Budapest, Hungary

Seven months late, but I’m finally getting around to writing about our week in Budapest! It seems like our honeymoon was ages ago, and we’re already itching for another getaway. Luckily, we’re heading to Belgium, Amsterdam, and Copenhagen in one short month! (And, I’m promising myself it will not take me this long to write about each city!)

Budapest! Where do I even start?! You are a hidden gem — a paradise for explorers, a dream come true for history fanatics, and a playground for those seeking quirky and unique bars! If Budapest isn’t on your list of places to explore this year, add it now! I promise it won’t disappoint, but if you need more persuasion, here are my top reasons why you should visit!

Budapest is incredibly cheap!
Similar to Prague, Budapest is the perfect destination for any budget. Hungary uses the Hungarian Forint, and currently, $1 USD is approximately 250 Hungarian Forints. We probably spent around $100-150 USD a day between the two of us — but you can definitely do Budapest cheaper depending on what & where you eat and if you visit any museums. (Most of our expenses went towards splurging on dinner and drinks!) Overall, we found Budapest to be extremely affordable, and we were surprised by how cheap drinks were! (Budapest is actually one of the cheapest places in all of Europe to drink!)

As for accommodation, AirBNBs were really inexpensive, but we ended up staying at the Corinthia Budapest (the inspiration for The Grand Budapest Hotel), which we booked with points. The hotel was absolutely amazing!

Another major bonus is that almost all sightseeing in Budapest is free! From the Danube River to Margaret Island, to Castle Hill and Andrassy Ut, there is so much to see by just walking!

The Corinthia Budapest, the inspiration for The Grand Budapest Hotel (a Wes Anderson film)

The spa at the Corinthia Budapest

A traditional Hungarian spread of assorted meats

On the Buda side of the Danube River — views of Chain Bridge and the Hungarian Parliament Building

Great Market Hall

The Jewish Quarter
I feel like I could have spent the entire week exploring the Jewish Quarter. From all the different ruins bars to boutique shops, restaurants, and street art, there is so much to see and do. We discovered something new every single day.

The Jewish Quarter is also home to some really delicious and affordable dining options! Street Food Karavan, an outdoor market featuring local street food vendors, is an absolute must — especially if you plan to visit the ruin bars after! Here, we tried langos, deep-friend dough topped with sour cream and shredded cheese. (I know, it sounds…really appetizing. But it’s a staple in the Hungarian diet, so you should definitely try it at least once!)

So many unique shops in the Jewish Quarter

Jewish Quarter art murals

Street Food Karavan — so much delicious food!

Langos…deep-fried dough topped with sour cream and shredded cheese. Not sure I’ll ever eat this again 😉

Ruins Bars
Budapest’s ruin bars are unlike any bar you have ever visited. The bars were built in the ruins of abandoned buildings, stores, and lots that were left to decay after World War II. Rather than redeveloping the ramshackle state of these buildings, the developers added quirky furniture and decorations — such as toilets, bathtubs, and cars. Each bar has cheap drinks, mazes of rooms, street art, and communist relics. We loved Szimpla Kert, the first ruin pub; Mazel Tov, great for Middle Eastern food and cocktails; and Csendes Vintage Bar, a coffee shop by day and wine bar by night.

Szimpla Kert, the first ruin bar

Szimpla Kert

Szimpla Kert

Szimpla Kert

The best beers at Szimpla Kert

Mazel Tov, another ruin bar

Mazel Tov, great for dinner and cocktails

The Thermal Baths
Thermal baths are a huge part of Budapest’s history. There are several in the city to chose from, depending on the experience you are looking for. Gellert is separated into his and her baths, and bathing suits are optional. Kiraly has ancient Turkish baths, and has a more quiet, peaceful vibe. We ended up visiting Szechenyi, the most famous — and popular — bath in Budapest.

