If you’ve never been to Budapest before and like me, don’t have time to properly research or make a planned itinerary/schedule, get a feel for the city by simply exploring by foot. There are so many narrow cobbled streets to get lost down and you’re never too far from a shop or cafe if you do lose your way. The waterfront is so easy to get to, too – and it’s beautiful at night. It’s also never overly busy either. I didn’t go on one, but the evening river cruises sounded so good – a lot more intimate than the peak-time tours.
Get a ticket for the hop-on hop-off bus. The official one (known as the red one) was only 5000HUF for 24 hours (cheaper for students – remember your card! And 6000HUF for 48 hours). You can get on and off as much as you want and there are two routes to choose from, as well as access to a boat cruise and a walking tour. Beware that during the winter season, the schedule is reduced and so buses aren’t as frequent. Commentary en route is available in 22 languages and was highly interesting.For £4 you can ride the funicular which takes you up to Castle Hill. The top offers fantastic panoramas of the city and there’s plenty of walking to be had. Explore Buda Castle, the Royal Palace and National Gallery. Fisherman’s Bastion is also lovely and is also a great photo opportunity.
On the bus, we managed to spend 10 minutes at the Citadella (fortress) on top of Gellert Hill. Again, it was perfect for panoramic views of the city and great little pitstop. Had we had more time, I’m sure we would have walked to the liberation monument. There are so many symbolic statues and figures to look out for!
A river cruise is highly recommended as it shows a totally different perspective of the city. There is no better way of seeing the sights than as you sail the Danube! From the three bridges of Budapest: the Chain, the Liberty and the Elizabeth (all reconstructed following demolition during the war) to the spectacular parliament building with its ornate roof and the basilica (which resembles St. Paul’s Cathedral with its domed roof), cruising is simply magnificent.
If you have time, be sure to visit St. Margaret’s Island, a peaceful retreat from the mainland and another thing I didn’t have time for but came highly recommended was the thermal baths!