It’s easy to fall in love with Budapest. This Hungarian city feels like a layered onion with much to discover around every corner, from amazing architecture and history to rich food and magnificent coffeehouses, to top-notch bathhouses, parks, and museums. It’s a powerhouse of grand experiences. Here are our top tips to help you plan your next trip to Budapest.

Be transported to another era at the Anantara New York Budapest Hotel, home of the most beautiful café in the world

A big thank you to Anantara New York Palace Budapest Hotel for hosting our stay so we could provide this detailed review.

Feel like royalty upon arriving at this Belle Époque palace, as the opulent building, constructed in 1894, began its life as the European headquarters for the New York Life Insurance Company. Designed by a famous Austro-Hungarian architect, who drew on Italian Renaissance, Baroque, Gothic, and Art Nouveau influences, this gilded masterpiece – now the Anantara New York Palace Budapest Hotel – is something out of a fairytale. Inside the hotel lobby, a soaring light-filled rectangular glass ceiling frames the clouds above as guests relax over bites and sips in various cozy seating arrangements amongst trees. Just off the lobby is the heartbeat of the hotel, The New York Café, deemed the most beautiful café in the world.

Preserving the authentic Belle Epoque décor, guests are brought back to the grand atmosphere of the coffee houses of the Habsburg Empire. Always buzzing even today, visitors come from all over the world to admire the marble façades, meticulous carvings, crystal chandeliers, soaring hand-painted ceilings, and ornate clock archway. Here in the world-famous New York Café, enjoy freshly brewed coffee and pastries just like the city’s poets and artists did for over a century.

It’s easy to imagine how this place was the inspirational hub for Hungary’s cultural and intellectual elite. Doctors, artists, writers, actors, politicians, and aristocrats would pop in for a cup of coffee on Sunday afternoons. Cafes at the time were an important part of meeting and networking for anyone in a position of influence or for artists (who were the celebs of the day). Here at the NY Café, people swapped stories and shared information. They sat and read the newspapers and discussed the news daily. However, when this period ended, the café adapted to various uses during the First and Second World Wars. It wasn’t until 2006 that the New York Café splendor was restored as part of the New York Palace and the Anantara hotel brand took it over in 2022.

Today, experience a similar ambiance with coffee cups rattling and evening drinks clinking amid the hum of Hungarian folk music and instrumental performances. It’s easy to be swept up in this luxurious setting. Rest weary traveling legs with an afternoon hot chocolate or a fanciful coffee brought out in china on a mirrored tray and stay for lunch to try their incredible traditional Hungarian goulash soup.

A stay here is unforgettable, as the elegant and grand rooms with high ceilings are accented with Italian furnishings, antiques, and hand-made custom-designed pieces that epitomize refined living. A walk-in closet, a bathroom layered with numerous marbles, and massive floor-to-ceiling windows with luxe curtains make guests feel like they are living in another era.

Delight in waking up each morning to an immense breakfast spread served in the ornate café, including local specialties. Ask to be seated upstairs for more privacy above the din of the gilded glamour. To rejuvenate after a long trip, there’s no need to go far, as Anantara’s hotel spa, designed like an ice cave, is the perfect way to unwind by booking a relaxing massage or taking a dip in their lengthy pool.

Tour the city in a vintage Volkswagen van

One of our favorite experiences was being picked up outside the Anantara New York Palace Budapest Hotel in a 59-year-old convertible VW Samba, by a passionate local driver and expert of the city. Riding in this microbus with a panoramic roof is a fun and different way to explore vibrant Budapest and learn about the beautiful, artistic, and historic sights and the city’s secrets. Cruise by famous bridges, thermal baths, castles, renowned museums, and century-old churches before making a stop for sprawling views of the Danube. This 3 – 4 hour ride can also be tailored to include extras like a picnic basket at a park or a visit to the Hungarian Parliament Building for a nearby Chefs Table experience.

Book 48 hours in advance with a stay at Anantara New York Palace Budapest Hotel for a maximum of 6 people. Learn more here.

Discover “ruin” bars and restaurants in the Jewish Quarter

Our favorite place to explore was the Jewish quarter, because any time of day was intriguing – especially observing daily life – with dog parks, cool cafes, a sea of shawarma, doner kebab, and art murals painted on buildings. One of the largest synagogues in the world can be found in the Jewish Quarter along with the Heroes’ Temple, a graveyard, the Jewish Museum, and the Emanuel Tree, a weeping willow memorial with the names of 30,000 Hungarian Holocaust victims inscribed in the tree’s metal leaves.

