I have travelled to many great cities over the past couple of years, but I and many others will say it… there is something (so many things) special about Budapest.
The Hungarian Capital straddles the mighty Danube River split into sides: Buda & Pest. Formerly two separate cities and each very distinct from the other, the city as a whole has fast become a top European travel destination over the last few years for both young partygoers or for those looking for a relaxing escape – and for many good reasons.
With the cost of accommodation, drinks and meals often coming in at less than half than that of their western European counterparts like Barcelona and Paris, a long weekend in Budapest offers travelers a vibrant city escape at a fraction of the cost –and I personally prefer it. The city has something for everyone; be you a history or architecture buff, a foodie looking for your next gastronomic adventure, a booze-loving pleasure seeker, or if you just want to kick back and soak in some thermal baths. Budapest is the one!
Hungary is a landlocked country in central Europe, sharing borders with Austria, Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia. It’s easily accessible by train or bus as a stop on your trip around Europe, or alternatively, flights from London are generally super cheap for a weekend trip from the UK. Wizz Air is the provider I generally use, and I often nab return flights for around £50.00 flying out from Luton Airport if I book a month or so in advance. Not bad!
CHATTIN’ & SPENDIN’
The language is difficult (understatement) and the currency is confusing – but English is widely spoken in Budapest and I’ve gotten along fine with little to no knowledge of the mother tongue during my many trips here. But, as with most countries, the locals really respect you if you at least attempt to use a bit of Hungarian from time to time. I won’t even begin to try and explain pronunciation, so will refer you to this link by ‘We Love Budapest’ (excellent website for pre-trip research) for some useful phrases during your trip.
It’s also worth noting that the local currency is the Hungarian Forint (HUF); and while you can use the Euro here – it’s a lot cheaper to use the HUF.
REST YOUR WEARY HEAD
Airbnb is the way to go in Budapest. I’ve stayed in hostels as well but if you do your research, you can get a swanky apartment for not much more & generally at about half the price of a hotel in a similar area. The properties on offer in the city are incredible, unique and mostly always housed in striking historic buildings. I have been lucky enough to stay in some magnificent Airbnb properties for incredible value. Refer below for some of the gorgeous places that I’ve stayed during my trips. If you want to nab a deal with any of the below apartments, get in touch with me and I can hook you up or nab a £30 discount on your first booking using my referral link:
Design loft on buzzing Király Street:
Contact Devon via the above link
An exquisitely designed modern apartment set in an historic monument design inspired apartment on the most buzzing street in Pest, Kiraly utca, you couldn’t hope for a better base for your trip to Budapest. The host Devon is one of the friendliest I’ve dealt with on my many travels and went out of her way to accommodate my stay. Simplistic yet luxurious design complete with loft hammock and design kitchen.
Luxury two in one apartment on Dob Street:
Contact Justin, Zsofi or Steven via the above link
A luxury duplex top-floor apartment housed in another beautiful historic building, this place is big enough to house two couples or a family, each with your own bathroom and kitchen. The design of this apartment is impeccable and you really are indulging yourself for a fraction of what a similar apartment would cost in say Paris, Amsterdam or Barcelona. Flooded with light and decorated to a beautiful standard, live like a local in your home away from home. Highly recommended.
5-Star Luxury Apartment on Kazinczy Street
Contact Levi via the above link
Kazinczy Street is the place to be in the Jewish district, and Levente’s beautiful apartment is literally opposite Bors (my favourite place to eat in Budapest – see further down the article for deets), Szimpla Kert (the most famous & wonderful of the ruins bars) and Karavan (food truck heaven). It’s also housed within another stunning historic building, and is furnished to a tee complete with vintage refrigerator and foosball table! Two huge rooms on opposite ends of the apartment make it perfect for two couples or a family.
Hip apartment in the heart of Budapest, Sip Street
Contact Hajnalka via the above link
Perhaps my favourite of all of the places we stayed, because of its beautiful parquetry flooring, high ceilings and spacious balcony overlooking Kacinzcy Street (as mentioned above) – it’s also kept most of the original detailing since being renovated so feels authentically Hungarian. Perfectly centred in the Jewish District so you’re merely a 2 minute walk from incredible bars & restaurants – it’s also super easy to access via public transport.
