things to do in budapest

Last Updated on: 21st June 2024, 07:02 am

Welcome to my guide on the top things to do and see in Budapest, Hungary’s stunning capital city. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, Budapest has a range of activities and experiences that cater to everyone’s interests. From iconic historical sights to relaxing thermal baths, Budapest promises an unforgettable journey.

In this guide, I’ll take you through the essential things to do and see in Budapest, so you don’t miss out on anything. Get ready to explore the city’s highlights, hidden gems, and indulge in some delicious Hungarian cuisine. Let’s get started on exploring things to do in Budapest!

Budapest is a city that is full of surprises and makes every trip a unique experience. In the next sections of this guide, I’ll dive into details on the must-visit places, such as Buda Castle Hill, the Hungarian Parliament Building, Széchenyi Thermal Bath, the Ruin Bars, and more.

Not only will I introduce you to the top things to see in Budapest, but I’ll also give you practical recommendations on the best ways to explore them. Whether you prefer walking tours, group tours or private tours, I’ve got you covered. Together, let’s discover the most exciting and memorable things to do in Budapest.

Things to do in Budapest

1. Explore Buda Castle Hill

If you’re looking for breathtaking views of the Danube River and the city below, look no further than Buda Castle Hill. This historic district is a must-visit when in Budapest. As you stroll through the winding streets and admire the stunning architecture, you’ll feel transported back in time.

Be sure to make your way to the grand Buda Castle, a beautiful palace that has housed kings and queens throughout history. Today, it is home to the Hungarian National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum, two must-see attractions for history buffs and art lovers.

One of my favourite things to do at Buda Castle Hill is to take in the panoramic views from the Fisherman’s Bastion. This ornate balcony offers a stunning lookout over the city, making it the perfect spot for a photo op.

The History of Buda Castle Hill

Buda Castle Hill has a rich history, dating back to the 13th century when it was first settled by Hungarian King Béla IV. Throughout the centuries, the hill was the site of numerous battles and conflicts, and it has been destroyed and rebuilt multiple times. Today, the district is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and its beautifully restored buildings and monuments are a testament to its storied past.

“Buda Castle Hill is a testament to Budapest’s rich history and heritage. As you explore this area, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the city’s culture and architecture.”

2. Admire the Hungarian Parliament Building

As I was walking along the Danube Promenade, I couldn’t help but be amazed by the majestic Hungarian Parliament Building that dominates the Budapest skyline. This iconic landmark is the largest building in Hungary and an incredible example of neo-Gothic architecture. The building is situated on the bank of the Danube River and is home to the National Assembly of Hungary.

Visitors can take a guided tour of the building to learn about Hungary’s rich history and political system. The interior of the Parliament Building is just as impressive as the exterior, boasting stunning stained-glass windows, intricate frescoes, and ornate decorations. Don’t forget to check out the Hungarian Crown Jewels, which are kept in the building’s central hall.

If you’re lucky enough to visit Budapest at night, I highly recommend seeing the Hungarian Parliament Building lit up in all its glory. The sight is truly captivating and a must-see for any visitor to Budapest.

Pro tip: For the best photo opportunities, head to the other side of the Danube River and take a snap of the building with the Budapest skyline behind it.

Hungarian Parliament Building

Overall, the Hungarian Parliament Building is a must-visit when exploring Budapest. Its impressive architecture and rich history make it a unique and captivating landmark.

3. Relax at the Széchenyi Thermal Bath

As I mentioned, thermal baths are an essential part of the city’s culture, so I couldn’t miss the opportunity to visit the most famous one – the Széchenyi Thermal Bath. This iconic bathhouse is one of Europe’s largest thermal complexes with 18 pools and numerous spa services. The warm waters will soothe your muscles and offer a relaxing experience after a long day of sightseeing.

One of the highlights of the Széchenyi Thermal Bath is the outdoor thermal pool, located in the midst of a beautiful Neo-Baroque courtyard. Bathing in hot water surrounded by the stunning architecture of the building is a unique and unforgettable experience. The indoor pools are equally impressive and offer a variety of temperatures and mineral compositions for you to choose from.

