Hungary Travel Guide
🗝️ Key Facts
💶Currency: Forint (HUF)
🕙Time Zone: +1 GMT
📞Phone Code: +36
✈️Best time to visit: April to October
🍴Eat: Hungarian Goulash
🍷Drink: Hungarian Wine
🗺️Don't miss: Szechenyi Baths
🗺 Menu of Contents:
Hungary's location near the centre of the European continent, makes it an ideal destination from both the West and East, and it's often included in many multi country stops when travelling from overseas by its importance culturally and geographically. The small landlocked country is a unique and popular European travel destination thanks to its long and fascinating history, stunning countryside, and warm and welcoming people.
The Hungarians are descended from the Magyars of Russia, and the country has at various points been ruled by the Mongols, the Austrians, and the Soviet Union. This provides for a wealth of historical attractions within the Hungarian countryside and in its cosmopolitan capital, Budapest.
Indeed, almost every holiday in Hungary begins in this elegant city, a bohemian metropolis with plenty of attractions in the form of museums, monuments, and historic buildings. Budapest comes alive after dark, with a riotous and romantic nightlife and a restaurant scene that offers something for every traveller.
Outside of the capital, however, Hungary's rolling countryside contains charming towns and villages with medieval squares and picturesque castles that are definitely worth visiting. Travellers can explore the vineyards around Eger, relax in the thermal mineral baths of Balatonfured, or wander the quaint towns of the beautiful Danube Bend for an unforgettable Hungary vacation.
Hungary is located in Central Europe, being a landlocked country it benefits from good ground transportation infrastructure and frequent air services. The national airline, Malev, went bankrupt in 2012, leaving a void in the market. It was quickly filled by low cost airline Wizz Air, which replaced most of the routes and took over the services despite with a low cost model of business.
Therefore reaching Hungary, and in particular Budapest the capital, is now easy and economical. Many European capitals and even other secondary cities offer direct services to Budapest, either national airlines or other low cost airlines such as Ryanair, Easyjet, Eurowings to mention a few.
If coming further away, there are no direct services between Hungary and the USA or Asia, however thanks to the growing Middle East airlines it's now possible to connect to Budapest with one stop when travelling east or connect from a larger European hub airport when travelling from the west.
As mentioned, Hungary benefits with very good connections by rail and road. If you are travelling within the area and visiting neighbouring countries coming direct by train is possible from Zurich, Munich, Vienna, Berlin, Hamburg and Ljubljana. Eurolines also offers good connections when travelling by coach.
Once in the country it's possible to travel around by various means of transport including trains, metro, trams and busses. Smaller cities only connect by bus or limited train services. However in big cities like Budapest it's practical to move around by public transport. If visiting for longer periods of time then it would be an advantage to hire a car and visit other regions.
Hungary has a typical European continental influenced climate with hot Summer's to cold freezing Winter's. Choosing the right time to visit can be difficult as the best times to travel would be in the Summer, but at the high season it can be much busier and expensive. Summer's are also hot and dry with temperatures reaching as much as 35C!
However the best time to go is in mid spring, from April to June, with pleasant temperatures around 20C and flowers blooming. Alternatively September and October are nice months to travel also. Winter's are usually cold, wet and even snowy, with temperatures going down below freezing often in January.
Hungarian is known for its generous use of paprika, but its influences come from far and wide, including France, Turkey, other Central European countries and Serbia. In addition to paprika; sour cream and garlic also feature in Hungarian cuisine. The most popular meat is generally pork, with chicken a close second. There is a large mix of places to eat in Hungary that range from inexpensive snackbár or büfé (self-service establishments) to fine dining restaurants. It's also popular to find Cukrászda (patisseries), serving cakes and pastries, and kávéház (coffee shops).
Specialities found are: Halászlé, a spicy soup made with freshwater fish and paprika. Gulyás, Hungarian goulash with a hearty beef, capsicum and paprika soup. Gundel palacsinta, pancake served with walnuts, raisins, lemon rind, chocolate sauce and rum. Paprikás csirke, paprika chicken. Kolbász, sausage spiced with paprika. Tyúkhúsleves, chicken soup with vegetables and pasta. Jókai bableves, kidney bean soup. Hortobágyi húsos palacsinta, ‘Hortobagyi pancake’, it's essentially pork or chicken in a thin pancake and baked with paprika and sour cream. Galuska, egg dumplings. Töltött káposzta, stuffed cabbage.
As for drinks, coffee is a popular drink, with the influence of Italy playing an important role. Wine is taken seriously in Hungary, and the country’s many vineyards produce a wide range of distinctive wines that range from full-bodied reds made from the native Kékfrancos grape to rich, sweet whites such as Tokaj.
Hungary is a country which often escapes many travellers when discovering Europe. It's location might make it less inviting without the more popular beach resorts like in Italy or Croatia, however it's not disappointing to go. It's food and cuisine is well renowned worldwide, as well as Budapest, a city of immense culture and history. Having only stayed in Budapest once, it was clear to me to see the influence from both turkey and Italy in the food and culture.
