Budapest is an incredible city and thankfully is still cheap compared to other European capitals. However, if you want to really enjoy Budapest on a budget there are some things you need to know. So, if you’re backpacking in Budapest or simply want a weekend in Budapest without breaking the bank, here’s my guide to Budapest on a budget!
Where to Stay in Budapest on a Budget
Did you know that Budapest used to be two different cities? Buda, on the west side of the Danube, is home to the castle district, but Pest on the east side of the river is where you’ll find the real heart of the city.
Hostels in Budapest
As the #wombatsTraveller ambassador, I stayed at the wombat’s BUDAPEST hostel, which is in a great location for exploring the Jewish Quarter and Budapest nightlife in general, and for me is the best place to stay in Budapest on a budget.
It is also close to a metro station and tram stop so it’s easy to get around the city. It is in a busy area, so I felt safe walking to and from the metro station at night, and it is just a few minutes’ walk away from the Ruin Bars.
There are dorms and private rooms available, an in-house bar and breakfast served in the morning for a few extra forints. The staff are friendly and have some great tips for exploring Budapest on a budget. The bar also has various evening events during the week, including karaoke, DJ nights and pub crawls, so you don’t even need to leave the hostel to find something to do in Budapest at night!
Alternatively, you can check out all of the hostels in Budapest here.
Cheap Hotels in Budapest
There are a lot of hotels in Budapest to choose from, but some of the best-reviewed hotels include Hotel Moments, which is next to St Stephen’s Basilica and gets excellent reviews while offering affordable rates.
For a splurge, look no further than the fabulous 5* Aria Hotel which is right in the centre and has a lovely roof terrace overlooking the basilica. Check availability at all hotels in Budapest on HotelsCombined.
Airbnb in Budapest
If you have never used Airbnb before, use this link to sign up & get up to $52 credit to use on your first trip! Read more about the Airbnb first time discount code and my full Airbnb guide or click below for your Airbnb coupon.
Getting Around Budapest on a Budget
Getting to the City Centre from Budapest Airport
The easiest way to get to Budapest from the airport is to take the bus 100E which runs from right outside the terminal and goes directly to the city centre. There are three stops in the city where you can alight (and catch the bus back to the airport), at Kalvin Ter metro stop, Astoria metro stop and Deak Ferenc ter metro stop. Tickets for this airport bus cost 900 HUF each way.
Public Transport in Budapest
Once you’re in the city, you can cover a lot of ground in Budapest on foot, but the public transport system is really cheap if you want to get further or rest your weary legs! Tickets for the metro, bus or tram cost 350 HUF from the ticket machines in the metro stations, or 450 HUF if you buy tickets directly from the bus drivers.
You can also buy a book of 10 tickets from the machines for 3000 HUF, saving you 500 HUF. Remember to stamp your ticket as soon as you board your transport!
Something to bear in mind, if you want to change metro lines you can use the same ticket, but if you want to change buses or trams, or change between different transport types, you need to use a new ticket for each leg of the journey.
What & Where to Eat in Budapest on a Budget
Eat where the locals eat, and you will save a lot of money compared to the touristy restaurants. Street food like lángos (fried flat bread topped with sour cream and cheese) is cheap and filling even if it isn’t the healthiest option, or traditional soups like goulash provide a cheap and hearty meal. Frici Papa is a good choice for low-price tasty meals.
For dessert, avoid the Kürtőskalács chimney cakes as they are overpriced, and instead seek out little bakeries like Fröhlich Kóser Cukrászda where you can try Dobos Torta, a delicious chocolate layered cake topped with crunchy caramel.
If you prefer to cook your own meals, then choosing accommodation with a kitchen means you can rustle up a tasty meal with food from the market. Although the Central Market Hall is popular with tourists there are still plenty of locals who shop here for their fresh fruit and veg, so why not join them and pick up some tasty treats while you’re there?
Free Things to do in Budapest
One of the things I love about this city is how cheap it is, and there are actually lots of things to do in Budapest for free too. I’ve chosen a few of my favourites, but if you want more then check out this post with 14 awesome free things to do in Budapest!
A Free Walking Tour
A free walking tour is a great way to get to know Budapest and to see some of the key sights without spending money. It is customary to tip the guide, so although it isn’t really free the tours are still extremely good value, and you can pick up more advice for other things to do in Budapest too.
