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Budapest is a European city like no other. It’s known for thermal baths, ruined bars, and world-class street food. It’s a city that captures the heart of anyone who goes here, and once you visit, you’ll understand why.
The city was once home to two cities – Buda and Pest. In the late 19th century, the two cities merged to create Budapest. As you can imagine from two combined cities, there is a plethora of attractions in Budapest to keep you busy.
If you’re not sure what to do in Budapest, no need to worry, you’ll never be short of attractions. In fact, narrowing down the best things to do in Budapest is the hardest part!
Whether you’re visiting for a week or a weekend, make sure that these top Budapest attractions are on your list. And it was one of the highlights of our 8-day European River Cruise.
- 1. Relax in A Thermal Bath
- 2. Check out the Jewish Quarter and Dohány Street Synagogue
- 3. Climb up to Fisherman’s Bastion and St Matthias Church
- 4. Drink a Beer on Chain Bridge
- 5. Learn about Budapest’s Holocaust History
- 6. Shop for Souvenirs at The Central Market Hall (Great Market Hall)
- 7. Have a Picnic on Margaret's Island
- 8. Buda Castle Museums
- 9. Bar Hop at the Ruin Bars
- 10. Climb the Dome of St Stephen’s Basilica
- 11. Take a Behind the Scenes Tour of the Hungarian Parliament Building
- 12. Sample the Local Street Food: Goulash, Chimney Cake and Langosh
- 13. Sunset Cruise on the Danube
- 14. Explore the Labyrinth of Caves Under Buda Castle
- 15. Check out Heroes’ Square and its Museums
- 16. Check out the Vajdahunyad Castle and City Park
- 17. Take a day trip to Szentendre
- 18. Explore the City on an Electric Scooter
- Popular Budapest Tours
- Budapest Accommodation
- More Eastern European travel ideas
1. Relax in A Thermal Bath
A trip to Budapest wouldn’t be complete without a visit to one of its many relaxing thermal baths. There are seven thermal baths in the city, but the most popular and biggest thermal bath is the Széchenyi Thermal Bath.
It has 18 pools of differing temperatures, both inside and outside the building. It also has 10 saunas and steam rooms, as well as luxury spa treatments and massages.
Set in a grand Renaissance and Baroque-inspired building that is more than 100 years old, it’s the perfect activity in Budapest for couples looking for relaxation. Come early though as it gets very busy.
If you prefer a quieter crowd, you can visit the Gellert Thermal Bath or the Rudas Thermal Bath. They are smaller with fewer pools, which means they are less busy than Szechenyi.
Despite being smaller they are just as beautiful with stunning mosaics and Art Nouveau and Ottoman architecture. The Rudas Thermal Bath is the only Turkish Bath in the city and is most well known for its rooftop hot tub.
Visiting the thermal baths is definitely the most relaxing thing to do in Budapest for couples.
Széchenyi Thermal Bath
- Hours: 7.00am – 8.00pm on Monday – Saturday, 9.00am – 9.00pm on Sunday
- Address: Állatkerti krt. 9-11, 1146 Budapest
Gellert Thermal Bath
- Hours: 9.00am – 7.00pm
- Address: Kelenhegyi út 4, 1118 Budapest
Rudas Thermal Bath
- Hours: 6.00am – 8.00pm (also open from 10.00pm-3.00am Friday and Saturday)
- Address: Döbrentei tér 9, 1013 Budapest
2. Check out the Jewish Quarter and Dohány Street Synagogue
Budapest is divided into 23 districts. The seventh district is also known as the Jewish Quarter and it’s where you’ll find the Dohány Street Synagogue, the largest synagogue outside of Israel.
The synagogue was built in the 1850s but was restored in the 1990s. Its architecture and design have been the inspiration for many synagogues around the world. It’s one of the few synagogues in the world that houses an organ, which was once played by Franz Liszt.
Outside the building is a memorial garden, where a tree has names of the victims lost during the holocaust.
It’s also where you’ll find some niche and fascinating museums, such as the Museum of Electrical Engineering and Zoltán Jancsó Art Gallery. The district has many affordable restaurants, vintage shops, and urban cafes.
