Traveling to Budapest Alone is Great!
Traveling to Budapest alone = a great decision. If you’re a solo female traveler, you may wonder why you ought to choose Budapest, especially if you’re currently thinking about other Central European cities like Prague or Vienna. You should do all three capitals if you have time, but I realize we may not have unlimited travel days (one can wish, right?) at our disposal.
So how can I convince you to visit Budapest on your next trip to Europe? Sit back and relax! You’re in for a real wanderlusty treat.
Personally, I love Budapest. I love Budapest so, so, so much that I visited twice – in the summer and winter – and if someone offered me a ticket tomorrow, I would have no problem spending a third trip frolicking the streets of Hungary’s glorious capital city. You can easily spend two weeks or three days in Budapest, and still have an incredible time.
Ultimately Budapest is one of those rare cities that I would move to. True story, ya’ll.
Going to Budapest Alone? But Why?
What inspired this post anyway? As I was googling random places and procrastinating vacuuming my living room, I noticed a lot of solo female travelers wondered if visiting Budapest was a safe decision. As women, we always have safety at the forefront of our minds. Society has given us no other choice (unfortunately). Our instincts are sharp and ready to go.
But why Budapest? And is Budapest safe to travel alone?
On both my visits, I found Budapest not only safe, but a suitable city for solo travelers to enjoy. What do I mean by suitable? Well … Budapest has everything available for the taking. Great hostels, interesting tours, wine tastings, world class attractions, bustling nightlife (yay ruined bars), and a reasonable price tag to top it all off. It’s also a major destination and many other solo travelers are around for you to meet. I made a lot of new and wonderful friends on my own trip to Budapest.
Now let’s get into my specific guide geared toward traveling to Budapest alone!
1. Decide if you want to stay in Buda or Pest.
Budapest has plenty of accommodation to choose from. Hostels, hotels, apartments. Trust me, you’ll be fine booking the place of your choice as long as you carefully read the reviews ahead of time. You may want to reserve in advance if you’re visiting during “high season,” namely the summer months.
Meanwhile, your biggest decision will be whether or not you want to base yourself in Buda or Pest. Honestly, Buda and Pest really do have two different personalities, which I think adds to the city’s coolness. I personally would base myself in Pest, but here’s a breakdown of the two areas so you can make a decision best suited to fit your solo travel needs.
Buda: Buda is a place that is filled with historic buildings, street musicians, and cobblestone roads. Unsurprisingly, this area includes some of the most famous sights such as the Castle District, Fisherman’s Bastion, and Gellért Thermal Bath. Most tourists visit Buda during the day. At night, lights illuminate alllllll the streets, but it’s super quiet. Staying in beautiful Buda isn’t a bad idea for travelers seeking a peaceful visit.
Pest: Looking for action and fun instead? Then you must stay in Pest. The Jewish Quarter is home to cool cafes and the famous ruin bars. Additionally, I believe all of the best hostels are located on this side of the Danube River. Like I said, I feel as if solo travelers are best based in Pest, because there are more opportunities to meet other travelers and locals. Pest has many attractions, too. Examples include the Parliament Building, House of Terror, St. Stephen’s Basilica, Széchenyi Thermal Bath, and much more!
2. Validate your metro tickets at the orange machines.
Budapest is walkable, but if you want to enjoy everything in this city, then you’ll eventually have to take the metro or trolleys. I loved the metro. It’s clean, on time, and easy to navigate. If you’re used to, say, the New York City subway, then you’ll have no problems using Hungary’s public transportation system.
But a word of warning. Do not ever, ever, ever forget to validate your tickets in Budapest (or any metro in Europe). Your metro tickets need to be stamped with a date and time. If you forget and a plain clothes cop checks your ticket, you’ll have to pay a pretty nasty fine. From what I’ve heard, these cops aren’t too understanding about tourists who “don’t know” they had to validate their tickets. Be careful.
3. Avoid taxi scams.
This isn’t the most pleasant topic to discuss, but it’s still something solo travelers should be aware of on their trip to Budapest.
Unfortunately, you need to be careful about taxis in Budapest or else you could get ripped off. And your money is precious!
Now I don’t want to put all taxi drivers on blast. Like every other profession, I’m positive some taxi drivers are hard-working and honest. Still, I wouldn’t recommend hailing a taxi off the street, especially at night. Budapest is a very walkable city with a well-connected metro system so you shouldn’t take taxis everywhere to begin with. It’s not practical.
But, if you really need a taxi, say to go to the airport, then have your hostel or hotel arrange transportation for you to avoid getting ripped off. Even then, as a precaution, double check to ensure the meter is turned on for the entire journey.
4. Soak yourself in a public bath.
Mmm, who here doesn’t love soaking in a hot spa especially with the bottoms of your feet throbbing? Yes, I absolutely loved Budapest’s public baths. The hot water relaxes the muscles after a long day of sightseeing. Budapest has two popular baths: Széchenyi Thermal Bath and Gellért Thermal Bath.
Széchenyi Thermal Bath is my favorite of the two, because of the sprawling outdoor pools, including a crazy fun whirlpool. You can get different packages if you want to indulge in an all day spa extravaganza. Gellért Thermal Bath is also lovely and located inside a majestic building. You truly cannot go wrong visiting either bath.
If you’re visiting Budapest in the winter, don’t worry too much, because both Széchenyi Thermal Bath and Gellért Thermal Bath are open all year round for you to relax in. Yes, you can still soak in the outdoor bathes in the middle of the Hungarian winter. It’s fine.
