Traveling to Europe? Don’t overlook Budapest! We’ve spent over 4 months traveling around Europe and Budapest is our favorite European city. We also love Barcelona, Prague, and Paris but Budapest is the whole package: beautiful, safe, tons of things to do, tasty food, good beer, and budget friendly! We’ve put together the best things to do in Budapest to put on your Budapest itinerary.
Things To Do In Budapest
1. Walk Across the Chain Bridge
The Chain bridge is easily Budapest’s most famous bridge that connects Buda and Pest.The Chain Bridge was built in 1849 with its official name István Széchenyi. If you’re sightseeing in Budapest start your morning on one side and walk across the Chain Bridge to the other side. We highly suggest seeing the Chain Bridge at night, it makes for some great night photos.
Related Post: The Perfect 3 Days in Budapest Itinerary
2. Explore the Buda Castle
The Buda Castle is at the top of Castle Hill and the complex is home to the Buda Castle (formerly Royal Palace), National Gallery, and the Budapest History Museum. The Castle was home to the Hungarian kings was completed back in 1265. The Buda Castle was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987. The best way to explore the castle is on a guided tour, 2-hour Castle tours can be booked online here for $19 with Viator. There are several Budapest city tours that include visiting the Buda Castle, click here to see all Budapest tours.
The grounds are open 24 hours a day but Buda Castle hours are the same as the museum Tuesday- Sunday 10am-6pm. There are several festivals at the Buda Castle throughout the year: beer festival, wine festival, chocolate festival, palinka festival, etc.
- Address: Szent György tér 2, 1014
Fun fact: Budapest is actually two cities, Buda and Pest which are divided by the Danube River. The two cities are connected by several bridges the most famous being the Chain Bridge, and each side of Budapest has several tourist attractions and each is very different. We suggest spending at least 3 days in Budapest. There are a ton of things to do in Budapest but as an added bonus Budapest is super affordable.
3. Watch the Changing of the Guards at the Hungarian Parliament Building
If you time your visit right you can watch the changing of the guards at the Parliament. You literally can’t miss the Parliament Building it’s Hungary’s most recognizable building and it’s huge! The Hungarian Parliament is the 3rd largest parliament building in the world and the largest building in Hungary. It took 17 years to construct and it was finally finished in 1902. There are parliament tours but since tours are limited lines can be long and it often sells out days in advance, it’s best to book a Budapest Parliament tour in advance online here for $26. Head to the Pest side at night to get a great photo of the Parliament Building lite up at night.
- Address: Kossuth Lajos tér 1-3, 1055
4. Relax in the Széchenyi Baths
Relaxing in one of the Budapest baths is a must, our favorite bath is the famous Széchenyi baths. It’s the perfect place to relax after a long day on your feet seeing all the things to do in Budapest. The baths are supplied by two thermal springs one with a temperature of 165 °F and the other 171 °F. The Budapest baths are said to help medically with degenerative joint illnesses, orthopedic and traumatological post-treatments. The Széchenyi baths are the largest medicinal bath in Europe and the prettiest if you ask us. If you happen to be in Budapest on a Saturday consider going to the Széchenyi baths pool party on Saturday nights 10:30p.m.-3a.m. for an unforgettable night. For the cheapest ticket click here $20 fast track (no waiting in line), all-day pool access, and cabin usage.
- Address: Kós Károly stny., 1146
5. Cruise the Danube River
It wouldn’t be Budapest without the Danube River. There are tons of river cruises in Budapest from lunch/dinner cruises, half day cruises, or even a Danube River cruise to/from Germany. Click here to for all river cruises available. We actually took a Christmas market cruise that started in Budapest and ended in Germany one year.
6. Fisherman’s Bastion Viewpoint
One of the best views of Budapest is from the lookout at Fisherman’s Bastion. Originally the towers were lookout towers but now it’s the best lookout in Budapest. There are 7 towers which are free to enter, some of the upper towers have a small fee (under $3) during peak season. When you’re visiting Matthias church just walk around the balcony to reach the Fisherman’s Bastion.