People are friendly and the city offers a lot for tourists and visitors. It clearly has two distinctive areas which are separated by the river. After crossing it, you will soon realise which is the new and which the old town. Open parks and gardens give the city a touch of elegance . Budapest is one of those cities you need to walk around to discover. There are many viewing spots completely free to admire the city. It's definitely a cultural holiday and a very interesting one, not to miss for any frequent traveller!
Budapest Tourism Information Guide
Hungary’s capital, is divided by the River Danube. Its 19th-century Chain Bridge connects the hilly Buda district with flat Pest, from here the name of the city. You will find interesting sites like the funicular which runs up Castle Hill to Buda’s Old Town, where the Budapest History Museum is located and shows the city life from Roman times onward. Besides its historical value, Budapest has a highly developed cultural scene with its it's many festivals, theatres, museums, concert halls and sporting events. As well for those fond of nature you will find Margaret Island is the city’s “green heart” (considered by many to be one of Europe’s best city parks). If on the other hand you just want to relax, Budapest has one of the best baths in Europe, Szechenyi Bath is the biggest and most popular of all the thermal baths in Budapest. Certainly a city of many attractions in which to immerse yourself in!
Budapest's weather is varied, with cold winters and damp at times, while the summers are warm to hot, with extremely balmy evenings.
July and August are the hottest months, and also the high season to visit Budapest, with temperatures around 25°C, rising to well over 32°C on the very hotest of days.
Both springtime and the autumn period are the best times to visit Budapest, when the weather is still favourable and temperatures range from 20°C by day and rarely drop below 10°C at night.
Arriving to Budapest from other neighbouring countries is easy as all trains and busses will leave you within good reach of metro stations. If you arrive by train the city is merely at 10 minutes walk.
If you are arriving by plane, the best way to reach the city is by bus 200E, which takes you to metro station Kőbánya-Kispest, (M3) and change for the city centre. If you are arriving by night take Bus 900 and change at Bajcsy-Zsilinszky út for bus 950/950A to the city centre.
Once in the city Budapest has an extensive network of metro, trolley-busses, street cars (trams) and busses all managed under a single transport system. If you are staying within the city centre it's not necessary to purchase any tickets if you are keen to walk around and explore, as the city is generally flat in the old town. However the new town is located on a hill so remember to take adequate walking shoes. There are single, day, multiple days and 10 ride tickets which can save you money on transport. Also you can buy the Budapest Card with free admission to museums and other attractions.
Below you will find the transport maps for Budapest ready to download.
There are multiple options both cultural, historical and enjoyable activities to do during your trip in Budapest. Below you will find the best ideas and suggestions to visit and explore Budapest:
- Buda Castle: listed on the World Heritage, it consists of the Royal Palace and Castle Hill. The palace is one of the city skyline's most distinct features, with its huge green dome towering over the city; this majestic building is home to the Hungarian National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum.
- Buda Castle Funicular: You will find it at Clark Adam Square at the end of the Chain Bridge. It's the best idea to visit the Buda Castle while admiring the breathtaking panorama view and the fast-flowing Danube. The wooden-framed funicular was the second vehicle of its kind ever built, t’s a truly moving attraction of the Hungarian capital. Those who can’t get enough of Budapest’s retro railways should not miss a timeless ride with the city’s classic yellow underground, a blast to the past, the very first metro line of Continental Europe, running under notable sights of downtown Pest.
Once you get to the top you will also find Fisherman's Bastion, Matthias Church, (The Church of Our Lady), Trinity Square, Uri Utca (Gentlemen's Street) and the National Library.
- District V: St. This is a popular district of Budapest, where you can see the Stephen's Basilica and the Parliament House amongst other beautiful buildings or historic sights. There’s a 45-minute tour inside the Parliament that you can book in advance. At the Basilica, for a small fee, you can climb to the balcony surrounding the Basilica's dome to get some of the best views of the city. Other places to look out for in District V are Váci Utca (a historic pedestrianised shopping street), Vörösmarty Square (site of the venerable Gerbeaud House and Christmas markets).
- Szechenyi Bath is the biggest and most popular thermal bath in Budapest. The bath is over 100 years old. The 18 pools in are open every single day throughout the year, including national holidays. It has outdoor pools and indoor geothermal pools, where you can get massage treatments, enjoy saunas, gym, and relax by the pools with some beer, wine or even taste the natural waters that supply the pools from over 1000 meters below the surface. The basic ticket costs about €20.
- Take a boat tour: While you can walk along both banks of the Danube, taking a boat ride is a great way also to enjoy the beautiful panorama of Budapest by day or night, when the city lights give an air of mystery and magic. Another way to experience this view is by walking across any one of the central bridges, specially the views from Margaret Bridge, the Chain Bridge, Elizabeth Bridge, and Liberty Bridge.
