After three years of full-time travelling, I finally gave it all away to make Budapest my home. I love Budapest. I truly adore it. But like anywhere, I had my ups and downs in Budapest. At first, more ups than downs, later more downs than ups. Maybe that always happens when you dig deeper into a destination, it’s never the same as when you’re just passing through.
Last year, after a year using Budapest as my base, I left Hungary to continue travelling. But this summer saw my brief return and I can’t believe it still wows me so much as a destination. I can walk for hours admiring the architecture in my favourite neighbourhoods and stopping at the many sights along the Danube. It’s honestly one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever visited.
Due to my strong connection to the city, people keep asking me where to stay in Budapest. I’ve spent time in all of the central neighbourhoods and some of the outer areas. I’ve stayed in luxury hotels, basic, budget hotels, famous Art Nouveau buildings and 19th century palaces. I’ve lost count of how many Airbnb apartments I stayed in. I also rented a long-term apartment in the Palace District and even bought my own apartment in the Jewish Quarter.
With all this experience I feel like I’m qualified to recommend where to stay in Budapest. Firstly I will recommend my favourite hotels, then I will let you know about each of the city’s neighbourhoods and why you might want to choose one over another.
Where to Stay in Budapest
Outside of the popular summer and Christmas periods, accommodation in Budapest is surprisingly affordable. At the right time of the year, you can stay in a five star hotel or a sleek boutique hotel for around €100 per night and apartments priced at less than €50 per night are easy to find.
I suggest most visitors to Budapest stay in either the 5th district, which is walking distance to the Danube sights, in the adjoining Palace District, or in the Jewish Quarter if you want to be in the restaurant and nightlife area.
My top 4 places to stay in Budapest:
This is a small boutique hotel on Egyetem Square, a quiet square home to a stunning university and church. Located in the 5th district but away from the crowds, it’s the best of both worlds, walking distance to the sights yet peaceful. In this neighbourhood you have a mix of traditional Hungarian restaurants, burger joints and vegan bistros. Specialty coffee shops Madal and Budapest Baristas are close by as is the Csendes ruin bar or you can have cocktails in the hotel’s rooftop bar. The hotel is modern with unique room designs, very comfortable beds and the best breakfast I’ve ever had in Budapest. Be aware that some rooms are quite small so check carefully before booking.
Aria is one of the most luxurious hotels in Budapest yet not outrageously expensive. Even so I would put this in the special occasion category of hotels, best for a weekend break. The Aria is in the busy St Stephen’s Basilica area which is quite touristy but also with plenty of office workers. The highlight of this hotel is their rooftop bar which looks directly onto the dome of the basilica. Check local photographer krenn_imre to see the view and other amazing photos of Budapest.
I lived on Rumbach Sebestyen street, just down the road from the Roombach Hotel, for two months when I first moved to Budapest. This is the best part of the Jewish Quarter. Here you are just behind the Dohany Street Synagogue, walking distance to the 5th district sights, and minutes from at least five great ruin bars and countless cafes. The area can get a little rowdy on the weekends but there aren’t any pubs or nightclubs on this street. You can’t beat the convenience of this location.
I don’t suggest going too deep into the 8th district but Brody House is in the perfect street in the Palace District, one block from the 5th district and one block from the Jewish Quarter. The hotel is in a deceptively beautiful building directly opposite the Hungarian National Museum. The rooms are gorgeous and the staff excellent, as reflected in the 9.6 Booking rating. Down the road you have two of the best specialty coffee places in Budapest, a wine bar in a park and excellent transport with both the tram and the Astoria metro station nearby. I lived about 50 metres from this hotel and can’t recommend this neighbourhood highly enough.
Budapest Neighbourhood Guide
If you’re still undecided where to stay, hopefully my neighbourhood guide will make things easier. In general I think the 5th district (the downtown area along the Danube) is the best place to stay. Then I recommend the 8th district close to the Hungarian National Museum, or the Jewish Quarter if you want to have cafes and ruin bars at your doorstep.
