No trip through Central Europe would be complete without a few days in Budapest, but what do you do once you’ve ticked off the bucket list items like soaking in the baths, drinking in the ruin bars, and wandering along the Danube? Well, it turns out there’s quite a bit to experience here, so we’ve come up with a list of 50 things to do in Budapest, Hungary to get your travel planning started. Yes, this is way more than you could possibly hit up in one single visit, so feel free to pick and choose to plan your perfect trip to Budapest!
Things to do in Budapest
1) Ride the Budapest Castle Hill Funicular. Budapest is a city best explored on foot, but one way to save your legs on the Buda side is by riding the Budapest Castle Hill Funicular to the top. It’s a fun ride in a vintage tram car and the queue moves surprisingly fast, so don’t let that deter you.
2) Explore a fraction of Buda Castle. Another thing to do in Budapest is to visit Buda Castle. Located atop a hill overlooking the Danube, the castle pretty much dominates the city skyline on the Buda side. The shocking thing once you reach Buda Castle is its size and all there is to see and do there; the castle houses numerous museums and churches, not to mention the different festivals it hosts, so you’ll want to pick and choose because it’s impossible to cover it all in one visit.
3) Walk through the spooky tunnels underneath Buda Castle. If you’re looking for something unusual to do in Budapest, look for the signs that read Panoptikum and Labirintus and follow the steps down to the network of tunnels where Vlad Tepes (of Count Dracula fame!) was imprisoned by King Matthias in the 15th century. It’s dark and smoky and kind of creepy, so maybe go with a friend!
4) Soak in the Széchenyi Thermal Baths. There are numerous thermal baths in Budapest, but Széchenyi is the most famous of them all. Set in a cheery yellow neo-Baroque building, this is the largest medicinal bath in Europe offering a mix of indoor and outdoor pools in varying temperatures. It’s open year round – even in winter!
5) Admire some art at the Hungarian National Gallery. This is Hungary’s national art museum and it’s located inside Buda Castle. It showcases the works of Hungarian artists across many styles, including works produced abroad.
6) Experience the ruin bars. Budapest’s nightlife is legendary across Europe and many people come to the city to experience its famed ruin bars. These bars are mostly found in the city’s Jewish Quarter and sit in derelict buildings that are often missing walls, windows and roofs. They are super kitschy and colourful inside, filled with mismatched patio furniture and random antiques and collectables. They are cheap places to drink and they draw big crowds! The most famous of them all is Szimpla Kert.
7) Walk down Andrássy Avenue. This avenue connects the city centre with City Park and it is lined with what were once palaces, mansions and lavish townhouses – some of which are now used as embassies and others that house trendy boutiques. Either way, it’s a nice place for a stroll.
8) Stop for a cup of coffee. Budapest has a burgeoning coffee scene! Not only can you see independent coffee shops on almost every street corner, but it’s also quite common to come across coffee carts where coffee is ground, brewed, and decorated with foam art right on the street.
9) Take a tour of the Hungarian Parliament Building. The exterior of the Hungarian Parliament Building graces every postcard and guidebook, but have you ever wondered what it’s like on the inside? This neo-Gothic, neo-Romanesque, neo-Baroque structure is one of the main tourist attractions in Budapest, but to see the interior, you’ll have to join a guided tour that lasts 45 minutes.
10) Walk across the Chain Bridge. This bridge spans the Danube River between Buda and Pest. It has two pedestrian lanes on either side, and it’s a nice place for a stroll just as the sun is going down, or at nighttime when all the lights come on.
11) Go for a dip in the Gellért Baths. After Széchenyi, this is one of the most popular bath complexes in the city. The Gellért Baths have thermal pools, indoor pools, outdoor pools, a wave pool, multiple spa treatments, and beautiful architecture.
12) Drink at the Faust Wine Cellars. This is an underground wine cellar in the Buda Castle District and it is part of the tunnel labyrinth system we mentioned in a previous activity. If you’re looking to taste some Hungarian wines while you’re in the city, this is a pretty memorable spot.
13) Stop at The Shoes on the Danube. The Shoes on the Danube is a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. It represents the victims who were ordered to remove their shoes and were then shot at the river’s edge so that their bodies would fall into the Danube and be were carried away.
14) Step inside the Szabo Ervin Library. If you’re a fellow bibliophile, then this one’s worth tracking down! The Szabo Ervin Library is a real hidden gem; this library is set inside the former home of a 19th-century aristocrat by the name of Count Frigyes Wenckheim, but today, this mansion is hidden from view because it’s surrounded by a modern-day library.