- Address: Szentháromság tér, 1014
7. Head To The Top Of St. Stephen’s Basilica
A visit to St. Stephen’s Basilica is worth the trip alone but head to the observation deck for an epic panoramic view of Budapest. The church is free to enter, there is a sign suggesting a 1 Euro or 200 HUF donation. There is an observation deck which costs HUF 400 to access using the stairs of HUF 600 taking the elevator. It’s 365 stairs to the top or an elevator April 1-October 31st. We visited in December so we walked up but the staircase is gorgeous make sure to pop in for at least a photo.
- Address: Szent István tér 1, 1051
8. Go Hungry To The Central Market Hall
Don’t eat before heading to the Central Market Hall the oldest & largest indoor market in Budapest. The market has more than enough food stalls and restaurants to fill you up. We highly suggest picking up some Hungarian spices & liquor to bring back home the prices are the lowest you will find.
- Closed SUNDAY
- Address: Vámház krt. 1-3, 1093
9. Party at Budapest Ruin Bars
It’s hard to describe what a ruin bar is, the Budapest ruin bars are a one of a kind bar. Ruin bars have been around since 2001 in Budapest’s District VII neighborhood aka the old Jewish quarter. The ruin bars are in abandoned buildings that have been left after World War II. If you are just walking down the street you may not even realize it’s a bar but as soon as you enter your transformed into another world. Each ruin bar is different but they all are full of character expect every room to be different and very strange.
Related Post: Top 9 Budapest Ruin Bars and Nightlife
The oldest ruin bar in Budapest is Szimpla Kert, which is open daily. Ruin bars are super popular and can get crowded we suggest going before 11 p.m. to avoid the long lines and to grab a table. There are Budapest ruin bar tours that visit several bars but you can easily create your own ruin bar crawl.
- Szimpla Kert Address: 14 Kazinczy Street, Budapest District VII (few minute walk from the Great Synagogue)
10. Visit The Great Synagogue
The Dohány Street Synagogue typically called the Great Synagogue, is the largest Synagogue in Europe and the second-largest synagogue in the world. Built back in 1854 the synagogue can seat 3,000 people. Located on the same street is the Jewish Museum, memorial, Heroes’ Temple, and a cemetery.
- Address: Dohány u. 2, 1074
11. Go on an Abandoned Jewish Cemetery Tour
One of the most unique tours in Budapest is the Jewish Cemetery Tour with Budapest 101. Visit the Salgótarjáni út cemetery is the oldest Jewish burial ground on the Pest side of the city. Most of the Jewish population was forced out of Budapest during World War II, therefore the cemetery turned into ruins. The trees and plants began to take over the graveyard. You’ll have to watch your step as many of the tombs have fallen through the ground or opened and looted for any goods.
Some of the tombstones and burial chambers are massive and really gorgeous, even though that sounds weird to say a headstone is pretty…It’s a strange place to visit but really photogenic. The cemetery is not opened to the public but can be opened for visitors if arranged in advance, which is why you will need to go with a local. We went with Budapest 101 and highly recommend them.
12. Heroes Square
At the end of Andrassy Avenue is Heroe’s Square the largest square in Budapest. The square has iconic statues featuring the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars. Visit Heroes’ Square before or after visiting the Széchenyi baths.
- Address: Hősök tere, 1146
13. Sip Some Sour Cherry Pálinka (liquor)
Don’t leave Budapest without trying a local favorite Pálinka, which is a fruit liquor made with different fruits similar to brandy. This firewater has a lot of fruit flavor come through as you throw them back. Pálinka is commonly drunk before or after a meal and is the go-to spot at the Budapest ruin pubs.
14. Ride The Budapest Eye Ferris Wheel
Ride one of the world’s largest traveling Ferris wheel standing over 200 feet tall with 42 cars. Every night the Budapest Eye Ferris wheel lights up the square with over 10,000 colored lights. No matter if you ride day or night the Ferris wheel has great views to offer. Operating daily in Erzsébet Square.