EAT, DRINK & BE MERRY
Budapest is well known for its incredible party scene, but is oft overlooked as a food haven. The food scene has been blooming of late, with fantastic new joints popping up left, right & centre. If you’re here just for a few days and wanting some good tucker my advice would be to largely base yourself around the hip seventh district, and spend the bulk of your eating & drinking time around this neighbourhood. Without even knowing where you’re going you’re bound to stumble upon a winner – but lucky for you, I’ve done some of the hard work for you:
Wesselényi Street 18., Budapest
Serving up traditional, bold & honest Hungarian delicacies in a beautifully presented restaurant, expect big servings and even bigger flavor – but make sure you book ahead as this place is popular. A top Budapest eatery, you are still only looking at €25 total for a couple of drinks, a main and a dessert for two people… and expect to find walking a challenge afterwards. My favourite thing about the restaurant was the staff; they want you to feel like you’re eating a home cooked meal at your grandmother’s house – we offered to leave before we had finished our desserts due to the many people waiting, but they assured us we could stay as long as it took us to finish (we were stuffed)… I can’t say I’ve ever experienced hospitality like it!
Dob Street 25
The best coffee I’ve found so far in Budapest and something the Cirkusz team pride themselves on, they also offer a weekly changing menu and a great range of breakfast, lunch & dinner options. We indulged in some hefty big brunches and a few coffees a pop to cure our ruins-bar-hangovers & the staff were more than attentive to our fragile states.
It turns out a traditionally Hungarian big brekkie is quite like that you’d find in Germany – cold deli meats, nice breads, cheeses etc… Not really my idea of a good breakfast personally, but thankfully these guys also do the whole bacon & eggs sha’bang too. There’s nothing extraordinary about the food here but it’s a great vibe & the staff are tops.
Pesti Disznó Bisztró
Nagymező Street 19
A great dinner restaurant with stylish interior and cosy glass-fronted dining area, we had a lovely evening being waited on by superb waiters with an excellent knowledge of both the dishes and the extensive wine & drinks list. Priding themselves on hearty meat dishes (particularly pork), as a vegetarian it wouldn’t be my first choice, but my dining partner was in heaven starting with beautiful Hungarian goulash & feasting on a crispy pork knuckle with braised cabbage. My avocado spaghetti left a little to be desired, but the staff and atmosphere really made up for the lack of flavor in the vegetarian dishes. We rounded off the meal with some of Budapest’s finest palinka and left feeling full & jolly. With main courses between £6 – £13 and desserts for £2.50, this is considered on the more pricey side in Budapest, but still so cheap!
*Note: Since reviewing SUSU, the chef and his team have since moved ranks and will soon be taking up residency Babel Restaurant on
Sexy bites and sumptuous cocktails combine to create an unbeatable Budapest eating experience at SUSU Budapest. Well executed and unique fine-dining in a stylish setting, this was one of my most delicious meals either in Budapest or abroad. From the immaculate presentation to the bold flavours, modern twists on old-time classics gave the taste buds an unexpected and welcome journey and one not soon to be forgotten. Stand-out dishes were pumpkin soup with goats cheese (it’s hard to describe the almost whipped-lightness of this soup), the slow-cooked lamb tortellini, and the pork medallions. Head chef Sipos András has talent beyond measure which is backed up by his incredibly knowledgeable wait staff and skilled bartenders.
Konyha (Friends for Food)
Madách Imre út 8., 1075 Budapest
Neighbouring their other project, bar Telep Galeria, and across the road from popular coffee & drinking hotpot Kozpont, Konyha is in the perfect spot & is another standout of mine in Budapest due to its relaxed atmosphere & rustic flavoursome dishes. It’s fuss-free but it’s done right and the quality of their seasonal local produce shines through in their modern twists on traditional cuisine. They have a daily changing lunch menu and it’s not going to break the bank. My vegetarian stuffed cabbage was exquisite, and their slow-cooked pulled lamb tagliatelli with season veg was the tits. Beautiful desserts, beautiful staff and strong cocktails are also a drawing point – you can’t go wrong. They’ve also got a walk-in bagel shop, BudapestBagel, a few doors up the street which is super yum times.
We found Fat Mama to have its ups and downs – sitting out on their terrace was lovely, but we were unfortunately (by no fault of the restaurant) seated next to a table of about 14 Contiki bus-tour diners, and it kinda seemed like the place where these groups would swarm towards. The food here is described as ‘simplistic and wholesome bistro style’, and it was hit-and-miss for us.
