How to Plan a Trip to Budapest. 9 Tips for Perfect Budapest Holidays
So you’ve finally decided to travel to Hungary and now you are wondering how to plan a trip to Budapest. To organise our recent long weekend in the Hungarian capital we did a fair share of Budapest trip planning.
Our visit was pretty smooth but probably we would have done something different if we knew of if it wasn’t our first trip. Here we made a list of tips we think are useful for future Budapest travellers in order to make the most out of their experience.
Planning a Perfect Trip to Budapest – Table of Content
- How many days in Budapest?
- Finding cheap flights to Budapest
- Where to stay in Budapest
- How to reach Budapest from the airport
- Buy a Budapest Card
- Book a Budapest Walking Tour
- Getting Around Budapest
- Is Budapest Cheap?
- Rough Cost of a Budapest Holiday
Practical Tips for a Budapest Trip Planning
From how many days to spend in Budapest to how to get around the city, we are giving you all the tips we gathered and found useful in our recent trip.
We totally recommend to visit Budapest, it’s a historical and dynamic city, so we try to make things easier for your travel planning.
1. How Many Days in Budapest?
Like for many European cities, it’s not that easy to give an exact figure of how many days you need to visit Budapest. We stayed for three full days and visited quite a lot. I was 7 months pregnant at the time so, even though we kept going, we also liked to take our time and enjoy the place rather than rushing around.
If you are interested in visiting only the most important Budapest attractions such as Buda Castle, Matthew Church, the Fisherman’s Bastion in Buda Castle Hill, and the Parliament and St. Stephen’s Basilica in Pest side, then I would reckon 2 days in Budapest are enough. If you take a tour or book a Hop On Hop Off Bus, this can be done also in one day in Budapest.
If you can spend some 4 days in Budapest, or even three, you will definitely have more time to better explore the different sides of the city such as the Jewish District, try out some of their famous traditional restaurants and relax at their thermal baths.
READ MORE: Check out our guide to the top things to do in Budapest in 3 days.
2. Finding Cheap Flights to Budapest
Our flight to Budapest was with Wizz Air and it was pretty cheap. We paid roughly 120 euro for a return ticket for two people. Wizz Air is a low-cost European airline (Hungarian actually), and like all the low-cost companies, it’s cheap only if you don’t need anything else but the flight ticket.
This means, you pay the lower price if you are only travelling with a small hand luggage (for Wizz Air the size is 40x30x20 cm, basically a small backpack) and nothing else, no additional purse. If you want to travel with another hand luggage, there is an additional fee, if you want a checked-in luggage, there is another fee, and so is if you wish to choose your seat on the plane.
So, if you are travelling with someone you want to sit close to or you have a larger suitcase to check in, the price will easily reach the one of a normal airline where these services are usually included in a basic ticket.
We were going for a few days so travelling with only a small backpack was more than enough.
There are several companies flying to Budapest, both low-cost and national airlines. We suggest you check them all with a bit of advance so you can easily compare prices and services.
3. Where to Stay in Budapest – The Best Areas for Sightseeing
On our Budapest trip, we stayed in Pest district, in Karolyi utca. Close to several metro stations such as Astoria and Ferenciek tere alongside several bus and tram stops, this was a fantastic location.
We loved this area because everything we needed was within easy reach, either on foot or by public transport. We had two big supermarkets nearby, Lidl and Aldi, and since we were in an apartment most days we had breakfast in the house with pastries, bread and fruit from Aldi. All around was also full of restaurants, even though we usually preferred other eateries in other districts.
As long as the tourist attractions go, thanks to the proximity of several means of public transport, we easily reached everything by tram, metro and bus, including the Buda Castle District.
READ MORE: Check out our full review of the Budapest apartment we rented.
After visiting several parts of the city, I reckon for first-timers this district is great for accommodation, as well as the hotels around Andrassy Road. This is a trendy road full of shops and restaurants close to other landmarks and also very well served by public transport.
Due to the high prices and large crowds every day, I probably wouldn’t recommend staying in Buda Castle Hill, but thankfully, there are so many hotels in Budapest that you can really find one that suits your travel and budget needs.
