Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tours are in every major city and Budapest has a few different companies doing it, but Big Bus has a few perks the others don’t have.
Big Bus has more departures leaving every 30 minutes, even in the winter when most other companies cut back staff and finish tours early. Big Bug also gives out a great coupon book free with purchase with many two for one deals throughout the city, conveniently located near destination points along the Big Bus tour routes. While all give Free Danube River Cruises included in the price, the Big Bus Tours Buses have a 1/2 covered top section which is heated in the winter. This way you can enjoy the double decker bus with the best views, even in the rain. Children are free, but only under a certain age and height, however try negotiating in low season.
We were planning to walk to central park down Andrassy Ave to take the kids to the zoo just after Christmas, however, along the way we bumped into a Big Bus Bus Tour salesman, (usually we walk right by). He talked us into buying two, two-day passes for 40€ and he threw in the kids for free. I was sick, getting sicker, and my crutches were killing my hands and he asked right at the most vulnerable moment during our trip. For the price, we couldn’t go wrong.
Stop #1 on the map, we started at Heros Square. We walked through the park where the Art and Gold Museums are located, Vajdahunyad Castle, the outdoor ice skating rink, the zoo, the circus, Playland and the Szechenyi Roman style baths. I highly recommend the baths, especially in the winter. Sitting in hot tubs while outside is one of the best experiences in the world. Plus they are healing sulphuric tubs with different temperatures.
Stop #2 1956 Memorial Square where the city park, timewheel and the transport museum are located.
Stop #3 Keleti Railway Station, the largest railway station in Budapest.
Stop #4 Best Western Hotel Hungaria where Pope John Paul II Square is. He was a Roman Catholic Priest, bishop, and Cardinal. He was the first non-Italian pope in more than 400 years and he travelled most of the world.
Stop #5 New York Cafe is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Budapest. The Boscolo New York Cafe is considered to be ‘the most beautiful café in the world’ with ornate details, gold trim, pretty decor; all located inside the 5 star hotel with the same name, Boscolo.
Stop #6 Astoria on the corner of Rakoczi and Karoly Korut and the historic Astoria hotel, between stop#5 and stop#6 is our home just off Nagydiofa Street. Our home is in one of the beautiful, fully restored 19th century three story walk-ups. The architecture is all gothic style, the same a Paris with quaint streets, shopping and restaurants throughout our neighbourhood Elizabethtown. The 7th district is incomparable to anywhere else in Budapest. The area is densely populated, many students and travellers, which makes it diverse, with cheap eats, and a fabulous night life.
Stop #7 Buddha-Bar Hotel Kárpatia restaurant is a unique building standing on the corner of Vaci street since 1900 being the first to feature an elevator in Hungary. It has been the locations of many films in Hollywood, made to look like Russia, the underworld, south America and the list goes on.
Stop # 8 takes you high above the city to the Citadel. In the main park you have a fantastic view of the city, and liberty statue.
Stop #9 The Great Market Hall is the largest and oldest market in Budapest. Gastro Street in the 4th district, is full of hip and cozy restaurants and pubs, another interesting and developing new suburb, much like Elizabethtown.
Stop #10 The National museum was founded in 1802 and is the national museum for the history, art and archaeology of Hungary.
Stop #11/23 Deak Ferenc Square design terminal is opposite the Meriden Hotel. Lots of little shops, markets throughout the year, but the Christmas markets are the best with the Budapest Eye to ride and check out the amazing city from above.
Stop #12/22 Brings you to the Chain Bridge, many 5 star hotels and River Cruise launch point. It is a great opportunity to walk the Vaci Street, take some photos of the Danube River and the beautiful Chain Bridge connecting Buda and Pest.
Stop #13 Petofi Square is near the Orthodox Church, the Roman Ruins, Vaci Street and Vigado Concert Hall. From here you can walk on Elizabeth Bridge to take a photo of the blue Danube and the pretty boats going by.
Stop#14/16 The Clark Adam Funicular is a cable car which runs people up the side of the mountain, right of the chain bridge, home of the Zero Stone, the Clark Adam square, and the National Gallery.
Stop #15 Castle District is home to the Royal Palace, Matthias Church and Fisherman’s Bastion. All beautiful to walk through, great photo opportunities and history lesson.
Stop #17 Batthyany Square is opposite the parliament building, which is the largest in Europe built during the Austro-Hungarian Empire. If you have a chance to do the bus tour again in the evening, I suggest to jump back on when they do the smaller loop through the city. It is well worth it to see the city in lights, beautiful all year round, but especially in the winter.
Stop #18 Margaret Bridge, Polish Memorial, a great place to ride bikes, take in the free zoo or just to have a picnic.
Stop #19 Nyugati Railway Station, Westend City Shopping Centre and Hilton Budapest WestEnd Hotel.
Stop #20 Báthory Street, a short walk to the parliament where they have tours, Novotel Hotel, The Art’otel and Bem Square.
Stop #21 St Stephen’s Basilica offers views at the top for a few Euros. A must do during your stay, unless you prefer the Budapest Eye. The square has a StarBucks, and some pretty good restaurants and shopping. During the winter there is a big market here, but in the summer, often you will find theatre performances, runway modelling shoots; always something interesting going on in Budapest.
Stop #24 Big Bus Customer Service Centre, Andrassy Avenue is one of Budapest’s main shopping streets, with cafés, restaurants, theatres and luxury boutiques. It is also one of the most beautiful streets I have ever walked down, much like the Champs Elysees of Paris.
Stop #25 Opera House, Hungarian state, and Theatreland photos opportunities or take in a show.
Stop #26 Octagon/Liszt Ferenc Square and the very informative and historical Terror Museum. Lest we forget!
Stop #27 completes the loop through the 8 central districts of Budapest’s core. Hero’s Square where you will see giant statues of the kings of Hungary, in an honourable memorial place, full of tourist year round. Another fabulous photo opportunity.
Enjoy your Budapest tour with Hop-on Hop-off, we did!