Why Visit Budapest?

Travel Information, Sightseeing & Activity Tips

View of the Parliament from Buda castleMany travellers might ask the question “Why visit Budapest?”, what is so special about the capital of Hungary that one should include it in her/his travel plans.

I could tell you about how beautiful our city is, and that there are numerous historic and cultural sights, but I’m sure other travel guides have already listed these reasons countless times.

Quick Links: Thermal BathsAn Affordable CityWide Range of Hotels & AccommodationVivid NightlifeCultural EntertainmentChildren Attractions & ProgramsShopping Wide Choice in RestaurantsWine TastingWinter Holiday

My husband and I have been living in Budapest for many years so we know the city inside out.

I’m sure that this makes us a bit biased towards our hometown, but we are also well aware of its weaknesses that tourists might want to know about when visiting the city.

We’ve also visited several cities in the neighbouring countries (Prague, Vienna, Ljubljana) so we can tell you what our city offers to tourists compared to other central European destinations.

But if you think we must be partial to our city, look at some lists by independent travel magazines where Budapest usually comes in the top 5, sometimes at the 1st or 2nd place like in the Top 25 Cities of World-Readers’ Choice Award list by CNN’s Condé Nast Traveller magazine where Hungary’s capital was voted number 2.

Reasons For Visiting Budapest

Mixture of Old and Modern World

The Hungarian capital’s charm lies in the many cultural influences that affected the city during its long history.

The mixture of western capitalism that has been advancing relentlessly since the change of political systems, and the after effects of the more than 40 years of communist era give Budapest a strange appeal.

The city has underone several changes in recent years: numerous sights, neighbourhoods have been renewed (Várkert Bazaar, Kossuth Square, Ferenciek tere, Március 15. Square) new attractions (the Eye) and activities (Escape room games, unique city tours) offer countless opportunities to spend your time and money well.

1. Thermal Baths, Medicinal Waters

You can bathe in Turkish baths (the Király Bath, the Rudas, and the Veli Bej Spa) enjoying the centuries old architecture but you also have the option to splurge in upscale spas (the Gellért, and the Széchenyi Baths, or in the wide range of spa and wellness hotels (Danubius Health Spa Resort Margitsziget, Royal Spa in the Corinthia Grand Hotel Royal etc.)

Rudas Bath indoor pool
Széchenyi Bath outdoor pools

Thermal springs with medicinal qualities abound in the capital and the other parts of Hungary. The cityis ideal for a relaxing holiday in a spa and wellness hotel combined with refreshing massage treatments.

See more the City of Healing waters: guide to Budapest Baths.
Ráday Utca, restaurants with terrace

2. An Affordable City

The Hungarian capital is still an inexpensive city compared to Prague or Vienna.

Although prices have been continuously increasing since the mid-1990ies, you can still get more for your money than in the majority of Western European cities, especially with the Hungarian forint being so weak.

Find out more about costs and prices.


sample Budapest city card 2015TIP: The Budapest card which is valid either for 24 hours (17 EUR) for 48 hours (27  EUR), or for 72-hours (33 EUR) provides you lots of opportunity to save on admission fees.

It also entitles you to free travel on the public transport service.

 You can buy the card online here.

3. Wide Variety of Good-Value Accommodation

There are many hotels and other types of accommodation in Budapest offering lodging to every taste and budget. You can sleep in a lavish palace hotel like the New York Palace Boscolo Hotel, the Four Seasons Gresham Palace, or in a contemporary boutique/fashion hotel.

Travellers on a tight budget can choose from a wide range of quality hostels both in the city centre or in the green belt.

A good accommodation option over a hotel is staying in a fully-serviced apartment. There are many apartment rental agencies in Budapest specializing in renting out quality apartments.

4. Vivid Nightlife

Budapest has a buzzing nightlife scene. The city is alive with great parties in good pubs, bars, open-air clubs. No wander the city became a hot-spot for stag and hen parties.

in Szimpla cafe during the dayThere are of course places that must be avoided since they target tourists for ripping them off.

Most of these infamous clubs have been shut down recently by local authorities.

The ruin bars (romkocsma in Hungarian) are all the rage these days: quaint, neglected buildings, located usually in the historic Jewish quarter (district VII., parts of distr. VIII.) converted in to bars and clubs with distinct, retro interior, several bars and dance areas and a peculiar atmosphere.

Szimpla is the most famous (it also has a Sunday market), but thre are at least a dozen other if you wish to have a terrific night with lots of drinking, dancing, making friends.

5. Wide Variety of Cultural Entertainment

There’s always something going on in here, no matter in which season you come. There are great festivals all round the year (Budapest Spring Festival, the Summer Festival and the CAFE Budapest Contemporary Arts Festival in Autumn are the two biggest cultural events).

