Last updated: January 7th 2018
Hungary’s capital is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe.
Over the years I’ve spent quite some time in Budapest. I’ve even lived there for 3 months and I still find something new to do every time that I visit!
Even though it’s quite popular these days the city still reminds me of somewhere a little bit off the beaten path. It’s old-school, grungy, and still affordable enough that you can get by without blowing your travel budget.
It doesn’t matter if you’re only visiting for a few days or you’re planning to spend a lot more time in the city – here are some of the best things to do in Budapest during your stay.
In this nearly 6,000 word guide you’ll find plenty of cool things to do and places to explore during your trip. I’ve covered everything from museums and food tours all the way up to the best views you could have of the city.
There are a lot of helpful posts out there about Budapest but I wanted to share my own to give you guys a personal look at one of my favorite cities in the world!
If there’s anything I missed or you have any specific questions about your trip to Hungary don’t hesitate to ask. Either leave a comment or shoot me an email directly.
Anyways, let’s just jump right into it!
The Best Things To Do In Budapest
Stroll Down Váci Street
Váci Street, or Váci Utca, is the main pedestrian pathway and shopping zone in the city.
It’s the most famous street in all of Budapest. It’s full of trendy restaurants, chic shops, tasty cafe’s, and small stores. Anything you could need or want to buy can be found here and it’s a great place to pick up souveniers.
Only a few blocks away from the Danube River, Váci Street is a popular place for both tourists and locals. People love to visit to relax and enjoy the architecture.
Originally, Váci Street marked the medieval boundary of the city. By the 1700s it was a popular thoroughfare that became lined with mansions and other impressive buildings.
The street itself doesn’t run in a continuous, straight line. Instead, it is broken up by a series of small parks and squares.
During the summer there are festivals and events held here. In December you can find the Christmas Market and festivities at Vörösmarty Square along the street as well.
At the one end of Váci Utca you’ll find the Central Market Hall. This large indoor market is one of my favorite things to do in Budapest and a must-see for every visitor.
Spend some time inside and head to the top floor for a quick bite to eat. Check out number four on this list to learn more about the market.
Walk Across the Chain Bridge
Built in 1849, the Budapest Széchenyi Chain Bridge was the first permanent bridge that spanned the entire Danube River in Hungary.
It connected the two different cities, Buda and Pest. The same bridge was in place until it was damaged during bombing in World War 2.
It was finally reopened in 1949 after extensive repairs. Today is one of the best things to see in Budapest.
It’s a perfect place to come grab some photos of the Fisherman’s Bastion, the Danube River or just the buildings along the edge of the river. The bridge itself is a picturesque location and makes for some pretty neat photos on its own.
If you’re planning to cross the river into the Buda side of the city I recommend you cross using the Széchenyi Chain Bridge. You can grab some photos of the bridge from the shore or head to the Elizabeth Bridge that’s a bit further away for an even better look.
Explore the Fisherman’s Bastion
The Fisherman’s Bastion, in Hungarian “Halászbástya”, is a beautiful terrace in the Castle District. It’s designed in a mix of Neo-Gothic and Neo-Romanesque architectural style.
It was completed by 1902 and has since stood on the bank of the Danube River in the Buda part of the city. It overlooks Pest and offers stunning views of the city sprawled out down below.
There are 7 different towers that make up the Fisherman’s Bastion. Each tower represents one of the seven Magyar tribes that settled in the region more than 1000 years ago.
It used to be defended by the fishermen of the city. That’s how it got the name “Fisherman’s” Bastion.
Today, it’s one of the most beautiful areas to check out in Budapest. It’s a bit of walk from the main touristy area’s but it’s possible to take a tram or an Uber to just below the Bastion.
From there you can choose to walk up a series of winding steps or take the small, but expensive, funicular to the top.
There are a few cafe’s and restaurants once you reach the upper levels. It’s a good spot to stop for lunch or dinner and just enjoy the view over the city.
After exploring Fisherman’s Bastion be sure to head further into Buda if you have time. Check out some of the older streets and impressive architecture in the area.
Once you’re done you can walk back down to catch a tram or call an Uber and head back to the Pest side.
Grab Lunch at the Central Market Hall
The Central Market Hall is the biggest indoor market in the entire city.
