Why consider a short break in Budapest
A short break in Budapest is an easy 5-hour flight away on Emirates. English is widely spoken there and your money goes a long way in this historic city with gorgeous architecture. It’s a very walk able city and nowhere near as crowded as nearby Prague. No visa requirements for British passport holders unlike St Petersburg which was our first choice.
Where to stay when on a short break in Budapest
We stayed at the Marriott Budapest hotel as it was reasonably priced and well located. A rate of roughly 812 Euros for 2 people for 3 nights is what we got in June 2019. We booked directly over the phone.
Our rate included breakfast and taxes. The Marriott is also a brand we’re familiar with. It’s on the Pest side of the city, definitely the side you want to stay on. It’s more lively and easy to get to most of the city from Pest.
The hotel is on the river Danube and close to the Intercontinental and the Four Seasons. Just in the same line. You have good views of the river from your room and there are also clubrooms that offer you a beautiful terrace with stunning views.
The outside of the hotel is quite boxy though and not very attractive, but you’re only sleeping there. Breakfast is very good and the whole hotel has quite a contemporary feel. There are 3 Marriott hotels in Budapest, this is the Marriott Budapest that is located on the Danube. Tell that to your taxi driver.
Getting into town from the airport
Take a taxi from the official stand at the airport and clearly tell them your hotel, also ask how roughly how much it will the cost to get there. It should be around 9000 Hungarian Forints or 27 to 30 Euros.
WARNING A note on taking taxis on your short break in Budapest
We generally had good experiences taking taxis from hotels and we always asked roughly how much the fare would be to our destination. We were unaware that simply hailing a taxi on the street could result in much higher fares as these are run by sometimes unscrupulous companies, try to avoid this, go to a hotel and order from there or walk back!
Which currency to use in Budapest
The local currency is the Hungarian forint and everything is priced in local currency. So change money early on and try to pay in forints. You’ll pay a better rate for anything you buy. Credit cards are widely accepted. There is a little exchange near the Marriott Budapest hotel that gave us 310 forints for a euro and didn’t charge commission. That’s pretty good.
Ideas for a 3 day itinerary for your short break in Budapest
The Castle Complex in Buda, allow at least 3 hours for that trip. But do see our note below on best way to do this outing
A walk down Vaci street and surrounding roads, allow at least 2 to 3 hours
The main synagogue and walk in the Jewish quarter, allow about 2 hours. See our notes below on where to eat around here
A drink and a pre dinner snack at the Parisi Udvar hotel, allow about 1.5 hours. This is a gorgeous building and has a great history
Dinner at Aszu restuarant, ideally on the pavement; we spent about 2 hours here. Great food and good wines
A trip to the Ludvig museum, it has some Picassos and lot’s of contemporary art. Walk back along Rada street
Factor in time for resting at your hotel and enjoying the steam, jacuzzi, sauna and possible pool dip. You’ll be doing lots of walking so you do need to rest a bit too. Also factor in time for taking loads of stop and stare photos, popping into churches, drinking glasses of chilled, cherry beer and hot cappuccinos.
This is how best to do the castle trip
Walk across the Chain bridge to the Buda side of the city and you’ll be met by the official Castle shuttle buggy bus service (blue and white) that offers you a circuit of 4 stops where you can get on and off as you please. Take this shuttle, it’s worth it and very convenient as there is a lot of walking involved.
When you get to the St Mathias church, the tower and Fisherman’s Bastion (stop 2), buy the combined ticket that allows you in to all the attractions. It’s only worth it IF you are going to go up the Mathias tower, beware though; it’s a very steep staircase with 200 steps. Coming down was more challenging for me than going up.
Pay in FORINTS as we have said already; if you are accompanied by school or college aged kids ask for a STUDENT PRICE for them, they rarely asked for student cards as proof. Note you do have to pay to use the toilet, in forints of course.
But the castle complex is gorgeous and well worth the trip. St Mathias church was converted to a mosque for 145 years then back to a church!
