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Budapest’s mix of good food, sightseeing and nightlife have made it a hot spot for visitors of all kinds, and rightly so. This traveller’s delight is a sprawling metropolis with something for everyone who stops by. But this wide array of attractions also makes it daunting for visitors. Here, we’ll take you through the city’s different neighbourhoods, so you can find the right one for you, and know where to stay in Budapest.
Hungary’s capital and largest city has a long and complicated history. The Budapest we know today didn’t actually come into being until 1873, when a radical urban transformation built bridges across the Danube, uniting the then separate cities of Buda and Pest. Today, it’s simple to traverse between the two sides, with Budapest’s large metro and bus system. Due to the sheer size of the city, it’s unlikely that you won’t have to use public transportation at some point, but based on your itinerary, you can find the best vantage point among Budapest’s 23 districts.
District 1 (I)– Várkerület
Buda is famous for its hills, including Castle Hill, home to such landmarks as Buda Castle and the Fisherman’s Bastion. Stay here to be close to this beloved neighbourhood, and for the best views across the river. This is a quieter side to the city, as the area is much more residential. It’s also a great option if you’d like to rise early or stay up late; you can catch some of the city’s most picturesque locations sans crowds. The neighbourhood is not very walk-able, and has mostly bus instead of metro connections. For accommodation, you’ll find moderately-priced Airbnbs, but many hotels and shopping options are luxury boutiques.
District 11 (XI) – Újbuda
Located north of Castle Hill, Újbuda is a great middle ground. It’s still quiet, but has a dash of Budapest’s exciting energy. Like District 1, Újbuda is largely residential, but is frequented mainly by students and younger residents, giving the area a trendy feel. You’ll find several cafés, bakeries and galleries, as well as a small nightlife scene. Sights in the area include Gellért Hill for breathtaking city views, and the Gellért Baths, to get in some Hungarian-style relaxation. There are more budget hotels in this district, so it’s great for those seeking a quiet escape without breaking the bank.
Most visitors to Budapest opt to stay on the east side of the Danube, in Pest. This side of Budapest offers more in terms of nightlife, shopping and sightseeing, and its more organized street-plan is decidedly easier to navigate.
District 5 (V) – Belváros
If you want to be at the centre of the action, District 5 is your spot. Belváros is Budapest’s downtown, home to its most famous attraction, Parliament. The district also houses St. Stephen’s Basilica, and a large stretch of riverfront. You can also stroll down Váci utca, home to high-end shopping and atmospheric cafés.
If you’re only staying in Budapest for a short time, District 5 is your best bet for getting in as much sightseeing as possible. Plus, the area is a transportation hub, with several trams, busses and trains intersecting through the neighbourhood. However, real estate here is valuable, and you’ll find the most luxurious options here, including Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton hotels, and several Michelin-starred restaurants. Another drawback is the area’s touristy vibe. Staying here, you might miss out on seeing more local life.
District 6 (VI) – Terézváros
For a cultural experience, there’s no better place than Terézváros. Just north of Downtown, District 6 has a more local atmosphere, and is one of Budapest’s most energetic neighbourhoods. Andrássy Avenue, the city’s main drag, runs straight through the district, offering access to both Budapest’s cultural institutions, and some of the city’s best shopping. Lovers of music, theatre and dance, can visit the Hungarian State Opera, the Academy of Music and “Pest Broadway”. There are also several museums, including the House of Terror, dedicated to Budapest’s struggle through fascism and communism, the East Asian Art Museum, and Heroes’ Square, home to two art museums.
The neighbourhood offers a variety of accommodation, from the high-end near Andrássy Avenue, to lower-priced options in the surrounding area. This place is best if you’d like to be close to the action, while still getting a feel for the local atmosphere. Terézváros is still within walking distance to the main sights, and connects to many transport lines.
District 7 (VII) – Erzsébetváros
District 7 is a hot spot for young budget travellers. Here, you’ll find the Jewish Quarter, and the historic Dohány Street Synagogue. Other than that, you won’t find much in the way of sightseeing, although you can still easily reach the main sights in the neighbouring Districts 5 and 6. The main draw of District 7 is its vibrant nightlife. The former Jewish Ghetto has been transformed with Budapest’s famous ruin pubs, local breweries and a variety of restaurants, both local and international. During the day, hang out in the neighbourhood’s hipster coffee shops, and gallery-walk the area’s excellent street art.
District 8 (VIII) – Józsefváros
Another good option for young or budget travelers, Józsefváros is Budapest’s latest trendy neighborhood. The area is popular with students, and is continually popping up with new bars, clubs, galleries and stores. It’s great if you enjoy nightlife, but want a calmer scene than District 7. You’ll also find some less-visited attractions, like the Kerepesi Cemetery, one of the city’s oldest, and the Hungarian National Museum, dedicated to the history of the Hungarian people. The Palace District is another draw, with several historic palaces and mansions. Accommodation is cheap, with a number of youth hostels and budget hotels. The main sights can be a long walk, but you can get downtown in under 15 minutes with bus and metro.
District 13 (XIII)
For families and those wanting more peace & quiet without breaking the bank, District 13 is an excellent base. Most tourists come here to visit Margaret Island, a 2.5km-long green space, perfect for strolling and escaping from Pest’s hectic energy. On the mainland, there are several other parks, in addition to small cafés, galleries and stores. It’s no wonder the neighbourhood is a favourite with Budapest’s artist crowd. You’ll find a range of accommodation here, with many airbnbs, and some low-to-mid-range hotels.
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Sarah is a college student and avid traveller, who’s cracked the budget travel formula and backpacked solo across 15 European countries