This area was just revitalized in the 2000s. For a festive night out in what feels like ‘real hipster land’, grab a beer (like a Budapest cherry) or cocktail in one of many makeshift bars – bumpin’ at night with music, young souls, graffiti-laden walls, hanging plants, disco balls, and other spirited upcycled décor. Don’t miss Szimpla Kert, one of the original ruin bars or another favorite find, Mazel Tov, where you can sit in the popular open garden space and devour Middle Eastern food like chicken thigh shawarma and hummus while sipping on a frozen espresso martini.

For the most stunning sunset views, scale up to The Duchess

The best way to see the city is from above. Besides being enamored of the views from Buda Castle or climbing atop the new Ethnography Museum building that rises out of the land like a soaring ship but with gardens on top, the rooftop cocktail perch at The Duchess is a sunset must.

Located atop the luxe Matild Palace Budapest Hotel on the Pest side overlooking the Danube, clink to your good fortune atop this rooftop bar while the sunset hues melt over the city and the Baroque, Neoclassical, and Art Nouveau buildings gleam brightly. Make reservations in advance or if you are lucky like us, score the perfect table on their terrace early. There is only room for about 6 groups in this prime seating with high tops and lounge couches. Two cocktails with tip were less than $20.

Try a fine dining experience in one of the many luxe hotels

We were surprised to stumble across many chic cosmopolitan hotels. Design lovers will want to check out the lobbies and restaurant options at the Four Seasons, Aria Hotel, the Kempinski, and the new W Hotel. However, our favorite dining experience was at the new White Salon Restaurant, located in the Anantara New York Palace Budapest Hotel, where Hungarian dishes are introduced in an elevated way. Sample decadent rich bites like duck liver with milk loaf, Mangalica pork chop, and Hungarian Korhely fish soup with paprika and local spices paired with Hungarian wines selected from their wine cellar. Many dishes are finalized tableside for an added ooh la la effect. Ask to be seated on the cozy balcony overlooking the famous New York Café, with stringed instruments or a piano adding to the ambiance. You might just feel like you’re playing a part in a movie surrounded by old-world glamour.

Start or end a grand dining affair at the hotel’s 100-year-old Poet Bar, once the rendezvous of preeminent writers and journalists – featuring locally-inspired cocktails like Budapest Mike with apricot palinka, whiskey, egg, orange, and honey water; or sip straight Palinka, the nation’s signature brandy distilled from fruit like plum or peach, thought to extend health (or maybe just kill germs).

Exciting gastronomy experiences can be found at the luxe Corinthia Hotel, with two amazing restaurants – Caviar and Bull and Uncensored. Caviar and Bull offers two 7+ course tasting menus focusing on meat or seafood, as well as a la carte options. The seafood menu wows with many molecular surprises and showcases Chef Marvin Gauci’s Signature Lobster Popcorn with chili, ginger, spicy mayo, garlic oil, and black sesame seeds. Each mini dish arrives like a piece of art with colored edible dots, jellies, foams, and smokes as courses of veal, seared tuna, cured Norwegian salmon, black Angus Tartare, and Norwegian oyster are concocted into sinful new exciting flavor profiles. Try local fare like Mangalica pork stew and rainbow trout paprikash served with dill paprika sauce and Hungarian gnocchi.

For an over-the-top experience, reservations-only Uncensored feels like something you might find in Las Vegas or Los Angeles, as guests are escorted to enter the exclusive restaurant-within-a-restaurant through a secret closet. Floor-to-ceiling surround-sound audio and visual immersions are paired with each course, transporting guests all over the world through sight and sound. Twenty guests are treated to a six-course gastronomic adventure with cuisines from Japan, America, China, Spain, Brazil, and more – almost like being catapulted out of Budapest. The 360-degree 3D video mapping animation on the walls continues between each dish, taking diners on a global ride that might even include space.

Visit the House of Terror Museum for a lesson in 20th-century history

Located in a Neo-Renaissance building on Andrassy Boulevard, a beautiful tree-lined thoroughfare with lavish residences and stately apartment buildings connecting downtown Budapest to Heroes’ Square, the House of Terror was witness to two shameful and tragic periods in Hungary’s 20th-century history. In 1944, this so-called “House of Loyalty” was the headquarters of the Hungarian Nazis, and subsequently, between 1945 and 1956, two communist terror organizations took up residency. During the Second World War, following the Nazis’ rise to power, the Hungarian government forced Jewish citizens to wear the “Yellow Star” and the round-up of Jews in the countryside began, followed by their deportation to German death camps.

