Only a two and half hour flight from London, Budapest is a popular destination for a quick weekend break in eastern Europe. Although a little quieter than some of its counterparts such as Prague and Krakow, Budapest has buckets and buckets to offer in the beautiful architecture and history department and sure knows how to make a damn good desert.
Surprisingly, on my visit I found my pound didn’t stretch anywhere near as far as I had expected (although that might be due to the current complications of Brexit and resulting fluctuating currency values). The cost of food and airport transfers/taxis took a pretty hefty chunk of the budget so be prepared, however this is made up for by the ridiculously cheap and free attractions.
As you arrive in Budapest you’ll be welcomed to a city lit up in gold as many of the cities most prominent buildings are showcased in all their glory. After you’ve checked in spend the evening exploring your local surroundings.
As Budapest is a quieter city with fewer ‘must see’ attractions, take the opportunity for a little lay in and catch up on some z’s. Many of the cities hotels are historic attractions in themselves, ornately decorated and seriously comfortable so enjoy to the max.
Castle Hill Funicular
For panoramic views of Budapest and a little nostalgia, hop on the funicular to Castle Hill. For £3.50 you’ll get a 3 min (ish) journey up the steep hill on a contraption that dates all the way back to 1870. Seems a little pricey but it’s fun and you get seriously good unobstructed views.
Buda Castle Hill and Museums
Budapest’s Castle Hill district is filled with history, famous sites and hidden cafes. This is the area to visit if you want to delve head first in to Budapest’s fascinating and turbulent past. Museums such as the Hungarian National Gallery and Budapest History Museum are incredibly cheap to visit. If you’re under 26 you can also take advantage of discounts if you have proof of age.
Try some new Hungarian delicacies such as Lángos, a dish of fried dough smothered in sour cream and cheese and toppings of your choice, or order a Kolbász, traditional sausages that are often served in a baguette with pickles and onions.
If there’s one thing you must try whilst on a weekend in Budapest it is the hot chocolate. It will blow your mind how good it is and you can even spike it with a shot of rum. So good!
This historic church sat on the top of the hill overlooking all of Budapest is over 700 years old. It is a symbol of the cities rich history and is adorned with incredibly detailed decoration. If you want to go inside you will likely need to wait until the afternoon to miss the morning service and also pay a small entrance fee.
If you’re in to photography this is the perfect look out spot to get shots of sweeping views that seemingly go on forever. Fisherman’s Bastion commemorates the medieval fisherman who protected the city during the medieval period. Surprisingly it was only built 100 years ago, which is pretty new for much of Europe’s buildings.
Explore The Hills
The walk from the Castle District is actually very short (approx 15 mins) but instead of powering back down to the water take some time to explore the quiet streets on your way down. There are lots of little sights and treasures that you will find such as this architecture tour that is signposted by these painted bicycles.
Gellért Spa and Bath
Everything in Budapest is steeped in history and this building is no exception. Known as ‘The City of Baths’ because it is the largest spa city in the entire world, whether you’re a first timer or loyal enthusiast, a weekend in Budapest is not complete without a visit to one.
Gellért is known as the most beautiful thermal baths in the city and is decorated head to toe in a vibrant Art Nouveau style. Allegedly, the waters are meant to have healing powers so should rejuvenate you after a day of pounding the pavements.
Entry is around £15/5100 HUF on weekends and you’ll need to bring towels, flip flops and swimwear.
Dining Out With A View
Head out for a night on the town indulging in Hungarian Cuisine accompanied by unforgettable views. If you’re near to the Buda side head back up to Fisherman’s Bastion to see the skyline by night.
After the relaxing end to the day before, it’s time to rise early and explore Pest. Head to the waters edge to take in views of the Széchenyi Chain Bridge before all of the tourist crowds take over.
Breakfast at Cafe Gerbeaud
The famous Cafe Gerbeaud, located in downtown on Vörösmarty Square, has seen over 150 years of Budapest history. Although it’s now a little touristy and overpriced, the cafe is still worth popping in to for a tasty breakfast.
The building in itself is a sight to behold with endless sprawling tables that seem to go on forever once inside and twinkling chandeliers shining down on you. Our breakfast was definitely worth the early start to beat the tourists.
St Stephen’s Basilica
The Basilica has to be one of the most magnificent buildings in all of Budapest. For a 60p/200 HUF donation you can visit this historic building and get lost in all its beauty. The inside cloaked in gold and is painted head to toe with detailed and colourful paintings. The peace and quiet is a welcome escape from the outside world.
Heroes’ Square and City Park
Jump on the M1 metro line to Hősök tere where you can explore Budapest’s monuments and City Park. There are an abundance more museums and sights up here including Heroes’ Square, Vajadahunyad Castle and the park itself.
The M1 metro line is actually the oldest line in the city and the second oldest underground railway in the entire world so the ride is an experience in itself.
To continue on the desert train, take a little detour to Fanki Donuts. They serve some of the best doughnuts in eastern Europe in all sorts of flavours including peach cream, pistachio and Oreo and chocolate biscuit.
Hungarian Parliament Building
Probably the most famous and photographed building in all of Budapest, the Hungarian Parliament Building is one of the biggest of its kind in the world and has watched over much of Hungary’s most poignant events. Tours are available if you would like to get a proper history lesson and behind the scenes look.
There is also a free underground pop up museum exhibition on the square to commemorate one of the area worst horrors, the 1956 massacre. Although deeply sad and horrifying, this exhibition is a great place to learn more about the Hungarian Revolution.
Shoes on the Danube
The most famous and moving monument in Budapest is the Shoes on the Danube Memorial. Surrounded breathtaking views of the city, this memorial is a place to pause and reflect on history. The metal shoes were sculpted by Gyula Pauer to remember and honour those killed by the fascist Arrow Cross Militiamen in WW2.
Have you visited Budapest for a weekend break? Let us know what you thought and your tips in the comments below!