It’s packed with vendors selling everything from clothes and souvenirs to fresh meats, vegetables and fruits.
At the market there is an emphasis on locally made, Hungarian goods. If you’re looking for some paprika or you want to cook dinner with tasty ingredients this is where you should do your shopping.
On the second floor you’ll find the best Langos in Budapest. This is a Hungarian specialty and the stall was even featured on a Rick Steve’s episode!
During the summer the Central Market Hall is packed with tourists and locals. Try to visit early in the day and avoid heading here on weekends if you’re not interested in pushing through large crowds.
To reach the Central Market Hall simply walk down Vaci Utca, away from the Parliament, and you can’t miss it.
The large building dominates the one end of the street and it’s right beside Elisabeth Bridge. This is perfect if you want to take some cool photos or just relax along the Danube while enjoying a snack,
Take a River Cruise on the Danube
Like almost every other capital city in Europe, Budapest is located along a river, the Danube. Here you’ll find plenty of river cruises available to take.
There are options for Budapest river cruises both during the day and at night. Each cruise will offer a different set of amenities.
Some will have a meal and champagne included while others will simply be a quick cruise highlighting the important sights of the city.
The river cruises can run anywhere between 45-minutes and a couple of hours in length. Be sure to do your research before you book your ticket.
There are cruises available for every budget range. Whether you’re a backpacker or luxury traveler there will definitely be something affordable for you.
Also, keep in mind that some river cruises will involve a short tour using headsets while others will be a calm and quiet experience.
I recommend checking out the following cruise lines:
Relieve Some Stress in the Famous Thermal Baths
If there’s anything that Budapest is known for it’s their thermal baths.
All across Hungary are thermal springs. These provide a steady flow of warm water to the surface that’s full of beneficial healing properties.
It all started back in the 1500s. This is when the Turks started building thermal baths to help them relax and rejuvenate the mind and body. There are said to be more than 100 different thermal springs providing the water that’s necessary for all the baths and spas to operate.
Today, the thermal baths across the city are frequented by both locals and tourists. Heading to one is sure to provide an interesting and unique experience.
You’ll also be able to find thermal spas, and even resorts, where you can soak, relax and enjoy some much needed time away from the crowds and noise of the city.
Entrance fees to the baths aren’t that expensive. The bigger, more popular ones will cost a bit more.
When you enter and pay the fee you’ll be given a wristband, a locker and a quick overview of the rules and etiquette. There are certain baths that are co-ed but many of them will have a male or female only section, or even a day of the week.
The most popular baths in Budapest include:
- Széchenyi Baths
- Gellért Baths
- Rudas Baths
- Császár Baths
- Király Baths
- Lukács Baths
Go on a Walking Tour
One of my favorite things to do in any city, and the best way to learn more about the history and culture of the place you’re visiting, is to go on a walking tour.
Walking tours in Budapest are awesome. You’ll be paired up with a local who has a passion for the city you’re visiting and is excited to share stories and facts with you.
When it comes to Budapest walking tours you have a few options that I linked down below.
I’m a big fan of free walking tours. You get to meet passionate and experienced local guides. You also get the chance to interact with other travelers which can be a benefit if you’re traveling solo.
Keep in mind that these tours aren’t exactly “free”. The guides work on tips and you’re expected to tip at the end of the tour. Even this way it’s still cheaper than booking your own private tour and you still get to have an awesome experience!
Free walking tours in Budapest:
- United Free Europe Tours (4 different tours available, 1.5-3 hours in length)
- Free Budapest Tours (3 different tours available including a pub crawl, 1.5-3 hours in length)
Private guided tours in Budapest:
- Fungarian Tours – One of the best guided tour companies in the city. With Fungarian Tours you’ll be able to choose from 6 different guided tours. You can even customize your own with their help. They also offer 3 different, yet more unique, tours called the “Class and Walk” tours. With these tours you’ll get a short language lesson before heading out into the streets to learn more about the local history and culture.
Take the No.2 Tram Along the Danube!
The No.2 tram is a great way to see a lot of the city and enjoy some of the popular sights in Budapest.
It’s comfortable, quick and zooms along the banks of the Danube River. On the tram you’re rewarded with some great views of the Fisherman’s Bastion, Chain Bridge and other sights.
It’s a great and affordable way to get from one end of the city to the other. The tram is even better you’re in a rush or you don’t feel like walking to and from everything.
