The gorgeous capital city of Hungary, Budapest, actually consists of three different cities divided by the Danube. Buda and Óbuda lie on the west bank of the river while Pest lies on the east bank. A large part of this glorious city enjoys the UNESCO World Heritage Site status and a lot of travellers consider Budapest as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. The historic city is home to a fascinating mixture of historic monuments and laid-back artistic style. Making a best things to do in Budapest list is not easy, as there are a wide range of wonderful things for travellers to see and do. Everything from magnificent museums to terrific thermal spas can be found in the city.
Without further ado,
let’s check out the best things to do in Budapest:
Next on the best things to do in Budapest list is the Parliament Building.
Designed and built in a gorgeous Gothic Revival style, the humongous Hungarian Parliament Building is one of the largest buildings in Hungary. It houses more than a hundred parliamentary offices. This spectacular building looks great from every angle but to soak up all of its glory, make sure that you see it from across the Danube.
Certain areas of this building are open for daily tours in multiple languages. Getting into the building requires identification and visitors are usually frisked on entry. Ensure that your bags are free of any suspicious items, it is a Government building after all.
Next on the best things to do in Budapest list are the Géllert Baths.
The Gellert Bath and Spa centre is one of the grandest spas in the city. It features an open-air pool (which can also turn into a fun wave pool), a Finnish sauna along with a range of plunge pools and different saunas. There is also a fantastic effervescent swimming pool. At an extra fee, you can also avail massages and other spa treatments
Built between 1912 and 1918, the Baths are a beautiful representation of the Art Nouveau style. The building sustained some serious damage during the Second World War. The Baths were thoroughly renovated in 2008 and are open for mixed bathing throughout the week.
Next on the best things to do in Budapest list is the Heroes’ Square.
Heroes’ Square or Hosök tere in Hungarian, is an iconic monument which features depictions of the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars. These legendary figures are renowned for being the leaders of the Hungarian migration from central Asia to the Carpathian region.
The monument is located at the end of the Andrássy Avenue. The Archangel Gabriel, holds the Hungarian crown on top of the monument. Two matching colonnades adorn either side of the central column and depict many other Hungarian historical figures. Beautiful art galleries flank the square from either side. The traffic at this monument is crazy, so be careful while crossing the road.
Next on the best things to do in Budapest list is the Margaret Island.
Bang in the middle of the Danube, is the 2.5 kms long Margaret Island. The island is home to parkland and recreational facilities.
To help you explore the island well, a lot of pedal carts, golf carts, and other self-powered vehicles are available for rent.
The island is encircled by a rubber-coated 5.5 km running track. The track is extremely popular among runners who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The island is also home to the extremely famous “music fountain”, whose water regularly “dances” in time to the tune of classical music.
The island also has some medieval ruins and a small aviary which mainly caters to injured water birds and wildfowl.
Next on the best things to do in Budapest list is Fisherman’s Bastion.
Even though the Fisherman’s Bastion has the looks of a medieval monument, it was built in a neo-Gothic style during the early 20th century in a neo-Gothic style. The Fisherman’s Bastion was specifically built to serve as a panoramic viewing platform to gaze across the Danube, Margaret Island and Pest.
The monument is named after a historic Guild of brave Fishermen, who bravely defended the city walls during the Medieval era.
The Bastion also features seven towers which are representative of the seven Magyar tribes that helped to settle the Magyar people in the Carpathian Basin. A visit to the Fisherman’s Bastion provides a magnificent view of the city during sunset.
Next on the best things to do in Budapest list is the Invisible Exhibition.
If you ever wonder what the life of a blind person is like, Budapest’s Invisible Exhibition will satisfy your curiosity. The Invisible Exhibition is built to give visitors the chance to experience what life is like for people who are completely blind. The exhibition has registered blind guides who take you on a tour of different artificially created environments (garden, supermarket, bar etc.). All of them are in totally dark rooms.
Once you reach the exhibition, the authorities will ask you to turn off any sources of light such as cell phones or watches. Once you are done with the exhibition, you can also enjoy a meal in a completely dark room, where blind waiters guide you through your dinner plate.
Faust Wine Cellars
Next on the best things to do in Budapest list are the Faust Wine Cellars.
Underneath the legendary Buda Castle, lies the historic Faust Wine Cellars. Visitors can sample wine from each of the 22 wine regions of Hungary. You can also sink your teeth into the palinka, a traditional Hungarian fruit. While you sample the wines, a sommelier will also give you tasting notes.
Depending your time and budget, a wide variety of tasting programmes are available. Book your visit in advance.
Next on the best things to do in Budapest list is the Memento Park.
The wonderful Memento Park is home to some Communist monuments and statues which were erected all over the city while Hungary was still under communist rule.
All of the statues of Memento Park were either removed under the Government’s de-communization process or by the Hungarian people protesting against the previous regime.
When the Memento Park opened in 1993, it started displaying these monuments and showcased an integral part of the city’s history. The site also has a small museum which exhibits life under the communist regime, with some info about the Hungarian Secret Police as well.
