Budapest, the capital of Hungary, is a city divided. Between Buda and Pest either side of the Danube and between a harrowing past, modern luxury and a lively nightlife. It is one of our favourite cities for a long weekend away and definitely one of the cheapest places that we have visited in Europe. But as always, with so much to see and do, where should you start on your next trip? Here are our top 5 things to do in Budapest.
1 VISIT THE THERMAL BATHS
Budapest is famous for its thermal baths that stem from a network of over 100 thermal springs underneath the city. There a number of baths in Budapest but our favourite is the Széchenyi Baths in City Park. These baths are open every day to both men and women and are based in a beautiful and lavish building. The indoor baths can be a little intimidating to tourists but the outdoor baths (which also hold regular pool parties) are stunning and worth the visit.
http://www.szechenyibath.hu/, Állatkerti krt. 9-11, 1146
2 WINE TASTING IN A CAVE
Have you heard of Hungarian wine? Neither had we before our first visit but having tried a selection of Hungarian wines at the Faust Wine Cellar we were sold. Faust Wine Cellar is a small bar which runs organised wine tastings every day. With only five tables you are guaranteed an intimate and attentive experience but you will have to book ahead. There are a number of tasting menus to choose from with most offering either six or nine wines to try. The bar itself is in the cellars of the Hilton Hotel and built into the cave system under Buda Castle.
http://gbwine.eu/index.php/en/, Hess András tér 1, 1014
3 VISIT THE HOUSE OF TERROR
As mentioned in the introduction to this post, Budapest has a harrowing history. Because of this history, I would hesitate before calling the House of Terror an enjoyable experience. However, having visited the museum, I would recommend that everyone should go to fully understand the horrors of both the Nazi and Soviet occupations of Hungary. While the exhibits are mostly in Hungarian, each room has an extensive information sheet in English. The museum is located in the former headquarters of the Arrow Cross Party, a far-right Hungarian party, and visitors can see prison cells from this period that have been recreated in the basement.
http://www.terrorhaza.hu/en, Andrássy út 60, 1062
4 EXPLORE THE RUIN BARS
As well as its thermal baths Budapest is also known for its nightlife. There are so many bars to choose from but for something that is unique to Budapest you should check out the ruin bars. The bars are located in the old Jewish quarter of the city and have been built in the ruins of abandoned buildings. Our favourite is the original ruin bar Szimpla Kert which opened back in 2002 on the site of an abandoned factory. Inside there’s a large courtyard with an old Trabant car and a number of floors with a different theme and vibe. This is a great place to meet friends or settle in for a few drinks. They also have a farmers’ market every Sunday that is well worth a visit.
http://en.szimpla.hu/szimpla-garden, Kazinczy u. 14, 1075
5 VISIT THE DOHÁNY STREET SYNAGOGUE
The Dohány Street Synagogue is the largest synagogue in Europe and the site is a must visit when you are in Budapest. The synagogue was built between 1854 and 1859 and sits on the border of the old Budapest Ghetto. At least 400,000 Hungarian Jews were murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust and they are remembered by the Memorial of the Hungarian Jewish Martyrs in the courtyard of the synagogue made by Imre Varga. The history and architecture of the Dohány Street Synagogue makes this both a solemn and beautiful Budapest experience.
Dohány u. 2, 1074