33 Budapest Travel Tips: How to Best Visit Hungary’s Capital

33 Budapest Travel Tips: How to Best Visit Hungary’s Capital

And the Capital of Spas and Thermal Baths all refer to the same gorgeous European city.

Located in the heart of Europe on the banks of the mighty Danube River, Budapest will enchant you with its diversity. The Hungarian capital offers visitors unparalleled experiences you can’t find elsewhere.

The following 33 Budapest travel tips will help you prepare for your visit to this magnificent city.

In the travel guide, you’ll find how to avoid the most common scams, what bars you should visit, and what peculiar customs you must be aware of.

Use the navigation below and explore all of Budapest’s secrets!

Preparation – Things to Do Before You Visit Budapest

Before you visit Budapest, there are a few technicalities you need to know and prepare for. From the visa requirements through the language hacks to the unusual clothing you must pack, carefully read the following Budapest travel tips.

Note: If you want to be able to get ready for a trip within minutes, better yet grab our battle-tested Travel Checklist.

  1. Do you need a visa to travel to Budapest? Hungary is a member of the European Union and the Schengen Area. If you travel with a U.S. passport, valid for at least another 6 months, you can explore the country for 90 days max without a visa. Find the whole list of visa requirements on the official website of the European Union.
  1. Hungarian is the official language of Hungary. Also known as Magyar, Hungarian is a Uralic language. Approximately 13 million people speak it natively worldwide. In the tourist spots of Budapest, you’ll get along with English. Many of the signs and menus come in multiple languages. However, if you want to impress locals and show respect to their culture, here are several common phrases for you:

Weather – When Is the Best Time to Visit Budapest

Budapest in Spring

The moderate climate of Hungary offers four distinctive seasons. In Budapest, it’s often windy due to the city’s location on the banks of the Danube River.

Summers are hot and winters are snowy. You’ll find spring and autumn to be the best time to visit Budapest as they are less rainy than other major European cities.

The Christmas holidays and the summer vacations bring the most visitors. However, you’ll find enough awesome activities in all seasons.

  1. Winter Budapest seduces with Christmas markets, outdoor ice-skating rinks, and thermal baths. The city is magical under the snow duvet. Explore the landmarks and the Christmas Markets’ stalls. Keep yourself warm with hearty foods and steaming-hot drinks. Get your heartbeat pumping with ice skating. Or spend a relaxing day at the spa.
  2. In spring, the city awakens for new adventures. You can picnic between the cherry blossom trees in the Füvészkert Botanical Gardens. If you’re an arts fan, the Budapest Spring Festival in April is for you. It brings together a diverse range of performances. Tens of venues invite to everything from classical music, opera, and jazz to dance, contemporary circus, and visual arts. And if that’s not enough to seduce you to visit Budapest in spring, how about the Hungarian Ice Cream Day? On May 8, popular parlors provide extraordinary gelato foodgasms at great discounts.
  1. In summer, Budapest holds one of the largest festivals in Europe. The Sziget Festival takes place in August. The week-long event is one of the largest musical and cultural gatherings on the Old Continent. The 266-acre Óbudai-sziget (Old Buda Island) in the Danube River hosts the 1,000+ performances. If the music fans aren’t your crowd, you can relax on one of the three public beaches. Palatinus Beach, Római Beach, and Csillaghegy Bath welcome visitors from May to September.
  2. Fall is the most photogenic season in Budapest. When autumn arrives, the countless parks and gardens in the Hungarian capital change their crowns to uncountable shades of gold, amber, and red. To make your visit even more tempting, Budapest hosts its own Design Week in October. During this time, the city boasts various events at over 100 locations. Add a fashion twist to your stay by attending one of the talks, exhibitions, projections, design tours, or fashion shows. Also in autumn – at the end of November – Budapest holds the Wine and Cheese Festival. You get the chance to taste the first vino of the season accompanied by artisanal cheese from local farmers.

Money-Saving Travel Tips: How to Stretch Your Bucks in Budapest

Hungarian Forints

Hungarian forints – check out all these thousands and zeros

Despite being an EU member, Hungary still doesn’t use the Euro. The national currency remains the Hungarian forint. That’s why one of the most important travel resources in your arsenal should be a currency converter .

The following Budapest travel tips will teach you how to stretch your budget and not overpay when you shouldn’t.