Dohány Street Synagogue
Next on the best things to do in Budapest list is the Dohány Street Synagogue.
Despite a steep decline in the Jewish population of Hungary since the Second World War, outside of the Jewish state of Israel, the Dohány Street Synagogue is one of the largest in the world.
During the 1990s, the garden and the interiors were restored. The process was mainly funded by the global population of Hungarian Jews.
The garden also features a weeping willow memorial. Its metal leaves feature the names of some of those killed during the war.
There is also a memorial to Swedish diplomat Roual Wallenberg, who helped to save hundreds of Hungarian Jews from concentration camps and ghettos.
Esceri Flea Market
Next on the best things to do in Budapest list is the Esceri Flea Market.
This fantastic flea market on the outskirts of the city is a great place to find a bargain. It is possible to pick up a variety of different treasures from here, although you may have to search through stalls full of things that you consider to be trash in order to find them.
Even if you are not planning on buying anything, it is still possible to wander for hours amid the stalls, dreaming about the past owners of all of this bric-a-brac. Stalls sell everything from retro clothing, through to memorabilia from the Communist era.
Haggling is recommended, although you should expect to pay a bit more if you are not a local.
Next on the best things to do in Budapest list are the Ruin Pubs.
The city of Budapest is extremely famous for its “ruin pubs”. These pubs are designed in a shabby-chic fashion. The most famous ruin pubs are located in sprawling but deserted buildings, and they feature slightly worn out furniture for the patrons.
Every single ruin pub has its unique features. Most patrons refer to their favourite pub as “the one with the…”. Some of the most famous ruin pubs are Instant (“the one with the crazy animal pictures”), Fogas Ház (“the one with the teeth), Kuplung (“the one with the whale”) and Szimpla.
Central Market Hall
Next on the best things to do in Budapest list is the Central Market Hall.
Situated bang in the middle of Budapest is the Great Market Hall. It’s Budapest’s most popular marketplace.
The place is usually bustling with locals buying their groceries and tourists soaking in the sights and sounds.
Tourists can find locally grown fruits and vegetables with ease on the upper floors. For locally sourced meat, you can head to the lower floors. Souvenirs including lace, chess sets and leather goods can be purchased from the upper floors.
Aside from individual grocery items, tourists can also pick up local homemade delicacies such as goulash and langos.
Buda Castle Hill Funicular
Next on the best things to do in Budapest list is the Buda Castle Hill Funicular.
Opened in 1870, this funicular system is the second oldest of its kind in the world. The carriages go up and down the hill with a system of weights and counterweights. The funicular is the fastest way to reach the top of Castle Hill. It has become exceedingly popular among tourists because of its panoramic views across the expanse of Danube.
In order to allow the passengers to enjoy their ride, the speed of ascent of the funicular was reduced in 1988. The funicular is open till 10 PM everyday, and gives wonderful night time views of Pest.
The Buda Hills
Next on the best things to do in Budapest list are the Buda Hills.
The Buda Hills are one of the greenest areas of the city, and are very popular with Budapest citizens who want to take a little time away from city life.
The Buda Hills have various hiking trails to follow and mountain bike paths as well. Those paths are medium to high in difficulty.
The Children’s Railway is ideal for the people who want to explore the hills in a leisurely fashion. This Railway is entirely staffed by children between the age of 10-14 (and some adults who are responsible for the children’s safety).
You can enjoy a nice packed lunch on the numerous picnic spots dotted around the area.
Next on the best things to do in Budapest list is the Andrássy Avenue.
This wonderful stretch of road extends from Erzsébet Square in central Pest, out to the City Park. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2002.
A walk down Andrássy will help you see a number of Budapest’s different architectural styles. Some of the sights include the Hungarian National Opera House, neo-renaissance townhouses and mansions. The boulevard also has a large number of different national embassies.
If walking down the boulevard is not something you fancy, you can also use the metro line underneath the Avenue, which is the third oldest underground railway in the world.
Next on the best things to do in Budapest list is the Liberty Statue.
Gellert Hill’s Liberty Statue is one of the few remaining prominent Communist statues which remained in situ after the transition to democracy. The main reason behind that was its position overlooking the city.
In the year 1947, the statue was erected in 1947 to commemorate the Soviet troops who lost their lives liberating the country. The engraving on the statue was later changed to commemorate “all who sacrificed their lives for the independence, freedom, and prosperity of Hungary”.
You can enjoy some unparalleled panoramic views from underneath the statue and they are bound to help make the walk to the top of the hill well worth it.
Next on the best things to do in Budapest list is the Danube Promenade.
This part of the Danube walkway extends from the Chain Bridge to the Elizabeth Bridge. The Danube Promenade is ideal for all those people who are looking for a short, but interesting walk. Promenading along the Danube is one of the best ways to soak in the most famous sights of the lovely Budapest.
