This is a guest post by Tina Riegelnegg.
I’ve been to Budapest multiple times, the last time for two weeks, and I still can’t get enough of this amazing city.
In this post, I want to share with you what makes Budapest so special that I keep returning:
Best Things to Do in Budapest
Treat yourself to a spa day
Treating yourself to a spa day is one of the best things you can do in Hungary’s capital. There are several thermal baths in Budapest. During my last two-week stay, I tried out four, because I just loved them so much.
Széchenyi Thermal Bath, located in the middle of City Park, is the most famous, but it’s also the most crowded. For that reason, it’s not my favorite.
My favorite is the Rudas Thermal Bath. There are far fewer people, and it’s a more relaxed atmosphere. There’s a hot pool and some sun lounges on the rooftop terrace, the perfect place to relax and read a book with great city views. The Turkish bath at Rudas is a dome-shaped room with different pools of varying temperatures. I loved this room, so I recommend going on a day when it’s open to all or on a women-only day, as there also are men-only days.
See the main attractions in Budapest
Whether you’re in Budapest alone or not, there are some sights you just have to see. Most of those attractions require an entrance ticket, but even if you’re on a budget and just want to admire the sights from the outside, it’s worth it.
Bridges of Budapest
Budapest is known for its iconic bridges that span the Danube River.
An interesting fact is that the two sides of the Danube used to be separate cities. On the west side used to be Buda (and to this day this side is called the Buda side of Budapest). On the east side used to be Pest (still known as the Pest side of the city). And together, they make Budapest! I was very fascinated when I heard about that for the first time.
Anyway, back to the bridges. The most famous is the Széchenyi Chain Bridge, often just called the Chain Bridge. It’s the oldest in Budapest, and when you walk across it, you’ll get a stunning view of the Danube, Buda Castle, and Parliament.
My favorite bridge in Budapest is the Liberty Bridge, with its distinctive green hue and art nouveau design — it’s just so picturesque.
Hungarian Parliament Building
The architecturally stunning Hungarian Parliament Building, located on the bank of the Danube, is a must-visit for any visitor. It’s one of the largest and most beautiful parliaments in the world.
Because of its immense size, it can be difficult to capture the entire building in a picture. Your best bet is on the other side of the river. This view is especially impressive in the evenings, when the building’s lightsare reflected in the river.
Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church
Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church are perched atop Castle Hill on the Buda side. From the Fisherman’s Bastion, you have a great view of the city, and Matthias Church makes for an excellent photo background with its colorfully tiled roof.
Together, they are two of the main tourist attractions in Budapest, meaning there are always people around who you can ask to take a picture of you.
Buda Castle and Funicular
Buda Castle used to be a royal palace on top of Castle Hill. Today, it’s home to the Hungarian National Gallery and the Budapest Historical Museum. It’s also the center of the Castle District, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
One of the most popular ways to get to Buda Castle is by funicular. But even though the ride certainly offers a unique experience up to the castle, I highly recommend taking the time to walk up instead. The journey is short and scenic, and you can watch the charming funicular as it slowly makes its way uphill.
St. Stephen’s Basilica
St. Stephen’s Basilica is named after the first king of Hungary (who is also a saint). You can’t miss this impressive church when you wander around the city center of Budapest.
You might need to queue up to purchase an entrance ticket, but I think it’s worth seeing the inside. One of the most remarkable artifacts in the basilica is the mummified right hand of St. Stephen himself!
I found climbing up to the rooftop viewing point to be a thrilling experience. The panoramic views of Budapest from there are simply stunning and worth the 364-step journey.
The Great Synagogue
The Dohány Street Synagogue, also known as the Great Synagogue, is another fascinating stop on your travel itinerary in Budapest. It’s the largest synagogue in all of Europe!
A tour through is included with the entrance ticket. I really enjoyed it, as you learn about what makes this synagogue unique, as well as about the history of the Jewish people in Hungary.
The Tree of Life Memorial in the rear courtyard is a moving tribute to the Hungarian Jews who lost their lives during the Holocaust.
All in all, it’s a powerful visit that adds an important historical and cultural dimension to your solo journey in Budapest.
Join a free walking tour
One of my favorite things I did while solo traveling in Budapest was joining a free walking tour. Not only did it provide a fantastic opportunity to explore the city, but I also got to meet fellow travelers, which was a bonus.
There are various providers, but a great option is Trip to Budapest. There’s a free tour for the Pest side and another one for the Buda side. You don’t need to book in advance — just be at the designated meeting area at the right time, and look out for the “free walking tour” sign.
Run by knowledgeable local guides, these tours offer a perfect blend of history, culture, and fun facts that you might miss if exploring alone. It’s a great way to orient yourself, especially if it’s your first day in the city.
While these tours are free, it’s standard practice to give a tip at the end as an appreciation for the guide’s time and expertise.
