Considered one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, Hungary’s capital city of Budapest, a Unesco World Heritage Site, does not disappoint. From fascinating history and beautiful architecture to thermal baths and ruin bars, these are some of the best things to do in Budapest.
1.Visit Heroes’ Square
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Located at the end of Andrássy Avenue, Heros’ Square is something not to be missed. You can’t miss the Millennium Monument at its center which depicts the Archangel Gabriel holding the Hungarian crown. It is surrounded by several other statues that represent the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars and other important Hungarian leaders.
Make sure to visit the two art museums on either side of the square and learn a little about Hungarian history.
2. Hungarian Parliament Building
The Hungarian Parliament Building is one of the largest buildings and most recognizable in Budapest. To really appreciate its Gothic Revival beauty, make sure to view it from the opposite side of the Danube.
You can tour the 691-room parliament building and watch the changing of the guard. During the tour, you can explore its beautiful statues and paintings as well as learning about the political history of Budapest.
Fun Fact: The name Budapest comes from two separate Hungarian words: Buda and Pest. Buda means “west” and Pest means “east”.
3. Walk Across The Chain Bridge
This is Budapest’s most famous bridge and for good reason. Built in 1849, this suspension bridge connects the Buda(west) and Pest(East) sides of the city. It only takes about 10 minutes to walk across and the views are stunning.
You are going to want to see this bridge both during the day and at night to really appreciate how impressive this bridge really is. Especially if you want some great photos.
4. Explore Buda Castle
Perched high atop Castle Hill, Buda Castle is a beautiful sight. This home of Hungarian kings was completed in the 13th Century and is now a Unesco World Heritage Site. Surrounded by the Hungarian National Gallery, and the Budapest History Museum, Castle Hill is the perfect place to learn all about the culture of the city.
The best way to explore the Castle Hill area is by a guided tour. This 2-hour Castle tour costs less than $20 and is worth every penny.
5. Szechenyi Spa Baths
There is a reason they call it the City of Spas. One of those must-do things in Budapest is visiting Szechenyi Baths. They are the perfect escape after a few hours of sightseeing in the city. They are the largest medicinal baths in Europe and are known for the healing properties.
There are 15 indoor swimming pools and 3 massive outdoor plunge pools as well as 10 saunas and steam rooms. Massage and spa treatments are offered at an extra cost. Even if you just go for a soak, the setting is one you won’t soon forget.
6. The Fisherman’s Bastion
If you are looking for the best views over the city then you will want to head to the Fisherman’s Bastion. The views over Pest, Margaret Island, and The Danube are unmatched, especially at sunset.
There are 7 towers that were built to represent the Seven tribes of the Magyars. Each one having a unique view of the surrounding area.
7. Margaret Island
This 2.5 km island is by far Budapest’s most beautiful green space. Margret Island is located in the middle of the Danube River and accessed by a bridge at each end, it is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy some beautiful gardens.
8. Stroll along the Danube Promenade
Taking a short walk between the Chain Bridge and the Elizabeth Bridge along the Danube gives some of the best views of the iconic landmarks of Buda side of Budapest. You will have great views of the Buda Castle, the Liberty Statue, and the Fisherman’s Bastion.
Try to visit the Danube Promenade in the evening when these buildings are lit up. It is breathtaking.
9. Visit the “Shoes on the Danube Bank” Memorial
Located along the Danube Promenade the Shoes on the Danube memorial is dedicated to the 3500 killed by the Arrow Cross militiamen during World War II. There are 60 pairs of cast iron shoes on the bank of the river in memory of the victims that were forced to take off their shoes before they were executed and their bodies swept away by the Danube.
10. Great Market Hall
Not only is Great Market Hall Budapest’s most famous market, but it is also a beautiful example of a Neo-Gothic tunnel. If you are staying in an apartment rental it is a great place to pick up your groceries and some one-of-a-kind souvenirs.
The Great Market Hall is located right on the Danube and is worth spending at last an hour or two exploring its treasures.
11. The House of Terror
The House of Terror, which is located on Andrássy Avenue, is a memorial to those who fought and died at the hand of the fascist and communist regimes in Budapest. It was the former headquarters of the Nazis and was also used as a prison during World War II.
The museum covers 4 floors and a mix of collections and interactive displays where you can learn about that time in the city’s history. You can also visit the basement which houses part of the prison.
