Not that I need an excuse to go on holiday, but in November we celebrated our 1st wedding anniversary and what better way to celebrate than with a trip away. Earlier in the year we had already decided we wanted to visit Budapest in Hungary largely due to recommendations from friends but also because its one of the cheapest places in Europe to visit.
We were not disappointed, spending only three days in Budapest we managed to see and do a lot whilst also remaining very relaxed. There was also things we did not get chance to do, but that only means making sure we visit again in the future. So here is what to do during a Long weekend in Budapest.
Where to stay
This was the first time we used airbnb on a trip abroad and I am so glad that we did. I sneakily invited my husband to set up an airbnb account which gave him £25 to spend on his first trip. By him booking a trip via my recommendation we have bagged ourselves £15 off the next trip I book.
In Budapest there are loads of airbnb properties within the centre of the city at a cheaper price than most of the hotels. We booked a property run by PINDIS. The one bed flat was located within a 5 minute walk to the River Danube and comprised a kitchen, lounge, bathroom and a bedroom. It was such a lovely quirky property with loads of personal touches. Staying in an airbnb made the trip far more relaxing than others we have been on and was perfect for a long weekend. There was a shop across the road so we were able to easily buy snacks and breakfast which kept out costs down.
Things to see and do
There is plenty to see and do during a long weekend in Budapest and it doesn’t have to necessarily cost a lot, we managed to find plenty to occupy us without spending a penny. Budapest is split into two by the River Danube, with Buda to the west and Pest to the east.
Both sides feel very different, with Buda being hilly and housing some historic monuments and buildings. Pest is fairly flat in contrast and is home to the Parliament building and Jewish quarters which are home to the famous Ruin bars. It is impossible to pick a favourite side in my opinion.
Found on top of a hill on the western side of the River is Buda Castle, first built in the 13th century it towers above the River Danube and can be seen as you cross the river (over one of the many bridges). We decided to take the short walk up the hill but if you are feeling lazy you can use the funicular. The building itself is pretty impressive and you can walk along the front of it which provides not only great views of the castle but also views of the river and Pest.
There are a small number of statues outside too including the statue of Prince Eugene of Savoy. We did not go inside the castle as there was plenty to see on the outside. We even managed to grab a cheeky drink just outside the castle and sit and admire the architecture.
Matthias Church and Fishermans Bastion
A short walk from Buda Castle was Matthias Church, If you are a fan of churches then this church is worth a visit. It dates to the 14th century and the steeples were highly decorated and there was beautiful stained glass windows
Immediately outside is Fishermans Bastion which looks like something from a Disney film (although my husband hates me saying this). Fishermans Bastion looks a lot older than it is, only built in the 19th century and formed of several turreted lookout towers. You can walk along these towers and get a great view of Matthias Church and out over the Danube. The tallest part of the bastion costs a small amount of money to access which we did not do as we had got a good enough view from the parts we could access.
There are a number of bridges which join Buda and Pest, I would say that Chain Bridge is the most famous, probably because it looks the best (in my opinion anyway). Built in the 19th century, it looks impressive during the day and at night when its all lit up. You must make sure you walk across all of the bridges in Budapest to get the best view down the River Danube.
Hungarian Parliament Building
The parliament building is found on the east side, in Pest. It sits along the bank of the River Danube and looks pretty impressive from every angle with its gothic style architecture. We decided not to go inside, the price is pretty steep at 2400 HUF (£8) and I think there is enough to see on the outside. Make sure you see this building at night too, from across the river you can not miss the Parliament building when it is lit up.
House of Terror
In Pest you can visit the House of Terror, tickets cost 2000 HUF (£7) for an adult and I would say it is well worth it. You are not allowed to take pictures inside the museum, the displays are fairly minimal but there is loads of information which really gets the point across about what Hungary was like during WWII.
Within the basement of the Museum was a reconstructed prison, after seeing something similar in Lithuania it was not as much of a shock to the system a second time round but if it is your first time visiting something like this be prepared. These prison cells really get across the reality of what happened in Hungary during the war.
On a related note, make sure you visit the Shoes on the Danube, a memorial to those killed during the war. Its a thought provoking tribute.
At the end of the main street in Pest you will find the Central Market, now I have visited a lot of markets but this place is huge. It has everything you could wish for including food, drink and plenty of souvenirs.
My plan was to eat here as there were loads of food stalls on the top floor and I had read great things. The food looked great but I was not very well so had to give it a miss. We walked around all the stalls, purchasing a magnet from one of the souvenir stalls (of course).
Hungary is known for its Paprika and I was not planning on leaving Budapest without purchasing some. I managed to find a small bag of Paprika with a cute little decorated spoon which only cost 500 HUF (£2). You must visit this place and make sure you buy something too, I could have bought loads of cured meats and fruit and cheese and wine.
