Things to do in Budapest
Budapest, the capital of Hungary. This city is without a doubt one of our favourites in Europe, if not the world. This unique city boasts amazing architecture around every corner, numerous things to do and see and the best part is: visiting Budapest will not break the bank. For these reasons, we’ve lost count the number of times we’ve visited this magical part of Eastern Europe. We’re still not bored of its charm (and never will be) so here are our top tips and things to do in Budapest.
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1. Admire Fisherman’s Bastion
Probably number one on everyone’s top things to see in Budapest, the stunning Fisherman’s Bastion is a top tourist attraction.
Come here to explore the many turrets and spires, take in the panoramic views and simply feel like you’re in your very own fairy tale.
Matthias Church is located directly in front of Fisherman’s Bastion and is not to be missed. The roof itself is some of the prettiest architecture we’ve ever seen.
Top tip: Visit early in the morning (preferably sunrise) to escape the crowds. You’ll get incredible views at sunrise and appreciate the beauty even more.
2. Buda Castle
Another one of Budapest’s architectural masterpieces, Buda castle cannot be missed (literally). This historical castle is unmissable from the Danube waterfront due to its sheer size and beauty.
You can choose to admire the castle from afar or take a closer look whilst exploring the beautiful grounds and gardens surrounding.
The castle itself houses the Budapest History Museum and the Hungarian National Gallery.
A fun way to get to Buda castle is to use the aptly named, Budapest Castle Hill Funicular. Built nearly 150 years ago, this Funicular is a fun thing to do in itself.
Grounds and gardens: Free
Budapest History Museum: Adults – 2400 HUF (£6) | Visitors aged 6-26 – 1200 HUF (£3)
Hungarian National Gallery: Adults – 1800 HUF (£4.80) | Visitors aged under 26 or above 62 – 900 HUF (£2.40)
Castle Hill Funicular: Adult – 1200 HUF one way (£3) | 1800 HUF return (£4.80)
3. Explore Budapest on a Free Walking Tour
Many major European cities now offer ‘free walking tours’. You meet at a pre-arranged meeting point with a group of other tourists and are taken around the city. At the end of the tour, you pay what you think the tour was worth. A cheap and cheerful way to see what Budapest has to offer. Furthermore, it’s a fantastic way to learn about the city and its interesting history.
Top tip: Take the tour on your first day in Budapest. It’s a great introduction to the city and you’ll then have a better idea of how to explore yourself and what to see.
More information: Free Walking Tours
4. Relax in the Thermal Baths
Budapest is sometimes known as the ‘city of baths’ as you’ve guessed it, there are many thermal baths. With 120 hot springs to provide the natural water then you can see why. With some of the baths dating back to the 16th century, Budapest’s thermal baths are part of its rich culture.
As well as being a great place to relax and unwind after all of your explorings, the baths are incredibly beautiful and a must-see in Budapest.
Our top three baths:
Gellért Thermal Baths: Arguably the most famous thermal baths and closest to the centre, the Gellert Thermal Baths are located on the Buda side, at the foot of Liberty bridge. The complex’s interior is stunning with Art Nouveau decor and numerous baths to choose from. The outdoor wave pool is great for sunny days.
Prices vary: Approx 6200 – 6800 HUF (£16 – £18)
Széchenyi Thermal Baths: This is the largest thermal baths in Budapest and housed in a magnificent palace. This complex is not only beautiful but offers 15 indoor pools and 3 huge outdoor pools alongside other amenities such as whirlpools, saunas and steam rooms. As Széchenyi is popular, it does get extremely busy here.
Prices vary: Approx 5800 – 6500 HUF (£15.50 – £17.50)
Palatinus Strand Baths: Palatinus is for those wanting something a little different from the typical thermal baths. The open-air concept makes it a great place to spend a sunny day and have some great fun on the water slides. Palatinus is located on Margaret Island, a short trip from the centre of Budapest.
Prices vary: Approx 2600 – 3000 HUF (£7 – £8)
Fancy more of a unique experience?
Try one of the beer spas! Sit back, relax in a thermal wooden tub and drink as much beer as you can. Sounds like a great idea to us. Although we have yet to experience one, it’s number one on our list of things to do next time we’re in Budapest.
Fancy something even crazier?
Head to ‘SPAty’ on a Saturday night for a wild night out. SPAty combines traditional thermal baths with electronic dance music. Basically, a giant late-night party in the baths.