Looking over towards to Buda side of the river, you will see the Buda Castle, the Liberty Statue on Gellert Hill and the Fisherman’s Bastion. The Promenade side of the river features restaurants, cafes, Szechenyi Istvan Square and a range of different sculptures. The most famous among them is the Little Princess.
The Danube rivers is also great for a cruise. The river features there’s a fun dinner cruise and with a gypsy music featuring folk show.
House of Terror
Next on the best things to do in Budapest list is the House of Terror.
The aptly named House of Terror holds exhibitions about the successive Fascist and Communist regimes which were in power in Hungary for a major portion of the 20th Century. The building which has the House of Terror served as the former headquarters of the Fascist Arrow Cross party. The same building was subsequently used as a prison and a place for torture by Hungary’s State Security services.
The basement’s prison area is open for touring. The exhibition features information about the regimes and notes from some of the torture victims. Aside from the exhibitions about the fascist and communist “security services”, the building often houses other temporary exhibitions.
St. Stephen’s Basilica
Next on the best things to do in Budapest list is St. Stephen’s Basilica.
One of the most significant religious buildings of Germany, the St. Stephen’s Basilica features the alleged right hand of Stephen, the first King of Hungary. Because of the site’s religious nature, visitors are supposed to cover their knees and shoulders at all times.
People who are not afraid of heights can climb to the top of the dome and enjoy some great panoramic view of the city. On a clear, sunny day, this is a great place to survey Budapest from the air. The Basilica frequently holds Classical music concerts and organ concerts. The sounds from that spill out into the square outside as well.
Hungarian State Opera House
Next on the best things to do in Budapest list is the Hungarian State Opera House.
Commissioned by Emperor Franz Joseph, the Neo-Renaissance style Hungarian State Opera House was opened in 1884. Statues of Ferenc Erkel (composer of the Hungarian National Anthem) and Ferenc Liszt (Hungarian composer) are also erected outside.
The Opera House has a 1200 seat auditorium which is considered to be one of the best in the world for operatic performances. It is definitely worth buying a ticket for the show.
If you don’t have time to watch a show, you can also take some guided tours of the Opera House which are available during the day. These tours need to be booked in advance though.
Next on the best things to do in Budapest list is the Citadella.
Following the failed Hungarian War of Independence, the Hapsburgs constructed The Citadel, which sits atop Gellert Hill.
The prime strategic location of the Citadella was presumed to make it easy to control both Buda and Pest, in case of any future uprisings.
Until the year 1897, troops were present in the Citadel. During the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, Soviet forces utilized the Citadel to control the city. Tanks from the Citadel rained fire over the city. Presently, the Citadel has a museum, a hotel, and a restaurant.
Szechenyi Thermal Baths
Next on the best things to do in Budapest list are the Szechenyi Thermal Baths.
The Széchenyi Baths complex forms the largest “medicinal” bath centre in the continent of Europe. The waters of the bath centre are very rich in minerals such as sulphates, calcium, magnesium, bicarbonate and fluoride. These minerals supposedly help patients with degenerative joint illnesses and other medical issues.
If you are more interested in just enjoying a relaxing hot bath in a thermal pool, there are a variety of steam rooms, saunas and different thermal pools. For an additional fee, tourists can enjoy massages and beauty treatments as well.
The two outdoor pools are fantastic places to visit on a cold, dark night, as the steam rising from the hot water makes the whole place seem wonderfully magical and straight out of the pages of a fantasy novel.
Next on the best things to do in Budapest list is the City Park.
The City Park includes great sports facilities, swimming baths, and a boating lake. It is a wonderful leisure facility for tourists and citizens of Budapest to enjoy.
The boating lake transforms into one of Europe’s largest ice skating rinks during winters.
The City Park also houses the Budapest Municipal Zoo and Botanical Gardens, the Budapest Circus and the Vajdahunyad Castle (which in turn houses the Museum of Hungarian Agriculture).
The Time Wheel, one of the largest sand timers in the world, is located right outside of the park.
All the grains of this sand timer take 1 year to fall from the top section to the bottom. Consequently, the timer is rotated every New Year.
Hungarian National Museum
Next on the best things to do in Budapest list is the Hungarian National Museum.
The Hungarian National Museum features thousands of exhibits detailing the history, art, religion and archaeology of the country. It also includee exhibitions from areas which were once part of Hungary but are under different nations today.
The Neoclassical Museum is so stunning to look at that even if you don’t plan to venture inside, you will see something brilliant.
During summer months, the serene gardens are a popular meeting spot for the people of Budapest.
Aquincum Museum and Ruin Garden
Rounding up our best things to do in Budapest list are the Aquincum Museum and Ruin Garden.
If you want to explore some of Hungary’s ancient history, this is a great place to start. Aquincum was a Roman city which was founded at the same place as modern day Budapest. It was also an extremely crucial military base in the ancient Roman Empire.
You can walk around the ruins of the garden, including the ancient gladiatorial amphitheatre and the city bathhouse.
The museum has various Roman relics on display. It also has a working replica of a very famous water organ discovered during the 1930s.