how to travel responsibly in Budapest: locally-led tours, social enterprise cafés, + what you can’t miss in Hungary’s capital

Budapest quickly stole a sliver of my heart thanks to the fabulous street art, affordability, delicious coffee, and pretty, pretty architecture. My gorgeous, private AirBnB made me feel like I was fully at home in the city. So much so, in fact, that I actually added on an extra day to my stay.

While Budapest tourism has risen steadily in recent years thanks to music festivals and its low price tag, the city has also seen a major influx in boozy bachelor parties. These visiting groups often stick to ruin pubs and, while I’m sure they have a great time, they miss out on all the other outstanding things Budapest has to offer.

This post serves as a guide to the more responsible {though equally as fun} things to do, places to eat, and cultural sites in Hungary’s capital.


read on for my responsible city guide to budapest


the ultimate guide to responsible travel in Budapest: locally-led tours, social enterprise cafés, + what you can’t miss in Hungary’s capital

getting to budapest

Budapest is serviced by Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport. Flights from Europe are relatively cheap thanks to budget airlines like Ryanair, EasyJet, and Wizz Air. I’ve flown with each of these three air carriers, and can attest that they are up to snuff, albeit lacking in extra amenities— you get what you pay for when flying.

ECO-REMINDER: Don’t forget to offset your carbon emissions!

Budget travelers heading to Budapest from inside Europe can also arrive via bus. I recommend FlixBus. While I was traveling around Europe {summer 2019}, I found it was typically the cheapest and quite nice. Seats typically have charging ports and are comfortable enough for the journey.

the ultimate responsible guide to budapest: locally-led tours, social enterprise cafés, + what you can’t miss in Hungary’s capital

getting around budapest

To get to the city center from the airport as cheaply as possible, hop on bus 103. The ride costs HUF 1,800 {USD $6.22} each way.

Once you’re inside the city, you have a few public transport options available to you: a metro service, buses, and trams. Tickets for transport can be purchased on the bus {if you have cash}, or at any metro station {card is also accepted}. Getting a transport card for the length of your stay is the best bang for your buck, however, I think Budapest is best done on foot. In fact, I found most of my favourite spots in the city by wandering through it on two legs.


where to stay

There are no shortage of affordable hostels and high-end hotels in Budapest. However, I fell in love with my AirBnB. I felt so at home that I actually extended my time in Budapest. The private room came with all the amenities: hairdryer, fast WiFi, fresh water, a floor fan, large windows {and fitting curtains}, a comfortabel foam bed, a full-length mirror, full wardrobe with a chest of drawers, and twinkly lights. The shower was hot and had full pressure . I also loved the airy, bright kitchen with every single utensil and tool you could possibly need. On top of a beautiful window seat, which was perfect for an afternoon of reading}, the place had a dishwasher, toaster, coffee pot, kettle, stove, oven— truly all the bells and whistles, guys.

Personally, I’d avoid staying in the Jewish district unless you’re alright with a little noise. I stayed outside of this area, which is actually my favourite in the city. I realized this was a blessing in disguise after hearing from multiple locals that this trendy corner of town is also the loudest at night.

Pssst…create an account with AriBnB using this link and you’ll receive a big hunk of credit to use on your first stay!

how to travel responsibly in budapest: locally-led tours, social enterprise cafés, + what you can’t miss in Hungary’s capital #budapest #budapesttravel

ethical places to eat + drink

When people talk about café culture in Budapest, they aren’t kidding around. Every alleyway and side street houses a wealth of cafés that serve up fantastic coffee. I know I can be a snob when it comes to a cup of proper coffee, so don’t take it lightly when I say, Budapest has better coffee than any I had in Vienna {I know, I can hear the shock from here}. The capital also had a bevy of affordable food options. Some of my favourite spots ended up, of course, being cafés. This was heightened by the fact that Budapest is seeing a rise in social enterprise cafés that benefit charities and create inclusive community spaces.

nem adom fel

Nem Adom Fel is Hungary’s first café and restaurant that is operated by people with physical and intellectual disabilities. The café, whose name translates to “I Won’t Give Up”, gives individuals with disabilities a chance to earn a livable wage and gain professional development. The café is fully wheelchair accessible and welcomes dogs {both guide dogs and regular four-legged friends}.

