This marvelous metropolis known as The Pearl on the Danube certainly doesn’t disappoint. It might not have the glitz and glamour of a diamond such as Paris, but this diverse city is sure to charm you with its rich heritage, grand buildings, and vibrant nightlife.
Hungary’s bustling and beautiful capital city has been on the up-and-up for several years as a holiday destination, but now it has become a well-known digital nomad hub due to its affordability compared to Western Europe.
Full of character, this urban landscape is the ideal place for culture-vultures who are just starting out on their journey as world travelers and/or digital nomads to base themselves while they find their feet. Budapest has enough of a cultural blend of East meets West to feel different and exciting, but it still has the conveniences and comforts of home with English widely spoken and understood, a robust expat/nomad community, and good public transport system.
Known for its thermal baths, Budapest has no problem keeping travelers and expats entertained throughout the day and into the night, whether you opt to live on the Buda Side or the Pest Side (the city being split by the river). Live like a local and get yourself invited to a sparty or a spa party, visit one of the ruin bars, or immerse yourself in the rich arts scene with festivals, concerts, and events held just about every week!
If you’re a foodie, now is an exciting time to be in Budapest, as the food scene is really starting to blossom. Tickle your taste buds with hearty comfort food, sizzling street food (so bad for you, but oh so good!), or modern experimental food (think pasta served with pear). Healthy eating and vegan options are only just starting to take hold here, but there’s a thriving specialty coffee culture to ensure you get your caffeine kick each morning, and the local wine is superb!
When work beckons, you’ll find plenty of cool and quirky cafes to work from, as well as lots of co-working spaces. If you’re struggling to settle, pack up the laptop, take a leisurely walk by the river or up to the castle, and admire the views – you’ll come back refreshed and raring to go with new ideas.
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Where to Stay
Budapest has been neatly classified into 23 districts, which are divided by the Danube river. The area on the western side is known as “Buda” and generally understood to be quieter and more residential; owing to a large number of international schools located here, Buda tends to be a popular choice for expats with children. There are also a lot of big parks and green spaces, with plenty of opportunities for getting outdoors, and so it has a very family friendly vibe. Buda is also where the oldest and most central part of the city is, and it is home to a lot of Budapest’s most iconic landmarks. On the eastern bank there is Pest, which is known as the downtown area of the city. Indeed, the districts throughout Pest tend to have a livelier atmosphere, appealing to the younger crowds of single expats and students. Pest is full of great nightlife options, and the districts here often have an artsy, bohemian feel to them.
[First Pick] District 5 (Belváros): Arguably the most central district in Budapest, Belváros lies in downtown Pest. Because of its easy proximity to many of the city’s important landmarks and monuments, like St Stephen’s Basilica and the Soviet War Memorial, this neighborhood attracts a lot of tourists. Its central location makes it more expensive than other parts of the city, but it is very close to a grand selection of restaurants, bars, and shopping centres.
[Second Pick] District 7 (Erzsébetváros): Historically known as the Jewish district, Erzsébetváros still boasts a number of very beautiful synagogues throughout the area. It is also where the city’s medical and veterinary universities are located, and as such, tends to be populated by young, hip students, making this a trendy and attractive neighborhood. As with most fashionable parts of town, young expats flock here to enjoy the many chic coffee shops and designer stores.
[Third Pick] District 1 (Castle District): Known to be one of the oldest parts of the city, the Castle District of Budapest is home to a wealth of tourist attractions, such as the Fisherman’s Bastion, Matthias Church, and the Arpad Toth Promenade. It can thus get very busy with visitors during the day, but tends to quiet down towards the evening. It’s also one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the whole city, and there’s little in the way of shops or supermarkets; an excellent array of very fine restaurants, however, more than makes up for this fact.
District 6 (Terézváros): For some fun nighttime entertainment, head to District 6, well-known for its cultural events and offerings. For music enthusiasts, the neighborhood is home to the Liszt School of Music and the Budapest Opera House. There is no shortage of bars and pubs here, too; you’re bound to find something to suit all tastes. Be wary of the many small alleyways and streets populated with “seedier” bars, however, as the noise levels can get pretty high during the busier seasons.
District 2 (Víziváros): A very pleasant residential area, District 2 goes by a name that translates into English as “Watertown,” and it is heralded by locals and expats alike as a beautiful place to live. Home to the infamous Veli Bej, Budapest’s oldest bathhouse, and numerous green spaces and parks, Víziváros is well known for being one of the city’s most attractive neighborhoods. Located on the more laid-back Buda side of the Danube, it’s also easy to get to the livelier Pest via the Margaret Bridge or the Chain Bridge.
