Before You Dive In
Why Go? Just dripping with history, gorgeous architecture and culture, this Central European capital makes for a sophisticated backdrop to just about anything you do — and that goes triple for romantic honeymoon strolls along the Danube.
Best Ideas: Take in a hot dip for two in the historic and palatial Széchenyi Baths, followed by a night cruise on the river.
Good to Know: There are loads of Western tourists these days, despite there not being a direct flight from the U.S.
For centuries, the two independent cities of Buda and Pest battled occupation from foreign powers. Then, with the rise of the Austro-Hungarian empire in the 19th century, the cities were unified into the capital city Budapest, forming one of Eastern Europe’s greatest cities and proving to be stronger together that they were on their own. We’ll skip the part about this being a metaphor for your marriage and just tell you you’ve made the right choice for your honeymoon.
What has become one of the best cities in all of Europe to visit is still available at a moderate Eastern Europe discount. The Danube winds through Budapest’s majestic architecture and under iconic stone bridges. While it’s as picturesque as any city, the soul of Budapest lies beneath, in its thermal springs. Hungarians have been bathing in these thermal waters for centuries and it remains a favorite activity of locals and visitors — honeymooners especially.
In This Article
Travel & Getting Around in Budapest
Hungary is a member of the European Union but still uses the Hungarian forint as currency. It isn’t unusual, however, to see prices in euros, particularly in tourism. Budapest is an inexpensive city compared to Western Europe but is still expensive for Eastern Europe. Expect hotels or restaurants that are international or catered to tourists to match prices of countries on the euro, but more authentic Hungarian establishments will be more reasonable.
Budapest sees highs in the 80s in summer and lows in the 20s in winter but remains a lively city in the winter, thanks partially to the thermal baths that are open year-round.
The city is well-connected by cheap public transit, including to the airport, so you don’t need a rental car. The tourism office advertises a Budapest Card that includes public transit and entry or discounts to many tourist sites, but it isn’t cheap. Do the math on sites you’re actually planning to visit to determine if it’s worth it. The city is also very walkable, so you’ll often choose a long leisurely stroll over the metro. Trains connect Budapest easily with neighboring countries, and budget and full-service airliners connect it to the rest of Europe. There are no direct flights from the U.S. to Budapest.
Hungary as a whole is an extremely safe country, but Budapest does see its share of petty crime. Pickpockets are the main threat. Be aware in public areas near tourist attractions, especially in crowds. While you likely won’t be venturing into any of the seedy areas of the city, be careful walking at night in areas that have been recently gentrified, such as the Eighth District.
On paper, Hungarian looks about as intimidating as any foreign language using the Latin alphabet. Luckily, English is spoken by anyone in tourism and even by most residents.
Pros and Cons of a Budapest Honeymoon
There is much more to love than not to love about Budapest. The cons can be easily handled with proper planning.
- It’s more reasonable than most of Western Europe
- Extensive, cheap, reliable public transit
- Well-connected to the rest of Europe
- An abundance of thermal baths and spas
- It’s a beautiful city for walking
- Worthy of a visit all four seasons
- English is widely spoken
- Newer establishments are priced on par with Western Europe
- There’s plenty of homelessness and some dodgy areas
- No direct flights from the U.S.
- No longer an undiscovered gem (read: there are lots of tourists)
Best Budapest Honeymoon Neighborhoods
The two main sections of Budapest are Buda and Pest, split by the Danube River. Buda to the west has more hills and parks, while Pest to the east contains the majority of the residences and neighborhoods. The city is also divided further into 23 districts. Let’s get into the ones you’ll likely be most interested in.
Castle District (District I)Budapest, Országház u. 2, 1014 Hungary
Named for the famous Buda Castle, come here for its medieval feel and grand views of the city from Fisherman’s Bastion, pictured above, and Gellért Hill. (Photo by @professionaltraveler)
Belváros-Lipótváros (District V)Budapest, District V., Hungary
This area contains most of downtown with all the sites, restaurants, bars, tourists, and souvenir shops you’d expect to find in a downtown area. (Photo by @antonela_cho)
District VIBudapest, District VI., Hungary
A bit of a mesh of its neighboring districts, the Sixth District has the downtown look of the Fifth but a tad of the grittiness of the Seventh. Most of the action happens along legendary Andrássy Avenue. (Photo by @gulyascsaba)
Erzsébetváros (District VII)Budapest, Erzsébetváros, Hungary
The Jewish Quarter has become the hub for nightlife in Budapest. Many of these spots have embraced the neighborhood’s peculiar, grungy charm. (Photo by @marta.wetzl)
Józsefváros (District VIII)Budapest, Józsefváros, Hungary
Gentrification has recently hit this former red-light district, so this is your best bet for trendy cafés and boutique hotels. (Photo by @bkkbudapest)
Best Attractions and Activities in Budapest
The romance of Budapest begins with dazzling architecture and runs deep through the city to therapeutic thermal waters below. You’re invited to bask in all of it.
