Splendid architecture, thermal baths, beautiful coffee places and great food are some of the top reasons to visit Budapest.
This Budapest Guide includes: Travel Experiences, Top Attractions in Budapest for a 3 days trip, Hungarian Foods & Drinks to try and a few social insights.
Lovely Experiences in Budapest
Before I go into the top Budapest attractions, let me share some of the experiences I enjoyed the most:
Visiting the New York Café (Boscolo Hotel) – A Dream Come True ❤
It is said to be the most beautiful café in the world, and it’s hard to disagree once you step into this fabulous palace.
This amazing piece of history dates back to 1894 and features an Eclectic Italian Renaissance style – incredible frescoes adorning the ceilings, gold plated stuccoes on its columns and marvelous colors that leave you in awe.
Sitting down for coffee and cakes in this place feels like traveling back in time, when women wore hats and sumptuous lace embroidered dresses on a daily basis. I’ve been dreaming of visiting the café for 2 years now, ever since I first laid eyes on it, and I’m happy I finally got to see in for myself.
It’s a treasure every architecture lover should visit!
Rosalia – Rosé Wine Festival
While visiting Vajdahunyad Castle, we were lucky enough to find the Rosé Wine Festival – an annual event dedicated to rosé wine lovers – in the park outside the castle. The lucky part of this awesome find is that the locations of the event vary from one year to another, so we happened to be in the right place, at the right time.
We had a lot of fun here, tasting different varieties of rosé and white wines, talking with the locals, cheese tasting and savoring some of the traditional local food.
Talking with the locals while sitting at the same table, we found that this event is created around the first harvest. It’s a way for wine makers to get a sense of what people like this year, a sort of focus group that will define upcoming wine varieties that will make the most commercial sense. Win-win, if you ask me.
Love these opportunities for cultural exchange, social insights and local experiences! They enrich every trip, adding to the value of visiting the main attractions of a city.
Getting a history lesson at Dohany Synagogue in Budapest – the largest synagogue in Europe and an architectural wonder – is another experience to go after in the Hungarian capital.
Seeing the most comprehensive collection of Shoes around the world and throughout history at the Ethnographic Museum in Budapest was certainly a very nice surprise.
I wanted to see the beautiful architecture of this museum, the Traditional Hungarian costumes and the beautiful painted furniture gathered here.
Seeing this temporary shoes exhibition filled my heart with joy (show me a woman who doesn’t love shoes). This too was a fortunate event, so please check their website before you go.
The Ethnographic Museum is the imposing building facing the Budapest Parliament (hard to miss it). The visit takes 35-55 minutes, and it’s worth it for architectural and cultural insights you can find within its walls.
A guided tour of the stunning Budapest Parliament
Discovering top architectural treasures of Budapest and seeing some of the most representative Art Nouveau buildings
Seeing Budapest from above at St. Stephen’s Basilica
How to spend 3 Days in Budapest – Top Attractions & More
Day 1 in Budapest:
- Fisherman’s Bastion,
- St. Matthias Church,
- Buda Castle,
- The Széchenyi Chain Bridge & the Gresham Palace.
Day 2 in Budapest:
- St. Stephen’s Basilica Budapest – view Budapest from above,
- Budapest Parliament – take a guided tour inside the Hungarian Parliament Building,
- Museum of Ethnography (Neprajzi Muzeum) – learn about the Hungarian traditions,
- New York Café Budapest – Boscolo Hotel – visit the most beautiful café in the world,
- Shoes on the Danube Bank (Memorial)
- The Ruin Bars – Szimpla Kert Pub.
Day 3 in Budapest:
- Dohany Street Synagogue – visit the biggest synagogue in Europe,
- Wander the old Jewish quarter of Budapest,
- Vajdahunyad Castle – visit the amazing interior of the Ministry of Agriculture,
- Great Market Hall Budapest,
- Liberty Bridge – better see it before and right after sunset,
- Experience Rosalia, the rosé wine festival, and have a wine & cheese tasting, if you happen to visit Budapest mid-May.
Art Nouveau in Budapest
Budapest is know for its Art Nouveau architecture. These buildings will stop you on your way with their stunning beauty, but if you want to track them down, here are a few references:
- Museum of Applied Arts – you can see its colorful roof from the St. Stephan’s Basilica,
- Gresham Palace (now Budapest Four Seasons Hotel) – you can see it at one end of the Chain Bridge, opposite to the funicular,
- Great Market Hall Budapest,
- Gellert Thermal Baths,
- Paris Department Store (temporary closed),
- Bedo Haz: The House of Hungarian Art Nouveau,
- Patrona Hungariae Mosaic on the facade of a former Turkish Bank House on Szervita Square (we were lucky to book an apartment right next door).