  1. Be careful with the banknotes’ denominations. The forint is quite inexpensive. A banknote of 1,000 HUF currently trades for about $3.35 (€2.77). Don’t get tempted to pay your bill in dollars or euros as the exchange rate won’t be in your favor. When you withdraw cash, avoid the Euronet ATMs. Their exchange rates are the worst. Instead, search for a bank and use its cash machines to withdraw forints.
  2. Budapest is very walkable. You can wander from one end of the city center to the opposite in about 45 minutes. Still, if you don’t want to use your feet everywhere, public transportation is quite comfortable and affordable (see the section on transport below).
  3. The tap water in Budapest is safe to drink. If you want to stretch your budget, drink the tap water. It is healthy and safe to consume. In fact, it is the most strictly controlled substance in Hungary. You can also order a glass of tap water in restaurants. Just make sure it’s not the only thing you order. 😉
  1. Do you tip in Budapest? In sit-down restaurants, it is customary to leave a 10% tip on top of the bill. If you found the service exceptional, leave 15%. Give the tip to the waiter or drop it in the tip jar. Just make sure the establishment hasn’t already charged you a service fee (szervidij). It is usually 12.5% of the total check.
  2. You can find many free things to do in Budapest. Marvel at the most famous landmarks of the Hungarian capital for free. The Heroes Square, the Parliament Building, Castle Hill, and the Great Market are just a few of the places you can explore free of charge.
  3. Avoid eateries around tourist attractions. This Budapest travel tip has to be obvious, but every once in a while, even the most well-traveled among us fall for it. Instead of overpaying for a mediocre meal, check the foods & drinks section of the Budapest travel tips.

Food & Drinks in Budapest: What You Shouldn’t Miss Tasting

Hungarian Goulash

Hungarian Goulash, the quintessential food classic

You can have an extraordinary culinary experience with the Queen of the Danube. If only you knew where to search…

  1. Budapest rivalsParisandViennafor their coffee house culture. Hungarians love to start their day with a strong brew. The tradition of the cafés – kávéház – started at the beginning of the 16 th century. The Turks brought coffee in the Hungarian lands. The boom of the cafés started three centuries later. Many of the coffee houses still keep their rich history alive.
  2. If you want a quick and cheap bite, try lángos. The fried flatbread is served with different toppings. They vary from garlic and butter through grated cheese, sour cream, ham, and bacon to powdered sugar and jam.
  1. Sample at least one of the most famous Hungarian dishes. The quintessential goulash is a thick soup of red meat and vegetables seasoned richly with paprika. Chicken paprikash is the most popular Hungarian stew. The ample use of paprika gives the dish its name. The chicken typically simmers for a long time in a paprika-infused roux sauce. Note: If you haven’t noticed from this food tip, we’ll spill it out for you. The Hungarian cuisine uses paprika . A lot.
  2. Try the mouth-watering pasties. Budapest’s sweet treats seduced even royalties like Sisi, the Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary! If you’re looking for a sugary delight, try the scrumptious Strudel. You can order the filo pastry with a filling of apples, cherries, plums, apricots, poppy seeds, cheese, or custard crème. Not craving sugar? Then, the savory variation with cabbage is for you.
  3. Taste the Bull’s Blood if you’re a wine lover. Winemaking traditions in Hungary date back to Roman times. Although the best-known wines are the white dessert Tokaji Aszú and the Villány red wines, we recommend that you try Egri Bikavér. This dark, full-bodied red wine is also known as Bull’s Blood. Legend says that the name originates from the Siege of Eger. The outnumbered soldiers were served delectable food and plenty of red wine to keep them motivated. A rumor started among the enemy that bull’s blood was mixed into the wine. The enemy couldn’t otherwise explain the strength and resistance of the castle’s defenders.
  1. Include a visit to a ruin bar on your itinerary. Budapest’s old Jewish Quarter hosts the most unusual establishments in the city. Housed in the ruins of crumbling, abandoned buildings, these bars offer an unparalleled experience. The hype started with Szimpla Kert in 2001. Currently, there are numerous ruin bars in Budapest and they are as big as attractions as the Buda Castle and the Parliament Building. Apart from drinks, you’ll also find art installations, dance parties, and arts & crafts markets in the recycled spaces.

Traveling in Budapest: How to Get There and Getting Around the City

Tram Crossing the Liberty Bridge Budapest

A tram crossing the Liberty Bridge in Budapest

You’ll barely find another city on the planet with a UNESCO World Heritage subway and funicular. If that’s not enough to make you want to ride the public transport in Budapest, how about the ferry boats included in the travelcard price or the historic trams?