District 8 (Józsefváros): With a calmer, more relaxed vibe than the boisterous Districts 6 and 7, Józsefvaros is the place to go for a more local and social atmosphere. Previously regarded as one of the city’s “rougher” neighborhoods, District 8 is certainly undergoing a gentrification process that has brought several stylish bars and restaurants to the area without compromising on its authentic, bohemian feel.
District 11 (Újbuda): An affluent residential neighborhood on the Buda side of the Danube river, this district is popular with expat families due to the proximity of many international schools. It’s also perfect for those outdoorsy types who love hiking. What’s more, District 11 covers Gellert Hill, and so most accommodation options provide some spectacular city views.
District 13 (Angyalföld & Újilpótváros): With a convenient downtown location, this area is close to the business district and a good selection of shopping centres and malls. Another neighborhood for sporty types, the lovely Margaret Park (an island with a 5km running track) is nearby, and great transportation means you can be anywhere downtown in a matter of minutes. There are no international schools around, though, as these are all located on the other side of the river, so the area is generally not a popular one for expat families with kids.
District 22 (Budafok – Tétény): With the rather attractive status as the “Town of Wine and Champagne,” District 22 is on the Buda side of the river and hosts the city’s wine and champagne manufacturers.The area has good transportation connections and is trendy enough to appeal to the population of artists and musicians who have now moved in and call the neighborhood home.
Here’s a map of the most popular neighborhoods in Budapest:
Getting a Visa
Before travelling to Hungary, you need to know whether or not to need to apply for a travel visa beforehand and, if so, which type of visa will suit your purpose. This article will give you a rundown of Hungary visa requirements and how to apply for specific visa types, should you need one.
Who Requires a Visa For Hungary?
If you’re a national of the European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) then you do not require a visa to visit Hungary for any purpose. However, if you’re a national from one of the aforementioned countries and you are staying for more than 90 days, then you must register with the immigration department in Hungary.
If you’re a national from a list of countries that includes the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Switzerland, you are not required to obtain a visa as long as your stay does not exceed 90 days, and you do not take up employment during your visit.
If you don’t hold a passport from any of the aforementioned territories, then you are required to obtain a visa before travelling to Hungary. There are different types of visas available to you, so it is important that you choose the correct visa to suit the purpose of your trip, as you are not permitted to change your status once you are in Hungary, and you may have to leave and re-enter on a new visa.
Types of Hungarian Visa
The Schengen visa comes in two basic types:
Short-term stay (not exceeding 90 days)
Long-term stays (exceeding 90 days)
These visas can be obtained for different purposes and require different documentation during the application process, so please read the following information carefully to make an informed decision on which visa you need to apply for.
For all visa applications, you’ll need to supply basic documentation, such as your passport, copies of any previous visas, two photographs, accommodation booking, flight tickets, evidence of financial sustenance, and travel insurance.
Visa for Tourism Purposes: If you’re entering Hungary for tourism purposes only, then you may wish to apply for the Tourism Visa. In addition to the basic documents mentioned previously, you’ll need to provide six months’ worth of personal bank statements, passport copies, and an invitation letter from a family member or sponsor including their contact details. The invitation letter is not required under all circumstances, so always check at your local Hungarian embassy or consulate for further details.
Visa for Business Purposes: When visiting Hungary for business purposes, a Business Visa is required. Business purposes are those occasions such as attending business meeting and conferences, but do not include employment or paid work of any type. To apply for this type of visa, you’ll be required to evidence certain documents, such as:
Six month business bank statement
Invitation letter from Hungarian company with address and dates of visit
Employer’s certificate confirming your purpose for travel
Evidence of trade relations between the two companies (if applicable)
Memorandum and Article of Association (original)
Employer or partner company letter stating coverage of expenses
Applications must be made at your local Hungarian embassy or consulate prior to travel.
Visa for Study, Training, Research, or Internship Purposes: Visits for educational purposes can be facilitated with a Student Visa. In addition to the basic visa documents, you’ll need to provide proof of your acceptance into a certified course in Hungary and financial sustenance for the duration of your stay. Again, this type of visa must be applied for before travelling to Hungary.
Visa for the Spouse of a Hungarian Citizen: For the wife or husband of a Hungarian citizen to obtain a Spouse Visa for Hungary, in addition to the basic documents, the Hungarian citizen must provide evidence of their citizenship, Hungarian family record book, and Hungarian marriage certificate.
Visa for Medical Purposes: If you need to visit Hungary for medical purposes, such as surgery or to visit a medical specialist, you can apply for a Medical Visa. To do this, you’ll need to provide a medical fee receipt, local medical report, and a medical attestation from a medical professional or hospital in Hungary detailing your medical circumstances and appointment dates.