Dohány Street Synagogue
- Hours: 10.00am – 6.00pm on Sunday – Thursday, 10.00am – 4.00pm on Friday, Closed Saturday
- Address: Dohány u. 2, 1074 Budapest
3. Climb up to Fisherman’s Bastion and St Matthias Church
As you gaze across at the Buda side from the Danube, you’ll see the Fisherman’s Bastion and St Matthias Church stick out like a sore thumb because of their incredible architectural beauty.
The Fisherman’s Bastion is a Neo-Romanesque terrace that offers panoramic views of the city. It has seven stone towers that were built to symbolize the seven chieftains who founded Hungary.
It was originally built in the 1700s as part of a castle. It was said that the walls were protected by the guild of fishermen who lived under them – hence the name. What you see today is a renovated version of the original, built between 1895 and 1902.
The St Matthias Church is located next to the Bastion and was renovated by the same architect Frigyes Schulek. The church is most well known for its vibrant and intricately decorated roof with porcelain tiles.
It’s a Roman Catholic church and was originally built in 1015 with a Romanesque style but was renovated in the 14th century into a Gothic style. It was once the second largest church of medieval Buda.
St Matthias Church
- Hours: 9.00am – 5.00pm Monday – Friday, 9.00am – 1.00pm Saturday, 1.00pm – 5.00pm Sunday
- Address: Szentháromság tér 2, 1014 Budapest
Fisherman’s Bastion Towers
- Hours: 9.00am – 11.00pm
- Address: Szentháromság, 1014 Budapest
4. Drink a Beer on Chain Bridge
If you’re visiting Budapest in the summer, then you should definitely head to Chain Bridge in the evening.
You’ll find many young crowds sitting on the green iron railings and listening to music, sharing food and drinks, and having a laugh as the sun sets.
It’s one of the most pleasant backdrops for a cool summer evening.
- Hours: 24 hours
- Address: Széchenyi Lánchíd, Budapest
5. Learn about Budapest’s Holocaust History
Budapest played an important role in WWII. Hungary sided with the Nazis, and as such, more than half of the Jewish community were executed.
Today, there is a memorial on the Danube called ‘The Shoes on the Danube Bank.’ This is a bronze art installation that is to commemorate the lives lost during this horrific time in history.
You can also learn more about Hungary’s involvement in WWII at the House of Terror Museum. As you might expect from the name, this museum is a little somber, to say the least.
It is, though, extremely important as it’s a huge part of Budapest’s history, and the city still has a large Jewish community.
Shoes on the Danube Bank
- Hours: 24 hours
- Address: Id. Antall József rkp., 1054 Budapest
House of Terror Museum
- Hours: 10.00am – 6.00pm (Closed Monday)
- Address: Andrássy út 60, 1062 Budapest
6. Shop for Souvenirs at The Central Market Hall (Great Market Hall)
If you’re looking for some Hungarian souvenirs to take back home, this is the best place to find them.
The Central Market Hall, also known as the Great Market Hall, was built in 1897 and is the largest market hall in the city (yes, there are more than one). The hall has three floors of stalls, selling everything from fresh produce to wines and tourist trinkets.
From paprika spice packets to Hungarian porcelain, the market has everything you could want and more. Make sure to check out the cured meats and cheese section and pick up some fresh produce for a picnic…
- Hours: 6.00am – 5.00pm on Monday, 6.00am – 6.00pm on Tuesday – Friday, 6.00am – 3.00pm Saturday, Closed Sunday
- Address: Vámház krt. 1-3, 1093 Budapest
7. Have a Picnic on Margaret’s Island
Which brings us on to the next attraction in Budapest. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the city, but luckily you don’t need to go too far to find a bit of green space to relax in.
Margaret Island is a large island in the middle of the Danube and is where you’ll find an expansive green space, running tracks, swimming pools, thermal baths, and medieval ruins.
The park is the perfect place for a picnic overlooking the Danube. This is undoubtedly the best free thing to do in Budapest (except for the cost of your picnic, of course).
- Hours: 24 hours
- Address: Margaret Island, 1138 Budapest
8. Buda Castle Museums
Sitting at the top of Castle Hill is Buda Castle. The castle was the palace of the Hungarian Kings and was built in 1265. The original castle was replaced in 1749-1769 by the Baroque palace you see today.
The castle houses the Hungarian National Gallery, where you can see Medieval, Renaissance, Gothic, and Baroque Hungarian art from as far back as the 15th century.
