There are many things to do in Budapest, Hungary, that can suit all styles of traveler. This wonderful city in Central Europe is bursting at the seams with historical significance, cultural intrigue, and enriching activities that make visiting Budapest a real treat.
Budapest’s history has been restless. After invasions and wars, many of its most iconic landmarks were left crumbling. Despite this, the city has retained its beauty and intrigue through many restorative efforts and perseverance, making it a brilliant getaway.
Budapest attractions are aplenty, from historical wanderings around Buda Castle or the many Budapest spas to enjoying cheap eats at the Central Market Hall and nights out in the ruin bars.
If you’re after a European city break that won’t break the bank but will provide seemingly endless opportunities for a good time for all the family, consider Budapest.
To avoid overwhelming feelings of deciding what to do when you get there, we’ve compiled the following list of Budapest’s best things to do!
Show Table of Contents
- Things to Do in Budapest, Hungary
- 1. Buda Castle
- 2. Visit the Budapest History Museum
- 3. Hungarian National Gallery
- 4. Fisherman’s Bastion
- 5. Visit Matthias Church
- 6. Hungarian Parliament Building
- 7. Margaret Island
- 8. Ruin Bars
- 9. Thermal Baths
- 10. Gellért Hill
- 11. Cruise the Danube River
- 12. Visit the Jewish Quarter
- 13. Walk Across the Chain Bridge
- 14. Visit the Hungarian State Opera House
- 15. Try Traditional Hungarian Cuisine
- 16. Visit one of the Most Beautiful Cafes in the World
- 17. Visit in August for the Sziget Festival
- 18. Treat Your Tastebuds at the Great Market Hall
- 19. Enjoy the Activities on Offer at Buda Hills
- 20. Go on a Day Trip to Visegrád
- 21. See the Royal Palace of Gödöllő
- 22. Go Wine Tasting at Etyek
- What are some must-see places in Budapest?
- When is the best time to visit Budapest?
- What are the best day trips from Budapest?
- Which restaurants are worth trying in Budapest?
|Most significant landmark||Buda Castle|
|Best park||City Park (Városliget)|
|Best free activity||Walking along the Danube Promenade|
|Best activity for kids||Palatinus Water Park|
|Best activity for adults||Gellért Baths|
|Best food||Goulash at Frici Papa Kifőzdéje|
|Best place to stay||Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest|
Things to Do in Budapest, Hungary
1. Buda Castle
Address: Budapest, Szent György tér 2, 1014 Hungary
The cobblestone streets of the castle district on Castle Hill are home to numerous top attractions in Budapest. One of the most notable top attractions would be the iconic Buda Castle.
As the Mongols invaded Hungary, the first fort sprouted on Castle Hill in the 13th century. A palace would shortly follow that would become the castle we know today after a few more invasions, wars, and restorations. The Buda Castle complex we know today was completed as recently as the 20th century!
It’s a real treat to wander around the lavishly decorated castle and witness the influences etched into it over the years. Head up to the dome for a small fee and enjoy a great view of the sprawling city of Budapest. Or get a little spooky with a night tour filled with Hungarian folk stories and tales of ancient battles.
If you’re itching to dive deeper into the castle’s history, tours are available to take you into the cave system that ruins deep below it. This is a brilliant way to learn more about the city’s history while exploring caverns and man-made cellars.
See Related: Real, Magical Castles in Fairytales to Visit
2. Visit the Budapest History Museum
Address: Budapest, Szent György tér 2, 1014 Hungary
Forming a part of Buda Castle, the Budapest History Museum is one of the top things to do in Budapest for history enthusiasts eager to learn more about the city’s history.
The last 2,000 years of Budapest’s history have been turbulent. While many exhibits were lost during World War II, the museum is still a great place to learn of a time before Buda and Pest were united or maybe to discover more of its past ruling families.
Get a Budapest card for discounted entry to the History Museum, alongside many other great attractions within the city. Getting the card is a no-brainer when visiting Budapest. Not only can you benefit from free entry or a range of discounts on top attractions, but you also get unlimited public transport.
See Related: Best Museums in Europe to Visit
3. Hungarian National Gallery
Address: Budapest, Szent György tér 2, 1014 Hungary
The UNESCO World Heritage site of the castle district is also home to the Hungarian National Gallery.
Housed within the gallery is the largest collection of Hungarian fine arts that houses both Hungarian and international masterpieces. Overall, there are about 6,000 paintings, 2,100 sculptures, 11,000 drawings, and numerous other artifacts dating as far back as the 10th century.