5th District – Downtown Budapest & the Danube
The 5th District is Budapest’s downtown neighbourhood. It follows the Danube River with the Neo-Gothic Parliament at the top and the Great Market Hall at the other end. There are many offices, government institutions, and tourist attractions in the area so it’s great for sightseeing and lunch specials, and you’re unlikely to be disturbed at night.
The 5th is where I recommend most people stay. Major sights in the neighbourhood include the Parliament, the Chain Bridge and St Stephen’s Basilica. The wide streets are lined with restored 19th centuries buildings and there’s also some pretty crazy Art Nouveau architecture, which I mention in my Budapest guide.
From the 5th you can walk to Buda Castle, the Jewish Quarter, Vorosmarty Square, and get the metro to Szechenyi Baths and just about anywhere else. Everything is close by and I honestly don’t think you can find a better location, especially for a short stay.
My recommendations for the 5th district:
- Hotel Rum
Boutique Hotel close to the Great Market Hall and Ferenciek Square.
- Hotel Parlament
Luxury hotel two minutes from the Parliament, Freedom Square and Hold utca market (the best indoor market in Budapest).
- Aria Hotel
High end luxury hotel near St Stephen’s Basilica, Andrassy Avenue and the Chain Bridge.
- Bohem Art Hotel
A budget hotel by the wonderful Liberty Bridge and the Great Market Hall.
6th District – Andrassy Avenue & Opera House
I feel like the 6th district is a bit of a nothing area. It borders the 5th district near St Stephen’s Basilica and the 7th district parallel to Andrassy Avenue. Andrassy is Budapest’s famous high end shopping street but actually, many of the shops have closed and it’s not a very exciting place to visit. The exceptions would be the Opera House and the mind blowing architecture on the small section of Nagymezo utca just off Andrassy. Being close to Andrassy is also useful for catching the metro to Heroes Square and the famous Szechenyi Thermal Baths or for getting the bus in the other direction to Buda Castle.
My recommendations for the 6th district:
7th District – Jewish Quarter & Nightlife
Budapest’s Jewish Quarter is home to the Dohany Street Synagogue (the largest synagogue in Europe), the Rumbach Street Synagogue and the Kazinczy Street Orthodox Synagogue. There are countless Jewish restaurants, bakeries and grocery shops.
The Jewish Quarter is also home ruin bars, beer gardens, cafes, restaurants and boutique shops. This is the neighbourhood for you if you like to party, want cafes at your doorstep, or are particularly interested in Jewish history or culture. It’s a real mix and a fun place to stay.
The main party streets are Kiraly utca and Kazinczy utca. I would avoid staying on these streets but Kazinczy, in particular, has excellent places to eat and the famous Szimpla ruin bar. It’s nice to be close to these streets but not right on them.
My recommendations for the 7th district:
- Roombach Hotel
A basic to mid-range hotel in a quiet part of the Jewish Quarter, very close to the Dohany Street Synagogue and directly opposite the Rumbach Street Synagogue.
- BP Central Home
Nice area opposite the gorgeous Liszt Academy of Music and close to many cafes, ruin bars and the Opera.
- Heritage Home Apartments
Above the fantastic Vintage Garden cafe and right in the centre of the busy Jewish Quarter. A great choice if you want to be in the heart of the liveliest area of Budapest.
8th District – The Palace District
I would never have even imagined staying in the 8th district before moving to Budapest. It has a terrible reputation and honestly, in some areas that reputation is well deserved. I wouldn’t go to certain areas at night! But the 8th is a huge district and anywhere on the Danube side of Joszef Korut (known as the Palace District) is a fantastic neighbourhood. I lived in the Palace District for a year and loved it.
The newly developed area around Corvin Plaza is also not bad (but there are way better places to stay) and you’ll find many cheap, new apartments for short term rental in this area.
The streets in the 8th surrounding the Hungarian National Museum are the most beautiful of the Palace District. The area was once home to aristocrats, wealthy lawyers and merchants. Many of the 19th century former palaces in these streets have been renovated and look stunning. It’s definitely worth a wander and be sure to keep an eye out for the incredible Art Nouveau buildings dotted around the neighbourhood.
This neighbourhood is also of great historical significance as the location of many government demonstrations during the Hungarian Revolution. If you look closely you can still see bullet holes in many of the buildings in this area, as well as around the Hungarian Parliament in the 5th district.
