I absolutely love Budapest. I visited the Hungarian capital for the first time on my birthday last year and had a fabulous time. Here are some recommendations on how to spend a day in the city.
First of all, book a tour of the Hungarian Parliament. I recommend checking whether Parliament is open for tours (it is not open during official state visits and also closes occasionally for maintenance) and purchasing your tickets in advance here. It is a popular tourist attraction so queues at the ticket office are likely. Tours run several times a day in a number of languages, including Hungarian, English, French, German and Spanish. Tickets cost HUF 2400 for EU citizens (correct as of 1st April 2017). If you book online, you need to print your tickets and turn up about 10 minutes early to get through security. It’s not worth getting there much earlier than that as they are strict and won’t let you through the barriers. The 45-minute whistle-stop tour takes you through the top floor of the lavish building, and you can even get a glimpse of the Holy Crown of Hungary. But be warned: the armed guards do not like it if you get too close – and don’t even try to get a picture!
After this, you may feel the need to rest your feet and drink a good coffee. Head to Párizsi Nagyáruház in the Alexandra Bookstore on Andrássy ut. This beautiful Art Nouveau building is spectacular and the coffee and cake is pretty good, too!
Alternatively (or even in addition), Budapest has more hot springs than any other capital city in the world, so it is the perfect place for a trip to the spa. I stayed in the Danubius Health Spa Resort Margitsziget, which has an excellent spa area with pools fed with water from the city’s hot springs in addition to a sauna (separated by gender – not something you find every day – but I was thrilled by this!), a steam room and plunge pool. The massages are also very good and reasonably priced.
Otherwise, Széchenyi and Gellért seem to be the most popular spas. Both feature indoor and outdoor pools, saunas and steam rooms. The prices vary depending on which day of the week you visit and whether you want a locker, but all information is available on the respective websites.
In the evening, head to one of Budapest’s infamous ruin bars for a great atmosphere and dirt-cheap drinks. These establishments are housed in run-down buildings across the city that would otherwise have been left to decay. We went to Szimpla kert, which also plays host to live music, a farmer’s market and many other events. I highly recommend it, but watch out in the toilets. I either went into the wrong one, or they’re unisex. And they don’t smell very nice, either!