Budapest, Hungary’s capital, is a gorgeous European city that is perfect to visit any time of the year.
The healing thermal baths are a great way to soak away any stresses, aches or pains- even in the coldest months.
There are a range of hip bars and restaurants for foodies, including ‘ruin pubs’- pubs that have breathed new life into old, derelict buildings.
You can also cruise the Danube River that splits Buda and Pest in two; or explore well-preserved sites where Hungary’s history played out.
Basically- there is something for everyone in Budapest!
In February, the Haggis and I spent 3 nights and 4 days in Budapest with Jet2CityBreaks.
I think 3 nights / 4 days in Budapest is a good amount of time to experience many of the main attractions.
Obviously, longer would be better, but I’m going to show you the exact 4 day Budapest itinerary we followed that includes a mix of the must-sees and a few hidden gems.
Our trip to Budapest was gifted by Jet2CityBreaks. All opinions are my own. For more info check out my disclosure page.
A City Escape With Jet2CityBreaks
Incredible views of the Fisherman’s Bastion from our hotel window
Jet2 has a vast range of packaged holidays departing from Edinburgh and the rest of the UK. The Haggis and I love our city breaks, already ticking Prague off our bucket list during winter, so we were really excited to explore Budapest!
Our Jet2 package included flights to Budapest and accommodation. The only things we had to organise were travel insurance and our itinerary. Easy peasy.
Our flight departed Edinburgh at 8am on Thursday and our return flight was Sunday 7.45pm- so we had almost 4 full days to explore Budapest.
I was interested to learn that Jet2 is one of the top 10 airlines in the world, and was voted by TripAdvisor as the best airline in the UK in 2019. Infants under 2 years old travel free, and they also offer part payment plans on their packages. To secure your Jet2CityBreaks package you just need to pay a £60 deposit per person!
This blows my mind as when I worked as a travel agent, all packages had to be paid in full at the time of booking. Often packages were booked through several vendors too- meaning things could get mixed up easily as your booking would pass through many hands.
It’s reassuring to know that Jet2 makes it easier for people to book their holidays, and that they have better control over their product because they own the airline.
Checking in was a breeze- we checked in online the evening before so all we had to do was drop our bags at check-in the day we flew out. Our flights were on time and the flight was buzzing with activity between the friendly flight attendants and a group of women who were heading to Budapest to celebrate a hens party!
Our Jet2CityBreaks hotel was the Hilton Budapest.
Budapest is made up of two areas: Buda and Pest. The Hilton Budapest is located within the UNESCO World Heritage Castle District in Buda, the quieter area of the two.
This was my first time staying in a Hilton, and it won’t be my last. Firstly, the location has arguably the best views of Budapest. From our room [Superior Room with Danube River View] we had amazing views of the Hungarian Parliament Building and the Fisherman’s Bastion.
The amazing view of the Hungarian Parliament Building from our hotel room
We slept with the curtains open so we could wake up to the view.
It’s useful to know that all of Jet2’s packaged accommodation is located centrally, which means you’ll be super close to the main attractions each destination has to offer.
Hilton Budapest has a fascinating history. The hotel was built in and around a 13th century Dominican abbey and cloister. You can physically touch the history!
DID YOU KNOW
There are nearly six miles of tunnels and caves underneath Buda Castle Hill.
You can explore some of the tunnels if you book an underground caving adventure tour or visit the Hospital in the Rock or Gellért Hill Cave.
A few snaps of the Hilton Budapest
4 Days in Budapest Itinerary
The Hungarian Parliament Building at sunset
Day 1: Exploring Budapest on foot, New York Cafe & Szimpla Kert ruin bar
After checking into our hotel we decided to go for a walk to get our bearings.
Our hotel was located right next to Mattias Church, a gorgeous Roman Catholic church located in the Holy Trinity Square. In front of the church is Fisherman’s Bastion, one of the most photographed monuments in Budapest. There are also fantastic views of Pest from this monument.
