DO stay on Pest side. It’ll give you the best evening options and the best views of the city at night (you’ll see Buda Castle and Chain Bridge from Pest side).
DO go out at night. The ruin pubs are amazing, not only because of their structure but also because of their atmosphere. There’s something about letting go in a building of war-torn ruins.
DO café hop. Budapest has great coffee and even better-designed cafés whether neoclassical, baroque, or Art Nouveau on the outside and fanciful on the inside.
DON’T plan to spend too much time at the markets unless you go during a holiday festival. Then, take cash.
DO eat at as many festivals as you can and then walk it off – or try to walk it off.
DO go during shoulder season. The central area of Budapest could very easily become crowded and the baths wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable with more bodies in the pool.
DON’T forget a hooded jacket if you go in the spring. It wasn’t uncomfortably cold but it sprinkled off and on.
DO visit the House of Terror. No, it isn’t a horror house; it’s a great lesson on the region’s history from both points of view, some of which are horrible.
DON’T pay to see St. Stephen’s Basilica. I don’t actually know what the inside is like and I’m sure it is beautiful, but maybe only pay to go inside if you haven’t seen a dozen other basilicas in Europe.
DO wander near St. Stephen’s at night. It’s beautiful lit up against the night sky and the area is empty in front of it except for the people leaving the nearby bars.
DON’T stay too far away from the Chain Bridge. It’s kind of a tourist area, but you’ll want to see it at night and cabs can be expensive and take a long time.
DO cross the bridge during the day and pause in the middle – just out of the way of other people.
DON’T take the funicular up to Buda Castle. Hike it. Your body and camera will thank you.
– M. Ray Hall