Budapest had been on my radar for a while and when I finally went armed with my Lonely Planet guide I knew that I'd be walking a lot for the next four days. The city is huge! And there's so much to see and do and visit that you could easily spend a month here and still find new stuff to do. I'm very well aware that the below list is barely scratching the surface but it's a start.
So without further ado, here are my Top 10 Things to do in Budapest! :)
1. Visit the baths!
This city is famous for its huge amount of beautiful public bath houses. Choose one and either spend an afternoon there soaking up the minerals in the pools or come for a full day spa treatment. Some baths even have evening pool parties - while I haven't been to one myself I heard it's not for the faint hearted. Imagine lots of young backpackers, cheap alcohol and loud music... But hey, what happens in the pool stays in the pool, right? if that's your thing, absolutely check with your hostel as they usually organize group discounts for these events. I've also been told that the baths usually put on these parties the day before they change the water in the pools... go figure! ;)
My personal favorite? Szechenyi Bath (pronounced say-jenny) - this is probably one of the most iconic and most photographed bath houses in the city! There are 18 indoor & outdoor pools to choose from and all kinds of spa treatments available. Built in the early 20th century this place looks and feels pretty luxurious although I paid only roughly €15/$17 for a day ticket incl a locker. So it's totally worth doing! What if you visit in winter? Don't worry - the baths are still open and their thermal pools are a real attraction for tourists & locals alike. And this is what Szechenyi looks like!
2. Citadella Lookout
Budapest is one of those places that you have to see from above! For superb views over the city you can walk up Gellert Hill to the Citadella Lookout on the hilly Buda side of the city. From here you can see the Liberty Bridge over the mighty river Danube connecting Buda and Pest. Also up here you can find the St Istvan statue (pic 2), the Liberty Monument (pic 4) & the Buda Castle (pic 5).
3. Margaret Island
Margaret Island is right in the middle of the Danube River and once you get on it via the Margaret Bridge you won't even think that your in a major European metropolis anymore. Suddenly it feels very much like you've landed in a green, tranquil oasis, far away from the downtown hustle and bustle. I just wandered around, sat on benches for a while, admired flowers and enjoyed breathing in the fresh air out here. There are kiosks, restaurants & public toilets and a Japanese Garden on the island. Oh and of course there's also a water park here!
4. House of Terror
There are tons of fantastic museums in Budapest but The House of Terror is one of the most visited in the city. It is quite somber and packed with history but so well worth your time! The very house which is now a museum used to be occupied first by the Nazis and later by the Communist State Police. You can visit the jail in the basement and permanent as well as temporary exhibitions on the other floors. A guided tour is highly recommended as you will learn so much about Hungary in the 20th century!
There are so many incredible buildings in this city! My personal favorite is the Hungarian Parliament. I mean who wouldn't want to be a politician if that was your office?
6. Go up St Stephen's Basilica
Yet another cathedral and an awesome look out for beautiful views over the city - especially in the late afternoon light,
7. Go to a Ruin Bar
You wouldn't find me in a bar very often, it's just not somewhere I'd go a lot. But in Budapest I have been told that I have to go to a so-called ruin bar. These are basically dilapidated buildings with anything from junk to art littering its grounds, sometimes the odd car in the backyard and lots and lots of rooms, usually each with a different theme. There's so much to discover, buttons to push, stairs to climb, wall paintings to admire that you barely have time to get drunk! These are really wonderful establishments and even for someone like me who doesn't really drink alcohol, this was a super cool experience! Imagine an eclectic art exhibition with a cheap bar. The second bar we went to that evening was a speak easy. It basically looked like Grandma's house. You came into the "living room" where there was an old-school telly (which surprisingly still worked!), then there was a kitchen, dining area and it all looked like it was from the 1950's. The concept was just brilliant!
8. Visit the Great Synagogue
Simply put the Dohany Synagogue is said to be the largest in Europe and the second largest in the world (the biggest one is unsurprisingly in Jerusalem). There's also a Jewish Museum you can visit and the beautiful Tree of Life memorial. Come early as queues can be long!
9. Relax in the City Park
Almost every bigger city has a famous park - in Budapest it's the City Park!
10. Eat (vegan) Goulash!
The world-famous Hungarian national dish - Goulash. You gotta try it, it's yummy! And if you know me, you know that I'm a veggie & low and behold I found a restaurant that serves meat-free Goulash (and amazing vegan cakes)! The place is called Napfenyes Etterem btw :)
And last but not least some other random treasures...