If art is your thing, you won’t regret setting aside at least half a day to wander around the almost overwhelmingly well-stocked Museum of Fine Arts. Within the beauty of the exhibits on display lies a story to be told of the intricacy and intrigue of Hungarian history. Hence, a visit is both visually appealing and enriching.
4. Fisherman’s Bastion
The Fisherman’s Bastion features almost fairy-tale-like towers that serve as one of Budapest’s most popular spots for getting unbeaten panoramic views. Construction started in 1895 and was completed in 1902, so while it’s not as historically significant as other top spots in the city, it’s still very deserving of a visit.
Visiting the Fisherman’s Bastion is a great budget-friendly treat to add to your Budapest itinerary. Open every day of the year, day and night, you can visit the lower terraces free of charge. A small fee is applicable if you want to get up to the upper towers.
A great place to stay by the Fisherman’s Bastion is the Castle Base Apartment, right at the base of the whole castle complex. Your home away from home in Budapest, it’s in a great spot and features a lovely little garden terrace to wind down and take a break from touristic activities.
See Related: Cheap Places to Visit in Europe
5. Visit Matthias Church
Address: Budapest, Szentháromság tér 2, 1014 Hungary
The Roman Catholic church of Matthias church was the very first church built in Buda back in the 13th century. Hungarian kings of medieval times would once visit for mass, and while it still serves its sacral functions, the church is now a popular tourist spot offering a prime lookout vantage point in its spire.
For a fleeting visit to Budapest, a brilliant day out would combine the top attractions of the castle complex and end off with attending a concert at Matthias church. The church regularly hosts classical concerts featuring the Duna String Orchestra of Hungary.
It’s still worth visiting even if you’re not keen on attending a concert. There are tours available that will take you into the church with a knowledgeable guide to learn more about its history and surrounding top spots.
6. Hungarian Parliament Building
Address: Budapest, Kossuth Lajos tér 1-3, 1055 Hungary
The Hungarian Parliament Building stands proudly just by the banks of the Danube River. A top spot for learning of some of the most significant moments in Hungarian history, it’s not only the largest building in all of Hungary but the third largest parliament building in the whole world.
Guests to this mammoth site can enjoy a neo-gothic architectural style, with little spots of Renaissance Revival, as they explore sections such as the main staircase and old upper house hall. You can also stare in awe at the coronation jewels in the majestic domed hall.
For absolutely stunning views of the Danube River and far-off mountains, book yourself into a city penthouse apartment not too far away from the Parliament Building. Here you can enjoy a comfortable and private stay with easy access to top spots in Budapest.
See Related: The Ultimate Backpacking Through Europe Itinerary
7. Margaret Island
Address: Zielinski Szilárd stny, Budapest 1138 Hungary
Margaret Island was a pleasant surprise. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting too much from it on my visit, save a nice walk on a sunny day. But there was much more to see and do there than I had first anticipated, and I would say it’s a great place to take kids who need to burn off a little energy.
The island is a lovely little green oasis sitting within the Danube River. It once served as a royal hunting reserve and even played home to a nunnery. In fact, the island got its name from St.Margaret, the daughter of a Hungarian king sent to the nunnery at the tender age of 11.
These days it solely serves as a public park with activities for locals and tourists alike. You could cool off on a hot day at the public baths or appreciate the beautiful rose garden or musical fountain. Additionally, you could visit the Franciscan Monastery ruins or the Dominican Nunnery ruins for a little historical interlude to your day.
See Related: Best Gardens in Europe to Visit
8. Ruin Bars
The once lonely shells of abandoned buildings in Budapest have found new leases of life as super trendy and unique ruin bars. Easily making it on the list of top things to do in Budapest, visiting any ruin bar will make for a great night out.
The most popular of the ruin bars in Budapest is Szimpla Kert. It’s two floors of colorful circus-like decor and is considered a cultural hub of the city. Other highly rated spots include Élesztőház or Kobuci Kert.
It’s pretty easy to find a great ruin bar in Budapest, but if you’d rather someone else find them for you, a bar crawl is a great idea. I went on a couple during my time in the city and found them a super affordable way to meet new people as a solo traveler.
If you want an easy walk back after making the most of some of the most popular ruin bars, Kazinczy 10 Apartment is a highly-rated option just around the corner from Szimpla Kery. It’s a modern and comfortable option featuring a courtyard, family rooms, and close proximity to sites like the Hungarian National Museum and State Opera House.
9. Thermal Baths
It would almost be criminal to visit Budapest and not visit at least one thermal bath. Of all the things to do in Budapest, visiting one of the many thermal baths, like Széchenyi Baths or Gellért Baths, is a luxurious treat.
