So you're ready to plan your next trip and you're not sure where to go. You're considering a European city, but you're feeling like they're all a little oversaturated. A little too expected. That's when you remember Budapest — a little to the left, and a whole lot less obvious.
Think of it as the next up-and-coming Berlin or Vienna. It's an often-overlooked city, but once people get there, they love it — and for good reason. From its textured history to its all-night pubs situated in ruins from old factories to its mind-blowing architecture (we're talkin' palaces, people) and of course the hearty food around every corner, the list of reasons to make Budapest your next travel destination can go on and on. So, in an effort to aid and not overwhelm, we've put together a quick-hit guide to Budapest, from the must-visit views to the nightlife. Consider this 60-second travel video the ultimate mood board for your Hungarian vacation, and scroll on for notes on each spot. Yes, Paris is always a good idea, but here's a city that's sure to differentiate the stamps in your passport.
To See & Do
An iconic monument stands in the middle of the city. Drive by to see it in a flash, or get out and snap some pics.
Get a rare and thoughtful look at the history of the Soviet Union at this sculpture park.
Experience the astounding parliament building and castle with a walk along the Danube River. Also reflect on the touching bronze shoes tribute sculpted by Gyula Pauer to honor the men and women killed by Arrow Cross militiamen during World War II. This nationalist party occupied Budapest around the 1930s but started to dominated the region into the 1940s. The tribute represents the Budapest Jews that were led to the river of Danube, asked to take off their shoes (because of their value), and shot to death so their bodies would fall into the river.
Gellért Hill, Citadella:
With a quick climb (okay, it was an inclined walk) you can take in some of the best views of Budapest. If you make a pit stop for some mulled wine, well, we won't blame you.
Mahart Boat Tour:
A testament to the beauty of the Danube, there are a lot of options when it comes to boat tours in between Buda and Pest. Opt for an hour-long audio guide (we suggest Mahart Passnave) or board for a full dinner. Either way, it's one "touristy" thing worth doing.
An actual castle surrounded by cute little streets you can explore makes this photogenic tourist spot worth checking out.
Szechenyi Thermal Bath:
Budapest is known for its epic bath houses (more like bath palaces), which are filled with hot tubs, cold tubs, soak tubs, swim tubs, and treatments of all kinds. This one is the cream of the crop, beloved by tourists and locals who come to soak, drink, and play chess. It's a must-visit.
To Eat & Buy
Two sister-store vintage spots make this affordable spot worth visiting. It's chock-full of traditional attire for men and women, as well as lightly worn pieces to fill up your suitcase.
Well-curated vintage in a small, good-vibes shop makes this one worth visiting. Look out for '90s frocks, athleisure pieces, and leather pants you'll want to wear out of the store.
Gihada-Antipakita, Kutyadolog Design:
This two-story vintage and punk shop was previously a pharmacy and feels like it belongs on Saint Mark's in NYC's East Village. If you're in the market for pleather, grommets, or the occasional Moschino find, swing by for an odd time.
Ecseri Piac Mercado; Flea Market:
Block off about three hours of your day, because once you hit this expansive flea market, you'll lose track of time. Piles of junk yield to stalls with precious jewelry, vintage clothing, and unique pieces like vintage cameras and art and artifacts.
Budapest's answer to the Soho House is a cozy, multi-level retreat that plays home to a courtyard restaurant with one helluva menu.
Great Market Hall:
At this indoor grocery store slash eatery slash souvenir mega shop, you can taste all the Hungarian meats, cheeses, and pastries you want — and maybe walk away with a lace tablecloth or two. Come hungry and with cash.
Szimpla Sunday Farmer's Market:
One of the most charming grab-and-eat-as-you-go farmer's markets we've seen, this gathering takes place in a popular ruin pub every Sunday. But, the vibes are totally different from the pub's nighttime incarnation; the market is all locally sourced and organic and sells pastries, soups, homemade jams, cured meats, and cheeses you'll eat right there with your hands.
Not in Budapest on a Sunday or still hungry even after all that grazing? Head across the street to Simple Haztaji, where the small kitchen will cook you up an easy meal from the ingredients at the market. Just beware of the freshly made pies. You may end up eating the entire thing.
A traditional Hungarian restaurant at its best, Rosenstein is a family-operated business, and it shows. These folks will make sure you don't miss a beat — from the soup course to the desserts that'll send you home happy.
Duck, lamb, and chicken dishes to swoon over make this locally loved restaurant a fine-dining experience worth checking out. Don't skip the matzoh ball soup to start, though. You're sure to leave full, so come hung(a)ry (sorry, we couldn't help it).
To Do At Night
Borkapolna Wine Chapel:
Wine Chapel. That's a thing. It's actually more like an underground cave full of secret tasting rooms and, you guessed it, a whole lot of vino. Book a private late-afternoon tasting or swing by to pick up a bottle on the go.
Szimpla Ruin Pub:
The Szimpla Ruin Pub is one of the most popular spots in Budapest due to its multiple floors of kooky, cave-like bars and outdoor space.
Racskert Ruin Pub:
Traditional Hungarian dance-offs erupt to violin music at this unsuspecting local hangout. So, sit back and get ready for a show, or clear the dance floor and limber up.
Party on a docked cruise ship beautifully situated on the Danube. This vessel-turned-venue houses a concert hall in its hull and a full bar on deck. Ahoy!
Szechenyi Baths Spa Party:
Szechenyi baths makes this list twice because it is very (very very) different at night than it is during the day — almost unrecognizable, even. When the sun sets (and almost until it rises again) a fever-dream rave takes place in the heated pool — inflatable bars, DJs, and party lights included.
Budapest's got more to offer than mega clubs and spa parties. There are tons of local pubs, so cozy you'll want to feel like a local. Hintalo is an intimate (but still two-floored) spot in a developing neighborhood that carries local draft beers and has an impressively able barback who can whip up a mean cocktail.