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Planning Your Trip

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History, arts and culture, fantastic dining, shopping and more await visitors in Budapest. Whether you’re planning to while away an afternoon at the Széchenyi Thermal Bath or café hop and take in the stunning art nouveau architecture, here’s what to bring to make the most of your visit.

Ritz Carlton Hotel image
Ritz Carlton Hotel image
What to Pack

Pack a book (or two). Café culture is alive and thriving in Budapest, so plan to do as the locals do and spend a few hours relaxing with a cup of coffee, delicious pastry and a good read.

Exploring the City

There is so much to experience in Budapest year-round, from music festivals and ruin pubs in summer to Christmas markets and ice skating in winter. Pack a few key items to be prepared.


  • While there is an efficient metro, Budapest is a fantastically walkable city with stunning architecture at every turn. Bring comfortable, stylish shoes and spend your days strolling through the city.

  • Temperatures can soar north of 90 degrees Fahrenheit in summer, so bring sunglasses and consider a smart-looking hat to ward off the sun.

  • Even in chilly winter temperatures, locals are outside braving the elements to café-hop and shop. Bring warm layers to be prepared for chilly breezes off the Danube.
Spa Retreat

No trip to Budapest would be complete without a day at the famed baths. Travelers would be wise to bring a few items when they visit.


  • A bathing suit is necessary for just about all baths in Budapest. While American-style swim trunks for men are not uncommon, most local men will likely be wearing tighter-fitting Speedo-style bottoms.

  • While they’re not required, most guests are more comfortable walking around wearing flip-flops. Opt for a waterproof pair with a nonslip sole to avoid mishaps on the wet tiles between baths.

  • At some baths, and particularly at the swimming pools within the baths, swim caps are required. Most baths sell swim caps on-site, but you may choose to bring your own.  
Day Trip

Just outside of the city center are many exciting travel opportunities, from tastings at wineries to biking and fishing on nearby lakes. Add a few additional items to your suitcase to tackle all the region has to offer.


  • Consider spending a day on Lake Balaton, the largest freshwater lake in Central Europe. Bring a bathing suit and plenty of sunscreen to enjoy the surf, sand, sailing and fishing in summer.

  • Lake Velence offers spectacular routes for both beginner and expert bikers alike. If difficult roads are what you’re after, pack your gear and suit up for a serious challenge in the hills.

  • A tour of Hungary’s wine regions is a wonderful, relaxing way to spend a day. Bring a refillable water bottle to stay hydrated through the many tastings.
Ritz Carlton Hotel image
Ritz Carlton Hotel image
What to Reserve

Budapest is a wonderland of stunning architecture, hearty traditional food, a vibrant café and bar culture and a thriving arts scene, all belied by a deep, complex history. There is much to experience and a few standouts that you would be wise to arrange in advance.

There is so much to do just outside of the hotel. Arrange for a visit to the Hungarian National Museum and Trafó House of Contemporary Arts, both just a short distance away. Plan a walking tour across the Chain Bridge connecting the Pest and Buda sides of Budapest and proceed to the UNESCO World Heritage Castle District featuring monuments like the Royal Palace and Fishermen’s Bastion, as well as stunning views of the city below. Don’t miss a chance to get out on the Danube to view some of the city’s most stunning buildings, like Parliament, one of Europe’s oldest legislative buildings, from the water.

Hungary has a staggering 22 wine regions and winemaking is a central part of the country’s gastronomy. Nearest to Budapest is Etyek, a winemaking region known primarily for its chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and sparkling wine. Arrange for a four-hour private tour and sample up to eight different glasses of the fragrant local white wines while enjoying snacks and a taste of local produce. May is a particularly wonderful time to visit, as that is when Etyek hosts its Cellar festival.

Experience Hungarian-inspired dishes like goulash soup with beef cheek or veal shoulder paprikash with homemade spaetzle and garlic cucumber salad at Deák St. Kitchen. Be sure to order a glass as the restaurant has one of the city’s finest selections of Hungarian wines and beers on offer. For a special evening drink or nightcap, reserve a seat at Kupola Bar. A great variety of innovative cocktails are on offer and come expertly paired with a variety of canapés, sandwiches and desserts.