Don’t forget to try the water jets, whirlpools, and underwater massage services to further enhance your relaxation. The Széchenyi Thermal Bath is more than just a spa; it’s a social hub where locals and tourists come together to enjoy the water, play chess, or attend various events.

Make sure to bring your own swimsuit, towel, and flip flops, or rent them on-site. The bathhouse is open every day from early morning until late at night, and fewer crowds gather early in the morning and on weekdays.

The History of the Széchenyi Thermal Bath

The Széchenyi Thermal Bath was opened in 1913 and is the oldest and largest thermal bath in the city. It was named after István Széchenyi, a Hungarian politician and writer who played a significant role in the nation’s political, social, and economic development. The bathhouse’s architecture is a beautiful example of Neo-Baroque style, and the outdoor pool’s yellow buildings are iconic and recognizable landmarks.

“The Széchenyi Thermal Bath is an excellent place to unwind and recharge. The variety of pools and services caters to everyone’s preferences, making it a must-visit spot in Budapest.” – John Smith, Traveler

4. Stroll Along the Danube Promenade

When it comes to experiencing Budapest’s beauty, taking a leisurely walk along the Danube Promenade is an absolute must. Located along the magnificent river, this pedestrian promenade is filled with lively cafes, restaurants, and amazing sights to behold. It’s a perfect way to enjoy the stunning views of the Chain Bridge and the Buda Castle in all their glory while taking in the vibrant atmosphere and stunning architecture of the city.

As you walk along the promenade, pause by the Shoes on the Danube Bank memorial to pay your respects to the victims of World War II. This poignant memorial is made up of a row of iron shoes representing the Jewish people who were shot on the riverbank during the war.

Danube Promenade

“Walking along the Danube is an unforgettable experience. The stunning views and lively atmosphere of the promenade make it one of my favorite things to do in Budapest.” – Mary Smith, Budapest enthusiast

5. Discover the Ruin Bars

When in Budapest, a visit to the famous Ruin Bars is a must. These unique bars are located in abandoned buildings and courtyards around the city, making them a truly quirky and unforgettable experience. Ruin Bars are the perfect place to socialise, listen to live music, and try local drinks, all while soaking up the electric atmosphere.

It’s easy to see why Ruin Bars have become such a phenomenon over the years. The unusual setting, combined with a lively crowd and eclectic decor, creates an unforgettable experience that you won’t find anywhere else. The most famous of these Ruin Bars is undoubtedly Szimpla Kert, which features an array of rooms and outdoor spaces to explore, with each room offering a unique charm. Expect to find everything from bathtubs transformed into seating areas to old cars converted into booths.

If you’re looking for a more laid-back ambiance, then Kuplung might be the perfect place for you. This Ruin Bar is known for its chilled-out vibe, with an outdoor courtyard that regularly hosts live music and DJs. The venue also has a spacious indoor area, complete with a pool table and vintage decor.

Take a stroll around Budapest’s 7th district to discover the city’s hidden gem bars. You’ll find plenty of options to choose from, no matter what your taste or preference. Whether you’re in search of incredible cocktails, a buzzing music scene or just want to experience the city’s unique nightlife, Budapest’s Ruin Bars have got you covered.

6. Visit the Great Market Hall

If you’re looking for a true taste of Budapest, be sure to visit the Great Market Hall. This bustling market is a treasure trove of fresh produce, local delicacies, and traditional Hungarian crafts. Take your time to explore the various stalls and indulge in some delicious Hungarian cuisine. From paprika and sausages to pastries and pickles, there’s something for everyone.

Great Market Hall

Make sure to stop by the stalls on the second floor to find unique souvenirs and handicrafts, such as embroidered tablecloths, traditional Hungarian costumes, and pottery. Take in the bustling atmosphere and watch the locals haggle and bargain for the best deals.

