Are you thinking of taking a short break?
Do you have limited time or limited budget?
Do you want to spend a weekend visiting tourist and cultural attractions?
Do you want to relax or enjoy good food?
Budapest is the answer to all these questions and knows how to give you a perfect weekend!
I show you why.
Lets begin from my pre-departure thoughts about this city: Budapest is one of the capitals of Eastern Europe but it’s not one of the most popular and visited destinations. It’s not very advertised so the risk is to think that it is not a city that deserves a trip.
Nothing could be further from the truth!
Budapest will quickly show you its sleek business card and make you breathe a sophisticated and welcoming atmosphere. Hungarians are very hospitable and friendly.
At first glance it looks like a Northern European city: it is elegant, clean, tidy, efficient, modern, open and very friendly with foreigners.
To realise you’re in an eastern European city you must look at the road signs around the city and the monuments that recall the history and the domination of the Soviet Union.
Budapest retains the scars of the Eastern European history, but it went on and carries them with pride. That’s what sets it apart from other capitals in Easter Europe.
For this and for its stunning beauty Budapest has been a wonderful surprise for me!
Also it is very cheap while being well organised and offering great facilities.
Have you not booked a ticket yet?
INSTRUCTIONS FOR USE
LOW COST WEEKEND: How to get there on the cheap
Budapest is truly one of those destinations defined low cost.
You can spend a weekend doing so many things, eating and drinking at a very low price.
Flights are generally also cheap. Ryanair offers cheap prices for weekdays departures and a little higher at weekends.
If you opt for the weekend, you can save money by choosing some slightly inconvenient flights at dawn that will end up being in fact very convenient because you will have the whole day ahead to visit the city.
I took the first flight on Saturday morning and by late morning I was already walking around town. Back on Monday morning at dawn to avoid missing the day of work. The cost of the flights was €50 return.
HOW LONG TO SPEND IN BUDAPEST
Budapest has so many points of interest, different things to see and do, but it is easily possible to explore it it and fully enjoy it in a couple of days.
It took me a day and a half to visit the city, to walk around and explore almost every corner and to try local dishes. I also spent half a day to relax at one of its spa, a strong point of interest of the city (only in Budapest there are 130 thermal spas).
WHAT TO SEE AND DO IN BUDAPEST
Budapest is divided in half by the Danube: there is the Buda side and the Pest one.
To the left of the river lies Buda, ancient and proud of its past, overlooking at Pest, the heart of the city, on the other side. The majestic Danube with its many bridges divides and unites this sober city.
I started the tour through the heart of the city, along the shopping street Vaci Utca and continuing towards the Parliament.
On the way there I had breakfast with a typical and delicious cherry strudel at the bar/bakery Szalai Cukrászda behind the Parliament itself.
Coming down on the bank of the Danube in front of the Parliament you come across the famous Shoes on the Danube, a touching installation that takes you back in time and evokes a strong piece of history that one cannot forget. 60 pairs of shoes visibly lived, left there to remind the Jews killed and thrown into the river during the fascist dictatorship.
From there I walked back to cross the Chain Bridge and get to the older part of the city: Buda.
At the top of the hill in this part of the city is the Castle – Royal Palace Kiralyi Palota that hosts many exhibitions and the Matthias Church with the wonderful roof made of coloured tiles.
To reach the top of the hill you can take the cable car (for 1200 florins – about €5 – or 1800 if you opt for the return ticket) or you can walk along a pleasant slope to the left of the cable car.
The cable car is a highlight of the city but it only lasts a few minutes, or maybe seconds, and it’s not worth the cost of the ticket. I suggest you take it only if you feel tired or want to avoid the walk uphill.
The upper part of the city shows an ancient and silent Budapest and offers great views from the Fishermen’s Bastion, the old fortress and ancient market of the royal area of the city.
I suggest you to wait for the sunset and the evening lights to see the most striking image of the city from Buda: the Chain Bridge and Parliament come to life. The yellowish lights surround Budapest with a surreal atmosphere, it feels magical!