Hungarian National Opera House
the National Theathre

More than 100 museums welcome tourists with various exhibitions, the themes including fine arts, contemporary arts, science, history, gastronomy.

The Hungarian Opera House on Andrássy avenue is not only a cultural venue, but a beautiful architectural sight.

See more cultural centres and venues.

6. Budapest for Children-Great Programs and Attractions

Families with kids will also find attractions that’ll entertain the whole family. The City park is highly recommended for children because of the Zoo and Botanical Garden, and the Holnemvolt Park, an entertainment park with animal petting area, a historic merry-go-round and other fun rides,  that opened at the end of April in 2014. at the place of the former Amusement Park.

The vast park is an ideal place for a leisurely walk with the kids.

strolling in City Park
Ice Rink on the City park lake

The park’s lake functions as an ice rink during winter months. Although it is not in the city centre the Hungarian Railway Museum is also a fun place to visit.

7. Shopping

Shops, boutiques, markets abound in Budapest. The several shopping centres (Corvin Plaza, Allee, Arena Plaza, West End City Center, MOM Park, Campona) are great places to shop for designer clothes, electronics, books, jewelry, toiletries, small gifts, food stuff etc.

For buying authentic Hungarian gifts and food stuff (paprika powder, honey, Tokaji aszú wine, embroidery) visit the Central Market Hall at the Pest end of the Szabadság híd (Liberty Bridge).

authentic Hungarian Gifs: paprika, and other food stuff
boutiques in Fashion Street

The inner city (Váci utca and its neighbourhood in V. district, Andrássy út in VI. district) gives home to several stores selling world-famous designer brands: Roberto Cavalli, Louis Vuitton, Ermenegildo Zegna, Gucci, Hugo Boss, Escada, Furla etc..

8. Plenty of Restaurants, Tasty Local Food

There are countless restaurants, bistros, taverns, fast food places, as well as international eateries.

Although the quality varies widely, the city has many restaurants where you can enjoy a pleasant meal at a fair price

There are streets and neighbourhoods that specialize in the restaurant and cafe business:

  • Liszt Ferenc Square,
  • the neighbourhood of St. Stephen’s Basilica (Sas utca, Hercegprímás utca)
  • Gozsdu Court in the Jewish Quarter (Spíler, Spíler Shanghai, 2Spaghi, Blue Bird Cafe)
  • Ráday Street (the first Michelin star owner of Budapest, Costes is located here)

If you want to have a first-class meal you’ll find around a dozen of fine dining restuarants in Budapest where Hungarian star chefs prepare exciting menus from fresh, highest-quality ingredients. Besides the 4 Michelin-star restaurants (Costes in Ráday utca, Onyx on Vörösmarty Sqr., BorKonyha in Sas utca, Tanti in Hegyvidék Központ Shopping Centre in Buda.

TIP: Kazinczy Street in the Jewish Quarter also has some surprisingly good, inexpensive food bars (Bors Gasztro Bar, El Rapido Mexican Food Bar, Kőleves Restaurant).

There’s a whole street dedicated to street food: Karaván at Kazinczy utca 18, where you can grab a gourmet burger from Zing, lángos (a typical local fast food: round, deep-fried savoury pastry, topped with sour cream and cheese, sweet versions, e. g. with Nutella, are becoming popular too). There’s even a vegan option: all dishes of the Zöld Paradicsom truck are made from non-animal ingredients.

Restaurants in Ráday utca

Restaurants, cafes, pubs stand next to each other with outdoor terraces in the summer season. These aren’t necessarily the best places to have a great restaurant experience since they’re target mostly tourists with overpriced menus (although there are some inexpensive self-service eateries too.)

Fine Hungarian Wines, Lots of Places to Taste Them

a glass of rose wineHungary has 20 or so wine regions, the most famous being Tokaj, Eger, Szekszárd, and Villány. You can taste the best of Hungarian wines in several places.

The best one is an intimate stone cellar in the Castle: where a knowledgeable sommelier tells you great stories about local wines and wine making while you are sampling some delightful reds or whites.

Find out more on wine tasting in Buda Castle.

If you have time for a longer program, go on a wine tour to Etyek village, west of the capital.

A direct transfer takes you to the village where you explore the cellars, talk to wine producers and taste wines. The program ends with a fine Hungarian dinner, then a transfer back to Budapest.

Read more on Wine Tour with Dinner in Etyek

9. Winter Holiday

Unlike many other cities, Budapest doesn’t sleep in the winter.

The season’s highlight is Christmas with organ concerts, shops and streets decorated with Christmas lights. Read more about a Winter Vacation in Budapest.

Christmas fair Vörösmarty tér
Christmas Tree on Vörösmarty Square

The focal point of the holiday is at Vörösmarty Square where the city’s main Christmas Fair is held.

Then comes New Year’s Eve with parties throughout the city.

See also: Top 8 Summer Things To Do.

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