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If you don’t want to shove your guests onto a good but impersonal bus tour of the city, sit back, sip on your favorite summer cocktail and take careful note of the following list of Where to Take First Time Visitors to Budapest.
Duna Corso and the Hot Jazz band
We gathered at Vigadó tér on the Danube, where we found the Duna Corso terrace restaurant in the shadow of the Buda Castle, across the river. Thursday evenings in the summer months you can have dinner here accompanied by the Hot Jazz Band providing background music. Doesn‘t get a lot better than that.
Another Budapest invention, this experience offers different theme rooms, e.g., Egyptian, Harry Potter, Time Machine – in which a small team of people are sequestered. Scattered around the room are clues as to how to escape from their confinement. The team must search for the clues, helping each other figure out how to apply the clues and thus get out of the room. The family actually did make it out within the one-hour time limit – with 90 seconds to spare! Another unique Hungarian experience.
Friday afternoon is a perfect time to gather at Seaman’s Bistro on the Belgrád Rakpart (riverside) for a Meet and Greet evening with old and new friends. This great little terrace bar/restaurant is another little-known of the city’s hidden gems, perfect for cocktails, some snacks and a relaxing evening watching the sun go down behind the castle.
For young teenage first-time visitors, I arranged a Kids’ Day. Several of my local friends brought their kids along, in the same age group as my grandchildren, to Palatinus Strand on Margaret Island for a day at the swimming pools.
I’d never been to this medieval-themed restaurant and wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was wonderful! A dimly lit cellar venue, medieval accoutrements all over the walls and ceilings, people at long tables and benches, raising their medieval mugs of mead (OK, it was probably beer) and shouting “Wassail!” It’s silly and crude and just too much fun. The food is reasonably priced and very good. There was also entertainment: belly dancers, fire dancers, knights with swords, weight lifter, a medieval band; even the kids stayed awake during the entire meal and show.
Fancy other restaurant options? We’ve got you covered with Mexican and vegan food, and also Michelin start restaurants.
Funicular and Castle District
We took the metro to Batthyány tér in Buda to get a great photo op of Budapest’s wonderfully baroque parliament building back across the Danube. Then we caught another tram to Clark Ádam Tér and took the funicular railway up the hillside to the main castle area.
Buda Castle and Labyrinth
We strolled the grounds of the castle itself and walked around the incredibly picturesque castle quarter, where we found The Labyrinth, another tourist attraction I’ve never done. The kids loved exploring a few of the many tunnels and caves that honeycomb Castle Hill; plus, it was cool down there, giving a nice respite from the summer heat.
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St. Mátyás Church and Fisherman’s Bastion
Two must-see places in Budapest. You’ll find more great views of the city along with a lovely old baroque church. A light lunch overlooking the Danube rounds out the afternoon..
Danube Dinner Cruise
Evening found us on the Europa boat for our dinner cruise on the Danube. It was a two-hour cruise with a buffet dinner, live music and sightseeing on that part of the Danube that runs through the middle of Budapest (which also happens to be a World Heritage site). Dinner included an excellent selection of typical Hungarian dishes and we all tried each one of them. And the sunset was magnificent!
OK, I had to take the family to another unique Hungarian invention: the ruin pub. I took them to Szimpla Kert, the oldest ruin pub in Budapest, a true landmark of this type of entertainment. Entrepreneurs take over an abandoned courtyard in an old building, move in tables and chairs and bar paraphernalia and all sorts of funky accessories and set up a pub. There are several in town and they all seem to attract crowds every night of the week.