I’ve always had a romance Budapest (although city might not know it). Growing up, Budapest appeared like this historic yet mysterious place closed off by the Soviets but filled up with historic grandeur. When I first visited, the gritty, rundown streets charmed me. Budapest felt edgy in sharp contrast to, say, Prague’s more sanitized history. It had been a city of underground bars in abandoned buildings, hearty food, and serious people.
Through the years, I’ve seen the town change as the tourists visit in droves. And, while no more as edgy (those ruin bars are no more hidden), Budapest continues to be something else. It includes the best nightlife in Europe, a great deal of spas and hot springs, stunning historic buildings and museums, and a lot of green space.
Budapest is a city with layers. Regardless of what you’re thinking about, you’ll manage to think it is here. That will help you maximize out of the next trip, listed below are my top 24 what to see and do in Budapest.
1. Have a Free Walking Tour
Whenever I get to a new destination, I usually have a free walking tour. It’s a budget-friendly way to start to see the main sights, find out about the destination, and have any questions you should an area expert. They’re an instant and easy way to get a synopsis of a city, which can only help you plan the others of your trip. Budapest includes a number of good free tours available. Below are a few you can examine out to begin with:
- Strawberry Tours
- Visit to Budapest
- Generation Tours
2. Soak at the Baths
Budapest is well known because of its thermal spa baths (it’s among the best reasons for having this city). You’ll find a lot more than 100 mineral hot springs here, many dating back again to the Roman Empire.
The most used may be the Széchenyi Baths in City Park. With 18 pools, it’s the biggest & most famous in Europe. The historic buildings that house the spa were built-in 1913, and it’s a favorite spot for locals and tourists alike. Don’t forget your swimwear and flip-flops (you can rent towels and lockers).
Állatkerti krt. 9-11, +36 1-363-3210, www.szechenyifurdo.hu. Open daily 6am-10pm. Admission starts at 4,900 HUF.
3. Ruin Bars
The nightlife in Budapest is among the best in Europe – and ruin bars certainly are a big reason why. Situated in the old Jewish Quarter, a lot of a nearby was left to decay after World War II. Through the 90s, bars started to come in the abandoned buildings in the region. Now, this underground scene is well on the map. But that doesn’t get this to eclectic, arty, and funky spaces any less fun. Szimpla Kert, Instant, and Fogasház are my three favorites but, for a far more detailed set of what’s hot at this time, have a look at my post on the very best ruin bars in Budapest!
4. Castle Hill
This historic area houses baroque houses and Habsburg monuments. Cobblestone streets and narrow alleys that hark back again to the city’s medieval roots parallel panoramic views of Pest and the Danube. This portion of the town is truly a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with the Old Town in the north and the massive palace south, which dates to the 13th century.
6. Buda Castle
In the Castle Hill area, you’ll also find Buda Castle (it’s more of a palace complex than other things). The initial complex was constructed in the 13th century, however, the huge Baroque palace that exists today was actually built between 1749-1769. Originally designed for the nobility, the palace was looted by the Nazis (and the Soviets) during World War II.
Fun fact: Under the castle, Vlad the Impaler (colloquially referred to as Count Dracula) was imprisoned for 14 years. In the dungeon area, gleam labyrinth that tourists used to have the ability to explore – at night, believe it or not – though it’s now closed. You’ll also find some museums here aswell (see below).
Szent György tér 2, +36 1 458 3000, budacastlebudapest.com. The courtyards are open 24/7 as the castle is open daily from 10am-8pm.
5. Hospital in the Rock
This museum served as a hospital, bomb shelter, prison, and nuclear bunker. Here you’ll find out about the impacts that World War II, the 1956 revolution, and the Cold War had on the town and its own people. Opened in 2008, it’s the most popular attractions around. Admission carries a one-hour guided tour of the museums, which includes a variety of wax figures, tools, equipment, and furnishings.
Lovas ut 4/c , +36 70 701 0101, sziklakorhaz.eu/en. Open daily 10am-8pm. Admission is 4,000 HUF.
6. Hungarian National Gallery
Opened in 1957, this museum targets Hungarian artists and history (which I knew hardly any before my first visit). The gallery is situated in Buda Castle, home to paintings and sculptures from the renaissance and dark ages, including wooden altarpieces from the 1400s. Also you can tour the building’s massive dome. The gallery hosts rotating temporary exhibits too so check the web site to determine what’s on throughout your visit.
1014 Budapest, +36 20 439 7325, mng.hu. Open Tuesday-Sunday 10am-6pm (last tickets sold at 5pm). Admission is 1,800 HUF and audio guides are for sale to 800 HUF.
7. Budapest History Museum
This museum covers four floors of Buda Castle and a comprehensive summary of the city’s entire history. It’s essential for anyone seeking to get a more detailed consider the city’s 2,000-year past. The best exhibit was the “1,000 Years of Budapest” display. Make sure to get the audio guide since it provides a large amount of good supplemental information. It’s worth the price.
+36 1 487 8800 , budacastlebudapest.com/budapest-history-museum. Open Tuesday-Sunday 10am-4pm (6pm in the summertime). Admission varies by season (2,000-2,400 HUF). An audio guide is designed for 1,200 HUF. Admission is free on national holidays.
8. The Cave Church
In the 1920s, Catholic monks built this church in a big cave system that were used by a hermit monk. Referred to as Saint Ivan’s Cave, the cave was used as a hospital during World War II. When the communists found power following the war, they covered the entrance in concrete and executed the top monk. In 1989, as the Iron Curtain fell, the church was reopened and is currently a favorite place for tourists in addition to a host to worship for locals. Get the audio guide to help make the most out of your visit. You will find a large amount of history here.
Sziklatemlom út Gellért Hill, sziklatemplom.hu/web/fooldal.html. Open Monday-Saturday 9:30am-7:30pm. Admission is 600 HUF.
9. Matthias Church
This neo-Gothic Roman Catholic church is probably the most unique churches in Europe. I’ve literally seen a huge selection of churches and cathedrals over the continent and this is probably the most original. The initial church in this spot was built-in the 11th century, though nothing remains of it (the existing building was constructed in the 14th century and was heavily renovated in the 19th century).
Through the Turkish invasion of the 16th century, it had been changed into a mosque, which explains why its vibrant colors and designs that aren’t common in European churches (the church includes a colorful roof that almost helps it be look like it had been built from Lego). Once inside, you’ll start to see the huge vaulted ceilings and ornate décor.
Szentháromság tér 2, +36 1 355 5657, matyas-templom.hu. Open 9am-5pm on weekdays, 9am-1pm on Saturdays, and 1pm-5pm on Sundays. Admission is 1,800 HUF. Guided tours are for sale to 2,500 HUF.
10. Fisherman’s Bastion
Built between 1895 and 1902, this terrace is made up of seven towers that watch out over the river. Each is meant to represent among the seven Hungarian tribes that founded the town. The terrace was created by the same architect who created the Matthias Church and stunning panoramic views over the Danube River. Competing legends say that the name originates from either the actual fact that the terrace overlooks the old fishermen’s guild or that the fishermen’s guild was in charge of protecting that section of the wall. No one is fairly certain which is right.
Szentháromság tér, +36 1 458 3030, fishermansbastion.com. Open daily 9am-11pm. Admission is free, with yet another charge of just one 1,000 HUF to go to the upper turrets.
11. Hungarian Presidential Palace
The Hungarian Presidental Palace has been the workplace of the president since 2003. Referred to as Sándor-palota (Alexander Palace), it’s not nearly as impressive as the encompassing buildings, but in the event that you time your visit right you can view the changing of the guard ceremony near the top of each hour from 9am-5pm (excluding Sundays). Sometimes the palace will most probably for tours (but this rarely happens so don’t get your hopes up).