Liberty Statue and Citadella
Back on the Buda side of the river, slightly further south than Buda Castle, is Liberty Statue and Citadella, at the top of an incredibly steep and huge hill. The walk was not too bad as we took it steady and stopped a lot (again feeling not too well). The statue commemorates those who sacrificed their lives for independence in Hungary.
The Citadella is located directly behind and is a kind of fortress which sits on top of Gellert Hill. The fortress itself was built in 1851 but used up until the 1950’s. We walked around the outside of both the Statue and the Citadella at night. Gellert Hill certainly provides the best view of the city in my opinion.
Budapest is known for its thermal baths and they are certainly not to be missed during a long weekend. We chose to visit Szechenyi Baths, the most well known and biggest. This place was amazing , I must admit the main reason I chose this was because of the Beer Spa within it. I pre-booked us two tickets to the Beer Spa which included entry to the Thermal baths. The tickets cost 88 euros (£78) which seems a lot of money but you don’t have to do the beer spa to keep costs down. If you do choose to do the Beer Spa you get to sit in a wooden tub full of hot water and a beer mix (which is meant to have health benefits), if that wasn’t enough, there is a beer tap in which you can help yourself to as much beer as you can drink in an hour!
After the hour we were free to use the other facilities in the baths. We headed straight outside to the Thermal bath which was amazing. It was so warm, even though it was pretty cold outside.
Included in our tickets was a cabin for us to get changed in and leave our belongings, which someone from the Beer Spa showed us how to sort out. We also took our own towel so that we did not have to hire one as this of course costs extra. The only other recommendation could be to take flip flops when walking around everything is pretty wet and outside is very cold.
Things to eat and drink
As I already mentioned Hungary is known for its Paprika, therefore its not really a surprise that they use it in a fair few of their dishes. There were plenty of foods that I did not get chance to eat or recommended places we did not get to try. If you were to visit for longer you would probably get a chance to try everything but their food is fairly filling so I wasn’t finding myself to be that hungry.
For our first meal we stopped at a little place called Pauls Bistro where I had Paprikash Chicken, the chicken was served on the bone in a paprika based sauce with little noodles. There were loads of little cafes and restaurants down this main street so was probably aimed towards tourists and priced slightly higher than other places but still incredibly tasty.
I had to try Goulash and I think I picked the best day to try it, a cold winters day but the sun was shining and I fancied a lighter lunch. We stopped at a little restaurant only five minutes from where we were staying along Oktober Street. The soup came with plenty of bread and had loads of meat, veg and little noodles in it. Delicious.
Mazel Tov is a restaurant in the Jewish district, this place is incredibly popular, book a table, we arrived at 5:30pm and were lucky enough to get a table that was not needed until 7:30. The setting for this restaurant is a previously abandoned building, much like the ruin bars. It is a light and airy space with loads of pretty lights and the food menu mixes street food with influences from Israel.
I could have sipped cocktails here all night and the food was amazing, the prices were incredibly reasonable too. I had the beef kebab roasted in lamb fat, with a side of chips. There was a lot of food so don’t worry about going hungry.
We managed to visit only two of the famous Ruin Bars during our long weekend in Budapest. Of course we went to Szimpla Kert, the most famous, housed in an old factory this place is insane. We only visited at night, Saturday and Sunday. Saturday night it was incredibly busy but the atmosphere is electric. Filled with anything and everything it is quite hard to explain what this place is like without you seeing it for yourself.
On the Sunday we were able to explore a bit more as it was quieter, heading upstairs and finding a little bar and different decor and seating around every corner. Graffiti can also be found on every wall. I must say the alcohol here is incredibly cheap and if you are a fan of beer there is plenty to try. The house wine was also delicious and I don’t think I have drank wine as cheap as I did here at 500 HUF (less than £2) a glass.
Szimpla Kert is also worth a visit during the day, although we did not get a chance you can eat here, with Sunday being the best day to visit due to the farmers market which takes place on a Sunday morning. I wish I had had time to visit, but maybe next time.
The second Ruin Bar we visited was only a five minute walk away, Ellarto Kert is a lot smaller and seems to be favoured by the locals. Although this bar was similar in style, it was incredibly smokey and the atmosphere wasn’t quite the same. But I am glad I had chance to visit another bar.
There is so much more to see and do during a long weekend in Budapest and we were keen to keep this trip as cheap as possible. The Airbnb plus flights cost about £200 and we only took £200 spending money. Budapest is a city where you can explore and see a lot without having to pay entry into places. We spent our money well on the Terror Museum and the Thermal baths. We also like to save our money for food and drink in the evenings and Budapest did not disappoint.
If you are looking for a city break to Europe definitely look at Budapest as an option, perfect even in the winter with plenty to explore!