If you’re looking for a lunch bargain during the weekday, their two-course rotating menu is a steal for 1000 HUF {USD $3.45}. There are also inclusive community events throughout the month, so make sure you check their website for what’s on!

OPENING HOURS: weekdays from 10 AM- 8 PM, closed on weekends

empathy café + bistro: the hungarian red cross hub

Run by the Hungarian Red Cross, Empathy Café looks like another hipster café in Budapest and serves up fantastic coffee and yummy pastries. Proceeds all go back to the Red Cross, so you can feel great about spending your money here. Empathy is also eco-friendly: there is no plastic apart from the take away coffee lids, filtered water served at each table comes straight from the tap, and waste is composted.

OPENING HOURS: weekdays from 8 AM- 8 PM, closed on weekends

premier kult café

Nem Adom Fel might have been Budapest’s first disability-friendly cafés, but Premier Kult Café is Europe’s largest disability-friendly space. The café and cultural space, which is housed in a large industrial building, is operated by the “Adopt a Teddy Bear Foundation”. Similar to Nem Adom Fel, the mission of Kult Café is to offer those with disabilities fair working opportunities and a more inclusive environment. Head to their website to see what events are on while you’re in the city, as they sometimes have movie showings and art shows.

OPENING HOURS: weekdays from 7:30PM - 10 PM, Saturdays from 9AM- 10 PM, Sundays from 9AM- 4PM

vegan street food garden

Vegan Garden, as its name sort of already implies, is an outdoor space filled with food trucks serving up different varieties of vegan yums. I tried the “nachos non-carne” at Vexicana and then proceeded to say, “This is sooo good,” between each bite. Eating vegan is one of the best ways to help save the planet and minimize resources. I promise, even if you aren’t veg, Vegan Garden will have something that you’ll love.

OPENING HOURS: 11 AM- 11 PM daily


responsible things to see + do

take a locally-led tour with Budapestflow

BudapestFlow is a tour company that is owned and operated by Budapest locals. BudapestFlow offers tours of the Jewish district, street art in the area, alternative ruin pubs, and a Sunday morning tour that shows off the markets of the city.

Read my tour review: Where to find the best street art + alternative ruin pubs in Budapest: a locally-led tour with BudapestFlow

how to travel responsibly in budapest: locally-led tours, social enterprise cafés, + what you can’t miss in Hungary’s capital

swim at one of the smaller {but equally awesome} thermal pools

Szchenyi Thermal Pools is the largest in Budapest, and it has quickly become a tourist hotspot. Unfortunately, this means that the pool tends to be quite crowded during peak travel months, something locals are starting to get a bit irritated about. Instead of paying the steep price for these thermal baths, spread the economic boost with a visit to the Dander thermal pools. No photos are allowed inside. This is so that everyone can enjoy their thermal bath in privacy and, honestly, it was a blessing. After stopping by the Szchenyi Thermal Pools, which were admittedly super cool, it was nice to relax and not be in the background of anyone’s photo-op.

OPENING HOURS: weekdays from 6AM- 9PM, weekends from 8AM- 9PM

how to travel responsibly in budapest: locally-led tours, social enterprise cafés, + what you can’t miss in Hungary’s capital #budapest #budapesttravel

stop by central market

This neo-Gothic building is the largest indoor market in Budapest. Filled with produce, meat, and food stalls, Central Market is a great place to go and people watch over some Langos. Visit in the morning when vendors are opening their booths and locals are trying to get their goods before tourists come swooping in. You won’t need long here, but it’s worth a visit!

OPENING HOURS: Tuesday through Friday from 6AM -6PM, Saturdays from 6AM- 3PM, closed on Sundays, Mondays from 6AM -5PM

visit budapest’s massive parliament building

When I say massive, I’m not exaggerating. Budapest boasts the third largest assembly building in the world, just behind the Parliament of Romania and the Congress of Argentina. Needless to say, it’s huge. I was going to go on a tour of the giant building but felt a bit wronged when I learned that EU citizens pay HUF 2,400 {USD $8.25} while non-EU citizens {aka me} have to pay HUF 6,000 {USD $20.62}. I cried “unfair” and then refused to pay on principle #stubborn. Judging from the pictures online, the inside is actually worth the ticket price. If you decide to throw a strop, like I did, enjoy the outside and walk the entire circumference, including along the riverside for all the best photo angles of the building.

