Posted 20 January 2023 in Travel Wanderlust
Why Budapest should be on your travel bucket list
The “Queen of Danube”, also known as Budapest, is the capital of Hungary. Nestled among the northern hills and the southeastern plains, this city is the epitome of magnificence. The two parts of the city, Buda and Pest, are connected by the Danube River and several bridges and roads. Despite the reduction in size post World War II, the city never ceased to lose its ancient charm. It still dominates the industrial and political life of the Hungarians being the seat of the government.
The two parts of the city situated on either side of the river provide a dramatic romanticism to the city. With Buda being placed on a higher elevation than Pest, the city was designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 1987. The region has always been a centre of civilisation. Dating back to the Roman Empire, the Middle Ages or the World Wars, the city houses a diverse population with people of various ethnic backgrounds. The city has seen the rise and fall of several empires, ranging from the Celts to the Romans and the Turks. It has been a witness to several events that went down in history and has been etched on its cobbled stone paths. Through all of this, it has emerged as an influential place of culture, architecture, art, and learning. What better a place to visit in Central Europe than Budapest!
What to do in Budapest?
Budapest is not short on fun activities, places to visit, markets to shop in, or relaxing baths. Compiled below is a guide for what to do when visiting Budapest.
Visit the heritage sites
A city dating back to the Stone Age is bound to have several interesting heritage and cultural sites. Whether it is for knowing more about the history or seeking visual pleasure, these historical places are a must visit.
- Parliament Building: Located on the Pest side of the city, the Hungarian Parliament Building is a sight to behold. It was designed in a neo-gothic style of architecture with symmetrical features and a massive dome. It still functions as the House of the Nation. Its facade overlooking the Danube is magnificent. One part of the building is a Hexadecagnol (sixteen-sided) Hall. One can simply look at its magnanimous beauty from afar. However, guided tours are often conducted inside the building.
- Stephen’s Basilica: Named after the first King of Hungary - Stephen, the Roman Catholic Church stands proud of its architectural glory. Previously a theater ground for the people of Hungary, it was converted into the most important church by the sponsorship of a wealthy businessman in 1905. It has a neo-classical style of architecture. In the past century, the church has become a platform for renowned musical concerts and orchestras. In the summer months, the performance takes place every Sunday.
- Hungarian State Opera House: The neo-renaissance structure is one of the grandest opera houses in Europe. Many talented artists have performed here. The architecture is luxurious and has a hint of Baroque in it. The seating capacity is limited, but the quality of the acoustics makes up for it. A visit to Budapest is incomplete without a night at the Hungarian Opera. The season starts in September and lasts till June. You should book tickets in advance for both the ballet and opera performances.
- Buda Castle: The historical baroque-style castle built in the mid-17th century was home to many kings of Hungary. The gigantic castle has now been converted into The Hungarian National Gallery. The castle had been damaged in the world wars and took more than half a century to reconstruct. It still has a lot of its medieval art and glory remaining. The interior is a delight to experience, especially the serene Castle Chapel, the Gothic Hall, the Grand Throne Room, Coronation Room, and so on. The place stands as reminiscent of its grand past.
- Hungarian National Museum: Found in 1802, the splendid museum houses collections of historic art, sculptures, relics, and archaeological evidence of the past. It also has a grand library, which gave life to the Hungarian National Revolution. The style of architecture is neo-classical. One can spend hours lost in its halls and galleries. It is recommended to put aside an entire day just for this fantastic museum.
- House of Terror: The building stands out in contrast to the city. Its sharp black blades with emboldened words ‘House of Terror’ give us a glimpse of the purpose of this museum. It was built to commemorate the victims of the fascist and communist regimes who were brutally tortured and murdered. There is a permanent exhibition showcasing the connection of the nation with Nazi and Soviet nations. It serves as a reminder and a lesson of the dark past and terrors of greedy politicians.
- Dohany Street Synagogue: It is the largest synagogue in Europe acting as the centre of Neolog Judaism. The architecture has an Islamic touch to it and is built in a Moorish Revival Style. The Synagogue complex houses the Heroes’ Temple and the Jewish museum archives. The interior has several colourful geometric paintings by famous artists.
Explore markets to shop in
Budapest has eclectic places to shop in, be it flea markets or contemporary design studios. It is a shopper’s dream to explore these places of interest.
- Paloma: A hidden gem in the arcaded courtyard, it brings together several local designers and artisans to display an emporium of clothes, jewellery, bags, shoes, and accessories. You have the opportunity of meeting the designers in person, interacting with them and getting to know more about their art. It dates back to a rich architectural dynasty, but recently became a place of commercialisation in 2014. You can find various ateliers, concept stores, and showrooms here.
- Retrock: It is a fashion enthusiast’s best dream come true. It is a vintage/second-hand store with a twist. It has a vast variety of vintage designer pieces that have been discontinued. Vintage Dior dresses or Jean Paul Gaultier pieces are treasures found here. The prices range on the higher side and one can spend hours browsing the store for his/her perfect choice of clothing.
- Ecseri Market: It is Budapest’s largest flea market. It is a wonderland of vintage pieces, ceramics, pottery, portraits of grim-looking old men, and art pieces. The market alone has several stalls and even more visitors. It calls for enjoyable times and people-watching.
