Last updated on January 22nd, 2023 at 06:06 pm
If you’re planning to visit Budapest soon, we’ve compiled this thorough list of useful travel tips for Budapest to help you plan your trip.
With its diverse dining scene, beautiful architecture and unique spa culture, Budapest is one of the best places to visit for a city break in Central Europe. In this guide, you’ll find all the Budapest travel tips you need to plan your escape to the Hungarian capital.
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Top 10 Things To Do in Budapest
Is Budapest worth visiting? you may be wondering. Before checking out our travel tips for Budapest, have a look at this list of the best things to do in Budapest and we’re sure your question will be answered.
- Relax at the best Budapest spas
- Have drinks at one of Budapest’s famous ruin pubs
- Visit the Hungarian Parliament building
- Wander around Fisherman’s Bastion
- Walk along the Danube River
- Join a river cruise
- Taste and buy the best paprika
- Explore the city’s coffee culture and diverse dining scene
- Step inside the oldest metro in mainland Europe
- Ride the UNESCO-listed Buda Castle Hill Funicular
This list is only an appetiser. For the main course, click here to read our detailed and carefully planned 3-day Budapest itinerary!
To fuel your wanderlust even more,
here’s our Budapest YouTube video!
Resources & Travel Tips For Budapest
Where Is Budapest
Known as the Spa Capital of The World, Budapest is the capital of Hungary, a landlocked country in Central Europe. Budapest is in the northern part of Hungary, close to the border with Slovakia.
Budapest is the second largest city on the Danube River. The latter divides Budapest into Buda and Pest. Buda is on the western side and Pest is on the eastern side of the river. Together with Obuda in the city’s north, Buda and Pest were unified to form Budapest in 1873.
Best Time To Visit Budapest
Given that summer can get hot in Central Europe and, apparently, you’re not going there for the beaches – you would probably go to our home country Greece for that – the best time to visit Budapest is either spring or autumn. April, May, September and October are the best months to plan a trip to Budapest, especially for first-timers, since the weather is mild and crowds are fewer then.
However, if you’ve visited the city before and done the bulk of your Budapest sightseeing, you could easily visit Budapest in winter to spend most of your time at the numerous thermal spas that are scattered across the city. We know we will at some point.
How Many Days in Budapest
Many people consider Budapest a typical weekend destination. However, you need three days in Budapest to make sure you enjoy all the main attractions at a slow pace, making time for a relaxing day at one of the best thermal baths in Budapest, too.
One of the great things about Central Europe is that you can combine more than one city on the same trip. One of our favourite travel tips for Budapest is that you can pair it magnificently with some other Central European capitals, such as Vienna, Bratislava and Prague. Budapest is about 240 kilometres from Vienna, 185 kilometres from Bratislava and 500 kilometres from Prague.
Is Budapest Safe?
Like most cities in Europe, Budapest is safe for tourists. Petty crime, like pickpocketing in crowded places and touristy areas, isn’t uncommon. Yet, Budapest is a safe city to visit for everyone, solo female travellers included, as long as you use your common sense when it gets dark and avoid sketchy places.
To feel safe when travelling, buy your travel insurance for your trip to Budapest.
Money in Budapest
Even though Hungary is a member of the European Union, the local currency isn’t the Euro but the Hungarian Forint. You may find that some shops or restaurants accept other currencies, like US dollars or Euros. However, it’s always best to pay in Hungarian forints to avoid scams and overcharges.
If you want to exchange some money to have cash, compare and double-check rates at the various exchange offices before you do.
That said, it’s always best to use a credit card to avoid crazy conversion fees and commissions. You can pay by card almost everywhere in Budapest. During your trip to Budapest – and everywhere else in Europe for that matter – we recommend a card like Wise to top up, exchange currency at the best rates and pay for everything easily through your mobile app.
Tipping in restaurants and bars is not mandatory in Budapest but expect to be prompted to use the tip button on the POS device. Usually, tips are around 10% – 15% of the bill.
Languages Spoken in Budapest
Hungarian is the official spoken and written language in Budapest. It’s one of the hardest languages for foreigners to learn. Thankfully, compared to the past, after the fall of communism and the rise of tourism in the years that followed, English is widely spoken by Hungarians.
What To Pack For Budapest
As rain is very common in Budapest throughout the year, packing a raincoat and a travel umbrella is essential. If you travel in spring or autumn, pack light clothes for the warm temperatures during daylight and warm layers for the night. Don’t forget to pack your plug adaptor if you come from the UK or the USA.