5. Hungarian Parliament building
Many people say that the Hungarian Parliament building located in the centre of Budapest is one of the best Parliaments buildings in the world.
The parliament is so large that it’s best viewed from the Buda side of the river, where you can fully appreciate it. You can also get an up-close look to witness the intrinsic details.
Top tip: Wait until night-time, grab a drink and sit on the riverside to watch the building light up and dominate the river Danube.
Price: Free to see
Tour inside the parliament building – 3200 HUF (£8.50) for EU Citizens | 1600 HUF (£4.25) for EU Citizens aged 6-24 | 6400 HUF (£17) for non EU Citizens | 3200 HUF (£8.50) for non EU Citizens aged 6-24 (Tickets for English tours should be booked at least 3 weeks in advance)
6. Wander around Central Market Hall
Central Market Hall is the biggest market hall in Budapest and without a doubt the most beautiful. Set in a charming building, a trip here is worth it just to see the magnificent roof. But, we do highly recommend going inside!
The Great Market hall offers everything from fresh foods on the lower floor and handmade souvenirs on the second floor to local Hungarian delights in the eateries on the upper floor. If you love people watching, tasting yummy food or shopping, then a visit to the Central Market Hall is a great thing to do in Budapest.
7. Heroes Square
Hősök tere or Heroes square was constructed in 1896 to mark the thousandth anniversary of Hungary. This huge square is not only full of monumental statues, history and charm, but is also the impressive entrance to the city park.
Close to the square, you’ll find numerous museums, including two art museums, the Castle of Vajdahunyad with its impressive boat lake and one of the worlds largest zoos. The well known Széchenyi Thermal Bath is only a 5-minute walk away.
8. Climb Gellert Hill
Gellert Hill is the highest point in Budapest and a great addition to your itinerary, if you’re looking to burn off all of those chimney cakes! Start your walk near the Gellert Thermal baths and make your way to the top, strolling through the park and taking in the beautiful views along the way.
When you reach the top of the 235m hill, you’ll be greeted by the impressive Saint Gerard statue and panoramic views of Budapest. Sit back and relax for a while, but before you make the descent, be sure to explore the grounds until you come across the 174-year-old Citadella fort.
Top tip: Bring some water with you for the walk. You can buy drinks and food at the top, although this depends on the time of day.
9. Chill on Liberty Bridge
One thing you’ll notice when you visit Budapest is the copious amount of bridges that connect Buda to Pest. These bridges add to the cities charm but also make for a fun experience.
During the summertime, Liberty Bridge closes for vehicle assess and opens strictly for pedestrians. Every weekend in July, singers, dancers and performers alike host events on the bridge and invite everyone to come and join the party.
Many locals and tourists bring their own food, drinks, games and even hammocks to enjoy the summer festivities. Check out SzabihÍd for more information.
Don’t worry, if you don’t visit Budapest in July, you can still enjoy some of the fun. Most days you’ll see people sat on the bridge itself, relaxing with friends, watching the boats along the Danube or enjoying the sunset. We did this when we were in Budapest and there’s definitely something cool about chilling on a working bridge!
10. Walk along the Chain Bridge
Another bridge I hear you say. Well, Budapest actually has 8 bridges, all different and unique. But The Chain Bridge is certainly the most popular and oldest of them all.
Located in the heart of the city, your trip to Budapest would not be complete without a stroll along the Chain Bridge.
11. St Stephen’s Basilica
Among Budapest’s most beautiful buildings is the St Stephen’s Basilica. This Roman Catholic basilica was named after the first king of Hungary and is an important Budapest landmark.
It’s a good idea to visit both day and night. At night, see the spectacular St Stephen’s light up and take a photo standing in front of the basilica. The square surrounding has a great lively atmosphere when the sun goes down, with many restaurants, cafes and street performers. Come back in the morning to view St Stephen’s Basilica in a contrasting way, enter the building and awe at the delightful decoration. Go up to the top to enjoy the wonderful panorama view over Budapest.
Top tip: Try to visit on the hour to hear the hourly chimes.
Price: Free to enter the church | 500 HUF (£1.30) to go up to the observation deck | 2000 HUF (£.5.30) for a guided tour
12. Visit the ruin bars
One of Budapest’s rare attractions are certainly the various ruin bars. These unique bars are set in abandoned buildings and are the best place to go for a night out.
