From street food to gourmet restaurants, dining options in Budapest are endless. While there are offerings from almost all nationalities, it would be a sin not to sample the traditional cuisine. Because Budapest is so beautiful, diners have the added bonus of wonderful scenery from their seats in its eateries and cafes.
Hungarian staples include goulash, soups, (stuffed pancakes), trout, dumplings, and strudels, as well as the iconic and decadent Dobos cake, a five-layer sponge cake layered with butter cream and topped with caramel slices.
Hungarian cuisine is known for using lots of spices, such as paprika and hot chillies, and is arguably some of the spiciest cuisine in Europe. This does mean that you should be careful about ordering traditional food for children as there are mild options as well.
The inner city and Central Pest are the main areas for dining out in Budapest, while Central Buda also boasts some great eateries. It is customary to make reservations at restaurants and waiters usually expect a 10 to 15 percent tip for good service.
Shopping in Budapest is fun and varied. Popular souvenirs include Hungarian folk art, embroidered goods, and Herend porcelain, as well as Tokaji wine and túró cheese. The main Budapest shopping areas are in the city centre and the lanes surrounding Pest's Váci Utca.
There are many trendy designer outlets to be found on Andrássy Avenue in Pest, while the Castle District and Gellért Hill are home to some great speciality, souvenir, and craft shops. Budapest boasts a good selection of shopping malls with brand and fashion retailers: try WestEnd City Centre and Duna Plaza in Pest for big international names.
There are cheaper, high-street shops along Nagykörút (Great Boulevard) and bargains can also be found in the Budapest markets, especially the Central Market, Ecseri flea market, and Hunyadi Square Market.
Bargain-hunters in the city will also enjoy the BAV stores, which are pawn shops run by the state. One of the largest BAV stores can be found on V Bécsi utca 1 and stocks some great gems and souvenirs among the junk.
Unless there is a national holiday, most shops are open all day during the week, and until lunch on Saturday. Large supermarkets tend to have longer opening hours and are also open on Sunday, while some outlets such as Tesco and city centre convenience stores are open 24 hours.
Nightlife options in Budapest abound, from music lounges and jazz venues to trendy bars and nightclubs. New clubs open up throughout the city all the time, particularly in the areas around IX Raday Utca and VII Liszt Ferenc Tér.
There are a number of party venues throughout the city with the busiest areas generally being districts 5, 6, and 9. There isn't always an entry fee at the door in Budapest's bars and nightclubs but some places will charge a few euros if there is an international DJ or live performance scheduled. For the high rollers in Budapest, there are a number of casinos to enjoy in the luxury hotels between the Elizabeth and Chain bridges on Dunakorzó.
Hungary takes pride in its performing arts and those with more cultural inclinations will find Budapest a glorious city for opera, ballet, theatre, and classical concerts. Great venues include the Palace of the Arts, the National Theatre, the Budapest Opera, and the Academy of Music, among others.