Whatever season you plan to travel to Budapest, pack a swimsuit and flip-flops for the thermal baths. Keep in mind that a swimming cap is mandatory in the swimming pools of spa complexes, so pack your cap if you are an avid swimmer. Otherwise, you can buy one at the spa complex, as there’s usually an on-site shop there.
How To Get To Budapest
Budapest has one international airport, located 16 kilometres from the city centre. It’s a big hub for Ryanair and Wizz Air, Hungary’s low-cost airline, and it’s connected with almost every country in Europe.
Find the best deals for your flight to Budapest.
You can get from the airport to Budapest city centre by bus. The direct airport bus line is 100E and runs every 30 minutes.
Alternatively, you can book an inexpensive airport transfer to drop you off right at your hotel.
As mentioned above, Budapest is usually combined with other major cities in Central Europe on the same trip. Budapest is well connected with Bratislava, Vienna and Prague by bus and train.
Check out prices and routes with FlixBus or travel sustainably and comfortably by train within Central Europe.
If you’re visiting Budapest as part of a long road trip across Central Europe, find the best deals on the most reliable search engine for car rentals here.
How To Get Around Budapest
Budapest is a flat city, very easy to explore on foot. While Pest is completely flat, in the Buda part of the city, you’ll inevitably have to climb up Buda Castle Hill and Gellert Hill at some point.
Buda Castle Hill is home to some of the main attractions in Budapest, such as Buda Castle, Matthias Church and Fisherman’s Bastion. Apart from walking, you can get there by riding the historic Buda Castle Funicular or by hopping on the Budapest Castle Bus which is free with a Budapest Card. On Gellert Hill, you can’t miss the Cave Church, the Citadella and the Gellert Baths.
Although walking is the best way to get around Budapest, sometimes the weather conditions may not be ideal or you may want to save some time. In those cases, public transport can take you everywhere in Budapest.
Trams in Budapest are frequent and quick. On a rainy day, you can hop on tram 2 for a fun and relaxing sightseeing ride along the Danube River. Tram line 2 is one of the most beautiful tram routes in the world.
There is also a reliable metro system in Budapest. Apart from a means of transport, metro line M1 is also one of the main Budapest attractions, as it’s the oldest metro line in mainland Europe. If you plan to use public transport in Budapest, it’s worth purchasing a Budapest Card. Among other benefits, Budapest Card holders can use public transport for free.
Is The Budapest Card Worth It?
This question comes up a lot and our travel guide for Budapest couldn’t leave it without an answer. As mentioned above, Budapest Card holders enjoy unlimited public transportation for free, including transfers to Buda Castle with the Official Budapest Castle Bus.
Moreover, the Budapest Card includes free entrances to main Budapest attractions like the Budapest History Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Buda Tower and many more, free entrance to the Lukacs Thermal Baths and two free sightseeing walking tours, one in Buda and one in Pest.
In addition, by purchasing a Budapest Card, you get discounts on several other activities, entry tickets and thermal baths. Depending on how many days you plan to spend in Budapest, you can buy a Budapest Card which is valid for 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 days. The most popular version is the 72-hour Budapest Card, valid for three days.
Apart from the regular Budapest Card, there is also the Budapest Card Plus, which comes in a 72-hour version only. Some of the extra benefits of the Budapest Card Plus are free airport transfers, a free Danube Cruise, free entrance to Matthias Church and free return tickets on the Buda Castle Funicular.
Make sure you check the list of all Budapest Card benefits on the official website, as new Budapest activities and attractions are added frequently.
In our opinion, buying a Budapest Card is worth it not only because it helps you save time, money and the trouble of standing in line to buy tickets every once in a while, but also because it inspires you to visit some of the lesser-known Budapest attractions included in the card, most of which you probably wouldn’t think of visiting otherwise.
One thing we didn’t like was that the Hungarian Parliament, the top place to visit in Budapest, wasn’t included in the Budapest Card. Hopefully, this will change before too long. Other than that, though, the Budapest Card is great value for money and buying one is one of the best travel tips for Budapest.
Where To Stay in Budapest
The first decision you have to make before booking your stay in Budapest is whether to stay in Buda or Pest. Buda is situated on the western side of the city. It’s home to many historical attractions and it’s an overall calm residential area.
On the other hand, Pest is on the eastern side of Budapest. It’s flat and easy to walk around, vibrant and full of bars and restaurants. Some of the most famous attractions in Budapest are located in Pest. In our opinion, downtown Pest is the best area to stay in Budapest.
