3 days in Budapest for baths, architectural gems and nights out in the ruin bars

Nature
The wow factor for nature - does it show nature at its best? Doesn't need to be the wilder-beast migration or diving with hundreds of hammerheads. Rather make you pause as you realise just how awesome the natural world can be
3
Culture
How much does this experience showcase some of the better and finer things that us humans can offer? Sure, it can be ancient ruins and renaissance churches, but it can also be festivals or soaking up some of the great modern cities of the world
8
Fun factor/activity
Very simple - was it fun? This is usually linked in with doing some kind of activity - i mean, walking along some cliffs is nice, but paragliding from them, now that is fun. Its a vastly underrated factor in a truly great experience
9
Avoid the crowds
Big tour groups and being surrounded by loud fellow tourists can sap the life out of even the greatest of travel experiences. This score is to reflect just how much you can avoid this. But. . . The score also takes into account if the crowds actually add to the experience, such as with a party town or a bustling food market
5
World famous
How world famous is the experience?
7
unique
How hard is it to have a similar experience in other places round the world?
8
Overall Score
The highest score of nature or culture, + fun factor, + avoid the crowds, + the highest score of world famous or unique. Then turned into a score out of 100. More details at the bottom of the page
75 *What the scores mean and where do they come from
continent
Europe
country
Hungary
Length of time
3-4 days
Rough cost
Obviously people have different tastes, so this will depend on those tastes, but this is a rough idea of price of the whole experience based on 2 people able to split the accommodation costs and excluding travel there and back
$ 350
Time of year visited
September
Primary Tags
Click on any of the tags to see all travel experiences with the same tag
RANKING
How this travel experience ranks compared to all the other experiences on this site
76th/334 This travel experience's ranking compared to all the other experiences on this site
Top 30% SUMMARY RATING: Superb

Summary

Big fan of Budapest.  The city itself has a certain unusual quality compared to other well known European cities just because of its history in the Austro-Hungarian empire and strong Eastern European (and Middle Eastern) influence.  This combined with the bath culture and great energy from the easily accessible night spots (think beer gardens rather than clubs) make it quite a gem for a long weekend trip

highlights

#1 Enjoying the sun in the wonderful outside area of Szechenyi Thermal Baths

#2 Gorping at the magnificent Hungarian Parliament Building

#3 Walking around the superbly renovated Castle Hill area and enjoying views over the Danube and the Parliament Building

#4 Having a few drinks in the super accessible beer gardens and ruin bars near the Jewish Quarter

#5 Having a drink in one of the rooftop bars overlooking the Basilica of St Stephen

#6 Enjoying some of the many other bath houses scattered around Budapest. Rudas, with its traditional Turkish Thermal Spa, is very different to Szechenyi and worth a visit

#7 Having a coffee or food in the ornately beautiful inner hall of the Parisi Udvar

#8 Taking the train up to Sventendre just to the north of Budapest to wander through the cute cobbled streets full of arty places 