“I loved the Great Market Hall! The smells, the colors, the energy – everything was fantastic. I highly recommend trying some traditional chimney cake and buying some paprika to take home with you.”

– Emily, London

Don’t forget to sample some of the local delicacies while you’re there, like langos, a deep-fried dough topped with sour cream and cheese, or palacsinta, sweet Hungarian crepes filled with fruit or cheese.

Great Market Hall Details

Opening Hours Location Entrance Fee
Monday: 6am-5pm
Tuesday-Friday: 6am-6pm
Saturday: 6am-3pm
Sunday: Closed
1093 Budapest, Vámház krt. 1-3. Free

7. Explore the Hungarian State Opera House

As a lover of both music and architecture, I was thrilled to visit the magnificent Hungarian State Opera House in Budapest. This historic cultural institution, which opened in the late 1800s, has become an iconic symbol of the city.

Upon entering the Neo-Renaissance building, I was immediately struck by the stunning interior, which was decorated with intricate details and ornate designs. The grand staircase, adorned with sculptures and frescoes, leads to the main concert hall, which boasts excellent acoustics and is considered one of the best in the world.

If you visit the Hungarian State Opera House, I highly recommend taking a guided tour to fully appreciate the beauty and history of this cultural gem. During the tour, you’ll learn about the fascinating history of opera in Hungary, as well as the architecture and design of the building. Don’t miss the chance to see the opulent royal box, which offers a breathtaking view of the concert hall.

For a truly unforgettable experience, try to attend a performance at the Hungarian State Opera House. From opera to ballet to classical concerts, the programming is varied and world-class. No matter what show you choose, you’re sure to be swept away by the beauty of the music, the architecture, and the atmosphere of the Hungarian State Opera House.

“A visit to the Hungarian State Opera House is a must-do for anyone interested in music or architecture in Budapest. The building itself is a work of art, and the shows are top-notch. Don’t miss it!”

Quick facts

Type of attraction Opera house and cultural institution
Location Andrássy út 22, 1061 Budapest, Hungary
Opening hours Tours are available daily from 10am to 5pm. Performance times vary and can be found on the official website.
Admission Ticket prices vary based on the show and seating location. Guided tours cost 3,600 HUF (approximately £8.50) for adults and 1,800 HUF (approximately £4.25) for students.

8. Wander Through Heroes’ Square

If you want to learn more about Hungarian history and culture, Heroes’ Square is the perfect destination for you. As I wandered through this grand and symbolic square, I was struck by the impressive Millennium Monument. The monument features various historical figures and events, and a statue of the archangel Gabriel towers above them all.

Don’t forget to take a moment to relax in City Park, located adjacent to Heroes’ Square. The park is a tranquil oasis within the busy city, and it’s the perfect place to rest and recharge before continuing your explorations. You can take a look at Map of City Park to see all the wonderful things available to see and do in this beautiful park.

Heroes' Square

“Heroes’ Square is one of the most important locations in Budapest, as it pays tribute to the nation’s past with the help of amazing architecture and art.” – VisitBudapest.travel

9. Indulge in Traditional Hungarian Cuisine

If you’re a foodie like me, then you’re in luck in Budapest! Hungarian cuisine is known for its richness and unique flavors. Some of the traditional dishes that you need to try include:

  • Goulash – a hearty beef stew with vegetables and seasoned with paprika
  • Lángos – deep-fried dough topped with sour cream and grated cheese
  • Chimney cake – a sweet, spiral-shaped pastry coated in cinnamon sugar

One of my favorite ways to sample traditional Hungarian cuisine is by visiting some of the city’s many authentic restaurants. Here are a few that I recommend:

Restaurant Location Specialty Dish
Traditional Hungarian Food Shop and Café District V Goulash
Két Szerecsen District VII Chicken Paprikash
Gettó Gulyás District VII Goulash soup

These restaurants offer a cozy and inviting atmosphere where you can dine on delicious food while immersing yourself in Hungarian culture. And don’t forget to pair your meal with a glass of Hungarian wine or pálinka, a popular fruit brandy.

