June 19, 2024

Top Reasons to Visit Budapest

There are many reasons to visit Budapest. This is one amazing city to visit. A former co-capital of the Austro-Hungarian empire, known as the “Paris of the East”, it’s not hard to see the imperial past of this extraordinary. 150 years of Ottoman rule has left its mark, and Budapest is truly a city where you feel the combination of culture and history. Let me share my reasons of why you should visit Budapest.

One of the best reasons to visit Budapest is because it will give you a better sense of the world–between empires, communism, and modern-day. This city is a place where the past has left its mark on every building.

Not only is Budapest easy on the eyes, it’s also a great place for Jewish heritage travel. The Jewish people were affected greatly by the Holocaust, and many left or were murdered, but before the war, it was a center of Jewish life. It’s a great place for walking tours and Jewish heritage. Today there are around 90,000 Jews in Hungary, which makes it one of the largest communities in Europe.

You can cover quite a lot Budapest in 4 or 5 days, and visiting this city is one of the best ways to learn about the world, and eat a good pastry or two while you’re there.

Budapest has been around since 1000 AD. You can visit the castle on top of the hill and see Matthias church or visit the excavations of Roman ruins beneath Buda Castle. St. Stephen’s cathedral is home to the mummified hand of St. Stephen. Heroes Square has statues of the founders and most famous kings of Hungary.

But there’s more than just imperial and ancient history in Budapest. There’s also modern history, such as the history of the Hungarian secret police during communism.

Orbitz

Because of its location, Hungary had a lot of spy activity during the Cold War and after. If you visit Budapest, you can even take a tour with a local tour guide to show you the deeper and darker history beneath the beautiful facades of the city.

You can also visit the museum of the House of Terror, which details life under the Nazi regime in Budapest as well as what life was like under the communist regime. The building was used by the Arrow Cross Party (Hungarian Fascist group) and the secret police.

For more WWII history, visit the Hospital in the Rock Museum, built in a former hospital and Cold War nuclear shelter. At many points in history, Hungarians hid underground in Budapest’s natural caves to escape bombs and gunfire. They’ve had many purposes beyond that–storing food, hosting a harem when Ottoman forces ruled the city in the 16th century, and now a museum.

At this underground bunker converted into a hospital, hundreds of people were treated during wartime. Many people in Hungary don’t know about the location, but the museum is fascinating–lifelike wax figures of German, Russian, and Hungarian soldiers depict what the hospital would have been like when it was first used during World War II.

If you’re interested in exploring more of the underground history of Budapest, you can also visit the Panoptikum Budapest, a series of caves under castle hill that were once the prison for Vlad Tepes, who many of us know as Count Dracula.

The Szechenyi Baths in Budapest

It’s hard not to go to a thermal bath when you’re in Budapest. Budapest is famous for its thermal bath culture, and especially in the winter months, is one of the best ways to warm up. Hungary has the largest number of Turkish baths still in their original form, so you could go to a different bath each day of your trip if you wanted to.

Budapest is on a geological fault line, which is why more than 100 thermal springs release 40,000m3 of warm water each day in the city. The first residents of Budapest to utilize thermal baths were the Romans, who built their great bath which had hot and cold water and underfloor heating. You can actually see the ruins still near Florian Park.

The best time to go is early in the morning, but any time is a good time for a nice, long session in the water.

It’s hard to know which baths are best, or which are more off the beaten bath and less crowded.

Rudas Thermal Bath – Rudas bath was built in the 16th century. The center is an octagonal pool from the original, old Turkish path under a 10m diameter dome. There are spring waters to drink in the drinking hall, as well as a sauna and therapeutic swimming pool that were built in the late 19th century. The best part of Rudas Bath by far is the panorama pool on the rooftop, where you can look out on the city while you soak.

Orbitz

Dandár Thermal Bath -This is probably the most hidden public bath in Budapest. It’s from the 1930s and was rebuilt after World War II.

Király Thermal Bath – Arslan, the Pasha of Buda, built this bath in 1565, while the Ottomans ruled Hungary. The water comes from Lukács Bath. It’s one of the oldest and smallest baths in Budapest. Today, in addition to the Turkish pool, there is a jacuzzi pool and three smaller pools.

Veli Bej Bath – This bath was closed to the general public for years but recently reopened after renovations. There’s now an infrared sauna, Kneipp walking pool, a full-body shower, a steam bath, and a jacuzzi.

Lukacs Bath – This bath is a great option if you’re looking to interact with locals. It has large pools and is normally not as crowded as the more touristy baths. There’s a drinking hall that offers the same water that supplies the baths.

The Szechenyi Baths – These are the most popular and most iconic of the baths. They have 21 pools and a unique Neo-Classical sunny yellow building with an ornate dome.

Gellert Baths – The Gellert Baths are good for couples, and the building is spectacular art nouveau architecture.

Spend A Night On The Town

Much of Budapest’s nightlife actually happens in the former Jewish Quarter, where bars and restaurants are the most lively today. The city is bursting with bohemian pubs, coffee houses, and rooftop bars that look out over the magnificent city.

Try all of Hungary’s wines from one of its 22 wine regions at a wine bar. Some of the best to go to are DiVino, which features local labels, Kadarka, another local wine bar, and Palack, which has over 100 wines to choose from and is close to the river in Buda.

Orbitz

Coffee houses aren’t just for mornings in Budapest. Most of them are open until midnight, and many were once haunts for Hungary’s most famous minds. Visit the New York Cafe, which was once called the most beautiful cafe in the world, or the Gerbeaud Cafe, one of the oldest coffee houses in Budapest. Their signature dish is a Gerbeaud slice, an apricot and a chocolate layer cake.

