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Is the Budapest Card Worth It? Discovering Budapest with the Budapest Card

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Budapest is my new favourite city in Europe. By the end of my short three days exploring this city I had fallen in love with the vibe, the nice and friendly people (except when they are skipping the queue!), and the very cheap and delicious food. But I did find myself googling ‘is the Budapest Card Worth it?’.

As I was in Budapest for almost 72 hours, the Budapest card seemed like a perfect way to explore the city on a budget. At 9990 florins ($50 AUD) a pop, I doubted whether it would actually save my money. My conclusion at the end of my three days in Budapest: YES, it definitely did.

So here is my itinerary for enjoying this amazing city in three days, but also a summary of how much I saved by using this card.

Day One: Pest

is the budapest card worth it pest

Budapest is actually made up of two sides; Buda and Pest, with the river Danube flowing between the two halves. Historically they were two separate cities until their unification in 1873.

Free Walking Tour

is the budapest card worth it pest

I started my exploration of the Pest side of the river with the free walking tour that comes included in your Budapest card. I absolutely love walking tours, and try to do one in almost every city I visit.

I think it’s easy to walk around and look at and photograph pretty buildings and city sights, but often we miss finding out about the history and context of these buildings. As a history buff, I love to soak up as much information as I can about a place, and that’s why free walking tours are really good.

The women who took our walking tour was absolutely fantastic, and actually one of the best guides I’ve had. You could tell she really enjoyed her work, as she knew so much about the places we were visiting.

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She was able to tell us about the history of Budapest’s famous opera house that was built only with the permission of the Austrian King.

is the budapest card worth it pest is the budapest card worth it pest

In front of Parliament we heard about the complex history of communism in Hungary, and the violent protests that occurred at different times in Hungarian political history.

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We were also told about the current economic situation in the country, like the fact that most civil servants (such as teachers) live on only 300-400 euros a month!

is the budapest card worth it pest

But the most moving part of the whole tour was the WWII memorial. The main part of the memorial, commissioned by the government depicts Germany as a sweeping eagle preying on Hungary, which is depicted as an Angel. However citizens of the city, particularly the Jewish population have erected a silent protest to the memorial.

The barbed wire strung about the fence, the old battered suitcases, the shoes and the photos of Jewish Hungarian victims of the Holocaust tell a different version of events; the ones that include the fact that Hungary wasn’t exactly an angel when it comes to it’s complicity in WWII.

As a historian, places like this really demonstrate the complexity of historical events and how they are depicted.

IS THE BUDAPEST CARD WORTH IT?

Cost without the Budapest card: There are free walking tours in Hungary but most at least will either request a donation (I usually give around 5-10 euros), or charge you between 10-15 euros.

Cost with the Budapest Card: $0 (and you get the benefit of an amazing guide).

 

Central (Great) Market Hall

On the walking tour we were taken to a smaller market hall which was really cozy and local.

is the budapest card worth it pest

is the budapest card worth it pest

I managed to find the best Langos of my trip to Hungary in that place. Langos is traditional Hungarian snack which is basically a savoury donut typically topped with garlic oil, sour cream and grated cheese. You won’t pay more than $2-$3 for it and it’s super delicious!

But whilst the smaller hall was nice, I don’t think I could have left Budapest without going to visit the Central Market Hall.

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The Central Market Hall is a beautiful building. Here you will find fresh Hungarian produce on the bottom level, where even the locals shop. But the top level is really dedicated to the tourists, with many places to grab lunch or dinner, and also many souvenir shops. I managed to buy a beautiful cashmere scarf, as well as grab a very late lunch of stuffed cabbages, another traditional Hungarian dish.

is the budapest card worth it pest

is the budapest card worth it pest

This is a free activity with or without the Budapest Card, although you’ll spend as much as you want to buy!

 

Hungarian National Museum

is the budapest card worth it pest

I love visiting museums, especially ones that tell a story of the country or city that I am visiting.

