, while still offering the elegance and class expected of a high end restaurant. From the menu, we we’re able to choose between four options: 3, 5 (a), 5 (b) or 9 courses – all with optional paired wine menus. If you know me well, you might already have guessed what I went for. That’s right, 9 courses with wine, nothing less could do. I somehow persuaded the rest of the table to go full retard with me and our tastebuds were ready to be seduced. I won’t bore you with neat descriptions of every course, because it took us almost 4,5 hours to get through the menu, but it was a sublime food experience. Fine dining forces you to pay attention to what you’re eating – you’re indulging, treat yoself-ing, you know you’re going to pay with a kidney, so you enjoy every single bite. With every course, I made an effort to properly taste my food, take in all the nuances and eat slowly. The wine pairing was exquisite. Not only did I expand my wine horizon (I had no idea Hungarian wines existed), but I was also pleasantly surprised when a white wine was served with duck with great success.
Oh, the damage? €168/almost a kidney, but not your first born. Yes, it’s a bit pricey, but on the other hand you pay for the entire food experience, the superbly attentive service and the art of taste bud seduction and for 9 courses and 9 glasses of wine, it’s not too bad.
5. MISC MUSTS
Even though the walking tour takes you to some of the top 10 sights of Budapest, I would still recommend you to take a stroll along the Danube. The views are amazing from both sides, and if you walk along the Pest side first, you will see the Jewish memorial (Shoes on the bank) and then the Parliament building. If you want to visit the Parliament, it would be a good idea to book a tour beforehand. If you go during spring or summer, you have to pay a visit to Gelarto Rosa to get a rose shaped gelato. It’s close to St. Stephen’s Basilica, so you can sit on the stairs of the Basilica and enjoy your beautiful gelato. I haven’t been myself, but from 11th Nov there is a magical Christmas market at Vörösmarty Square.
Lastly on the misc list, you have to drop by a ruin pub. A ruin pub is, as the name reveals, a pub in an old building or whatever remains of that old building. The drinks are cheap, the furniture is somewhat random and you’ll instantly feel very underground-Berlin-cool (or maybe it’s just the place we went) walking into one. They come in all sizes and shapes, so you would be able to find one that suits your mood. We only visited one pub, but if you want to explore a few, this website has some cool recommendations.
And that concludes my 5 tips for Budapest! Are you planning to visit Budapest soon? If so, let me know what you’re planning to see in the comments.
All the best,