Budapest was once a co-capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It has everything that capitals around the world have, including grand and majestic architectures. The buildings here house the soul and culture of this fantastic city. You will be astonished by the amount of exciting and popular things to do in Budapest.
Budapest welcomes around five million tourists every year, with the main crowd coming in summer and around the winter holidays. If you are not a big fan of the crowds, you might want to avoid the busy periods.
Nonetheless, the amount of tourists this city receives is a testament to its charm.
How to get to Budapest?
Budapest is in central Europe, and the city is well connected by railroad, road, river, and air traffic. Getting here is easy; it is when you have to leave Budapest that will be difficult. Budapest is unequivocally guilty of stealing so many hearts of visitors.
Hungary is a part of the EU Schengen area, so you won’t need a Visa if you are an EU citizen or reside in the EU. Citizens of other European countries can enter Hungary and stay up to 90 days. If you are not sure about needing a Visa, you can find additional info here.
Best things to do in Budapest
You will need a lot of time to visit and experience everything Budapest has to offer. If you are planning for just a quick visit, you better plan again.
St. Stephen’s Basilica
With 96 meters in height, St. Stephen’s Basilica is the 3rd largest church in Hungary. This building with two towers and six bells is completed in 1905, and since then, it has been one of Budapest’s most famous monuments.
The towers are visible from almost every spot in Budapest. You can go up to the base, which is a great vantage point to enjoy a view of the whole city.
Note: If you are visiting Budapest during the warm summer days, you need to know that there is a strict clothing policy in the basilica. Visitors need to cover their knees and shoulders. On the other hand, this magnificent building can take up to 8500 visitors at once, so you might be able to squeeze next to someone without your wardrobe being noticed.
What’s interesting is that this Basilica does not just serve a religious purpose. For years now, this building has become a place of cultural engagement. Almost every day, visitors can enjoy classical music and organ concerts in the Basilica.
This basilica also has a surprise for morbidity enthusiasts. As you might already assume, the Basilica is named after an important Hungarian person. In this case, it is the first king of Hungary, King Stephen. In the main room, you can closely see the munificent right hand.
If you are interested to know more about the history behind the Basilica and visit the Dome, consider doing a guided tour.
Buda Castle lies on top of Castle Hill and represents one of Budapest’s most recognizable monuments. It was built back in the 13th century when the neo-classical style was dominant in architecture. However, it got pretty damaged during the Second World War, which is why it required reconstruction.
Buda Castle was physically damaged by bombs and ransacked during the Second World War. As such, not many original items from the Royal Palace remain today. That is why the authorities repurposed it. The rooms now serve as headquarters of the Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest History Museum, and National Szechenyi Library.
You can see many other buildings and institutions in the rest of the complex. These include the Fisherman’s Bastion, Funicular, Mathias Church, Evangelical Church, Holy Trinity Statue, Magdalene Church Tower, Presidential Palace, Alchemic Lab, Labyrinth, and many others.
If you own a Budapest card, you can visit some free attractions, such as the History National Museum, Magdalene Church Tower, and National Gallery Museum. There are also many tours available for Buda Castle which is great if you like to get into the history and stories of different places.
Fisherman Bastion is a monument erected between 1895 and 1902 to celebrate the 100th birthday of the Hungarian state. The neo-Gothic style structure serves the purpose of providing a panoramic view over Pest, Margaret’s Island, and the Danube river.
The Bastion has seven towers, each being an ornament to 7 Magyar tribes that helped defend Budapest during the Middle age. The place is named after the Fishermans Guild, which supported this side of the city.
Tip: Fisherman Bastion is among the top things to do in Budapest for every visitor because it is magnificent and free to visit. This means only one thing – overcrowding! Try to visit it either very early in the morning or, even better, go to Budapest during the off-season.
Hungarian Parliament Building
Even if you are not interested in anything political, the Hungarian Parliament Building is still worth visiting because it is the third largest Parliament Building in the world.
The architecture is of Gothic Revival style and is breathtaking from all angles. The Parliament house is one of Budapest’s most significant buildings, so you might need to take some (hundreds) steps back to enjoy the view thoroughly.
