City guide: Budapest, Hungary | Private jet charter
Budapest, the capital of Hungary, is located on the north (Buda) and south (Pest) side of the River Danube. A stunning spa city, Budapest lies on 125 thermal springs and offers visitors UNESCO World Heritage sites, superb spa resorts, extraordinary Gothic architecture, a smorgasbord of local cuisine and food markets, an eclectic cultural life, and palatial accommodation.
Top five must-see sights and attractions
Fisherman’s Bastion and Castle Hill
Enjoy some of the best views of Budapest – and the Danube – from Fisherman’s Bastion on Buda Castle Hill. This beautiful Neo-Romanesque series of walls, turrets, walkways and courtyards is a tourist magnet and justifiably so.
Built between 1895 and 1902 to celebrate the 1000th birthday of the Hungarian state, the area was once under the protection of the Guild of Fisherman and boasts seven towers that represent the country’s seven founding tribes. Known as Halaszbastya in Hungarian, the Bastion was built primarily as a viewing platform and now overlooks UNESCO-protected views.
Budapest Thermal Baths
Budapest’s thermal baths attract thousands of visitors and locals every day. Take flip flops, a bathing suit and cap, and surrender to the steam!
Gellert Baths: the king of Budapest spas, the Gellert’s Art Nouveau architecture with stained glass windows are breathtaking. Add a range of thermal pools (temperatures from 26C to 40C) and an outdoor wave pool and you’ll be in spa heaven.
The Turks built the Király Baths in 1570 whose four hot spring-fed pools remain – immerse yourself in the healing magnesium and calcium-rich waters.
The Lukács Baths boast indoor and outdoor pools, as well as an outdoor fitness park.
For fabulous rooftop views of Pest, visit the Rudas Baths with its stained glass dome.
Originally royal hunting grounds, this 2.4km x 503m island in the middle of the Danube is Budapest’s most popular leisure area for locals and tourists. Connected to the mainland by a bridge, Margaret Island’s thermal springs provide the healing waters for the Palatinus Baths. This impressive 17-acre spa complex boasts swimming pools, thermal baths, a water park, as well as cafes and restaurants and can accommodate 20,000 guests.
Don’t miss the Rose Garden (Rózsakert) and enigmatic Dominican convent ruins founded by the Hungarian King Béla. Climb the 51m water tower for excellent views of the island and the Danube. Built in 1911 this Art Nouveau edifice also serves a practical purpose since it provides water for residents, hotels and restaurants on Margaret Island. At night, visit the illuminated fountains and be serenaded by classical and modern music.
Great Market Hall
Just a five-minute walk from the city centre and adjacent the Liberty chain bridge is Budapest’s market showpiece, the Great Market (Central) Hall. Known as Nagyvásárcsarnok, this massive hall – built in 1894 – has just undergone a refresh and is unmissable. The market covers three floors and offers tourists – and locals – a smorgasbord of street food specialities, fresh fruits and veggies, Hungarian wines and salamis, paprika, souvenirs, handicrafts and much more.
The ground floor tends to get busy so arrive early to avoid the crowds. You’ll find fabulous paprika powder, saffron, honey, dried fruits, fresh meats and pickles. Take the elevator to the basement to visit Hungarikum Street. A showcase for Hungarian products such as Tokaj wine, Guylai and csabai sausages, liqueurs, and Zslonay porcelain. Head to the upper level of the market for classic Hungarian embroidery, shirts and dresses, crafts and souvenirs.
Budapest’s Ruin Pubs
Created in run-down pre-war buildings, Budapest’s famous ruin bars have an undeniable charm and character, attracting locals and tourists who enjoy the laid-back atmosphere.
Szimpla Kert is the granddaddy of Budapest ruin bars and first opened in 2004. Located in the VII Jewish district, expect funky furniture, plenty of tourists, and a mix of Hungarian and international beers and wine (head upstairs for the best craft beers).
Near smart Andrassy Avenue, Anker’t ruin bar has a feature courtyard, four bars, and a dance floor – all in a dilapidated 200-year-old building.
Another Jewish quarter ruin bar worth visiting is Ellátó Kert. It has an impressive outdoor courtyard replete with comfy sofas, a Mexican food stall and a cool vibe.
A more upscale ruin bar is the popular Mazel Tov Budapest boasting an industrial chic interior and eclectic cocktail menu.
The quickest way to reach the centre of Budapest from Ferenc Liszt International Airport is by taxi. The authorised taxi company is Főtaxi which works on a pre-paid voucher system. Buy your ticket at the kiosk outside terminals 2A and 2B.
Once in Budapest there are buses, trollies, boats, taxis and four metro lines (M1 to M4) to get you around the main sights. Tickets must be purchased in advance at Metro stations, tobacconists, and from vending machines at city centre bus and tram stops. Validate your ticket each trip by swiping it in the red or orange box at the entrance to the metro station or on the buses/trams.
Best time to visit
Spring: March to May is the best time to visit Budapest when temperatures are warm and it’s usually sunny.
Summer: Peak season in Budapest is June to August. Be prepared for hot weather, increased hotel prices and queues.
Autumn: September to November is an ideal time to visit Budapest when the leaves turn brilliant shades of red and orange. Crowds are less and so are prices.
Winter: Winter in Budapest is often cold. Temperatures can dip below zero and it often snows.
Budapest is quite rightly the jewel of Eastern European capitals with a noble-tragic history that is indelibly imprinted in its architecture, its soul and its people. Savour the finest Hungarian food and wine, enjoy a boat trip along the Danube, explore Budapest’s ruin bars and award-winning restaurants; stay in splendid former palaces and visit extraordinary museums, after relaxing in the city’s heavenly thermal baths. Budapest has it all…
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