Castles, Spas and Paprika: Budapest, Hungary

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Advisor - Laura Doroghazi
Curated By

Laura Doroghazi

  • Budapest

  • Arts & Culture

  • City Travel

  • History

  • Sightseeing

  • Spa

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Curator’s statement

Built around the Danube, Budapest is a modern city known for its historical past. Originally settled by the Celts, incorporated into the Roman Empire and then conquered by the Huns, this cultural center is a living story of all those who’ve called this breath-taking city home. Whether you’re interested in castles and spas, a labyrinth with a twisted past, operas or live jazz along the waterfront with a backdrop of mainland Europe’s largest parliament… Hungary is calling.

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Where to stay in Budapest

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Things to do in Budapest

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Thermal Baths

Home to nine medicinal baths and 123 hot springs, Budapest is known as “the city of Baths.” With modern amenities, massages, spa treatments, saunas and naturally heated outdoor pools, choose an experience tailored just for you.

Szechenyi Spa - best for the year round experience, including outdoor thermal pools still open when the snow falls.

Gellert Spa - with porcelain architecture and stained glass, the opulent feel is perfect for couples.

Rudas - if you are interested in a more traditional experience, these are the only baths that still have same-sex times (meaning clothing optional). There is also a rooftop hot tub overlooking the cityscape of Pest and is open until 3am Saturday night.


Budavári Palota (Buda Castle) - Located in Várnegyed on Castle Hill, this is one of the most visited sites in Budapest. Housing the Hungarian National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum, there are a multitude of tour options available in the castle district, or one is able to walk around at their own leisure.

Vajdahunyad Castle - A favorite of Budapestians, this site is home to festivals, carnivals, and a boating lake / skating rink. Located in City Park, this estate includes buildings from the Middle Ages through the 18th century. For further ideas, make sure to find Anonymus, the unknown chronicler, and touch his pen to find inspiration of your own.

Parliament - The largest parliament in mainland Europe (yes, Big Ben is larger), walking around the grounds is an experience in itself, but don’t forget to book ahead if you’d like a tour!

Danube River - I personally recommend strolling the Danube at night and catching the live music that can be heard all along the river. Cruises along the picturesque waterway are available year-round and are a nice way to round out a trip.

Gellert Hill - For the best view of the city, climbing Gellert Hill is an absolute must. My father is Hungarian (in case anyone was wondering about my last name) and finally seeing the cityscape surrounding the Blue Danube from the painting I’d spent hours staring at growing up… is something you do not want to miss. Check out the website for more details!

Panoptikum Labyrinth - A labyrinth made of a system of caves under Buda Castle, this maze includes a wax figure exhibition showing the history of its most famous inhabitant - Vlad the impaler, a.k.a. Dracula. The walking tour is 40 minutes - 1.5 hours… depending on how much you wander off the main path. For those interested in a truly authentic experience, after 6pm the tour is done only by the natural light of oil lamps.

Theatre & Music

Budapest has several opera houses, concert halls and theatres to appeal to any taste. I had a chance to catch an opera, and the live captions in Magyar (Hungarian) and English enhanced the experience.

Hungarian State Opera

Budai Vigado Theater

Pesti Vigado Theater

St. Stephen’s Basilica - Szent Istvan, their patron saint, is considered the founder and first king of Hungary. This church is open to tourists, but also still holds daily mass and vigil. Concerts and other performances are also held here throughout the year.

Day Trips

Day Trip on the Danube - From Budapest enjoy a cruise along the Danube as you explore Esztergom, Visegrád, and Szentendre. Highlights include Hungary's largest cathedral, a stop in Slovakia, and a baroque city built on medieval ruins.

Budapest Cocktail and Folklore Cruise

Half-Day Wine Tasting

Day trip to Vienna

Places to eat & drink in Budapest

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Growing up eating traditional Hungarian food, Budapest was a dream. I have so many suggestions for dishes to try that I decided to list my favorite restaurants and include links to menus.

Hungarikum Bistro - “A touch of home in the heart of downtown,” is a restaurant that serves it how great-grandma made it. Traditional cuisine that will not leave you hungry, just make sure you make your reservation online in advance.

Paprika Vendeglo - Paprika, the spice of Hungary! Words cannot do their food justice, but the photos on their website help to give you an idea.

Kӧnyv Bar - With a permanent menu of Hungarian classics, this experience also includes unique dishes based on novels. Their tagline, “We Cook Books,” features a bi-weekly menu based on anything from Harry Potter to more regional stories.

Dobrumba - Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Caucasian cuisine with two locations in Budapest. Inspired by their own travels, they offer an eclectic menu where they blend styles and regional specialties to have a little bit of the best from everywhere.

Advisor - Laura Doroghazi

Travel Advisor

Laura Doroghazi

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Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out my guide, The French Riviera - Nice.

This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Budapest.