The Hungarian National Museum wasn’t the best museum I’ve ever been to, the displays, as well as the fact that you have to pay extra to be able to take photos, were a bit out-dated. And the English translations were pretty mediocre.

What is great about the Hungarian National Museum is the fact that you are taken through the whole history of Hungary. I learnt a lot about the occupation of Hungary by the Ottoman Empire, the period of time where Hungary was part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and about Hungary’s involvement in both world wars. Did you know that following WWI that Hungary lost two thirds of its land and population?

is the budapest card worth it pest

Of course this whole story is told with the assistance of some great historical artefacts.

IS THE BUDAPEST CARD WORTH IT?

Cost without the Budapest Card: 1600 HUF/ $8 AUD/ $6 USD/ 5 euros

Cost with the Budapest Card: $0

 

Day Two: Buda side

is the budapest card worth it pest

The Buda side of Budapest took the most damage during the war. The Hungarian Nazis set up their operation in the Buda Castle so this area was an obvious target for air raids.

However it’s been painstakingly rebuilt and restored after the war and now forms a part of the UNESCO listed sights of Budapest.

Buda is where you come to gaze at the beautiful Matthias Church (arguably Budapest’s most famous site), and get one of the best views of the city from the Buda Castle fortress.

 

Hungarian National Gallery

is the budapest card worth it pest

The Hungarian National Gallery is housed inside the historical Buda Castle. It’s home to some of Hungary’s best art.

I spent almost two hours exploring this place, but it wasn’t quite enough to see the whole permanent collection.

is the budapest card worth it pest

is-the-budapest-card-worth-it-budapest-national-gallery

IS THE BUDAPEST CARD WORTH IT?

Cost without the Budapest Card: 1800 HUF/ $9 AUD/ $7 USD / 6 euros

Cost with the Budapest Card: $0

Lukacs Thermal Bath

Budapest is famous for its thermal baths, and entrance to the Lukacs Thermal Bath is free with the Budapest Card.

Hence I decided to head here whilst I was on the Buda side of the river.

Your entrance includes a locker to safely put your clothes and items into and entrance to all of the pools. Lukacs is actually a very local bath, it’s located in the hospital grounds so it’s often used for remedial purposes by patients.

I especially loved the 40 degrees pools, and the wet steam room! By the time I spent two hours here I was very wrinkly and incredibly starving (I’d skipped lunch). I’d recommend the restaurant across from the tram stop for a late meal.

is the budapest card worth it pest

IS THE BUDAPEST CARD WORTH IT?

Cost without the Budapest Card: 2800 HUF (2900 on weekends)/ $14 AUD/ $10 USD/ 9 euros (with a locker)

Cost with the Budapest Card: $0

 

Buda Walking Tour

The Buda Walking tour that you receive free with your Budapest Card starts at 2.30pm in Buda. I didn’t have the time to make it back from the Spa for this tour.

But the same guide I had for my Pest tour was doing the Buda one that day, so I can guess that this tour would be as fantastic as my Pest one. If you get yourself organised you could definitely squeeze this in after visiting the Lukacs.

IS THE BUDAPEST CARD WORTH IT?

Cost without the Budapest Card: Roughly the same as the Pest tour (1600 HUF/ $8 AUD/ $6 USD/ 5 euros)

Cost with the Budapest Card: $0

Matthias Church

is-the-budapest-card-worth-it-matthias-church-buda

is the budapest card worth it pest

is the budapest card worth it buda matthais church

Budapest’s most famous sight, this church is pretty spectacular.

It’s not just the church you’ll want to explore, but the walls that you can climb up to, and the famous Fisherman’s Baston.

is the budapest card worth it buda matthais church

is the budapest card worth it buda matthais church

You’ll have to pay both to go into the church, and also to climb the church tower. I highly recommend the tower tour, it was a pretty awesome experience. You’ll need to be fit to do it, and not afraid of small spaces as the stairway up to the top is very narrow.

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Unfortunately this isn’t an attraction that is discounted with the Budapest card.

IS THE BUDAPEST CARD WORTH IT?