Relax in City Park
Taking some time out of your busy sightseeing schedule to relax and maybe read a book in City Park is one of the privileges of solo travel. Choose a sunny spot under a nice tree, and relax or get lost in the pages of your book. It’s so good to be able to take time for yourself while traveling alone.
But City Park isn’t just for bookworms. It’s one of the largest in Budapest and home to quite a few attractions. You can find the Botanical Garden, the city’s historic Széchenyi Thermal Baths, and Vajdahunyad Castle, a stunning replica of a Transylvanian castle.
For those artistically inclined, the Museum of Fine Arts and the Hall of Art are also located in the park. Between those two is Heroes’ Square, one of the major plazas in Budapest.
Meet new people at the ruin pubs
The perfect place for an evening drink is in one of the ruin pubs, or ruin bars. These eclectic spots, built in abandoned buildings and filled with mismatched furniture and quirky art, buzz with an energy that’s hard to resist. For a solo traveler, it’s an incredible place to meet new people.
The friendly, laid-back atmosphere of the ruin bars makes it easy to strike up conversations and maybe even form lasting friendships. So, while in Budapest, don’t miss a chance to visit at least one or two. A great place to start is at the most famous one, Szimpla Kert.
Who knows, it might turn out to be the highlight of your solo trip!
Best Places to Stay in Budapest
Budapest offers a wide range of accommodation options for every budget, from an affordable bed in a hostel dormitory to five-star hotels.
The Avenue Hostel is a great option for budget travelers. You can choose between variously sized mixed dormitories or a female-only dorm with a private bathroom. The centrally located hostel is next to a metro stop, so you don’t have to worry about walking home alone at night.
A great midrange hotel is the Hotel Memories OldTown near the Great Market Hall in Budapest. The hotel is a mix of rustic and modern interior design, and breakfast is included in the room price. There’s also a small spa area and a fitness studio you can use.
You can also opt for the Anantara New York Palace Budapest, a stunning five-star hotel in a central location near a metro stop. The hotel has a spa area, with a hot pool, steam bath, sauna, and fitness center. Choosing this hotel guarantees a luxurious getaway. Having a coffee in the hotel’s New York Café is basically a thing to do in Budapest in and of itself.
How to Get Around Budapest
Budapest has a great metro and tram network, but to be honest, most of the time, I just walked everywhere. Walking through the streets of Budapest is the best way to take in the atmosphere of this beautiful city.
The only attraction where I would recommend getting the metro to is City Park. Taking the metro there could be considered one of the amazing things to do in Budapest by itself, as it’s the oldest subway in mainland Europe.
How to Stay Safe in Budapest
As a solo traveler in Budapest, safety should always be a priority. While Budapest is generally safe, like any other city, it has its share of petty crimes, like pickpocketing, especially in crowded tourist spots. Here’s a list of tips on how to stay safe in Budapest:
- Be aware of your surroundings, especially in crowded tourist spots where pickpocketing may occur.
- Always keep your belongings close to you, and try not to openly display expensive items like jewelry.
- Make sure that your accommodation is securely locked before leaving, and bring a padlock for your locker in case you stay in a hostel.
- Take reliable transportation, like official taxis or public transport, for getting around town.
- If you’re out late at night, stick to well-lit areas, and avoid walking alone in secluded places.
- Always keep a digital copy of your important documents, such as your passport, as a backup.
- If you decide to venture off the beaten path, make sure to inform someone of your plans.
- Always have a way to contact emergency services. Save local emergency numbers in your phone. Get an international SIM card in case you don’t have cell coverage in Hungary.
- Finally, trust your instincts. If something or someone makes you feel uncomfortable, it’s okay to remove yourself from the situation. Remember, your safety is the most important thing.
How to Meet Others in Budapest
Meeting new people in Budapest as a solo traveler can be a rewarding experience.
One of the most popular places to do so is in a hostel, but Budapest also offers other opportunities. Language exchanges, meetups, events, and parties are common in the city. These gatherings are great places to meet locals and fellow travelers.
You could join a local cooking class, attend a cultural event, or participate in a workshop that sounds interesting to you. There’s also the “Meet Friends from Around the World” group on Meetup.com, where you can connect with locals and expats.
Don’t be shy to simply strike up a conversation, as Hungarians are generally friendly, can speak English very well, and are open to sharing their culture and experiences.
Remember to be respectful and open-minded, and you’ll find that making connections in Budapest can add immense value to your solo travel experience.
Whether you’re strolling through the city’s stunning parks, relaxing in a thermal spa, diving into the rich history on a walking tour, or connecting with locals and other travelers, you’re sure to fall in love with Budapest. Just like I did.
About the author: Tina Riegelnegg is the owner of the vegan-travel blog Veganderlust. She’s from Austria, a neighboring country to Hungary, and has visited Budapest multiple times. Most often she travels in Europe, but also occasionally further away.
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