Secret spots to visit in Hungary’s bustling capital city.
Full of baroque architecture, heartwarming Christmas markets, stunning churches, delicious food, and elaborate castles, the Hungarian capital did not disappoint when it came to captivating scenery and a sense of history.
Famous attractions including the view from Gellert Hill, the walk across the Chain Bridge, the vast grandeur of Heroes Square, and the unparalleled sight of the glowing Parliament Building all turned out to be just as rewarding as photographs suggest, and despite the bitterly cold weather, I felt infatuated with Budapest’s beauty.
(For an in-depth budget travel guide for the touristy things to do in Budapest, check out Traveler’s Guide To Budapest, Hungary)
Aside from the charm of Budapest’s major landmarks, the unexpected experiences I with my two friends from school were the best part of the trip.
For example, we booked a trip to the massive Szechenyi Bath due to its reputation as a must-see tourist destination, but it was the spontaneous visit to the smaller, less popular Rudas Thermal Bath that truly amazed us. One thing I’ve learned in my travels: never turn down a bath.
On Tuesdays the Rudas Thermal Baths are exclusively for women, so we had the liberating privilege of being naked.
These baths, originally built in 1550, had a traditional atmosphere with rustic stone decor and a spacious, domed ceiling.
With one large pool in the center of the hall and four smaller pools in the corners, the baths ranged from 32 degrees Celsius to 42.
The calm warm water along with the steam rooms and saunas relaxed and revived our cold bodies after sightseeing in the rainy winter weather.
(I didn’t take any photos of Rudas Baths because I was too enveloped in the experience, but here’s the outside of the famous Szechenyi Bathhouse.)
Another hidden wonder of Budapest is Szimpla, one of the city’s many ruin bars.
Despite the dusty brick walls, dilapidated exterior and rustic piping that revealed the obvious age of the ruined building, graffiti, odd statues and figurines, and vibrant wall art brought the place to life.
The area we eventually settled into to drink our mulled wine was a small room where old televisions hung overhead and ignited the darkness with mesmerizing digital art, while cables and wires strung themselves around the room like vines.
I love the idea of turning damaged buildings from previous wars into something beautiful and functional.
The juxtaposition of the weathered building with the neon lights and modern decorations shows that every building has a place in the city and serves a purpose.
(Try a Ruin Bar pub crawl through Budapest to see all the best spots in addition to Szimpla!)
My favorite part of Budapest was definitely the Sirius Teaház.
I think the most accurate way to describe this discrete little hideaway is a cozy playhouse for tea-lovers.
Considering my undying love for tea, and my childish love for climbing things, this place was heaven.
The first section of the Teahouse is an adorable dining room full of plants and trinkets, but the real magic appears once you venture to the back of the teahouse, remove your shoes, and begin to explore the many areas of relaxation.
Soft, Persian rugs blanketed the floors and tiny tables sat surrounded by cushions.
The edges of the room held tunnels and ladders that led to secret alcoves at different elevations, the ceiling was painted a rich green with colorful flowers, and beautiful tapestries hung from the walls.
There was even a wooden wardrobe that you could enter to find a small stairway covered with a mosaic of mirrors.
After climbing around the rooms like cats and absorbing all the eccentric decorations, we ordered our drinks from the extensive menu of amazing tea selections and spent the afternoon lounging on the pillows and soaking up the zen atmosphere.
The Sirius Teaház was a heartwarming escape from the freezing city, and I’m so happy we were able to find this little oasis of bliss.
Between the thermal baths, the ruin bar, and the teahouse, my trip to Budapest truly felt like a vacation.
Most of my travels around Europe this semester have been constricted by a short time schedule and an intense urge to hit every important landmark while saving money.
Because this trip was longer and my friends are returning to the U.S. soon, we decided to slow down and treat ourselves more, which was a wonderful decision.
We were able to explore all of the city’s famous sites, and still had time to chill in the hostel making paper snowflakes with other travelers.
We meandered through endless Christmas markets, and still had time to stop and watch a local school performance where school kids sang awkward duets in Hungarian.
We enjoyed a wine-tasting cruise on the Danube, in which we were served seven full glasses of wine in an hour (not taster portions…FULL glasses) and still somehow made it home alive.
Budapest was beautiful, and the experiences I had were unforgettable.
If you’re thinking of traveling to Hungary, visit iVisa.com to see if you need a visa!
To read about more of my travel experiences around Europe, check out these articles: