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Travel to Hungary: 8 Reasons to Visit Budapest

Updated on November 22, 2015
Medvekoma profile image

Medvekoma grew up in the beautiful city of Budapest in the middle of Europe, with a passion for the town.

Introduction

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Budapest is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, with rich history and culture as well as a location that provides for perfect European star tours and costs that are nowhere as expensive as any country in western Europe.

Inhabited for thousands of years, the town's importance grew marginally over the middle ages when Buda became the king's seat in the Kingdom of Hungary. After some decline during the Ottoman occupation, the city was recaptured by Western European forces and a golden age begun which peaked at the end of the 19th century with the millennium festivities celebrating the 1000th birthday of the country

During these festivities one of the largest government buildings were built, still the largest building in Hungary, the parliament. The celebrations also saw the second electric subway built in the world as well as the construction of the heroes' square and a copy of castle Vajdahunyad in the city park.

The city suffered great destruction during the second world war after which restorations slowly reclaimed Budapest's glory for the citizens, transforming it into a beloved tourist destination.

Due to the cold war era east-west divide, Hungary is far cheaper than Western Europe, which made it a favored destination of students and spring break parties. Realizing this, many investments were made to support a unique night life, and nowadays Budapest is one of the busiest youth party centers in Europe, with famous ruin pubs, puzzle rooms scattered and festivals held all year around.

1. Location

Budapest is located in the heart of Europe, in the middle of the Carpathian basin along the banks of the Danube. This means close proximity to other cities such as Vienna (2:30 by car), Krakow (6:00 by car), Transylvania (6:00 by car), Belgrade (3:30 by car), Bratislava (2:00 by car), Prague (5:00 by car) or Munich (6:30 by car).

Budapest is also in the middle of Hungary, meaning that any and all sights in the country can be accessed from Budapest with a maximum of two-and-a-half hours of car ride, including the other cities, national parks or lake Balaton.

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Read more on Budapest

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2. Landmarks and Museums

The downtown of Budapest contains numerous landmarks and museums for visitors to see, each easily accessible due to the short distances and the well-developed public transportation system.

Castle District:

The castle district holds historic houses, an underground, cold-war era hospital underneath the hill along with the castle labyrinths and of course the huge castle itself. If you are looking for a spacious view over the panorama of Pest, visit the fisherman's bastion and snatch a photo or two.

Andrássy Avenue:

Darting off from Erzsébet square, this historic avenue is one of a kind in the whole world, with numerous museums and landmarks packed on the sides as well as welcoming cafes, shops and restaurants.

The millennium subway runs beneath the avenue and has been carrying passengers for more than a hundred years now, stopping by the state opera house as well as beside the House of Terror, a museum displaying the totalitarian past of Hungary and Central/Eastern Europe.

City park:

At the end of Andrássy Avenue is the city park, with a replica of castle Vajdahunyad from Transylvania as well as the Széchenyi spa, the Hungarian Museum of Fine arts, Hall of Art, restaurant Gundel, the city zoo and the great circus. You can rent boats to row on the park's lake during the warmer days, or you can also skate on its ice in the winter.

Unique landmarks:

When visiting the city, you have to include a trip to the parliament building as well as the National Museum, both beautiful both in architecture and exhibitions displayed.

3. Cuisine

The Dobos cake, a beloved Hungarian sweet.
The Dobos cake, a beloved Hungarian sweet. | Source

For those who love desserts, Hungary is a dream country and Budapest is the paradise. Cake shops bolster a broad range of different sweets for any customers, including at least ten unique Hungarian cakes like the Dobos torta.

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Those who prefer a whole Hungarian dinner can also find many authentic restaurants in Hungary serving goulash and Hungarian pancakes. Make sure to try some of the spicier foods too!

Wines:

When visiting Hungary, it is also advised to try out the many wines served around the country, including rose wines, white wines and the famous Tokaji Aszu. Hungarian wines are revered for quality and some wineries grew to be world famous. Queen Victoria herself along with Lous XIV. were avid lovers of the Aszu wines.

4. Night Life

In the past few years, Budapest transformed into a preferred and beloved student destination both because of a buzzing night life and the many festivals held in the city or around the country.

Szimpla, one of the many famous ruin pubs in district VII.
Szimpla, one of the many famous ruin pubs in district VII. | Source

Above everything, downtown's VII. district offers numerous ruin pubs for the adventurous visitors. These bars are fitted into the ruined old buildings of the district that were left crumbling due to housing prices and the lack of demand to live downtown. Walls decorated with doodles and seemingly random trash (but in fact a well-assorted nostalgia-inducing collection of garbage), these pubs surely give you the atmosphere kick you need to down some mugs of cheap beer.

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The escape games (Claustrophilia):

A new craze that caught Budapest is the so-called escape games where a group of friends is locked into a room and have to find clues to escape.