The thermal baths in Budapest are fed by natural hot springs that can create the feeling of enjoying luxury spa treatments from bathing in mineral-rich water. Moreover, at the ever-so-popular Széchenyi Baths, you can enjoy no less than 18 pools of varying temperatures, saunas, steam rooms, and massage therapies on-site.
Maybe a luxurious soak isn’t quite your thing, and you want something a little more lively? Well, you could attend a ‘SPARTY.’ The Széchenyi Baths host ‘SPARTY,’ an EDM party with outstanding visuals and lighting effects every Saturday night.
10. Gellért Hill
Gellért Hill is a prominent landmark of Budapest. The hill towers 235 meters above the Danube River. A walk-up is rewarded by what I would dub the best panoramic views of the city’s skyline.
Aside from the view and the excellent ambiance at the top, I think a major highlight of Gellért Hill is Cave Church. The church was established within already existing caves and has served as a sanctuary in the past.
You’ll also find the Liberty Statue on the hill. A proud monument that symbolizes Hungary’s liberation from the Nazi regime in World War II.
A solid plan for visiting the hill would be to combine it with a visit to the Gellért baths. I would suggest the baths first, and then work your way up, as the sunset views at the top of the hill were a highlight of my time in Budapest.
11. Cruise the Danube River
Separating the districts of Buda and Pest, the Danube River was once a lifeline for the city of Budapest. As the second-longest river in Europe, the Danube had quite a pivotal role in the development of central and southeastern Europe.
You get unspoiled views of iconic landmarks in Budapest from the river itself, like the Hungarian Parliament Building, Buda Castle, and the Chain Bridge. Consider a night cruise along the river to view these spectacles illuminated under the night sky. Or maybe a river cruise complete with a four-course dinner sounds more tempting!
If you really want to make the most of excellent river views during your stay in Budapest, consider staying at Boutique Hotel Victoria Budapest or Hotel Vision. The Boutique Hotel sits at the base of Castle Hill, and Hotel Vision serves wonderful views of Gellért Hill; both provide room options with river views.
See Related: Best River Cruises in Europe
12. Visit the Jewish Quarter
The Jewish culture began to grow in Budapest around the 19th century and grew rapidly up until the events of World War II. World War II left the Jewish Quarter run-down and crumbling. But over the years since, the area has become a bustling hub of trendy cafes, bars, and some pretty impressive street art.
The Great Synagogue of Budapest, or the ‘Dohány Street Synagogue.’ It’s the second-largest synagogue in the world. The building suffered major destruction during World War II, but it was brought back to life after significant restoration efforts in the 90s.
A visit to Dohány Street Synagogue is completed with a walk around the Jewish Museum housed within it. Learn more about the history of Jewish culture by looking through the Holocaust memorial room and other displays covering the history of the Jewish district.
13. Walk Across the Chain Bridge
The Széchenyi Chain Bridge, more commonly known as the Chain Bridge, is the oldest suspension bridge in Budapest. Before the bridge popped up, travel across the river was only possible by boat or foot when the river froze over in winter.
While it took 20 years to build, the presence of the bridge made for easier connections between Buda and Pest when construction was completed in 1849. Of course, like much of Budapest during World War II, the Széchenyi Chain Bridge was completely destroyed and had to be rebuilt.
These days it’s still a convenient crossing point over the river. You could easily visit the bridge several times during your time in Budapest if traveling on foot. Give the large stone lions at its edge a visit, or use it as a crossing point to get to the Buda Castle Hill funicular for a memorable trip up Castle Hill.
See Related: Best & Most Beautiful Cities in Europe to Visit
14. Visit the Hungarian State Opera House
Address: Budapest, Andrássy út 22, 1061 Hungary
The Hungarian State Opera House is the place to go in Budapest for top-notch classical music concerts, dance exhibitions, and plays. The events calendar is bombarded with options, and the grandeur of the interiors alongside the stunning architecture is worthy of a visit alone.
Surrounding the facade of the neo-Renaissance venue, you’ll find statues of famous composers like Mozart and Beethoven. Then as you step inside, you’re greeted with a luxurious foyer featuring a double grand staircase and marble columns.
The main auditorium of the Opera House can seat close to 1,300 people. If ever you wanted to be one of those people sitting in the audience, ticket prices are generally pretty budget-friendly. If you’re not keen on the musical entertainment available, a tour of the building itself is still an enjoyable experience.
15. Try Traditional Hungarian Cuisine
One of the best ways to truly experience the culture of a new country is to feast on its cuisine with gusto. Of the many things to do in Budapest, the one thing you’re bound to do is eat. So, why not sample some local dishes?
