First, it’s pronounced Budapesht, so get it right before you embarrass yourself.

If you want an explanation of Budapest before you tickle your fancy, it’s quite a challenge to describe. World famous locales and architecture like Szechenyi, Szimpla Kert, and St. Stephens Basilica all coincide within a few blocks and are mesmerizing, especially to those who stumble upon them unknowingly.

Modern and classic architecture meet on the same block you can grab a $2 beer at an old war bunker and gaze upon the graffiti and art of locals, while making friends from near and far. If you’re in Europe, go. If you only have 1 day, go. If you want a memorable experience floating through a dream, which you can marvel at for years to come, go.

On that note, I’ll stop blabbering and get to the list.

1. Go to the baths

Palatinus bath

Within 100 miles of the border to Hungary, you’ll hear a whispering but clear voice saying, “Did you go to a bathhouse?” If you have time for one hoorah in the city, this is it. There are several, they’re cheap, they’re beautiful. I’ve been to both Palatinus and Szechenyi and think both are fantastic.

Szechenyi is the most famous bath around, and you can see why. Finished in 1913, it boasts traditional Hungarian architecture and cries to be photographed. It is larger than Palatinus and most other bathhouses, but by far the most crowded. I would recommend coming here on weekdays, and later in the afternoon.

Szechneyi bath

With both indoor, and outdoor baths at a variety of temperatures, you’ll spend hours in the magnesium and fluoride rich water, soaking up the benefits and expelling your troubles. Tickets range from $20+, depending if you want a ~package~ I’m not quite that fancy(imagine my pinky up right now), so I passed on that and still had a great time. Remember, they charge for towels, so bring your own!

Platinus is a little more secluded on a small island, and a short walk from the metro. It is definitely more family friendly than Szechenyi and has both slides (yes, I rode them), and a wave pool. Everything is outdoors, and it’s also cheaper than Szechenyi, so it really depends on your interest and Instagram needs.

2. Go to a ruin bar

Szimpla Kert during the day

Szimpla Kert is the oldest and from a forgotten era of bunkers and wartime premonition. It’s vastly different from day to night, so pick your poison early, before you rue your decision. During the day, its peaceful, quiet, and you might find some students studying. It’s easy to grab a beer and enjoy the art.

The real party begins at night, with several security guards forming an unruly, but quick line, that may go around the block. Free entry though!

Some hijinks at Szimpla Kert

So, at night? Get ready for a shitshow any night of the week. It gets packed like sardines in there and hot as a sauna (Europeans haven’t caught on to air conditioner yet). The music blasts through speakers you can feel, and they offer different drinks throughout the unique bars and levels.

Try to stick outside, where it’s less hot, but equally cramped. Drinks here run from about $2–6, so definitely budget friendly!

Looking for something more laid back or can’t make it to Szimpla? There are dozens speckled across the city for your enjoyment and mood. You’ll probably stumble into one if you’re casually walking around.

3. Take a FREE walking tour

Yes, free. Gratis. Kostenloss. Whatever you wanna call it. There are 2 main companies that offer these tours, and I’ve taken them both like the big old history nerd I am. The first is Free Budapest Tours , which offers a 3 hour main tour, and shorter communist tour (which is a nice way of saying you’ll hear a plethora about torture).

Some sights you’ll run into on the tour

The second, Generationtours, offers the same types of tours, so choose one based on the convening location.

The main tours are longer than the communist and jewish tours, and offer overall history about Budapest, including involvement in the world wars (hint: they never picked the right side), monarchs, architecture, and even some folk legends. While the other tours are shorter, they’ll cover more in depth the rise of communism in the country, or the plight of Jewish people throughout Hungary’s history.

They go throughout the city, stop at all major landmarks, and will give you some great Jeopardy knowledge to take home to your friends along with good suggestions for cheap beer.

4. Float down the river

View from your boat along the Danube

For a small fee $12-$20 (and cheaper if bought ahead online), you can take a tour down the Danube throughout the day and into the evening. Here’s one for less than $12 With some you buy online, you don’t know what boat you’ll get onto until you’re there, exactly what I experienced.