Travel Tips

  • Stick to two sight seeing spots – like most cities steeped in history and with architecture exploding from every street, it can be quite easy to get a bit palace’d / church’d / latest historical bulding’d out and quickly become tired.  I’d suggest focusing on the Castle Hill area to soak up the Palace and views over the Danube and the opposite views from the Parliament area.  Yes, you’ll miss some of the galleries and a church or ten, but you won’t be disappointed and, critically, won’t tire yourself out.  To be able to “see” rather than visit everything, there is always the hop on hop off tourist buses that run the full route
  • Baths – the highlight of Budapest for me because they added such a different dynamic.  Be sure to try:
    • Szechenyi Baths – a large and wonderful series of baths just a bit further out of town. The outside bath area is worth the trip alone. A must
    • Rudas Baths – slightly smaller, but make up for it with a cracking location with various views over the Danube and a jacuzzi area on the roof, slightly warmer water options and a sensational old Turkish-style Thermal area. Just check the website though for when you plan to go as some days have some areas make / female only
    • Gellert Baths – we didn’t get a chance to go, but it sounded like the third of the 3 main bath highlights in Budapest
  • Bars and going out areas – Budapest has well deserved reputation for one of the best nightlife destinations in Europe.  The area in particular around the Jewish Quarter and Erzsebetvaros has some brilliant beer garden style areas, the famous ruin bars and a series of arcade-style places with multiple bars to choose from with a shared central area.  Great fun and easily accessible if keen even for just one drink (compared to some cities where there is a tight dress code / more clubby vibe).  Some bars in particular we’d recommend:
    • Jewish Quarter – within the square block of Dob u, Hollo u, Kiraly u and Rumbach Sebestyen u in the Jewish Quarter is a series of covered small lanes absolutely rammed with bars.  Even if you don’t fancy a big night out, it’s worth wandering through here on an evening – it really brings to life why Budapest has such a great reputation for nights out
    • High Note Sky Bar – for a nice vibe and great views over St Stephen’s Basilica
    • Koleves Kerr and Backyard – for beer gardens right in the centre
    • Szimpla Kert and Blitz Kert for ruin bars – but expect long queues to get in
    • Parisi Udvar – pop in for a coffee / drink / food in the magnificent interior
    • I’ve mention it already, but having beers in the sun in the outside pool area (and of course the Beer Spa!) of the Szechenyi Baths is not to be missed
    • Panoramia Cafe & Bar – on the Buda castle side, this place is very touristy, but if you can get a spot by the park edge, it’s a great spot for a drink and views of the Danube and city
  • Restaurants – we ate at quite a few restaurants (ate a lot of Goulash) and had a bit of a mixed bag.  The ones we would recommend are:
    • Puder Barszinhaz – for a super colourful spot with a good younger atmosphere and great food
    • Ruben Etterem for a slightly more upmarket spot
    • 2 Spaghi – it may look very basic from the outside, but this Italian run restaurant specialises in only pasta and is superb (I’d go as far as to say this was our favourite)
  • Szentendre – there is a half day trip up to Szentendre just to the north near the bend of the Danube. It’s cute with its cobbled streets and artsy vibe, but I wouldn’t prioritise over any of the above
  • Getting around – super easy either from public transport or Bolt (Uber equivalent with same interface but cheaper) or the electric scooters all over town.  For the electric scooters, be aware of a couple of things: 1. There are 3 main companies (Bird, Lime and Tier) so you’ll need to download each to use.  We found that we were able to get round with only Lime ones. 2. They’re not allowed in or around some of the main tourist areas (roughly 400m either side of the Danube) and won’t run if you venture into them. The off-limits area is shown very clearly in the app and I’ve added a photo so you can see
  • Accommodation – I stayed in the Mystery Hotel Budapest (USD180 per night) which had its own mini spa, rooftop bar area, helpful and knowledgeable staff.  I’d very much recommend

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Score Detail

Background - how many times have you asked someone what a travel experience was like and the response was "amazing" or "awesome"?  That response is nice to know, but it makes it hard to differentiate that experience compared to others.  That is exactly what these scores are trying to do - differentiate the experience by giving a score out of 10 based on 6 categories and then giving an overall experience score

This overall experience score is calculated by:  take the highest of the "Culture" or "Nature" score (1-10) + "Fun factor" (1-10) + "Avoiding the crowds" (1-10) + highest of the "Unique" or "World Famous score" (1-10).  Then convert into a score out of 100

Extra detail - the logic being that I find all of the 6 individual scores important, but I don't want to mark an experience down just because it doesn't cover both "Culture" and "Nature", or because it isn't both "World Famous" and "Unique".  Take the examples of Safari in The Serengeti and walking through Rome - they both appeal at opposite ends of the nature / culture spectrum, and you can have a fantastic time without needing to appeal to both sides.  So, their overall scores aren't penalized for their lack of one or the other, and I've done the same for "World Famous" vs "Unique".  But . . . I do think that the "Fun factor" of an experience is important, irrelevant of other factors, and so is "Avoiding the Crowds" (or where there are crowds that add to the experience).  So, both of these scores are standalone