A particularly popular traditional Hungarian dish is Goulash. This simple, hearty stew consists of beef and potatoes flavored with paprika and onions.
Gettó Gulyás, in the Jewish quarter, is often hailed as one of the best places in Budapest to get Goulash. Other notable goulash spots are Stand25 Bistro and Bestia.
A food tour with a local is the best way to find the best spots for the best dishes, though. Going on such a foodie walking tour will let you sample several of the best bits of Hungarian cuisine in one outing. Moreover, there’s the added bonus of getting in some sightseeing and walking it all off along the way!
16. Visit one of the Most Beautiful Cafes in the World
Address: Budapest, Erzsébet krt. 9-11, 1073 Hungary
A very popular spot within the city is the New York Cafe. Proudly referenced as one of the most beautiful cafes in the world, the New York Cafe provides a whimsical step back in time with its stunning Renaissance decor while you can enjoy the sweeter treats of Budapest.
The cafe was originally built in 1894 by the New York Life Insurance Company. Following its opening, the cafe served as a literary and poetry hub for decades.
Following wars and fascist and communist regimes, the cafe closed during the 40s. Boscolo, an Italian hotel chain, acquired it in 2001 and revived it to its former glory.
Although Budapest isn’t short on other great little cafes to try out. Naspolya Nassolda is a great spot offering plant-based options, VINYL & WOOD – Get Lost in Wonderland serves up a mean brunch, and Nándori Cukrászda has some of the most amazing cakes to treat yourself with.
17. Visit in August for the Sziget Festival
Address: Május 9. park, Budapest, Hungary, 1033
The Sziget Festival is one of the largest European music festivals, welcoming hundreds of thousands of people each summer. Getting bored at this festival is a significant challenge, as it features a range of music genres spread over 60 stages for six days.
From top-lining musical acts, theatrical performances, workshops, comedians, talks, circus performers, and yoga, this festival embraces freedom of expression and a great time.
There are numerous on-site camping options ranging from camping to glamping. But for those who would prefer a hotel stay, WaterFront City Apartments by UrbanRent are within comfortable walking distance of the festival venue on the Island of Freedom.
See Related: Best Apps & Websites to Book Hotels in Europe
18. Treat Your Tastebuds at the Great Market Hall
Address: Budapest, Vámház krt. 1-3, 1093 Hungary
The Great Market Hall of Budapest was part of the city’s efforts at the end of the 19th century to provide accessible food supplies for the local people. The city constructed five indoor markets in total, the Great Market Hall being the largest and most iconic.
Often referred to as the Central Market Hall, the Great Market Hall is in a prime location just a stone’s throw away from the city center, the Danube River, and Gellért Hill. Guided tours around the market to taste the delicacies available. Otherwise, enjoy wandering around solo and trying out the goods available across three floors of fruits, veg, pickles, wines, souvenirs, you name it!
There are other markets worth mentioning, like Lehel Marke, which has some unique and colorful architecture to enjoy while shopping for tasty fresh produce. Or you could experience another side of the famous ruin bar, Szimpla. Each Sunday, the bar morphs into a local farmer’s market selling local produce alongside live bands playing and arts and crafts activities.
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19. Enjoy the Activities on Offer at Buda Hills
The Buda Hills is a wonderful retreat from city life and a great opportunity for a rest bite from the hustle and bustle to stretch your legs in nature. There are many hiking trails throughout the woods with a comfortable ascent making it an easy enough hike for all the family to enjoy.
You can join an organized tour taking you along the trails to visit caves and old quarries. Or you could easily go solo by taking public transport from the city center. It will only cost you next to nothing to get the bus from the city center to where the Green Hill area starts.
A whimsical treat for those traveling with children would be to explore the Buda Hills via the Children’s Railway. A day out on this train takes you to numerous spots along adventurous forest trails, playgrounds, sacred shrines, and an adventure course.
See Related: Best Hiking Apps for Your Next Adventure
20. Go on a Day Trip to Visegrád
One of Budapest’s most popular day trips is to cruise to the Danube bend to enjoy the beautiful Hungarian countryside while also visiting historical monuments like the formal royal residence of Visegrád Citadel.
Sitting perched high on a hill beside the Danube River is the most iconic building in all of Visegrád, the Visegrád Citadel. Thousands flock to the Citadel every year for the amazing surrounding rolling hills and numerous interesting exhibits on display, mostly featuring information on the Middle Ages.
Another popular experience at Visegrád, the Royal Palace, takes you back to the Hungarian Renaissance. At over 700 years old, the Palace highlights the rich Hungarian history of the area through a series of permanent exhibitions and some beautiful palace grounds.
