Planning a trip to Budapest? We share the top things to do in Budapest, Hungary, including food in Budapest & Budapest nightlife.
Budapest is the hills of Buda and the streets of Pest connected by the Danube river. Be it’s thermal baths or historical museums, neo-Gothic architecture or medieval sculptures, Budapest is a traveller’s paradise and makes for the perfect destination to begin tour Eastern Europe itinerary. In this article, let us take a look at some of the best things to do in Budapest.
Best time to visit Budapest
As with many destinations in Europe, the best time to visit Budapest is from April to June and September to November. This is when crowds are less and the weather is warm. Winter brings a festive spirit to the city and March sees some fantastic deals in the city.
Getting to Budapest
Flying to Budapest is easy and affordable. There are plenty of budget airlines that fly into Budapest from other European destinations, including Wizz Air, Jet 2, Ryanair, and Easyjet. Currently, there are no direct flights from the US to Budapest but you can fly via London, Frankfurt, Munich, Paris or Amsterdam.
Budapest also has three international railway stations with fantastic connections to Vienna and Bratislava, meaning a train into Budapest is a great option for those traveling the region. You could also opt for a river cruise from Bratislava for something a little different or take a bus from the nearby cities for a budget option.
How to get around Budapest
Budapest can easily be explored by foot but there are also plenty of public transport options. The metro has four lines and is fairly easy to use, running every day from 4.30 am until 11 pm, whilst there are 40 tram lines that run through the historic center. Buses can be used to get you further afield and taxis are relatively cheap too.
TOP THINGS TO DO IN BUDAPEST
Buda Castle was where the Hungarian Kings once lived. It was built in the 13th century and is situated on top of Castle Hill. From the terrace of the castle, you get to see sweeping views of the Chain Bridge, the Pest city, and the Hungarian Parliament.
The castle is a must-visit for history and art lovers; it is home to the Castle/History Museum, the National Gallery of Hungary, and the Széchenyi Library. The art in these museums ranges from all times, with ancient art from Roman times.
The Chain Bridge is 1250 feet long and is a favorite place for walking, biking, and riding. It’s an iconic bridge that is a great place for photography and is usually flocked by tourists.
The bridge is especially pretty at night, with the lighting that lits up the bridge and its surroundings. The lights also reflect on the banks of the River Danube, which adds to the beauty of the place. You also get views of the Buda Castle and the Hungarian Parliament from the Chain Bridge. The Chain Bridge is easily accessible through bus and tram, for the ease of tourists.
Hungarian Parliament Building
A visit to Budapest would be incomplete without a visit to the Hungarian Parliament Building, where the Hungarian Assembly still meets, and a building that played an important role in the revolution of Budapest. There are many endearing aspects of the building; be it its architecture, the paintings and statues inside the parliament, or the views of the Danube river, this place does not disappoint. If you wish to take an inside tour of the parliament, it is recommended to book the tickets in advance, as they fill up pretty fast.
The iconic building is also accompanied by many cafes and restaurants that you can treat yourself to, during your trip there.
Cycle the streets of Budapest
In Budapest, you can see more people going around the city on two wheels rather than in cars or public transportation. Biking has gained popularity over the past couple of years, thanks to its established cycling infrastructure. The streets of Budapest are particularly busy on the annual Earth Day where they are flooded with bikes.
There are plenty of options for bike rentals in the city, on every sightseeing route. Be it a ride along the Danube river banks, or the busy streets of Pest or Buda, touring the city by bike is a great experience.
Enjoy a thermal bath
With Hungary having around 1,000 hot springs running beneath it, treating yourself to a thermal bath is one of the best experiences here. Besides the comfort of a thermal bath, they also have medicinal healing properties which are believed to heal ailments. Budapest is called the City of Spas’, being home to some of the best thermal baths.
The Széchenyi Thermal Bath is situated in Budapest’s City Park and is a top medicinal spa that has both indoor and outdoor pools. While it is open all year round, going for it in the winters is an altogether magical experience.
Gellért Spa and Bath is another popular health spa in Budapest. Thermal baths here are a luxurious experience, with gorgeous intricate details in the sculptures of the building.
