*Services in Budapest are rarely walk-in, make sure to have an appointment well in advance
**Many places are cash only, even those that take card expect tip in cash so always have some cash handy
***I try to do 10% tip if I like the service
****This list is from my own personal experience and is not exhaustive AT ALL, if you have someone you LOVE for any of these categories please comment or write me so I can check them out!
In terms of finding this, this was the toughest. The women at the mall were quick, but not great, and consistently rude, I accidentally went to a sex shop where she tried to file off my gel polish until she went from nail to skin, and everywhere else didn't seem interested in my business. Manicurists do well in the sense that there are no shortage of customers, now I smile knowingly when I'm getting my nails done and someone walks in asking for an appointment right then and there.
Andrea Modler does a great gel polish, has amazing google translate skills, and is efficient. If she's not available you can go to her colleague who is also good. She works out of Beauty Corner (you can't find online but it's right next to Wasabi on Jokai Utca)
A-List Pest and their sister salon next door do solidly great manicures and pedicures, I'm there once a month and haven't had a bad experience yet. You're paying a bit more because they're English speaking and in the heart of the tourism district, but they have a loyalty scheme and you can use Szep card.
In Pest, there is no standard pedicure and nobody is going to have the attached chair with foot bath and massage set-up you might be accustomed too (At A-List you will find this). Szilvia at Nail Boutique by OPI is really great , limited English but you'll manage just fine. All her polishes are OPI and she spends an hour going to town on your feet.
On the Buda side at Bliss Glam Spa they do a good pedicure as well
If you haven't visited the new Beauty Pest Inc. location you absolutely must. It's gorgeous, massive, and feels like a true luxury experience. The Biologique Recherche signature face treatment (90 minutes) is incredible. Jennifer and Natalya are both trained by BR HQ in Paris, do a wonderful skin consult, and take wonderful care to give you a personalized and unique experience. They also do MBR treatments but I'm a big BR stan so went for that instead.
Omorovicza is an iconic Hungarian luxury skincare brand and their flagship spa does not disappoint. Their 90 minute facial with Niki is equally as impressive and relaxing, just different. You get extractions and more of the Hungarian face workout. One cool part is you get 50% of your facial price deducted from the price of products so you know you'll leave with a bag of goodies (100% in December!).
Truly difficult to choose which is better between the two and would recommend both.
While the above two facials are more "luxury" some cheaper options that are also great are Helia-D and SOS Pretty both in the 5th district. Helia-D is fancier than SOS and they have a wider range of treatments. The price point for the cleaning is the same, but this is a place you can get microneedling, botox, mesotherapy, etc. I've gone for microdermabrasion followed by mesotherapy which I thoroughly enjoyed. SOS Pretty is definitely no frills, but they know what they're doing and they really work on your face with extractions. The usual cleaning there involves scrubbing, cleaning, steaming, extractions, ultrasound, light with ampoule, mask and cream and I left feeling much clearer and firmer. Microdermabrasion here is also quick, effective if done regularly, and affordable.
Kata Jakab is wonderful! She is truly an expert and uses the Babor line of products, but doesn't try to push anything on you. She has all the equipment to do ultrasound, radio frequency, microderm, microneedling, etc. The massage might be the best out there and she'll work with you each time to reach your skincare goals. You should message her directly on Facebook to book and appointment and do so in advance because she's quite popular! We are currently going to Kata every 3 weeks for a comprehensive treatment alternating between cleansing, peeling, and microneedling.
In my opinion, the key to a good wax is how you feel during and after and how thorough the waxer is.
Eszter at WellWax is the only waxer you want. The conversation is wonderful, she makes you feel comfortable, and its as painless as a wax can be. She's seen it all and done it all and takes the time to deal with pesky in-growns and give you complimentary scrubs and lotions after for you to have the best results.
L'intimage is a runner-up if its the busy season and Eszter is totally booked up (can pay with credit card)
BeautyPest Brow for shaping, threading, and dying. They are also the only place in Budapest I've found where you can buy Biologique Recherche products. All the women who work there are very trend-savvy and they invest a lot in trainings in Russia and France to be equipped with the most cutting-edge beauty tech. (can pay with credit card) Nisha is my go-to but they're all very good
Haircut & Dye
Jozsef Pinter is the co-owner of A-list Pest and he is the only person I go to for a haircut and Balayage. He follows pictures really well, always has a smile on, and makes sure you leave happy. Eventually you get a loyalty card which gives you access to priority appointments and discounts. At A-list I've gotten a pedicure as well and all other services are options there.
