South-East Europe roadtrip: Stop #1 – Budapest

Night view on Danube and illuminated Hungarian Parliament Building as seen from Castle Hill, Budapest.

In 2014 we got an invite to Croatia. It wasn’t a regular “come – we’ll have some fun”, but invitation for our friends’ wedding. We couldn’t miss an opportunity to see them say “I do” to each other. So we packed all we needed and went with a car through South-East Europe – our first stop was Budapest.

We decided to take some more time off, and treat ourselves with a longer vacation. A general idea quickly shaped into a detailed plan. After analyzing all available transportation options, we decided to go with a car. Of course we felt a bit tired just thinking about 18-hour-long route from Poznan to Orebić (from where a ferry to Korčula sails), but nobody said we have to do it all at once.  And that’s how it shaped finally into a great road trip across South-East Europe.


We chose Budapest as our first stop of that trip. For a long time we planned to visit this one of the biggest European cities, that has a long and interesting history. From Roman Empire, through multinational realm of Austria-Hungary, ending with communism – all those past parts of history shaped the city as it is today. Therefore sightseeing should be well planned and performed in a timely manner, in order to see everything interesting. Sadly, we had only one evening for visiting, but the receptionist from our hostel gave us a map and marked all “must-see” places on it.  But let’s start from the beginning…

Walking downtown

Because we were driving with a car, Dawid checked for free/cheap parking spaces before the trip. Budapest is one of places, where it’s better to leave your car on the outskirts and get to downtown with public transportation. You can forget about free car parks in the city center (although we heard there’s one on Hero’s Square), and the prices for multi-level car parks are not encouraging to leave a car there for more than half a day. Already experienced during our previous road trips, we searched and found a Park&Ride car park. It was cheap and placed next to a subway station, which we used to get to the downtown.

People sitting on a pedestal of one of monuments in Budapest.
One of the monuments in Budapest

City center welcomed us with well renewed old buildings and music. In many places we’ve seen street musicians, and there was even a small stage, on which local musicians were playing concerts. We started with a stroll along alleys, walking between buildings and squares. We watched shops blend in into town old looks. We admired handcrafts sold in the market booths. We were constantly tempted with surrounding us food aromas, and finally we got lured into one of the restaurants.

Traditional Hungarian dinner

We both love goulash, but we only tasted the Polish one, so we had to compare the one we know with the original from Hungary. And we were surprised. Goulash was not as dense, as the one we used to cook in Poland, and wasn’t even spicy – to be honest it was rather not seasoned. What was wrong? Well, it turned out that we didn’t saw when the waiter put a small bowl with devilishly spicy paprika paste on our table – it’s supposed to be used to spice the dish up individually. After carefully adding the paste we tasted the goulash – it was delicious!

Sadly, the main course was not that good… “House specialty” turned out to be chicken breasts stuffed with cheese and mushrooms, deeply fried with pancake dough. Dish was so greasy, that Patrycja could hardly finish one of 3 pieces. After such heavy dinner, we turned down the idea for a strudl (twist) for a desert, which we hoped to have before we ate the main course.

Budapest at night

A view at illuminated Margaret Bridge and Danube river in Budapest.
Margaret Bridge

When we finished our dinner it was already completely dark outside – it’s our favourite time of day for sightseeing cities. We got into a tram and went to Margaret Bridge. First, we took a stroll on Margaret Island. It’s the biggest island on Danube in Budapest, and it’s probably the favorite place for citizens to take a rest. There’s a lot of sport facilities (various courts, pools), clubs, restaurants, parks and lawns perfect to have a picnic. Tourists can find some hotels and places to see – e.g. medieval ruins of monasteries and churches. When we got to the island it was already 22:00, and apart from numerous joggers, cyclists and skaters, we’ve seen a lot of people gathered around colorful, illuminated fountain. From the island we got back to Margaret Bridge stayed there for a while. From that point we could see the amazing view at illuminated promenades along Danube and characteristic places of Budapest: Parliament Building, Chain Bridge and Castle Hill.

A view at illuminated walls of Fisherman's Bastion in Budapest.
Fisherman’s Bastion

Later on, we went to Castle Hill. We got off the bus two stops earlier, just to walk the sleepy alleys at night. From Jadwiga and Wladyslaw Jagiello monument we walked to Trinity Square. There we’ve seen monument of St. Stephen and Matthias Church, which was the scene of several coronations and royal weddings. From there it was just a few steps to Fisherman’s Bastion. An amazing panoramic view over the city can be seen from this neo-Romanesque terrace with seven towers, that was built over medieval walls in the early XX century. Despite we wanted to see more of Budapest, we had to finish sightseeing, because we had a long road to drive the next day. We ended our sightseeing trip there. But we planned our way back to hostel, so that it went next to the Buda Castle, Parliament Building, University and many other monuments and buildings, marked on the map as tourist attractions. But we couldn’t remember them all. At the end we made it to the hostel – tired, but happy.


Practical tips:

  • For people travelling by a car – cheapest place to leave the car (if you don’t have any alternative in the hotel or at public car park) are Park & Ride (P+R) car parks. Most often located on the outskirt of the city, next to public transportation hub (subway, tram, etc.). P+R can be found in many major European cities. Prices are affordable: in Budapest we paid 1500 HUF (5,5 USD) for a day and in Vienna 3 €. You can find the prices on the internet.
  • Public transportation in Budapest is cheap. Single ticket costs 320  HUF (1,2 USD) and allows you to use any public transport for 60 minutes (you can switch on the way). Tickets can be bought in many places (e.g. next to subway entrance, selling points or ticket machines).
  • For tourists travelling around the city, the best solution is probably the Budapest Card. The card allows for unlimited use of public transportation (there’s even a water tram cruising Danube included). It also has many discounts on various city attractions. Cost of the card is 3705 HUF (13 USD – valid for 24 hours), 7505 HUF (26 USD – 48 hours) or 9405 HUF (33 USD – 72 hours).  Example discounts are: free guided city tour (on foot), free ZOO entrance, up to 50% discount in restaurants, cafes, museums and selected shops. All discounts are listed in the brochure that comes with the card.
  • We suggest to combine sightseeing of Budapest and Bratislava together. Both cities are worth visiting, and the distance between them is less than 3 hours by train. Train ticket price starts from 18 €. We recommend visiting Bratislava, but more on this in our post South-East Europe roadtrip: Stop #7 – Bratislava.