4. How to reach Budapest from the Liszt Ferenc International Airport
There are several ways to reach Budapest city centre from Liszt Ferenc International Airport. If you have the Budapest Card 72h (more info below), you can take the bus 200E from the airport to Nagyvarad tér metro station along the blue line and that’s included in the card. The 200E leaves the airport roughly every 10 minutes. If you are still in the 72 hours of validity, you can also use it
With the Budapest Card 72h Plus, it’s included the transfer with the shuttle bus miniBUD. While with Budapest Card 72h the miniBUDis 15% off.
Another way to get to Budapest from the airport is with the bus 100E which arrives at the city centre close to several metro stations such as Kalvin tér. The bus 100E departs from the airport roughly every 20 minutes.
Obviously, you can also book your own taxi. Some hotels provide this service, otherwise, you can take a cab from the airport directly, or book one online.
Click here for more information and to book your own taxi.
5. Buy a Budapest Card
Depending on how long you stay in Budapest, there are different Budapest Cards you can purchase for some benefits or discounts. So you will find Budapest Card 24h, 48h, 72h and 72h Plus. We had three full days in Budapest for sightseeing so we bought the Budapest Card 72h.
The main benefit we enjoyed was all the public transport free of charge. We could just show the card and pass, very convenient also for saving time as we didn’t have to look for tickets every time we needed a bus or the metro. The transfer back to the airport, too, was included as we were still in our 72-hour time frame.
With the Budapest Card 72h you have also free entrance to the Hungarian National Museum, one entrance to the Lukacs Baths, the museums inside Buda Castle, Aquincum archaeological site, and several other attractions like Memento Park and Budatower, or smaller and lesser-known museums like Szamos Chocolate Museum or Vasarely Museum.
Unfortunately, the card doesn’t include many of the most famous sites like the Terror House, Matthew Church, the Fisherman’s Bastion, the Parliament, the Great Synagogue and the panoramic terrace of St. Stephen’s Basilica. For some you will have a small discount but not for all. This was a bit of a let down as the card was not super cheap, about 43 euro each. We didn’t regret buying it mainly because of the public transport included, but since it was our first time in Budapest we visited mainly the major attractions so we don’t think we saved so much with the Card.
I think it’s still worth it checking it out as you have some restaurant discounts and 20% off the City Tour Hop On Hop Off bus. So you can decide if for you it’s convenient depending on how long you stay and what kind of Budapest holiday you want to have.
6. Book a Budapest Walking Tour
There are many Budapest walking tours that are very helpful not only to better understand the different neighbourhoods but also to save plenty of time.
If you are spending only a day in Budapest I would totally recommend booking a tour with a local guide to visit as much as possible of the major attractions. If you are staying longer, say two or three days, or even five days in Budapest, you can opt for a tour that digs deeper into a specific district. For example, a walk around the fascinating Jewish Quarter.
To explore the two main parts of the city, there are tours that focus on each of them. If you want to get to know Pest district, the lively Budapest city centre, its modern areas with the political and religious centre, you should definitely book a walking tour.
Click here for more info and to book a walking tour around Pest.
If you are interested also in the Buda Castle Hill, the buildings linked to its medieval history, and the fantastic viewpoints you can find here, a Castle District walk is for you.
Click here for more info and to book a walking tour in the Buda Castle Hill.
7. Getting Around Budapest
As I mentioned a few times, we used the public transport for everything in Budapest. Apart from being included in our Budapest Card, it was also pretty efficient and widespread.
We checked out every address on Google Map which also gave us the route both on foot and via public transport.
Only once we took a taxi to go up to the Citadel because I was 7 months pregnant and had been strolling around Castle Hill all day. This is really the only reason, otherwise, we would have walked up to the Citadel as it’s a pleasant walk, not too hard and with great views. The taxi fares are written on the car, but the first time to go up the driver didn’t switch on the metre and we reckoned he charged us more than he was supposed to. On the way back, we took another cab and the price was less than half of the first trip. Just be careful the driver turn on the metre, the first time it was totally our fault.
However, if it’s your first time in Budapest and you are only staying in the city centre and visiting the main landmarks, you will totally get by using only the public transport and walking. We never waited for more than 5 to 10 minutes for a bus or a tram.
