Budapest has become a hot destination in recent years, mainly thanks to various government schemes upgrading public spaces and investing in museums and other places of interest. Stag and hen parties in Budapest are also popular, mainly because of the cheap booze and low-cost flights from virtually any EU origin. Using this Budapest guide I am sure you will have an enjoyable and eventful weekend city break. So without further ado, here is a list of things to do in Budapest during a weekend break!
History of Budapest
Budapest’s history spans more than 2,000-years, including the heritage of its Roman, Greek, German, Jewish and of course Hungarian inhabitants. The city used the be the twin capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire so it has plenty to offer in terms of architectural heritage as well.
A short walk in virtually any direction in Budapest’s city center will help you learn about the city’s past and present. That’s because many important buildings in Budapest have plaques in at least three languages displaying the history of the building and its inhabitants. There are also information boards in many tourist hot spots so you will never be far from a virtual “tour guide”. Below is a list of things that I would recommend doing and it will keep any visitor busy for at least three days or more.
River Cruise Down the Danube in Budapest
Eating & Drinking in Budapest During a Short Weekend Break
Lotz Terem Cafe: This is an amazing cafe in its original form from the early 20th century. There is live piano playing every day and all the cakes are freshly made. As you enter the building (Alexandra Book Store) walk towards the escalator and ascend to the first floor to access this hidden gem. 1061 Budapest, Andrássy út 39.
Cafe New York: It was here that most of the literary cream of Hungary and Austria met until the Second World War. The cafe is as it was more than 100 years ago, taking you back to the heydays of Hungary. It is inside the New York Palace Hotel so if you are staying there it is super convenient. They serve food, drinks and cakes. 1073 Budapest, Erzsébet krt. 9-11.
Gerbaud Cafe: The Gerbaud is an institution and a plethora of cakes first made here are now part of Hungarian culture and culinary history. It’s open for lunch, dinner or just a cafe and cake. 1051 Budapest Vörösmarty tér 7-8.
Ruszwurm Cukraszda: Probably the oldest and most famous “unknown” cake shop in the city. It is full of history and they have a small booklet explaining how the cafe developed over the centuries. The cafe first opened in 1827 and has been here ever since during wars, revolutions and everything in between! 1014 Budapest Szentháromság u. 7.
Deryne Restaurant: In my opinion the best restaurant in town is Deryne. I had many dinners, lunches and drinks here during the year I spent in Budapest and I was never disappointed. One time I celebrated my birthday here and my table was next to the former prime minister’s! That was an unintended surprise! Deryne has been here since the early 1910s and has been growing stronger in popularity in recent years. They serve cafe, cakes and main meals almost all day around. 1013 Budapest, Krisztina tér 3.
Weekend Break Sightseeing in Budapest
This itinerary is for a very long walk, you can split it in as many parts as you like. Start at Ruszwurm Cukrászda in the morning with a cafe and cake. Then walk to Matthias Church at the end of the street. From here you can see the Fisherman’s Bastion which provides great views over the city.
You can either descend to the river using the steps below the bastion or walk back to the fountain in the middle of the square in front of the church. From here you should turn left and walk along the pavement until you reach the castle (about 15-20 mins relaxed walking).
The Budapest Castle District in a Weekend
There are various museums along the way, all sing-posted. There is an official website for this district, which has all the details in English.
You can easily spend an entire day discovering the castle, the Historical Museum, the Hungarian National Gallery and various other museums. But let’s imagine we are going to walk on now. Descend the castle on the Kemal Ataturk walkway towards the newly renovated Varkert Bazar (Ybl Miklos Square). This is a pretty square with amazing views of the river and surrounding architecture.
Here you can decide what to do next. If you want to walk up to the Statue of Liberty walk towards the hill in front of you, just right of the big white bridge called Elizabeth Bridge. There are various pedestrian paths ascending to the hill for some more spectacular viewpoints.
Or if you are tired and hungry walk to Deryne Restaurant which is the other side of the castle hill. The walk there is also nice, crossing a park. After lunch you can take a bus across the tunnel to the Chain Bridge or just walk across although the fumes can be bad. Carry on walking across the bridge. The bridge was the first in the city, connecting the Buda and Pest sides, designed by Adam Clark.
Andrassy Avenue – Budapest’s Main Artery
The main artery of old Budapest is Andrassy Avenue. You can easily reach it if you walk across the bridge, cross the park and walk down Zrinyi Utca. It is super easy to find, Zrinyi Utca is on the left of the Four Seasons Hotel as you are walking towards the hotel.
At the end of Zrinyi utca is St Stephen’s Cathedral. It is very similar to St Paul’s or many cathedrals in Rome, worth a visit. Just past the cathedral is Bajcsy-Zsilinszky utca. Turn right, then the first left is Andrassy Avenue. It looks very similar to a Parisian walkway. Here you can find many expensive shops as well as cafes and restaurants. About a third of the way down is Lotz Terem Cafe in Alexandra Book Store. Even if you don’t want to stop for a drink it is worth popping in to see the amazing architecture.
About halfway down Andrassy Avenue is Terror House Museum. It will send chills down anyone’s back, it certainly did for me. The museum details the horrors of various wars and revolutions in the country. There are various torture chambers, picture and video displays as well as a real tank in the middle of it all!
Heroes Square, where Museums Live in Budapest
At the end of Andrassy Avenue is Heroes Square. This is another pretty square with two of the major Hungarian art galleries on either side. Not far from Heroes Square is the Southeast Asian Gold Museum.
Take the underground from here all the way to its last stop at Vörösmarty Tér. This is continental Europe’s first underground and there are various displays at each stop. As you arrive at Vörösmarty Tér, go above ground and it is here that you will find Cafe Gerbaud.
The river is an easy stroll from the square. Walk up north along the river bank and you will reach the Parliament building in about 10-15 minutes. The tour of the parliament takes at least an hour or two and the queues can get very long so try and book in advance if possible.
Just outside parliament there is a pier where you can board the public transport river boat. The ticket is cheap and the river boat takes you along the most beautiful sights and under almost all the bridges. Watch the video below to see if for yourself.
If you get off the boat at Szent Gellert Ter you can get on Tram 56. Take this tram all the way to the last stop at Huvosvolgy towards the north. This will take you past most of the best places in Buda, including the hills and old residential districts. At the end of the line is another famous attraction: the Children’s Railway. The railway is entirely operated by children and makes for a great afternoon trip across the Buda hills. At the end of the railway line you can board the Cog Rail and descend into the valley to get on the same Tram 56 back into the city centre. If you still want to do more read my other articles about Jewish Budapest.