During a recent trip to New York City, I had one very important goal in mind: to find an authentic Hungarian restaurant and eat chicken paprikash, goulash, and Hungarian pastries to satisfy, if only for a day or two, my longing to revisit Budapest, Hungary.
I knew in my heart that if there were just one place in the United States where I could find an authentic Hungarian restaurant, it’d be in New York City – and luckily, I was right. Thanks to a quick Yelp search, I found one of the only Hungarian joints in the City on the Upper East Side: Andre’s Café and European Bakery.
As we trekked from Midtown Central all the way up to 2nd and 85th, we battled frigid -9 degree Fahrenheit weather, ungodly wind chill, and the slippery, ice-covered sidewalks – all for our dear Hungarian food. And while Andre’s food wasn’t quite as cheap or as delicious as I remember it in Budapest, the spicy flavors and aromas brought me back to some of the most beautiful days of exploring I’ve had.
So that got me thinking. What was it about Budapest that I loved so much? Why is it that every time I find my mind wandering, it ends up in Budapest? And while the food definitely has a lot to do with it, that’s certainly not the only reason. There’s so much more to discover and fall in love with in Europe’s most underrated capital city than just its (incredible) cuisine.
So without further ado, here are the six reasons you must visit Budapest sooner than later (and alternatively, the six reasons why you’ll fall in love with Budapest).
1. It’s gorgeous.
This, of course, has to be the #1 reason to visit Budapest, Hungary. From its iconic waterfront Parliament Building, to the Chain Bridge stretching from Buda to Pest across the glistening Danube River, to its red rooftops and centuries-old Castle District, the sights in Budapest are enough to make you want to stay forever.
2. It’s wildly underrated.
When tourists visit Europe, they often head straight for London, Rome, or Paris, and my guess is that about half of them don’t even know Budapest, Hungary exists. For us travelers, this is a glorious thing. This means almost empty museums, uncrowded streets, low rates, and an overall relaxed vibe to make a stay in Budapest even more enjoyable.
Visit Budapest as soon as possible, because Europe’s best-kept secret is coming out and tourists are starting to catch on!
3. It’s cheap.
Budapest is one of the cheapest cities in Europe. You can easily book a 3-star hotel for about $25 (USD) per night. And if you really want to live large, you can find 5-star hotels for around $120 per night through a quick Internet search. Plus, you’ll enjoy two and three-course meals for less than $10 and glasses of wine and beer for around $2 or $3. Talk about value for your money!
Not only is Budapest, Hungary the most underrated capital city in Europe, but also it’s one of the most affordable.
4. It’s a historic gem.
As you stroll through Budapest’s cobblestone streets, you’ll find museum after museum, memorial after memorial, ancient building after, yet another, ancient building. The Shoes on the Danube, a memorial to poor Jews who were shot and killed in that very spot during World War II, sits along the river, while the 13th century Mary Magdalene Tower stands tall across the Danube. Meanwhile, the Hungarian National Museum showcases the country’s history from antiquity to present, and Budapest’s creepy, underground cave system boasts once imprisoning Vlad the Impaler, also known as “Count Dracula.”
Budapest is a living, breathing history book. With so much to uncover about the past, Budapest will have history buffs wanting to stay indefinitely.
5. Its food is hearty and delicious.
Spicy, creamy, comforting. These are a few words that wrap up Hungarian food into one delicious sentence. Imagine a hearty bowl of Hungarian goulash, served piping hot, filled to the brim with tender chunks of beef, vegetables, and Hungary’s famous spice: paprika. What about a helping of succulent chicken paprikash, smothered in Hungarian spices and sour cream, served atop a plate of delicate nokedli (Hungarian-style dumplings)? Still hungry for more? Try a homey serving of Töltött Káposzta, a large leaf of cabbage, stuffed with minced meat and rice, and doused with a healthy dollop of sour cream. For dessert, a traditional Hungarian strudel filled with sweet apples or cherries will be in order!
Trust me, once you’ve tried the real thing in Budapest, you’ll have an insatiable craving for Hungarian food for the rest of your life.
6. Its people are interesting.
Throughout its history, the country’s ties to the Turks, Germans, Austrians, Russians, Jews, and so many others, have left an everlasting impact on Hungary’s population. Budapest’s people are varied in background and will always have something interesting and opinionated to say about their city, their government, and their history. We learned a lot from talking to the locals, and contrary to typical Eastern European stereotypes, I actually found them to be very hospitable, friendly, and eager to show and tell us more about their city.
What’s not to love about Budapest, Hungary?
As an outsider looking in, there’s nothing not to love about Budapest.
If there was just one place I could travel to before I died, then there would be a very good chance I would choose My Beloved Budapest.
What to Pack for Budapest
The Hungarian capital is quite stylish and people tend to dress very well, though the season of your visit to Budapest will help determine what you need to pack!
Of course, summer is warmer in Budapest, and you can dress as you would in this part of Europe. But as expected the winter is very cold. Always bring a beautiful coat in winter!
Here are a few top tips of what to wear in Budapest:
- Wool coat: During the colder months a beautiful wool coat is essential for style and practicality. You will fit in with the locals with this one.
- Comfortable boots: As expected, you’ll walk a lot in Budapest, so opt for a comfortable but stylish boot that you’ve worn in. You can’t go wrong with a smart Chelsea boot, like these.
- Floaty dress: In the summer opt for a long floaty dress so you stay cool, and bring a light scarf so you are always prepared to enter religious sites and cover your shoulders.
- Sunscreen: Nothing spoils your trip (and your photos!) more than sunburn. Remember to prepare with a good, natural sunscreen and stay protected.
- Reusable water bottle: Remember to keep hydrated during your adventures; it can’t all be wine and coffee all the time! Bring a reusable water bottle so you can keep topped up.
- Travel insurance: As with any trip, you should ALWAYS purchase travel insurance in case anything goes wrong. I’ve had my fair share of travel mishaps!
Quick Budapest Tips
- HOTEL: I use this website for scoring amazing deals on accommodation worldwide. Find great hotels in Budapest here. For this trip I stayed at the incredible Aria Hotel Budapest.
- HOSTELWORLD: If you’re traveling on a budget, this is the best website to score cheap hostel deals.
- VACATION RENTAL: I use this site for finding the perfect vacation rental for an unforgettable getaway. This apartment is amazing, right on the Danube river with views across the mountains.
- TRAVEL INSURANCE: Never go on a trip without travel insurance! If you are a remote worker and/or traveling regularly, SafetyWing has an awesome monthly subscription for digital nomad insurance (I currently use SafetyWing).
- GUIDED TOURS & EXCURSIONS: Many of the tours I recommend are hosted with Viator, which also works with local tour operators. Search them all here, my favorite is the Budapest Culinary & Wine Walk Tour.
- CHEAP FLIGHTS: Fly into Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport, it is easy to get to the city center from there. Get great deals on flights using my favorite flight fare aggregator.
- TRAVEL GEAR: A collection of all of my must-have travel gear are all listed here. Most important to remember is comfortable shoes and a scarf to use when visiting religious sites.
- CAR RENTAL: It is unlikely you will need to rent a car but if you are using Budapest as a start off point for a longer road trip book car rental in advance here for the best deals.
Over to you! Have you visited Budapest before? Did you love it as much as I did? If not, are you planning on visiting soon? You should…