The museum provides an interactive look at the past – memorializing the victims who were detained, interrogated, tortured, or killed within these walls – and also serves as a memento reminding us of the dreadful acts of terrorist dictatorships and how the sacrifices brought in the name of freedom are never futile. Spend a few hours here to understand Hungary’s past. Pay respects with a candle lighting throughout the day at the Heroes’ Wall in front of the museum.

Walk through one of the most beautiful urban parks in the world

 The City Park or Városliget is the capital’s most famous and iconic open green space that includes several cultural and historical institutions such as the Municipal Zoological and Botanical Garden, the Széchenyi Baths, and the Museum of Fine Arts. Situated behind Heroes’ Square (one of Hungary’s World Heritage Sites), the park is huge – covering an area of 302 acres. As we walked alongside a running path made with a special soft turf surface, a skate park, and volleyball and basketball courts, we couldn’t believe how beautiful, quiet, and clean this public setting was in the city. We passed by numerous beautifully designed children’s playgrounds for various ages – with play equipment integrating learning, discovery, and knowledge of the natural environment, like sand and water play where replica fossils can be excavated, a place to create sounds, and stations for children to record speed or distance measurements. There are even options like a boulder wall, a skateboard course, and areas for rollerblading and tricycles.

We came across a stunning modern gold architectural masterpiece with a curvy roof structure of varying depths, pierced with 100 crater-like holes, apparently inspired by the varying form of sound waves. This new House of Music Museum is integrated with the surrounding trees, allowing light to filter down to the bottom level. Nearby we ogled a massive man-made lake hugged by a palace where boats can be rented in summer. In winter, the lake becomes an ice-skating rink and is the largest artificial ice surface in Europe.

We stumbled upon many open-air markets on the weekend, selling local goods like paprika and affordable local bites – all near the enchanting Vajdahunyad Castle, with soaring ivy-covered towers and gatehouses, where we admired a red and white hot-air balloon rise in the sky (while anchored to the ground) as its basket accommodates 30 people who wish to enjoy the stunning panorama of the park and city from 150 meters high. The Varosliget Balloon is meant to evoke Szinyei Merse’s iconic painting and perhaps will become Budapest’s latest emblem.

Drink wine in Buda Castle with the locals

We happened to be in Budapest in September for the Budapest Wine Festival, which typically takes place around September 12-15. Buy a day pass to experience the scenic hilltop Buda Castle in all its glory as the grounds and courtyards are filled with stands and locals enjoying themselves over award-winning Hungarian and international wines, champagnes, and Hungarian bites.

Come in the evening before sunset preferably on a weekday and wear comfortable shoes to sip wines. Check out numerous other events offered in Buda Castle to mingle with the friendly local citizens, at

Soak in the thermal baths

You can’t come to Budapest without trying at least one of the famous bathing complexes. Just remember to bring your own towel and wear flip-flops as neither are provided. Make sure to reserve a locker to store your belongings. Then get ready to soak in the Budapest bathhouse culture.

Hop in and out of indoor and outdoor thermal baths at Gellert Hotel with its Neo-Classical swimming pool and maze of medicinal waters at various temperatures. It’s easy to get lost in the massive, ornate complex. Or try the therapeutic waters at Szechenyi Baths, one of the oldest and most famous bathing facilities. For a more relaxing experience, visit the Rudas Baths with a rooftop pool and specially designated days for men, women, or everyone. Book your bath experience ahead online and arrive when they open as these indoor/outdoor social pools become crowded and are not super peaceful with bodies of all shapes and sizes trying to gain space.

Cruise the Danube at night

Take an evening river cruise on a small riverboat along the Danube like this romantic excursion with drinks and dinner to admire the city sparkle at night, especially the Chain Bridge, Elizabeth Bridge, Margaret Island, and the magnificent Hungarian Parliament Building that looks better from the water with all its golden glow magic. Consider launching from Budapest with a week-long river cruise – like this one on AmaWaterways – that transits through old-world Europe (Slovakia, Austria, Germany) all the way to Vilshofen, Germany.

Reflect on the banks of the Danube at the Shoes Memorial

The Shoes Memorial, erected in 2005, remembers the 6,000 Jews who were shot and thrown into the river by fascist Hungarian militia after being told to get out of their shoes on the banks of the Danube, so their bodies were carried away. During the Second World War, the shoes were considered valuable and could be stolen and resold by the militia after the massacre.

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