St Stephen’s Basilica
The St Stephen’s Basilica is one of the holiest places in Hungary and the largest church in Budapest, where you get to see the right hand of Stephen, the first ever king of Hungary. Going all the way up to the dome can treat you with great views of the city. Music and Organ concerts are a common sight inside the Basilic, whereas the Organ concerts can be booked right on the spot.
The Fisherman’s Bastion
The Fisherman’s Bastion is a neo-Gothic style monument, built on the hills of Buda Castle. It was built in the early 20th century marking the thousandth birthday of Hungary and is one of the most popular places to visit in Budapest. The monument was built upon the battlements that existed earlier on the hills of Buda Castle overlooking a small town where fisherman thrives, from where it got its name.
So, what is special about the Fisherman’s Bastion? The Views. It has a large viewing terrace which gives you some of the best panoramic views of Castle Hill and the Danube. Despite the spectacular views that the monument was built for, it was also built keeping ease of accessibility as a primary factor. It has wide steps to easily get to the terrace and just the right angles for generous views all across.
House of Terrors
The House of Terror was erected as a reminder and tribute to the two fearful regimes that Hungary survived – the fascist and Stalinist regimes. The building is where many of the freedom fighters of Hungary were tortured and killed. It stands as a remembrance of all of their struggles that didn’t go in vain.
Marking the end of Andrassy Avenue, Heroes Square is a popular place to visit in Budapest. See the iconic monuments in the square, which include depictions of Archangel Gabriel and the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars, before visiting the art galleries nearby.
Sitting in the middle of the Danube river, Margaret Island is a 2.5km long Island that is perfect for a stroll in the spring and summer months. There is plenty of parkland and recreational facilities here as well as pedal carts and golf carts for rent. Visiting the dancing music fountain, check out the medieval ruins and unwind at this scenic spot.
The walkway from the Elizabeth Bridge to the Chain bridge is perfect for those looking for a short and interesting walk. There are plenty of famous landmarks along this walkway including Buda Castle, the Liberty Statue on Gallery Hill and Fisherman’s bastion. There are also plenty of restaurants and cares on the promenade side of the river too. Visit in the evening to see the lights of the city or take a river cruise for a romantic experience.
This sculpture park is often overlooked in Budapest but is worth a visit when in the city. Budapest was once full of communist monuments and statues but have since been either removed by the government or forcibly removed by Hungarian people in protest. These statues and monuments were then placed in this park as an important reminder o the city history.
A trip to Budapest wouldn’t be complete without a visit to at least one ruin pub. These shabby-chic pubs can be found in deserted buildings and are quirky, unique and comfortable places to have some local drinks. We suggest browsing the best Budapest ruin bars and checking out a different one each night of your trip.
Hungarian State Opera House
Said to be one of the best theatres in the world for operatic performances, the Hungarian State Opera House is a popular option for many looking for a slightly different experience in Budapest.
First opened in 1884, this 1200 seat auditorium is rich in history; you can find statues of famous Hungarian composters outside of the budding. Ticket prices can be found from 500ft but you can also opt for a guided tour of the Opera House if you can’t find time to see a show.
Free things to do in Budapest
Many of these attractions are free to visit but here are a few more options, great for those travelling on a budget:
- Free Walking Tour – Free tours by foot and Guruwalk both offer great walking tours that cost nothing. You can see and learn the historic sights without spending a penny.
- Castle Hill – The 1k walk up Castle Hill is worth the effort for the amazing views. You can find Buda Castle at the top of the hill along with breathtaking views over Danube River. Not far from the top is The Square of Holy Trinity too.
- The Great Market – Located on the Pest side of Liberty Bridge, this popular market can be found in a 19th-century building, across three floors. Here you can find and sample many local foods including deep fried bread known as Hungarian Langos.
- The Jewish Quarter – Explore the Jewish Quarter to learn more about the history of the area as well as see the largest synagogue in Europe. There are also some unique cafes in the area.
- Kerepesi Cemetery – The resting place of many famous Hungarians can be found in this cemetery. The park is beautiful and although an unusual place to visit, makes for a unique thing to do in Budapest. Find the graves of famous leaders including József Antall; the first prime Minister of the democratically elected government after the socialist era.