15) Visit the Golden Eagle Pharmacy Museum. If quirky museums are your thing, here’s another one to add to your Budapest bucket list. The Golden Eagle Pharmacy Museum is set in what used to be a 15th-century merchant’s home. Then an alchemist moved in and established the first pharmacy in Buda.
16) Visit the charming Vajdahunyad Castle. This is a fantasy castle that was built in 1896 to celebrate 1,000 years since the Hungarian Conquest of the Carpathian Basin. Vajdahunyad Castle was designed to incorporate design elements from buildings across the Kingdom of Hungary, as well as various architectural styles including Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque. The castle was initially built out of cardboard and wood as a temporary attraction, but it was so popular that it was then rebuilt using more durable materials.
17) Go to the Király Baths. You didn’t think we were done with baths in Budapest, did you? The Király Thermal Bath is the oldest thermal bath in the city. It was built by the Ottomans in the 16th century and it has a very distinct look with a domed ceiling that allows small streams of natural light.
18) Check out the statues at Memento Park. This park is a bit like an open-air museum. It is filled with statues of communist figures including the likes of Marx, Lenin and Engels. When Communism fell in Hungary, the city’s statues came down, and rather than destroying them, the idea for Memento Park was born.
19) Walk along Fisherman’s Bastion. This is another popular attraction in Budapest as it offers some of the most beautiful views in the whole city! Fisherman’s Bastion is a terrace situated on Castle Hill, and it has 7 turrets that represent the 7 leaders of the Magyar tribes that entered the Carpathian Basin in the 9th century.
20) Marvel at Matthias Church. Built of white stone and topped with a colourful roof with a geometric pattern, this is a beautiful church to visit. The first church on this site was founded by Saint Stephen, King of Hungary, which is why you’ll notice a statue of him right next to the church.
21) Watch the Changing of the Guard. Another item to add to your list of things to do in Budapest is the Changing of the Guard. This happens right in front of the Hungarian Presidential Palace and it’s a choreographed ceremony that draws plenty of onlookers.
22) Climb to the top of St. Stephen’s Basilica. Another place to visit in Budapest is St. Stephen’s Basilica, which gets its name from its patron saint, St. Stephen, the first King of Hungary. You can either take the elevator or climb all the way to the top for views of the city, and then on your way back, you can see St. Stephen’s mummified right hand in a glass case.
23) Visit Heroes’ Square. This large public square is famous for its statue of the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars, who were the seven leaders of the tribes of Hungarians that settled around the Carpathian Basin in the 9th century.
24) Have a picnic on Margaret Island. This is a long and narrow island that sits in the middle of the Danube River. It has plenty of greenery, which makes it a nice place to come for a picnic, and if you’re in the mood for a swim, you can also find the Palatinus Strand Baths here.
25) Eat your way through the Great Market Hall. This is one place you’ll want to visit with an appetite! The Great Market Hall is primarily a place to shop for produce, meats, and spices, but you can also find some food stands and restaurants where you can enjoy some tasty Hungarian food.
26) Step inside the Hungarian State Opera House. This is considered one of the architectural masterpieces of Budapest. If you’re short on time and you can’t make it to a performance, there are guided tours where you can get a glimpse of the extravagant auditorium.
27) Go inside the church in a cave. Set in a cave at the base of Gellért Hill, this church is run by the Pauline Order of Monks who hold religious services. One thing to keep in mind is that you must be modestly dressed in order to enter the church – that means no bare shoulders.
28) Have cake at the New York Cafe. The New York Cafe is one of the most beautiful cafes in all of Europe and it’s a nice midafternoon stop for cake and coffee. Prepare to wowed by the cream and gold interior accented by red velvet chairs – it feels like you’ve set foot inside a palace and there’s live classical music to set the scene.
29) Visit the Rudas Bath. We told you this was a city of baths! Much like Király, the Rudas Bath is another medieval Turkish bath in Budapest. The core of it dates back to the 16th century, but it has been expanded since then.
30) Try a Hungarian street snack. If street food is your thing, you won’t want to miss lángos, a popular street snack that consists of deep-fried dough that can be enjoyed with numerous toppings. If you’re craving something savoury, sour cream and cheese is a nice combination, and if you’re in the mood for something sweet, you can opt for icing sugar or jam.
31) Order a bowl of goulash. This is the national dish of Hungary and it’s a meat soup or stew that is seasoned with paprika and has ingredients like potatoes, carrots, and bell peppers. Goulash recipes vary across Central Europe, and we found that in Hungary they were more like a soup than a stew, but hearty and delicious nonetheless!
