Budapest was my favorite city since I was a little girl. Being a Hungarian myself, well, it’s an addition to why I love it so much! There are so many things to do in Budapest that it won’t even fit in one article! I’ve been in Budapest numerous times, and also lived there for about 2 years, and all this time I was trying to discover as much as possible. I’ve been memorizing streets, metro line stops, bus numbers all around the capital, visiting museums like a crazy person, and so on. Starting the line of articles, let’s see the best things to do in Budapest, Hungary!
22 Best things to do in Budapest, Hungary
The Hungarian capital city is one of the best city break destinations in Europe. Budapest is full of amazing landmarks, stunning architecture, panoramic views, and great food. There are so many things to do in Budapest, that you must plan at least a 3 day Budapest itinerary to see as much as possible!
#1 Wandering in Buda Castel
One of my favorite things in Budapest is to have spectacular views from anywhere along the river. You can see the Buda Castel as well from a pretty wide part of the riverside. The Buda castle, honestly, has many things to offer! Beautiful streets, amazing restaurants, museums, such as the Military Museum of Hungary and the National Gallery which is in the Buda Palace (1st picture below).
There are some beautiful buildings and towers from middle age. Besides these, you can find a few Gothic and Neo-Romanesque pieces, like the Mathias Temple and the Fisherman’s Bastion. For the 1st district, which is basically inside the walls of the castle, plan at least half a day to have enough time to wander around. There are many hidden gems in Budapest!
#2 Széchenyi Chain Bridge, a must when you visit Budapest
The Széchenyi Chain Bridge is my favorite bridge in Budapest! Actually, it’s everyone’s favorite bridge…
This amazing piece of architecture was first built in the 19th century on the order of count Stephan (Istvan) Széchenyi. In the 2nd WW, the German army blew up the bridge while they were retreating from the eastern frontlines. The Széchenyi Chain Bridge is one of Budapest’s iconic monuments. The best place to have a breathtaking view is above the tunnel on Clark Adam Square, but it’s beautiful from the Buda Palace in the castle, and from the other side, from near the Parliament as well.
#3 The Hungarian Parliament building
When it comes to things to do in Budapest, you can’t miss visiting the Hungarian parliament building! I’ll try to keep this one short now, as I have a full article prepared about the Hungarian Parliament building and some fun facts. The Hungarian Parliament is situated near the Danube river, on the Kossuth Lajos Square. It was designed by Steindl Imre, built in a neogothic style, and finished in 1902.
The building is absolutely symmetric, and it’s now the largest building in Hungary. On Hungarian national days, like the 15th of March and the 20th of August, it’s open for the visitors as well for free, without any booking or group visit. So if you visit Budapest on a Hungarian Nation Day, you can have a tour of the Hungarian Parliament Building! You are allowed on these days to enter the main halls and you can also see the Hungarian crown in the main hall, that’s always preserved by honor guards.
Tip: For the best view of the Hungarian Parliament building, head to metro line 2 on Kossuth Square and you go one stop to get to the other side of the river, to Batthyanyi Square. From the other side of the Danube, you can see the spectacular building on the riverside.
#4 Margaret Island
If you’re looking for the best things to do in Budapest in the summer, or more specifically the best things to do in Budapest in July or August, here’s the hot spot! Margaret Island is most of the time the place of peace. People go here for walks, running, and other outdoor activities. You can also find on the island the remains of the monastery where St Margaret lived. In the past, it was called rabbit island. You can also find here a smaller aqua park called Palatinus. Make sure to check out some official websites for events before you visit Budapest!
Margaret Island has a second great thing to offer. One of the coolest things to do during the summer is the Sziget Festival! It’s one of Europe’s most famous summer festivals. This year it will be between the 5th and 11th of August 2020. Learn and discover more here, on the Sziget Festival’s official site.
#5 The Budapest Eye in the heart of the city
The Budapest Eye is located on Elisabeth (Erzsebet) Square. It’s a bit easier for first-timers in Budapest to search for Deak Ferenc Square, as this stop is the one where all 4 metro lines meet and it’s literally 2 minutes away from the Budapest Eye. (It’s also very close to St Stephan’s Basilica). A ride for an adult will cost Ft 3,000, which is equal to $ 9.90/ £ 7.65. You can get your Budapest Eye tickets online, so you won’t have to wait in the queue!
#6 St Stephan’s Basilica, Budapest
Here’s another of the things to do in Budapest, St Stephan’s Basilica! The Roman Catholic basilica is the 3rd largest church in nowadays Hungary. Before 1920, when Hungary still had its integrity, it was just the 7th largest church in the country, built in the 19th century. The church is named after Hungary’s first king, St Stephan (975–1038). His right hand is kept in the basilica’s reliquary. St Stephan’s square is hosting a part of the famous Christmas Markets in Budapest as well.
