To celebrate our birthdays this summer, my partner and I headed to Budapest to soak up some sun and see the sights! Usually we create an itinerary wherever we go, but this time round we just followed our feet . Budapest is completely charming and we had the best few days. There is so much to do and the city is bigger than we thought, so going with the flow was just perfect. If you are looking to visit Budapest, there is plenty to keep you busy!
relax in a thermal spa
Budapest thermal baths are one of the highlights of visiting the city. There are many thermal baths throughout the city, all varying in aesthetic. We visited two during our stay and they were definitely our favourite part of the trip!
Gellert Baths, Kelenhegyi út 4, 1118 Hungary
This was our favourite of the two spas we relaxed in as we were just completely in love with how beautiful it was. Its romantic Art Nouveau architecture, with great pillars, stunning fountains and intricate wall details served as the most special place to take some time out. Not only was bathing inside in the hot pools just magical but this spa also features saunas, steam rooms and an outside pool with a wave machine (!). Imagine swimming in a museum and you have a good idea of what this spa was like. After a day of relaxing, we took a walk up Gellert Hill, which leads to a perfect view of Liberty bridge and Pest on the other side of the River. If you only visit one spa when in Budapest, this is definitely the top for me!
Széchenyi thermal bath, Állatkerti krt. 9-11, 1146 Hungary
The Széchenyi Bath is the largest medicinal bath in Europe and the biggest tourist spot in the city. Although not enjoyed as much as the Gellert Baths, we had such a wonderful time hopping from pool to pool and soaking up the sun in the outside. Upon entering this spa I felt like I had gone back in time, with the old-fashioned cabins and the stunning Neo-baroque architecture. It really is quite the spectacle, especially the bright yellow exterior. It is easy to see why this is one of the most popular places in Budapest. Szechenyi bath is situated in City Park and I would suggest taking a scenic walk through the park on your way to the baths. Budapest does not have any boring buildings and just walking through the park with the gorgeous architecture is reminiscent of a fairy tale.
visit a museum
House of terror museum, Andrássy út 60, 1062 Hungary
I think it is really important when visiting a new country to explore the history. I therefore knew I wanted to learn more about Budapest when we visited. The house of terror museum explores the history of the fascist and communist regimes in Hungary and what life was like living in Hungary during this time. The building itself was used to detain, interrogate and kill people during it's occupation by the National Cross Party and the AVH and so this museum is also a memorial for those who died. I thought this museum to be a very powerful and harrowing reminder of this particular time within Budapest and well worth a visit. tip, If you are under the age of 26 and can show a passport or student card, the museum is super cheap. Also worth a visit is the shoes on the Danube bank memorial. This memorial is dedicated to all those who were shot into the Danube during the second world war. They were asked to take their shoes off before being thrown in and so the shoes are an emotional reminder of the events that took place. We sat and reflected here for a while. It is a moving and important place to visit if you are in Budapest. It is located on the Pest-side of the River, not far from the Hungarian Parliament building.
explore Buda Hill in the late afternoon and catch the sunset
After crossing over the Chain Bridge (hello photo op!), we took the Buda Hill funicular up to the top! We spent a few hours on the Buda side of the city from late afternoon, taking in the views of Pest and getting all the photos. If you are looking for a quieter part of the city, head to Buda Hill as it was certainly more relaxed. Whereas Pest seems much more youthful and modern, running around Buda Hill felt like we were stepping back in time, with all the old buildings and quieter surroundings. We were chilling around Fisherman's Bastion and Matthias Church in time to catch the sunset, which was just perfect. Serious Hogwarts vibes frolicking through the Fisherman's Bastion! Watching the sun set over the Danube River is definitely bucket list material. Seeing the Hungarian Parliament Building glowing with dreamy orange sunlight was also pretty special.If you stick around a little longer, you can watch the lights of the city in Pest turning on for the evening. I doubt there is anything to do in the city that is more romantic...
take a night time walk
One evening, after watching the sun set over Liberty Bridge on the Buda side, we took a slow walk all the way down the riverside, admiring the reflections of the buildings lit up along the Danube. We stopped at the chain bridge half way to take some photos before walking to the Hungarian Parliament building, where we sat on the wall opposite marveling at how beautiful it looks lit up at night (perhaps even more charming than it is in the day!). After this we headed across the river to look at the building up close before slowly meandering back to our apartment. Budapest is gorgeous, no matter the time of day, but at night it is particularly romantic and special. Maybe its the reflection of the buildings glittering on the Danube, the bridges dancing across the river or the musicians serenading in the streets, but the city comes alive at night.
grab a drink at a ruin bar
Budapest has a pretty epic food and drink scene. Ruin bars in particular are a favourite for locals and tourists alike. They are buildings that were destroyed in the war and restored only to their exterior glory to make them into well-loved quirky hang-outs for friends to gather and drink the night away. As the Jewish Ghetto area was mostly affected by the war, this is where you will find the majority of these watering holes. Today the area is known as District 7. Ruin bars are accompanied by cheap beer, funky music and weird yet wonderful decor. Most of the tourists in the city head to Szimpla which is probably the most impressive ruin bar in Budapest. We were in the city at the weekend which meant most of the ruin bars were filled with rowdy hen and stag-do's. We therefore actually opted to visit in the day and grab a few drinks in the sun instead when it was quieter and more relaxed. Szimpla was an absolute feast for the eyes with trinkets and fairy lights and rooms brimming with wackiness (my kind of hang-out!). Go at night to explore a different way to party, or go along in the day like we did, catch the farmers market that is held there every Sunday or even swap beer for coffee if you wish. Next door to Szimpla bar, along Kazinczy street, there is an alleyway which leads to an open street-food court called Karavan, which was also well enjoyed. Ideal for filling yourself up before you hit the beers or for a post-szimpla snack! They even have vegan options!
Budapest has officially made it onto my list of favourite cities. I was taken aback back by how beautiful it was in the day and then extremely surprised by the fun nightlife scene that emerged after dark. It is also more affordable than other cities in Europe which makes for the perfect, stress-free break.