A visit to one of the famed bathhouses in Budapest is a must, from the opulent Széchenyi Thermal Bath to the Rudas Thermal Bath, which is more than 450 years old. The Ritz-Carlton, Budapest continues this bathhouse tradition with its unique in-house spa program. Arrange for the more than two-hour Royal Palace Ritual, which begins with relaxation in a thermal suite, followed by a salt and aromatic oil scrub, and finishes with a hot stone massage. Or consider the Serenity on the Danube — a period of relaxation in the thermal suite followed by a massage and custom facial.

Ritz Carlton Hotel image
Ritz Carlton Hotel image

As the capital and largest city in Hungary, Budapest holds a special place as a major European economic power. And given its history — originally a Celtic settlement, pillaged by Mongols, a Renaissance cultural capital, Ottoman ruled, a co-capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire — its architecture, museums and promenades are ripe with beauty, mystery and romance. But that’s not all. It’s cuisine, culture and emphasis on arts and fashion make it a modern destination that appeals to foodies, history buffs and architecture aficionados alike.


Join the Herd. Inspired by Australian coffeehouses, Goat Herder Espresso Bar serves locally roasted coffee in an atmosphere that’s both casual and chic. Plus, croissants, muesli, banana bread and freshly squeezed seasonal juices are available all day. Undoubtedly, you’ll want to return to this charming, sunny spot.

National Treasures. Since 1802, the Hungarian National Museum has documented the history, art and archaeology of the country, as well as regions — like Transylvania — beyond Hungary’s modern borders. The beautiful neoclassical building is accented with statues by Milanese sculptor Raffaele Monti. Its entry steps were featured in the film “Evita,” starring Madonna.


River Walk. The Széchenyi Chain Bridge spans the Danube River between Buda and Pest, the western and eastern sides of Budapest. Cast from wrought iron and stone, the bridge opened Nov. 20, 1849, after the Hungarian Revolution and was designed by English engineer William Tierney Clark. During World War II, retreating Germans blew up the bridge in 1945, but it was rebuilt four years later. Today, visitors can walk the bridge and marvel in its beauty and broad views of the Danube.

Local Lunch. Experience authentic Hungarian cuisine at Mandragóra. This charming bistro is in a residential neighborhood and favored among locals and tourists alike. From goulash to wild boar and chicken paprikash, Mandragóra’s menu provides a wonderful entrée into the world of Hungarian cuisine.


God and Country. St. Stephan’s Basilica, or Szent István Bazilika, pays homage to Hungary’s first king, St. Stephan, and is the largest church in the country. It’s so large, in fact, that 8,500 people can fit inside the stunning neo-classical building at once. From the cupola, you’re treated to sweeping city views, and inside you’ll find Hungary’s most sacred treasure — the mummified right hand of St. Stephan, also known as the Szent Jobb, or Holy Right Hand.

One More Tour. Dohány Street Synagogue is the largest synagogue in Europe and the second largest synagogue in the world. Built between 1854 and 1859 in the Moorish revival style, the impressive building holds 3,000 people. Inside, the frescoes are made from golden geometric shapes — the work of famous Hungarian romantic architect Frigyes Feszl. Interestingly, both Franz Liszt and Camille Saint-Saëns both played the synagogue’s pipe organ, a rarity among synagogues.


Comfort Food. Dinner at The Ritz-Carlton, Budapest’s Deák St. Kitchen means you’ll be able to unwind after a long day and enjoy lovingly curated Hungarian cuisine, as well as a few standbys. The restaurant focuses on fresh, local ingredients, and the dishes highlight the best of what’s in season. What’s more, this beloved grill also has an award-winning wine list and a resident mixologist who’d be happy to craft your favorite cocktail before or after dinner.


Hip and Quick. Vinyl & Wood is part shop (specializing in goods made from recycled material) and part café. Here, you’ll find beautifully brewed lattes and light breakfast fare — try the Greek yogurt — in a hip, airy environment.

Modern Marvels. Trafó House of Contemporary Arts is a modern, multifunctional arts center that includes permanent exhibitions of contemporary art and experimental theater performances. The building in which it’s housed was once the electrical transformer station for south Pest. In fact, Trafó translates to “transformer.”


