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Visit Budapest: the essential mini-guide to know!

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Lluís Enric Mayans
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Although not well known in Western Europe, Hungary is home to many interests for the traveler. The plains of central Europe and the well-preserved natural regions offer all possibilities to relax and reconnect with the environment. But most tourists will not fail to visit Budapest, city of water, art and history. This always welcomes the visitor with imperial respect, relic of a proud and rich history that never ceases to persevere. And for tourists, the aesthetic shock is often unexpected!





Why travel to Budapest?

For the curious tourist, visiting Budapest has all the advantages of a stay in a place steeped in a dense history and yet resolutely turned towards the future. Magyar history dates back to time immemorial, when the kingdoms of central Europe ruled with strength and grandeur over the surrounding regions. Moreover, Budapest is the setting in which this glorious memory is preciously preserved. The architecture of the city is the most obvious witness of the cultural richness of a country which nevertheless does not forget to be modern.

Vajdahunyad Castle

Straddling the Danube, the two parts of the city are based on very different environments. Buda, the hilly, surveys the great plains of Pest on the other side of the river, with an eye certainly benevolent but nevertheless imperial. Historic museums and trendy clubs share a feverish urban fabric where each street has an interest. Furthermore, Budapest is an excellent base for exploring the surrounding countryside. Finally, the prices charged here are much lower than what can be expected in Europe. An asset certainly down to earth but nevertheless essential.





When to go to Budapest?

The mainland location of the city of Budapest makes it a predominantly summer destination. The months of July and August are those of crowds and sometimes even of invasion. The prices charged are then much higher than during the winter and intermediate seasons. Bathing in the city's thermal baths when the temperature rises can even be a challenge when crowds of dry tourists crowd around Budapest's famous fountains.

The temperature differences between summer and winter are impressive. It is not uncommon to observe an amplitude of more than 40 ° C between the maximum and minimum over a year. Thunderstorms are very common in summer, as is snowfall in winter. We therefore strongly recommend visiting Budapest in spring or autumn, but not too late because the cold comes quickly, after many tourists have deserted the streets and the climate has softened.

PRACTICAL TIPS : Check the Budapest weather forecast month by month, so you will know when is the best time to go.

What budget to plan on site?

The cost of living is one of the main reasons for the success of Hungary in general and Budapest in particular. It is estimated that it is on average 27% less important than in France, with all the same big variations according to the season. Budapest is moreover overall more expensive than the whole country, especially when it comes to accommodation in summer. The prices are then extremely high. Remember to book well in advance because it is not uncommon to see a double room renting for more than 160 euros per night!





A street in the city center

Conversely, catering is very cheap. You can eat very well for less than 20 euros per person and the quality of Hungarian gastronomy ensures that you will leave with a full stomach and a happy spirit! Beer, especially local beer, is also very accessible. Just like transport with the bus ticket at one euro and the taxi kilometer at the same price. Finally, think about the museum budget, which can be significant when you choose to visit Budapest for history, unless you equip yourself with the Budapest Card which we will talk about again below.

How to go to Budapest from France?

To reach Budapest, several companies offer direct flights from Paris. The return trip on Air France costs on average 150 euros, but it is quite possible to obtain more advantageous prices by going there in advance and by soliciting the low-cost companies. In just over 2 hours, you will land at Franz Liszt Airport, located a few kilometers from the city center and well served by public transport. Bitumen adventurers will be able to choose the car, on condition that you endure the 13 hours of travel necessary. While knowing that they will not save money because the gasoline and toll budget is appreciably 170 euros.

You can also reach the Hungarian capital by taking the train. The city's three train stations are not, however, directly connected to Paris.. You will have to change in Vienna or Geneva and the cost of the journey will be even more important than by plane, around 190 euros for a journey time of around 16 hours. The bus is more economical (around 60 euros) but also longer, 22 hours minimum! The last possibility is to reach the capital by water. Visit Budapest via the Danube is magic and the trip from Bratislava, lasting about 4 hours and costing between 90 and 120 euros, is magnificent!





Comment se déplacer dans la ville?

Tourists benefit from a solid public transport network when visiting Budapest. The city includes several different metro lines. Tickets must be validated at the entrance and checks are frequent. So buy your tickets, because their lower cost (around 300 forints, or roughly one euro) does not justify the free ride. The bus network is also very efficient. Lines cross the city all day and night, serving more than 260 routes.

Visiting Budapest is also made easier by the presence of tram lines that allow you to observe the landscape without having to walk in the cold for example. The tickets are the same as on the buses, but the trams are more convenient and faster. You can also rely on the network of official taxis that crisscross the city. These are easily spotted thanks to their yellow license plate and the identification badge on the dashboard.

What to eat and drink in Budapest?