Walk Along the Danube
The Danube is the great river which separated the old towns of Buda and Pest, now united as one beautiful city. Walking along the river will give you the best views of the Parliament Building if you cross the river over the iconic Szechenyi Chain Bridge to walk along the opposite side of the river. From there, walk up the hill to Buda Castle for more incredible views.
The Hungarian Parliament Building is the most iconic sight in Budapest and is best viewed from across the river. That said, make sure you get up close to really appreciate the size and beauty of this magnificent structure!
Buda Castle Area & Fisherman’s Bastion
The Buda Castle and Fisherman’s Bastion has the best viewpoints in the city and are gorgeous at any time of day. If you can drag yourself out of bed, they are particularly stunning for sunrise and early morning! During the day, the area is filled with people, but it is much quieter in the morning or late evening.
Budapest Street Art
There is a lot of street art in Budapest, but some of it is so small it is easily missed. In the Jewish Quarter, you’ll find colourful murals dedicated to heroes of Budapest and Hungary, from Ernő Rubik (creator of the Rubik’s Cube) to famous football players.
Elsewhere, life-size bronze statues are dotted around the city, see if you can spot Columbo and his Dog or the Little Princess. If you look harder though you might also find miniature sculptures like a Rubik’s Cube, Hungarian cartoon characters or a tank – all less than 10cm tall. Keep your eyes peeled!
Don’t miss the art installation “Shoes on the Danube Bank”, a memorial to the victims of the Arrow Cross Terror, when 3500 people, many of whom were Jewish, were rounded up and executed along the banks of the Danube. They were told to remove their shoes before being shot, their bodies falling into the river below.
Ruin Bars are what made Budapest’s nightlife so famous! The legendary Szimpla Kert was the first ruin bar and opened in one of the empty buildings in Budapest’s Jewish Quarter. Ruin Bars are special as they make use of everything unwanted or abandoned, from the buildings themselves to the furnishings and décor.
All of the ruin bars are free to go in but having a drink or two means you can sit back and soak up the atmosphere. Szimpla often has live music and other events like the Sunday morning Farmer’s Market, so you can get even more enjoyment for your money!
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Top Money-Saving Tips for Budapest
There are some things to do in Budapest that are worth paying for, but when you’re backpacking Budapest on a budget you still need to watch the pennies! These are my top three money-saving tips to help you get the best value from paid attractions in Budapest.
Spas in Budapest
Budapest is famous for its thermal spas, and there is no better way to relax after a long day’s sightseeing then soaking in the warm mineral-rich water. There are 15 public thermal baths in Budapest to choose from, the most popular ones are Széchenyi which is the largest and where they also host night-time “Spartys” in the summer, and Gellért, which has beautiful Art-Nouveau tiling.
Prices for Széchenyi start from 5,500 during the weekend, and prices go up at the weekend, and Gellert is similar. Tickets are slightly cheaper first thing in the morning from 6am and 8am and in the evening after 7pm for 5,200 HUF, but if you want the spa experience on a tighter budget, try Lukacs or Kiraly Thermal Baths.
Lukacs has prices for students starting from 2400 HUF for a morning session, or Kiraly has weekday tickets starting from 2700 HUF.
Sailing along one of the most famous rivers in the world is on most people’s Must-Do list for Budapest. A Danube river cruise is a lovely way to experience the city from the water, but a cheaper way to get a similar – if less luxurious – experience is to take one of the public transport boats along the river.
Lines D11 and D12 operate on the route from Kopaszi gát pier in the south to Rómaifürdő pier in the north and pass along the river through the historical city centre. The boats offer spectacular views of the Parliament Building, the Szechenyi Chain Bridge and all the sights along the river for just 750 HUF for a one-way ticket, a fraction of the price of regular Danube cruises.
Ask Your Accommodation for Budget Tips!
Usually, the best place to ask for budget travel tips is your accommodation. Airbnb hosts and hostel staff can give you lots more insider tips for the best things to do in Budapest on a budget. Hostels also have free events and activities to help you meet fellow travellers, from walking tours to drinking games and karaoke!
I hope you’ve enjoyed my guide for visiting Budapest on a budget! If you have any more questions or if there is anything I have missed please get in touch! You can also leave your comments below.
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