Szimpla Kert was Budapest first ruin bar and maybe the craziest to date. Decorated with bizarre and strange ornaments, this place will set your senses crazy. Visit in the day to really experience the crazy decorations but visit at night to get the full ruin bar action.
Crazy cheap drink prices, bathtub seats, electric atmosphere and people selling carrots. What’s not to love? You won’t regret adding this to your Budapest itinerary.
Although Szimpla Kert is undoubtedly the most touristy, there are plenty of other ruin bars to visit too. Many of the bars are set outside or have outdoor areas which are great in summer.
We absolutely loved Budapest’s bar scene and visited a lot!
Price: Free to visit | Average price for a pint of local larger 550 – 700 HUF (£1.50 – £2) | Average price for a glass of wine 500 HUF (£1.35)
13. Sail along the Danube on a River cruise
If you’ve had enough walking for one trip, or just want to see the city from a different perspective, then a river cruise along the Danube is a great idea.
Many boat companies offer tours along the river but if you’re looking for something extra special, why not try a sunset dinner cruise. This way, you can see the city light up at night (when it’s at it’s prettiest).
Most hotels and hostels can book the experience for you, or head down to the waterfront to book yourself.
14. Take a trip to Margaret Island
If you fancy something a little different and are craving more of nature, then a short trip to Margaret Island might be just what you need. Located in the Danube River, Margaret Island is the cities largest park and only a short distance from the city centre via Margaret bridge.
Alike other parks, you’ll find locals relaxing, riding bikes and exercising. However, this urban park offers much more. On the island you’ll find a mini-farm, musical fountains, Japenese gardens and Palatinus, the islands own swimming baths.
We spent a great sunny day exploring by rented bicycle, dipping our feet in the fountains and topping it off with a lovely picnic.
Top tip: You can actually walk to Margaret island in around 40 minutes from the Chain Bridge or take a short ride on the number 26 bus.
What to eat in Budapest
Food for us is an important part of travelling. We always love to try the local food wherever we visit. Hungary is known for some great delicacies and we recommend you to try them all.
Goulash – A national dish of Hungary, this meat and vegetable stew is seasoned with paprika and a must-try.
Lángos – Typically a street food snack, locals love to have this deep-fried dough with cheese and sour cream on top. Although, you can choose a variety of toppings, even sweet ones!
Kurtoskalacs (Chimney Cake) – Our favourite Hungarian delight. Shaped like a chimney, this treat is made from sweet soft dough and has a caramelized crust. Typically, Hungarians eat Kurtoskalacs as it is, but now many places offer a variety of flavours and toppings for tourists. You might have tried this dish in the Czech Republic too known as Trdelnik.
Paprika – Now this isn’t actually a dish, more of an ingredient but we couldn’t leave it off the list. You’re sure to find many local dishes containing Paprika. Hungarians love it!
Read our full Budapest Travel Guide to find out our favourite places to eat in Budapest.
Where to stay in Budapest:
Whether you’re visiting Budapest for a romantic break or as part of a backpacking tour, the city has accommodation for all budgets and needs.
Luxury – Sofitel Budapest Chain Bridge
We stayed here during our first time in Budapest and it might be one of the reasons we loved our time in the city so much. Every aspect of the hotel is well thought out. The beds are, to this day, the comfiest we’ve ever stayed in. Above all else, the location of the Sofitel is perfect, close to the river bank and overlooking the Budapest chain bridge. The centre of the city and the famous Vaci Utca are just a few minutes walk away.
Mid Range – Budget – Meininger
They like to call themselves a hotel, but in truth, they’re a kind of hotel/hostel hybrid. There are private rooms and shared dormitories on offer and from experience, we found them to be clean and comfy. The Budapest Meininger is in a great location, a few minutes walk from Central Market Hall and Liberty Bridge.
Backpacker budget – Wombats Hostel
You’ll find private rooms as well as dorm rooms here. The Wombats hostel is located in the up and coming Jewish Quarter and is close to some of the cities best ruin bars. We found Wombats in other cities to have a younger, upbeat party crowd. Though it’s nothing too crazy, definitely not a ‘party hostel’ and a place where you can still have a comfortable night’s sleep.
For more accommodation in Budapest, you can check the latest prices here.
Airbnb is also a great option for those on a budget! Want to save £25 off your first Airbnb Booking? Use our referral code!
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