Visiting any new city for the first time is obviously going to spark questions about where to stay–but Budapest puts a different spin on this question altogether by asking what city you want to stay in during your visit: Buda or Pest?
While the capital of Hungary is clearly one city today, it technically hasn’t been one for long at all!
The place we know as Budapest was originally two different cities divided by the beautiful Danube River (or if you want to get very specific, three cities)!
The west bank cities of Buda and Obuda united with the city of Pest on the east bank of the Danube in 1873, and Budapest as we know it was born.
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Even today, you’ll hear people referring to the “Buda” side of the river and the “Pest” side of the river, particularly when describing where tourist destinations are located.
So, in a Buda vs Pest showdown, where is the best place to stay in Budapest?
Well, that depends on what you’re looking for!
Here are the pros and cons of staying in Buda or Pest.
Table of Contents
Stay in Buda for…
… better views.
Buda is the hillier of the two cities and sits much higher than Pest on average.
… the Castle District.
The Castle District, which holds Buda Castle, Matthias Church, and Fisherman’s Bastion among many other attractions (we’re partial to the Labyrinth under Buda Castle), is a favorite of tourists who come to Budapest.
Buda Castle is also home to some of Budapest’s best museums, including the Hungarian National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum.
You’ll also find the Hospital in the Rock underneath Buda Castle.
… a quieter side of the city.
Buda is considered to be the calmer side of the city, and that’s for good reason.
Bhile it’s not exactly dead, there tends to be much more going on, including nightlife, on the Pest side of the river.
Buda tends to have a much more residential feel, especially once the museums and churches of the Castle District close for the day.
Highlights of Buda
Some of Budapest’s most famous sights are located in Buda, including Fisherman’s Bastion, Matthias Church, and Buda Castle.
The caves underneath Budapest are also accessed from the Buda side of the river, and you can find the Cave Church, Gellert Baths, and Citadel here as well.
Stay in Pest for…
… better nightlife.
Budapest’s famous ruin bars, located in what used to be the Jewish Quarter, are located on the Pest side of the river.
If you’re coming to Budapest for nightlife, this is the place to be!
… a larger concentration of tourist sights.
While Buda holds some of Budapest’s most famous attractions, Pest has more of them overall!
As far as visitors are concerned, Pest is by far the biggest side of the city.
Famous attractions in Pest include St. Stephen’s Basilica, Central Market Hall, the Szechenyi Baths, City Park, and the Parliament Building, among many others.
… plenty of restaurants and shopping.
Pest is larger, busier, and has much less of a residential feel than Buda, and that lends itself to having much more commerce in general.
Budapest’s most iconic shopping street, Vaci Utca, is also located in Pest.
Highlights of Pest
Pest’s most well-known sights include Central Market Hall, the Hungarian Parliament Building, the Shoes on the Danube Monument, Heroes Square, the Szechenyi Baths, St. Stephen’s Basilica, the Hungarian Opera House, and more.
We’re also partial to the Szabo Ervin Library on this side of the river!
Do we stay in Buda or Pest?
On all of our visits to Budapest, we have chosen to stay in Pest and love it there.
We love visiting the Buda side of the river on each visit, but on future trips, we fully plan to continue to stay in Pest.
While Buda has some incredible sights, they are mostly concentrated right up against the Danube, so it’s very easy to cross the Danube from Pest to visit them.
Behind the initial highlights and away from the river, Buda has a much more residential feel that, while beautiful, is out of the way of most tourist highlights.
Pest’s sights, on the other hand, are more spread out and generally set further back from the river, making them harder to access from the Buda side.
They’re also simply more numerous–we (and most visitors) tend to spend far more time sightseeing on the Pest side of the river than the Buda side.
Ultimately, deciding whether to stay in Buda or Pest is a matter of preference!
If you’re on a quiet romantic getaway, for example, you may want to stay in Buda.
For most travelers hoping to get a snapshot of what makes Budapest special with limited time, though, the best place to stay in Budapest will be on the Pest side of the river.
Visit Buda, of course. Visit a lot. But stay in Pest.
Whether you decide to stay in Buda or Pest, make sure that you’re staying reasonably close to a bus, tram or metro stop.
Regardless of whether you’re spending just a few days in Budapest or much longer, you’ll want to be able to navigate your way to anywhere in Budapest that you’d like to go!
Hotel Options in Budapest
Did we convince you to book a stay in Pest vs Buda?
If so, here are some popular, well-reviewed hotels to consider in Pest!
Jackquaters — Located right next to Vaci Utca and only 100 meters from the Danube, Jackquaters is the perfect location for anyone visiting Budapest.
Budapest highlights like the Chain Bridge and Great Market Hall are within easy walking distance.
Hotel Erzsébet — With Central Market Hall and Vaci Utca at your fingertips, you definitely won’t go hungry while staying at the beautiful Hotel Erzsébet!
With modern interiors, easy access to the metro, and a central location, this well-reviewed property is a reliable and cozy place to stay.
Hotel Mika Superior — Not only does Hotel Mika Superior offer beautiful rooms, fabulous service, and a delicious included breakfast, but it’s also located in the old Jewish Quarter of the city, near the Dohany Street Synagogue and Hungarian Opera House.
This is one of our personal favorite neighborhoods to stay in while visiting Budapest!
Read More About Visiting Budapest (and Beyond)
Ready to keep planning your trip to Central Europe?
We’d love to help!
You can browse all of our Hungary blog posts here, or check out these guides:
- Our Delicious Budapest Food Tour + Wine Tasting (+ How to Book!)
- 21+ Dreamy, Romantic Cities in Europe for a Couples Getaway
- Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Beyond: Epic Central Europe Itinerary
- Prague or Budapest: Which One Should You Visit?
- How To Visit Auschwitz From Krakow (Do You Need a Tour?)