Last Updated on 27th October 2020 by Michael McGuinness
Things to Do in Budapest
This is a list of the best things to do in Budapest.
Budapest is the capital city of Hungary comprising of over 30 per cent of the entire population and has been a popular backpacker destination for nearly 30 years and over the last 10 years, tourists numbers have risen dramatically. In 2017 the number of tourists arriving in Budapest was 11.6 million. To help you, we have compiled a list of the things to do in Budapest and most of them are free.
Due to the fact, Budapest was heavily bombed in World War 2, many of its buildings and streets had to be restored. Today Budapest has a lot to offer with its glorious boulevard style street and world-class museums. Some of the best things to do in Budapest are unique tourist attractions such as its Turkish Baths and Ruin Bars.
The 20 Best Things to do in Budapest
1. The Chain Bridge
The Széchenyi Chain Bridge is a suspension bridge that connects Buda and Pest. It was the first permanent bridge across the Danube in Budapest and was opened in 1849. At the time of its construction, it was regarded as one of the world's greatest engineering wonders and is one of the best-known landmarks of Budapest.
2. Buda Castle
Buda Castle is the historical castle and palace complex of the Hungarian kings in Budapest. It was first completed in 1265, but the massive Baroque palace that you see today occupying most of the site was built between 1749 and 1769. The complex in the past was referred to as either the Royal Palace or the Royal Castle. The castle also houses the Hungarian National Gallery and The Budapest History Museum.
The fastest way to get to the Castle is on the funicular. Opened in 1870, it is the second oldest funicular of its kind in the world and has become increasingly popular because of its panoramic views of the Danube and the city's skyline.
3. Hungarian Parliament Building
The Hungarian Parliament Building is the seat of the National Assembly of Hungary, a notable landmark of Budapest. It lies on the banks of the Danube. The Parliament Building is currently the largest building in Hungary and also happens to be the tallest building in Hungary. It was designed and built in the Gothic Revival style and the front facade is symmetrical.
4. Gellért Baths
The Gellért Thermal Baths and Swimming Pool is one of the grandest bath complexes in Budapest. The bath complex was originally built between 1912 and 1918 in the Art Nouveau style but it was damaged during World War II and had to be rebuilt. The complex includes saunas and plunge pools, an open-air swimming pool (with artificial waves), an effervescent swimming pool, a Finnish sauna and various other Spa treatments. The spa complex was extensively renovated in 2008.
5. Heroes Square
Heroes' Square (Hosök tere) is one of the major squares in Budapest. The square has a statue complex featuring the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars, other important Hungarian national leaders and a Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It is located at the end of Andrassy Avenue and is one of the most visited sights in Budapest. The square has played an important part in Hungarian history and has been a host to many political events, such as the reburial of Imre Nagy (former Prime Minister of Hungary, who was executed in 1958 while Hungary was under Communism rule) in 1989.
6. Margaret Island
Margaret Island is an island, 500 metres wide in the middle of the Danube 2.5 km long and 500 metres at its widest point and the island is mostly covered by landscape parks and is a popular recreational area. It most famous sight is the "music fountain" where the water of the fountain sometimes dances in tune to classical music. Other Sights on the island include the Centennial Memorial of 1973, a small zoo featuring a wide range of exotic "waterfowl" and a Water Tower. Margaret Island is connected to both Buda and Pest via the Margaret Bridge.
7. Danube Promenade
The Danube Promenade is located on the Pest side of Budapest along the bank of the Danube and it extends from the Széchenyi Chain Bridge to the Elizabeth Bridge. A row of hotels was built here in the late 1800s. These were the Hungaria, Bristol, Carlton, and Ritz but most of these were destroyed during the World War 2 bombings. The last of these historic hotels were demolished in 1969.
Scrolling down the Promenade is a great way to see some of the most famous sights in Budapest. Looking to the Buda side of the river, you get great views of Buda Castle, the Liberty Statue on Gellert Hill and the Fisherman’s Bastion. Today on the Promenade side of the river there many restaurants and cafes, Szechenyi Istvan Square and other tourist attractions including the "Shoes on the Danube Promenade".
8. Széchenyi Thermal Baths
The Széchenyi Baths complex is the largest medicinal bath in Europe. Its water is supplied by two thermal springs. The bath which is located in the City Park was built in a Neo-Baroque style and opened in 1913. The complex was expanded in 1927 to its current size, with 3 outdoor and 15 indoor pools. Between 1999 and 2009 the Széchenyi bath was completely refurbished.
9. St. Stephens Basilica
St. Stephen’s Basilica is the largest church in Budapest named after Hungary’s first king, St. Stephen. The Basilica offers some unique attractions such as the mummified right hand of St. Stephen and as well as glorious internal architecture. While the church is active with a large mass schedule for Catholics, it also acts as a Concert Hall. Admission is free but it’s customary to give 200 HUF (€1) donation.
10. Fishermans Bastion
Fisherman's Bastion (Halászbástya) is a terrace in neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque style located on the Buda bank of the Danube, on the Buda Castle Hill. The seven towers of the Bastion represent the seven Magyar tribes that helped to settle the Magyar people in the Carpathian Basin (current day Budapest). From Fisherman's Bastion, you get panoramic views of the Danube river, Margaret Island and of the Pest side of the city.
11. Memento Park
Memento Park is an open-air museum of statues and sculpted plaques from Hungary's Communist period (1949–1989). There are statues of Lenin, Marx, and Engels, as well as several Hungarian Communist leaders. After the fall of the Communist regime in Hungary in 1989, most of the Communist era statues and monuments were immediately removed. These formed the basis for the current collection of statues you will see the park. Entrance to the park costs 1,500 HUF (€7.50).