Themes include voodoo adventures, ancient Egyptian investigations and simple horror tales, but the end is always the same. You get a secret address to a flat in downtown Budapest that you have to visit with your friends on a given date, you are locked in and you have an hour or two to find your way out until you lose the game and are helped out by the organizer.

5. Natural Beauty

If you seek natural beauty, then Budapest is a prime destination. You can take a hike in the Buda mountains or even visit one of the many caves found around or under the city. There's also a natural reservation on top of Sas hill, Buda, a refuge of ice-age plants and endangered species with beautiful views over the city.

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The most beloved natural landmarks include Normafa, a hill in the XII, district where people often travel for leisure, the Pálvölgyi cave system and the Szemlőhegyi cave system. Also worth mentioning a venture down to the springs of Gellért spa, or a trip to the cave system underneath Buda castle.

6. Thermal baths

Budapest is located on top of numerous thermal springs, which led to a spa culture in the city. There are lots of famous and historical spas scattered around the town, each worth a visit from the ambitious spa tourist.

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Rudas:

Rudas bath features a large swimming pool with arches and glass roof as well as an authentic Turkish bath with steam chambers and sauna. There's also a cupola room with panorama view over the Danube to rent, and the spa can be visited during the night with a combined ticket for lasting memories.

Gellért hotel and spa:

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If you ever wondered about the source and inspiration for Grand Hotel Budapest, you have to visit Danubius Hotel Gellért. This luxurious art Nouveau building is almost identical to the fictional Grand Hotel with spacious interiors and a stunningly beautiful bath.

Indeed, Gellért is going to celebrate its centenary in 2018, meaning that it has been around for almost a century. The bath was even open during WWII, only closing down the women's wing after a bomb exploded and destroyed it. It was featured in numerous movies as both inspiration and filming location as well as in the video game Hitman as hotel Galar, location of a major quest.

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Széchenyi thermal bath:

The largest medicinal bath in the whole of Europe, this spa is located in the city park. The beautiful buildings of the complex proudly bear neo-baroque style and the structure itself offers both indoors and outdoors pools and baths for those interested, all in varying temperature.

7. Costs

Hungary's economic situation and its history leaves it a tempting tourist destination due to the affordable prices. While not as cheap as countries to the east, Budapest offers relatively better prices than most other countries in Europe.

Price listing

I've put together a comparison of different prices converted to USD (11.22.2015) based on numbeo's statistics.

  • Three-course meal for a person: 13.7 USD
  • Local (Hungarian) beer, 0.5 liters: 1.2 USD
  • Monthly pass for public transportation: 32.5 USD
  • Taxi (1 km / 0.6 mile): 2.5 USD
  • Three star hotel price per person per night: 42 USD
  • Five start hotel price per person per night: 112 USD

8. Architecture

For those that love architecture Budapest is a paradise on Earth. The downtown of the city is filled with old buildings, all decorated and renovated. Apart from that, numerous world-level architectural marvels dot the capital.

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The Parliament:

A world-famous building, one of the 100 wonders, the Hungarian Parliament was built in a gothic-revival style to crown the millennium celebrations of the country at the end of the 19th century. It's one of the largest legislative buildings on the planet, and is still the largest and tallest structure in Hungary.

Visitors can tour one wing of the complex that is not used by the Hungarian government, and the cupola can be visited where the Hungarian royal artifacts are displayed, including the crown.

Budapest University of Technology:

One of the oldest universities of technology, this institution has been education engineers and scientists since 1782 in the heart of Budapest, at the base of Gellért hill. Building K, the unofficial main building of the university, is an architectural marvel and the site where many famous Hungarian architects studied, including the one who gave birth to the idea of the Parliament.

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© 2015 Medvekoma

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    • kalinin1158 profile image

      Lana ZK 22 months ago from California

      I've never been but it looks like a beautiful city! And affordable, too (compared to the US). You're so lucky to grow up there. As far as attractions, escape games really caught my attention. Must try it sometime, somewhere :)

    • Anna C Taylor profile image

      Anna 2 years ago from Around the World

      When I was in Budapest I did my first escape game and I got totally hooked. I'm glad you included them on the list!

      I did TRAP while I was there (http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g2748...

      I loved my (way too short) stay in Budapest. I'm glad you love it too.

    • Medvekoma profile image
      Author

      Medvekoma 2 years ago from Durham, United Kingdom

      I grew up in Budapest and it's a stunningly beautiful city, with only a few contenders in Europe. It's a good addition to any European tour for those visiting from America. For example, you could board a ship in Germany and travel down the Danube, visiting Passau, Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest and Belgrad.

      And yes, Claustrophilia is indeed a bomb with friends!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks for this view of a country I seldom hear about. I'd like to visit and the architecture and natural beauty would be most appealing to me. Claustrophilia seems interesting but also a little scary. I guess with friends it could be enjoyable.