WhereToGoForMyHoliday.com

The best destination comparison site!

WhereToGoForMyHoliday.com

The best destination comparison site!

Budapest or Copenhagen; a vs city comparison and travel guide

Both Budapest and Copenhagen are fantastic cities, but which is better for your city-break or holiday?

We understand your dilemma. There is a wealth of information about both cities, but little stating which is the better destination and more suited for your trip.
This article will provide our unbiased opinions, and hopefully help you to choose the best city to visit.

The article is divided into the following sections, and can be jumped to using the links:
• Introduction to the cities
• Scores and ratings
• Which one should I, friends, or family visit?
• When to visit and weather
• Who is the city suited for?
• The perfect 48hours (with map)
• Tourism details (where to stay? airport details?)

Introduction to Copenhagen and Budapest

Straddling the snaking Danube in the very heart of Europe is Budapest, the buzzing capital of Hungary.
The largest city in the country, it's split into Buda (in the west) and Pest (in the east). They're joined by grand 19th-century chain bridges to form a continuous metropolis that's home to more than 1.7 million people.

Budapest magnetizes visitors with a mixture of rich history, bold architectural sites, café culture, urban spas and vibrant nightlife. Look one way and you'll see the elaborate Habsburg-era palaces that crown Buda Hill.
Look another and you find steaming bathhouses smelling of sulphur. And that's not even mentioning the heady ruin bars, the colossal Dohány Street Synagogue, and the wide boulevards left over from Communist times.

Buda Castle Budapest

Buda Castle and the western side of Budapest

Sleek yet historic, gritty yet creative, Copenhagen fuses all the contradictions of Scandinavia in one outstanding city.
Yes, it's pricy. But your money buys quality in these parts, whether that's the crispy Danish pastry in the morning, the single-origin coffee beans, or those craft beers in the independent drinkeries.

Once the home of Hans Christian Andersen, the city's Indre By – the historic core – is all weaving cobbled lanes and flower-strewn cottages from centuries gone by. Meanwhile, over in districts like Christianshavn and Vesterbro, there's a buzz and energy about proceedings.

Don't forget that this capital is the veritable home of New Nordic cooking, putting foraged foods and mind-boggling flavour combos front and centre…

Nyhavn Copenhagen

The canals and traditional houses of the Nyhavn district (Copenhagen) are always a favourite with tourists

budapest

Budapest is a vibrant and modern city just waiting to be explored

High-level summary for Budapest and Copenhagen

Summary
Which city would I go to?
Copenhagen
Which one would I recommend to my parents?Copenhagen
Which location for my 19-year-old cousin?
Budapest (Copenhagen is too expensive for him!)
Which for my food obsessed friend?Copenhagen
Note: The above comparison does not consider the weather, and assumes travel at the best time of year - which is detailed later in this article.

The following sections compare the two cities and considers; how long to spend in them, when to visit, and provides suggested 48hours in each city (along with an interactive map).
The final section is tourism practicalities and includes which airport to fly into, what district to be based in and how best to explore the city.

We hope that you find all of this information useful, in planning your next exciting trip!

Destination details

How long to spend each city?

Fly-in visits for three days are enough to check off the major must-see sights of Budapest. This is a compact capital with good underground and bus links. You can get easily get across town – going from Buda Castle on one side of the city all the way to the Széchenyi Thermal Baths at the other takes less than an hour on public transport.

That said, Budapest has plenty of hidden secrets up its sleeve. You could easily while away a whole week enjoying cheap happy hours in the ruin bars, bathing in the Art Deco spas, and visiting islands up the Danube. If you're coming in summer, you could also extend a stay to include the art galleries and cobbled lanes of Szentendre, the mineral-rich waters of Lake Balaton, and the rustic Tokaj wine country to the east.

There are two sides to Copenhagen. There's the side that most visitors will aim to see, and that's all neatly packaged up for a quick two- or three-day break. Then there's the more local side. That can take weeks, or even months to enjoy to the fullest.