Széchenyi Thermal BathsBudapest, Állatkerti krt. 9-11, 1146 Hungary
The granddaddy of Hungarian baths, this massive bath palace is on every Budapest itinerary. But with 21 indoor and outdoor pools, even a packed day here doesn’t feel overcrowded. The atmosphere is chill, letting you and your lady relax in a pool or sweat in a sauna without minding the others there, too. Treat her to a massage service, but book those in advance. And if you don’t want to be split into separate locker rooms, also book a cabin. An early-morning visit will be less crowded, but witnessing the baths turn from day to night is downright romantic. They are open 365 days a year.
A relatively recent addition to the Budapest nightlife scene, “sparties” see many baths turn into the ultimate club venue on Saturday nights, mostly in the summer. Even if you two have put the party life behind you, a sparty at Széchenyi is worth coming out of retirement for. (Photo courtesy of Széchenyi Baths)
Buda HillsNagykovácsi, Buda Hills, 2094 Hungary
On the west side of the Danube, these hills contain some of the most famous tourist attractions and provide great views of the others across the river. Castle Hill and Gellért Hill are where you’ll want to focus. There’s even a funicular if you’re not feeling the hike.
At the top of Gellért Hill, the Citadel is the best spot to let your wife lay her head on your shoulder as you watch the sun set. Over on Castle Hill, Fisherman’s Bastion is the complete package when it comes to tourist sites. The imposing 19th-century fortress impresses from the outside, is a marvel to walk through, and provides some of the best views of the city.
Beneath Castle Hill lies an extensive, centuries-old underground maze that has been used as a shelter, a prison, a hospital, and today as an attraction called the Labyrinth. For the full ominous effect, take the 6 p.m. Oil Lamp Tour in which you explore the eerie caves lit only by your oil lamps. (Photo by @frau.reiselustig)
Chain BridgeBudapest, Széchenyi Lánchíd, 1051 Hungary
A hand-in-hand stroll across Chain Bridge is a must for couples visiting Budapest. This stone bridge was the first to connect Buda and Pest and easily remains the most famous and photogenic. Once across, continue along the Danube and soak in views of the city — the Parliament Building looks especially dignified at night. (Photo by @samueltcook)
Gellért Thermal BathsBudapest, Kelenhegyi út 4, 1118 Hungary
While Széchenyi gets most of the attention, Budapest has 10 public baths to choose from. Gellért Bath is the best choice for honeymooners, with its colorful mosaics and Roman columns. You can also book a private bath that includes a fruit bowl and a bottle of sparkling wine. (Photo by @hollister1269)
Margaret IslandBudapest, Margaret Island, 1138 Hungary
In the middle of the Danube River, Margaret Island can make you forget you’re in a big city or even on an island. Wooded paths connect fountains, a rose garden, ruins, a zoo, Hungarian baths, a beautiful water tower, and an open-air cinema and theater. Rent bikes or a couple of the funky looking go-karts to cruise the island. (Photo by @rominagalletti)
Great Market Hall (aka Central Market Hall)Budapest, Vámház krt. 1-3, 1093 Hungary
Pick up your produce and meats here if you’re staying in a rental or join a tasting tour to learn about Hungarian cuisine. The market is hugely popular with locals and tourists alike. Pick up some souvenirs — especially Hungarian paprika for your mothers’ kitchens. Saturdays are liveliest with live entertainment, but in traditional fashion it’s closed on Sundays. (Photo by @derrickflc)
Caving Under BudapestBudapest, Szépvölgyi út 162, 1025 Hungary
Add some adventure to your honeymoon and join this adrenaline tour through the natural Palvolgyi cave beneath the city. Just know that this isn’t for even the mildly claustrophobic — you’ll climb up narrow passages and squeeze through tiny openings lit only from the light of your headlamp. Guides are well-trained, and the three-hour tour is completely safe, but that doesn’t make it any less exhilarating. (Photo by @juscodeler)
Lake BalatonLake Balaton, Hungary
For an escape from the bustle of the city, take a two-hour train ride from Budapest to Central Europe’s biggest lake. Bypass the resort towns and visit the peninsular medieval village of Tihany. Grab ice cream and stroll the cobblestone streets before settling down lakeside for a swim. (Photo by @rebeka_s93)
Best Hotels, Resorts, and Airbnbs in Budapest
In line with the Hungarian love of thermal waters, spas aren’t reserved exclusively for luxury hotels. Budapest is a city of reasonable hotels with reasonable spa treatments. If you’re staying in a boutique hotel or an Airbnb, you can book spa treatments at one of the many city baths. Bottom line: This is your honeymoon. You should be spending ample time in a spa.
