Weekend Guide to Budapest
Budapest, the Capital city of Hungary. A city full of history, architecture, cafés, restaurants and thermal spa baths.
The River Danube separates the Western and Eastern sides of the city, Buda and Pest. Budapest is really affordable as a city break with cheap flights from the UK from as little as £45 from London Luton with Wizz Air or £65 with Ryanair from London Stansted. The flight time from London is around 2 hours 30 minutes, which is ideal for a weekend break to relax and let your hair down. What I love about Budapest is that you can easily access the city by foot – all the sights are within walking distance, however you can catch a tram, taxi or hop on the metro if your feet feel like pancakes!
Where we stayed
After researching on Tripadvisor for reviews on hotels, we ended up booking a deluxe room at the Prestige Hotel. A 4 star boutique hotel in the heart of the city and ideally located close to restaurants, shops, sights and the Christmas market. The other reason for choosing this hotel was also due to it’s Michelin starred restaurant ‘Costes Downtown’ (that’s right, we’re foodies too!). The Prestige Hotel is very reasonable compared to nearby hotels and with views of the Danube just around the corner.
A full breakfast was included in the room price. The deluxe room was very spacious….big enough to swing a cat! The decor is very opulent from the plush gold and blue sofa to the gold wallpaper and table lamps. Our room faced the courtyard, which was very quiet and perfect for me to fall asleep!
If you’re looking for a budget option, then have a look at Lavender Circus Apartments located downtown of Budapest.
For great hotel deals on Prestige Hotel and Lavender Circus Apartments, check out Booking.com.
Where we ate
The first night we couldn’t wait to try the Michelin starred restaurant Costes Downtown at the Prestige Hotel. Dress code was casual and it did get busier throughout the night. The food was beautifully presented and tasted divine! Firstly we were given an amuse bouche of salmon tartar which was nice and light. The braised beef and the pork cooked three ways were chosen for the main courses; each perfectly cooked and we could not fault them. We were too full after the mains and decided to give the desserts a miss. Petits fours were served at the end of the meal; a selection of macaroons, chocolate, marshmellow and pumpkin seed – a desert in itself.
Halászbástya is a fine dining restaurant located in the Fisherman’s Bastion. Reservations are highly recommended and when making the reservation request a table upstairs by a balcony for a romantic meal overlooking the Danube and a magnificent view of the beautiful Parliament Building. The restaurant serves traditional Hungarian and International cuisine. We were led upstairs to a table by the tower with views of the river Danube at night; only a few people were seated upstairs. Each mouthwatering course was brought out under a cloche, eagerly waiting for the food……..I just love the drama! Throughout the evening Attila Vadász & his Gypsy Band played a wonderful selection of music and even came to the table for a personal serenade.
Hungarikum Bisztró was listed in the Top 10 on Tripadvisor (when we visited this place in 2015), serving traditional Hungarian food ranging from goulash soup and fried dough to beef stew with dumplings. The bistro is family run and so cute with a friendly and homely atmosphere and superb service. If you fancy traditional tasty Hungarian food then this is definitely the place to eat! But be warned it is super popular so getting a table can be tricky sometimes but luckily we arrived early and nabbed the very last table.
What to do in Budapest
Visit the thermal spa baths
For the ladies (and even the gents!) who love spas and are in need of some relaxation time after a day of sight seeing, why not visit the many spa baths. It is reported that, in the world, Budapest is the only large city which has numerous fountains of healing water. There are a 118 natural thermal springs issuing 70 million liters of warm thermal spring water at 21-78 Celsius daily!
Gellert is said to be ‘one of the leading natural hot spring baths in Budapest’……well, if they say that then you definitely need to try! Have a dip in the thermal pool, swimming pool and wave pool and book yourself a spa treatment.
Tip: Remember to take a pair of flip flops with you.
Buda Castle is home to the National Gallery and Budapest History Museum. The castle is pretty impressive with a 1000ft long facade! Take a 20 minute walk up to Buda Castle and stroll around the grounds. The Buda Castle funicular is a short ride and can save time and beats walking if its pouring with rain!
Walk along the Széchenyi Chain Bridge
The chain bridge is a suspension bridge which links Buda and Pest over the River Danube. Walking along the bridge doesn’t take long and there are many excellent photo opportunities!
