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Is Budapest worth visiting? Is Budapest safe? Is Budapest expensive? And everything else you need to know

Are you planning a trip to Hungary and wondering is Budapest worth visiting? In this guide we go through absolutely everything you need to know before you go. Plus we also answer all the important questions like is Budapest safe, is Budapest expensive, and is there anything to do in Budapest.

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Some Background

Before we answer the question is Budapest worth visiting here is a little bit of background on the city.

Budapest is the capital of Hungary. It became a city after the 3 cities of Buda, Pest and Óbuda merged, and this is where the name Budapest is derived from.

It is home to the world’s largest thermal cave system and the largest medicinal baths in Europe. Unsurprisingly Budapest is often referred to as the city of the spas.

For more information on visiting Budapest you can read our itineraries below:

1 day in Budapest

2 days in Budapest

3 days in Budapest

Is Budapest expensive?

One question that we hear a lot tends to be, is Budapest expensive? In our experience Budapest isn’t particularly expensive, particularly by European standards. That being said it wasn’t quite as cheap as we had anticipated.

We would recommend a budget of around €150 between 2 people per day in Budapest. This doesn’t include accommodation.

Our recommended budget is what you will need for a mid-range trip. We splashed out occasionally and had cocktails or nice wine, but also went for cheaper drink options too. We ate at mid-range restaurants, and also purchased a 24 hour public transport ticket each day we were there.

You can do things a lot cheaper by avoiding restaurants, and opting for street food, or supermarket food. And you can obviously do things a lot more expensively, if you have the money.

We found that accommodation was actually on the cheaper side in Budapest. A good quality 4 star hotel will cost under €100 or 38,567.50 Hungarian Forint a night. Although we didn’t travel in peak season, so if you do decide to visit smack bang in the summer months this might be a little more expensive.

Do I need cash in Budapest?

You can get around Budapest by solely using a credit or debit card. That being said, we do recommend you have a little bit of cash on you. There are some smaller stores that will only accept cash or have minimum spends for using a card, so it’s always good to have cash just in case.

What is the currency in Budapest?

The official currency in Budapest is the Hungarian Forint. You might see it abbreviated to HUF or Ft.  

Some places, especially the more touristy spots may accept Euros, but we highly recommend you pay in the local currency. This is because change will be given to you in Forint even if you pay in Euros, and the conversation into Euro’s isn’t always great so chances are you will probably end up paying more.

Also not all places in Budapest accept card, so this is another reason to make sure that you have some Forint on you.

The currency is one of those that has a ton of zero’s in it so just keep an eye on what notes you are getting when you are given change etc. Notes consist of 500 Ft all the way to 20,000 Ft. Although with the larger denominations you may struggle to pay for things in some shops, so if you are carrying cash try and have some smaller notes as well as the larger ones.

There are also coins such as the 200, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5. Everything is in Forint. So for example in the US there are dollars and cents, or pounds and pence in the UK, but in Hungary everything falls under Forint.

What language do they speak in Budapest?

Hungarian is the official language spoken in Budapest. If you speak English though you should be ok in Budapest as a lot of people speak this.

Is Budapest easy to get to?

The main airport in Budapest is the Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport. There are a number of flights from around the world and Europe that fly here daily.

To get into town from the airport you will need to get either a bus or a taxi. There are a couple of buses you can take into town, or alternatively you can get a taxi for under €30. We went for the taxi option because we couldn’t really be bothered trying to sort out buses with all our luggage.

How long should I spend in Budapest?

Realistically you probably want around 4 or 5 days in Budapest to get to grips with the city. There is so much to see and do, that you will struggle to fit it all in with any less time. That being said any amount of time in Budapest is worth it and you can definitely make it work for you. Just make sure you plan ahead, and book tours and restaurants in advance.

Is Budapest safe?

Budapest is a relatively safe city. Like any European capital you should always be vigilant, but overall you shouldn’t have any major issues in Budapest. We felt incredibly safe in a lot of the tourist areas, even at night. We would still recommend sticking to well lit areas, and avoid walking around alone at night.