Hungarian Visas for Other Purposes: Different visas for a variety of purposes are available for those who require them. Some of these included visas for:
Cultural, Sports, Film Crew or Religious Purposes
Members of Official Delegations
Details of these visas and further information on all of the visas presented on this page can be sought from your local Hungarian embassy or consulate. Immigration rules and regulations change frequently and without notice, so always confirm the latest updates with your local embassy or consulate before making any bookings.
How to Extend Your Visa in Budapest
Schengen visas are only extended in exceptional circumstances. Only the immigration officer can decide if your situation warrants a visa extension, but some past examples of acceptable circumstances for Schengen visa extension are things like severe illness or a last-minute change of flight.
There are, however, many legal ways of prolonging your stay in Hungary by taking the necessary course of action to obtain an additional visa, such as taking a course to qualify for a Student Visa or leaving Hungary and entering a non-Schengen territory for 181 days and then returning to Hungary.
Immigration Office in Budapest: 1135 Budapest (District 13), Szegedi ut 35-37 (Twin Office Center Building)
Overstaying Your Visa in Budapest: Overstaying your visa can result in a fine, ban on entry, and deportation. The longer you overstay, the more serious the consequences will become, so always visit the immigration office in Budapest as soon as you can to try to rectify the situation. You may find that you just receive a slap on the wrist if you’ve only overstayed by a few days.
NOTE: Remember that immigration rules and regulations change frequently and without notice, so always check in with your consulate or embassy before making any travel plans.
Best time to visit Budapest
The best time to visit Budapest is late Spring or early Autumn when you can enjoy bright sunny days without the overpowering heat and crowds of the Summer. Like the rest of central Europe, Budapest has hot summers and cold winters though rarely gets snow. Still benefiting from 4 distinctive seasons, the weather can change quickly so don’t despair if you arrive and it’s wet and gray, you’ll likely enjoy bright blue skies the next day as Budapest can boast that it gets more sunny days than Barcelona!
November-February: Winters are cold compared with the Greek Islands but warm compared with Iceland, expect a mix of bright but cold days and some gray, wet days. The city rarely gets snow, but if it does it generally only lasts a few days. The cold season starts with a fun and festive Winter fair which lasts from the end of November until mid-December when the Christmas festivities take over followed by New Year celebrations. January is the coldest month with temperatures dropping below zero and is also the quietest month with not quite so many activities taking place but the city soon comes alive again with a colorful carnival before Lent.
March – May: By early March Spring is in the air and the trees are blossoming though the weather remains unpredictable and is often windy until mid-April. As April turns to May and the Spring flowers are in full bloom the temperature becomes more stable though don’t be surprised if you get some Spring showers. Easter is a big event in Budapest as is the 3-week long Spring Festival which takes place from the end of March until mid-April filling the city with jazz, opera, dance, circus acts, theater, and visual arts from Hungarian artists as well as international stars.
June – August: Through June the temperatures continue to rise though short Summer showers aren’t unheard of. July is Budapest’s hottest month with temperatures hitting 30c + which, combined with the crowds, can make the city almost unbearable. These Summer months are the busiest time for tourists as well as digital nomads who are in Europe for Summer but the locals tend to leave the city for vacation time at the slightly cooler lakes. The Summer festival runs from the start of June until the end of August with concerts, dance shows and kids activities happening around the city, the festival, and indeed the Summer season, closing with a superb firework show.
September-November: The hottest days of Summer might be over but Budapest still enjoys a leisurely Indian Summer until mid-October. These pleasant temperatures and settled weather make it a great time to explore the city with the crowds of Summer having packed up and gone. The rain increases and the temperatures start to drop from mid-October as the trees change color and eventually lose their leaves. The days continue to get noticeably shorter and colder with November weather unsettled, nighttime temperatures dropping as low as freezing.
Budapest’s Best Festival
Immerse yourself in the cultural life of Budapest by participating in the many festivals the city has to offer. Indulge in delectable gourmet foods, allow yourself to be captivated by the exquisite art on display, and savor the tastes of local wine. Here are some of the best events and annual festivals of Budapest:
V4 Jazz Festival (January/February): This event celebrates the jazz formation of the “Visegrád Four,” consisting of four Central European states: Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. The best performances are showcased, as the main aim of the event is not only to create an enjoyable time, but also to establish a firm musically creative relationship between all four countries.
[Top Pick] Mangalica Festival (February): This free festival aims to introduce domestic breeders and good producers to create the finest quality Mangalica (pig) products. Alongside the impressive food will be live music, kids’ programs, a live animal show, and on-spot whole roasted pigs.