Pro tip: Don’t take it from one end to the other though.
Get on at the Elisabeth Bridge and get off to turn around at the Parliament building.
This way you’ll pass by everything worth seeing and you won’t have to get off the tram in one of the shadier parts of the city.
Be sure to validate your ticket immediately after getting onto the tram.
If you fail to do so you could be approached by a ticket inspector and you will be fined for not having the proper ticket.
If are unable to validate and you are approached by an inspector ask them to call the police. This will make it official and will deter scammers who are impersonating the ticket inspectors from pursuing the issue any further.
Visit the Cemetery
Located on the edge of the city center, about 2km away from downtown, is the Kerepesi Cemetery.
This is one of the most important and interesting cemeteries in the city and if you have the time it’s well-worth the visit. Entrance is free and it can be reached by tram or metro, and even on foot if you feel like walking.
It’s one of the oldest cemeteries in all of Hungary and it’s full of unique and intriguing statues, mausoleums, arcades as well as being the final resting place to some important figures in Hungarian history.
It’s quite big so prepare to spend a few hours walking around and taking it all in. When I was there I hardly saw any other people and I don’t think many tourists make it out to the Kerepesi Cemetery but I highly recommend exploring it.
Shoot Some World War 2 Guns
Ever feel like shooting some of the same guns used in World War 2? It’s now possible at the Celeritas Shooting Club.
Here you can choose from a variety of packages that will give you the opportunity to shoot everything from a small pistol to the infamous Dragunov Russian sniper rifle.
Whether you’re into history or you just want to spend a few hours having fun you should check out the Celeritas Shooting Club for a completely unique experience.
Their basic packages start at 40 euro. They range in price all the way up to 160 euro. With the basic package you’ll be able to shoot 6 different guns. You can add more from their wide range of options.
It will take at least 30-60 minutes to go through all of the guns. This is a memorable experience and definitely worth it.
The guides are well-trained, informative and keep your safety as their number one priority.
Roll Around on a Segway
Segway tours are a fun way to experience a different side of the city than if you were just walking around on foot.
Your tour will start off with a quick introduction on how to use the Segway. Then you will get to practice a little bit on the quiet side street before heading out.
Going on a Segway tour is a fun way to cover a lot of the city in a short amount of time. When you’re cruising around you’ll still learn about the culture and history of Budapest.
A Segway tour will typically take anywhere between one and three hours.
I recommend booking your tour online rather than simply showing up. This is just in case the tour will be busy or there isn’t enough room for you and your friends or family.
If you’re interested in a tour here are the two companies I recommend looking into:
Walk Along the Danube River and Admire the Parliament and Castle
The Danube River is the heartbeat of Budapest. It splits the city directly into two parts.
Not too long ago it wasn’t that easy to cross from one end to the other. After the chain Bridge was built it became quite simple.
Today, it’s fun to walk along the pathway beside the river, on both sides, and take in all of the beautiful sights and attractions from afar.
There are many different statues, impressive buildings, plaques, restaurants and other things to check out while you’re walking along the river.
On one side you will get the best views of the Fisherman’s Bastion and the Buda Castle. From the other side the view of the Hungarian Parliament building is incredible.
Eat Some Traditional Hungarian Food
When you’re in Hungary eating something traditional is a must.
There are countless traditional Hungarian restaurants in the Budapest city center serving up the finest of Hungarian cuisine. Whether you’re looking for some delicious goulash or some chicken paprikas or you just want to have a few sips of some Hungarian beer you are in luck.
Hungarian food is quite hearty, heavy, and extremely filling. It’s a good option for either lunch or dinner. Be sure to stop by any of the outdoor food stands you see and try to determine if they have something you’d like to taste.
During events held throughout the year, such as the Christmas market, there are plenty of stands selling only local Hungarian cuisine. This is an ideal time to try all you want.
Trek it to the Citadella for the Best Views of the City
Directly across from the central market Hall, beside the Elizabeth Bridge, high up on Gellert hill is the Citadella.
Built in 1854, this fortress was an important strategic point for control over and defence of Budapest. Today it’s an awesome spot to check out and offers an amazing panorama over both sides of the city.
To get to the top you will have to hike up a few paths or walk up quite a few stairs. The view from the top is definitely worth it.
