OK, boys and girls I give in. So many of you asked me to write a Budapest guide that I decided to do it. Truth to be told I only live her since May, so there must many very cool spots I missed out, but if you ever come to visit Budapest, I think this will be a good place to start looking for things to do, places to see. And by all means, do let me know if you're visiting so maybe we can have a drink (or two :) and if you live here or have visited recently please do comment and let me know what I have left out! :)
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Budapest is one of the most understated capitals of Europe! Buda and Pest, originally two different cities divided by the Danube, today is the proud and united home of paprika, palinka and is one of the most beautiful capitals of the world! :) It has the cool and trashy vibe of Berlin, the design centered environment of Amsterdam, the beautiful architecture of Vienna, the fashion of London and overall the easy going feel of a really cool European cultural capital. The city is changing quickly and new designer stores, boutique hotels and gourmet lounges pop up on the corners almost weekly. Here are some of my favorite things to do, places to visit in no particular order. Enjoy!
I have recently become a firm believer of biking. It's quick, cheap and easy and Budapest has just the right size to be explored by bike. Nevertheless if you prefer to use the public transport, no worries, it's dirty but it will get you wherever you want to go! Every tourist's must is a ride on continental Europe's very first metro line which takes you from the main shopping street (Vaci street) to the famous tourist sights on Heroes' square.
When to Come
If I were you, I'd visit in May, August or September. In May and September the weather is warm but you don't feel like a grill chicken, while in August you might boil but at least you can do so while attending central Europe's biggest music festival, the Island (Sziget). The lineup is always fantastic and the atmosphere is truly one of a kind! Hungarians love festivals and there is some kind of a happening almost every weekend!
Buda Castle - beautiful, historical castle complex where the Hungarian kings used to live. Small cobblestone streets, museums, great views of the entire city, a definite MUST see if you're in Budapest!
Andrassy Avenue - once a sleepy old fashioned avenue, now it's quickly becoming one of the most visited places of the city. The opera house, the ballett institute, Louis Vuitton... they are all here. Come for a walk!
Margaret Island - Nothing extraordinary just a huge island/park between Buda and Pest. Go for a picnik, watch a movie in the open air cinema or go visit the Palatinus bath to cool down. One of my favorite places to relax.
Turkish baths - Budapest is among many other things famous for its spas. Szechenyi, Gellert, Rudas are among the most famous ones. No Budapest visit is complete without a visit to at least one of these.Heroes' square and city park - One of the major squares of Budapest with historical connotations. A tourist must! (lies just at the end of Andrassy avenue... take the famous historic metro to get here!) It's also close to the Zoo, the Circus, the Szechenyi bath and basically serves as an entrance to the City park. You can easily spend an entire day in the area.
Where to Stay
L19 - I stayed in this design hotel a few nights in April before we rented our place and I absolutely loved it! Simple but chic with cool design elements and an absolutely stunning view right by the chain bridge just below the Buda castle.
Alta Moda Fashion Hotel - This brand new place just opened a few weeks ago and comes highly recommended by Vicky. Great location right in the city center.
Hotel Palazzo Zichy - A few minutes away from the city center lies this relatively new hotel, rated #1 in Budapest by Tripadvisor. Looks nice if you ask me :)
Continental Hotel Zara - Brand new stylish design hotel at a good location
... and of course you could always go to the Four Seasons.... :)
Where to Eat
Menza - My all time favorite restaurant (see also here). Hip, retro, cool, great food, truly the place to be :)
Deryne - Friendly and chic restaurant-bar-wine cellar just below the Buda castle. Cultural, cosmopolitan atmosphere, good food and drinks. There are books to read and WIFI to be used, perfect for a rainy dinner (no outside seating unfortnately)
Pomodoro - THE Italian restaurant in Hungary. I have yet to try it, but comes highly recommended by many friends of mine
Gundel - the place for traditional, high-class Hungarian food (a little bit on the expensive side)
Symbol - Restaurant, bistro, pub, live-music bar, disco, garden, cafe, lounge... a relatively big night entertainment complex which I'm itching to try pronto. Highly recommended by locals for eating and partying alike.
In the summer Budapest is all about open-air places. The Danube is lined with discos and bars and ready to take in the party crowd.
Rio - One of the biggest open air bars/discos/restaurants in Hungary. The crowd is relatively young but it is worth a visit.
Zold Pardon - Just next to Rio lies this "cooler aka trashier" hipster place with live concerts almost every night
Romkert - a more sophisticated crowd but tends to get too full on the weekends. Definitely one of the highlights of the Budapest night.
Otkert - the new place everyone is talking about. It's so new it doesn't even have a website yet
Szimpla - An alternative meeting spot favored by locals and visitors alike. A giant construction site where they collected thrown out furnitures and created a laid-back, totally cool atmosphere
You'll find all the major European brands in Budapest like Zara, Mango, H&M, Bershka. One of the main shopping streets is the illustrous Vaci street which is just a stone throw away from the Andrassy Avenue, which is the best place to do some window shopping! :)
If you're looking for a more unique, Hungarian shopping experience visit:
Grand Market Hall - Salami, paprika, garlic and all things yummy and Hungarian. Definitely worth a visit!
Ecseri market - Budapest's largest flea market.Not only the shopping, but looking around and searching is an experience. Here everything can be found, everything is for sale: antique objects, violins, gramophones, books, chinas, coaly irons, carpets, old soda-water bottles, feathers, dinner services, coins, military relic, laces etc.
Retrock / Retrock Deluxe - visit one of the best known Hungarian designer store, where the biggest names in Hungarian fashion sell their stock
Szputnyik - "Fashion from the past, style from the future" a two-storey vintage, second hand, hippie yuppie store
Rododendron - cool designer stuff including Diana cameras, design stuff and vintage clothes and accessories
Monofashion - Hungarian designs
Bolt - Design shop, gallery, cafe, lovely
Kiraly utca - the new Design street of Budapest, one cool design store after the other, don't miss it!
Sites to check before you come
If you have ever been to Budapest, I'd love to hear your recommendations!
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