We crossed the Danube River via the Széchenyi Chain Bridge, Budapest’s most famous bridge that connects Buda with Pest. It’s also a popular spot with Instagrammers- even in winter there were still several tourists lined up taking selfies sitting on the iconic bridge [which I do not recommend!].
Fisherman’s Bastion and the Széchenyi Chain Bridge
We decided we would walk to Pest for afternoon tea. Our chosen place was the New York Cafe which is located in the New York Palace hotel. It’s known as the most beautiful cafe in the world.
While their menu is pricey, having a meal here should be on everyone’s Budapest bucket list. It was certainly an unforgettable experience drinking wine, nibbling on sweet and savoury treats while listening to a violinist play- all in the beautiful surrounds of a palace!
New York Cafe – the ‘most beautiful cafe in the world’
On our walk to the New York Cafe we also passed the beautiful architecture of St Stephen’s Basilica and the Dohány Street Synagogue.
Soon we were feeling thirsty and I was dying to check out Budapest’s ruin bars, so we headed to the most famous one, Szimpla Kert for drinks.
Szimpla Kert was once a derelict factory that has now been transformed into an open-air cinema and pub. From its graffiti laden walls to its modest recycled tyre and bathtub seating, Szimpla Kert is an alternative delight.
It’s definitely one for quirky pub lovers- and I highly recommend checking it out when you’re in Budapest.
Szimpla Kert- one of the quirkiest, coolest pubs I’ve been to
After a few drinks we had a casual dinner at Restaurante Fuego across the street. We stopped at the rock bar, Liquid Rock, for one last drink before walking back to our hotel.
Day 2: Széchenyi Thermal Bath & trying traditional Hungarian food
We started our day with an amazing buffet breakfast at the Hilton, and the selection was massive! You could ask the on-duty chef to make you an omelette, or you could fill your plate with cereals, breads, bacon, eggs and sausages, dumplings and unlimited condiments. They also have a waffle machine so you can make your own waffles. There was even champagne- and yes, I happily accepted a glass!
The breakfast room also offers views across Budapest.
An amazing breakfast with amazing views at Hilton Budapest
After breakfast the opportunity to relax in the natural hot springs of the Széchenyi Thermal Bath was too good to pass up.
The Széchenyi Thermal Bath is the largest medicinal bath in Europe, and is supplied by two thermal springs.
You can buy your skip the line ticket here.
Relaxing in the Széchenyi Thermal Bath – it’s around 36 degrees!
Vajdahunyad Castle is located next to the thermal bath, as well as Heroes’ Square, the largest square in Budapest.
On our way back to the city centre, we hired Lime electric scooters. The scooters were fun and much faster than walking- but make sure that you ditch the scooters before you get to the city centre as this is outside the drop off zone.
We hired them for around 40 minutes and it cost £7 each.
BUDAPEST TRAVEL TIP
Budapest is a huge city, so I recommend purchasing a ticket for a Hop On Hop Off bus tour. It’s a great way to get your bearings and learn about the city, plus you’ll need transport to get to some of the must-dos in this itinerary.
You can buy your tickets online here.
After freshening up at our hotel, we went for a walk to find somewhere for dinner when we stumbled across Kacsa Étterem, a beautiful traditional Hungarian restaurant.
Every time I travel, I attempt to find a traditional restaurant where you find more locals than tourists. I understand that most big European cities are designed to get tourists through the door- but I always yearn for something a little more authentic.
If you’re looking to eat at a local Hungarian restaurant by candlelight to live music- I highly recommend dinner at Kacsa Étterem.
Kacsa Étterem has delicious food in a perfectly traditional setting
This restaurant is one of the best fine-dining restaurants in Budapest, and is known for its wide variety of traditional Hungarian dishes.
They have an great value three-course menu- which comes with four glasses each of Hungarian wine from their cellar.
Yes, you read correctly- that’s four glasses of wine each!