New York Palace BudapestBudapest, Erzsébet krt. 9, 1073 Hungary
This Renaissance-inspired masterpiece is as elegant as you’ll find at a reasonable price. Don’t miss breakfast in the world-famous New York Café, which is a mandatory visit even if you aren’t staying at the hotel. Rooms start at $150 per night in winter and $250 in summer. (Photo of New York Palace Budapest courtesy of Marriott Hotels)
Corinthia BudapestBudapest, Erzsébet krt. 43-49, 1073 Hungary
If you can’t handle coming all the way to Hungary to stay at a hotel with “New York” in the name, Corinthia Budapest is on par with the New York Palace on almost every level. Corinthia gets the nod for service, pool and spa, but the New York Palace barely wins on rooms and decor. Really, though, there is no wrong choice. (Photo courtesy of Corinthia Hotels)
Hotel Moments BudapestBudapest, Andrássy út 8, 1061 Hungary
In the heart of bustling Andrássy Avenue, Hotel Moments Budapest puts you right between St. Stephen’s Basilica and the Opera House. This modern boutique hotel includes breakfast and use of the sauna from $90 in low season and $120 in high season. For $100 more, you can reserve the junior suite, which at 485 square feet in Europe has nothing junior about it. Why not call it a regular suite? That term has been reserved for the likes of the Basilica Suite. This 850-square-foot top-floor stunner has a generous living room and bedroom with bright, slanted windows and an open-air terrace where you can seemingly reach across and polish the dome of St. Stephen’s Basilica, but it’ll cost you $420 a night. (Photo courtesy of Hotel Moments Budapest)
Hotel Palazzo ZichyBudapest, Lőrinc Pap tér 2, 1088 Hungary
You can’t beat the value at this hotel in the rejuvenated Eighth District. The property isn’t a palace anymore, but the staff still treat you like royalty. Rooms start at $90 in low season and double that in high season but always include a fantastic breakfast. (Photo courtesy of Hotel Palazzo Zichy)
Hotel ClarkBudapest, Clark Ádám tér 1, 1013 Hungary
This brand-new, boutique, adults-only hotel is walking distance from many of the best sights in the First District. The basic rooms are tiny so opt for an upgraded room with a view of Chain Bridge or at least enjoy the views from the rooftop bar. Basic rooms start at $100 in winter and $200 in summer, and for 50% more room you’ll pay 50% more. (Photo courtesy of Hotel Clark)
Prestige Hotel BudapestBudapest, Vigyázó Ferenc u. 5, 1051 Hungary
From rust-colored velvet couches and the black stone floor to the open-air atrium and its dangling chandelier, this hotel ensures you’ll both be awed as soon as you enter the front door. The rooms feature bold mood lighting and audacious gold and purple trimmings that could have been designed by Prince himself. Oh, and the hotel restaurant is Costes Downtown, which has been awarded a Michelin star. You wouldn’t expect such a classy joint to be affordable, but with rooms starting at $100 in winter and $130 in summer, you can impress the lady with your style and your prudence. (Photo courtesy of Prestige Hotel Budapest)
Pest-Buda Design HotelBudapest, Fortuna u. 3, 1014 Hungary
Budapest’s first hotel has seen a few adjustments since it opened in 1696. The original revival mansion was converted into a chic 10-room boutique hotel and most recently renovated three years ago. The rooms each have their own concept — and never repeat — as if they were the passion projects of 10 design students with wildly different personalities and sensibilities.
In the heart of the Castle District and across the river from most hotels, you’ll be a block from Matthias Church and Fisherman’s Bastion. Rooms start at $80 in winter and $105 in summer — a steal for high season, but also not a secret as the hotel sells out far in advance in summer. Hiking up the hill to this place and then again up to your room — there are no elevators — will help you work off some of those honeymoon calories, like the goulash from the hotel restaurant, Grandma’s Homestyle Kitchen. (Photo courtesy of the Pest-Buda Design Hotel)
Ensana Grand Margaret Island Health Spa HotelBudapest, Zielinski Szilárd stny., 1138 Hungary
On the north end of Margaret Island, this hotel in a 19th-century building is a peaceful retreat in the dead center of the city. Rates from $70 in winter and $110 in summer include full use of the expansive spa. Has the missus ever tried an underwater massage? Now is her chance.