Visiting Budapest offers many possibilities for walks or transport, countless visits to museums and all kinds of activities that end up whetting the appetite. Fortunately, in Hungary, we know how to prepare meals around invigorating dishes! Soups are a must. Bableves, made from white beans or Goulash soup, a soup consisting of meat, vegetables and paprika for example. These soups can be used as a unique dish in the evening. Tasty, tangy and nourishing, they are also inexpensive and can be found everywhere.

Hungarian Goulash

If you still have a bit of an appetite, you can always fall back on a Langos, a kind of fat donut, garnished with crème fraîche and grated cheese. A slice of bread! Freshwater fish are also popular with Hungarians. They are usually served fried and accompanied by tartar sauce and potatoes. We also find a lot of meat in Hungarian gastronomy. Chicken with paprika, Pörkölt or Libamaj stew, equivalent of local foie gras, meat will be served! As for desserts, we particularly appreciate the Strudel or their Hungarian variation called Retes. We also like the Turospalacsinta, pancakes filled with cottage cheese and grapes. As well as the famous Kurtosalacs, the local brioche patiently baked on a spit.

Which neighborhood to choose for accommodation?

Generally, we recommend the district of Pest rather than that of Buda. Indeed, it is on this side of the Danube that most of the activities and places to go out are located. Prefer also the center of the city because the outskirts are quite gloomy. Especially since except in summer, the accommodation is quite accessible. For night owls, the 7th arrondissement will be perfect. A former Jewish quarter, today it brings together most of the capital's trendy restaurants and bars. Perfect for trips!

Those who want to visit Budapest easily while resting in a quieter area will have to move towards the 5th arrondissement. Both very central and quiet, this district, also known as Belvaros, is perfect for enjoying the architectural magic of Budapest, while enjoying the calm waters of the Danube. Finally, the 6th arrondissement is one of the most beautiful districts of the capital. It is home to many magnificent buildings, such as the Opera House and its Andrássy Avenue! Listed as a UNESCO heritage site, it is simply magical.  

What are the main monuments and museums to see?

Budapest is a very beautiful city rich in testimonies of past imperial greatness. The two streets Andrássy and Vaci Utca alone are already splendid achievements. Yet it is in constructions like Budapest Parliament or Buda Castle that all the aesthetic science of the builders was expressed. The Chain Bridge and the Opera house remind us that the 19th century was a golden age for the country. And the Citadel, built at the same time, offers a magnificent view of the city, even if it was initially conceived as an instrument of population control ...

The Chain Bridge

We could also cite the Central Market, the Basilica of Saint-Etienne, the Place des Héros or the Synagogue, but it is difficult to make a selection as the monuments of importance are numerous. We recommend instead to let yourself be carried away by the ride and visit Budapest as a curious dilettante. Museums are also very present to educate travelers looking for information: Hungarian National Museum for history, Museum of Fine Arts for culture or Holocaust Museum for memory, the choice is yours!

What are the most beautiful walks to do?

We strongly recommend taking a walk in the city's Central Market. Here, we will take advantage of the architecture of the place, we will stroll between the stalls of craftsmen or we will taste a dish on the go in one of the stalls that line the course. You can also take Andrássy Avenue to connect with Heroes' Square. One of the most beautiful and famous squares in Europe is also contiguous with the Városliget, "wood of the city of Budapest", an ideal place for a picnic.

A stroll along the Danube is obviously essential. City of water and technology, Budapest was the first to build a suspension bridge with the famous Chain Bridge. We can eventually follow this watery stroll with a little tour in thermal baths that dot the city. Visiting Budapest without swimming would be a crime of lèse-majesté! You can finally spend it all an afternoon on Marguerite Island. Easily accessible by tram, this green setting is perfect for running, resting or having lunch with friends!

Budapest thermal baths

Useful information

To better prepare your stay in Budapest, here is some additional information:

  • Currency : although part of the European Union, Hungary still uses its own currency, the forint. However, international bank cards are widely accepted.
  • Budapest Card : official card from the Budapest Tourist Office, it offers free access to seven museums, discounts on other monuments as well as on transport.
  • Safety : Although Budapest is a safe city, we still recommend that you watch out for snatch thefts which often increase in summer.
  • Language : Hungarians are not always at ease with foreign languages, but the younger generations do. Do not hesitate to use a local word or two, you will give them great pleasure!

Visit Budapest to experience history and let loose!

Visiting Budapest offers the opportunity to immerse yourself in a history that is both rich and diverse. We often forget it but the kingdoms of central Europe built strong and shining powers, allowing the elevation of splendid buildings among the most beautiful in Europe. On this basis, Hungarian culture has developed a whole hospitable component, the taste of simple but warm cuisine or even a subtle and refined aesthetic sense. And it is therefore quite naturally that tourism has flourished in these lands full of life and flavor. So, do not hesitate to travel through Hungary and discover the most beautiful landscapes of the country.

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