5. Get wonderfully “Ruined.”
Ruin bars are all the rage in Budapest. These derelict buildings have been transformed into eclectic places to grab drinks and socialize with others. Most ruin bars are in the Jewish Quarter, which is the best neighborhood for nightlife in Budapest. If you want to party, stay here.
Szimpla Kert is the most famous ruin bar of all. It’s absolutely huge! I get lost every single time I visit. Furthermore, I looooove the crazy decorations. All the furniture is mismatched. Seriously, everything looks as if it were taken from five-hundred random yard sales, and this jarring decor only adds to the edgy ambience of the place. Quite an experience for a drink or two.
Like I said, I deeply enjoyed Szimpla Kert, but Budapest has many ruin bar options for solo travelers to explore! Be adventurous!
6. Enjoy hearty meals at a reasonable price.
If you have no dietary restrictions, you won’t go hungry in Budapest! The meats, potatoes, cheeses, beers, and cakes are guaranteed to fill up your stomach – even if you love to eat like yours truly! Here are some of my personal favorite places to eat and drink:
- Café Gerbeaud: This cafe is located in a grand high-ceiling building with a rich history. Popular with tourists, it’s worth sitting down with a coffee and cake while savoring the atmosphere of the place. You can find Café Gerbeaud on 1051 Budapest Vörösmarty tér 7-8.
- Faust Wine Cellar: Visiting this wine cellar was by far one of the most wonderful experiences that I had in the Buda Castle District. It may come as a surprise, but Hungary is well known for its delicious wines. Faust Wine Cellar, containing only 5 tables, promises an intimate experience, but this means you need to make a reservation and honor it. You can find Faust Wine Cellar at Hess András square 1-3 inside the Hotel Hilton Budapest.
- Great Market Hall: Budapest’s most famous market. Come and enjoy traditional Hungarian food and drinks of all types. The Great Market Hall is also a fun place for you to buy souvenirs for your friends and family.
- Hungarikum Bisztro: I think this was my favorite restaurant in all of Budapest. I loved the checkered tabletops and delicious langos and goulash. This place is wildly popular so you must make reservations in advance. Hungarikum Bisztro can be found at Steindl Imre u. 13.
- New York Cafe: Another famous cafe! New York Cafe is elegant. Seriously, I felt like a famous author from the 1920s stepping into the gilded building. This place gets packed, so patience is required especially when waiting for your check. Schedule some time to enjoy your coffee. Mmm, yum. New York Cafe can be found at Erzsébet krt. 9-11. Bonus! It’s open every day!
- Paprika: This restaurant has one of the coolest interiors that I have ever seen! You feel as if you’ve stepped into an old hunting lodge in the Hungarian countryside. The fish stew here is absolutely delicious, too. Paprika can be found at Dózsa György út 72.
- Pesti Disznó: This place is located not too far from the Opera House. Come here for the simple ingredients. I especially loved the salad and pork knuckle. Mmm, pork knuckle. Pesti Disznó located at Nagymező street 19.
7. Reflect and learn some dark history.
I don’t know what this says about me, but dark history fascinates me. I always feel astonished that humanity is capable of such compassion … and such evil! It’s hard to reconcile. Budapest itself has certainly experienced its share of tough times. My favorite “darker” attractions include the following three places:
- House of Terror Museum: This museum is dedicated to the victims of Hungary’s fascists and communist regimes. The exhibits take up three floors. Take your time reading through all the pamphlets. Personally, I think this attraction requires at least two hours. At least. Keep in mind that this museum is one of Budapest’s top attractions. On my winter trip, I waited in line for at least forty minutes before I was permitted to enter the building. Try to come early to avoid the wait. House of Terror Museum is located at Andrássy út 60
- Memento Park: One of the coolest open air museums ever! Many of the statues from this era are now located in Memento Park, outside the city of Budapest.
- Hospital in the Rock: This nuclear bunker is located in the Buda District. The history of this emergency hospital dates back to World War II. In the 1950s, the hospital was expanded and created to withstand chemical attacks, an ominous threat that lingered throughout the years of the Cold War. You can only visit the Hospital in the Rock on a guided tour so prepare accordingly. The Hospital in the Rock is located at Lovas út 4/c.
8. Go enjoy an opera with yourself as company.
Budapest’s State Opera House is a wonderful sight for all travelers to behold. Emperor Franz-Joseph funded the neo-Renaissance building, but he rarely attended an opera here, because he didn’t want to take the “limelight” away from the opera house located in Vienna. Needless to say, Budapest’s State Opera house is a place of historical significance. Personally, I’m very into arts and culture, so I would have no problem spending money on tickets to attend a show. If you’re at all like me, then splurge a little on a delightful evening of music and emotion. You won’t regret it!
Okay, so let’s say you’re not into opera. Haha, that’s cool. We’re all different. You still may want to check out a guided tour of the stunning building. The Budapest State Opera House is located at Andrássy Ave 22.
9. Is Budapest safe for female travellers?
Going to Budapest alone is way more enjoyable than unsafe. But, of course, it’s always smart to stay aware of your surroundings. Be careful in large crowds just in case pickpockets are lurking among the tourists.
As already stated, try not to hail taxis on the street since being overcharged is sadly common. But Budapest’s public transit system is of high quality both in cleanliness and speed. And you can always have your accommodation call a cab for you!
Otherwise solo travel in Budapest is great. Don’t feel too paranoid on your visit. Use common sense and you’re good to go, even as a woman traveling alone. The biggest danger will likely come from eating too much delicious Hungarian food.
I hope I inspired you to try traveling to Budapest alone. It really is a wondrous city. Are you ready to book your visit to Budapest? For those of you who have visited Budapest, what advice would you give solo travelers to this city?
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