There is a small market once you reach the top. Here you will be able to find many different locals selling a variety of handmade goods, clothing and other small trinkets and souvenirs. Try to make it here right before sunset for a romantic look out over the beautiful Hungarian capital.
Reflect at the Shoes on the Danube River Bank
When you’re going for a walk along the Danube river bank keep an eye out for the memorial known as the “Shoes on the Danube Bank”.
This is a memorial that is dedicated to the Jews that were killed by fascists during World War II. The story is that the Jews were ordered to take off their shoes right at the edge of the river bank. They were then shot so that their bodies would fall directly into the river and get washed away.
Spend a few moments here reflecting about what the Jews and locals of Budapest had to go through during World War II.
There is a plaque nearby and it’s an important dedication to the history of Hungarian Jews and what they had to endure.
Admire a Church or Synagogue
All throughout Budapest are many different churches and synagogues. Many of these religious structures are impressive and eye-catching.
Regardless of whether you are religious or not the churches and synagogues are worth checking out, even if only for the photo opportunities they provide.
They’re also important to the history and cultural development of the city.
Some of my favorite churches and synagogues include:
- The Mathias Church
- St.Stephen’s Basilica
- The Dohany Synagogue
- The Serbian Church
- St.Elizabeth’s Church
Relax in a Park
Another one of my favorite things to do in Budapest is to hang out and relax in any one of the numerous parks. You can find plenty of them that are scattered across the capital.
The city strives to keep these areas clean. If you are visiting during the day they are quite safe. My favorite park, City Park, is located a little bit of distance away from the city center but still within easy walking distance.
In fact, the walk to the park takes you down Andrassy Avenue, a famous street that is lined with beautiful mansions and old, well preserved homes.
This street is actually a UNESCO site and shouldn’t be missed during your visit. In many of the parks you will find statues and other interesting things to look at. A lot of the thermal baths are located in parks as well.
Winter or summer, these parks are a great place to head to to beat the crowds and enjoy something to eat or drink in peace.
Learn Some History at the House of Terror
The House of Terror in Budapest is a museum dedicated to Hungary’s communist history. It is full of interesting exhibits that will give you a better outlook on how communism affected the people living in Hungary during the time.
At the House of Terror there is also a memorial dedicated to the victims of the Communist and fascist regimes.
The museum is only been open since 2002 but is quickly become one of the most visited places in the entire city.
The building itself has a dark history and many people were detained, tortured, interrogated and even killed on the premises.
Go on a Day Trip
When it comes to day trips from Budapest you have plenty of options.
Within a few hours of the city there are many different places to go. There are plenty of other cities to explore with their own unique history and culture.
Day trips are great if you’re spending more than two or three days in the city.
They give you a chance to explore more of the local region and enjoy a more in-depth experience of your visit, regardless of where you are.
Whether you want to check out some areas of natural beauty or you’d rather had to an older, medieval town or village there is definitely a day trip from Budapest that you will be interested in. link love
I recommend checking out:
- The Danube River Bend
- Szfvar, Hungary
- Vienna, Austria
- The Royal Palace of Godollo
- Bratislava, Slovakia
The Best Views in Budapest
A city that has as many hills and vantage points as Budapest means there are plenty of locations you can visit to capture some great shots of the city.
There are a lot of opportunities to photograph the sunset or the city skyline without anything getting in your way.
Here are some of the places you should visit if you’re looking for the best views in Budapest!
The Fisherman’s Bastion
From the Fisherman’s Bastion are some of the most expansive and sweeping views of the city down below.
From up here you’re able to see the entirety of the Pest side of the city with head-on views of some great landmarks, like Margaret Island and the Hungarian Parliament Building.
At the Bastion there is a restaurant and cafe where you can enjoy a quick bite to eat and even a warm coffee drink while you take in the view.
This is one of the most popular places for tourists to visit so be sure to head there early if you want to beat the crowds and take some photos without anyone in them. This is also where I would recommend visiting if you want to capture great sunrise time-lapse or enjoy a romantic time as the sun comes up over the city down below.
The Danube Walkway
If you don’t feel like walking up to Fisherman’s Bastion or the Buda Castle but you still want to enjoy some nice views then I would recommend walking along the pedestrian pathways on either side of the Danube River.
