Travelling works wonders for your wellbeing. Research suggests that travel helps to beat stress, boost happiness and satisfaction, as well as making you mentally resilient. So, after travelling to Budapest, Vienna and Rome earlier this year, we thought it would be useful to put our experiences into a post for each city, and provide some insight into what to look out for, hidden gems, and some tips for while you’re there. We’ll go through the main attractions of our three day trip, then finish up with some top tips, and things we wish we knew before we went.
In one line, Budapest was an incredible place to be. With impressive architecture, diverse districts to cater for everyone’s needs, and history to boot, there is something for everyone here.
We’d recommend spending the first couple of days walking to your destinations if you can, that way you get to see so much more of the wonderful city. There are street markets, boutique shops and historical monuments, all for you to see on foot.
Our first stop was to Hospital in the Rock, as this was close to where we were staying. The Hospital in the Rock nuclear bunker museum was a hospital created in the caverns under Buda Castle in the 1930s, in preparation for the Second World War. Tours start every hour on the hour, and take around an hour to complete. It’s a really great tour and well worth the cheap ticket to go around. As you’re underground, it does get a little chilly, but coats are offered for you to borrow at the beginning of the tour. It was also raining as we arrived, so a great attraction for when the weather takes a turn! The tour is really well laid out and our guide was knowledgeable and proficient. You start with a short movie presentation, describing the harrowing history of Budapest and how the Hospital in the Rock was essential to supporting the city. There really are some very powerful messages as you go through the museum on the guided tour.
From there, we walked to our next destination, the Budapest Flipper Museum, a true hidden gem of Budapest, and easily one of the coolest places we’ve been. Paying a flat rate of roughly £10 per person gets you unlimited access and playing time to some of the oldest and rarest flipper machines ever made, as well as some of the modern day ones too. We spent a good 2 – 3 hours in there, and it could have easily been more. There is a limited food and drink menu available, but with the option of going in and out of the museum available to you thanks to the wristband you are given, you can come and go as you please to get some food elsewhere if nothing appeals to you here.
We finished the day by eating at Osteria Mille Lire, which was easily one of the best pizzas I’ve ever eaten. Incredibly friendly staff who genuinely are interested in you and the stories you have to tell, unbelievably good food and a great atmosphere, this restaurant is a top place to eat.
For day 2, we had two places on our list of destinations, Gellert Baths, and Szimpla Kert.
We walked from our accommodation, just north of Buda castle, down the side of the Danube. While on the walk along the river, we managed to stumble across a wonderful street market with food and performers. This was all on the side of the Danube too, creating a lovely setting. Continuing our walk down the Danube, we found the Ybl Budai Kreatív Ház, which when we visited, held one of the best exhibitions I’ve ever been to, showcasing work by Gabor Miklos Szoke. Best of all, it was completely free, so it is highly recommended to check that out.
Upon arriving at the grand Gellert Baths, there are ticket offices on your left and right, either of which can be used. Towels, robes and swimming caps can all be borrowed from the baths for a fee. However, I would recommend bringing your own if possible, nothing wrong with theirs, just saves on cost! A swimming cap is NOT essential. It is only needed if you are going in the single swimming pool. All other pools can be used without a swimming cap (which we didn’t realise so now have two souvenirs!). You can buy treatments too but we didn’t do anything like that. A “cabin” is a changing room with a lock on and you leave your things in there and come and go during your time there. I’d recommend this option, otherwise, you’re getting changed in the corridors! We got one between two of us. We spent most of our day at Gellert baths. There are four pools; one of which is an outdoor swimming/wave pool, which starts every hour on the hour, two are smaller thermal baths (one inside and one out), and then there is one swimming pool indoors (this is the only one you need the caps for as far as we could tell). There is a restaurant and a small cafe on the upper tier of the main building where sandwiches, ice creams and drinks can be purchased, but of course you can take things and leave them in your cabin and go back to get them throughout the day. You’ll leave the baths feeling refreshed and ready to explore. It really is fantastic for your wellbeing to take some time out from a busy city break to relax and kick back. Budapest has some of the best thermal baths in the world, so don’t miss out on this treat.
Next, we began our walk towards the Jewish Quarter, which I’d probably describe as hipster and cool if I had to put a label on it. Whatever that label is, it’s well worth your time visiting. It’s home to ruin bars and some of the tastiest street food Budapest has to offer. We ate at Mazel Tov after a number of recommendations. While the setting is undoubtably beautiful and akin to Budapest, the food was incredibly underwhelming, as was the service. We ordered the Shawarma chicken, complete with chips and dip. The dip honestly tasted as if it had been off for weeks. It was a bit of a shame!