My recommendations for the 8th district:
- Brody House
Easily the best located hotel in the 8th district and a stunning interior. The 9.6 Booking rating says it all. Highly recommended.
- Vagabond Apartments
In the Corvin Plaza neighbourhood (a little too far out for my liking). I stayed in this apartment in 2017. Prices vary but I wouldn’t stay here for more than €60 per night.
Buda – The Castle District
The Castle District is the area high on the hill on the west side of the Danube which you can reach via the funicular. It’s where you’ll find the Royal Palace, the Hungarian National Gallery, Matthias Church and Fisherman’s Bastion. I always advise visitors against staying in Buda and the Castle District. It’s a gorgeous area but it’s super touristy, it’s like a ghost town after dark and it’s far too difficult to get over to the Pest side of the city, the area where you’ll want to spend much of your time. I know it’s tempting to stay in such a historic neighbourhood, with all the beautiful architecture and views to the Parliament, but honestly, I think once you get there you’ll realise it’s a great place to visit but not a great place to stay.
If you feel you really must stay in Buda, there are two hotels I would recommend, both around the €100 per night range. There’s not much in the way of cheap accommodation in the Castle District.
My recommendations for Buda:
Budapest’s Outer Districts
There are some nice neighbourhoods further out from the centre, particularly in the 9th and 13th districts close to the Danube, and the Diplomatic Quarter between the Octagon and Heroes Square (part of the large 6th and 7th districts). But personally, I think they are too far from the action, especially if you are only visiting for a few days.
Areas to Avoid in Budapest
There are quite a few budget and high end hotels around Blaha Lujza Ter including Hotel Nemzeti by Sofitel, Courtyard by Marriottt and Boscolo Budapest (this is where you’ll find the incredible New York Cafe which isn’t to be missed). In my opinion this is one of the most unpleasant areas of Budapest. It’s not dangerous but the area is filthy, there’s street drinking, drug use and homelessness.
I see quite a few bloggers recommending the Corinthia Hotel Budapest. This location is better than at Blaha Lujza Square but it’s still quite far from the action. You’ll need to catch public transport to get around. The hotel is in a beautifully restored building with a glamorous swimming pool. However, I have stayed in this hotel and do not recommend it. The rooms are dated and being a large hotel, that swimming pool is always packed and noisy. Not the luxury experience you might be expecting.
Naturally, I also suggest you avoid staying near Budapest’s main train stations, both Nyugati but especially Keleti and the main road from Keleti, Rakoczi ut.
What About Apartments in Budapest?
Before I rented my apartment in the Palace District I stayed in many, many Airbnb apartments in Budapest. These were at various locations in the Jewish Quarter, by the Parliament in the 5th, right on Ferenc Liszt Square, at the very cheap Corvin Plaza area and I even spent a week in Buda one summer.
If you’ve never used Airbnb before, it’s a hassle-free way to find a short term apartment. These apartments are fully furnished, give your privacy and in cities like Budapest you get super fast wifi (unlike in most hotels).
If you sign up here you’ll get €23 to use on your first stay (and I get the same as a referral fee).
Some of the better apartments I stayed in are no longer available on Airbnb but I stayed in these two and recommend:
- Tom’s near the Parliament (5th District) – from €46 per night. I spent 10 days here. It’s small but very well equipped, affordable and super clean.
- Anna’s in the centre of the Jewish Quarter (7th District) – from €72 per night. I spent one month here. This one bedroom apartment is right in the centre of the Jewish Quarter and all its fantastic places to eat and drink. The apartment is not as new/modern as Tom’s but it’s much larger and also super clean and quiet.
Budapest travel tip: Taxis in Budapest are notoriously bad and many will try to scam you at any opportunity. The worst ones are those at Keleti and Nyugati train stations. I strongly suggest using public transport or walking (Budapest is a small city so this isn’t such a big deal). Having said that, all taxis from the airport are ok as they must give you an official receipt. Unfortunately, Uber is banned in Budapest due to taxi protests. If you must get a taxi I suggest going to a hotel and getting them to call an official metered taxi for you.
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