Budapest Dance Festival (February): This colorful festival welcomes a whole host of dancers with different artistic backgrounds. With shows all over the city, visitors can enjoy a wide mix of genres, from classical, contemporary, and even traditional folklore.
Budapest Fish Festival (March): In a country known for its Fisherman’s soup, the Budapest Fish Festival promises to offer a wide array of delicious fish dishes. Cooking contests, wine tastings, live music, shows, and kids’ programs make this 4-day event one to look forward to.
[Top Pick] Budapest Spring Festival (March/April): For those visitors interested in music, theatre, and the visual arts, the Budapest Spring Festival will be an unmissable event. The festival takes place across multiple locations in the city over a three-week period. It is one of the largest events in Central Europe of its kind. There is something for everyone, from classical music to jazz, folk, and opera.
Titanic International Filmfest (April): The Titanic Filmfest is the biggest international film festival in Hungary and has won the Breaking Waves Award. Films from over 29 countries are showcased over several venues in the city.
Cherry Blossom Festival (April): This festival is held at Füvészkert Botanical Gardens with the aim of celebrating traditional Japanese art and culture. Visitors can expect to enjoy exhibitions about origami and calligraphy while being served authentic Japanese tea.
Falk Art Forum (May): This semi-annual event celebrates Antique and Modern Art on Falk Miksa Street in the antique row of Budapest. Along with special exhibitions, visitors can enjoy stage performances and culinary treats.
Rosalia Rosé Festival (May): This 3-day event features plenty of wine tasting, jazz concerts, and traditional Hungarian food that perfectly suits the wine. Entry is free to this event, but there is a small charge for a tasting glass with the festival logo.
Belgian Beer Festival (May): The Belgian Beer Festival in Budapest presents visitors with the opportunity to taste almost 200 types of brews from 43 breweries. There is an entrance fee that includes a beer mug and a few glasses of Belgian brew.
Festival of Museums (May): Admission is free to the Festival of Museums, and festival-goers can visit around 120 museums in Budapest at the garden of the National Museum.
Floralia (May): Floralia is a Roman Spring Festival. The Museum and Archaeological Park is decorated with flowers inspired by Roman art. It provides a fascinating glimpse into the lives of Roman soldiers and gladiators through reenactments.
Rosalia – Rosé and Champagne Festival (May): The Annual Rosalia Festival takes place in Városliget City Park and invites visitors to enjoy a glass of rosé or champagne. There is also a range of culturally diverse street food available as well as some live musical acts playing.
Kolorádó Festival (June): During the Kolorádó Festival, the usually quiet and serene Buda Hills serve as the secret location of a wild music festival. It features danceable techno beats which continue to play for the entirety of the 4-day festival.
Budapest Summer Festival (June): This festival provides cultural programs across 3 months. It hosts a myriad of different concerts, musicals, dance shows, theatre, and comedy performances.
Budapest Pride (July): This is Hungary’s largest annual LGBT event. Though much smaller in scale than similar gay pride parades in Western Europe, thousands of marchers typically participate in the Budapest procession.
[Top Pick] Sziget Festival (August): This week-long festival has grown to become one of the prominent European rock festivals. It is now being increasingly labelled as a European alternative to the Burning Man festival due to its unique features.
“Junibor” Wine Festival (August): This annual festival celebrates Hungary’s young winemakers and their wines. Over 100 different wines from 30 different winemakes are available over this 4-day event.
[Top Pick] Budapest Wine Festival (September): The wine festival in Buda Castle Hill is one of the largest wine festivals in Hungary and a must-attend event for anyone who wants to learn about wine making, sample some of the region’s wines, and enjoy Hungarian gastronomy.
Foie Gras Festival (September): The 3-day Foie Gras Festival includes several kids’ programs, live musical performances, and a cooking school. It is a unique food festival to showcase Hungarian goose specialities.
Café Budapest Contemporary Arts Festival (October): A two-week event that offers performances and mini-concerts at public places around Budapest. Performances include music, dance, and theatre.
Santa Speedo Run (December): Help raise funds for Hungarian charities and children in need as a team of runners wearing nothing other than a severely underdressed ensemble: a Santa hat, sneakers, and a Speedo swimsuit.
Note: Some of the dates and locations may change. Be sure to double check the exact dates before planning your trip
Tal Gur is a world traveler and personal development enthusiast. An adventurer at heart, after trading his daily grind for a life of his own daring design, Tal spent a decade pursuing 100 major life goals around the globe. His journey continues as a location-independent blogger, lifestyle entrepreneur, and coach. Tal’s published two books: One Year to Freedom, a 1-Year Roadmap to Living Life on Your Own Terms; and, his most recent book and bestseller, The Art of Fully Living – 1 Man, 10 Years, 100 Life Goals Around the World.