Szent György tér 1-2, +36 1 224 5000. Admission to the changing of the guard is free.
12. Buda Tower
This reconstructed “tower” is all that remains of the Church of Mary Magdalene, that was originally built-in the 13th century but was destroyed during World War II. When the Turks occupied the town between 1541-1699, the church was changed into a mosque. It reopened in 2017 and you may now climb the 172 steps that result in the top. Having said that, the views from Castle Hill are simply nearly as good – and free – so I’d skip climbing the steps and just admire this historic tower from the exterior.
Kapisztrán tér 6, budatower.hu/en. Open daily 10am-6pm (but only on the weekends in January and February). Admission is 1,500 HUF.
13. Walk Over the Chain Bridge
The Széchenyi Chain Bridge connects Buda with Pest and is a wrought-iron and stone suspension bridge. The bridge originally opened in 1849 but was damaged during World War II and needed to be rebuilt. Spend time strolling over the bridge and consuming the view. Don’t miss Gresham Palace, on the Pest side. It’s a skill Nouveau building that’s now a lavish Four Seasons hotel.
14. Visit Parliament
Built-in 1902, here is the largest building in the united states and home to the national assembly. This massive structure – which covers over 18,000 square meters – took almost twenty years to build. You may take guided tours of the building where you could learn about the annals of the town and the way the government of the united states works. (In the event that you intend to visit, purchase your tickets beforehand as the lines will get quite long.)
Kossuth Lajos tér 1-3, +36 1 441 4000, parlament.hu. Open daily 8am-6pm. Admission is 6,000 HUF.
15. Stroll Along the Danube
After visiting Parliament, go for a walk along the river. Head south to look at the promenade and its own many green spaces and sculptures, like the sobering “Shoes on the Danube Bank,” a memorial honoring the Jews who were shot here during World War II. When you have a book or simply want to take the view, that is a reflective spot to stop and relax.
16. Great Market Hall
This can be a oldest and largest indoor market in the united states. Built-in 1897, you’ll find mostly produce, meats, baked goods, and candy on the floor floor as the upper floor houses restaurants and souvenir shops. It includes a large amount of traditional eateries, so make sure you walk around and explore first. Yes, it’s touristy (it’s the central market, in the end), but I still found the meals quite good (and affordable). Even though you don’t anticipate buying anything, it’s still worth an instant visit to walk around.
Vámház körút 1-3. Open Monday 6am-5pm, Tuesday-Friday 6am-6pm , and Saturday 6am-3pm. Closed on Sundays. Admission is free.
17. St. Stephen’s Basilica
This can be the largest church in Hungary. Named after Hungary’s first king, the church is made up of ornate architecture, gorgeous artwork, and is crowned by an enormous dome. It had been completed in 1905 after taking 50 years to build. Make sure to check out all of the little chapels plus the reliquary that’s (allegedly) home to St. Stephen’s mummified right hand.
Szent István tér 1, +36 1 311 0839, bazilika.biz. Open weekdays 9am-5pm, Saturday 9am-1pm, and Sunday 1pm-5pm. Entry to the basilica is by donation, though it’s 600 HUF per person for the tower/observation deck.
18. Dohány Street Synagogue
Generally known as the Great Synagogue, it is the second-largest synagogue on the globe (it seats 3,000 people). Built-in 1854, the synagogue offers guided tours that reveal the building and its own place in the city’s history. You’ll learn about the construction of the synagogue, Jewish life in the town, plus much more. As a follow-up to your visit, have a look at Wallenberg Memorial Park (directly behind the synagogue) and the nearby Hungarian Jewish Museum.
Dohány u. 2, +36 1-343-0420. Hours change from every month; call ahead for details. Admission is 4,000 HUF.