TAKE NOTE: There is a posh looking café called Felix at the end of Stop 4 of the buggy tour, we were desperate for a coffee and snack so we popped in.
It’s beautiful and food was very good and not too expensive but it was clear that they would rather we had not stopped at their establishment, at all.
Not sure why this was the case, we weren’t shabbily dressed, just a little hot from the 35 degrees walking around. Maybe you will be more warmly received!
More ideas for outings
What we didn’t do but you could try
A trip to Margaret Island
Swimming in any of the pools and spas
A trip out to a vineyard in the countryside
A visit to Parliament Building and Heroes Square
Taking a tram ride
Riding the funicular up to the Castle
If you'd like to eat and drink well in Budapest read on
For a quick, good quality, casual vegetarian meal or snack while shopping, try Fruccola just off Vaci street. Vegan options here too. Ice cream cones on the go are about 1 Euro from most stalls around here, but they don’t fill to the top, just one small scoop.
For an idling in-between meal snack break on a pretty square, try Gerloczy and order cherry beer or a lemonade with some pickles. Probably good for breakfast if your room rate doesn’t include it. Pop in to the flower shop on the corner and buy some beautiful Meraki candles and lavender to take home.
For a great cup of coffee and a cake in the Jewish quarter go to Magveto café. But wait till 12ish for the fresh cakes! Dreamy, warm, home made cherry pie with perfect pastry, very cool bookish café.
For a good lunch in the Jewish quarter with a nice vibe, try Mazel Tov, a large contemporary terrace type café/restaurant serving Middle Eastern food. Book if you can, but we just walked in.
For superlative pastries on the go and a take away coffee try the Nordic style Norma coffee shop, smells divine and Budapest’s answer to Ole and Steen! Try the cardamom and or cinnamon buns.
For a very good dinner, not expensive by Dubai standards try Aszu restaurant. You must book before hand though; I loved my trout fillet and rhubarb dessert. Try the Hungarian wine as well. Service was very good. I would go again.
For pre dinner drinks and a snack try the bruschetta at the Parisi Udvar hotel, fabulous customer service too! And they had a very helpful and knowledgeable concierge. This is a heritage hotel that is part the Hyatt Unbound collection.
GOOD TO KNOW
We wanted to go to Dobrumba restaurant for dinner but it was totally booked out, interestingly our hotel concierge had never heard of the place!
Do have a pre dinner drink at the High Note Sky bar roof top at the Aria hotel, we loved this. But you MUST BOOK before hand.
Remember it’s absolutely fine to order tap water for free at any restaurant or café in Hungary so that’s a good saving.
Less than happy f & b experiences on our short break in Budapest
Late morning coffee at the Four Seasons Gresham Palace.
Coffee and lemonade late morning at the Four Seasons should have been a relaxing, cool experience in a heritage building. But we received a why are you coming in here at all if you’re not staying here attitude and generally unfriendly and cold vibes. Amazingly good prices though! Less than Euros 3 for a good cup of coffee, but spoilt by the snotty, bad service. It wasn’t busy either.
Snack lunch at the Felix restaurant in Buda.
We’re not sure what we did to upset them, but they clearly weren’t happy for us to be at their very empty restaurant! Our food and drink was very good though, but the service and attitude left a bad taste in our mouths.
Drinks and snacks at the bar in the Marriott Budapest hotel.
We were made to feel rather silly for asking if there were crisps or peanuts at the bar that we could have along with our wine at about 5.00pm in the evening.
We moved to the next bar just a few steps along taking our drinks with us and ordered some crispy squid. Rubbery, chewy squid fried in processed breadcrumbs for almost 8 euros and very slow service. This was a shame as the views are so nice from this hotel. Do not even try to order anything off menu such as some Hungarian pickled vegetables; great with drinks, as the staff will be completely flummoxed!
Overall we thoroughly enjoyed our short break to Budapest and would highly recommend it. But don’t go there if historic buildings are not your thing and you’re not keen on walking around. Good food is available as is lovely service but don’t expect it as routine in what is a city that is geared to tourists.