Budapest – a city that is as majestic as it is magical. So rich in history; with hidden gems around every corner. I was fortunate enough to spend three days in Budapest recently. I was on a Contiki at the time, and our trip manager was an amazing young woman by the name of Magdi. Magdi has been working with Contiki for the past three years, has seen a fair share of the world, and (here’s the real winner) is from Hungary. That said, I figured who better to share some insider tips of things to do (and try) on an upcoming trip to Budapest, than a local.
- FOOD FOOD FOOD. Where to start... Gulyas soup, Hungarian fish soup (it might not be for everyone, but I love it), Marhaporkolt (traditional beef stew), Paprikas csirke (stewed chicken with lots of paprika and sour cream) and roast duck with purple cabbage is definitely a must-try. We have countless traditional restaurants serving these well-known dishes, but contemporary Hungarian cuisine is popping up all over Budapest with some exciting modern twists on the classics. Our street food is also worth experimenting with! (Langos - part of the Hungarian experience, and of course the Transylvanian favourite, Chimney Cake, or Kurtoskalacs in Hungarian!)
- We LOVE cakes. And we happen to have some stunning historical coffee houses where you can feel like royalty and enjoy a slice of Zserbo cake, Dobos cake, Rakoczi turos, Gundel Pancakes, Somloi galuska or some sour cherry Strudel... YUMM! If you want to go fancy, try Gerbaud Cafe or New York Palace, they are pretty special in my opinion, but you have loads of options around the city centre!
- The numerous bath houses. You have many choices depending on what is it you're after. Most young people prefer the biggest bath house in the city, the Szechenyi Baths, with different outdoor and indoor pools, all year round. It is so much fun! Personally, if I want to relax, my favourite bathhouse is the little-known Veli Bej Turkish Bath, a beautifully restored spa from the 16th century! A lot less busy, small and intimate, very affordable and only a short taxi ride from the city centre. We are proud to have lots of other similar Turkish Baths.
- A hike up to the Statue of Liberty cannot be missed! My favourite time to be up there is at dusk, with the city already lit up. You'll never forget the view of the Danube and that beautiful skyline.
- Take the historical funicular (a type of cable car) up to the Castle District, one of the major attractions in the city. The journey up on the 100+ year old funicular is an experience in itself! Similarly worth doing is heading out on a ride on the oldest underground line on mainland Europe, called Kisfoldalatti ( in Hungarian. Probably easier to pronounce is metro line 1.) It’s very cute and nostalgic!
- Hungary has fantastic wine, which is unfortunately a little-known fact for visitors. Our wine bars range from simple/casual to super classy, where you can sample beautiful wines from across the country. And most places will have some delicious dishes/platters to match!
- Take an evening cruise down the Danube and float past the historical buildings and gorgeous bridges - definitely a highlight of visiting Budapest.
These are some really superb suggestions whether you’re on your own journey through Budapest, or as free time options if you find yourself on a Contiki like I did.
I for one, can advocate for the delicious and amazing chimney cakes by day, and the jaw-dropping beauty of the Danube by night. Budapest is really one of those cities that will surprise you. On the surface, it’s unassuming. Delve a little deeper and you’ll be exposed to a city that has incredible history (think back to the war days) and beauty in the most unsuspecting places. Definitely a place to add to your bucket list.