After visiting Prague and Vienna we were looking forward to our trip to Budapest, and the opportunity to head even further east. We were also excited to experience our first Christmas Market in Europe. For those who haven't been to one or aren't familiar with the concept, think mulled wine, festive trinkets, hearty food, and handmade ornaments.
Top things to do in Budapest
Although we were a bit skeptical about getting in a public bath with a few hundred of our closest friends, we realized it was a must-do. Budapest is known for several of its thermal baths, and we visited the Szechenyi Bath. It's a short tram ride from the downtown area. The weather was quite cold the day we went, but the water was nice and warm! The baths inside are varying temperatures, and there is even a "beer bath" where you can relax in warm beer ingredients. Make sure you book it in advance if that sounds enticing. You do get to drink as much beer as you’d like during your soak session!
Tips: Rent a private locker versus using the larger locker rooms. It isn't that expensive and proves to be convenient. You can also rent towels there for pretty cheap - so you don’t have to lug your wet towels back to the city center.
St. Stephen’s Basilica
This church was one of the most ornate and beautiful we've visited in Europe. Be sure to stop in!
Szechenyi Chain Bridge
Walk across this historic bridge to pass between the Buda and Pest sides of the city.
Tips: Walk along the Buda side of the Danube for spectacular views of the Parliament Building.
Historic palace and castle of the Hungarian kings. Walk around the castle for great views of the city (both Buda and Pest sides) and the Budapest History Museum.
Tips: Take the cute funicular one-way up to the castle and then walk back down after visiting the Fisherman's Bastion.
Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church
Terrace on the Buda side that overlooks the Danube and the Parliament Building. Visit the inside of the church if it is not too crowded. It's a great spot for some pictures and a visit to the cute shops nearby.
Walk up to the Citadella on the winding paths for spectacular views of the city. We stopped for a giant pretzel at a street vendor on the way for some fuel.
Tips: Stop into the Cave Church on your way up.
Walk along the Danube at night, or take a river cruise. We have heard great things about the cruises, and some offer dinner. The lights on both sides of the Danube are really beautifully lit up at nighttime.
Hungarian Parliament Building
One of Budapest’s most architecturally stunning buildings. Stop at the “Shoes on the Danube Bank” along the way - a memorial for those shot into the Danube by the fascist Arrow Cross Militiamen during WWII. Unfortunately, we were turned away when we tried to get tickets for a tour of the inside because they had sold out. Walk around the perimeter for some great pictures.
Tips: Book a tour in advance to make sure you get tickets, unlike us.
A neat museum featuring pinball machines dating all the way back to the 1920s. With a reasonable entry charge, you get to play unlimited games on all the pinball machines. It was like being a kid again!
Tips: Take the metro to get there as it is a little further from the city centre. It also gives you the chance to step back in time, traveling on communist-era subway trains!
House of Terror
An excellent museum and memorial with exhibits highlighting the effects of fascism and communism in Hungary during the 20th century. The stories were captivating, and it was eye-opening to see the impact on the country. It's hard to imagine such brutality, but important to remember. A must visit!
Food and places to eat in Budapest
We had a few meals out at the Christmas market, but also had the chance to taste the local food in Budapest.
Head here for an amazing dinner at a family run restaurant with farm fresh ingredients and local wine from the family’s vineyard (we were able to taste a few before selecting our glass). The restaurant is cozy and intimate, and we really enjoyed both the food and ambiance. Make a reservation in advance!
You can't go wrong with a classic charcuterie plate. It's a great way to try some local meat and cheese, and is served often with peppers and onions. Pair with some Hungarian wine.
Paprika Chicken: Paprika is common in Budapest, and you can buy it in the local gift shops. A popular dish is paprika chicken with noodles.
Chimney Cakes: Delicious and warm, perfect for sharing, especially in the chilly weather.
Where to stay in Budapest
We stayed in an Airbnb right on the main square, Vorosmarty. It was absolutely amazing, and probably the best Airbnb we have ever stayed in. If you search for it, it's called "Vorosmarty Central Home". Our host was wonderful, and the space was perfect.