21. See the Royal Palace of Gödöllő
Address: Gödöllő, Grassalkovich-kastély 5852, 2100 Hungary
Another cracker of a day out from Budapest would be to see the Royal Palace of Gödöllő, just 30 minutes from the center of Budapest. The Palace has been likened to the Palace of Versailles in France, and it was once the most favored summer residence of the royal family.
One of the highlights of a visit to the Royal Palace would be the 26-hectare English park. The park was declared a natural reserve in 1998, and it makes for a wonderful walk after touring the lavish palace interiors.
It’s very easy to get to the Palace and takes around 30 minutes one way. The Palace is open year-round, excluding 1st November and Christmas. It’s pretty cheap for entry, so a great budget-friendly day out.
Gödöllő itself is a lovely place to stay, only 25 minutes out of Budapest and within close walking distance of the palace. Hotel Queen Elizabeth Superior isn’t a bad shout; It’s in a lovely quiet spot and popular with solo travelers; you could even stay here and take trips into Budapest if you’d like to stay out of the city.
See Related: Best European Palaces to Visit
22. Go Wine Tasting at Etyek
Etyek wine country is not too far from the center of Budapest and is a region known for providing some top-tier Hungarian wine. While Hungary’s most well-known wine region, Tokaj, is far too distant at a little under 3 hours on the train, Etyek is only one hour away and perfect for a day out of the city.
Leave the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy a tipple or two in the stunning countryside. Due to the limestone soil and temperate climate, Etyek is best for Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay.
If you return to Budapest and still want to see what other Hungarian wines are available, consider a local wine tour within the city. Tokaji Aszú, Hungary’s most famous sweet wine, might be on the menu, and you won’t regret trying this tipple, often referred to as the “King of Wines.”
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What are some must-see places in Budapest?
Personal preference comes into play when declaring Budapest’s ‘must-see’ spots. The thermal baths, like Széchenyi Baths or Gellért baths, are a great shout for some relaxation, while the ruin bars are a must for a great night out.
If you want to pack in a lot during a fleeting visit, you can’t go wrong with a visit to Castle Hill. Here you can visit Buda Castle, the Fisherman’s Bastion, and numerous museums all in one visit.
When is the best time to visit Budapest?
I visited during the summer season and would happily recommend it. It was pretty humid, but the bright sunny days made for brilliant walking around the city and the Danube Promenade.
Ideally, though, the absolute best time to visit Budapest is during the shoulder seasons of Spring and Autumn. An already budget-friendly destination becomes even more so, and there are fewer crowds with more agreeable weather.
What are the best day trips from Budapest?
Some of Budapest’s most popular day trips include Visegrád, Lake Balaton, and Szentendre. They’re all reasonably close locations to the city center, so travel time is minimal, and the time available to spend exploring is maximized!
Other great day trip options from Budapest include bird spotting over 50,000 waterfowl at the small town of Tata or hiking at Rám-szakadék to chase waterfalls in a wild and rugged corner of Hungary.
Which restaurants are worth trying in Budapest?
For a modern and cheerful atmosphere while eating traditional Hungarian food taking on authentic family recipes like their ‘grandmother used to make,’ head over to the highly rated Retek Bisztró.
Maybe you want something more on the fancy side? Stand Restaurant deserves its two-Michelin stars and serves creative Hungarian dishes to please any palate. Otherwise, you’ve always got Beerstro 14, with an amazing outdoor courtyard serving as one of Budapest’s highest-rated Steakhouses.
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- About the Author
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Lisa Ward is a travel writer based in Jersey. She loves hiking and adventure travel, and has hiked to Everest Base Camp and Machu Picchu, as well as through Patagonia and up several volcanoes across the world. Lisa cycled down Death Road in Bolivia, went canyoneering in Costa Rica, climbed canopies in Honduras. That school trip to Honduras sparked Lisa’s interest in the underwater world. She has since undergone basic training in biological research concerning marine conservation, most notably that of coral reefs, and is a PADI qualified Rescue Diver with a specialty in underwater photography. So far, she has dived in Jersey, Honduras, Indonesia, and the Great Barrier Reef.
After gaining her law degree and falling into the world of finance, Lisa gained a qualification in digital marketing before deciding to take the leap into writing full time. Lisa is also a trained English Language tutor with a TEFL qualification and specialty qualifications in teaching online and 1-1. Other interests include playing the clarinet, which Lisa played in orchestras from the age of 10 to 19, martial arts (black belt in karate), and quite literally anything outdoors.