- Central Market Hall: It remains the city’s oldest and largest indoor market. It has seen decades of shopkeepers and customers haggle for rice and fruit. The structure has a neo-gothic touch to it. You can find many assortments of pastries, spices, vegetables, seasonal fruits, etc.
- Falk Micsa Street: If you are in search of antiques, then Falk Micsa is the place for you. With antique paintings, sculptures and miniature souvenirs, this place is a haven for every tourist. You can also find paintings from modern art artists, old shops that sell beautiful jewellery, and porcelain figures.
Dine and wine at local eateries
Budapest has no lack of delicious cuisines and places to spend lazy summer afternoons or fancy evenings in.
- Ruin Bars: These places are pre-world-war sites that have a rugged worn-out look to them and act as pubs. Among the most famous are Szimpla Kert, Instant and Fogaz Haz (which also has dance floors), Mazel Tov Budapest (a classier ruin bar with an upscale environment that serves middle-eastern food), Csendes Vintage Bar and Cafe (it has a chill ambience with high ceilings and excellent food).
- Massolit Books and Cafe: An independent small cafe that offers not only scrumptious food to feast on but the company of books too. It houses a good collection of books and an excellent cup of espresso. It also hosts live bands and readings.
- Tasting Table: It offers wine tasting sessions, with a great collection of vintage bottles and luxurious wine. The staff also provides you with details about each type of wine, its nature, ingredients, and composition. It is a place for oenophiles.
- Szimpla Farmers’Market: The Szimpla Ruin Bar converts into a wholesome farmers’ market on Sundays. With local farmers selling fresh produce of bread, cottage cheese, herbs, vegetables, and a fulfilling background of lively music, the courtyard has several pots of stews and soups for the customers to enjoy.
Other recreational places to explore
Places like Margaret Island, Szechengi Thermal Baths, Faust Wine Cellar, Gellert Baths, The Fisherman’s Bastion, and The Memento Park are wonderful options to spend your time rejuvenating on this trip. The Thermal Baths have healing properties, the parks are great places for picnics, and Budapest has no lack of things to do!
- Book your flights and hotels at least 6 months in advance. It is a bustling city of tourists and the accommodations get filled fast.
- Haggle at the flea markets and local markets to get the best value.
- To spend a romantic evening, book your tickets for the river cruise beforehand.
- Also, book your reservations in advance in all the restaurants you want to visit.
- If you travel in taxis, then always insist on using the meter. The taxi drivers are known for overcharging tourists.
- Use the tram facilities for an authentic experience.
- If you have a student id, then you can use it to get discounts on transportation.
Being located in the centre of the Carpathian Basin, Budapest transitions between extreme humid and temperate climates. The maximum temperatures can rise up to 30 degrees Celsius in the peak summer months of July and August. The minimum temperatures can fall as low as -25 degrees Celsius during the winter months of December and January. Heatwaves are to be expected during the summers. The Pest used to get flooded by the river every year during monsoons, until recently due to the regulation of the river. However, it does not get scorchingly hot all the time. There is mild precipitation in the summer months, but humidity levels remain high. The winters can be extremely cold. Heavy snowfall is to be expected with temperatures dropping so low.
Best time to travel
The best time to travel to Budapest is from mid-August to October. It is when the tourists are at the least, the weather is chilly but comfortable enough. The accommodations are not overloaded, and one can sightsee and enjoy the city with a serene and calm view. However, the suitable time for backpackers would be in the spring season of March to May. The weather conditions are not too harsh and provide for a smooth journey. If you want to experience festivals in Budapest, then the best time to travel is in the months of July and August. You can revel in the joyous celebrations of St. Stephen’s Day, Music Festivals, Strand Festival, and many such occasions. The main tourist season is from June to August. There is a considerable rise in the number of people on vacation, bustling streets, restaurants, and packed heritage sites.
How to reach?
Budapest is a city connected to the world by numerous transportation, like rail, air and road. You can choose any one of these according to your budget and vacation plans to suit your needs.
- By air: You can avail yourself of direct non-stop international IndiGo flights to Budapest from Delhi. Budapest has access to the Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport. It is among the top 4 largest commercial airports in Europe. You can also choose to layover in other cities like Prague and book your IndiGo flight from there.
- By rail: Budapest has access to three international railway stations. Traveling by train is not uncommon in Europe, especially with open borders. You can avail ‘The Trainline’ rail and reach Budapest from cities like Vienna and Bratislava. There is a 3-hour interval between every train.
- By road: One of the easiest ways to reach Budapest is by road. International cross-border buses can be booked online. The Nepliget Bus Station is located just outside the city for convenience. The well-known bus companies are Eurolines, Flix Bus, Infobus, etc. There are numerous bus routes from Amsterdam, Vienna, Berlin, Rome, Paris, Milan, Venice, etc.
- By waterways: The Danube has provided a luxurious means of transport to the city. River Cruises from nearby cities like Bratislava in Slovakia or Vienna in Austria are 3-4 rides to reach Budapest. This option is definitely a must-consider!
We hope this gave you an insight into the city, its overflowing culture, history, places of note, and where to eat and shop when in Budapest! A tranquil promenade beside the Danube, a moving performance at the opera, and a cup of flavourful espresso await you in the charming city of Budapest.
Related travel blogs