Known for its appeal as a cheap European city break, and the George Ezra song (obviously), Budapest is becoming an increasingly popular hotspot for British tourists. But how can you make the most of it in only 72 hours?
Split into the two parts of ‘Buda’ and ‘Pest’ by the Danube River, the charming Hungarian capital boasts a rich history, stunning architecture, moreish cuisine, and an unbelievably cheap night out. Whether you’re going with friends, solo or with a partner, Budapest has something for everyone to enjoy. So, having heard so many people raving on about it over the years, I clearly jumped at the chance to spend a long weekend there.
If, like me, you suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out) and so feel the relentless need to do all the stereotypically touristy stuff, but still love to get a snippet of the weird and edgy side of a place, you’ll be pleased to know that I’ve combined the two to make a little list.
Here are all the best weird, and wonderful, things to do in Budapest.
(Helpful tip: It’s actually pronounced Buda-PESHT. I didn’t know either.)
Sample the international coffee & cake at Café Frei
This little gem of a coffee shop is situated in the heart of Budapest, just a stone’s throw from Liberty Bridge. Its colourful and exotic décor goes perfectly with its whirlwind of a menu, which offers about a hundred different drink options – and that’s only the coffees. What sets this place apart from other coffee shops is that they offer a variety of specialties from all over the world, most of which I’d never even heard of. Their menu has sections dedicated to Italy, France, Spain, North America, Latin America, the Middle East, Japan, and even the Arctic. Visiting this place was truly a unique experience – and the cake is to die for, too.
Eat dick bread at Szimpla Kert
Szimpla Kert is, quite szimply (geddit?) one of the best bars I’ve ever been to. It’s probably the most well-known of Budapest’s ruin bars, something which the city is famous for. They’re basically bars which have been set up in old, abandoned buildings, most of which are located in the Jewish Quarter, which was left in disarray after World War II. Szimpla Kert is made up of a central courtyard, with various rooms, each with a different theme, dotted around on each side. The walls are covered in gritty artwork and graffiti, and there are two storeys filled with the absolute chaos and personality that makes the bar so unique. And, yep – there’s even a little bakery on the ground floor that serves bread shaped like a dick. A trip to Budapest wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Szimpla.
View from Szimpla Kert’s second floor
Get utterly flabbergasted at the thermal baths
The thermal baths are just one more aspect of Budapest which makes it so unlike other cities. A visit to the Szchenyi Baths are an absolute must when visiting – but if I didn’t have my friend with me, I probably would’ve freaked out at how confusing the whole experience is. We arrived after a long trek, paid the standard fee at the counter, headed off to the changing rooms, changed into our bikinis, and got into the lift, asking the security guard which floor the outdoor bath was. He took us to the wrong floor, though, so back we got into the lift to try and find where we were supposed to be. After about ten minutes we finally found the right floor, and realised before long that you had to pay for a towel at yet another desk… so down we went again to the changing room to get some money. We paid for our towels, and made our way through the absolute maze that is the thermal baths. There are no direction signs in English – and not that many in Hungarian, come to think of it – and the staff aren’t exactly helpful either. But, we found out way to the outdoor baths eventually, and had so much fun. We quickly learned from several travel blogs and articles that the confusion and maze-like vibe is just part of the whole experience. My skin felt pretty soft afterwards, too.
The classical exterior of the Szchenyi Baths
Head to the bridge that Will Smith danced on
If you didn’t spend the entirety of last year in a cave, you’ll probably be aware of the dance challenge inspired by Drake’s chart-topping single ‘In My Feelings’. This craze involved a person dancing, often alongside a moving car, in perfect sync to the song’s chorus. During the height of the craze, Will Smith hit the headlines when himself and his team decided to illegally climb up the Chain Bridge to complete the dance challenge at the top. The video got over four million views on YouTube – so obviously I had to catch a glimpse of the bridge while I was there. Built in 1849, the bridge spans the River Danube and was the first stone bridge to connect Buda and Pest together. It’s worth a visit, just to see how pretty it looks at night.
Make feline friends at Budapest Cat Café
Being the ultimate crazy cat lady, I couldn’t spend three days in Budapest without a visit to its famous cat café. Situated beside St. Stephen’s Basilica in the city centre, the café is home to around 15-20 cats of a variety of breeds. Each cat has its own temperament – some will happily approach you so that you can pet them – whereas others prefer to chill in a cardboard box, and will have no problem attempting to scratch you if you disturb them. Nevertheless, if you’re a cat person and you enjoy a good latte, it’s definitely a great spot to visit.
Bonding with the cafe’s residents
So, there you have it – a selection of weird and wonderful things to do on a short break to Budapest. Have you visited the Hungarian capital and have some more bizarre suggestions of things to see and do? Pop them in the comments below.