There was also a great video made here for Budapest being the Folk Capital, with a flashmob kind of Hungarian folk dance and music. It’s really amazing and definitely worth watching!
#7 Citadella Budapest
A hike is always worth the view when you visit Budapest! The Citadella Budapest is built on the Hungarian capital’s highest hill on the riverside, the Gellert hill, ensuring a view above most of the city. It was built after the 1848-49 Hungarian revolution was stopped.
Basically, Hungary wanted to gain back its independence and to be out of the Austrian Empire. This didn’t happen thanks to the Russian army that suppressed the revolution. The Citadella served for the Austrian army as a fortress, as they could supervise the city from there, also easy to use the cannons if a new revolution would begin. Nowadays it’s just the best place with the best view over Budapest.
It’s really worth visiting the Budapest Citadella at night though! The city is covered in lights and it’s offering an absolutely stunning view! While getting to the top, you can also see the statue of St Gellert on the side of the hill, facing the Danube and the Liberty Statue at the top.
More things to see in Budapest – things to do in Budapest
#8 Liberty Bridge
It was built in 1894-1896 and its original name was Franz Joseph Bridge, who was the king of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at that time. Secret fact: He was the one who put the last silver screw in the bridge. Unfortunately, that was stolen later on. The replicable can be found on the Pest side of the bridge.
When I’m guiding someone around in Budapest, I always tell this one fact about the Liberty Bridge: This is the place where many people tried or actually committed suicide. This is not something that you will read in the travel guides, you might be reading it just in the Hungarian news. I think this should be mentioned, as part of the bridge’s history, and well, those who love spooky places, I just gave you a bucket list item!
#9 Heroes Square – Budapest
Visiting Heroes Square is one of the top things to do in Budapest! One of my favorite places in the Hungarian capital! Heroes Square Budapest is a monumental spot that you HAVE TO SEE when you visit Budapest! It’s located in the center of Budapest, on metro line 1 (yellow), at the Hősök Tere stop which is named after the square. It’s featuring in the middle the 7 chieftains of the Hungarians who led them to Pannonia.
In the background, there are two vaulted statue group lineups, one featuring the most important Kings of the Middle age, in chronologic line, on the second one continuing with the rulers and kings of the new age, the Hungarian rulers of Transylvania by the time when most of Hungary was occupied by the Osman Empire as well as important figures of the 19th century. The square is at the very end of Andrassy Avenue, which is known for being a perfectly straight street crossing through the center of Budapest. The square is also hosting the Museum of Fine Arts and the Art Gallery.
The Heroes Square Budapest hosted many important political events in the 20th century, as well as communism as in 1989, at the reburial of Nagy Imre, the chosen prime minister in the revolution against the Soviet Union and communism in 1956. This was a remarkable event as this was when it’s been officially announced the end of the communist dictatorship in Hungary.
#10 Vajdahunyad Castel
Bucket list item for the best things to do in Budapest! This is located just a few meters from Heroes’ Square, in the City Park (Városliget). Now it may seem like a real castle, but it’s not. The Vajdahunyad Castel was built in 1898 as part of the Millenial Exhibition which celebrated 1000 years of Hungary since the conquest of the Carpathian Basin in 895.
The beauty of Vajdahunyad Castel is that it’s designed to be featuring copies of 7 different landmarks from Hungary. This front side with the tower is featuring the Hunyad Castel in Transylvania (which after 1000 years, is not a part of Hungary since 1920…). The original castles are from different time periods so each one is featuring different styles of architecture such as Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque. More about this fascinating building complex will be soon published as well!
#11 Széchenyi Thermal Bath
As Budapest started to become a more and more popular destination, the nationwide already famous Széchenyi Thermal Bath became famous shortly around the world as well. It was built in 1913 and named after one of the most famous political and aristocrat figures of the 19th century, Széchenyi István. In addition to the marvelous medicinal natural hot spring waters in the 18 pools, there are 10 saunas/steam cabins, several massage therapies, facial treatments, and more. Interested already huh? Go ahead and check the Széchenyi Thermal Bath website!
#12 Budapest architecture
There are loads and loads of beautiful hidden masterpieces of architecture in Budapest! I really suggest taking as many walking tours as possible when you visit Budapest! The best thing about this city is that public transport is super easy and covering literally everything. You now also have electric scooters to wander around on wheels, but I still suggest still do some walking as well. In the 5th district of Budapest, the 6th, 7th, and 8th districts in Budapest are full of amazing pieces. Wander around the Hungarian National Museum, the riverside, or the Andrassy Street for some juicy Budapest architecture discovery!
