European City Guide: Budapest

Budapest is actually two cities separated by the river Danube. Buda is the hilly side and Pest is on the flat. Steeped in history, this city is ideal for people who want to gain an insight into Europe’s past, from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, right up to the Communist Era. Alternatively, the city has great nightlife and seriously affordable food for those who just want to relax. Be prepared for the inflated currency, however!

Ruin Pubs

Ruin Pubs are symbolic of Budapest, and a relatively recent phenomenon. Essentially, they are pubs set up in abandoned buildings or car parks, and they have a uniquely chilled atmosphere. The furniture is usually mismatched and most are half inside, half outside, with twinkling fairy lights and old junk like rusty bicycles adorning the ceiling. There are plenty of them in the city, but the original is Szimpla Kert.


This is the name given to the fort on top of Gellért Hill. You won’t miss it because on top of the hill there is an amazing statue of a woman brandishing a palm leaf, called Liberty Statue. The hill is very steep so taking the bus is recommended. The panoramic views from the Citadella are spectacular, you can especially see the gleaming white detail of the Parliament, which is the highest building in Budapest, symbolising its great importance. Be sure to visit Fisherman’s Bastion while you are up there, its fairy-tale like turrets are very reminiscent of the Disney castle.

Thermal Baths

Budapest is famous for its public baths. These consist of indoor and outdoor pools as well as spas. The water isn’t chlorinated, its mineral and allegedly has healing properties. The bath water is roughly 30 to 40 degrees, so don’t stay in too long. Szechenyi Baths are the ones I recommend, you can even buy food and drink inside, and you can enjoy watching football matches on the big screen. There are also bath parties at night. Entry is roughly €25 and this price includes a locker. Be sure to ask for the student rate.

Margaret Island

Located right in the middle of the river and accessible by bridge, Margaret Island is a beautifully kept green space, ideal for people who want a bit of nature within the city. You can hire bikes to cycle around and visit the tranquil Rose or Japanese gardens. There is also another Thermal Bath on the island called Palatinus, or if you’ve been to the baths, visit the Musical Fountain.

River cruise

You can purchase a City Sightseeing bus ticket and get the cruise for free, or you can pay for the cruise on its own if you are more of a walker. The cruise up and down the River Danube is just beautiful. I recommend going at twilight or just when the sun is setting, the light catches each building and it makes for some excellent photos.