The upshot is that everything from short fly-in city breaks to longer jaunts are doable in the Danish capital – there's enough to keep you going, provided you've got the money to keep going!

In addition, it's worth thinking about what out-of-town excursions you might want to do from Copenhagen. These will inevitably add some time to the trip but are also downright tempting.
The likes of the ancient Viking capital of Roskilde, and the Swedish city of Malmo, are both on the menu.

Danube River Budapest

The mighty Danube River cuts Budapest in two

Tivoli Gardens Copenhagen

Tivoli Gardens theme park, in the centre of Copenhagen is the second oldest theme park in the world, and was original constructed in 1850 with the aim of "when the people are amusing themselves, they do not think about politics”

Copenhagen’s weather is not as dismal as most visitors initially presume, and not cold as the other Scandinavian countries it is often mentally lumped with.

Summer is Copenhagen's most beloved season. It's easy to see why. Scandinavia emerges from its casing of snow and ice to become a real outdoorsy gem. In the capital, that means the canal-side cafes of Christianshavn come alive with al fresco drinkers and the breweries spill into leafy gardens. This is also the time to enjoy the famous Brygge Harbour Bath and the other marina swimming spots in full swing.

Spring and autumn make good alternatives, particularly if you're on a tight budget. Already high prices can soar in Copenhagen during the summer months, and the streets of the Indre By get busy to boot. Winter has a peak around Christmas, when the Tivoli festive market starts smelling of gingerbread and mulled wine. It's cheaper in January though, and still likely to have enchanting snow cover.

Late spring and early autumn are when locals often say Budapest is at its best. Temperatures average around 23-25 degrees in May and September. There's not an overload of rain then either. And it's perfect for avoiding the crowds of midsummer city breakers that come during the European holidays.

There's also something to be said for visiting Budapest in the midst of winter. Mercury plummets between November and March, and it's not uncommon to see the Danube freeze over with huge chunks of ice. What's more, the tenements and side streets of the Jewish Quarter and the historic Inner City areas ooze atmosphere on cold, snowy days. Just be sure to pack the thermals!

Budapest's layers of history combine with a sleepless nightlife scene, making this European capital a great pick for a whole host of travellers. The backpacking crowd can make for the Jewish Quarter's ruin bars and glug uber-cheap Hungarian beers in bohemian courtyards.
More culturally aligned visitors might prefer to unearth the past of the Hungarian empire on the grounds of Buda Castle, or pay their respects at the haunting House of Terror museum that chronicles the dark days of Stasi rule.

You might not feel totally at home here if you're a big fan of beaches and sun. Budapest is a landlocked city in a landlocked country, so the ocean is never near. Hungary's capital isn't the greenest of towns, either. There are parks, but they're really on the outskirts. It's very much an urban destination.

Copenhagen is tailor-made for creative, 30s-something city slickers. Bohemian cafes meet cutting-edge beer halls and restaurants that are breaking the mould, while workshops, design studios, and galleries cram the old town. If you're culturally engaged and enjoy places that fuse the old and the new, you could hardly do any better.

Copenhagen is famously expensive. Expect to pay around the 60kr mark (€8/$9) for a beer in most places – and even that's a decent deal! Hotels will cost a lot, no matter the season, and eating out is off the cards for anyone on a shoestring budget.
You can mitigate that if you picnic and dodge the pubs, but it's not really the place for travelers watching the pennies.

Hungarian Parliament

Hungarian Parliament is the tallest building in Budapest

Rosenborg Castle Copenhagen

Grand Rosenborg Castle, was built as a summer residence by Frederik II in 1624, and today houses the royal treasury and displays the Danish crowns

48hours in Budapest

Day 1: Start on the Pest side of the city. That's home to the huge Dohány Street Synagogue. It's one of the great landmarks of Budapest and reigns as the largest synagogue in Europe. From there, head to the wide boulevard of Andrássy, a spectacular thoroughfare and UNESCO site that's lined with Neo-Classical mansions.

