I took my first overnight train from Prague to Budapest. You can purchase the tickets directly from CD Ceske draky. I purchased a private coach for two for $100/person, but I did not get the one that included a bathroom. I am not sure if those rooms are bigger, but if they are, I would purchase that next time. Our room was so small it barely fit our suitcases (our suitcases were big and I hope to pack lighter next time). There is an outlet in the room and a little sink to wash up. The bathroom is down the hallway. They will notify you around 30 minutes before your train departs which track you are on. They will wake you up an hour before arrival. The beds are not really comfortable (think college beds), and they only provide one pillow. I am not sure if I would do an overnight train again in the future but didn’t want to lose a day traveling on the train, as it was an 8-hour ride.
Upon arrival at the train station in Budapest we took a taxi to our Airbnb. We found a great 2-bedroom apartment located on the historical Vaci Street where there are shops, cafés, and restaurants and it is a 10-minute walk to Old Town Square. We started our morning with a free walking tour. You just show up at 10:30 at Vorosmarty Square and they break you up into groups. We had a pretty large group, but our guide was great, and he handled the group really well. The tour lasted 3 hours and covered both Buda and Pest sides. We even ended up at the Palace in time for the changing of the guards. Later that day we were walking around trying to figure out where to eat and we decided on Trattoria Mamma. We enjoyed all of our items (Bruschetta, Caprese salad, and a Margherita Pizza). After dinner we went to Rudas Thermal Bath. Our tour guide recommended this one, and I am so glad he did. It was only a 15-minute walk from our apartment, and they have a bath outside overlooking the Danube River…it was such a beautiful night sitting outside in the warm water with that view. This bath had several different baths ranging from hot to very cold water, a variety of saunas and steam rooms, and a swimming pool. After dinner we hopped on a bus and went to the Szimpla Ruin bar. What a scene. There were so many different rooms with unusual objects, lights, and decorations. There was music playing and they even had an amazing live band playing in one of the rooms. It was definitely a fun evening.
The following morning we went to The New York Café for breakfast. This has to be one of the most beautiful and elegant restaurants. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and they are also known for their pastries, so you can go for just dessert, as well. We arrived for breakfast and then had dessert. Be sure to make a reservation in advance; there was a long line when we left. Ask for a table near the live music as they have a 4-piece orchestra play music while you dine. They come out every hour and play for 15 minutes. The violinist was absolutely incredible. It was so nice to listen to this beautiful music in this elegant setting. We loved it so much we stayed to see him perform a second time. It was truly a magical experience.
After breakfast we visited St. Stephens Basilica, an incredibly beautiful Church. From there we went to visit the Budapest Parliament. You should purchase tickets in advance ($19/person). You are led on a guided tour throughout the Parliament as they explain the details of the building. It was beautiful. There is also a crown that is guarded by two guards. We were lucky enough to be there when they were doing the changing of the guards. It was very cool to watch. After the Budapest Parliament we walked along the river to see the Shoes on the Danube, a memorial to the Jews in Budapest who were shot along the river. They had to take their shoes off since they were considered valuable. It was heart wrenching to see all of the shoes lined up. For dinner that night we went to Trofea Grill Etterem, an all-you-can-eat-and-drink buffet. When we walked in we were told that we could only stay for 3 hours and the price included unlimited food and drinks, including prosecco, wine, and cocktails. I was surprised to see a large cocktail list including cosmos, margarita, kir royal, and piña coladas. The food at the buffet didn’t thrill me, but they also have a grill area where you inform the chef what you would like cooked on the grill and it is prepared there and ready in 5 minutes. We both really enjoyed the chicken, shrimp, and salmon. It was only $23 a person, so it was a great place to go for a casual and affordable meal.
The next morning we walked 10 minutes to A La Maison for breakfast. This breakfast was one of our favorites. We had the Nutella Mousse French Toast and the Nutella Mousse American Pancake. Both were amazing. The ambience was lovely and made for a perfect morning. After breakfast we went to the Pest side to do the Labyrinth. We went underground and explored the caves where Dracula was held prisoner. It was such a cool experience. There was a dark cave area where you couldn’t see anything, and you had to feel your way around to get out of the room. After that we just wandered around the caves trying to find our way out. It was a fun experience. From there we went to the Great Market Hall (or Central Market Hall) to have some Ghoulash, and then we went to Gelarto Rosa for a gelato that is beautifully designed into a rose…so cool. After that we met up with a free walking tour to visit the Jewish Quarter. On the way back to our Airbnb we stopped at the Zoo Café, a little café that has reptiles and animals that you can hold, pet, and play with while you dine. They have a limited menu of non-alcoholic beverages and pastries and sandwiches. While you dine, they bring around different animals for you to play with. While we were there we played with a baby turtle, a snake, a chameleon, a bearded dragon, and a bunny. It was such a fun experience.
Our last day we visited the Vajdahunyadvar Castle. We just walked around the outside but it just so happened that there was a festival going on that day so there were booths set up with food, rides, activities for the kids, and a stage with performances. We finally tried our first Langos and it was really incredible….straight out of the deep fryer with sour cream and cheese topping. Highly recommend it. After we walked around a bit we went to the Szechenyi Baths. The outdoor baths were great. One was warm and the other was cool. The cool one was the perfect temperature on this hot day. In the center of the bath is a circular bath, which is almost like a lazy river as it pulls you around. We really enjoyed hanging out in that area. The indoor area has a number of baths and saunas, but we just hung out in the outdoor baths. While I liked the outdoor area, I preferred Rudas Bath, as it seemed much cleaner inside. I would recommend doing the Rudas bath in the evening for the beautiful view at night while sitting in the outdoor bath.
Our last night in Budapest we had dinner at Zeller Bistro, where they have an outdoor patio and live music. The food was great, but what really made the evening was sitting in the beautifully decorated patio listening to the two men playing guitar and singing all of my favorite songs.
The public transportation is really great in Budapest. We used Google maps to get around, and it was great with guiding us on what trams and buses we should take. You should purchase a multi-day pass if you will be staying a few days. Once you validate your ticket you don’t need to pull it out unless they ask you for it. If you forget to validate it you could be fined. We used the Budapest Card to get around Budapest as it gives you unlimited use of public transportation along with free entry into museums and the Lukacs Baths, free walking tours, discounts on tours, restaurants, baths, and a free mobile app. It was a great way to explore the city without having to purchase individual tickets for everything.
The next morning we had an early morning flight, so we booked Blacklane Car Service to pick us up at 4:45 AM. They were right on time, and our driver was very pleasant. You can set up an account in advance and book everything online. The prices quoted online are very reasonable and include all taxes, tolls, fees, and gratuities. If they are picking you up from the airport they include a 60-minute wait time and all other pickups include a 15-minute wait time. They picked us up in a luxury black vehicle.