8. Is Budapest Cheap?
Yes and no. Our apartment was around 50 euro per night, which is not expensive considering that it was in the city centre. But it wasn’t the best accommodation ever. We did have some problems such as cockroaches in the bathroom almost every day, the kitchen was tiny, very little tools and not so much space to cook. The only great thing was the location, downtown and very well-served by public transport, both buses and more than one metro line.
Food-wise, pretty much the same. Some restaurants are very affordable and good quality like Getto Gulyas, others a tourist trap serving nothing special for a normal meal price, like the bar/eatery we ate at the Citadel or the restaurant we ate in Vaci Street, where food was actually pretty bad.
But when it comes to quality food, we found prices to be not too different from Rome. For example, at Menza I ordered a tuna steak with veggies, which was delicious, and the price was about 20 euro. Totally deserved, but not less than what I pay in Rome. A fruit smoothie in the Jewish District cost me some 4.50 euro, which is not that cheap either.
READ MORE: Check out our guide to the best restaurants in Budapest for first-time visitors.
9. Rough Cost of a Budapest Holiday
The cost of a trip to Budapest depends much on how long you are staying, what type of accommodation you want, your restaurants of choice and all in all what type of holiday you want.
Here is a rough breakdown of the expenses you will find in Budapest.
Accommodation. A basic apartment for two people downtown on the Pest side is around 50/60 euro per night. A 5-star hotel in Budapest in the same 5th district like Aria Hotel Budapest, the Kempinski Hotel or the Four Seasons can go from 250 to 500 euro per night for a double room. If you want more budget accommodation in Budapest, you can check out the 3-star hotels or the B&Bs.
A good B&B downtown ranges from 70 to 100 euro per night, while if you go a bit far from the city centre prices can start from 50 euro per night. A double room in a 3-star hotel at around 1km from the city centre like Central Hotel 21 starts from 66 euro per night.
Food. We found restaurants’ fares not too different from other European cities. So, for example, a meal for two at Menza with two soups, two main dishes and the drinks cost us around 18500 HUF (65 USD/57 euro).
At Mazel Tov restaurant/ruin pub for two starters, one salad, two main courses, a pot of tea and a bottle of water, we paid 13870 HUF (49 USD/45 euro). While at the Hold Street Food Market we ordered two main courses and paid some 5700 HUF (19 USD/20 euro).
Attractions. With Budapest Card, you have free entrance to several museums but not all and not the historical attractions. Here are the prices for the main ones:
- Hungarian National Museum (free with Budapest Card): 1800 HUF (6.3 USD/5.6 euro)
- Hungarian National Gallery (free with Budapest Card): 1800 HUF (6.3 USD/5.6 euro)
- Budapest History Museum (free with Budapest Card): 2000 HUF (7 USD/6 euro)
- Terror House Museum (not included in Budapest Card): 3000 HUF (10 USD/9 euro)
- Matthias Church (not included in Budapest Card): 1800 HUF (6.3 USD/5.6 euro)
- Fisherman’s Bastion (10% off with Budapest Card): 1000 HUF (3.5 USD/3 euro)
- Parliament Building Visitor Centre: 3500 HUF (12.2 USD/11 euro)
- St. Stephen’s Basilica + Panoramic Terrace: 200 HUF + 500 HUF
- Memento Park (free with Budapest Card): 1500 HUF (5.2 USD/4.6 euro)
- Golden Eagle Pharmacy Museum (50% off with Budapest Card): 800 HUF (2.8 USD/2.5 euro)
Public transport. This is included in the Budapest Card, so for us was free of charge. If you don’t have the Budapest Card, you will have to buy each time your ticket or a 10-ticket bulk and remember to validate it whenever you use the bus, tram or metro. These are the prices:
- Single ticket: 350 HUF (1.2 USD/1 euro)
- Single ticket bought on board: 450 HUF (1.6 USD/1.4 euro)
- Single transfer ticket (single trip including one transfer): 530 HUF (1.8 USD/1.6 euro)
- 10-ticket block: 3000 HUF (10.5 USD/9 euro)
- Airport bus 100E: 900 HUF (3 USD/2.7 euro)
- Metro ticket for up to 3 stops: 300 HUF (1 USD/0.9 euro)
I found these a little confusing as there are several limitations for each ticket. For this reason alone, I highly recommend purchasing the Budapest Card!
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