Rooms are a bit dated, but the balcony views are wonderful, and is easily connected to the city by the bus stop outside. If you’re looking for a more modern feel, Ensana Grand’s sister hotel Ensana Thermal shares facilities and has similar rates. (Photo of Ensana Grand Margaret Island Health Spa Hotel courtesy of Ensana Hotels)
Skyline View ApartmentBudapest, Asbóth u. 19, 1075 Hungary
There is a deep supply of perfectly adequate Airbnb rentals available for $50 a night, but this listing deserves the extra Benjamin for your honeymoon. The one-bedroom, two-bathroom, top-floor unit is meticulously kept up by gracious hosts and has a view of St. Stephen’s Basilica. But it’s the master bathroom and its Jacuzzi tub, sauna, and rainfall shower that make this place elite. You may not even want to leave the apartment. (Photo courtesy of Airbnb)
Best Honeymoon Packages in Budapest
Hotels and businesses look to capitalize on Budapest’s reputation as a honeymoon destination. Many offer packages for a fairly reasonable rate that include romantic touches like couples massages and a bottle of sparkling wine. Your honeymoon is worthy of those upgrades, so look for them when booking.
Lagenda Sightseeing CruisesBudapest, kikötő, es, Jane Haining rkp. 7, 1052 Hungary
This evening cruise on the Danube includes a welcome drink, four-course meal, and live entertainment for $73. Even with a full boat, the ambience and staff make it a romantic occasion. (Photo courtesy of Lagenda Sightseeing Cruises)
U River CruisesBudapest, Pesti alsó rkp., 1138 Hungary
If you’re eyeing a wintertime honeymoon, check out this eight-day Danube River cruise run by U by Uniworld in December (from $2,500). It begins or ends in Budapest with stops at some of Europe’s best Christmas markets, perfect for the wife who loves Christmastime. And forget the stigma that cruises are for old people — U isn’t subtle about targeting a millennial crowd. (Photo courtesy of U River Cruises)
Best Restaurants and Bars in Budapest
Traditional Hungarian cuisine is heavy. Most classic dishes are some combination of meats, cheeses, fried dough, and stew spiced with paprika. A few items to try: goulash (spicy meat stew with veggies), toltott kaposzsta (stuffed cabbage rolls), fisherman’s soup (fish soup with paprika), langos (fried dough topped with sour cream and cheese) and somloi galuska (sponge cake topped with whipped cream, raisins, walnuts, and chocolate sauce).
Halászbástya RestaurantBudapest, Szentháromság tér, 1014 Hungary
Inside Fisherman’s Bastion, this restaurant is predictably pricey, but the dining experience is well worth the price. Book in advance and secure an outdoor view of the Danube, Parliament, and much of Pest. Order the Campfire dessert. (Photo courtesy of Halászbástya Restaurant)
Caviar & BullBudapest, Erzsébet krt. 43-49, 1073 Hungary
If you’re going to splurge on one meal in Budapest, make it this. A famed Maltese chef imported this restaurant to the Corinthia Hotel, and it has become a model of fine dining in Budapest. The Contemporary Degustation Menu, for $65 per person, ensures you don’t miss any of the highlights. (Photo courtesy of Caviar & Bull)
Central CafeBudapest, Károlyi utca 9, 1053 Hungary
The New York Cafe gets all the fanfare, and with it the crowds. Central Cafe is a great alternative. Enjoy the grandiose 19th-century decor as you start your day with coffee and a pastry. Or try one of their famous lemonades. It’s open until midnight, so afternoon tea, traditional Hungarian dinner, and dessert are also options. (Photo courtesy of Central Cafe)
SzimplaBudapest, Kertész u. 48, 1073 Hungary
No bar encapsulates the Bohemian feel of the Jewish Quarter like Szimpla. Years of discriminating garage-sale shopping filled out what once a cheap experimental bar in an abandoned building and inspired a movement of “ruin bars.” It’s definitely worth seeing, and if you need to escape the crowd, you can find an antique couch to get cozy in one of the upstairs rooms. (Photo by @tioufromparis)
Gettó GulyásBudapest, Wesselényi u. 18, 1077 Hungary
Begin your night out in the Jewish Quarter with a cheap, traditional Hungarian dish from this funky cafe (reservations recommended), just steps from Szimpla. The goulash and the chicken paprikash are reliable favorites. (Photo by @gettogulyas)
High Note SkybarBudapest, Hercegprímás u. 5, 1051 Hungary
Cocktails are pricey, but you’re paying for the ambience and views at this rooftop bar. Be sure to ask for a table on the upper level, where you’re directly across from the cathedral with panoramic views of the rest of the city. Make a reservation for sunset or nighttime. (Photo courtesy of High Note SkyBar)
Old World charm and Cold War prices make this Central European city with loads of history an easy contender for a romantic honeymoon with your new spouse. Steep yourself in the culture — and the hot baths — for what will surely be a golden memory for decades.