It’s much easier to plan your next travel adventure when you come to visit someone who is local and knows the city well. You can just say what your points of interest are, and your host (if it’s a good host) will plan a trip for you. For example, my trip to Germany was well planned by awesome hosts who made my time there unforgettable. Our Easter adventure to Budapest was quite the opposite (if you haven’t read 5 fun facts about Hungary – go check them out!), as we didn’t have a local person meeting us there and were responsible for planning and making this trip ‘the best time of our lives‘ ourselves.
My travel check-list
If you want to get maximum out of your trip, you should plan it well beforehand. I usually read different guides and blogs about must-see places and make notes about the things I want to visit and do. I always do research about:
– transportation (from the airport to the hotel/apartment + public transport),
– hop-on/hop-off city tours,
– panorama platforms and breathtaking views,
– must-see places (sightseeing-wise),
– local food and wine-tasting (wine if applicable, usually it’s always applicable).
If you’re planning a trip to Budapest, I strongly recommend you to spend at least 4 days (3 nights) there . And if you want to see Bratislava or other places nearby, you obviously need more time for that.
City sightseeing tours
I guess you’ve seen the buses cruising around different cities with big signs ‘Hop-On Hop-Off‘. What are they? Many touristic cities have their own city tours around the most popular and interesting places. The buses are continually driving around pre-defined routes and tourists can use their ticket to jump on at any stop, and can get off at whichever stop they choose. While being on the bus, you can listen to a prerecorded or live commentary in multiple languages through headphones. When you hop on the bus for the first time, you get the map, discount vouchers and headphones (they are all included into the tour price).
I tried it for the first time in Barcelona in 2014, and realised how much more you can see and learn about the city with it. If you want to visit all must-see places in Budapest, get a 48-hour city tour. It will cost you 24 euros per person and cover all the sightseeings of the city, as it includes 2 bus lines, 2 boat tours and a walking tour. There are several tour providers in Budapest, but their services are quite alike, and you might not see the difference. However, remember to jump on the right bus, and don’t waste your time on queueing up for a wrong one!
My suggestion: check the routes and mark the places that you want to explore before getting on a bus. At first, take a longer route – get on the bus, find a place on the second roofless deck and plug in your headphones. Plunge into the unique atmosphere of Budapest, listen carefully to the excursion and learn more about the places. If you hop on and off on every single stop, you will lose a lot of time (especially on waiting for the next bus to come). Besides, if you have multiple places to visit, and they are located nearby (and their bus stops go one after another), hop off and walk. If there is a long distance to your next must-see destination, hop on the bus again.
Donau River Cruise
I was surprised to know that a river cruise was included into the price. We truly enjoyed the night tour that started around 7 p.m., as we could see the city from the water in daylight, at sunset and at night. It was incredibly beautiful! I strongly recommend you not to miss a chance to go on this cruise. One thing that should be mentioned: yes, there is a prerecorded commentary in English and German on the boat as well… and it made me laugh my ass off. Even my American friend couldn’t quite understand what the speaker was talking about. I gave up after first 5 minutes and started listening to the German one instead, as it was much easier to understand (even with my German A2-B1 level).
However, nothing could spoil the boat tour. The city and its bridges looked magnificent. I should say that Budapest is truly romantic, especially at night with all those beautiful lights on.
Where to buy a ticket
You can get a city tour ticket on the bus at any departure point, at the tourist information points or from uniformed staff, travel agencies and at partner hotels in Budapest. More information about the tours, timetables and pricing can be found here.
Additional 24 hours
Budapest is also called the ‘City of Baths‘, because it remains the only capital city in the world that is rich in thermal waters with healing qualities. If you didn’t know, Hungary is a land of thermal springs. Travel guides say that tourists should check out Rudas, Király or Veli Bej. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time in Budapest to relax and enjoy its famous thermal baths. Next time, when I’ll be somewhere near Budapest, I will definitely come back to enjoy the unique spa experience.
What is more, you can’t leave Budapest without tasting local wines. If you are against drinking alcohol, please just skip this part. I can say that after my trip to Budapest, I definitely enriched my wine knowledge (I’m not sure if I should be proud of it though). So, if you love wine, plan a tour around different bars and cozy terraces to enjoy every sip of it.
I hope that this information will help you plan your trip and see as much as possible during your stay in Budapest. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask them in the comments below. Don’t forget to check my 5 fun facts about Hungary as well! In the future blog post, I will share with you my Hungarian food and wine guide. Stay tuned and check the hashtag #katarina_hungary on Instagram to see more pictures!