There are many other beautiful Art Nouveau buildings, but I only explored the ones closer to the top tourist attractions.
Top Foods & Drinks to try in Budapest
Goulash, Paprikash, Sausages, Langos, Kürtős kalács, Túró Rudi, Strudel and Pogácsa are some of the most delightful food experiences to put on your travel list for Budapest. You can also taste most of them in Romania (Transylvania), but the recipes are a bit different here.
Drinks to try in Budapest: Tokaji Wine & Unicum. We enjoyed Tokaji wine at Rosalia, the wine festival, but I guess you can find it in traditional Hungarian restaurant too.
Best Brunch: Jewish sandwich and Crispy Cottage Cheese (oven baked) at the Viking Club, across from Dohany Synagogue
Best Lunch: Goulash at Urban Betyar
Best Cakes: New York Café Budapest
Best Coffee: Flat White at Madal (specialty coffee)
We also had a lovely food experience at Rosalia, the rosé wine festival: cheese tasting, langos, traditional sausages and Tokaji wine.
N.B. Please avoid the Oldest Strudel House in Budapest because it’s really a bad food experience.
Travel Tips for a City Break in Budapest
- How much time to spend in Budapest?
A 3 days trip is enough to visit all the main attractions of Budapest in a slow-paced manner. You can book 4 days, if you also want to pamper yourself with a spa day in one of the many Thermal Baths the city is famous for.
- Getting around Budapest
We mostly walked around the city, but also tried the public transport: the yellow trams, the buses and the metro. We bought 8 tickets each, 2 of which used for one airport transfer. The taxi fee for airport transfer is a fixed one: 30 Euro or 9000 Forints.
- Best time to visit Budapest?
May is a fine month for visiting Budapest, if you want to enjoy the warm weather, with 200C every day. It was a bit moody at times, with some showers and clouds, but we had plenty of sun too.
April is also a great month to visit Budapest, if you want to admire the city in full bloom, but it will naturally be colder.
Winter time is to be avoided in Budapest, as I’ve learned from my mother and a friend of mine. The Danube River impacts the real feel and the temperatures are way below minus, so you can’t enjoy walking outside for days in a row.
- Where to stay in Budapest (accommodation)
We booked a wonderful apartment in Budapest’s city center – Szervita Square, so every attraction was at a walking distance. The interior was very nice and the bedroom very cozy.
- Tips for visiting Budapest’s attractions
If you want to visit the Budapest Parliament, you have to plan your guided visit in advance. We didn’t want to wait a lot, so we booked the Spanish tour. They sometimes have extra English tours, but you have to ask for them.
If you want to visit the Dohany Street Synagogue, you have to check their site before, so you’ll be sure it’s not closed. They also have very specific visiting hours, only with guided tours, so you need to plan this visit ahead.
Social & Cultural Insights from Budapest
- Budapest is one of the cleanest European capitals and that says a lot about people’s education. I’ve even seen locals picking up garbage left on the streets by others. Sure, there were some areas with garbage, but even that wasn’t dispersed all over, but in special bags left at a street corner for a later pick-up.
- They love dogs very much, so it seemed that 1 in 10 people that we’ve passed by during our stay had a dog on a leash. The best part: every dog owner picked up after his dog, thus maintaining the clean etiquette of Budapest.
- Hungary was part of an empire and so people are proud by nature, but that’s a positive trait, if you regard it as a way of maintaining standards high in everything they do: the quality of their coffee, the way they maintain the museums, the clean streets, even the dress code. I’ve seen so many elegant ladies and gentlemen on the streets that I felt at times like they were competing with the Italians. I consider all these special details influenced by the collective memory of a former empire, and that might bring a certain elegance of the spirit.
- Most locals speak English well and they’re also very helpful.
- Specialty Coffee Shops in Budapest serve better and cheaper coffee than in Bucharest, my hometown. And it’s not just better coffee, but stronger too. 2,25 Euro/cup for a Flat White is cheap, if you consider you can pay twice as much in Bucharest.
- Funny insight: Hungarians use Transylvania in their tourist related activities, in the museums, but also in their wine list, even if that has been the biggest region in Romania for “some” time now.
- The Hungarian cuisine is pretty similar to the Transylvanian dishes you find in Romania; it’s part of their heritage, of course, but still funny to me, being a Romanian; my mother was born and raised in Transylvania.
Loved this slow-paced city break very much, and hope my Budapest travel guide will come in handy, if you plan to visit the wonderful Hungarian capital.
Budapest City Break | May 2017 | All Photography: ©Ana Matei > Instagram: @MateiAna
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