There are paved and well marked walkways that line both sides of the river and they offer some incredible views without having to do any intense walking. If you decide to walk along the river you can also visit many of the other attractions in the city including the Hungarian Parliament Building and the Market Hall.
On the Pest side are a series of cafés and restaurants, when you’re near to Vorosmarty Square, and here you can relax after a long day while enjoying some views of the castle and the famous Budapest bridges.
Also, the Pest side is a great place to be as the sun starts to set because it will set behind Fisherman’s Bastion the the Buda Castle, which gives you a lovely and picturesque sunset that you can enjoy.
The Rooftop of St.Stephen’s Basilica
The final place that I’d recommend checking out if you want one of the best views of Budapest is the rooftop of St.Stephens Basilica.
This is actually a huge church in the center of the city and apart from an impressively design interior it’s also possible to head up to the rooftop.
From the top you’ll be able to enjoy a panoramic view of the entire city around with very few obstructions. On a clear, sunny day you can see very far and I think it’s one of the best places to get a view of Budapest.
There is a small fee to get to the top and you’ll have to climb a bunch of stairs, or take an elevator, but I think that the views are definitely worth it.
Music, Culture, Art and Museums
If you don’t feel like walking around all day just taking photos of the different sites, landmarks and attractions then you might want to consider visiting a museum, checking out an art gallery, heading to a festival or even finding somewhere to listen to live music.
Here are some of my recommendations for some places to visit and check out if you’re looking to get your dose of culture when you’re visiting Budapest.
Catch a Show at the Budapest Opera House
No matter when you’re visiting there is always going to be something going on at the Budapest opera.
When I was there in December I was fortunate enough to be able to enjoy a live performance of the Nutcracker but even during the summer months there is always something going on.
Apart from being able to experience a unique live performance the opera house itself is also really cool.
The interior is beautiful, the exterior is quite picturesque and you can even go on a tour if you don’t feel like shelling out for a performance or if there’s nothing going on that you’re interested in.
For an updated schedule be sure to check out the Opera House website.
Check Out Some Art at the Hungarian National Gallery
Located right inside the Buda Castle is the Hungarian National Gallery.
Apart from being able to explore the inside of the castle you also get to check out some of the best pieces of artwork in all of Hungary. There’s a wide range of different paintings, Sculptures and other interesting exhibitions.
If it’s a rainy day or you just want to check out some great art then you should definitely consider visiting the National Gallery.
It was only opened in 1957 but over the years they have amassed quite a collection of both historical and modern pieces of art.
Go on an Art Tour of Budapest
If you don’t feel like spending a few hours indoors walking around a museum but you still want to see some of the best art that Budapest has to offer then I would recommend going on an art tour.
Along the way you’ll visit a variety of different artist studios, local galleries, and cool street art exhibits.
There are also unique cafés and bars that are all all contributing to the alternative culture scene that’s developing in the city.
Like Music? Party Away at the Sziget Festival
Music festivals are huge in Europe so it’s not surprising that Budapest has its own.
The Sziget Festival has turned into one of the biggest festivals in the world. Every year in August hundreds of thousands of people visit to dance, party and enjoy some awesome music.
Some of the past artists that have performed at this festival include Robbie Williams, Florence and the Machine, the Kings of Leon, Avici, Ellie Goulding, Alesso, Rudimental and many other famous musical artists.
Tickets can be quite expensive. They range in price from around €60 for a one day pass to nearly €300 for a seven day pass.
Also, keep in mind if you’re visiting the city during this time you’ll want to book your accommodation well in advance. This way you can find an affordable, central place to stay.
Day Trips from Budapest
Centrally located, there are a wide range of different day trips from Budapest that you can go on.
These are great if you’re looking for a city break or you just want to check out something new close by.
Only a short drive from Budapest, Szentendre is a quaint little town positioned on the banks of the Danube River.
There are plenty of festivals going on throughout the year but one of the best reasons to visit the town is to stroll along the cobblestone streets and take in the lovely architecture that makes up the city center.
There’s also a few different museums, such as the Marzipan Museum and the Dobos Cholocate Museum, where you can head to if you’re looking to get a fix for your sweet tooth.
During the summer the town can get quite busy but the warm weather offers a great time to rent some bicycles, explore the city on two wheels and then enjoy a nice picnic by the river.