Like a Monk. Modern, inviting and innovative, Monk’s Bistrot is a Budapest favorite. Top quality local ingredients, a friendly staff and dishes like scallops and risotto and smoked quail eggs make for a lovely midday experience. And the staff’s knowledge of Hungarian wines means that you might enjoy a glass or two before hitting the streets for more exploration.


Medieval Times. Budapest’s Castle District is loaded with historic sites and attractions, the Royal Palace and Matthias Church among them. It’s also where you’ll find numerous museums, along with crooked streets and a handful of cafés. Be sure to explore Buda Castle while you’re there, and enjoy views of the Danube and Chain Bridge.

Street Shopping. Váci Street is the most famous in Budapest, thanks to its many shops and restaurants. Although the street caters mostly to tourists, you’ll appreciate its spate of brands and its charming local bars.


Evening Cruise. Book a Danube River dinner cruise to soak in the city lights from the water. These 2.5-hour tours typically depart around 7:30 p.m. and include an a la carte menu, live music and plenty of stunning views. Tours occur aboard a glass-encased boat, perfect for sightseeing. Book through the hotel’s concierge or online.


To Market. The Great Market Hall is the largest indoor market in all of Hungary. Its hundreds of stalls (on three levels) peddle pastries, spices, candies and caviar. You’ll even find fresh fruits and vegetables and a handful of souvenir stalls. Find breakfast at one of the in-market eateries, then wander the stalls, soaking in the sights and scents of traditional Hungary.


Statuesque. In Heroes Square, you’ll find massive bronze statues that commemorate the seven tribal chieftains who once ruled Hungary, as well as monuments to kings, soldiers and politicians. While it is best to explore the square with a guide, you might also enjoy a stroll around the square on your own.

Lunch Alfresco. Sidewalk tables. Liget coffee. Small portions. Exceptional service. Városliget Café is perhaps one of Budapest’s best restaurants and is near Heroes Square. Linger over chicken paprikash while watching a stream of tourists and locals walk by. Should you decide on a lunchtime dessert, try the white chocolate pistachio cake.


Parliamentary Procedure. The Hungarian Parliament Building, on the banks of the Danube, is the seat of the National Assembly of Hungary and is the largest building in the country and the tallest building in Budapest. Built in the Gothic revival style, the building comprises a massive central dome flanked by two symmetrical wings. Its façade is embellished with statues of Hungarian leaders and famous military figures. Inside, you’ll find ornamental stairs, displayed artifacts — like the holy crown of Hungary — and beautiful frescoes.

Take a Bath. Budapest is known as the city of spas — and for good reason. The Hungarian people have long practiced aqua therapy, and the city is home to a handful of public thermal baths. According to some estimates, there are approximately 1,000 natural spring water sources. After days of walking and touring, allow yourself to soak, relax and unwind.


Celebrate. Wrap up your Hungarian adventure with dinner at Caviar & Bull. This unique restaurant, helmed by Chef Marvin Gauci, offers two degustation menus — contemporary and cosmopolitan. On the contemporary side, you’ll find things like sea bass iceberg flambé and seared Wagyu beef carpaccio. On the cosmopolitan side, flash-seared foie gras and lobster popcorn are among the innovative offerings. No matter to which side you lean, you won’t be disappointed — Caviar & Bull is a local favorite.


Make a Toast. Oft considered one of Budapest’s most romantic restaurants, Villa Bagatelle is a must-stop for breakfast. This airy, beautiful space serves a champagne breakfast featuring brioche, smoked salmon, goat cheese, citrus mascarpone spread and, of course, a glass of champagne. Should you opt for a lighter option, there are fresh fruits, light pastries and egg dishes to choose from, too.

Museum Stroll. The Museum of Fine Arts will reopen in spring 2018 after a three-year renovation. When it does, you and your love can walk among its more than 100,000-item collection, including paintings by old masters, modern art, statues and an extensive graphics collection. The building, designed from plans created by Albert Schickedanz and Fülöp Herzog, was built in 1906 in the neo-classical style.