DryBar doesn't exist in Hungary and really nothing like it, but Barcza Maximilián does a great 45 minute blow out at Open Hair & Beauty. I have fully entrusted Max with my hair for the past 2 years and always leave happy. His products are Davines which I like a lot, his prices are reasonable and he rewards loyalty, and he's incredibly fast. (can pay with Revolut)
Andy at Perenyi does a good 30 minute blow out as well (can pay with credit card)
BLISS GlamSpa she does 1,2,3,and 4D lash extensions and listens to what you want. Super sanitary, relaxing, nice conversation, and they last. (She now works out of her own home in the 16th, it's a shlep but I figure the delicate are around your eyes should be handled by someone you fully trust and I do trust her, get in touch if you want her Facebook info.)
If she's not available you can get lashes done at BeautyPest Brow, but they only do 1D. I would not recommend getting Yumi lashes done unless your lashes are naturally long and you just need a curve
Laser Hair Removal
If you watched Skin Decision on Netflix then you know that you want the "Gucci of Lasers" for laser hair removal. Only two places in Budapest have the Soprano ICE Platinum and the one I go to is Medaid. It's fairly painless, quick, and the prices are some of the best I found. As well this is administered by a nurse who's extremely sweet.
Dr. Harmos is awesome. He uses Dysport, takes about 15 minutes, completely painless, but the best part is his attention to detail and customer care. Each follow-up appointment is free (and he'll have as many as you need to get it right) and extra units that are needed are free of charge. In Budapest you don't pay per unit (like the States) you pay per section (forehead, 11s, eyes, etc) and as long as you've already paid for one section Dr. Harmos will take it slowly and gently to achieve the desired result. He's a good dermatologist and I've used him for acne as well.
Asram Yoga they sometimes have English classes which are very good, vinyasa flow
Intuitive Pilates run by an expat and have bodyweight, props, and reformer classes in the heart of downtown
A lot of people might say Margit Sziget (Island) and it is definitely nice with a 5k track around it BUT it gets packed. Distance running is really popular in the city and if you don't want to constantly be yelling what you think the Hungarian version for "track" is all the time then you might want to try something else.
The area on the Pest side of the Danube past Margit and going towards and past Arpad is super nice. It's been more and more built up and you can run past the paved area and go on gravel for a little and then be back on a nice running path through the woods.
Varosliget (citypark) became my favorite place to run for a year, you go past Heroes square and past all the construction and you'll find lots of runners and many routes.
Go Active 50% expat gym, a bit expensive for what they offer but they have all the machines you need/want, a robust class schedule, towel service, clean lockers with amenities, pool, and sauna. Pro tip: You can pay for a locker to house your stuff so you don't have to schlep it back and forth each day. In Hungary, you don't NOT shower at the gym and change from athleisure to street clothes
Sun Palace Fitness is on the Buda side and little cheaper but just as, if not more nice. Yoga here has been phenomenal as have the locker rooms
Life1 at Nyugati was my place for 6 months pre-COVID, the place is huge, they have classes (but I never took them), saunas, and big locker rooms. I found them more affordable and accessible than Go Active.
Mandala Day Spa is gorgeous. Beautiful waiting area, amazing baths (and it's expanding), and wonderful rooms. The couples rooms with baths are great, but so are the rooms without. I've tried most of the massages they offer and have never been disappointed. You can pay with Szep card too which is a nice bonus!
SenSpa is great if you want a Thai Massage, they also have a couple's room with bath and the works but it's much more bare bones than Mandala
Nador Dental is very professional, nice, and fast. I was not prepared for a Hungarian cleaning treatment (in the states going under the gums is only reserved for a deep gum cleaning usually done by a periodontist) so if you're an expat I would highly recommend shelling out a couple extra bucks to go numb. Your teeth will sparkle, but it's not exactly a pleasant sensation. Have a good teeth whitening service as well.
Dori is really thorough and likes to decorate as well (like put napkins in artful shapes around the home). She doesn't speak English but you can get by. She is set-up through email only
Hyginix is awesome! Message them directly on facebook, we set-up a regular service weekly with no hassle and the rates are competitive. We love working with Abdullah and their customer service is top notch.
The pharmacy in Westend mall has the largest selection, I've found, of French pharmacy products at a decent price
Tinamu has two locations off of Vaci utca and is the only place for The Ordinary, Christophe Robin, and diptyque and other cool products to discover
Notino is where I buy everything online, they ship the next day and it arrives the day after, fully trust it.
I have mixed feelings about RMC, on the one hand you can get in easily day of, they speak English, very sanitary, and most insurances are taken and directly billed so you don't have to deal with it. On the other hand, if you don't have a low deductible then these services are expensive and they charge lots for little things like renewing prescriptions. I have had mostly good experiences here, but I would NOT recommend their gynecology department, very old-fashioned, patronizing, and not professional. Everything else though has been great and they're super easy to deal with!