Budapest is one of the best cities in Europe.
Fact. Boom. Done. End of discussion.
Okay, allow me to elaborate…
Budapest has got a fascinating history, incredible architecture and a brilliant location (right on the Danube).
It’s also very cheap. Compared to most capital cities in Europe, it’s very affordable. We got a private en-suite room, 5 minutes from the city centre, for £7 a night. Hell, you can barely get a Big Mac meal in the UK for that much. Speaking of food… You can eat for under £7 a day too. Yes, 3 meals. A goulash (so good – I could genuinely eat it every day) will cost you about 1400 HUF (about £3). A pint will cost you about 80 pence.
Not only is it cheap, but its value for money too. There is so much to see and do. I spent 5 or so days there in April 2015 and I could’ve easily spent a lot longer. There are just SO MANY things to do. This post is going to be a no thrills list of what I consider 10 of the best things to do in the city. I could’ve included a lot more, but 10’s a nice number. Let’s go!
Top 10 things to do in Budapest
1. Soak in the Széchenyi Baths.
There are loads of geothermal baths in Budapest for you to choose from; the most famous of which is probably the Széchenyi baths. It’s also the only one I’ve been to and therefore the only one I can recommend. There are some which are probably less touristy, but there were also loads of locals here too, so it didn’t bother me too much. When I return to Budapest, I’ll try and explore some baths which are more off the beaten track.
Széchenyi Baths, Budapest
2. Visit the Hospital in the Rock Nuclear Bunker Museum.
This is one of the most unique and fascinating museums I’ve ever been too. Located beneath Buda Castle hill, it comprises of something crazy like 10km’s of interconnected tunnels. Used as a bomb shelter and hospital in World War II, it was then expanded to defend against nuclear attack during the cold war. Incredibly, it only had its classified status lifted in 2002.
Hospital in the Rock Museum
3. Visit Some Ruin Pubs.
After World War II, there were so many buildings left empty and abandoned. They became squats, before artists and hipsters moved in and turned them into some of the most interesting, unique and eclectic pubs in Europe. I’m not going to give you any specific recommendations, because you need to get out and stumble upon your own dark, poorly lit doorways, which turn out being one of the best places to get a pint.
4. Go Hungarian Wine Tasting.
Hungary has wine. In fact, it has over 20 wine regions. And it’s pretty damn good wine too. One of the best is Egri Bikavér, or ‘Bulls Blood’, from the region of Eger. While Faust Wine Cellar is probably the most famous venue to taste wine, I would strongly recommend a trip to The Tasting Rooms. Incredible venue, delicious wines and an extremely passionate and knowledgeable host.
Tasting Rooms, Budapest
5. Explore the Labyrinth below Buda Castle.
This is the second recommendation I’ve given to go underground in this post. I find it fascinating and the Labyrinth is a great way to spend a couple of hours. Here’s a fun story. In 2011, the Hungarian police stormed the cave and forced all the tourists to leave. They made all the staff collect their belongings and would not allow them to leave unaccompanied. Some argue this was under the pretext of wanting to nationalise the attraction, but I disagree. I think something far more sinister is going on…
6. Lookout from the Fisherman’s Bastion.
A beautiful terrace located on the Buda bank of the Danube. It looks pretty cool, but it also provides you with a fantastic view across the city. It’s definitely worth a visit.
7. Visit the House of Terror Museum.
As with many of the countries in Central or Eastern Europe, there is a long, dark, history of terror. This museum, which is housed in a building previously run by the Hungarian secret police, has exhibits and acts as a memorial for all those imprisoned, tortured and killed by the regime and specifically within the building. The basement is one of the most haunting parts of the museum.
8. Hike up Gellért Hill.
Couldn’t be more self-explanatory. Hike up the steps and slopes to the top of Gellert Hill for one of the best views of the city. Simple.
View from Gellert Hill
9. Visit the Cave Church.
On your way up Gellért Hill, make sure you visit the Cave Church. It does what it says on the tin – it’s a church, unsurprisingly, in a cave. Originally home to hermit who healed the sick, it became a poor family’s house and eventually a chapel and monastery (minus a brief stint as a WWII field hospital). In 1951, the monastery superior was executed under communist rule and the rest of the monks imprisoned. Following the collapse off the USSR, the concrete sealing the cave was smashed and the monks returned. They’re still there, but you can visit too.
You can just see the Cave Church – halfway up Gellért Hill
10. Climb St. Stephen’s Basilica.
As well as my apparent interest in going underground, I also like climbing shit too. Not only is St. Stephen’s Basilica well worth a visit for its stunning architecture, but the view from the domes observation deck is absolutely cracking. It’s only 364 steps after all. Note: There is an elevator, but don’t take it. You’ll enjoy the view all the more if you walk.
View from St. Stephen’s Basilica
That’s pretty much it for this post. The best thing about Budapest is this – I could easily write a list of another 10 things to do in Budapest and possibly even another 10 after that. But it’s much better if you get out and explore yourself. Get lost, stumble on some cool shit and enjoy barely spending any money. Enjoy.