Updated 16 September 2019 – There are so many reasons to visit Budapest, the capital of Hungary - and one of the most charming cities of Central Europe. For a woman traveling on her own, those reasons include security, culture, beauty - and health. Since it lies at the heart of Europe, it is easy to reach from nearly anywhere on the continent. If you happen to be here for a weekend or for a few days, you'll easily fill every minute.
Budapest was once a sparkling hub, filled with music and refined culture. Dictatorships and the Communist regime took some of the shine off the city but today, it is at the heart of a renaissance from which it has emerged with greater brilliance than ever.
Budapest is perfectly safe for solo female travelers, whether during the day, when visiting the city's many rich historical sights, or at night, when sampling great nightlife and wonderful restaurants. It has a deserved reputation for safety and has little violent crime.
Women can walk freely anywhere in the city center during daytime and the streets are full of young people, especially in summer. Only a few areas - certainly Districts 8 and 9 - should be considered off-limits at night, so it might be wise not to reserve your accommodation in these districts. Otherwise, feel free to wander.
Women will enjoy exploring the city alone, as the transport infrastructure makes it easy to get around (not to mention that the city is fairly reasonably priced compared to other European capitals). Most attractions are relatively near one another and you won't find it difficult to get from one to the next.
Here are some of the top things to do in Budapest if you're fortunate enough to be spending a few days here.
This wonderful building was built in 1896 and is the oldest indoor market in the city. It has won many awards for being one of the most beautiful market halls of Europe.
You'll find plenty to buy here. The ground floor is filled with spices and pastries, and the basement has all the substantial fish and meat stalls, along with plenty of pickles. But to eat, head up to the second floor and after you're full, pick up some traditional Hungarian handicrafts - and some paprika, everyone's favorite purchase.
If you happen to be staying in a rented flat nearby, have fun looking for the ingredients for your meal.
Isn't this the first thing you think about when someone mentions Budapest? Of course it is because Budapest has long been famous for its spas. In fact, even the Romans enjoyed the city's thermal waters and it proudly carried its title of "City of Spas". Today, it has more thermal springs and medicinal waters than any other city in the world: 118, to be exact, with 15 public baths and scores of private ones.
Some of the most famous Budapest spas and baths are the Rudas, Gellert and Szechenyi.
Vajdahunyad Castle is a delight, with its replicas of stunning buildings from across Hungary, but a wonderful way to relax after your visit is to get lost in the park by the castle's lake. Walk around, enjoy nature, or taste some Hungarian delicacies if there happens to be one of many food festivals organized there.
(Not enough? Keep reading, or click through to find even more top things to do in Budapest.)
Visiting the National Museum will teach you about Hungary’s history: it is an important landmark, because the revolution of 1848 started in front of the museum. Another revolution took place just behind the museum, at the Hungarian Radio, when Hungarians rebelled against Soviet oppression in 1956.
On the Buda side of the Freedom Bridge, you can climb Gellert Hill to reach the Citadel. You'll be rewarded with the best views of the city and you'll take the most amazing photos from here. It takes about 15-20 minutes to reach the top. It is not a difficult hike, but you will need to be fairly fit.
Hop on a boat between the Elizabeth and the Chain Bridge on the Pest side and cruise down the river to enjoy the scenery - and cool off on a hot summer day.
Go for a run or for a walk around Margaret Island. Take tram 4-6 across Margaret Bridge, get off in the middle and take the stairs down to the island. There is a 5,5 km running track around the island. You can see a giant singing fountain near the entrance of the island. There are a zoo and a Japanese garden on the island, as well as one of the most famous spa hotels in Hungary.
You cannot leave without visiting at least some of Budapest's most iconic attractions - like the Hungarian Parliament, whose spectacular architecture was designed specifically to face the Danube River. (The official entrance is on the building's east side, however.) You'll need to take a guided tour to visit, however.
Budapest is a world class European city and women should wear anything they would at home. Some Hungarian women tend to be a bit flashy while others are more conservative. Like anywhere, there is a mixture but anything is acceptable on the streets of the city.
Budapest is a cosmopolitan city and if you're missing anything, you can buy it here so no need to pack any more than you normally would.
Don't forget to bring a plug converter if you are traveling from the US or UK, good shoes to walk around and explore the city's different sites and your bathing suit to enjoy the spas.
Hungarian cuisine has a wonderful reputation, and it is well deserved. Here are a few traditional dishes you must try during your stay, although admittedly they are a little heavy in summer.
Goulash soup is a traditional soup made with plenty of paprika, beef and vegetables. It is often served in a small pot. Traditionally it was made over the fire in the open air by the shepherds and is both tasty and filling.
Stuffed cabbage is classic Hungarian fare, the stuffing made of minced meat and rice. It is a delicious comfort food, often eaten in winter.
Roast duck in Hungary is crispy and delicious, so well cooked it falls off the bone. It is usually served with sautéed red cabbage and onion potatoes.
Here are some of my favorite Budapest restaurants offering great food at reasonable prices: Kor near the Bazilika, Trofea in Buda, Deryne also on the Buda side near the Chain Bridge and Menza on Liszt Ferenc Square. Check out the New York Café at the Boscolo Hotel for a coffee and dessert, surely the most beautiful café in the world.
Barbara Wagner is the publisher of Jet Settera, a London-based luxury travel and lifestyle blog. She left Hungary at 17 to conquer the world as a model and has since visited 68 countries, living in seven. Her blog covers such prestigious events as the Cannes Film Festival, the Oscars in Los Angeles, Fashion Weeks in Milan and Paris or Prince Albert’s wedding in Monaco. She also writes about adventure travel across Asia, South America and Europe. Find her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.