Our guide to the best things to do in Budapest is a mix of old and new, enabling you to find hip and lively experiences behind its façade of classical splendour. Notable landmarks include the majestic riverside Parliament Building and a collection of stunning basilicas. Many medieval bridges connect the 2 sides of the city that make up its name: Buda and Pest.

    One of the most photogenic cities in Europe, Budapest’s dramatic skyline is peppered with 19th-century architectural wonders alongside the Danube River. These range from bustling marketplaces in the city centre to one of the world’s most unique nightlife scenes. Ruin bars throughout the old Jewish Quarter offer fun evenings out. Let this nifty guide help point you to some of the coolest spots and unmissable things to do in Budapest.

    What are the best things to do in Budapest?


    Heroes’ Square

    Walk through the statue complex of Hősök tere

    • History
    • Budget
    • Photo

    Budapest has many grand city squares, but Hősök tere (Heroes’ Square) stands out for its iconic, towering pillar and Millennium Monument complex that dates back to 1896. The complex honours Hungary’s 7 founding figures, together with a few other important national leaders. The square serves as a convenient central point for exploring the city. You have the Museum of Fine Art and the Kunsthalle art museum right next door, while the vast City Park is right behind the square. There are plenty of dining spots around that let you enjoy coffee or snacks with the great heritage site in view.

    Location: Budapest, Hősök tere, 1146 Hungary


    Danube River

    Take in memorable views of Buda and Pest

    • Couples
    • Families

    Cruising along the Danube is a great way to see Budapest in all its glory. Some daytime cruises take you past riverside landmarks, as you learn more about the city with the help of audio guides. Evening cruises are more romantic, serving dinner on board, and with a different view of the city’s most magnificent landmarks. Sights include the dramatically lit Széchenyi Chain Bridge, the Buda Castle hilltop complex, and the stately Hungarian Parliament Building. Most dinner cruises feature local and international buffets, with live bands aboard to liven up your evening on the water.

    Location: Budapest, Széchenyi Lánchíd, 1051 Hungary


    Széchenyi Chain Bridge

    Take a scenic stroll over the Danube

    • Couples
    • History
    • Budget
    • Photo

    You can enjoy one of the most scenic walks in Budapest across this old and iconic cast iron suspension bridge. Széchenyi Chain Bridge spans the Danube, connecting Buda and Pest. It has magnificent lion figures guarding its entrances and a pair of giant, arched towers at its midsection. It’s a must-do for romantics, especially at dusk. The towers are illuminated just before the sun dramatically sets over Buda Hill. As part of a lovers’ tradition, you can attach your lovelocks to the side of the bridge and throw away the key.

    Location: Budapest, Széchenyi Lánchíd, 1051 Hungary


    Buda Castle Hill Funicular

    Take in sweeping cityscapes at the top

    • History
    • Photo

    This funicular connects Adam Clark Square by the river and up to the palatial hilltop Buda Castle complex above it. It dates back to 1870 and has been taking visitors up to the landmark since 1920. With the high windows and low seating, you won’t be able to see much while you’re seated inside the cabins. The panorama at the top is rewarding. You’ll be able to see some of Budapest’s most notable landmarks, such as the Parliament Building, St. Stephen's Basilica, and the chain bridge.

    Location: Budapest, Clark Ádám tér, 1013 Hungary

    Open: Daily from 7.30 am to 10 pm (closed on odd-week Mondays)

    Phone: +36 (06) 1 201 9128


    Great Market Hall

    The largest indoor market in Budapest

    Nagy Vásárcsarnok (Great Market Hall) is a grand indoor marketplace that’s housed inside a Gothic Revival building in Budapest. The market is where you can buy and try authentic local snacks like Hungarian scones and strudels or pick up fresh products like farmed fruits and gourmet jams. It has 3 floors, with the lower level featuring a range of souvenir stalls, while the food items are mostly upstairs. Even without buying anything, simply mulling through the huge spread of stalls lets you enjoy one of Budapest’s liveliest market scenes.

    Location: Budapest, Vámház krt. 1-3, 1093 Hungary

    Open: Mondays from 6 am to 5 pm, Tuesday–Friday from 6 am to 6 pm, Saturdays from 6 am to 3 pm (closed on Sundays)

    Phone: +36 (06) 1 366 3300


    Széchenyi Thermal Baths

    The largest mineral bath in Europe

    • Couples

    If you’re looking to unwind in between or after your Budapest sightseeing adventures, consider hitting the Széchenyi Medicinal Baths for a unique, over-a-century-old artesian spa experience. It’s considered the largest of its kind in Europe, with its palatial complex housing over 20 pools. You can soak in the curative mineral-rich waters that constantly flow from 2 hot springs. You can play chess while being immersed chest-high in its huge main outdoor pool or go for a couples’ massage and enjoy the warmth of its saunas inside.

    Location: Budapest, Állatkerti krt. 9-11, 1146 Hungary

    Open: Daily from 6 am to 10 pm

    Phone: +36 (06) 1 363 3210


    Hungarian Parliament Building

    A grand landmark on the east bank of the Danube

    • History
    • Photo

    This is the grand icon of Hungary’s democratic government. The majestic, neo-Gothic Hungarian Parliament Building dates back to 1904 and looms over the Pest side of the Danube River. It’s the largest building in the country. Viewed from aboard river cruises or the western bank of the Danube, the structure’s reflection on the calm river surface adds to the breathtaking panorama. It shares striking similarities to London’s Westminster Palace, but with turrets and arches making up most of its façade and with Renaissance and Baroque interiors. Group tours are available at the visitor centre, which take around an hour. 

    Location: Budapest, Kossuth Lajos tér 1-3, 1055 Hungary

    Open: Daily from 8 am to 6 pm (Saturdays and Sundays until 4 pm)

    Phone: +36 (06) 1 441 4000


    Old Jewish Quarter

    Drink and dine in Budapest’s quirky bars

    Walking through Budapest’s District VII neighbourhood, also known as the old Jewish Quarter, you can catch glimpses of the city’s historical Jewry, with its stark contrast of shabby ruins and old synagogues lining chic, street art-emblazoned lanes. It’s best known for its closely knit collection of 'ruin bars' – eccentric bars that have opened among the ruins. Start off at Szimpla Kert, where the ruin bar hype is said to have started. It’s adorned with antique, mismatched knickknacks and even features an old commie car among its quirky props.

    Location: Budapest, Kazinczy u. 14, 1075 Hungary

    Open: Monday–Friday from 12 pm to 4 am, Saturday–Sunday from 9 am to 4 am

    Phone: +36 (06) 20 261 8669


    Erkel Theatre

    A separate but integral part of the Hungarian State Opera

    The Hungarian State Opera might be one of the grandest landmarks you’ll find in Budapest. However, the neoclassical building frequently undergoes renovations. In such cases, Erkel Theatre serves as the cool alternative. Erkel first opened its gates around the end of 1911 and has since served as the State Opera’s second but largest and most modern venue, with a seating capacity of over 1,800 (the Hungarian State Opera seats 1,300). Performances by first-class singers, stage actors, and a great orchestra range from classical Puccini and Tchaikovsky to modern Broadway shows like Billy Elliot.

    Location: Budapest, II. János Pál pápa tér 30, 1087 Hungary

    Open: Monday–Friday from 10 am to 5 pm (showtimes vary)

    Phone: +36 (06) 1 332 6150


    photo by Globetrotter19 (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    Ari Gunadi | Compulsive Traveller

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