19. Gellért Hill
Gellért Hill, just south of Castle Hill, is best spot to watch the sunset (in the event that you choose the sunset, have a flashlight for the trip home). Additionally, there are several monuments on the hill, like the Liberty Statue, a bronze statue was erected in 1947 to celebrate the liberating Soviet forces who defeated the Nazis; the Statue of Queen Elisabeth, the Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary who married Franz Joseph I; and the Statue of King Saint Stephen, Hungary’s first king, who helped establish the united states as a Christian nation and provided an interval of relative peace and stability.
20. The Museum of Terror
Life in Budapest beneath the fascist and communist regimes was brutal. The building that houses this museum was utilized by the ÁVH (Secret Police) and Arrow Cross Party (the Hungarian Nazi party) throughout their reigns of terror. Over 700,000 Hungarians were killed or imprisoned by the Soviets, and the museum does a fantastic and moving job of highlighting precisely how terrible their daily lives were. The museum’s permanent exhibits are spread over four floors and house a variety of propaganda, weapons, and informative multimedia displays. In addition they host temporary exhibits too (for information on those, check the web site for the most up-to-date information).
Andrássy út 60, +36 (1) 374 26 00, terrorhaza.hu/en. Open Tuesday-Sunday 10am-6pm. Admission is 3,000 HUF.
21. Heroes’ Square
Heroe’s Square (Hosök Tere) may be the largest square in Hungary. Here you’ll find statues of Hungarian kings and other historical figures, like the seven chiefs who led the Magyars (modern-day Hungarians) in the 9th century. The monument was built-in 1896 to celebrate Hungary’s 1,000th anniversary and originally included Hapsburg monuments (as the Hapsburgs ruled the united states in those days). The square can be home to the Millennium Monument, a big stone cenotaph dedicate to those that gave their life for Hungary’s independence.
22. Go Island-Hopping
There are several islands on the Danube that you may visit to escape the town. The most famous is Margaret Island. It’s connected by the Margaret and Árpád Bridges and includes a large park, pools, and a musical fountain. Óbuda Island is well known because of its outdoor activities, including wakeboarding, jet skiing, and golf (there’s a driving range here). In August, they host the Sziget Festival of music and culture.
23. THE HOME of Houdini
Born in 1874, Harry Houdini was a famous escape artist and illusionist. He was most widely known for his elaborate and sensational escape tricks, including escapes handcuffs, chains, and a good grave where he was buried alive! Born in Hungary, this can be a only museum in Europe focused on the Budapest native. The museum, which requires you to resolve a small mystery before you even visit, houses original Houdini props and bits of memorabilia, in addition to props from the Houdini film starring Adrien Brody.
11 Dísz Square, +36 1-951-8066, houseofhoudinibudapest.com. Open daily from 10am-7pm Admission is 2,600.
24. Keep yourself well-informed as you walk!
Beyond exploring by yourself or going for a free walking tour, Budapest has a great deal of other tours worth looking into from in-depth niche walking tours, to food tours, historical tours, and pub crawls. While they aren’t free, you’ll reach learn a lot more about the town, its past, and its own culture. Below are a few companies worth looking into:
- Taste Hungary
- Pub Crawl Budapest
- Absolute Tours: Hammer and Sickle Tour
From its wild ruin bars to its relaxing spas, Budapest offers all you will get in Western Europe – but also for a fraction of the purchase price. Plus, in addition, it sees a fraction of the crowds you’ll find in cities like London, Paris, and Prague.
With tons to see and do and budget-friendly prices, it will come as no real surprise that Budapest keeps becoming a lot more popular.
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Book Your Visit to Budapest: Logistical Guidelines
Book Your Flight Look for a cheap flight through the use of Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite se’s, because they search websites and airlines around the world, and that means you always know no stone has been left unturned.
Book Your Accommodation You can book your hostel with Hostelworld because they have the biggest inventory. If you need to remain elsewhere, use Booking.com since it consistently returns the least expensive rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. A few of my favorite places in which to stay Budapest are:
- Carpe Noctem
- Hostel One
- Big Fish
If you’re looking for more places to remain, this is a complete set of the best hostels in Budapest!
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