Cost with or without the Budapest Card: 2000 HUF (1000 HUF and 1000 HUF for the tower tour) / $10 AUD / $7 USD / 6.5 euros

The Citadella/ Gellert Hill

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The citadella is where you can get the best view of the city. It’s even higher than the furnicular and it’s free!

I pretty much died while walking up all of the steps, but it was worth it for this view!

This is best to do at night as the river and bridges are truly magical when lit up.

 

Ruins Bar

My friend and I decided to make it a big day and headed to the ruins bar on this night, but it probably would make sense to visit them on your first night, as you’ll most likely be less exhausted.

The Ruins Bars/Pubs are exactly what they sound like; bars in the ruins. They are located in some of the oldest places in the city.

My friend told me it’s good to head to them early when they aren’t as packed and you can properly looked at the bar itself, as they are often home to some funny installations like bathtubs. But then you will probably want to return later when they are busy because the atmosphere is awesome!

 

Day Three: Pest (again)

Pest is, in my opinion, the better side of the river. Hence it makes sense in a three-day schedule to devote two of those days to exploring Pest. Also make sure you book accommodation in Pest and not Buda! Pest is where you’ll find the best food, easy transport to the rest of the city, great bars and cheap hotels.

 

Dohany Street Synagogue

is the budapest card worth it buda matthais church

The Synagogue is an important place to learn about the Jewish history of the city.

Your entrance fee comes with a guided tour of the Synagogue and the grounds. Our guide had an amazing wealth of information to share and you could also tell how emotionally invested in the place she was.

After all of the churches I have visited, it was quite nice to embrace a different religion by visiting a Synagogue.

is the budapest card worth it buda matthais church

Of course you’ll also learn a lot about the tragic past of Hungarian Jewish life. Hungarian Jews weren’t deported from Hungary until almost the end of the war. But in May 1944 the deportations to Auschwitz began and more than 565,000 Hungarian Jews were murdered.

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The metal tree in the garden area of the Synagogue commemorates the lives lost, and relatives can purchase a leaf in order to engrave a loved one’s name. It’s an incredibly moving place.

But I did pay extra to visit the Jewish museum which definitely was not worth it. You also only get a small discount with the card.

IS THE BUDAPEST CARD WORTH IT?

Cost without the Budapest Card: 3000 HUF/ $15 AUD/ $11 USD / 10 euros

Cost with the Budapest Card: 2700 HUF/ $14 AUD/ $10 USD/ 9 euros

Terror Museum

is the budapest card worth it terror museum

The Terror Museum was my favourite museum in Budapest.

This museum commemorates the victims of both the Nazi regime, but more so the Soviet and Communist regime. It is actually housed in the main building that the secret police operated in, and you can even go downstairs to the dungeons where suspects lived in horrific conditions.

The Terror Museum takes you through a journey and is predominately made up of testimonials from the victims of the two regimes. For me, this place was especially shocking because it was a part of history that I never really knew about. Hundreds of Hungarians were sent to concentration camps, after the end of WWII. Except these were in the Soviet Union.

When I visited Dachau after this museum, I couldn’t help but compare the horrific conditions there with the horrific conditions discussed at the terror museum. But we are a lot more silent on the atrocities that happened post World War II. It reminded me of the inadequacy of my historical knowledge, and the many genocides and violent events history doesn’t properly shine a light on.

IS THE BUDAPEST CARD WORTH IT?

Cost with or without Budapest Card: 2000 HUF/ $10 AUD / $7 USD / 6.5 euros

Varosliget (City Park)is the budapest card worth it

is the budapest card worth it is the budapest card worth it

is the budapest card worth it

The City Park is an odd mix of buildings from different architectural time periods. None of the buildings look like they belong and this is what I enjoyed most about it. It’s a real mix match and a rather interesting place to explore.

is the budapest card worth it

City Park is also home to the statue of Anonymus, the first medieval chronicler of Hungary. It’s good luck to touch his pen! (Hopefully it’s improved my writing!)

IS THE BUDAPEST CARD WORTH IT?