The Fisherman’s Bastion
Fisherman’s Bastion does resemble something from a Walt Disney film. The fairy tale towers of the Fisherman’s Bastion is the perfect romantic setting. It was built in the 19th century and served as a lookout tower. This is one of Budapest’s top sights to see. Try and book a table at the Fisherman’s Bastion with spectacular views of the Danube and the Parliament Building. If not, have a cup of mulled wine to warm yourself up! The views of Fisherman’s Bastion and surrounding area are spectacular at night with the turrets all lit up.
Shoes on the Danube
The Shoes on the Danube is a memorial to honour the 3,500 people, of which 800 were Budapest Jews, who were shot and fell into the River Danube during World War II. This sculpture is on the east bank and is truly a moving and powerful memorial.
The parliament sits right on the banks of the River Danube and is the largest building in Budapest. Can you believe that this building is over 100 years old?! This is best seen from the Buda side, with stunning views especially at night.
The Ruin Bars must be added to your list when visiting Budapest. More than ten years ago the abandoned buildings in the Old Jewish Quarter were converted to vibrant, quirky bars decorated by artists. Now these ruin bars are so popular with the tourists that there was even a queue to get in for the most famous ruin bar, Szimpla Kert. Szimpla Kert had a lively atmosphere, full of character – great to people watch and you can even enjoy great food here. You’ll find graffiti on the walls and odd furniture, kinda a mish-mash of stuff. Also on the plus side, drinks were cheap too!
Hősök Tere or Heroes’ Square is one of the largest squares in Budapest and is located at the end of Andrássy Avenue. As soon as you reach Heroes’ Square you’re seriously wowed with how impressive it is with the statue of ‘Seven Chieftains of the Magyar’ featured right in the centre. The square was built in 1896 to commemorate the thousandth anniversary of the Hungarian conquest. To the left of the square is the Museum of Fine Arts and to the right is the Hall of Art.
Tip: Try to see Heroes’ Square both during the day and at night.
Vajdajunyad Castle is located in City Park and is one of the most romantic castles in Budapest … just like a fairytale castle. It was built in 1896, part of the thousandth anniversary of Hungary. We didn’t enter the castle but it’s free to walk around the grounds. Once inside you’ll be able to visit the many collections and exhibitions.
Tip: Free to visit the courtyard.
Price: 1100 HUF / ~£3 for the Museum of Agriculture
Stroll along Andrássy Avenue
Have a gentle stroll down the beautiful, chic street that links the city centre to City Park. The avenue is lined with pretty flower shops, classy boutique shops, cute cafés and restaurants for you to sit outside, enjoy a coffee and watch the world go by. Did you know that Andrássy Avenue is a World Heritage Site?
Take a boat cruise along the River Danube
Enjoy a lovely afternoon cruise along the River Danube, and take in the many attractions and historical sights along the way. We went with Legenda for a 70 minute cruise with an option to visit Margaret Island for 90 minutes. The cruise included a drink (choice of champagne, beer, wine or soft drink) and a glass of lemonade – of course we chose the glass of champagne! Why not see this beautiful city from a different perspective!
Price: 3900 HUF / ~£11
House of Terror
The House of Terror located on Andrássy Avenue, is a museum portraying the two periods of Hungarian history and helps us understand the Hungarian history. It commemorates the victims and those tortured and killed in the building.
Price: 2000 HUF / ~£6
Opening times: Tues-Sun 10am – 6pm
Central Market Hall
If you’re a huge foodie like us, then you’ll love the Central Market Hall as it’s the largest food hall in the city. Inside you’ll find a variety of meats, cheeses, fruits and vegetables to buy. Aside from the food, browse the second floor for lots of souvenirs. There’s also food stalls selling traditional Hungarian food – trust me you won’t be able to resist!
If you’re visiting Budapest at the end of November/December, explore the Christmas market and try the traditional Hungarian snacks and sweets from the stalls. If you’re feeling ‘spendy’, buy some knick-knacks to take home. The market is located in Vörösmarty Square, right in the heart of the city… you can’t miss it! I recommend that you buy a cup or three of mulled wine, to keep you warm whilst walking round the market!
Have you been to Budapest? Where’s your favourite city for a weekend break?
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