5 Cultural Things To Do In Budapest

Today’s guestblogger is Rachel Greenberg. While at the University of California, San Diego, Rachel studied creative writing and spent a semester studying abroad in Budapest, Hungary. She now works as the Assistant Marketing Manager at Nileguide.com

Budget-conscious travelers used to the prices in Western Europe will breathe a sigh of relief when they arrive in Budapest. Not only is the city incredibly beautiful, cultured and bursting with history, but it can be explored on the cheap without missing out on anything.

The first thing any visitor has to know about Budapest is that it is actually two cities combined: Buda and Pest. The Danube separates the two mini-cities with distinct personalities. Buda is the historical, residential side of the river. It has the incredible Castle Hill, and is perfect for quiet, picturesque walks overlooking the river. Pest is where the action is — the Parliament Building, and the nightlife, restaurants and museums. Luckily there are 8 bridges connecting the two sides which makes traversing from one to the other a breeze.

No matter what your travel-style is, you can find it in Budapest, and you certainly don’t have to pay a lot to do it. The hostels in Budapest are great-value too, starting at €4.60 for the Downtown Guesthouse. This hostel is one of HostelBookers customers’ favourites. They have double and triple private rooms in a homely environment as well as 2- 3- 4- and 5-bed dorms. It’s in a great location with everything you need, including free wi-fi and washing machines.

1. Szechenyi Baths

No trip to Budapest would be complete without taking a dip in the city’s famous natural pools that utilise the 130 thermal springs that run underneath Budapest. There are a few places to indulge in the waters in the city, including the very famous Gellert Baths located in the equally posh Gellert Hotel.

Although these may be the best-known for foreigners, all locals know the place to go is the Szechenyi Baths near Hősök ter (Heroes Square). The over-the-top Neo-classical building seems to house an endless number of pools. Some are outdoors for swimming and others indoors are heated in a range of temperatures from near freezing to scalding hot.

The local population of chess-playing, Speedo wearing, grandpas can be found lounging here day in and day out. And at €11 to get in, it’s a real steal for an entire day of people watching and relaxation.

2. Central Market

Another Budapest can’t-miss is its massive farmer’s market. Housed in a gorgeous hall, the market has hundreds of stalls with vendors selling everything from fresh vegetables, fruit, cheese and bread to classic Hungarian specialties like horse sausage and stuffed cabbage. This is the perfect place to come for a cheap lunch. Prices are incredibly inexpensive and you can sample the local fare all in one place. Be sure to avoid the upper halls though which have turned into a bit of a tourist souvenir-selling-trap.

Located in Pest directly in front of the Szabadság híd or Liberty Bridge, grab a bite and stroll over this beautiful bridge into Buda for a lovely afternoon.

3. Margaret Island

An oasis in the middle of the Danube, Margaret Island is like Central Park for Budapest. Green almost the entire year round, it’s easily accessible by public transportation and just a minute or two from either Buda or Pest. The park is totally free to visit and explore, and has tons of public flower gardens, benches, and open space to picnic in during the summer. The ruins of St. Margaret’s nunnery is open to the public, as are the ruins of a beautiful Franciscan church.

You can also rent pedal carriages in different sizes to ride around the island for a few euro. They are a little awkward to ride, but definitely traditional and fun!

4. Dohany Synagogue

The Orthodox Synagogue is one of the most spectacular remnants of the huge Jewish community that once lived in Budapest.Despite the  Although the aggression towards the Jewish community in WWII, the remaining synagogue is the largest in Europe, and worth a visit no matter what your religious background. Built in 1859 with Byzantine and Moorish elements, the synagogue offers tours for around €5 of the building to visitors, as well as information to help you explore the “Jewish Ghetto” that surrounds the area.

But be forewarned that unlike other tourist spots, this Synagogue is still in use. Make sure you don’t plan your visit during religious holidays.

5. Opera House

With gorgeous opera houses in Vienna and Prague offering inexpensive standing-room-only tickets regularly, cheap tickets aren’t such an anomaly in Central Europe. What is special, is being able to get incredibly inexpensive, regular seating tickets in such a stunning and historic opera house in Budapest.

Balcony seats can be purchased day-of for less than €10, and instead of having to wait in long lines and be ushered in through the back, seat-ticket holders can really get the whole experience of going to the opera. And with its own subway stop (aptly named “Opera”) it’s easy to get to from anywhere in the city.

Any other tips for things to do in Budapest? Let us know in the comments box below…

Related Posts:

The Best of Eastern Europe

Top 10 European Hostels
Travel by Train: South Eastern Europe
The HostelBookers Travel Bucket List

Thanks to HeyRockerKaraian, Mararee, Wineblat Eugene – Scapes, qyphon and Brian Harrington Spier for their excellent pictures from Flickr!

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