Animal Attraction. The Budapest Zoo and Botanic Garden is one of the oldest such zoos in the world, opened in 1866. The natural reserve is home to more than 1,000 species and is centrally situated in Városliget Park. Set aside some time to linger on “the magical hill.” The zoo’s newest attraction, it reflects the relationship between humans and nature through interactive exhibits and the display of more than 100 species.


Fit for a Queen. There’s something inherently romantic about a castle. Maybe it’s the elegance or the sense of tradition and reverence they invoke. Regardless of the reasons, Vajdahunyad Castle is one romantic building. Constructed in 1896 as part of the Millennial Exhibition, it overlooks a beautiful lake and features a variety of architectural styles, from Romanesque to baroque. The castle also houses the Museum of Hungarian Agriculture.

Royal Treatment. The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Budapest pays appropriate tribute to Budapest’s label as the “city of baths” with a uniquely designed indoor swimming pool. Schedule the “royal palace ritual” to continue with your theme for the afternoon, and enjoy warm aromatic oils and a hot stone massage designed to ease away travel tension and make your body feel loose and light.


Candlelit Cruise. Book a Danube River dinner cruise to experience pure romance on the water. These 2.5-hour tours typically depart around 7:30 p.m. and include an a la carte menu, live music and plenty of candlelight. Tours occur aboard a glass-encased boat, perfect for sightseeing. Book through the hotel’s concierge or online.

A Nightcap. Return to The Ritz-Carlton, Budapest for a stylish wrap-up of your day at Kupola Bar. Live music and a champagne bar and delicious cakes make it easy to plan a sweet goodnight.


Catch the Sunrise. Wake early to watch the sun rise from Fisherman’s Bastion. This frequently visited Budapest attraction was built in the 19th century to serve as a lookout tower. Today, it’s one of the most romantic places to take in panoramic views of beautiful Budapest and the Danube River. Its seven turrets represent the seven Hungarian tribes that formed the modern country, and the building that once stood here was protected by local fishermen during the Middle Ages — thus its name.


International Brunch. After your early morning, enjoy a healthy, internationally inspired brunch at Fruccola. From a Mexican tortilla to eggs Benedict on a bagel, the menu is fresh and delicious. What’s more, the service is speedy, meaning you’ll be on to your next destination in a heartbeat.

A Place of Honor. During World War II, Swiss diplomat Carl Lutz was credited with helping nearly 3,000 Jews find refuge from the Holocaust in what’s now known as the Glass House, a former glass factory. In total, though, Lutz might have saved as many as 62,000 people by issuing letters of protection, a lifesaving diplomatic device. The Glass House, 29 Vadász St., is now a memorial to Lutz and his efforts and a place of quiet reflection and peace.


Sweet Tooth. Satisfy your sweet tooth with a visit to the Szamos Chocolate Museum. For decades, the Szamos Family has gifted Budapest with wonderful chocolate creations, and now their efforts are documented in a museum bearing the family name. A guided tour of the facility runs through six rooms, each focused on a phase of chocolate-making. And, of course, there’s a tasting in each room. The tour ends with a sweet cup of hot chocolate and a lovely piece of marzipan.

Penny for Your Thoughts. The Garden of Philosophy, tucked into a corner of Gellért Hill, is a cluster of statues designed by Hungarian sculptor Nándor Wagner. The sculpture’s inner circle features the founders of the world’s five main religions, gathered around an orb. It is intended, according to the artist, to represent the similarities in all people. Quiet and serene, the sculpture garden is a fine place to read a bit of poetry and snap a few photographs.


Take a Hike. After resting in the Garden of Philosophy for a bit, climb to the Citadel on Gellért Hill to watch the sunset. The fortress, built after the 1848–49 Revolution, has been a prison camp, a sanctuary for the homeless and an antiaircraft battery. Today, though, it’s best known for its panoramic views of the city and river, and it’s a perfect place to watch the sun sink below the horizon.

A Michelin Meal. Baraka restaurant has two Michelin stars — and with good reason. Even its motto is “the art of fine dining,” and its seasonal menu constantly evolves. On any given evening, a six-course degustation menu might include a blue lobster duo, Hungarian venison tataki or smoked eel. No matter what’s on the menu, the service is top-notch, the space impressive and the cocktail offerings inspired. Baraka is the place for a romantic meal in Budapest.