Obviously Budapest is a bit of a party capital, and when you are around large groups of people drinking alcohol, it’s best to be somewhat alert. You sometimes see people getting into fights, but nothing out of the ordinary in any big city.

Another thing to be aware of is that pickpocketing and petty theft are common. Keep an eye on your belongings and stay alert in crowded places like on public transport.

Is Budapest worth visiting compared to other European capitals?

If you are wondering if Budapest is worth visiting compared to other European capitals, our answer is yes. Budapest is such a beautiful city. It’s history is unique, and full of stories of royal families, war, and triumph.

It’s also a cheaper city compared to other European capitals, and where else can you experience the quirky ruin bars and culture of Budapest?

If you have the opportunity we recommend visiting as part of a bigger Prague, Vienna, Budapest itinerary. The three countries compliment each other perfectly and they are fascinating to explore especially if you are into history or architecture.

Can I use public transport in Budapest?

You absolutely can use public transport in Budapest. In fact it’s probably one of the best ways to get around apart from walking of course.

Public transport consists of trams, buses and the metro, all of which are cheap and efficient.

Tickets can be purchased from self service ticket machines located at the majority of metro, bus, or tram stations/stops. There is also an English language option you can choose when purchasing your ticket.

You then need to select your ticket type, for example you can opt for a single journey, or purchase a ticket for 24 hours. Make sure you validate your ticket when you enter the metro station or get on a bus or tram.

What is there to do in Budapest

There is so much to do in Budapest, the hardest decision sometimes is trying to fit it all in. Here is a high level overview on some of the best things to do when visiting.

Szechenyi Baths

One of the best things to do in Budapest has to be to visit the Szechenyi Baths. They are a major tourist attraction, built in 1913. The baths are considered to be medicinal and water is supplied by two thermal springs.

At Szechenyi Baths there are 18 pools to choose from, plus 10 saunas, various massage therapies, facial treatments and more. Or you can just chill out and float around whilst sipping a beer. Either way it’s an enjoyable experience.

We do recommend booking in advance as this is a popular attraction in Budapest. It’s also somewhere that you probably want to spend a good few hours at.

St Stephen’s Basilica

St Stephen’s Basilica is a must when visiting Budapest. For starters it is a very distinctive part of the city skyline and is one of the tallest buildings in the city, apart from the Hungarian Parliament building.

Named after Stephen the first King of Hungary, the basilica took 54 years to build. Work was started in 1848 and eventually completed in 1905. Entry is free, although a donation is highly encouraged. If you want to visit the top, or do a guided tour though this will be extra.

Danube Cruise

Sailing along the Danube, particularly at night is a great experience. The city lights reflect magically off the river creating a wonderful atmosphere. Day or night though, it’s a great way to get a different perspective on Budapest.

Hungarian Parliament Building

One of the notable buildings that stands out as you admire the skyline in Budapest has to the the Hungarian Parliament Building. The striking neo-gothic architecture is a favourite among tourists, with cameras in hand and poses at the ready.

It was designed by the Hungarian Architect Imre Steindl and opened in 1902. Along with St Stephen’s Basilica it is the other tallest building in Budapest.

Shoes on the Danube

Shoes on the Danube is a really moving memorial located on the banks of the Danube. It represents the thousands of Jews that were killed during World War 2 by the Arrow Cross Militia. Jewish residents were marched down to the Danube, and ordered to remove their shoes before being shot. The idea was that their bodies would fall into the river and be carried away.

What really hits hard here though is that several of the shoes are children’s sized. It’s a very symbolic, painful, but important memorial in the city. As we approached the memorial it started to rain, and it was honestly such an emotional moment.

Dohány Street Synagogue

The Dohány Street Synagogue is an important place in Budapest, particularly if you are wanting to explore some of the city’s Jewish history. It was built between 1854 and 1859 in the Moorish Revival style. The architect Ludwig Forster is Viennese with the inside designed partly by Frigyes Feszl.