- Address: Erzsébet tér 4, 1051
15. Stroll The Budapest Christmas Markets
Come the end of November Budapest turns into Christmas Market heaven. We started our Christmas market cruise with Viking River Cruises in Budapest and we both agree Budapest had the best Christmas markets in Europe. You can literally just walk around Budapest and stumble across several different Christmas markets set up throughout the city. Here are a few of the best Christmas markets in Budapest:
- Vorosmarty Square
- St Stephen’s Square
16. Visit The Shoes On The Danube Bank
The “Shoes on the Danube Bank” is a memorial to honor those who were killed by the Arrow Cross militiamen during World War II. There are 60 pairs of shoes placed on the ledge in memory of 3,500 people who were forced to take off their shoes and were literally shot the edge of the water where their bodies were swept down the river.
- Address: Id. Antall József rkp., 1054
17. Buy some paprika
Hungarians love the smoky and savory red spice of Paprika. You can find in just about every dish while in Budapest. Bring some of the spice home with a tin of Paprika – available at every market in town.
18. Ride the Funicular up to Buda Castle
The easiest and most scenic way to the Buda Castle is to ride the Buda hill funicular to the top. The Buda Castle Funicular has connected the shores of the Danube and the Buda Castle since 1870 and was listed as UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987. There are 2 stations, the lower station is on the Buda side of the Chain Bride and upper station on the Pest side on Castle Hill. There are two trams that run the 300-foot track and will have you to the top in ten minutes. The funicular runs daily 7:30am-10p.m we highly suggest going early in the morning or just before sunset.
- Address: Clark Ádám tér, 1013
- Price: Adults HUF 1,200 one way, HUF 1,800 return
19. Matthias Church
Matthias church is over 700 years old and one of the oldest buildings in Buda. This gothic style cathedral with a colorful tiled roof is one of the cities best sights. Inside the church is just as beautiful with high vaulted ceilings and ornated decorations throughout.
- Address: Zentháromság tér 2, 1014
Oldest restaurant in Pest 1831 http://www.szazevesetterem.hu/eng/about/
20. Budapest Cave Church
Hands down the most interesting church in the city is the Cave church tucked away in the Gellért Hill Cave. Don’t expect the vaulted ceilings like in the other Gothic churches in the city. This church was built in a natural cave by monks in the 1920’s. The name of the church is Sziklatemplom, which in Hungarian means Rock Church. During WWII the church served as a hospital and took in refugees from the war. After the war, the new communist government that took power arrested all the monks and the head monk executed, just for helping people. The cave church is a top sight in the Budapest for both its uniqueness and the history of the place.
21. Drink a glass of Unicum (liquor)
After a long day sightseeing in Budapest take a sip of Budapest’s locally made herbal liquor. Unicum is basically Hungary’s version of Jagermeister, and it’s said to cure many things. This potent concoction has been made here for over a century according to a secret formula of more than forty herbs and aged in oak casks.
Short on time? Check out our 3-day guide to Budapest!
It shows to you best way to see all of the city’s highlights during in a short itinerary.
Recommended Budapest Hotels We’ve Stayed At
We split our time between two hotels in Budapest. Our first hotel Kempinski Budapest was right in the center of everything and literally right next to one of the Christmas Markets. Our second hotel the Fraser Residence are basically serviced apartments where we had our 1 bedroom apartment complete with kitchen and washer/dryer which was great for us.
- Kempinski Hotel Corvinus Budapest | Agoda | Hotels.com| TripAdvisor Reviews
- Fraser Residence Budapest | Agoda | Booking.com | TripAdvisor Reviews
We’ve had several friends find great places on Airbnb and we know on our trip to Budapest we’ll rent an apartment on Airbnb for several weeks.
Airbnb first-timers, if you sign up through my referral link you get $40 credit when you book your first trip! –>> sign up here!
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