Day 3: Gellért Hill Cave, markets & the House of Terror
After another amazing breakfast at the Hilton Budapest, we walked to Gellért Hill Cave, a church that was formed in the series of underground tunnels within Gellért Hill.
A hermit called Saint Ivan lived in the cave and used the water from the thermal spring to heal the sick.
The best thing about Gellért Hill Cave is the price; it costs just 500 HUF!
Gellért Hill Cave – the church in the cave
Next we headed to the Central Food Market, a huge famous market across the Liberty Bridge in Pest. We bought our tacky souvenirs [a magnet for our fridge and a decoration for our Christmas tree] and tried lángos: deep-fried flat bread.
There are many varieties of lángos [including ones with sweet toppings]. We opted for traditional toppings- cheese and garlic sauce!
Trying lángos- yes we shared it!
Next we headed to a different market, the Gozsdu Weekend Market. This market is held in an historic courtyard and features antiques, art, jewelry and quirky home decor for sale from local artists.
Then we visited the House of Terror Museum, which came highly recommended by a friend who used to work as a tour guide in Budapest.
I recommend paying for the audio tour, otherwise the museum is a little confusing.
The museum was once used as the headquarters for the Nazi regime, and later used by the communists as a jail, torture and execution chamber.
The jail on the bottom floor was an emotional experience; the cells are cold and small, and it is a haunting experience to imagine what life would have been like for the prisoners who were kept there.
However haunting, I think it’s important for every tourist to visit the House of Terror to learn how the wars shaped Hungary’s future, and to ensure the horrors committed never happen again.
The museum also has touching memorials to the victims of the fascist and communist regimes.
For dinner we went to Vicky Barcelona, a tapas restaurant with excellent cocktails [I recommend the Picnic cocktail].
Afterwards we went to play UV mini golf [a must do every time I travel with the Haggis] at Neonis 3D Blacklight Minigolf.
Personally I preferred the blacklight mini golf in Prague, but this was still a fun activity to try if you’re looking for something to do at night!
Day 4: The Hospital in the Rock, Buda Castle and trying chimney cake
On our final day in Budapest, we explored the Buda Castle district in more detail.
We did a tour of the Hospital in the Rock– a secret hospital built into the caverns of the Buda Castle rock. The Hospital in the Rock was originally built as an air raid shelter for World War II, however it was soon transformed into a hospital to care for the injured.
During the Cold War, parts of the hospital were transformed into a nuclear bunker. Luckily, it was never used for this purpose.
The Hospital in the Rock museum
The tour was absolutely fascinating- and one of the highlights of our trip.
Next we decided to go for a walk through the grounds of Buda Castle. The castle was once home to the Hungarian kings.
It is now home to the National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum. There are also several festivals held in the castle throughout the year!
Before grabbing a taxi to the airport we had lunch at Arany Hordó Étterem, a casual yet affordable restaurant with a friendly, family feel.
Afterwards we went across the road to a street vendor for kürtöskalács [chimney cake]. Chimney cake is a cylinder shaped sweet treat; it’s crispy on the outside and doughy on the inside with a hollow center. It’s often rolled in sugar and comes with toppings such as nutella or chocolate.
Hot wine and chimney cake! There’s no better way to warm yourself up in Budapest during winter
So would I recommend a city break in Budapest, Hungary with Jet2CityBreaks? Definitely!
Usually I spend hours and hours researching flights, accommodation and transport, so it was a nice break to have everything taken care of so I could relax and focus on fitting as many activities in as possible.
I’m usually quite skeptical when it comes to booking package holidays. I used to work as a travel agent and I know a lot of the cheaply priced packages are often that- cheap and low quality.
But Jet2 are different; their hotels are located close to all the main attractions and sites, plus they have their own airline- meaning they have full control over their product.
If you need reassurance about booking a Jet2CityBreaks package- here it is. I would [and will] travel with them again!