12. Ruin Pubs
Ruin Bars first to spring up in dilapidated buildings in District VII of Budapest. District VII had been the Jewish Quarter and during World War 2 it was the Jewish Getto. After the Jews were deported out of the Getto, their buildings were left to rot and most of them were not restored during the communist era. The first ruin bar opened in the city was Szimpla in 2002 and it's still going strong to this day. Other notable ruin bars are Instant (which takes an entire building), Fogasház, Mazel Tov, Doboz and Grandio (ruin bar and hostel in one).
13. Central Market Hall
Central Market Hall or The Great Market Hall is the largest and oldest indoor market in Budapest. It is located at the end of the famous pedestrian shopping street Váci utca at Fővám square. The market has become popular with the tourists as it is right in the centre of Budapest. The opening hours are 6 am to 5 pm Monday, from 6 am to 6 pm Tuesday to Friday, from 6 am to 3 pm on Saturday and it's closed on Sundays.
The Citadella is the fortification located upon the top of Gellért Hill. It was constructed by the Hapsburgs following the failed Hungarian War of Independence. The site of Citadella is of strategic military importance as it looks down on both Buda and Pest, making it easier to bring future conflicts under control. Hapsburg troops were stationed there until 1897. During the Hungarian Uprising of 1956 when the Nationalists tried to oust the Communist government, Soviet troops occupied the Citadella and fired down into the city.
15. River cruise on the Danube
See the sights of Budapest from the River Danube on a sightseeing cruise, and even enjoy a cocktail or soft drink along the way. Glide past landmark monuments such as Buda Castle, National Parliament, Buda Castle, the Várkert Bazár and the Vigado Concert Hall.
16. Dohány Street Synagogue
The Dohány Street Synagogue (Dohány utcai zsinagóga), also known as the Great Synagogue or Tabakgasse Synagogue, is a historical building in Erzsébetváros, the 7th district of Budapest, Hungary. It is the largest synagogue in Europe and the second-largest in the world. It seats 3,000 people and is a centre of Neolog Judaism.
The synagogue was built between 1854 and 1859 in the Moorish Revival style, with the decoration based chiefly on Islamic models from North Africa and medieval Spain (the Alhambra). The synagogue was designed by Viennese architect, Ludwig Förster.
The Dohány Street Synagogue complex consists of the Great Synagogue, the Heroes' Temple, the graveyard, the Memorial and the Jewish Museum.
17. Take a day trip to Szentendre
Szentendre is a picturesque riverside town in Pest County, Hungary, located 30 Km from Budapest. Due to its historic architecture and easy rail and river access, it has become a very popular day-trip destination for tourists staying in Budapest. There are many facilities, including souvenir shops and restaurants.
18. Museum of Fine Arts
The Museum of Fine Arts (Szépművészeti Múzeum) is a museum located on Heroes' Square and facing the Palace of Art in the centre of Budapest. It was built between 1900 and 1906.
The museum's collection is made up of international art, including all periods of European art, and contains more than 100,000 pieces. The Museum's collection is made up of six departments: Egyptian, Antique, Old sculpture gallery, Old master paintings gallery, Modern collection and a Graphics collection.
19. Budapest Ferris Wheel
The new Ferris Wheel opened on Erzsébet Square in mid-march 2017 and it is opened all year round including holiday periods. It is open for business from 10 am to 11 pm every day. At 65 metres at it's highest point, it is the largest Ferris wheel in Europe. It costs €10 for adults and €5 for kids (2 to 12 years).
20. Viennese style Coffee Houses
By far the most spectacular of these Coffee Houses is New York Café. This café is cited as a ‘must-see’ coffee house. The café is part of a 4 story building that was built by the New York Life Insurance Company in Italian renaissance style (hence the name). The café is on the ground floor. It was also a favourite among Hungarian writers. World War II and Communism left the building in ruins until Italian hotel chain Boscolo Hotels bought the building and restored it to its former glory. They transformed it a 5-star hotel that opened in 2007.
I hope that you enjoyed our list of the best things to do in Budapest. These are in no particular order, as they are all good in their own unique way.
Book Your Trip to Budapest
Book Your Accommodation
To book a hostel in Budapest, always use HostelWorld to get the best possible price. If you wish to stay in a hotel, use Booking.com to find the cheapest rates. Below is a selection my favourite hostels in Budapest.
- Hostel One Budapest - Best overall hostel in Budapest.
- Hostel One Basilica - Best hostel for solo travellers.
- Fifth Hostel - Best cheap hostel in Budapest.
- Grandio Party Hostel - Best party hostel in Budapest.
Recommended Tours in Budapest
I recommend GetYourGuide for Tours. They offer highly unique tours with Local Guides. Below are a selection of some of the most interesting tours in Budapest.
- Small Group Ruin Bar Tour - Wander through Budapest's atmospheric Jewish Quarter stopping in at many of the best known ruin bars in budapest.
- Széchenyi Spa Full-Day Entrance Pass - Skip the queue at Budapest's world-famous thermal spring spa, Széchenyi Bath. It's the largest thermal spring bath complex in Europe, it comprises 3 outdoor and 15 indoor pools.
- 1-Hour Sightseeing Cruise with Welcome Drink - See the sights of Budapest from the River Danube on a 1-hour sightseeing cruise, and enjoy a seasonal cocktail or soft drink along the way.
- St Stephen's Basilica Tour with Tower Access - Skip the queue and take a guided tour of Saint Stephen's Basilica including an exclusive visit to its dome and enjoy panoramic views of Budapest.
- Original Budapest Pub Crawl and VIP Club Entrance - Discover the best ruin bars of Budapest on this 4-hour pub crawl of the city center, and then enjoy VIP entrance to one of the best clubs in town!
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, cancellations and much more. I recommend World Nomads Travel Insurance.
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