Try a drink with a view at 360 Bar, a rooftop bar that looks out on Andrassy ut, or High Note Sky Bar, which is great for downtown views. Intermezzo Roof Terrace has a bar in summer, but maybe even more fun, a rooftop ice skating rink in the winter with views of the Hungarian Parliament. St. Andrea is more sophisticated and looks out on the views from the Pest side of Budapest.

Ruin bars, a cultural institution in Budapest, are bars filled with discarded furniture and other tchotchkes in crumbling, abandoned buildings. Some of the bests are Szimply Kert, which has crazy decor, movie screenings, and live music, or Csendes, another ruin bar decorated with Mannequins and chandeliers.  

If you haven’t gotten enough of the thermal baths, SPArties are a common activity in Budapest. Every Saturday at the Szechenyi baths, you can soak while electronic music plays and watch a light show. Sometimes there are aerial dancers that perform above the pools.

Go to a festival!

Some of the most famous are the Sziget music and culture festival, the Budapest Wine Festival, the Budapest Spring Festival, and the Danube Carnival, featuring folk and world music as well as dance shows and other concerts.

Explore the rich culinary heritage of this Central-European destination!

Budapest offers every type of cuisine imaginable, especially in the active Jewish Quarter, but you absolutely should eat Hungarian food while you’re there. It’s sometimes spicy and always delicious.

The most famous dish is Goulash, a spicy soup or stew made with vegetables, meat, and dumplings. Another famous dish is stuffed cabbage, filled with rice and ground pork or beef, doused in sour cream. After your main dish, you can eat palacsinta, or crepes, stuffed with jelly, nuts, rum, raisins, chocolate, or cream cheese.

Orbitz

Some other famous Hungarian dishes you have to try:

Fisherman’s soup – A spicy soup with carp caught in the river Danube.

Szilvásgombóc – Potato dumplings filled with plums and dipped in cinnamon and sugar. They’re fried in breadcrumbs and sprinkled with sweet, powdered sugar.

Chicken Paprikash – Chicken coated in a sour cream and paprika sauce.

Langos – A flatbread topped with yummy things like sour cream yogurt, grated cheese, ham, sausages, and mashed potatoes

Fabulous Architecture of Budapest

Budapest is a reflection of its history as part of the Ottoman Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It’s a combination of Muslim Architecture along with Neo-Gothic, Communist, and Baroque architecture, with striking bath houses and buildings reflecting every time period Budapest has gone through.

Take an Art Nouveau tour with a local or visit the house of Parliament and its red dome and 700 rooms. The Neo-Renaissance Hungarian State Opera house interior has gold and marble accents, and the Dohany Street Synagogue draws influence from Moorish architecture in North Africa and Medieval Spain, as well as Romantic, Gothic, and Byzantine elements.

Visit the Museum of Applied Arts, an Art Nouveau building decorated with bright Zsolnay tiles, or the Hotel Gellert, also Art Nouveau style.

Budapest Is an Inexpensive Travel Destination

Budapest is one of the more budget-friendly European travel destinations. Especially if you are conscious of spending, your trip can be pretty inexpensive. For example, a one-way ticket from the airport to town costs only $3. Some of the thermal baths, like the Dandar Baths, only cost $10 for entry, and the Lukacs bath after 5 pm is less than $10.

Spring and Fall are some of the most beautiful times to visit Budapest, and they’re also the off-season. During those periods, accommodations are less expensive.

The food courts in the market halls are another great way to eat on a budget, and plenty of restaurants have affordable lunch menus. You can get a two or three-course lunch menu for 10$-15.

One of the easiest ways to lower costs is to get a Budapest Card. It’ll give you access to free public transport, entry to 20 museums, a cave tour, the Lukacs Baths, and plenty of discounts for restaurants and tours. The cord costs $24 for 24 hours and $37 for 48 hours.

Orbitz

It Has Great Museums

One of the best ways to spend a rainy day is to visit one of Budapest’s 100 museums.

History lovers can visit the Budapest History Museum or the Hungarian National Museum.

If you’re interested in the arts, the Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Hungarian National Gallery are all worth a visit.

If you like quirky museums, there’s a pinball museum and a Microwonder Museum, home to sculptures that are so small they need to be seen through a microscope.

Jewish History and Culture of Budapest

Before World War II, Hungary had the second-largest Jewish population in Europe. Much of the community was decimated in the Holocaust, but many of the beautiful synagogues remain.

The Dohany Street Synagogue in Budapest is the largest in Europe and the second largest in the world. It was built in 1859 in the Moorish style and can seat 3000 people.

Within the synagogue complex, there’s a Heroes Temple, a graveyard of those killed there during WWII, a Jewish Museum, and a Holocaust memorial.

While the Jewish Quarter today is now Budapest’s lively nightlife neighborhood, filled with bars and restaurants, it still has important historical sites to visit–a cemetery, a memorial garden, and a museum where you can learn about the Holocaust and the Budapest Ghetto. There are several kosher restaurants in the area and a group of Orthodox Jews that live in the quarter.

The community in Budapest is still quite large, and you can take a heritage walking tour with a local to learn about the Jewish past and present in Hungary. Timea Tarjani’s grandfather was a Holocaust survivor from Budapest, and she grew up in Budapest. She’s full of stories about the Hungarian Jewish Community. She’s one of our famous Jewish walking tours in Europe.

A trip to Budapest is unforgettable. Starting your day in a thermal bath, exploring the history and museums during the day, and ending the day at a rooftop bar or late-night cafe makes for a very memorable trip.

Need a Travel Coach?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Content is protected !