Beautiful Budapest! We simply adore the old-fashioned and yet sparkling charm of the Hungarian capital. ‘Berlin on the Danube’ features a mix of Art Nouveau and communist architecture, fantastic thermal baths and slightly melancholy feeling in the streets, dating from before the iron curtain disappeared. But the greatest thing of all? The local habit of drinking hot chocolate and eating cake (the ultimate argument to convince your kids).
Belváros en Józsefváros
The Great Markethall or Nagycsarnok is – not really surprising – the biggest indoor market of the city. It offers typical Hungarian fare, from the infamous lángos (a heavy, deep-fried flatbread topped with cheese, garlic, oil or sour cream), paprika (very much loved in the Hungarian kitchen) and the local wine tokaj. Upstairs it’s less interesting, unless embroidery and painted eggs are right up your alley. Make sure you have a decent look at the 19th century building as well, it’s gorgeous.
A short walk across the Danube brings you to the mythical Gellert
Hotel and Bath. Your visit to the city is definitely not complete if you haven’t marinated in one of the many thermal baths for a few hours, all of them with a slightly different temperature and combination of mineral components. Don’t forget to have a good look at the changing rooms. It all looks like a movie set from the twenties, a movie you definitely want to see.
Centrál kávéház is one of the loveliest places in Budapest to have coffee in an atmosphere of elegance and belle epoque style. The choice of pastries is bewildering, so be prepared to eat them all.
On your walk along the Danube, not far from the Great Markethall in Pest, you run into Bálna
. This steel and glass whale, designed by the Dutch architect Kas Oosterhuis, is one of very few examples of contemporary architecture in a city dominated by Art Nouveau. Inside the whale you find shops, a restaurant and a nice bar with damn good coffee.
Madal Café is a tiny and very cosy coffeeshop, where you can sample beans from both Hungarian and foreign roasters. Or like they say: good coffee, good karma.
Bake the world a better place, is the inspiring lifegoal of Butter Brothers. This artisanal bakery is the place to be if you like a buttery breakfast or afternoon treat, and let’s be honest: who doesn’t? Here you sink your teeth into the crispiest bread of Budapest, and of course into a mountain of cinnamon rolls, chocolate swirls and croissants (definitely ‘Top Ten of Best Croissants in the World’ material, should you keep a list like that).
The Budapest Eye, locally known as Sziget Eye, is on Erzsébet tér or Elizabethsquare. Like any Ferris wheel, it has excitement and breathtaking views over the city on offer.
Gerbeaud is one of the oldest pastry makers in the city and serves up lovely, traditional baked goods. It’s full of old ladies with lots of lipstick on, hungry kids and Asian tourists staring in awe at the chandeliers and the velvet curtains.
Well designed Börze
welcomes customers 7/7 from 7.30 in the morning till midnight. It’s like the Hungarian version of the French brasserie with service continu.
The food is contemporary and the quality outstanding, with a slight Italian touch. But you’re in for a real Hungarian goulash or fishsoup as well. Worth noticing: they do have avocado toast (zeitgeist? check!).
The Shoes on the Danube Bank is, in all its simplicity, a very touching monument. It was created to honor the many people who were killed here. Before they were shot, they were ordered to take off their shoes. They were killed at the edge of the water, so their bodies fell into the river.
Grand café Liberté
is the contemporary version of the old kávéház
from the 19th century. In here you’ll find delicious smoothies, light lunches and tasty desserts. Service is a little rude, but the gorgeous tile floor makes up for it.
The Jewish quarter, where 200.000 Jews lived before World War II, features the biggest synagogue of Europe. But there’s lots of beautiful, small synagogues as well. Do have a look in the one of Kazinczy Utca
and marvel at the colors, the atmosphere and the well preserved Art Nouveau decoration.
Karaván streetfood market is a laid back place to sample local dishes like lángos or kürtös kalács, but it’s also a good spot for burgers and sweet potato fries. You can picknick on a bench and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere.
Ruin bars are a phenomenon in Budapest. This kind of cool clubs first emerged in the beginning of the 21st century in unexpected locations. The best known ruin bar is Szimpla Kert
, located in an old factory. The perfect spot to have your drink in a funny setting with a touch of underground vibe. Often there’s live concerts and every Sunday morning a farmer’s market is taking over the place (yes, also underground people need to eat their veggies).
Restaurant M has a remarkable plus: besides the fact that they serve a refined and creative local cuisine, customers are allowed to draw on the tablecloth. It works up an appetite!
The walls of Budapest may be crumbling, they are certainly not boring. The street art you encounter by wandering through the city, clearly testifies of the creative spark that has ignited innovation and led to a new chapter for the city. Actually they like street art so much in Budapest, they even have a festival for it. During the annual Színes Város Festival
in autumn both Hungarian and international artists are invited to work the city’s walls, often around a theme.
Budapest’s main park has an Art Nouveau zoo, museums and a circus, but what we like most of all is definitely the Széchenyi bath
. True, it does get crowded in the past few years, but it’s still a magical experience: soaking in the outside thermal bath at sunset, watching the colors of the sky change (besides watching your fellow bathers playing chess). Inside the iconic yellow building there’s even more thermal baths: 21 to be exact, each of them different in temperature.
Margitisland is located in the middle of the river Danube and is a popular spot for locals to hike, play, picknick, bike and… rent a vintage go-cart.
Transport and accommodation
Be sure to use the subway
, it’s on the list of UNESCO World Heritage (and you can see why). Budapest prides itself in having the oldest subway of the European mainland, it dates back from 1896. Gorgeous!
Staying in Budapest is inexpensive, compared to other European cities. Airbnb has a lot of nice apartments
, like this one. It sleeps four, is centrally located and costs 62€ a night.