#13 Gellért thermal baths – Gellért Hotel
Budapest has quite a few thermal baths around, and the other famous would be this, the Gellert Baths. The baths are the reason of many people’s choice to visit Budapest. What I love the most in this place is the interior design of it. It’s just super amazing! Here’s a link to their website for details.
#14 Budapest Christmas Market
Here we are! I’ve been so far 3 times to Christmas Markets in Budapest, but those previous ones were ages ago. Since then it suddenly became one of the most popular Christmas Markets in Europe, which made me want to visit again! The Christmas markets have multiple locations as I’ve been.
There is one part of the Budapest Christmas Market in the original location, the Vörösmarty Square. Then on Erzsebet Square, Deak Ferenc Square, in front of the St Stephan’s Basilica as well as in the Buda castle. Each one is great and easy to get there, really. What can be found there? There are many hand-made products in all kinds of categories you can imagine. Basically. Then there are dozens of food stands with delicious Hungarian dishes, sweets, specialties. It’s really that needs to be tried! Oh, and I almost forgot: MULLED WINE! Loads of mulled wine… So visiting Budapest in the winter is absolutely a must for an incredible experience!
Best things to do in Budapest
#15 Tram ride on the riverside of Danube
This is probably one of the best tram rides in Budapest that you can find! Tram no 2 is running between Margaret Bridge and Petofi Bridge all along the side of the river, passing the parliament, the Chain Bridge, Buda Castel, Liberty Bridge, etc. The view on this ride is just amazing. With this tram ride in Budapest, you can do a mini-tour seeing many important sights of the city, and it’s cheaper than the hop-on/off buses!
#16 Danube Promenade and Buda Castle Promenade
I think this is one of my favorite things in Budapest. So many promenades, beautiful walkways in beautiful places. Along the river on the Buda side, it’s just breathtaking. Also the Duna Korzo, or Danube Promenade on the left side, the Andrassy Avenue, and my favorite, the Toth Arpad Promenade in the Buda Castel. All these promenades offer stunning views and involve some of the top sights to see in Budapest!
#17 Hang out with friends on Elisabeth Square, Budapest
Somewhere in 2012, a friend from Budapest took me on a summer evening to Erzsebet square. We got a bottle of wine from the nearby shop and went out there. I was so surprised to see how the square gets busy in the evening, full of groups of friends hanging out on the grass, or around this little pool kind of thing, having a drink, even eating out, chatting. It was a WOW moment, and since that evening, every time I’m in Budapest I try to make time to organize a meet-up with friends here.
#18 Gozsdu Courtyard and Budapest Ruin Bars
The Godzsu courtyard is located near Deak Ferenc Square. Basically, it’s a labyrinth of bars and restaurants in Budapest. The Godzsu Courtyard is home to many great pubs and it’s always busy, with music floating around the columns.
The city’s other popular hotspots for the youth are the ruin bars in Budapest. The Szimpla Kert is the most famous but there are many others to find around. Article about Budapest Nightlife coming soon as well!
#19 Coffee, coffee everywhere
I’m never walking around in Budapest without a coffee in my hand. There are dozens of coffee shops around from local to multinational brands that are worth exploring. My favorite last-minute takeaway coffee is always from Princess. You can find them in almost every metro station. Also all around the center, you can find beautiful coffee shops with amazing interior design and spectacular drinks.
#20 Go on a boat trip on the Danube
Boat tripping is a cool way to see all the remarkable spots of Budapest. If you have the possibility to go after sunset, I really do recommend that! Budapest is bathing in lights, and all its beautiful pieces of architecture are just breathtaking in the evening. It’s really worth trying a boat trip on the Danube after sunset! I’ve done it once, and it was one of the best evenings I’ve ever spent in Budapest!
#21 Budapest indoor market
The markets are called “Vásárcsarnok”, meaning shopping hall. In these premises, you can usually find bio fruits, veggies, soured veggies, crafted cheese, and meat stuff from local producers. If you’re seeking something fresh, natural, bio, or handmade/crafted, these Budapest indoor food markets are the places you want to go. The most famous indoor market in Budapest is the Fővámtéri Vásárcsarnok on Fővámtér Square. Definitely worth stopping by if you visit Budapest to grab some local goodies!
#22 Budapest, the shopping mall heaven
I’m not sure if I’ve been anywhere in Europe with so many shopping malls. In Budapest are more than 10 large shopping malls for fashion lovers. The best 3, in my opinion, are West End City Center, Arena Mall, and the Corvin Plaza.
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