- Heroes Square and City Park: At the end of Andrássy Avenue you will find Heroes’ Square, which is one of Budapest’s postcard superstar landmarks. The historic complex showcases statues of revered Hungarian leaders alongside the seven chieftains, while the square itself is flanked on both sides by museums, the Museum of Fine Arts and the Contemporary art Museum-Gallery. Behind it is City Park, where you can enjoy a picnic, walk through open fields, or relax by the lake (and even ice skate in winter). Vajdahunyad Castle is also located at City Park.The famous Széchenyi Baths and the family-friendly Budapest Zoo are within City Park also.
✔️Tip: If you're exploring the city on foot, there are some walking tours to consider. (both free tours and organised). Check the link for more info: Budapest Tours.
- Margaret Island: located in the middle of the Danube just north of downtown is a popular open-air retreat for locals and visitors alike. Best to visit the island during the warmer months. The island is 2.5 km long and almost 500 m. wide! On the island you will find plenty of things to do and see. It's great for leisure walks, and practice sports. It has also many fascinating buildings, fountains and even some ruin remains. During the evenings its a popular place for eating, drinking with a few night clubs and even a Hotel is located on the island!
- Andrássy Avenue and Opera House: it's Budapest's most famous and exclusive boulevard, a UNESCO World Heritage-listed street lined with expensive shops, embassies, and beautiful villas. On one end is Heroes’ Square, and at the other lies Erzsébet Square. Running underneath Andrássy Avenue is continental Europe’s first metro (the yellow line M1), Also in the are is the Hungarian State Opera building.
✔️Tip: Whilst in Andrássy Avenue, look out for the Alexandra bookstore, head inside and up the escalator to the Lotz Hall, a café with one of the most beautiful interiors in Budapest. Right next door, follow the signs to the rooftop 360 Bar, where you can enjoy a relaxed drink with a beautiful panorama of the city.
- House of Terror Museum: for those interested in the history of Budapest during the communist era, should not miss this museum and get a feel of the country’s times under Soviet control, and try to comprehend what life was like while experiencing every day amid occupying forces. Located on the prominent Andrássy Avenue, the building was formerly the secret-police headquarters of the State Security Office. Those who enter will face unsettling scenes, while learning about the atrocities that occurred in Hungary during the 20th-century communist regime. The interactive showcase commemorates the victims of repression who were detained, interrogated, tortured, and killed in the building. Located at Andrássy út 60.
Budapest nightlife scene is widely renowned, and it's largely centered in the Jewish Quarter of District VII. The area's top party places are all within easy walking distance from each other, so explore streets such as Kazinczy, Király, Dob, and Akácfa along with spacious gathering points like Gozsdu Udvar and Madách Square. While there are plenty of restaurants and cafés to be found, this area is particularly famous for its ruin pubs.
Popular venues include Szimpla Kert, Fogasház, Mazel Tov, Ellátó Kert, and the restaurants and bars of Gozsdu Udvar. In the warmer months, garden bars and rooftop venues are very popular, so try Gozsdu Sky Terrace and Kőleves Kert, while in winter cozy venues like Spinoza Café and Lámpás are best.
Popular souvenirs include Hungarian folk art, embroidered goods, and Herend porcelain, as well as Tokaji wine and túró cheese. The main Budapest shopping areas are in the city centre and the lanes surrounding Pest's Váci Utca.
There are many trendy designer outlets to be found on Andrássy Avenue in Pest, while the Castle District and Gellért Hill are home to some great speciality, souvenir, and craft shops. Budapest boasts a good selection of shopping malls with brand and fashion retailers: try WestEnd City Centre and Duna Plaza in Pest for big international names.
There are cheaper, high-street shops along Nagykörút (Great Boulevard) and bargains can also be found in the Budapest markets, especially the Central Market, Ecseri flea market, and Hunyadi Square Market.
Bargain-hunters in the city will also enjoy the BAV stores, which are pawn shops run by the state. One of the largest BAV stores can be found on V Bécsi utca 1 and stocks some great gems and souvenirs among the junk.
In Hungary they still use their own monetary system which makes a difference when paying for goods and services. Hotels in the city centre are expensive but there are plenty of alternatives not too far to walk to and you can get reasonable hotels starting at €30 per room per night. As well there are plenty of hostels for budget and shared accommodation. If you looking for private hosting or a whole flat to yourself it's also worth checking Airbnb, since rentals are cheap and affordable.
When staying in Budapest it's easy to see the city within a couple of days if you are just transiting. Many tourists make Budapest a passing by city on their way to other European capitals. However if you really want to take in the history and facts about Hungary, learn about the culture and take a relaxed trip it's better to stay for at least 3 to 5 nights, as accommodation isn't that expensive. As well it's suggested to take some tour or day trip to other regions to admire the countryside and landscape.