House of Terror

This is a museum that centres around the fascist and communist regimes in Hungary in the 20th Century. This is quite a difficult museum to walk around. It details the sheer horror of what the victims of these regimes endured.

Hungarian National Gallery

Art lovers will love the Hungarian National Gallery. It is located in Buda Castle with some pretty impressive views over the city.

The Gallery was established in 1957 as the national art museum, and it has collections covering Hungarian art in all genres. The interior is also quite spectacular and the dome is accessible at certain times of the year.

Buda Castle Hill Funicular

The Buda Castle Hill Funicular connects the area around the chain bridge to Buda Castle. It is worth a ride especially if you want to save your legs climbing up that hill! It only takes a few minutes but the views going up (or down) and really spectacular.

The funicular has been in service since 1870, so is quite historical, and a very popular tourist attraction. The lines for this do tend to be quite long, so our recommendation is to get there early. The funicular opens at about 7.30am and closes at 10pm, so plenty of time to catch a ride.

Fisherman’s Bastion

The Fisherman’s Bastion is a stunning terrace located across the river from the Parliament Building. There are several Romanesque look out terraces making it the perfect place to take pictures and enjoy the stunning views.

The façade itself is around 140 metres long and honestly is one of the most recognisable structures in Budapest. There are seven stone towers that are supposed to represent the 7 chieftains of the Hungarians who founded Hungary in 895.

Matthias Church

Matthias Church sits right next to Fisherman’s Bastion, and is the most visited Roman Catholic church in Budapest. It’s is a mostly neo-Gothic style building that was established between the 13th & 15th Century although at the end of the 19th Century it was renovated. It’s an important building in Hungary, hosting many a royal wedding, as well as a number of classic/ organ concerts.

Is Budapest worth visiting for solo travellers?

If you are planning to travel solo you might be wondering is Budapest worth visiting for solo travellers? We think Budapest is a good option for those of you wanting to travel solo. For starters, it’s relatively safe, and easy to get around using public transport.

I know there is a bit of a party element but if you are wanting to visit the ruin bars but don’t want to do it alone you can book onto pub crawl style tours which is always handy.

There are also so many great things to see in Budapest that you will not be bored here as a solo traveller.

Is Budapest worth visiting for couples?

We think Budapest is a pretty romantic city that is perfect for a couples break. There are so many fun things to do together. You can stroll around the Castle District and get lost in the cobbled streets, whilst gazing out at the views of the Pest district.

The thermal baths are also a romantic choice and the perfect place to go if you are visiting as a couple. So make sure you make time to pamper yourself in Budapest.

On top of this there are also so many incredible food and drink options here making it the perfect date night location. One of our favourite date spots has to be the High Note Sky Bar, located on the roof of the Aria Hotel. The view is amazing, particularly of St Stephen’s Cathedral that forms part of the bars stunning backdrop. It gets really busy though, and we were lucky to get a table, so we recommend booking in advance

Is Budapest worth visiting for families?

Despite Budapest’s party reputation, it is also a good place for families to visit. There are lots of great parks and museums that are fun for the whole family to explore. You also have Aquaworld which is a water park with 17 pools and some thermal baths for the adults.

The city is also a good choice for kids because there are several cave and labyrinth tours which will be sure to fascinate them. It’s also a pretty safe city, so you shouldn’t have any issues if you do decide to visit as a family.

Is Budapest worth visiting for foodies?

If you are a food lover we think that you will absolutely love Budapest. Not only do you have a lot of traditional coffee houses which are perfect for cake and breakfast, but you also have amazing street food. And on the plus side, food is not only comforting and delicious but relatively cheap.

Traditional dishes in Budapest include things like schnitzel and stodgy potato and meat based meals. Paprika is a key ingredient in Hungarian cuisine though so things like chicken paprikash or goulash is incredibly popular.

Also don’t forget to indulge in some chimney cake whilst you are in Budapest, they usually sell these on street corners and they are really tasty.

Is Budapest worth visiting for the nightlife?

