Hungary’s eye-catching capital Budapest is right at the heart of Europe. With excellent transport links, it is the perfect starting point for your very own tour of this fascinating part of Europe.
Where to stay
There is a very good choice of HI Youth Hostel® accommodation in the city, so you can be sure of a great place to stay. All HI Hostels in Budapest are within easy reach of public transport, top visitor sights and great nightlife!
Budapest is one of Central Europe’s most beautiful cities. The city straddles the River Danube and although it is never blue as the Strauss waltz suggests, it is a stunning centrepiece to this hip, vibrant city. What the river divides, a multitude of elegant bridges join. The Chain Bridge is the oldest, most famous and probably the most photographed!
Leafy Buda reaches out to the Buda Hills in the west. It boasts an array of palatial buildings, soaring spires, atmospheric streets, historic squares and craggy outcrops. Don’t miss UNESCO World Heritage Buda Castle and Royal Palace, the art nouveau Gellért Thermal Bath or the views from Gellért Hill, Fishermen’s Bastion and Matthias Church.
Across the river is busy (and unfortunately named!) Pest, on the edge of the Great Plain. Don’t miss the eclectic architecture on Andrássy Avenue, the views from the dome of St Stephen’s Basilica, Heroes’ Square, City Park or the Széchenyi Thermal Bath. The National Parliament is an amazing building – and is open on selected weekdays.
Margaret Island sits right in the middle of the Danube. Thermal water gushes out into the river, and the island is home to spas, swimming pools, mineral water and a charming park!
Food, drink and nightlife!
Traditional coffee houses and patisseries are very much part of Budapest life. Alongside international cuisine you will find excellent and good value local dishes such as goulash or hot fish soup, stuffed pancakes and paprika stew, not to mention the superb Tokaj wines. Then enjoy the nightlife – Budapest is the region’s party capital!
Festivals and events
- The Bridge Festival (late June): river cavalcade and other festivities
- Budapest Beach (August): a long stretch of the riverbank is turned into a terrific beach
- Sziget Festival (early August): one of the largest open-air rock/pop festivals in Europe
- St Stephen’s Day (20 August): day-long celebrations and evening fireworks on the Danube
- Wine Festival (September)
- New Year’s Eve (31 December): attracts crowds of revellers onto the streets.
When you are ready to move on from Budapest, the whole of Europe is literally at your feet. Check out these ideas for trips into neighbouring countries.
1. Upstream to the Danube’s source in Germany
Why not take the ferry and spend a few days at an HI Hostel in Bratislava, capital of Slovakia, where you can sip coffee in cobbled squares? Then continue to Austria and spend a few days at a Vienna HI Hostel while you enjoy beautiful palaces, grand coffee houses and Mozart. Travel onward to the Krems HI Hostel where you can enjoy the region’s festivals and scenery and the Linz HI Hostel and all that this modern youthful city offers! Cross the border into Germany and make your way to the Regensburg HI Hostel for a break in a medieval city with a very lively entertainment scene!
2. Downstream with the Danube to the Black Sea
This route takes you through wonderful Croatia, so take time to enjoy the ‘pearl of the Adriatic’ with a stay at HI Hostel Dubrovnik and at HI Hostel Zagreb in the Baroque capital. Hop across the border into Serbia and explore its gritty, energetic capital – there are plenty of HI Hostels in Belgrade! Continue on through Romania, which boasts an extensive hostel network including HI Hostels in Brasov, Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca and Sighisoara. As you approach the Black Sea, pass through Bulgaria which has HI Hostels in Plovdiv and Sofia, and the Ukraine which features HI Hostels in Kiev and Lviv.
3. Hop across the border to Slovenia
Hungary also shares a border with Slovenia, which is easily reached by train from Budapest. Slovenia’s capital city is an obvious place to start – and you have a good choice of HI Youth Hostel® accommodation in Ljubljana. Enjoy the fabulous views from the Old Castle and a sightseeing walk around the historic centre. For outdoor adventure, head to the Julian Alps where you can enjoy everything from skiing to summer hill walking, cycling, rafting and much more! There are excellent HI Hostels in Bled, Bohinjsko Jezero, and Kranjska Gora. For sun, sand and sea, spend a few days at the Piran HI Hostels® accommodation on the Adriatic coast. If you have an interest in wine, a stay at one of the many HI Hostels in Maribor is a must! Visit the world’s oldest vine and sample excellent local wines! Head over to the Postojna HI Hostel for an amazing tour of Postojna Karst caves – and maybe catch a glimpse of the unique resident wildlife.