They are all of the same size and sturdiness, and there was soft music playing in the background through my excursion. The only thing lacking in my opinion, was a tour guide.

If you have enough time, stroll along the water and look for the prices per boat, and grab a beer for your stroll. During the summer, boats leave at least every half hour into the late evening, so you’re unlikely to miss out. Winter is less frequent so plan ahead!

5. Goulash

You’re not a true traveler to Hungary if you don’t taste the goulash. I rhyme it with panache, because I like to think I have panache, but it’s really pronounced ghoulosh.

Stuffed cabbage at Napfenyes

I, as a vegan, had some amazing goulash at Napfenyes. If you’re looking for a traditional meat goulash, trip, and you’ll find one.

Pro tip: Avoid crowded streets where people are speaking English. If you’re in a touristy area, the prices will be higher and the quality lower. My friend really enjoyed the goulash here at Spiler, but there are plenty of great places around.

While you’re at it, ask for some Hungarian beer or vodka with your goulash or stuffed traditional cabbage.

6. Join a pub crawl

The drinks flow copiously and cheaply throughout the city, so get yourself on a bar crawl and meet some new friends. Everyone attending is a tourist, so you can meet people from the farthest corners of planet earth.

I ~think~ I went on this one, but can’t be sure because the nights activities slightly impaired my memory.

We started off at an unassuming building (for European standards), had a drink and where whisked away on a boat down the Danube.

The sights are breathtaking and it’s surreal to party and forget your cares as you glide by thousands of years of history. The cruise lasted a little over an hour, after which we ended up at a club ON A WAR BOAT, at the end of the night, called A38.

It was exuberant, packed with locals, and had some great dj’s playing until the wee hours of the morning. House, trance, rap, and some local jams were all thrown together, and the drink prices were spot on. The party was in the hull, but there were a few places on deck I was able to explore as well. Somewhat difficult finding my way home, but worth it.

Pro tip: You can buy tickets to most pub crawls in the city center and surrounding streets. The sales people may be able to offer a slight discount to get you to purchase if you act unsure.

7. Climb the mountain in Pest

View from the top of the mountain

You can also take the furnicular up (the second oldest in the world), so your choice. I haven’t taken it myself, but it is an option. The mountain is pretty steep and will take at least 30 minutes to climb, however the views on the way are worth it.

Perched above the entire city, you can see the palace, parliament, the bridges, the Danube. It makes for killer photos and there are some really lovely houses on top of the hill, surrounded by local bars and pubs.

8. Walk around to see St. Stephens Basilica and other noteworthy buildings

St. Stephens Basicila

If you start at the Hard Rock Café as a reference (no this is not a noteworthy building, but you can always be sure a Hard Rock is right in the middle of things), or any of the other surrounding stores, you’ll be in the main square. No cars, tea shops, and outdoor seating are abundant.

A few blocks away is St. Stephens Basicila, equally awe inspiring day and night. There are great beer halls around here and you can stop for some great pics along the way.

Pro tip: never change money from an exchange that’s orange. These are the biggest rip-offs. Also, for independent exchanges, you may be able to negotiate the rate!

9. Walk through Gozsdu Udvar

Closely situated within the city squares, Gozsdu Udvar is a quaint place to get a bite to eat or beer during the day, and a party mecca at night. These people do not stop, only the crack of dawn can dampen their spirits. There are pubs, clubs, and even an escape room (closed at night), down the alley, which also boasts ethereal fairy lights throughout the pathway.

You can learn more about the nifty stuff inside here.

10. Check out House of Terror Museum

Yes, this might be on the more touristy side of your trip, but it’s worth the visit. Every hall inundates you with information and the audio guides are in English so hoorah for you.

I won’t give away too much about everything you’ll learn, but just know Budapest had some horribly dreadful things going on during WWII, and the Nazis had no scruples about terrorizing and torturing it’s residents, both in their homes, and at the House of Terror itself

Pro tip: students get a discount, but only those who study in the EU. :/

Now you’ve got a plan, so get off your computer and go live, take photos, and enjoy. A full passport is a better measure of life than a full wallet any day.