OPENING HOURS: weekdays from 8AM- 6PM, weekends from 8AM- 4PM

the ultimate guide to responsible travel in Budapest: locally-led tours, social enterprise cafés, + what you can’t miss in Hungary’s capital

visit st. stephen’s basilica

St. Stephen’s Basilica offers panoramic views of Budapest for just HUF 500 {USD $1.73}. This Roman Catholic church was built in the 18th-century, making it as historic as it is beautiful. Restoration efforts are funded by the small donations you are encouraged to make if you peep the inside. Make sure you look up—the ceiling is intricately designed and the details are stunning.

OPENING HOURS: Monday through Saturday from 9AM- 5PM

wander around the jewish district

“Wander around” seems so vague, I know. But that’s all you need to do to stumble upon some of the coolest boutique shopping, hippest cafés, prettiest street art, and trendiest secondhand stores. The Jewish district in Budapest is also marked with Holocaust history, some of which is still displayed in the dilapidated buildings of the area. I could list my favourite corners of this part of the city, but I really think it shines brightest when you go for a stroll.

how to travel responsibly in Budapest: locally-led tours, social enterprise cafés, + what you can’t miss in Hungary’s capital

hike up gellert hill to the citadel

My entire trip to Budapest was blessed with glorious weather, though a gray cloud popped up now and again. However, on the day I hiked up to the Citadel, the weather was especially sunny.It’s not so much a hike as it is a walk up paved steps. Regardless of its exact classification, it is worth your time to cross over into Buda for views at the top.

visit buda castle

After your hike up Gellert, head down from the Citadel to Buda Castle. This Baroque-style palace was once the home of Hungarian kings. It’s free to walk around the gardens, but you’ll have to pay HUF 1,400 {USD $4.80} to get inside the castle.

the ultimate guide to responsible travel in Budapest: locally-led tours, social enterprise cafés, + what you can’t miss in Hungary’s capital

tour Dohány Street Synagogue

Dohány Street Synagogue is the largest synagogue in Europe, though the entry fee to visit is a pretty chunk of change {HUF 4,500 or USD $15.58}. If you are interested in the history of the Jewish district of Budapest, the history of Jews in Hungary, or world history in general, it’s worth spending the money since you get a guided tour included in the cost.

OPENING HOURS: Sunday through Thursday from 10AM- 6PM, Fridays from 10AM- 4PM, closed on Saturdays

pay respects at the many memorials for hungarian jews

There are numerous Holocaust memorials throughout the city. Some have signs hanging in protest from them, since Hungary actually welcomed the Germans with banners and flowers {the city didn’t put up any fight and many think Germany gets blamed for what Hungary also actively participated in}. Others are simple in design {shoes sitting along the Danube}, with a power-packed message. Hungarian Jews faced some of the greatest losses by number during the Holocaust, so it makes since that that history is honoured by the people of the city through various art installations, plaques, and monuments.

the ultimate responsible guide to budapest: locally-led tours, social enterprise cafés, + what you can’t miss in Hungary’s capital

grab a night cap at an inclusive ruin bar

All ruin bars are a good time. After visiting a few with BudapestFlow and a few others with my Kiwi friend, Dan, and his wife, I learned that there are specific ruin bars that focus on being inclusive, particularly of the LGBTQIA community! One of these such establishments was Anker’t , which was open air and had plenty of seating for you and all your travel companions. Rather than grab a beer just anywhere, why not spend your money somewhere that is trying to create a space that’s welcoming to everyone?

snap photos at fisherman bastion

No trip to Budapest would be complete without heading to it’s most Instagram-famous landmark, which offers one of the prettiest views of the city. Like something out of a fairytale, Fisherman Bastion has seven towers, which are said to symbolize the seven Maygar tribes that settled what we know today as Hungary. Perhaps the most impressive feature is the double stairway at the front— you’ll be feeling like Cinderella {or the Prince} walking up the stone steps. Just make sure you don’t lose a shoe.


map

NEED HELP NAVIGATING? Don’t worry. I’ve made a map for you with all the spots mentioned in this post.


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the ultimate guide to responsible travel in Budapest: locally-led tours, social enterprise cafés, + eco-minded accommodation #Budapest #Budapesttravel #budapestthingstodo
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the ultimate guide to responsible travel in Budapest: locally-led tours, social enterprise cafés, + what you can’t miss in Hungary’s capital #budapest #hungarytravel #budapesttravel #budapestthingstodo