My goats-cheese burger was dry and my chips were a little cold, I feel like it was a poor choice on my part because some of the pastas we saw looked incredible. My partner’s pork tenderloin was perfectly cooked and came with delicious well paired sides. The cocktails were strong. The staff were less than enthusiastic. The dessert was great. Enough said!
Hold Street 13
Primarly known as a fashion stylist by Budapest locals, Lakatos Mark has branched out with this vibrant spot set in the increasingly popular, gourmet Downtown Market – specialising in robust Hungarian sausages and beautifully spiced meats, the restaurant also features rotating seasonal offerings & beautiful desserts (see below for creamy light banana chia puddings). Being a vegetarian in Budapest can sometimes be a challenge, but I ate an incredible couscous stuffed aubergine here that I still rave about & will be making a beeline for next time I’m back.
Other notable mentions…..
The most divine soup you will ever try, savoury or sweet (yeah, you heard me, sweet soup!) and never without a line out the door. Their latest sweet creation: Cold raspberry soup with pancake strips and Belgian chocolate chips. Sounds weird. Tastes fucking great.
Fine dining meets street food. An array of unique, delishy hotdog flavour combinations.
The Budapest Makery (DIY Cooking with dranks and tunes)
A DIY restaurant where you rock up to a kitchen bench, you’re provided with your ingredients and an iPad with your instructions along with a cocktail and some music – and you’re away laughing!
KARAVAN (Street food/Food truck court)
A trendy food-truck court with something for everyone: burgers, pasta, soup, gelato & best of all – Langos (Hungarian’s version of a drunk kebab but it actually tastes good: deep-fried bread dowsed with sour cream, garlic and cheese). Hangover heaven!
Find a chimney cake stall (they’re all over the place) and dig in. EOM.
A favourite chill spot for my Budapest friends, Kozpont is perfect for those wanting to sit & yarn with a coffee & a pastry during the day, but turns into an equally hot nightlife spot in the evenings with locals flooding in for the cheap beer, strong shots, good service and loud beats. Have a shot of Unicum and whack your dancin’ shoes on.
If you’re planning a trip to Budapest & haven’t heard of Szimpla Kert then you’re really shit at planning a trip to Budapest and it’s a damn good thing you’re here. The city’s first romkocsmá (ruin pub), Szimpla Kert is a must-visit landmark when coming to Budapest. A huge building plastered with graffiti and housing several bar areas, dozens of rooms and random antique furniture two stories high – you’re guaranteed a good night here. The drinks prices are a little higher than lesser known bars, but you can’t not go here. You’ll see. It also houses an amazing farmers market on Sunday’s – you gotta try the smoked cheese!
Instant + Fogas Ház
Fogas is another epic ruins bar with cheaper drinks than the aforementioned & has a few rooms dedicated to DJ’s and dancing and whatnot. A bit less touristy. Personally my favourite!
Only Good Beer (Csaka jo Sor) – craft beersies
Léhűtő Kézműves Söröző
Another thing I love about the city is it’s totally in on the craft beer buzz. Check out ‘Only Good Beer’ for one of the best ranges in the city, and another favourite just off Godszu Street is Léhűtő Kézműves Söröző.
Lined with bars and restaurants, and lit up all pretty-like, you’re bound to find something to tickle your fancy in the Godszu Garden.
Find some palinka at any of the above places and throw it back! It’s a traditional fruit brandy and generally tastes rather pants, but it warms you up really nice!
Aside from the permanent establishments in Budapest, there’s always plenty of other great stuff going on in the city. Music festivals, food truck festivals and markets. It’s famous for the beautiful Szechenyi thermal baths which you must visit, they’re breathtaking! The history is rich and the scenery is beautiful (of course you’ll visit Fisherman’s Bastion, St. Stephen’s Basilica, Buda Castle, Margaret Island and the remarkable chain bridge!… but you know all that already). The creative scene is buzzing and exhibitions are aplenty. The food scene is vibrant. The bars and clubs are varied and bountiful. Grab some cans and sit along the bank of the Danube in the sunshine.
Explore. Meet new people; it’s so easy to do here! Hungarians are beautiful, caring souls and I’m very thankful to have befriended some awesome locals in Budapest. I feel very welcome and at home in this country and many fellow travellers I’ve spoken to have said the same.
I really cannot recommend this city enough and am looking forward to another trip back this Easter. I have only scratched the surface on what’s to offer in Budapest in this piece, but I hope I’ve given you enough of a taste to get online and book those tickets for your summer getaway! I love it here and I am sure you will too.