12. Hungarian National Opera House
If you are looking for something unique to do in Budapest then you should definitely visit the State Opera House. It was first opened in 1884 and is a beautiful example of Neo-Renaissance architecture. Seeing an opera here is an incredible experience. The sound in the 1200 seat auditorium is one of the best in the world and the building itself is jaw-dropping.
If you are unable to get tickets to an opera then you should definitely take a guided tour. Just make sure to book them in advance.
13. St. Stephen’s Basilica
This is the largest church in Budapest and the tallest. It was named after the first King of Hungary, Stephen I (you can see his right hand if that interests you), and is the most important church in the country.
When you visit St Stephen’s Basilica, make sure to head up to the observation deck for some spectacular views over the city. The church is free to enter but it will cost you HUF 400 to access the observation deck using the stairs (365!) or HUF 600 taking the elevator.
14. Buda Castle Funicular
Take the funicular up for another fun attraction in Budapest. Dating back to 1870, it was the 2nd funicular built in all of Europe. Running between Adam Clark Square and the Széchenyi Chain Bridge the funicular is a great way to get up to Castle Hill and Buda Castle.
It runs continuously each day every 10 minutes so the long queues move quickly.
15. Visit the Ruin Bars
Ruin Pubs are all the rage in Budapest. Located in abandoned buildings and decorated with eclectic comfortable furintire, these pubs are all unique in their own way.
The most famous Ruin Bar is located in the Jewish Quarter and is called Szimpla Kert and was the first one in the city. This is definitely worth a visit. Don’t forget to order yourself a shot of Unicum, a traditional Hungarian liqueur. It will blow your socks off.
16. Cruise on the Danube
One of the best ways to take in all the beauty of Budapest is to take a cruise along the Danube River. There are many different cruises that last from a couple hours to a full day.
We took a week-long River Cruise along the Danube. You can learn more about what we saw here.
17. Liberty Square
This Russian monument honors the soldiers of the Red Army who died during the liberation Budapest from the Nazis in World War II. It is ironically located directly across from the US embassy and a statue of Ronald Reagan stands on the other side of it.
18. Trabant Tour
Known as “The Paper Jaguar”, this nostalgic car from the communist era is the perfect way to take a tour of the city. A chauffeur will drive you around town, stopping at the popular places while telling you about what life was like during that era in Budapest.
19. Gellért Hill Liberty Statue
Gellért Hill offers great panoramic views of the city and the Danube. The Liberty Statue sits atop the hill and was erected in 1947 to pay tribute to the Soviet soldiers that gave their lives liberating the city from the Nazis.
It is a little out of the city but it is worth it to head out there or you can visit if you are on the Trabant tour. There is also a cave church and the citadel that are worth exploring.
20. Gundel Restaurant
If you are into culinary travel or just love sampling the food of the country then a visit to the Gundel Restaurant is a must. The Gundel Restaurant dates back to 1894 and is considered one of the pioneers of Hungarian gastronomy.
It is the premier spot for traditional Hungarian food in Budapest especially if you want to savor authentic Hungarian cuisine in a historic grand fashion.
21. Dohány Street Synagogue
Budapest is a beautiful city and the Dohány Street Synagogue, also known as the Great Synagogue. is absolutely beautiful. Located in the Jewish Quarter and opened in 1859, it the second largest synagogue in the world, and the interior and the garden were restored in the 1990s.
Don’t miss the weeping willow memorial which is located in the garden.
22. Walking Tour/Bike Tour
The best way to take all the best things to do in Budapest is to do a walking tour. you get all of the history form a knowledgable guide and you get to spend time at each location.
If you prefer to get around a little faster the a bike tour is for you. It covers about 15km and it takes you pas all the cool spots like Vajdahunyad Castle, St Stephen’s Basilica, Szechenyi Baths and the Parliament building. Budapest is a very bike friendly city and it is easy pedaling.
23. Visit the Pinball Museum
If you are looking for something completely different to do in Budapest then you might want to check out the pinball museum. Opened in 2014, it houses 130 machines and is fun for the whole family.
I’ve got to say, this is one of the coolest, off the wall museum in the city.
Best Things to do in Budapest
Budapest is one of these places that has something for everyone. The city is full of history, incredible views, and architecture that will blow your mind. If you have three or four days in the city you can really get a great feel for the city and understand why so many people visit this city each year.