32) Drink at the Red Ruin Bar. Budapest has plenty of ruin bars, but the idea behind this one is a little different. The Red Ruin is a communist-themed bar, where you can see the likes of Marx, Lenin, and Stalin plastered on the walls wearing party hats, because it’s a “communist party”. Get it?
33) Visit the Dohány Street Synagogue. This is the largest synagogue in Europe and if you’re interested in exploring the Jewish Quarter, you can join a guided tour that gives you access to the synagogue and a few other points of interest in the neighbourhood.
34) Climb up to the Citadella. For the best views of Pest and the Danube River, you need to climb up to the Citadella. This is a fortress that sits atop Gellért Hill on the Buda side.
35) Tour the Budapest History Museum. This museum is dedicated to the city’s history and it showcases artefacts that were found in Pest, Buda and Óbuda – the three cities that form Budapest.
36) Cruise down the Danube. Another one of those must-do things in Budapest is to enjoy a river cruise down the Danube River. There are sightseeing cruises, wine tasting cruises, sunset cruises and romantic nighttime cruises, so plenty of options!
37) Spend a few hours at the Hungarian National Museum. So many museums, so little time! But if you’re looking for one more to add to your Budapest itinerary, the Hungarian National Museum covers archaeology, art and history all under one roof.
38) Explore the Jewish Quarter on foot. Budapest’s Jewish Quarter is a place not to be missed. This neighbourhood has experienced a bit of a renaissance and draws young people with its street art, colourful murals, ruin bars, and restaurants set in crumbling buildings. This is also the place to experience Budapest’s notorious nightlife.
39) Tour the Hospital in the Rock. This emergency hospital and bomb shelter was set up in the tunnel system underneath Buda Castle and dates back to WW2. You can visit as part of a 1-hour guided tour.
40) Ride a train run by children. You read that right! Gyermekvasút, also known as the Children’s Railway, is a train where all the jobs, except for that of train engineer, are performed by children aged 10–14. The stops on this train line are also popular recreation spots, so it’s a unique way to escape the city in search of nature.
41) Drink beers on the Danube. We’ve mentioned a few different ways you can cruise down the Danube River, and a craft beer cruise is one of them! Picture artisanal beers, live music, and the city dazzling at night.
42) Watch the sunset on the Liberty Bridge. This bridge closes to traffic for a few weekends during the summer and it’s a popular spot to hang out and watch the sun go down. People bring drinks, snacks, barbecues, and there’s also live music so it’s a very lively and relaxed atmosphere.
43) Learn about the dark past. The House of Terror is a museum that looks back at Hungary’s Nazi and Soviet regimes. The museum is set in the same building that housed the former headquarters of the ultra-right (Nazi) party, and later the State Security (Hungarian version of the KGB). With that in mind, the museum also seeks to remember the victims who were interrogated, tortured and killed in this very building.
44) Sip on some Pálinka or Unicum. Two drinks you must try when in Budapest! Pálinka is a fruit brandy with origins in the Hungarian Carpathian Basin, and Unicum is a Hungarian herbal liqueur that can be enjoyed as an apéritif or digestif.
45) Visit a cute neighbouring town. If you’ve spent a few days in Budapest and you’re looking for a change of scenery, then a day trip to Szentendre is the answer! This charming town sits on the banks of the Danube Bend and it’s a fun place to explore on foot with lots of quaint streets and little museums to pop into. You can get there by train or by boat.
46) Look for a bargain at the Ecseri Flea Market. This one is a little ways outside the city centre, however, if you’re in the mood for some antique-rummaging and treasure-hunting, this is a popular choice with both tourists and locals, and you just never know what you’re going to find.
47) Visit the Abandoned Jewish Cemetery. This is the oldest remaining Jewish cemetery on the Pest side of the city and it is located in the 8th district besides the Kerepesi Cemetery (the two are divided by a stone wall). Men must cover their heads to enter, but you can borrow a kippah at the gate.
48) Take a break in City Park. This is the park where the Széchenyi Baths, Vajdahunyad Castle, and Heroes’ Square are located, so it’s a nice place to rest in between all the sightseeing.
49) Experience a bit of magic. The House of Houdini is a museum is dedicated to Hungarian-born Harry Houdini, one of the greatest magicians and escape artists of all time. You’ll be able to see many objects that Houdini used and also be entertained by a new generation of magicians.
50) Escape to the Buda Hills. This is a popular summer escape thanks to its proximity to the city. If you’re looking to do some light hiking (the peaks rise no higher than 500 metres), this is a good option.
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