Located on the banks of the Danube River is Hungary's captivating capital, Budapest. The city, which enjoys a rich cultural heritage, has been occupied by both the Ottoman and Hungarian empires over the centuries. Each period of its colourful history has left its mark on the city, and today, Budapest is a mosaic of tradition and modernity.
A flight and hotel in Budapest let you explore the best of the city, including the majestic parliament building, charming ruin bars and thermal baths. Budapest is split into two primary districts – Buda and Pest. Buda, located east of the Danube, is home to most of the city's bars, restaurants and attractions. Pest, to the west, is home to an imposing castle that looks out over the city.
What you need to know before you travel
Flights from London or Manchester to Budapest arrive at Ferenc Liszt International Airport, which is connected to the city by bus and Metro Line 3. Taxis are readily available outside the airport terminals, and there is also a semi-private shuttle service that will take you to the centre of town.
Those with a UK passport flying to Budapest can enjoy city breaks visa-free. Many other nationalities can also enter the country without a visa, but it's always advisable to check with your local embassy before you travel. The Hungarian forint is the local currency, and Budapest is one hour ahead of the United Kingdom. Budapest is served by an excellent, cheap and efficient public transportation system and most major sights can be reached using the metro on your weekend in Budapest.
When is the best time to visit Budapest?
Package holidays in Budapest are considered to be at their best from March to May and in September and October. During these periods, the city is less crowded. However, Budapest has a largely mild climate, and the glorious summer sunshine or charming winter snow shouldn't prevent visitors from exploring the city.
What to do in Budapest
The National Gallery, located inside the Royal Palace, exhibits a fantastic collection of Baroque and Renaissance paintings by Hungarian and European artists, as well as a modest collection of contemporary art. Budapest is known for its opulent thermal baths, where you can spend the day relaxing in outdoor pools, sweating it out in the steam and enjoying a glass of wine in wonderfully decadent surroundings. Gellert and Szechenyi are two of the most popular baths. Most are open until around 10 PM, so you can visit during the day or spend the evening there.
The city's many tours are an informative way to explore the area and learn about its history. Margaret Island, a beautiful green space between Buda and Pest, is a delightful place to spend a spring afternoon. The Central Market Hall sells a range of Hungarian food, souvenirs and trinkets, and is a great spot for watching the local life of Budapest.
The Hungarian State Opera House
The Ethnographic Museum
St. Stephen's (István) Basilica
What places should you visit in Budapest?
Many of the most notable attractions to see when you opt for a flight and hotel in Budapest are located on the banks of the Danube River. The city's historic parliament building, the largest in Europe, is home to numerous artworks and the country's crown jewels. Booking an organised tour in advance is required.
The Royal Palace, a large complex of structures, sits on the western side of the river, in Pest. While access to the palace is free, specific exhibits are only accessible with a purchased ticket. Budapest is one of Europe's cultural capitals, and tickets to theatrical performances, concerts, ballets and operas can be found at low prices – just call the venue's box office and do some research online. Other highlights of Budapest include:
What should you eat in Budapest?
Budapest has a range of international dining options to suit all tastes. For those who want to sample the local cuisine, there are plenty of hearty dishes to delve into. Goulash, known locally as gulyás, is normally made with beef and is often served as a main dish and sometimes as a starter. Another favourite is pörkölt, a sautéed onion stew, and töltött káposzta, stuffed cabbage leaves served with sour cream – the perfect meal for package holidays in Budapest.
Hungary produces excellent beer and wine that you'll find everywhere, from high-end bars to casual pubs. Budapest's ruin bars are iconic features of its nightlife. These atmospheric establishments, primarily located in District VII, were made into leisure spaces after the Second World War. One bar will often consist of several rooms and a large outdoor courtyard where you can drink beer and enjoy snacks in truly unique surroundings.
What to bring home from Budapest
The best souvenirs to purchase on a weekend in Budapest are those with traditional flair. The country is known for its porcelain and Ajka crystal – take back anything from a single glass to a full dinner set. Although they're more popular around Easter, Hungary's traditional painted eggs make a lovely gift for young children or as a piece of memorabilia from your trip any time of the year.
If you enjoyed the tipple while on city breaks in Budapest, why not take home a bottle of pálinka? This fruity brandy, distilled from plums, is produced in Hungary and can be bought either in single bottles or as a gift set at the airport.