If you are wondering is Budapest worth visiting for nightlife, then our answer is absolutely. Budapest is a fantastic place to go if you want to dance the night away, sip cocktails with a view, or even enjoy a crazy night out in a ruin bar.

There is something for everyone when it comes to the nightlife in Budapest. You have high end cocktail and wine bars, clubs, discos, and of course the ruin bars.

The ruin bars are one of the highlights when going out in Budapest. Szimpla Kert is the biggest and most popular. It is kind of like a playground for grown ups where instead of swings and slides you have random fixtures and cheap drinks.

Is Budapest worth visiting for nature lovers?

Budapest has some great parks, but it is a busy city. If you want to get out and explore some of the natural beauty in Hungary you do need to get out of Budapest.

Is Budapest worth visiting for culture lovers?

Budapest has long been a hub for artists, writers and musicians, and this is very much reflected in the fact that there are over 40 theatres and over 100 museums in the city. so if you are into culture Budapest is very much worth visiting.

Is the Budapest Card worth it?

You might be wondering if the Budapest Card is actually worth getting? It was something that we thought about. The card costs around €43 per person for 2 days, and public transportation is included. Some museums are included in the cost, and you can also take part in a free walking tour of the city.

Apart from the freebies, you also get discounts at some attractions. But not all.

Deciding on whether to purchase the card will of course depend on what you are planning to do in the city. We decided against purchasing the card because we knew exactly which attractions we wanted to see in Budapest, and the bulk of them were not included with the card.

Don’t just buy the card for the sake of it. Think about what you want to do and actually work out if this will save you money. We see so many people buying the card thinking it will save them so much money, and sometimes it does, but sometimes it doesn’t.

Is Budapest worth visiting in the summer?

If you are planning to visit Europe in the summer months you might be wondering if Budapest is worth visiting? Peak travel time to Budapest is around June – August, which is of course summer. This also coincides with school holidays, so expect queues and an increase in hotel costs.

On the plus side the city really comes alive in the summer months. You have a number of great al fresco dining options, as well as beautiful beer gardens and ruin bars.

Temperatures range from around 20 degrees Celsius up to 30 degrees Celsius. Heatwaves are common in August so that is something to consider if you are thinking of going at this time of year.

Is Budapest worth visiting in the winter?

Budapest is worth visiting in the winter months, however you do need to plan a little more than you normally would. It does get cold in Budapest in the winter months. Make sure you dress appropriately as it is not unusual for temperatures to go below freezing.

Daylight hours are also limited and attractions close a bit earlier than they would in summer. Additionally you do get some places that aren’t open at all so double check before you visit.

December is a popular time to visit Budapest though, due to the Christmas markets. The atmosphere is really lively as people get ready for the holidays and sip mulled wine in the cold. This can be an ideal time to visit if you are wanting to get into the Christmas spirit.

What to pack when visiting Budapest?

Apart from you usual travel essentials here are some things that we recommend you pack for your trip to Budapest.

  • Comfortable shoes – you will more than likely do a lot of walking in Budapest
  • Jacket – even in the summer months evenings can be cool so pack accordingly
  • Swimming costume – don’t forget about the thermal baths!
  • Reusable water bottle – especially in the summer

What should I know before visiting Budapest?

Here are some of our top tips for visiting Budapest.

  • Museums are closed on Mondays so keep this in mind when you are deciding what days to visit.
  • If there are any particular restaurants you really want to eat at, then book these in advance.
  • Bring a good pair of walking shoes, cobbled streets and a poor choice of footwear are never good.
  • If you visit in the winter some tourist attractions might be closed.
  • Similarly if you visit in the summer book your activities in advance otherwise expect long queues.

So Is Budapest worth visiting?

Hopefully this article has helped you answer the question, is Budapest worth visiting? For us we really think Budapest is a fantastic place to visit. There is so much history, culture, and some incredible food here, all waiting to be enjoyed.

Budapest is also one of the cheaper European capitals, which is also a plus in these trying economic times.

We hope that this article has been useful for you, and if so make sure you pin it for later below.

Happy Travels and enjoy your trip to Budapest.

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