Great food, art nouveau-style architecture and the majestic buildings from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a fascinating Turkish bath culture are only some of the reasons to visit Hungary’s capital, also known as the “Pearl of the Danube”.
If you do make it to this vibrant and dynamic city, make sure you don’t miss the best things to do in Budapest in 3 days such as a cruise on the Danube River and a walk around Buda Castle Hill.
Top 10 reasons to visit Budapest
Budapest, the capital of Hungary. With a population of 2 million people, it is a beautiful city in the middle of Europe. Budapest has a rich history, great food, fascinating architecture, and it’s an ideal place for party lovers, as it offers a vibrant nightlife and many great bars and restaurants. The locals are friendly, the city is safe and there are plenty of sites to visit for tourists.
Also, Hungary boasts a long history and over the past 1000 years, many invaders left their traces in the country. Today, you can find Turkish thermal baths all over the city, you can see the ruins of the Roman Empire and you can discover many interesting historical sites that date back hundreds of years. Here are my 10 main reasons to visit Budapest.
A great city that has a lot to offer, you will surely enjoy its diverse culture and society, a fun city whether you go for the nightlife, the food or to learn about its local history and architecture. If you have time, spend more than a long weekend in the Hungarian capital to discover the different layers of Budapest and get the full experience. For more information on Budapest, check out this great website: http://gotohungary.com.
READ MORE: Travelling to Hungary? Check out our guide to planning a perfect trip to Budapest.
Budapest was founded in 1000 AD as the city of one of the largest countries in Europe for hundreds of years. It boasts a rich history and many palaces. You should start your tour around Budapest by visiting the Castle on the top of the hill, from where you can also admire the lovely, fairytale-like Fisherman’s Bastion and the Matthias Church. If you are a history buff, don’t miss the excavations of the Roman ruins beneath Buda Castle.
Head to Heroes Square for the statues of the founders of Hungary and those of the most important kings of Hungary. Behind the square, don’t miss the Vajdahunyad Castle, a beautiful castle surrounded by a small lake.
Turkish Bath Culture
Most tourists on a trip to Hungary visit the Rudas, Gellert or Szechenyi baths to enjoy the thermal water of Budapest and treat themselves with a massage, sauna and other spa treatments. These spas were established during the Turkish invasion in Budapest and still today they are a popular activity among locals and tourists who want to relax and rejuvenate in the thermal water.
These three baths are beautifully decorated, but nowadays somewhat touristy and slightly expensive. Budget travellers will like Veli Bej Baths, which were recently refurbished and have a traditional Turkish pool, and Kiraly Bath, an odd-looking Turkish bath, slightly outdated and cheap, highly frequented by the locals. Lukacs Bath is also a locals’ favourite thanks to its large pools. This is also a great place to mingle with locals.
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Budapest is known as a party city. The nightlife is amazing and lots of people come here for their stag dos. SPArties are also very popular. They take place at the Szechenyi Baths every Saturday, if you like electronic music and want to hang out at a thermal bath while watching a light show, head over to Szechenyi Spa to enjoy a fun-filled evening.
These parties are amazing, the music and the performances are incredible. They often have aerial dancers performing above the pools. It is a very memorable experience to take part in and definitely one of the things to do in Budapest. If you are curious, check out spartybooking.com for bookings.
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The locals are very friendly and welcome foreign tourists who have been travelling to Hungary for tourism purpose in the last couple of years. Most locals and young people in the touristy areas speak English or German, while old people are less likely to speak foreign languages. Most locals will love to give you tips on what to see and what to do in Budapest.
Hungarian food is spicy and somewhat heavy, but it is very tasty. The national dish is Goulash, which comes in the form of soup and stew. Goulash soup is a spicy soup prepared with meat, vegetables, and dumplings. It is usually followed by palacsinta (crepes) stuffed with cottage cheese or jelly. Goulash stew, on the other hand, is a thick spicy stew prepared with chicken or beef and dumplings.
Hungarians are also fond of stuffed cabbage, basically, cabbage leaves stuffed with rice and ground pork or beef, and covered with sour cream.
Try also the delicious Gundel Palacsinta, which is a crepes, stuffed with nuts, rum, raisins and covered with chocolate.
READ MORE: Check out our guide to the top restaurants in Budapest for first-time visitors.
Observe the architecture
Hungary was once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Most of the buildings around the city centre, beautifully decorated, were built at the beginning of the 20th century. The historical architecture often mixes with eclectic communist architecture, and this creates an interesting mix, giving the city a unique character. Some of the most beautiful buildings are the Parliament, the Synagogue, the Bazilika, the Market Hall and the Gellert Hotel.
Best Running Track
Take the tram 4-6 to cross the Margaret Bridge, get off in the middle and take the stairs down to the island, or walk from Jaszai Mari Square. There is a 5.5 km-long running track around the island, and near the entrance, you can see a giant singing fountain that plays music and performs a water show every hour. On the island, there are also a zoo and a Japanese garden, as well as one of the most famous spa hotels in Hungary. Make sure you don’t miss these great places after your run.
Unlike most European countries, Hungary is not using the euro, so the prices are significantly lower than in the other EU members that adopted the euro. You can have lunch for 5 euros or an ice-cream for 1-2 euros. You can have a very reasonable vacation in Budapest and enjoy great food, sunny weather and indulge in history.
READ MORE: Budapest Card: How to Use it, Pros and Cons
Learn About Jewish History and Culture
Hungary had the second-largest Jewish population in Europe before WWII and it has a large Jewish district even today. Here you can visit the Great Synagogue of Budapest, which is the largest synagogue in Europe and the second biggest in the world with a capacity of 3000 seats. The synagogue complex consists of the Great Synagogue, the Heroes’ Temple, the graveyard of people who were killed here during WWII, the Holocaust memorial and a Jewish Museum.
You can also take a Jewish Tour for free. It starts every morning at Vorosmarty Square from where the guide will tell you about the history of the Jewish district and will show you photos of how life was 100 years ago. They will introduce you to the best places in the district as well as pointing you to the best Jewish pastry store, where you can try the famous cake the Flodni.
READ MORE: Check out our full review of the apartment we rented in Budapest.
Author Bio: Barbara is a London-based luxury, travel and lifestyle blogger behind Jet Settera. She left her country, Hungary, when she was 17 to conquer the world as a model. Ever since she has lived in seven countries and visited 74. She blogs about exclusive destinations and some of the most prestigious events such as Venice, Cannes, San Sebastian Film Festivals, Oscar Parties in LA, Fashion Weeks in Milan or Paris, yacht parties in St-Tropez as well as Prince Albert’s wedding in Monaco. She also writes about adventure travel across Asia, South America and Europe. Read about her latest adventures in Israel on her blog.