After a recent visit to the beautiful Hungarian capital, we have some great tips for anyone else thinking about a Budapest city break. Although unified in 1873, the winding Danube River still separates the areas of Buda and Pest, both of which have a distinct character and physical appearance that will bring different aspects to your stay.
Here are 10 things to know before you travel. If you would like us to tailor-make your own trip to Budapest, you can click here to submit an enquiry or call us on 0800 988 3369.
The 100E Bus Is The Best Option For Airport To City Transfers
There are various different ways to get from Linz Ferenc Airport to the city centre. However, when you consider transfer time, price, reliability and ease of access, the relatively new 100E buses are the best choice. Tickets can be bought from the counter within the arrivals area and cost just £2.50 for a one-way trip. The bus stop is just a few yards from the exit, on the left-hand side, and they depart twice every hour. It’s better to think of these as being twice an hour rather than the ‘on the hour’ and ‘half-past the hour’ services that are advertised because sometimes these can become out of sync. The bus travels on a dedicated route above the traffic-ladened streets and takes roughly 20 minutes.
The Metro System Is Old But Works Well
Once in the city centre, the metro system is an easy way to get around. It’s nowhere near as vast as the underground in cities like London, Berlin or Paris, but its four different lines cover enough ground to take you to the major sights. We spent a lot of our time on the yellow line, which runs between Heroes Square and the river, and it wasn’t until we switched to the more central blue line that we realised how antiquated the trains and stations we had been using are. That is to say that some lines have recently been upgraded to include plush stations and modern trains, but even those that haven’t seem to run efficiently and regularly. Plus, there is a certain charm to the old-fashioned carriages and platforms on the yellow line.
Transport Workers Are Hot On Ticketless Travel
We rode the underground around 10 times during our two-day trip and it was only on two of these journeys that we weren’t asked to show our ticket either before we got on the train or whilst on board. We even witnessed one person being ushered off at the next stop and then having a very stern conversation with two BKK (the company that operates the trains, buses, trams, trolley cars, etc. in the city) employees. Therefore, you should always remember to buy your ticket before your journey and to stamp it by inserting it into the hole-punching machine on the platform before you get on board. There are ticket machines above and below ground at most stops and it’s often cheaper to buy them in bulk.
Many Bars, Restaurants and Shops Close On Sunday And Monday
As our Budapest city break took place from Sunday to Tuesday, we were slightly disappointed to find that many of the bars and restaurants were closed on either Sunday, Monday or both. The main attractions and larger establishments remained open, but if you are looking to eat at smaller, family-run places, it’s worth checking their opening times. The fact that it was February obviously had an effect too, but the streets in even the liveliest parts of town were very quiet on these nights.
Take Your Flip-Flops To The Baths
Budapest is known for its many spa baths that make use of geothermal water bubbling up from underground. Visiting one of these is a must-do Budapest activity, so we spent the evening at the Széchenyi thermal bath, found in the City Park behind Heroes Square. The relaxing thermal waters did wonders for our aching feet which had been exposed to miles of walking, but our lack of footwear made moving from pool to pool a daunting process. With the larger pools outside and smaller ones, along with saunas and steam rooms, indoors, you have to navigate the freezing cold concrete floor when moving around. Other, more prepared, bathers brought flip-flops or other slip-on shoes to help with this.
The Local Food Is Delicious
Always happy to try some of the local food when we travel, we dived straight into some Hungarian delights and were not disappointed. From delicious (if slightly messy) langos (fried discs of dough topped with sour cream and cheese) to heart-warming goulash pouring out of a loaf of bread, the local food was fantastic. The comforting and homemade options were perfect for cold February days and no meal exceeded £25 for two main courses and two drinks. Plus, you are never too far away from one of the many places that sell kürtőskalács – funnels of dough dusted with sugar, cinnamon or chocolate, known as chimney cakes.
There’s Beauty In Getting Lost
Although we planned quite a lot of our Budapest city break, we left time for aimless wanderings, as this is typically when you discover the hidden gems of a city. There are so many beautiful buildings, interesting memorials and intriguing landmarks in the Hungarian capital, so allowing yourself to get slightly lost is a great way to explore. This is especially true when looking for somewhere to eat or enjoy a drink; one night we stumbled into an arcade of bustling bars and restaurants that we may not have found otherwise. The maze of streets and squares mean you are always wondering what sights could lie around the next corner.
Explore Both Sides Of The River
After spending our first day on the Pest side of the Danube, we crossed one of the beautiful bridges to the more hilly and stately Buda. This is where you will find the Castle District, which includes the Matthias Church and the Fisherman’s Bastion, and the steep Gellért Hill. You will immediately notice the change in atmosphere and landscape, making an exploration of both sides a must if you are to get the full Budapest experience.
A funicular offers easy access to the sights at the top of the hill and there are some breathtaking views to enjoy when you get up there. The area is easily discovered on foot but there are also bus and Segway tours that can give you are more in-depth look at this popular part of the city. Then, as you make your way back to Pest, the famous Chain Bridge will carry you there in the most elegant of ways.
You’ll Need Longer Than 48 Hours To See Everything
Although our trip to Budapest spanned three days, we were only really in the city for just over 48 hours. Whilst this was long enough to gain a brief overview of the main sights, a longer stay is needed to really appreciate everything and see the highlights further out from the city centre. We would have loved more time in Buda and only really scratched the surface of the Jewish District where so many of the quirky ruin bars can be found. With it being just a short two-hour flight, it is a great destination for a weekend break, but if you have longer to spare, take advantage of the extra time to see more of this wonderful European capital.
Heroes Square Should Be Seen During The Day And At Night
Having chosen to stay in a hotel close to Heroes Square (a popular crossroads in the north of town which houses the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and statues of some of Hungary’s greatest leaders), we were lucky enough to see this iconic landmark during the daylight and after nightfall, when the figures are lit-up with a majestic glow. We would encourage anyone else to try and see both sides of this famous square too, not least because you don’t have to fight off the crowds of tourists during the evenings.