The best part of living in Italy is being able to book spontaneous European vacations without breaking the bank. A few weeks ago, I had a couple days free and decided to hop on Skyscanner.com and browse the cheap flights (a very dangerous hobby btw). As luck would have it, flights from Milan to Budapest were stupid cheap and, having been wanting to visit Hungary for years, I decided to book right then and there. Although I only had time for a quick 2-day visit, it was plenty of time to see the city highlights! Keep reading for all the best spots I discovered during my 48 hours in Budapest.
Where to Stay
Whenever I travel alone, I always opt for a hostel stay over anything else. When choosing the perfect hostel for solo-travel, make sure it ticks the following boxes: affordable, great location, in-room lockers and, of course, a hostel bar. Wombat’s City Hostel ticked all my boxes and ended up being the perfect place to stay for my mini-vacation!
Definitely the most recognizable landmark in Budapest, the Parliament Building is even more stunning in-person. Currently the largest building in the country, the Parliament Building is the seat of the National Assembly of Hungary. Completed in 1904, the gothic structure is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Hungary and the symbol of Budapest.
One of the most beautiful viewpoints in all of Budapest, Fisherman’s Bastion should be on every traveler’s list. A terrace filled with windows and stone arches, anywhere you look you’ll be greeted with a stunning view of the city. Fisherman’s Bastion is free to enter but the terrace is littered with tiny bars and restaurants all advertising the same magnificent view. Although a cocktail there will cost you at least 3x anywhere else in Budapest, it’s relaxing to have a cold drink and take in the view.
Nearby Fisherman’s Bastion, it’s no surprise that Buda Castle offers the same stunning views of Budapest. Although I didn’t have time to tour the inside of the castle, the grounds are home to some of the most beautiful views in the city. Only a short bus ride away from the city center, Buda Castle should definitely be on your list of Budapest must-sees.
Apparently forgetting how much I hate Ferris wheels…I decided to hop on the Budapest Eye and check-out the city views from above. Although the views were gorgeous, especially at night, they weren’t quite gorgeous enough for me to forget my fear of heights, something that became very clear when my car got stalled at the top for five minutes in the middle of the ride.
Regardless, you can’t get city views much better than this!
Central Market Hall
There’s nothing I love more than a good market. The Central Market Hall is home to aisles of fresh produce, meat, fish, flowers and anything else your heart desires. Even better, the top level houses a “street food” market with some of the most delicious eats in the city. The market was my first stop after arriving in Budapest and I can honestly say it was some of the best food I had during my short time there. Be careful though, the upstairs can get very crowded, especially around lunchtime.
Budapest is known for it’s abundance of thermal baths and of them all, Széchenyi is by far the most photogenic. The Széchenyi Baths have a large indoor area of heated pools, but the real fun is outside. Although the pools are heated, the experience is much better in the summer months when you can catch a tan in one of the beach loungers and grab an icy cold Hungarian beer in one of the many food stands nearby.
If you happen to be in town on a Saturday night, head over to the Baths for one of their famous sparties! Tickets can get a bit experience, upwards of 50 EUR, but partying in a Nightclub Pool is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Regrettably, I wasn’t able to attend a sparty while I was in Budapest, but it’s definitely on the bucket list for next time.
Check out the sparty calendar here.
Thermal Beer Spa
The only thing better than a good thermal bath is a great Thermal Beer Spa. There’s a first time for everything, but I sincerely hope it wasn’t my last! The staff treats you like a VIP while you get changed in your own private dressing room, then bring you downstairs for the relaxing, hops-filled main event. They fill a tub of hot water with the fresh ingredients that go into making beer: malt, hops and yeast. The ingredients are all-natural, smell great and are supposed to do wonders for your skin! And the best part? It includes your own personal and unlimited beer tap!
Book your beer spa here.
Aria Hotel Rooftop
Rooftop time!! Always one of my favorite parts of a new city, the Aria Hotel Rooftop did not disappoint. On my last evening in Budapest, I ordered a Hungarian-crafted Pilsner and enjoyed the sunset overlooking St. Stephen’s Basilica. Not a bad ending to my short time in this magical city!
St. Stephen’s Basilica
One of the most beautiful basilicas in Budapest, St. Stephen’s Basilica is definitely worth a quick visit. Entrance to the church is free and it only took me about 10 minutes to pop in and have a look around. Built in 1905, the basilica is the third largest church building in Hungary. In addition to the high arches and religious artwork, the inside holds Hungary’s most sacred treasure, the mummified hand of St. Stephen.
What to eat?
Now that you’ve gotten a dose of Hungarian culture, it’s time to move onto the more important part…Hungarian food! Although I only had two days to experience Budapest’s finest, I did my best to sample some of the highest rated local cuisine. Read on if you want to get reallllly hungry…
Good to know Italy is not the only carb-filled country in Europe. One of Hungary’s most popular dishes is a deep fried pastry smothered in sour cream and cheese known as Lángos. A friend of mine swore that the best lángos she’d ever had in Budapest came from a tiny street stand by the name of Retro Lángos and, although I didn’t have anything to compare it to, I enjoyed every bite of my classic lángos and contemplated going back for seconds!
Retro Lángos offers an array of flavors and twists on the traditional lángos including southwest, greek and savory flavors such as Nutella.
I had an hour to kill before heading into my scheduled time at the Thermal Beer Spa, so I decided to stop for a quick bite at a quaint restaurant located directly outside the Széchenyi Baths. I ordered the egg dumplings, basically the Hungarian equivalent of gnocchi, and, although it was absolutely delicious, I would probably not order it again before putting on a swimsuit.
A quick Trip Advisor search on the best restaurants in Budapest left me with Mazel Tov at the top of my list. The main area of the restaurant is an indoor patio with plants, lights and every other decoration that makes for the perfect brunch Instagram. Although the food was more Mediterranean than Hungarian, everything I ordered was incredibly tasty. I would definitely come back to Mazel Tov on my next visit to Budapest (although I’d be sure to make a reservation in advance this time)!
Central Market Hall
Mackó Magyaros Konyha
Pretty much as soon as my Wizz Air flight landed at BUD Aiport I headed to the Central Market Hall to buy myself a cold beer and a stuffed cabbage. Living in Italy, it’s a bit refreshing when at least some of the local cuisine doesn’t include pounds of carbs and creamy cheese. If you’re looking for local food, it doesn’t get much more authentic than this. Stuffed with savory ground beef, rice and tomato sauce, stuffed cabbage is definitely a must-try in Budapest.
Yet another local eat I was eager to try…you can’t get more traditional than Hungarian goulash. Savory broth filled with beef, spices and roasted vegetables is delicious even in the summer heat. No better dish to really taste that Hungarian paprika!
Reliving all the yummy eats has me tempted to get online and book a flight back to Budapest ASAP! Hopefully I’ll be able to get back and enjoy all the culture, food and hospitality Hungary has to offer soon enough, but for now I’ll have to make do with some Italian pizza and a chilled Spritz.