Cost with or without the Budapest Card: Free! (including the ice rink in wintertime)

 

Szechenyi Thermal Baths

is the budapest card worth it

is the budapest card worth it

is the budapest card worth it

This is the most famous bath in Budapest and you shouldn’t leave without visiting it. It’s located right in Varosliget.

Here you’ll find a huge range of thermal and outdoor heated baths. The setting is absolutely beautiful, the old yellow buildings set against the blue of the baths with the hot steam coming off them is a very pretty image!

IS THE BUDAPEST CARD WORTH IT?

Cost without Budapest Card: 4500 HUF (extra 200 on weekends) / $22 AUD / $16 USD/ 15 euros

Cost with Budapest Card: 10% discount- 4050 HUF / $20 AUD / $14.5 USD / 13 euros

 

How to Get Around Budapest?

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Budapest isn’t exactly a very walkable city, especially in the colder months. I was able to get around via the metro, buses and trams with the use of my Budapest Card. All of the public transport is free with it!

Be sure to ride the quaint city/millennium line which is actually UNESCO listed and one of the oldest metro lines in Europe!

IS THE BUDAPEST CARD WORTH IT?

Cost without the Budapest Card (three days unlimited travel pass): 4150 HUF/ $20.50 AUD/ $14.50 USD / 13.5 euros

Cost with the Budapest Card: $0

 

Where Should I Stay in Budapest?

If you are a budget traveller or are just looking to make some friends, I always recommend staying at hostels. Whilst the first time I visited Budapest I stayed with a friend, on my second visit I stayed at Hostel One Budapest and it was great.

AirBnB is also a great option if you are on a budget or looking for a bit of space.

For all of your bookings, whether hostel or hotel I always recommend Booking.com, specifically because most of the time you can make a reservation without a deposit and many bookings are fully cancellable and refundable. I love being able to lock in my accomodation early, but then shift things around if my plans change!

Booking.com

So is the Budapest Card Worth it?

Let’s do the maths! What did I actually end up saving?

Walking Tour of Pest- 1600 HUF (without card)

Hungarian National Museum- 1600 HUF

Hungarian National Gallery- 1800 HUF

Lukacs Thermal Bath- 2800 HUF

Synagogue- 300 HUF (discounted)

Szechenyi Thermal Baths- 450 HUF (discounted)

Public transport- 4150

 

Total- 12700 HUF

Total for 72 hour Card- 9900 HUF

As you can see, I got a huge amount of value out of my Budapest card.

But at the end of the day you need to do the maths for yourself before you decide to purchase the card. Make a list of all of the attractions you would like to visit and then add it up to see if you will actually save money.

Another thing to note is that the prices listed here are the full prices. If I didn’t have the card I would probably have only had to pay student prices, so that is something to keep in mind if you a student and thinking about purchasing the card.

I loved my three days in Budapest and the Budapest Card was a great way to get the most out of this city!

 

Want to know more about Budapest?

My friend Kenza is living in Budapest for the next year and she is definitely an expert on this city. You’ll find lots of post on Budapest and Hungary in general over on her blog: Cups of English tea (it’s in French but you can totally use google translate- which is what I do when I’m too lazy to read in French :p ).

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Please note: I was given a complimentary 72hr Budapest Card by the Budapest Tourism Office in exchange for an honest review about whether the budapest card is worth it. . As always, all opinions are my own. Furthermore neither the operators at any of the attractions I visited nor my tour guide knew that I was a blogger.

 

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8 Comments

  1. We enjoyed reading your post! It helped us decide what to see and do during our visit to Budapest.

  2. Hi Britt,

    Absolutely loved this post! Using it as a reference for my trip in July.
    I am looking into getting the 72hr card but different sites are telling me different things, I was wondering how you purchased yours (online; at your accommodation; airport)?

    1. Hi Corey. I was offered one by the Budapest Tourism office in exchange for an honest review. But it shouldn’t matter where you buy it- the tourism desk at the airport or in the city would most likely be your best bet.

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