April is a wonderful time to visit Budapest. The city was warm, friendly and inviting – full of spring blooms, sunshine and good coffee. The warmth wasn’t just from the lovely spring weather, it was the city was welcoming us with open arms. We felt so at home, and it was an incredibly easy and rewarding city to spend time in. Here’s my list of nice things to do in Budapest…
An apartment in the heart of the city
We stayed in Pest, which is full of beautiful old light-filled apartment blocks with huge windows, balconies and stone staircases. We chose an apartment in the heart of the city, near the Danube. It was the perfect base to explore on foot, and within easy reach of the river and the beautiful Budapest castle district. This was a relatively expensive area to stay, but you can easily find more for your money if you go a little further out.
Getting around is very simple
Budapest has absolutely amazing public transport. I’ve never been in such a well-connected city! If you have kids, they will love hopping on and off the yellow trams, the metro and the old trolley buses. Nothing in the city ever felt very far away, and we rarely had to wait for longer than five minutes for a bus or tram to arrive. We bought 72-hour travel passes, but you could also choose the Budapest Card which covers public transport, plus lots of museums and activities.
Climb up to the Citadel
We crossed the Szabadság Bridge across the Danube and climbed Gellért Hill. The walk up is hard, but beautiful. As we climbed, the scent of flowering lilac and other spring blooms was heavenly.
Halfway up, we discovered a fabulous children’s park with enormous slides, which was very popular with our boys.
At the top you’ll find the Freedom monument, and beyond it the old citadel. The views down into the city are breathtaking.
Visit the Castle District
Also up in the hills is Budapest’s Castle District where you’ll find the famous Fisherman’s Bastion. It’s like something out of a fairytale, with crenelated walls and little turrets. You have to pay to walk along these walls, but it’s well worth it.
There’s lots more to see up here, like the Matyás church with its gleaming tiled roof, plus plenty of cafés, bars and places to stop for ice cream. We caught a bus up here, but you could also use the famous Buda Castle Funicular railway. Be warned though, this was unexpectedly closed during our visit in April, which was rather disappointing.
Wander the bustling food market
Budapest’s enormous indoor market was a five minute walk from our apartment. We loved wandering the stalls and bought gorgeous tomatoes, sausage, fresh paprika and bread – a blissful combination. The stall holders are friendly, even if you don’t speak Hungarian.
As well as food, there are also pretty craft stalls which are perfect for a little souvenir hunting. Outside the market, my son was also able to finally fulfil his ambition to eat a chimney cake. It was delicious.
Coffee, cake, waffles and more
Hungarians make good coffee, and I drank a lot of it. I enjoyed sitting in one of the grand old art-nouveau coffee houses eating a sticky poppyseed cake – but also loved the less traditional coffee houses, which are all achingly hip and serve delicious coffee and food. We loved Fekete, a cool little cafe tucked into a quiet courtyard that did amazing breakfasts. Waffles were also enormously popular with my children, who visited the charming Ahoy! Café on more than one occasion for sickly, but delicious, concoctions. For traditional Hungarian food, we loved the Retek Bisztro.
Pretty parks and gardens
Budapest is full of parks and green spaces. My favourite was the Károlyi Kért, which was very close to our apartment. It’s full of pretty flowers and amazing kids’ play equipment. Everyone is super friendly – lots of people speak English and we met families from all over the world. While our children explored the park, we enjoyed a beer at the café on the corner.
Expect the unexpected
Budapest has a really quirky off-beat charm that’s easy to love. For every grand building, or pretty park, there’s also something completely unexpected to do too. Top of our list was the Pinball Museum, hidden down in a dark basement. Great fun, and very, very popular with my children. And then there’s the fabulous indoor Tropicarium in a shopping centre on the outskirts of the city. We weren’t expecting much, but it completely surpassed our expectations with sharks, exotic fish and much more. A great place for a rainy day.
If you’re thinking of going to Budapest, here’s the lowdown:
We flew… from Stansted with Ryanair.
We stayed… at Ella’s Rooms for four nights
What’s the language like… it’s easy to get by as lots of people speak excellent English.
Favourite restaurant… Retek Bisztro. This tiny and charming bistro served the most delicious Hunagarian food which we all enjoyed.
Best place for coffee… Fekete. Also great for breakfast.
What we didn’t do… Disappointingly we didn’t get to go on the chairlift in the Budapest Hills. We caught the bus out there to find it unexpectedly shut with no explanation! The famous Funicular railway was also shut during our visit, even though it was supposed to be open according to the website.