Anyway! Our last stop for the day was Szimpla Kert, a truly incredible place to visit in Budapest, and a shining gem amongst the rough. And that’s sort of the point to it. It’s old, broken down, ruined from war and siege, unlike anything we’ve seen before. But out of all the rubble they managed to build a truly mesmerising place. It’s huge too, with multiple rooms and bars, you’ll spend plenty of time walking through in wonder with drink in hand. Theres a bar for every drink type. Gin, wine, bar, craft, cocktail, all served at different locations, which was a wonderful system and provided a speedy service. There are also events on most nights. We were there for a jam session with a local band, which provided great music and a fab atmosphere.
On day three, we had planned to go to the House of Terror. However, day three was a Monday, and on Mondays, some museums are closed. So, do not plan to go to a museum on a Monday! Instead, turn Monday into a thermal baths day. Having already experienced the
joys of Gellert, we decided to go to Szechenyi Thermal Bath, mainly because it’s at the other side of Budapest, somewhere we hadn’t been yet. Before heading there, we went for a stroll around the park Szechenyi is located within, and it was lovely. To go from the wonderful architecture of built up Budapest, to the open and green park was great. This was very touristy however, just FYI.
Szechenyi Thermal Bath in Budapest is much bigger than Gellert. With over 20 pools, with varying temperatures and minerals, there is plenty for everyone. It is very busy however, so be prepared to shuffle from place to place. Don’t let that put you off though, it’s a great place to go and should be experienced, because really, there aren’t many places which offer some of the most incredible thermal baths the world has to offer. As you enter, the ticket office is on the right hand side. Towels, robes and swimming caps can be rented. Again, the swimming cap is NOT essential, almost all pools can be accessed without the cap. You can pay for a “cabin”, which is a cute changing room that you leave your things in for the day, and you are free to walk around the entire facility.
We finished our final day in Budapest by heading back to the Jewish quarter to eat at the Street Food Karavan, a permanent street food vender market. If you’re looking for a one stop shop for classic Budapest food, this is it. Langos, chimney cake and Goulash are just some of the food on offer here. Budapest has some great offerings for veggies and vegans too, something for everyone here.
Our Budapest Travel Guide Quick tips
To get to the city from the airport, you can take a direct bus (100E), which sets off from the Airport, and arrives in the city after a 30 minute ride. It costs (at the time of writing) 900 florins, and staff are on hand to help out.
Transport in the city is wonderful. We ended up using everything; tram, bus and underground. You can buy a book of 10 tickets (printed individually), which can be used across the whole transport system, and get you from A to B. There are a number of ticket checks on the underground, so make sure you keep your ticket till the end of the journey.
Something to keep in mind is that most of the museums are closed on a Monday, so if you’re planning to visit anywhere, don’t go on a Monday! We’d recommend turning Monday into your thermal bath day instead, as most of these remain open.
Out top attractions include Hospital in the Rock, Szimpla Kert, the Flipper Museum and at least one of the thermal baths. Which one you choose is really up to you. No harm in going to more than one! It’s a wonderful experience that will leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.
We stayed quite close to the Castle district which was a beautiful place to stay. Away from the hustle and bustle of the tourist traps, but close enough to get to the tram or bus.
We did want to go to the Blind Exhibition, but English speaking tours must be booked in advance. So please check ahead if you are planning on booking onto any tours.
The Jewish Quarter is highly recommended. The vibe is relaxed, there are plenty of places to chill-out and take in the incredible scenery Budapest has to offer. Make sure you check out the Street Food Karavan, a permanent street food venders lane, with all of Budapest’s best food on offer.
This might have been a personal problem, but we really struggled with the conversion rate. We badly miscalculated just how much we were going to spend. The conversation from 1 pound to 364 florins took a little getting used to.
Make sure you prepare for the thermal baths. Take swimming shorts / costume and towels. There is no need to take or buy a swimming cap. Not unless you plan on using the dedicated swimming pools.
Hopefully you liked the post, Budapest – Our Tour Guide and Travel Tips. Let us know what you thought, if it was useful, and if we’ve missed anything out! What is your number one must do in Budapest?
Enjoy the holiday!