Situated near Chain Bridge and the Danube River, the 4-star Prestige Hotel is set in a renovated historic building, ideal for a luxurious and unforgettable stay in Budapest.
Book a luxurious room at Prestige Hotel here or read the hotel reviews on TripAdvisor here.
Stories Boutique Hotel, a 4-star boutique hotel in the heart of Pest, is the ideal hotel to create your own story in Budapest.
Find the best deals for your stay at Stories Boutique Hotel or read the reviews on TripAdvisor here.
A few steps from Saint Stephen’s Basilica, the 4-star Hotel Moments Budapest is one of the most imposing buildings on Andrassy Avenue.
Check available dates and prices for a unique stay at Hotel Moments Budapest or read the reviews on TripAdvisor here.
What To Eat & Drink in Budapest
Although traditional Hungarian cuisine is heavily meat-based, Budapest is a pleasant surprise for vegetarians and vegans. The city’s diverse food scene abounds with vegan and vegetarian options. You can even find the country’s national dish, goulash, in its vegan version in Budapest.
Goulash may be Hungary’s national dish but langos is probably the most popular comfort food in Budapest. If you haven’t tried langos before, you don’t know what you’ve been missing. Langos is a sinful piece of deep-fried dough, topped with sour cream, cheese and any other topping of choice, like veggies or olives.
Apart from traditional Hungarian dishes though, in Budapest, you can try cuisines from all over the globe. The city is home to exquisite restaurants that feature ethnic food from all corners of the world.
Moreover, Budapest has a remarkable coffee scene, with several independent cafés taking great pride in their top-quality brews. From the famed New York Café – often called the most beautiful café in the world – and the gorgeous Café Gerbeaud with its fancy cakes to more down-to-earth yet utterly cosy cafés, such as Madal Café and Flow, Budapest has a coffee place for everyone.
In terms of dessert, Budapest won’t disappoint. While in Budapest, don’t miss the chance to try the iconic kürtőskalács (chimney cake) or the lesser-known palacsinta (Hungarian pancakes) and rétes (Hungarian strudel). Speaking of dessert, a stop at Gelarto Rosa for its Instagram-perfect rose-shaped ice cream is a must.
Best Restaurants in Budapest For Veggie & Vegan Food
- Napfenyes Restaurant for the best vegan version of Hungarian goulash soup.
- Las Vegan’s and Epoch Vegan Burger for delicious vegan burgers.
- Retro Langos for scrumptious langos.
- Dobrumba for mouthwatering Middle Eastern food. We loved the zaatar fries and the harira soup!
- Mazel Tov for its fantastic setting, the divine grilled cauliflower with tahini and the falafels!
- Qui if you missed Thai food while travelling.
- Karavan for a lively food court with many veggie and vegan options, right next to the most famous ruin bars.
What To Buy in Budapest
If you’re wondering what to buy in Budapest as a souvenir for your loved ones back home or as a way to keep the memory of your Budapest trip alive for a while longer, here are some suggestions:
- Paprika: Paprika is an essential part of Hungarian cuisine. In Budapest, you can find top-quality paprika in many types, such as hot, sweet, smoked hot and smoked sweet.
- Palinka: A traditional liqueur made of fruit.
- Hungarian Secret Boxes: Carved in wood, these boxes come in various sizes and colours. At first glance, they look like ordinary jewellery boxes. However, their uniqueness lies in the fact that it’s impossible to open them until the shopkeeper shows you the secret way to do it.
- Rubik’s Cube: You can buy a Rubik’s Cube anywhere in the world. But why not grab one at its birthplace? Erno Rubik, a Hungarian architect and sculptor, invented this game in Budapest in 1974.
- Hungarian Dolls: Dressed in traditional folk clothes, these dolls are a great gift not only for children but also for collectors.
- Hand-painted Eggs: Although they are most popular around the Easter holidays, you can find these beautiful hand-painted eggs all year round in Budapest.
- Lavender: Hungary has its very own lavender fields and lavender-themed items are among the best things to buy in Budapest.
We hope that this thorough Budapest travel guide helps you plan an amazing trip to the Hungarian capital. Do you have any unique travel tips for Budapest you’d like to share with us? Let us know in the comments!
WORDS & IMAGES: Katerina
Disclosure: The Budapest Tourism Board offered us press Budapest Cards. As media and marketing specialists, we often visit destinations on press tours or as part of marketing campaigns, but under no circumstances does this affect our opinions about the places we visit and the experiences we try. Rest assured that you will find nothing but honest reviews throughout our content.