Visit the House of Terror museum on one end to unravel the haunting past of Communist rule in Hungary. Then, go for a hard-earned spa session in the famous Art Deco baths of Széchenyi. Dinner can be nothing less than a paprika-smoked goulash in Gettó Gulyás, followed by a beer in the mind-boggling art gallery come bar that is Szimpla Kert.

Budapest Pest cathedral

Pest cathedral

Day 2: Breakfast in the Central Market Hall that dates from 1897. Grab some sweet Hungarian pastries and then hop across the Danube on the handsome Liberty Bridge. In front of you, the elegant Gellért Baths are an optional stop. Or, push on up to the Fisherman's Bastion and the Citadella. These were once defensive outposts where Hungarian armies protected their capital. These days, they have stunning views of the Danube. A walk to the north takes you to the Castle District. You can tour the grounds and take in the architecture, or go inside for regal court rooms. Be sure to take some photos of the imposing Hungarian Parliament Building across the water. Finally, drop back into Pest for dinner in the Inner City. That area has everything from Tex-Mex joints to smoky 1930s speakeasies.

Gellért Hill Budapest

Gellért Hill offers some of the best views of Budapest, the hill is named after Saint Gerard who was murdered in 1065 by being put in a barrel and rolled down the hill…

Copenhagen offers so much for a fun-packed 48 hours. Below is an interactive tour map - day 1 is highlighted in green and day 2 in yellow.

Day 1: Begin the first day in the Rådhuspladsen, where the ochre-tinged walls of the City Hall dominate the skyline. This is a beating hub of the city, and you might find concert stages or markets taking place on the plaza. The bustling shopping street of Strøget starts here. Hit that to move between high-street retailers and lively pubs. The walk will take you all the way to Nyhavn.

This is a charming, historic area with 17th-century canals. The painted houses are a favourite with photographers, and you can opt to do a canal boat tour from the docks. Lunchtime is over in the Bridge Street Kitchen. Sprawling across Greenlandic Trade Square, it's a casual food mecca, with hotdogs mixing with falafel pitas and sourdough pizza breads.

Full? Good – Christiania awaits. This gritty artist community come squat is a unique bohemian commune. There are some pushy drug dealers and lots of tourists, but it's worth a stop. The spire of the lovely Church of Our Saviour is sure to pull you down to one end of the area, before hopping back over to Slotsholmen for a sighting of the grand Christiansborg Palace, the home of the Danish parliament.

Latin Quarter Copenhagen

The side streets of the Latin Quarter (Latinerkvarteret) are a joy to explore

Day 2: If it's sunny, there's never a better way to kick-off a day in Copenhagen than down on the marina. Free to enter and bustling with life, the Brygge Harbour Bath lets you swim in the refreshing waters of the Baltic Sea right in the heart of town.
Dry off and then grab a Danish pastry on your way up to the Indre By, where you can get lost in weaving lanes of cobblestone. The vast Rosenborg Slot sits at the far end of the district. A mighty palace from the 1600s, it's packed with art and can take a few hours to explore.

Nearby Torvehallerne will do nicely for food, with its array of local Scandi dishes. A hop across the water to hipster Nørrebro is great if you're craving a beer or a coffee – Brus is a good option.
Then head back south to Frederiksstaden district. It's crowned by the Rococo Amalienborg Palace, sports stunning churches, and buts up to the old town, where you'll find loads of bars and eateries to cap off the evening.

Christiansborg Palace Copenhagen

Christiansborg Palace is the Danish Parliament building along with the official residence of the Prime minister

Travelling to and around Budapest is super easy. There's an efficient underground network. Tickets for that cost 350 HUF per ride with a single transfer allowed. You can also use river boats (HUF750 per journey) and buses (350 HUF).

Taxis are rarely needed, but they are cheap, costing 280 HUF per kilometer. Be sure to insist your driver puts the meter on, and never accept offers from taxi touts at the airport.

Fisherman's Bastion Budapest

The Fisherman's Bastion, Budapest

Talking of the airport, Budapest Airport sits around 22 kilometers from the city center. You can get to and from the terminals using the dedicated express bus (€2) or by train (€2.70). Both options take between 30-40 minutes. Be sure to buy tickets at machines by the stops – they're more expensive when purchased direct from drivers.