It also houses the Hungarian National Museum, which has several exhibits showcasing Hungarian history and archeology.
- Hours: 10.00am – 6.00pm (Closed Mondays)
- Address: Szent György tér 2, 1014 Budapest
9. Bar Hop at the Ruin Bars
Despite what the name suggests, Ruin Bars are not entirely ruined. At least, not anymore. They are converted abandoned buildings full of what would be best described as ‘miscellaneous bric-a-brac.’
From bathtubs to old TVs to random electronics like hair dryers and even an old Trabant, it’s like a treasure trove of mismatched items we thought were long lost in the past.
One of the most famous ruin bars is Szimpla Kert and is where you’ll find the most vibrant nightlife. Szimpla was once an old stove factory that was converted in 2002. It has several rooms where you can sit and enjoy a drink, as well as an outdoor beer garden.
It also has concerts and live theater four evenings a week. It also hosts flea markets and second-hand record stalls in the daytime some days.
- Hours: 3.00pm – 4.00am Monday to Friday, 12.00pm – 4.00am on Saturday, 9.00am – 4.00am on Sunday
- Address: Kazinczy u. 14, 1075 Budapest
10. Climb the Dome of St Stephen’s Basilica
It’s hard to miss St Stephen’s Basilica as it’s 96 meters high (the same as the Parliament building). This Roman Catholic basilica is the third largest church in Hungary and was named after Stephen, the first King of Hungary.
Inside the church, you’ll find several Neo-classical paintings and statues, and an ornately decorated altar. It’s still a working church, so do be respectful when visiting.
One of the highlights of the church is the viewpoint from the dome, which can be accessed by elevators or climbing 364 stairs. At the top, you will see 360° views of the city.
The church was originally a theater, and you can still enjoy classical and organ concerts here in the evenings.
- Hours: 9.00am – 5.00pm onMonday to Friday, 9.00am – 1.00pm on Saturday and 1.00pm – 5.00pm on Sunday
- Address: Szent István tér 1, 1051 Budapest
11. Take a Behind the Scenes Tour of the Hungarian Parliament Building
The Hungarian Parliament building might just be the most stunning parliament building in Europe. Its neo-gothic design features statues of Hungarian rulers and leaders, as well as famous military figures.
Although impressive from the outside, the inside is where it really shines. Visitors first walk up the golden staircase and along halls lined with fresco paintings on the ceiling.
You are then led to the grand entrance hall, before entering the hendecagonal central hall, which displays The Holy Crown of Hungary.
You also visit the adjoining chambers and the National Assembly hall, which is used as a conference and meeting room.
You can book your tickets online before you visit, but there are some counterfeit websites that make finding the right site difficult. It’s better to turn up early in the day and try to book a tour for the following day (it’s also cheaper as you don’t pay a booking fee).
- Hours: 8.00am – 6.00pm (4pm on Weekends)
- Address: Kossuth Lajos tér 1-3, 1055 Budapest
12. Sample the Local Street Food: Goulash, Chimney Cake and Langosh
Hungarian food is warm, hearty, and filling. It’s most famous for Goulash, a flavorful stew made with paprika and dumplings. It is often served as a starter, so don’t be surprised if the portion sizes are small.
A great place to try this dish is at Gettó Gulyás in the Jewish District.
Another Hungarian dish you must make sure you try is Chimney Cake. These are traditional pastries that are made by wrapping dough around a wooden spool and slowly turned over an open fire. It’s considered the oldest pastry in Hungary and is a popular street food dish.
One of the most famous places to purchase a Chimney Cake is from Molnár’s kürtőskalács in the inner city.
Langosh is also something worth trying. It’s a type of fried bread and often topped with cheese or potato. They are fluffy and light, the perfect street food snack. Even though some stalls sell it with Nutella and other sweet toppings, they are traditionally served as a savory meal.
A great place to try Langosh is at Drum Cafe Budapest near Astoria metro station.
- Hours: 12.00pm-10.30pm (11.00pm on Weekends)
- Address: Wesselényi u. 18, 1077 Budapest
- Hours: 9.00am – 8.00pm
- Address: Váci u 31, 1052 Budapest
Drum Cafe Budapest
- Hours: 8.00am – 11.30pm
- Address: Dob u. 2, 1072 Budapest
13. Sunset Cruise on the Danube
Perhaps one of the most romantic things to do in Budapest is to embark upon a sunset cruise of the Danube. There are many cruises that sail along the Danube but they are all much the same.