The second day, after a glorious breakfast with pastries of all kinds at Anna Cafè on Vaci utca, I visited the impressive St. Stephen’s Basilica, the Jewish Quarter and the Great Synagogue.
It’s so nice to walk around the city and go into the alleys of the Jewish Quarter rousing old doorways, graffiti and niche bars. By day, this area is really quiet but is in the evening that the Jewish Quarter lights up and comes to life.
My last afternoon in Budapest I dedicated to relaxing at the Szechenyi Batsh thermal baths with both indoor and outdoor pools. They are the most popular baths and are so worth a visit.
To get there is very easy. Take the old yellow subway line. 1 and stop at SzéchenyiFürdő. From there walk 50 m on the right.
Do not miss the experience of taking the subway. For me embodies the soul of the city: it is old, clean, punctual and very organized.
An alternative to the Szechenyi baths are the Gellért baths in the homonymous district hill, they are also very charming with art nouveau interior.
WHERE TO EAT IN BUDAPEST
I’d go back to Budapest immediately even just to enjoy again the delicious Hungarian cuisine!
Goulash and meat dishes are the highlights of the Hungarian cuisine. Even the desserts, mainly strudel (in Hungarian rétes), are noteworthy.
Szalai Cukrászda is the place to have breakfast with the famous cherry strudel. It’s a famous small café/bakery near the Parliament on Balassi Balin 7.
It seems to go back in time in this calm, simple café offering cakes and various strudels. The cherries one is supreme but the cinnamon and cream ones are also worth trying!
The price for all this goodness is just about €1 apiece.
For lunch and dinner I can recommend two places that have stolen my heart and belly for the delicious dishes and for their characteristic atmosphere (and the kindness of the staff).
One is the restaurant La Paprika which is located in the area adjacent to the famous Szechenyi Baths.
At weekends you need to book in advance as the place is always full almost at any time. Trust me, it’s worth it and after eating here you know the reason why: generous and tasty dishes, many specialties for all tastes, good beer and a lovely setting plus everything is on the cheap.
Other than the amazing goulash served in a typical bowl you should try the delicious meat dish accompanied by bacon and Hungarian dumplings, called Borjupaprikas Baconos Tojasos Galuskaval.
Three dishes of local specialties and two beers for two people was a mere €25.
Another restaurant not to be missed is Makos Guba, behind the cableway. You can walk across the bridge next to the cable car and carry on straight for a few hundred meters.
In this very characteristic place they make various types of soups and goulash.
The price? €12 for two meals, beers and water for two people.
WHERE TO STAY IN BUDAPEST
In the city center almost everything is easily reachable on foot. Some areas that I can recommend to stay at are Vorosmarty tar, Vaci Utca and Erzsébetváros.
I stayed a few steps from Vaci utca (Pest side) at the City Hotel Matyas. A good solution, comfortable and reasonably cheap: €40 per night for double room.
HOW TO GET TO THE CENTER FROM THE AIRPORT
From the airport to the city center there is a really good minivan service that leaves from the main exit of the airport (€ 7 per person).
If it’s more than 3 people you’re travelling with I suggest you take a taxi for around €20-25.
Budapest is not only a beautiful and elegant city but also as culturally vibrant and modern to be nicknamed the Paris of the East.
The charming Budapest has also been the stage of many films. Who has not seen Grand Hotel Budapest, winner of 3 Academy Awards that tells the story of Mr. Gustave, the legendary concierge of this famous hotel?
Once arrived in Budapest, I wondered if there really was this bizarre hotel and found out that the Grand Hotel Budapest, which in the film is located in the immaginary town of Zubrowa, it has actually been inspired by the historic Hotel Corinthia Budapest (a time known as the Grand Hotel Royal).
Just look at it to find a lot in common with the famous hotel of the film. I wonder if someone inside resembles Gustave.