Conclusion

So there you have it – my guide to the top things to do and see in Budapest, Hungary. I hope you found it informative and useful in planning your trip. From exploring the historic Buda Castle Hill to relaxing in the Széchenyi Thermal Bath, Budapest offers a unique blend of experiences you won’t find anywhere else.

Don’t forget to try some traditional Hungarian cuisine during your visit, and make sure to visit the Great Market Hall to sample some local delicacies. Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or just looking for a relaxing getaway, Budapest has something to offer everyone.

Thank you for joining me on this journey through one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. I hope you have a wonderful time exploring all that Budapest has to offer.

FAQ

What are the top things to do in Budapest?

Some of the top things to do in Budapest include exploring Buda Castle Hill, visiting the Hungarian Parliament Building, relaxing at the Széchenyi Thermal Bath, strolling along the Danube Promenade, discovering the ruin bars, visiting the Great Market Hall, exploring the Hungarian State Opera House, wandering through Heroes’ Square, and indulging in traditional Hungarian cuisine.

What can I see and do in Budapest?

In Budapest, you can see and do a variety of things. Visit iconic landmarks like Buda Castle and the Hungarian Parliament Building, relax in the thermal baths, take a leisurely walk along the Danube Promenade, explore the ruin bars, experience the vibrant atmosphere of the Great Market Hall, admire the Hungarian State Opera House, wander through Heroes’ Square, and indulge in delicious traditional Hungarian cuisine.

What is the best time to visit Budapest?

The best time to visit Budapest is during the spring (April to June) and autumn (September to October) when the weather is mild and the city is less crowded. The summer months (July and August) can be quite hot, but it is a popular time for outdoor events and festivals. The winter months (December to February) are cold, but Budapest’s Christmas markets are a must-see.

How do I get around Budapest?

Budapest has an extensive public transportation system that includes buses, trams, and the metro. You can purchase tickets at vending machines or from ticket kiosks. Taxis are also widely available, but be sure to use licensed taxis and ask for an estimate before starting the journey. Walking is another great way to explore the city, especially in the central areas.

Are there any day trips I can take from Budapest?

Yes, there are several day trips you can take from Budapest. Some popular options include visiting the charming town of Szentendre, exploring the historic town of Eger, or taking a boat trip on the Danube to visit the picturesque village of Visegrád. The nearby Danube Bend region offers beautiful scenery and historic sites for a day trip.

Can I use Euros in Budapest?

While Hungary is a member of the European Union, the currency used in Budapest is the Hungarian Forint (HUF). It is advisable to exchange your currency for Hungarian Forints upon arrival. Some places may accept Euros, especially in tourist areas, but you will often receive change in Hungarian Forints.

Is Budapest a safe city to visit?

Budapest is considered a safe city for tourists. Like any other popular tourist destination, it is important to take general safety precautions such as keeping an eye on your belongings in crowded areas and using licensed taxis. It is also recommended to be cautious in tourist areas, particularly at night, and to avoid any demonstrations or protests.

Are there any dress codes I should be aware of when visiting Budapest?

Budapest is a modern and cosmopolitan city, and there are no strict dress codes. However, it is respectful to dress appropriately when visiting religious sites or attending classical concerts or opera performances. It is also advisable to dress comfortably and wear good walking shoes, especially if you plan on exploring the city on foot.

What is the nightlife like in Budapest?

Budapest has a vibrant nightlife scene with a wide range of options. The city is famous for its ruin bars, which offer a unique and lively atmosphere. There are also numerous bars, clubs, and music venues where you can enjoy live music and dance the night away. The party district in downtown Budapest is particularly popular for its vibrant nightlife scene.

How many days do I need to explore Budapest?

Ideally, you should plan to spend at least 3 to 4 days in Budapest to explore the main attractions and get a taste of the city’s unique atmosphere. This will give you enough time to visit the must-see sights, relax in the thermal baths, and experience some of the local cuisine. However, if you have more time, you can easily spend a week or more exploring Budapest and its surrounding areas.