Be sure to get a cruise with dinner included. There’s nothing more romantic than a river cruise at sunset with delicious Hungarian cuisine and unlimited champagne.
- Hours: 7.00pm or 9.00pm
- Address: Carl Lutz rakpart, Budapest (The dock with the big red 0)
One of the more unusual attractions in Budapest is the underground cave system that resides under Castle Hill.
This network of underground tunnels was used as shelters from bombs during WWII, hold an 800-year-old wine cellar, and was also once used as a medieval prison.
You can only enter the caves with a guide, who will teach you about the history and geology of these ancient caves. This is not for the faint-hearted and if you’re claustrophobic, you might need to think carefully about whether this is the right activity for you.
It’s certainly one of the more crazy things to do in Budapest.
- Hours: 12.30pm or 3.00pm
- Address: Szentháromság tér, 1014 Budapest
15. Check out Heroes’ Square and its Museums
There are three major squares in Budapest, but possibly one of the most important is Heroes’ Square.
It is best known for the Millennium Monument which features seven statues of the first Hungarian leaders who founded Hungary.
There are also several other statues here that commemorate important figures in Hungary’s past, such as the Stone of Heroes memorial, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and the Pope John Paul II memorial.
If you’re interested in learning more about Hungary’s art history, the square is surrounded by art museums, such as the Museum of Fine Arts and the Kunsthalle, or the Palace of Art.
- Hours: Square 24 hours, Museums open from 10.00am – 6.00pm (closed on Mondays)
- Address: Hősök tere, 1146 Budapest
16. Check out the Vajdahunyad Castle and City Park
The Vajdahunyad Castle is a gothic castle in Hungary and is said to be a copy of the copy of Hunyad Castle, in Romania.
The castle was built in 1896 to celebrate 1,000 years of Hungary since the Hungarian Conquest of the Carpathian Basin. The castle’s design is said to encompass the best aspects of several landmark buildings in the Kingdom of Hungary.
Today, it is the Museum of Hungarian Agriculture and the largest agricultural museum in Europe.
Nestled in City Park, a large green space, and across from the Széchenyi Thermal Bath, it’s definitely worth making a stop by.
In the winter, an ice skating rink opens up here, which is one of the most fun things to do in Budapest with kids.
- Hours: 10.00am – 5.00pm
- Address: Vajdahunyad stny., 1146 Budapest
17. Take a day trip to Szentendre
Szentendre is a quaint market town just an hour away from Budapest on the train. It has many baroque buildings, churches, and colorful houses.
Walk along the narrow, cobbled streets and discover boutique shops and handicrafts.
It has always been a hot spot for tourists looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city but became more famous after it appeared in the Marvel series, Moon Knight, in 2022.
- Hours: 24 hours
- Address: Szentendre, Hungary
18. Explore the City on an Electric Scooter
The city center of Budapest is very walkable, however, why walk when you can scoot? One of the most fun ways to get around Budapest is to use one of the electric scooters provided by Lime.
You’ll find them pretty much everywhere in the city center, but mostly outside tourist hot spots such as outside Astoria metro station or outside City Park.
Simply scan the QR code, connect your bank card, and off you go. You get charged by the minute, so don’t get carried away!
- Hours: 24 Hours
- Address: Scooters are in operation all over the inner city of Budapest
Popular Budapest Tours
Here are a few Budapest hotels to consider:
- Mystery Hotel Budapest: a historically themed luxury hotel located in the 6th district in downtown Budapest, in an eclectic palace built in the 19th century. See rates, reviews, and availability here.
- Hotel Parlament: This stylish boutique hotel with distinctive elegance is in a great location in the heart of Budapest, only a few steps from the Danube bank, the Parliament and the St. Stephen’s Basilica. Click for rates, reviews and availability.
- Deluxe Downtown Apartment with a Fabulous View: Located in the center of Budapest, an 8-minute walk from Great Market Hall and 0.7 miles from St. Stephen’s Basilica. See rates, reviews and availability here.
If you’re looking for other accommodation in Budapest, you can use the map below to compare hotels and short-term rental options.
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- 15 Fun things to do in Prague
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Comment: What tips do you have for things to see and do in Budapest Hungary?