Budapest is a newer city, formed in 1873 with the merger of its two cities, Buda and Pest, straddling opposite banks of the Danube River. Buda is the “classier” side and home to more elegant architecture, while Pest, for the most part, is the more hipster side, famous for its nightlife, ruin bars, and other hole in the wall delights.
Jennifer Dombrowski and Tim Davis of Luxe Adventure Traveler share their tips on how – and where – to spend a romantic weekend in Budapest.
5.) Search For Bargains at the Ecseri Flea Market
For those who love antiquing, bargaining, and experiencing the more “local” parts of a city, Budapest’s Esceri Flea Market is the perfect place to cap off a weekend in Budapest. The market is a treasure trove of antiques, with everything from jewelry and porcelain figurines to Soviet army watches and vintage lace tablecloths. Bring cash, and make sure to bargain. Experts suggest starting your offer at 1/3 of the listed price. The best day to go is Saturday, as not all stalls are open during the week. Arrive early (the market opens at 5 AM – a perfect place to recover from jet lag), as the market officially closes at 3 PM but stalls can begin shutting down as early as noon. The market is slightly outside the city, but well worth the trip.
Monday – Friday: 8AM-4PM
How to Get There
Take the 54/55 bus from Pest’s Boráros tér to Naszod Utca. The ride will be approximately 20-30 mins. When you exit at Naszod Utca, cross over the highway and you will see the entrance to the market.
4.) Take An Evening Stroll Across the Széchenyi Chain Bridge
Budapest’s Chain Bridge stretches across the Danube, connecting Buda and Pest, with two tall archways and glowing lights illuminating the sides. Lions lay in watch at both abutments. A romantic weekend in Budapest would not be complete without walking the bridge at night.
Built in the 19th Century, the Chain Bridge was the first permanent stone-bridge connecting Buda and Pest and stands today as one of the most imposing and iconic sites in the city. If you plan on walking the city, you will certainly cross the bridge during the day, but the most romantic way experience the bridge is at night. Starting in Pest, enjoy a drink at Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace’s bar and enjoy their live jazz pianists. The hotel is located directly across from the Chain Bridge, so once you finish, make your way across the bridge towards Buda. Take in the sights of The Royal Palace aglow in the distance to your left, Fisherman’s Bastian up to your right, and the lights of both banks reflecting off the water below.
3.) Cruise the Danube at Night
Riverboat cruises are can’t-misses, no matter what the city, and Budapest’s Danube River cruises are particularly spectacular. There are several companies offering cruises, with some offering dinner, wine tastings, and live music. The best time to embark is at sunset: watch as the sun goes down and the city lights up. Take in the sights of The Parliament Building, the Chain Bridge, Buda Castle, and so much more. We recommend Viator’s Sunset Cruise, a 2-hour cruise with complimentary cocktails and live music, with packages starting at 25 Euros.
2.) Soak in the Széchenyi Baths
A weekend in Budapest is not complete without a trip to one of its infamous bathhouses. With more than 120 thermal springs running beneath Budapest, the city is home to numerous thermal baths, touted for their “healing waters.” These healing waters are rich in calcium, magnesium, and hydrogen carbonate and known to aid in joint pain and the nervous system. Jennifer and Tim recently visited two of the most famous bathhouses and rivals for “most beautiful bathhouse in Budapest”: The Széchenyi Baths and Gellért Baths. After careful consideration, The Széchenyi Baths was deemed winner due to its year-round outdoor pools.
The Széchenyi Baths is one of the largest bathhouses in Budapest. Dating back to 1881, this co-ed bathhouse offers a mix of indoor and outdoor pools, including 12 thermal pools with temperatures upwards of 100°F. The most popular pools are located outside. Open year-round, they are particularly refreshing during the winter months. Massages are also available onsite.
Jennifer and Tim share their tips:
- It is advisable to get a cabin, which is great for a couple to share when changing.
- Bring a towel; towel rental is available, but the rental line can be long
- Also bring flip flops as it can be cold to walk around the outdoor pools.
1.) Admire the City From Fisherman’s Bastian
Fisherman’s Bastian sits on the Buda side next to Mátyás Church and offers breathtaking panoramic views of the city – in fact, it was built in 1905 with the sole purpose of providing amazing views. Fisherman’s Bastion features seven towers, symbolizing the seven tribe leaders who led their people into present-day Hungary in the 9th century. Many agree that this is the highlight of a weekend in Budapest.
After you take in the views of the city, pop into Mátyás Church. The original church was destroyed in 1241 and a new one completed in 1265, with multiple renovations occurring over the centuries to follow. Today the church’s multi-colored roof and ornate, orientalism-inspired interior make it one of the most unique Roman Catholic churches in Europe.
Upon leaving the church, make your way over to the Dominican Monastery Cloister. There you will find 54 steps leading down to a vaulted stone cellar: Faust Wine Cellar.
Jennifer and Tim share that “Gábor Nagy, owner and wine sommelier at Faust Wine Cellar, travels throughout Hungary’s 22 wine regions regularly in search of only the best to supply their cellar with. The cellar is such a relaxed and romantic setting and you’ll be sure to leave your tasting with a rich understanding of Hungarian wine.”
Where to Eat
The New York Cafe opened in 1894 and was called “the most beautiful cafe in the world”, making it an obvious choice to eat or sip a glass of champgane during your romantic weekend in Budapest. Located in the lobby of the Boscolo hotel in Pest’s 7th district, the elegant baroque style eatery is filled with marble and gold, with intricately carved and frescoed ceilings, and a can’t-miss for those seeking an upscale dinner or cocktail.
The Central Market Hall is perfect for lunch on-the-go for those seeking Hungarian cuisine. Built in the 19th Century, it is the largest indoor market in Budapest, with a food hall on the first floor and artisan vendors on the second floor.
Halaszbastya Restaurant is located in Buda’s I district. While a bit pricy for Budapest, the restaurant’s excellent cuisine and views of the Danube and Parliament building make up for it.
Where to Stay
Both Buda and Pest offer an array of luxury and affordable hotels. While Buda is more popular during the day, Pest is livelier at night, so keep that in mind when deciding which side of the Danube to stay on.
The Hilton Budapest is located on the Buda side next to Mátyás Church and Fisherman’s Bastion. There is even a back entrance down to Faust Wine Cellar, and the Chain Bridge and Pest are just a 15-minute walk. The hotel is currently under renovation, so keep this in mind when booking.
One of the most luxurious (and ideally situated) hotels in Budapest is the Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace. If you’re looking for the ultimate in romance, this is your place for a weekend in Budapest. Located on the Pest side and directly across from the Chain Bridge, its rooms offer stunning views of Buda, with select rooms featuring balconies.
Those looking for a locals version for a weekend in Budapest should turn to Airbnb. In recent years, many apartments have been freshly renovated and are let by owners as well as rental agencies, with prices as low as 30 Euros per night. A few of our favorites include one on the Buda side with breathtaking views of the Parliament building, one in Pest’s fashionable Vörösmarty square, and one in Pest’s hip Gozsdu district. We’ve also found the top 6 Airbnbs in Hungary that might interest you!
How to Get to Budapest
At present, there are no direct flights between the US and Budapest, but airlines such as Delta and American offer routes with layovers in Amsterdam and Paris. Prices are typically low in January and February, so set your flight alerts now!
There are talks of direct routes opening up between New York/Chicago and Budapest in Summer 2018.