Budapest is a striking city. Sat along Europe’s second longest river, it’s home to beautiful architecture, thermal baths and warming dishes like goulash – all in all, the perfect place to head for a winter break.
At this time of year the weather in Hungary’s capital city is fresh but not unbearable, with temperatures ranging between 0°C and 4°C in January and February, before climbing to a warmer average of 10°C in March. (In other words: nothing us Brits can’t handle.)
So what to do once you’ve booked your flights? We asked Whitney Haldeman, travel blogger at the Blonde Atlas, for her recommendations.
1. Fisherman’s Bastion
Fisherman’s Bastion is one of the most popular tourist attractions, famed for its incredible views across the city. The Neo-Gothic terrace is named after the medieval guild of fishermen who protected Budapest from invasion. It’s situated on the Buda side of the Danube, on Castle Hill, and Haldeman describes it as “the most beautiful part of Budapest – especially to watch the sunset”.
The bastion is open 24/7 and is free to visit, so you can watch the sunrise, sunset or simply admire the twinkling lights of the bustling city below at night.
Address: Budapest, Szentháromság tér, 1014 Hungary.
2. Széchenyi Thermal Bath
There are plenty of thermal spas to choose from in Budapest however Széchenyi is one of the most popular. “It also boasts beautiful, grandiose architecture to enjoy whilst soaking,” says Haldeman.
A day pass and locker costs about 5,800 Hungarian Florint (about £16) during the week and 6,000 HF (£17) on weekends.
Address: Budapest, Állatkerti krt. 9-11, 1146 Hungary.
3. Széchenyi Chain Bridge
“Guarded by lions, Széchenyi Lánchíd (translated as ‘the Chain Bridge’) is the city’s first bridge that offered a connection from the Buda and Pest sides of the city,” says Haldeman.
The bridge looks particularly beautiful at night when it’s lit up and another major perk is that it’s free to visit (and travel across).
Address: Budapest, Széchenyi Lánchíd, 1051 Hungary.
4. Hungarian Parliament
“Arguably the most iconic building in Budapest and located directly on the Danube (on the Pest side of the city), this is the third largest Parliament building in the world and definitely a sight you can’t miss,” says Haldeman.
Address: Budapest, Kossuth Lajos tér 1-3, 1055 Hungary. If you want to see the inside, you can book a tour here.
5. Szimpla Kert Ruin Bar
“Ruin bars are all the rage in Budapest and Szimpla Kert is the Crown Jewel of them all,” says Haldeman. “These bars are built in Budapest’s old Jewish quarter in the ruins of abandoned buildings, stores, or lots.
“They may not look like much from the outside, but once you walk in you’ll find yourself in the middle of a hip, artsy bar that’s bustling with crowds talking, people smoking hookah, an eclectic assortment of art, dancing and enjoying the laid-back atmosphere.”
You can get food and drink, with cocktails priced at 2000 HF (just over a fiver), cheeseburgers for 1600 HF (£4.50) and barbecue chicken wings for 1750 HF (just under £5). Check out the menu here.
Address: Budapest, Kazinczy u. 14, 1075 Hungary.
6. Mazel Tov
Set in the Jewish Quarter, you’ll find Mazel Tov, a light, airy café with a garden, serving bar snacks, sandwiches, beers and hot drinks. “This lush, garden-like atmosphere is the perfect setting to enjoy a meal – the hummus plate with shwarma and falafels is not to be missed,” says Haldeman. “Or even linger into dusk for a round of drinks.”
A hummus plate costs 1490 HF (£4) and pitta sandwiches stuffed with hummus and falafel, with homemade chips, cost 1890 HF (£5.20).
Address: Budapest, Akácfa u. 47, 1072 Hungary.
7. Café Kör
“This cosy vaulted space with wooden floors and wrought-iron tables has an extensive menu, offering a variety of hearty Hungarian dishes,” says Haldeman. “Try local fare like smoked sausage, potatoes with sour cream and of course, the infamous goulash.”
Address: Budapest, Sas u. 17, 1051 Hungary.
8. Danube River Cruise
If you only have a short period of time to see the sights of Budapest, a river cruise might just provide the perfect way to check out the city and its architecture, while finding out about its history.
Haldeman says: “After taking in the sights during the day, hop on a sunset or evening cruise along the Danube (with a cocktail served on board!) for a fresh perspective as the lights begin to twinkle on and the city takes on a completely different form.”
9. New York Café
If decadence is your thing, Haldeman’s recommendation of the New York Café will almost certainly go down well. “This stunning café has lived through many eras and political systems but continues to be one of the most beautiful places in all of Budapest,” she says.
“Whether you take in the beauty of the dining room for breakfast, lunch or dinner; this grandiose gem is not to be missed – although booking is advised if you want to avoid queuing.”
Address: Budapest, Erzsébet krt. 9-11, 1073 Hungary.
10. Buda Castle and Matthias Church
“This historical castle and accompanying cathedral sit on the south tip of Castle Hill boasting similar views to Fisherman’s Bastion,” says Haldeman. “Whether touring each respective attraction in depth or simply marvelling at their exceptional exterior architecture, this duo is not to be missed.”
Address: Budapest, Szent György tér 2, 1014 Hungary.