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Budapest: A Whistle-Stop Travel Guide

Words: Lucy Connors


Budapest has become a hotspot for curious travellers in recent years, and whilst much of the city is well documented, there is still plenty to explore. With endless backstreets that offer so much intrigue, it would be remiss to not put together a travel guide documenting the most fascinating places to explore in Budapest that often slip through the cracks.


Starting Your Travel Guide Around Budapest


The inner city and downtown area of Budapest – district five - is, naturally, its beating heart and is the easiest place to start, or focus, your tour of the city. Just this small area houses history, arts, culinary delights, and is emblematic of Budapest’s reputation as a ’24-hour city’. We recommend fuelling up for your day at Pantry. This cosy brunch spot is a fantastic hidden gem and its novel build your own brunch model allows you to select 3, 5, or 7, elements to make up your plate; from the smoothie bowl to perfect poached eggs, everything they served here was delicious, and while you won’t sample any authentic Hungarian dishes, it is a spot to enjoy and a local favourite.

Budapest Castle

Budapest Castle


The Jewish Quarter


Located in the nearby Jewish Quarter is Massolit Book Café. This quaint and unassuming store is a treasure trove and a real hidden gem. With a mix of Hungarian and English books and authors, and handwritten staff recommendations to help you find titles that are unique and enthralling, if you’re a reader at all, it’s worth a visit. Even if not; they have a coffee counter inside and are also open as a work/study space – cementing its position as a local favourite. The cosy interior is mirrored by a hidden garden terrace which is the perfect place to grasp a few moments that feel like you are outside the city again.

St Stephen's Basilica


Next on the agenda is St Stephen’s Basilica. This cathedral is Hungary’s largest and most revered Catholic church, and even from the outside, is awe inspiring. Situated right in the city centre the juxtaposition of its age and beauty amid Fashion Street and the city’s iconic shopping area allows you to appreciate its majesty in a new light – and doesn’t take you away from the vibrant energy of the city centre. The shopping here can easily be embraced, featuring a mix of high end, unique, and Hungary’s favourite clothing brands, with big global icons.

St Stephen's Basilica

St Stephen's Basilica


Danube River Area


Follow Fashion Street down towards the Danube to admire the river and all that surrounds it – from here you’ll be able to see across the river to Buda Castle. The former royal palace sits at the top of Castle Hill and is an awe-inspiring sight from the river. Visiting the castle is a separate must do to see panoramic views of the city and visit the national gallery, which features works from Monet and Cezanne, among others. The Danube is one of the defining images of Budapest as the river was the division between the two cities of Buda and Pest before they united.


Taking a short boat ride along the river allows you a new viewpoint of Budapest’s historic buildings, including their Parliament, and offers a nice respite from both the heat and walking – especially in the summer months. Return after dark to join the A38 Boat if you’re more in for a night-out than sightseeing; the former cargo ship is now one of the most popular nightspots and offers an experience you’re unlikely to get anywhere else.

Margaret Island


Sitting on the Danube, in between Buda and Pest, is Margaret Island. Budapest’s most peaceful spot, this beautiful green space houses medieval ruins, Japanese Gardens, a running track around its exterior edge, and thermal baths. While the Széchenyi Baths near the City Park are Budapest’s most iconic thermal waters and are a must visit for any first-timer in the city, the more varied indoor and outdoor complex on Margaret Island offers a less tourist-focused experience.

Danube River Area

Danube River Area


The Great Market Hall


The Great Market Hall once allowed goods to be delivered straight off the Danube, but now offers the biggest market in the city, and any number of culinary opportunities across its three floors. Whether you’re looking to sample the local delicacies, purchase some souvenirs, or just have lunch, this is the place to be. Taking you to another market, albeit one of a very different style, there is Goszdu. This weekend flea market pops up in a courtyard and alleyway, the independent bazaars all offering handmade pieces from gorgeous, beaded jewellery to décor and fills the space with a vibrancy and energy that makes it worth visiting.

Great Market Hall Budapest

The Great Market Hall


Evening Excursions


Hang around in this area, or return to it later in the evening, when – as one of the locals described it to us – ‘it turns into a party’. With numerous dinner options in the courtyard or its neighbouring streets, it’s easy to stay nearby and witness the areas transformation. Restaurants and cafes turn into bars, and it’s definitely the scene to visit for those of you looking for a more raucous night. Spiler was our favourite bar – and we’re recommending it as one on the tamer side for delicious cocktails, good music, and great vibes. We would also recommend Es Bisztro, a short walk back into the main downtown area, for drinks. Sit on its outside terrace and watch the late night city goers pass, while sampling some of their excellent Hungarian wines or beers. Budapest has long been famed for its cheap beer, but the city’s bars can offer a much more upmarket experience than the price tag suggests – for a top experience, head to the High Note Skybar. This rooftop cocktail bar sits at eye-level with the dome of St Stephen’s Basilica and is a perfect location for some sunset drinks.

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