When you live in a city for an extended period of time, you get ample opportunities to see it for what it truly is. Many times travellers experience the ‘travel daze,’ if you will, wearing off after a period of time, when they are suddenly able to see the negatives in the city amongst the positives that overwhelmed their senses for the first few weeks. This has happened to me in other places, but not in Budapest. During my three months in the city, I only fell more and more in love with what it had to offer. I quickly discovered my favourite places to eat, drink coffee, or simply just hang out, and they became my ultimate indulgences throughout my time in this incredible city. Visiting Budapest soon?
Here are my favourite things to do in Budapest, and things you must do too!
New York Cafe, The Most Beautiful Cafe in the World
A coffee at the New York Cafe in Budapest in definitely something you must experience, regardless of the 3 times+ more you’ll pay here. Sure, you’ll run into plenty of tourists here stopping in to snap a dozen photos, but you’ll surely be doing the same. Perhaps opt to skip the breakfast or lunch options, as those can get quite pricey, and just opt for a simple cappuccino in this historic, architectural wonder. This place is simply magnanimous and gorgeous; I personally found a $7 cappuccino here perfectly worth my money, especially with the wonderful sounds of the piano and the beautiful art canvas of a ceiling to gaze at. Simply amazing! This is literally the only time the tag line “The Most Beautiful Cafe in the World” is used accurately!
The Atrium at Boscolo Hotel
After you’re finished your cappuccino at New York Cafe, simply stroll over to the adjacent atrium of Boscolo Hotel and sit and relax. Enjoy the amazing view here, and listen to the piano player in the cafe!
The Liberty Bridge
The perfect place to watch sundown… kiss a lover… share a bottle of wine… write in your diary… or just simply contemplate life. All of the bridges crossing the Danube River in Budapest are beautiful, and each one should be experienced, but the Liberty Bridge is particularly special because you can actually sit comfortably atop its beautiful architecture. Get some of the most spectacular views, and just breathe in what Budapest is all about while sitting on the Liberty Bridge. This became my ‘happy place’ while I lived in Budapest, and I even found myself sunbathing in my swimsuit on the warmest of days. You might even get lucky enough to pick up a wifi signal here.
You’ll find this on your tour guide for Budapest, and it’s certainly worth your time. Especially on a sunny day, you can climb up on the monuments and chill out. At times you might find interesting art installations in the square too, and if you’re into museums or art galleries you’ll be within easy reach to those, too.
The Chain Bridge
If it weren’t for the lovely, relaxing convenience and amazing vantage point of the Liberty Bridge, I would say that the Chain Bridge is my favourite. It has a great story, after all, which says the the architect of the bridge jumped off of his very creation as the result of a mistake being pointed out by a young boy – you might notice that the lions guarding the bridge don’t seem to have tongues!
DiVino at St Stephens Basilica
You’ll surely come across St. Stephen’s Basilica during your stay in Budapest, and when you do, you’ll surely be just as stunned as I was each time I enjoyed looking up at the beautiful structure. Usually I’d lick an ice cream cone in front of it too, and on special occasions, I’d grab a glass – or bottle – of wine from DiVino and enjoy it outside at the water fountain. Don’t worry, the rules are very lax here – simply pay a small deposit for your glasses, and get it back once you’ve returned them safely indoors.
University Square (Egyetem ter)
This little gem can go unnoticed if not specifically pointed to it. I didn’t actually discover this square until about my third week in Budapest, but once I did, I returned here many times. With a modern feel amongst beautiful architecture, you’ll find plenty of upscale cafes and restaurants here. Since nothing is really too pricey in Budapest, the prices are pretty decent too. One of my particular favourites for food is Vendiak.
Get your butt in shape and hop on a bike for a lovely ride through Margaret Island. I only visited this lovely nature-filled island (conveniently off Margaret Bridge) once, but it’s a place I would go again and again if I had the butt power. Sadly, I don’t – but you do! Don’t be surprised if you come across interesting musicians and dancing groups, either. Amongst the other sites? Weight lifters and tree hangers. Simply a great spot for a walk and an ice cream cone.
Talk about an amazing place to spend a sunny afternoon – wow! With surroundings that might (sort of) remind you of a Vegas pool party, except with a tonne more class and architectural beauty, you’ll fall in love with this place the moment you step in. There are so many different indoor and outdoor baths of different temperatures, this cultural gem is something you definitely don’t want to miss. You can also catch a nighttime party here if you’re visiting Budapest during the summer season. Should you want some extra pampering for a relaxing day at Szechenyi Bathhouse, you can pair your visit with some spa services too.
Around the Szechenyi Bathhouse, you’ll pass through a wonderful, green park with a lake (or a pond) and some great places for lunch. You’ll also pass one of my most enchanting favourites of the city: Vajdahunyad Castle. Surrounded by an amazing meadow and bridges that lead to the castle, this is a great place to hang out and read a book or have a little picnic. Amazing!
Pest Side Boardwalk
On the Pest side of the city, which is the downtown part of Budapest, you’ll find plenty of great restaurants lining the Boardwalk along the Danube River. This is another great place to watch sundown, ride a bike, or just have a nice stroll with an incredible view.
Heading towards Elisabeth Bridge, stop and marvel for a moment at this amazing building, which was my absolute favourite in all of Budapest. You’ll also find plenty of restaurants and cafes at Fereciek tere.
The Parliament House
This is an obvious one, but I had to add it anyways. I wouldn’t really suggest doing the inside tour – the real beauty of this building is in it’s exterior architecture. Just stand and enjoy, or ride past on a bike ride.
Grab a kürtőskalács and take a stroll down the main shopping street, Vaci Utca, in Budapest. You definitely won’t miss this even if you try, but be sure to do it with something sweet! (Get cinnamon for the traditional version). You’ll find some of your creature comfort stores here, like Zara, Mac, and H&M, plus some local stands selling authentic Hungarian goods at Vörösmarty Square. If you follow Vaci Utca to the end, you will reach the Great Market Hall where you can pick up some meat, cheese, and wine for your Liberty Bridge picnic.
You’ll be heading to the Buda side for some site seeing – Gellert Hill or Budapest Castle perhaps? – and when you do, you’ll need plenty of energy. Stop by Deryne Bistro for a breakfast or lunch that will keep you drooling. This place is seriously worth the trip across the river!
Book Café – Lotz-terem
You’re bound to wind up on Andrassy Street at some point, and when you do – perhaps to marvel at the beautiful Opera House – be sure to walk across the street and visit Book Cafe at Lotz-terem. You won’t see this from the street, but instead you will find ‘Alexandra’ book store. Walk inside and head up the escalator to the third level where you will find an amazingly beautiful cafe (perhaps even beautiful to give New York Cafe a run for its money!).