The Danube Bend
One of the most beautiful natural attractions nearby to Budapest is the Danube River bend.
This is where the Danube widens as it cuts through some hills before continuing its flow into the narrow valley that leads into the city.
Some of the oldest settlements in Hungary are located here and it’s both a historically important and naturally beautiful area.
Along with some beautiful parks the small towns of Szentendre, Visegrad and Esztergom are nearby and they’re worth spending a day exploring as well. Nearby are also some holiday resorts where you can spend the day relaxing and enjoying some nice local wine.
If you’ve rented a car or you’re driving it’s quite easy to reach the Danube Bend but you can also take one of the many boats or ferries that run from Budapest.
Lake Balaton is the largest freshwater lake in all of Europe and if you’re visiting during the summer it’s a wonderful place to spend the day swimming, relaxing and enjoying the warmth of the sun.
I think that it’s one of the most popular destinations for Hungarian’s looking to take advantage of some time off and it’s also a fun place to visit as a tourist.
It’s given the nickname “The Hungarian Sea” and even though it’s a lake it’s so big that it’s possible to find your own private beach spot even on some of the most crowded days.
There are a wide variety of beaches along the entire lake and there are plenty of small towns as well where you can find somewhere to stay or grab a quick bite to eat.
A few hours from Budapest is the lovely town of Pecs.
It’s here where you can find out more about the famous Zsolnay ceramics and you can also explore some of the largest Turkish ruins in the country. It’s a university town so there are a lot of young people around and for such a small town of its size there is a surprisingly good nightlife.
Right in the center of the city, in the town square, is a mosque and Pecs offers a unique look at Christians, Catholics and Muslims living together successfully.
Another interesting thing to check out is the Necropolis of Sopianea. This is a relic of the Roman Empire and it’s a UNESCO world heritage site as well. Surprisingly, it’s the largest early Christian burial chamber that you’ll find that all of Europe outside of Italy.
Nearby is the wine region of Villany and you’ll be able to enjoy here some of the finest wines that Hungary has to offer.
The Best Restaurants and Places to Eat in Budapest
The Central Market Hall
I’ve gone over the Central Market Hall in detail already but if you’re looking for somewhere to grab a quick bite to eat this is where I would recommend.
There are a few options when it comes to hot foods, specifically the Hungarian specialty Langos, but the market has an incredible selection of fruits, vegetables, cheese, dried meats, other dried foods and a few different baked good options to choose from.
What I love doing here is grabbing some cheese, assortment of Hungarian salami, some bread and making a nice little sandwich. Whether you’re on a budget or you’re just looking for something delicious to eat this is where I’d recommend heading to first.
Without a doubt, Belvárosi Disznótoros is my favorite place to eat in all of Hungary.
It’s nothing fancy, it’s more of a place where you walk in, order at the front counter and then stand at a table to eat your meal. The quality and selection is amazing, which makes a great when you’re hungry after a long day of traveling and exploring a new city.
The reason I like it so much is because they offer a wide selection of traditional Hungarian foods. You can choose from schnitzel, duck, pickled salads and even soups. The prices are reasonable and it’s easy to get takeaway if the place is too busy.
Head to a Wine Bar
Over the past few years the popularity of local Hungarian wine has exploded in Budapest.
There have been so many different producers coming out with new wines every year and because of the demand there have been a number of wine bars opening in the city.
If you just want to relax a bit before grabbing something heavier to eat or you’re just interested in trying some Hungarian wine then I recommend heading to any of the wine bars that you come across when you’re walking around.
If you’re looking for a suggestion, here are some of the wine bars that I recommend checking out:
Take a Cooking Class
Another great way to get a nice bite to eat while learning something new and having an enjoyable experience is to take part in a Hungarian cooking class.
I would recommend the Chefparade Cooking School and if you go with them you will get a hands-on course on the basics of Hungarian cooking.
Your day will start off by meeting with a local guide and having a little breakfast before you head to the market and grab some ingredients.
A short while later you’ll head to the Chefparade Cooking School where you’ll spend few hours learning about Hungarian culinary history, technique and preparing three dishes of your own: a soup, a main dish and a dessert.
Afterwards, you’ll be able to eat what you prepared and you leave with a full stomach and a great experience that you’ll remember for a lifetime.