Joe and I went to Budapest for the first time in September of this year and absolutely loved it. All I really knew about it was that it was an awesome place to go in your 20s and that it is known as the "Paris of the east." I didn't have many expectations. If you've been to Prague, you know how great the exchange rate is for Americans. Budapest is the same. You can live like a king or queen for nearly pennies compared to what you'd pay for the same trip in London, Paris, Stockholm, etc. which are much more expensive. Check out my list of recommendations of what to do and where to go at the very end of the article.
Download this city guide (with GPS maps) on your smartphone here to have it handy for your trip!
Budapest blew what little expectations I did have out of the water. It was breathtakingly gorgeous and the architecture was extremely unique. Everywhere you looked you'd see an even prettier building. Everything seemed so regal and looked like a castle. I went to Budapest with no expectations and left with a new favorite city.
Surprisingly to many, Budapest is composed of two completely separate districts: Buda and Pest, which are bisected by the beautiful Danube River and some really cool, historic bridges. The Chain Bridge and the Liberty Bridge are most notable in my opinion. It's technically one city, but with two very different personalities.
Buda, which sits on the west side of the river, has better views with big hills looking over Pest. It's an area owned by a lot of old money. The panoramic view from Fisherman's Baston and the Buda Castle are unbelievable. It's a much more suburbian and quiet area. There are lots of cute little cafe's scattered around, but for 20-somethings, I'd definitely recommend staying in Pest.
Pest sits on the east side of the Danube River and feels like a big city; it's much more bustling and lively! There are lots of young people walking the streets or riding bicylces in the bike lanes. It's a very bike friendly town and you can bike nearly everywhere, which is what Joe and I did. Even across the bridge to Buda! It's definitely the best way to get around. In Pest, you'll find really cool buildings and hotels, trendy restaurants and ruin bars, and lively nightlife. This city has such a lively and unique vibe that simply can't be explained, but I absolutely fell in love with it. The whole scene in Pest is very hipster and underground.
Budapest (like Roatan -- post coming soon) is truly a hidden gem, that I want to share with you all! If I haven't convinced you yet, please read my recommended list of places to visit, eat, drink, etc. below. For the price points, views, and vibes, Budapest should be on your "must visit in my 20s" bucket list!
My Budapest To-Do List
download it here!
Sights to see:
Széchenyi Chain Bridge – connects Buda and Pest
Varosliget Park (City Park) – near Heroes Square
Visit the Central Market Hall which has lots of handmade souvenirs, food + drink, etc.
Check out the Budapest parliament building
Visit the Faust Wine Cellar (near Fisherman’s Bastion underneath the Hilton Hotel)
Saint Stephen’s Basilica – you can take and elevator then climb a few more floors all the way to the top dome for panoramic views of the entire city
Gellert Hill and Statue – on the Buda side, you’ll find a beautiful green park with an (uphill) walk to a statue at the top with sweeping views of Pest
Boat Tour on the Danube River – we did this at night, but it seems like it would be delightful in the daytime too. You learn a lot of history on these!
Két Szerecsen – great for breakfast
My Little Melbourne – top quality coffee
Zappa Café – unique décor
Lunch & Dinner:
Bock Bisztro – this was a really upscale restaurant with very high quality Hungarian cuisine. On the expensive side for Budapest as its one of the fanciest in town, but we went all out with apps/drinks/entrees and it was about $60/person, so pretty normal compared to a decent San Francisco restaurant. Make a reservation in advance.
Spiler – a really cool, trendy Hungarian-American restaurant that’s really lively with lots of good food and drink options.
TG Italiano – if you want a break from Hungarian food, check this Italian restaurant out.
Frici Papa – very cheap, locals spot. The food was great and the prices were unbelievable. The décor is very simple and nothing to write home about, but if you’re looking for something that’s very authentic check this place out.
Pesti Disznó – cool restaurant with great food and a unique atmosphere.
Butiq Bar – fancy and upscale cocktails
Szimpla – Budapest is famous for its “ruin bars.” Most of them are on Kazinczy Street and Szimpla is the most popular one.
Gozsdu Court – a courtyard between Király Street and Dob Street which is the center to the pubs, bars and restaurants. You’ll find lots to do in this area.