  1. The transfer from Budapest International Airport (BUD) to the city takes half an hour. Public transport provides easy access to the city center. You’ll find the bus stop at the arrivals level. The direct, non-stop bus 100E operates around the clock between Terminal 2 and Budapest’s center. From there, you can quickly get to every part of the city.
  2. Budapest is easily reachable from neighboring countries. If you’re visiting Austria or Slovakia, for example, consider adding Budapest to your itinerary. These countries are members of the EU and the Schengen zone, so traveling between them is a breeze. Ticket prices vary from €4.85 ($6.00) all the way up to €57.00 ($70.00). Here are some of the distances and trip durations:
  • From Vienna to Budapest, you’ll arrive in about 2:40 h by train.
  • From Bratislava to Budapest, you’ll travel approximately 4:00 h by train.
  1. The best way to explore the city is on foot. We always recommend this way of transportation, especially for walkable cities like Budapest. Wear your best pair of sturdy shoes and immerse yourself in the Hungarian capital’s vibrant atmosphere. Cross at least one of the eight bridges over the Danube, stroll the pedestrianized shopping Váci Street, and take a leisurely walk along the Danube Promenade.
  2. The public transportation system is vast and easy to navigate. It consists of four metro lines, trains, trams, buses, trolleybuses, and the Buda Castle funicular. You can buy your ticket in advance online, from a vending machine, or from the vehicle operator. Have in mind that the pre-sold tickets are cheaper than the ones you can buy onboard. The single pre-sold tickets currently cost 350 HUF ($1.20), but if you purchase them in the vehicle, you’ll have to pay 100 HUF ($0.35) more and have exact change. A 10-ticket block costs 3,000 HUF ($10.35), while a 24-hour Budapest travelcard is 1,650 HUF ($5.70). The 72-hour Budapest travelcard comes at 4,150 HUF ($14.30). The travelcards also have group options. Plan your trip on this website.
  1. Ride the Buda Castle Funicular which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The most authentic way to travel in Budapest is riding the Buda Castle Funicular. It links the banks of the Danube River with the fortification and has been operating since 1870. The track is 312 ft. (95 m) long and surmounts an incline of 164 ft. (50 m). The panoramic views of the city during the short ride are captivating. The 95-second journey costs 1,400 HUF ($4.85) for a one-way ticket and 2,000 HUF ($6.90) for a return ticket.
  2. Two historical trams and one vintage bus operate in Budapest. You can ride them every weekend from May to October. Their routes are along the Danube Corso and pass near the Buda thermal baths. The single-ride ticket costs 500 HUF ($1.72) and the daily pass comes at 2,000 HUF ($6.90).
  3. Ride the iconic subway M1 line. The Budapest Metro is the second-oldest underground railway system in Europe. Only London’s tube is older than it. Budapest’s Line 1 was inaugurated in 1896. Its significance is so big that it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  4. Boats connect the two sides of the city. If you want to get from one riverbank to the opposite, crossing the majestic Danube River is possible either on one of the eight bridges or via a boat. Four boat lines transport passengers from Buda to Pest and back. You have to either purchase a single ticket for 750 HUF ($2.60) or use your Budapest travelcard.

Where to Stay in Budapest: Best Neighborhoods and Accommodations

Residential Area Budapest

The city on the banks of the Danube River offers entertainment for every type of traveler. Find out what is the best area to stay for your personal interests in this section of the Budapest travel guide.

  1. Stay in Belváros if it’s your first time in Budapest. The Inner City is packed with fantastic sights and excellent restaurants. From there, you can also easily stroll to the Parliament Building, find a lush park to relax in, or venture out for more sightseeing in the Castle District. Accommodations can suit any budget.
  2. Vár is the most romantic area of the Hungarian capital. What can be more romantic than staying near a white castle and going sightseeing with your loved one? The captivating views over the Danube River, the Gothic churches, and the world-class museums in this district will make your stay unforgettable. Visit the Fisherman’s Bastion, cross the square to enter Matthias Church, stroll around Castle Hill, and then wander to the Buda Castle.
  1. Book a room in the Jewish Quarter for the unparalleled nightlife. The area is one of the best entertainment hotspots in Europe. Among the historic buildings and monuments, the unique ruin bars serve inexpensive beverages and offer the perfect setup for socializing. During the day, they turn into arts & crafts markets, and offer great food as well.
  2. If you’re traveling with children, you’ll love the Margaret Island. Located just outside the city center in the middle of the Danube River, this part of Budapest is a quiet recreational area. Medieval ruins, thermal baths, and outdoor activities will entertain the whole family. The island is easily reachable from other parts of Budapest by tram and bus, so you won’t miss the sightseeing.

Which Are Your Favorite Budapest Travel Tips?

Night Panorama with Chain Bridge Budapest

A night panorama of the Chain Bridge, Budapest

There you have it, all the things you need to know before traveling to Budapest, Hungary.

The Queen of the Danube offers peculiar transport modes, unusual bars and festivals, delectable snacks, and awesome activities for every season and budget.

And with these Budapest travel tips, you’ll navigate the Hungarian capital as if you’ve lived there your whole life.