When it comes to picking hotels in Budapest, you're best off focussing on the Pest side of the city. That's where the bulk of the best lodgings are located. Being in the Jewish Quarter can be noisy, but perfect if you want to hit the nightlife of Szimpla and the other ruin bars. The Inner City area is charming and quieter, with some boutique options. Meanwhile, Újlipótváros is a local's favourite, with its cool cafés and art galleries and sleek Airbnbs.

Budapest is largely safe and crime statistics are in line with European norms. Some well-known scams include taxi drivers who overcharge and sellers of fake goods. Pickpocketing is also a rare but real problem. Just be aware of your personal possessions and be vigilante, especially when on public transportation.

Price wise, Budapest is surely up there with the cheapest of European capitals. A large beer can cost as little as 500 HUF (€1.50). Food in a midrange restaurant will set you back between 2,000 HUF and 3,000 HUF (€6-9). Nights in hotels are noticeably less than in nearby Vienna, too.

The infrastructure of Copenhagen is amazing, and you will leave wondering why other cities struggle so badly…
The impressive and uber-efficient Kastrup Airport is the gateway to Copenhagen. A mere 6km from the center, you can hop from the terminals to the downtown by train in just 15 minutes or so. Use either the direct lines or metro links. Tickets are purchased on the station platforms and cost in the region of 36 DKK.

Copenhagen city hall

Copenhagen city hall and the Rådhuspladsen, the main plaza of the city

Copenhagen has many hotels and accommodation options, but the city has one of highest occupancy rates of Europe (a yearly average of 81%). That means booking early is key. We'd recommend trying to score somewhere in the Indre By area.
The old core, it's close to all the main sights. If you're on a tighter budget, going north to Nørrebro might offer a few extra deals. Meanwhile, the Vesterbro district is an up and coming area, which is trendy and a touch edgy. Frederiksstaden is a more refined and contains many of the smarter hotels.

If you want to get around like a real CPH local, then there's nothing for it but to rent a bike. These are cheap and easy to find in pretty much any area of town. A full day's cycling should cost around 150 DKK (£22).

Copenhagen is a very safe city, especially for a capital. People are often eager to help and there are good public services in general. Be more wary if you're venturing off the beaten track. Certain corners of Nørrebro and Christiania can be sketchy, particularly after dark.

uk - fr de es pt

Wheretogoformyholiday.com

Travel guides for the modern tourist

 

Plaça de les Cascades Barcelona

oh we were stuck in the airport!

copenhagen postcard

Copenhagen was a bit expensive...

brussels postcard

All we did was drink beer in Brussels...

Plaça de les Cascades Barcelona

Muncih was crazy

Plaça de les Cascades Barcelona

And we got so burnt!

Plaça de les Cascades Barcelona

Remeber that night in Rome

Plaça de les Cascades Barcelona

oh we were stuck in the airport

kayaking

So much fun kayaking

Berlin postcard

Berlin and that group from Austria!

Plaça de les Cascades Barcelona

There was such a view from that church

beach postacrd

And we got so burnt!

Munich postcard

Munich was eventful, wasn't it!

florence postcard

Such a view from that cathedral in Florence

Lisbon postcard

Lisbon was such so much fun

Plaça de les Cascades Barcelona

Last summer was so much fun .... x

Plaça de les Cascades Barcelona

Remeber that night in Rome

Lisbon postcard

Lisbon was such so much fun

florence postcard

Such a view from that cathedral in Florence

Munich postcard

Munich was eventful, wasn't it!

beach postacrd

And we got so burnt!

Rome postacrd

Remeber that night in Rome

brussels postcard

All we did was drink beer in Brussels...

berlin

Berlin and that group from Austria!

dubrovnik postcard

Can't wait to go back to Dubrovnik

Prague postcard

Remember that boat ride in Prague

copenhagen postcard

Copenhagen was a bit expensive...