We decided to visit Szechenyi in the evening, after a long day of walking, and oh man…this was the perfect time to go. Not only  did we miss all the craziness from tour groups, but this was the perfect way to unwind. While the indoor thermal baths were closed by nightfall, the real experience was the outdoor pools with the fountains, sprays, and whirlpools!

Heroes Square — walking to Szechenyi

Szechenyi Thermal Baths

Szechenyi Thermal Baths

Vajdahunyad Castle, outside Szechenyi Thermal Baths

The Views
There are so many amazing panoramic viewpoints of Budapest. From Chain Bridge, to the Castle Hill Tram, and the Danube River, you’re sure to leave with one too many Instagram worthy photos!

Chain Bridge, with Castle Hill in the background

Hungarian Parliament Building

Hungarian Parliament Building

Shoes on the Danube Bank Memorial — honoring the victims killed by the fascist Arrow Cross Party during World War II. Innocent people were ordered to take their shoes off, and were then shot at the edge of the Danube River. 

Shoes on the Danube Bank Memorial

The Danube River and the Hungarian Parliament Building

Views from Castle Hill

Views from Castle Hill

The Cafe Culture is Real
You can’t visit Budapest without stopping at a cafe! Hungarians love their coffee, and very rarely will you find anyone in Budapest (or let alone Europe) taking a cup of coffee to go. Cafes in Budapest are the perfect place to sit, relax, and catch up with old friends.

In recent years, quite a few cafes in Budapest have been restored to their original splendor. The New York Cafe is a sight to behold, although I do not recommend eating there… the food was just okay. Located in the New York Palace Boscolo Hotel, the New York Cafe is a popular spot among writers.

If you find yourself on Castle Hill, Ruszwurm is the perfect cozy cafe for a cup of coffee or tea and some delicious cake. Although its a popular spot for both locals and tourists, the cakes are not to be missed!

High Tea at Gresham Palace

Cake at Ruszwurm, a cafe on Castle Hill

More cake and coffee

Cafe exploring in the Jewish Quarter

…and of course we found more cake!

The cutest cafe in the Jewish Quarter

Breakfast at The New York Cafe

Budapest has a Long and Fascinating History
Budapest has a very rich history, from the ancient Romans to the Ottoman Empire, to the World Wars and Communist rule. Like other major cities in Europe, there are so many museums in Budapest to visit, but we focused our time on The House of Terror and The Great Synagogue.

The House of Terror is dedicated to Hungarians who survived two different terror regimes in the 20th century. Perhaps the most chilling part of the museum is the building itself — which was used by the Arrow Cross Party (Nazi Germany during World War II) and the State Protection Authority or AVH (the secret police of Hungary, under Soviet rule). You can actually visit the basement of the museum where innocent Hungarians were detained, tortured, and murdered during these chilling years of history.

The museum focuses on Hungary’s relationship with Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Most of the exhibit is in Hungarian, but there are extensive information sheets in English in each room. (We made the mistake of visiting near closing time and felt completely rushed trying to take in all the information. Make sure to give yourself enough time when visiting!)

The Dohany Street Synagogue, also known as the Great Synagogue, was my favorite memorial in Budapest. All tours are lead by local Hungarians, and our tour guide was an older Jewish man who survived World War II in Budapest. It was so amazing to hear his story and how much the Jewish Quarter has changed since the end of the war.

When Nazi Germany occupied Budapest in 1944, Jewish individuals were forced to relocate to the Jewish Ghetto — an overcrowded area of just a few blocks completely cut off from the rest of the city. The Great Synagogue, the largest synagogue in Europe, was utilized by Nazi Germany as a radio communication center. Today, you can visit the Synagogue, the Jewish Museum and Cemetery, and the Raul Wallenberg Memorial Park. This is not to be missed!

The House of Terror

The House of Terror

The House of Terror

The Great Synagogue 

The Holocaust Tree of Life — this memorial stands over the graves of hundreds of thousands who were murdered by the Nazis between 1944-1945

The Great Synagogue Jewish Memorial

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