It is relatively close to St. Stephen Basilica, so you can easily kill two birds with one stone. The Cost of a ticket is around $15, and it will take you between 45 minutes to an hour to check everything out.
Keep in mind that you need to book the tour in advance and get a visitor ID card.
Note: Make sure not to bring too many items as you will need to pass a security check at the entrance. One of the things you will see in Parliament is the crown jewelry, which was stolen and brought back many times, and you don’t want to be the suspect.
State Opera House
In front of the State Opera House stands the statues of Ferenc Erkel and his coworker Ferenc Liszt. Erkel is one of the greatest Hungarian composers of all time responsible for the Hungarian National Anthem.
The Opera Great Hall is known for its phenomenal acoustics and houses 1200 seats. It is certainly worthwhile to catch a performance here.
However, if you only want to tour the Opera House, there are tours in English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, or Hungarian every day at specific times. There is also a short mini-performance at the end of some tours (usually those starting at 2 pm, 3 pm and 4 pm).
House of Terror
The House of Terror is one of the most impactful museums in the city.
This building used to be the headquarter of the Fascist Arrow Cross Party. When the Fascist and then the Communist regime took over, it became a prison that witnessed countless tortures.
The exhibitions here document the historical massacres in Budapest. There are also many testimonials of the survivors of this horror. Through the media displays, you can almost feel the tears and fear of the regime’s victims.
Szechenyi bath was built back in 1913 and is now one of Europe’s biggest spa baths and largest medicinal bath. It has 18 pools – 15 indoors and three outdoor pools. You can also enjoy relaxing massages, manicures, pedicures, different parties, etc.
You might want to book massages in advance as they are popular among tourists and even locals. Based on your needs, you can choose between 20-60 minutes long massages, which will cost between $65 and $100.
Pregnant women might not be eligible for massage services, even if they are healthy, to avoid the risk of potential sudden complications.
Several pools in Szechenyi baths contain warm water between 33 and 40 Celsius and are not open to pregnant visitors due to potential health risks. If you are pregnant, it is advisable to contact the bathhouse and check on any limitations before booking your spa tour.
The Szechenyi baths offer various packages for selection. You can make purchases at the bathhouse but consider making reservations or getting packages online beforehand during peak season to save time.
Budapest is famous for its Ruin bars. They can be found in almost every part of Budapest and are easy to spot because of their decorations.
These bars are usually in some deserted, ancient buildings, equipped with old and worn-out furniture. However, don’t judge a book by its cover. They give out a sort of warm, comfortable, and homey energy. Ruin bars are popular amongst alcohol lovers, and you can drink freely, without any judgment from the people around you.
All this may sound unappealing at first, but most Budapest visitors place these bars at number one of their “best memories from Budapest” list.
Some of the most popular ruin bars are:
- Fogas Haz,
- Iinstant, and
It is the perfect time for a romantic walk down to the Promenade after a meal or drink. The Promenade spreads between the two most significant bridges in Budapest (Elizabeth’s Bridge to Szechenyi Chain Bridge).
From the waterside, you get the perfect view of the city’s architecture on the opposite side. Lined with impressive statues, charming cafes, and interesting restaurants, a stroll down the Promenade is one of the best things to do in Budapest.
Shoes by Danube river
On the Pest side of the river Danube, about 300 ft southern from the Parliament, you will come across 60 steel pair of shoes and behind it the 40 meters long and 70 centimeters high stone bench.
This meaningful monument was set up in 2005 by the film director Can Togay and the sculptor Gyula Pauer. This memorial honors the civilians killed on this spot by the fascist Hungarian militia during the Second World War.
These period-appropriate shoes are now a reminder of 3,500 people, 800 of them were Jews, who lost their lives at the riverside on one fateful night. The victims were forced to remove their shoes as a form of humiliation before being heartlessly shot by Arrow Cross militiamen and thrown into the Danube.
At three spots, you can find iron signs in Hungarian, English, and Hebrew “To the memory of the victims shot into the Danube by Arrow Cross militiamen in 1944–45. Erected April 16th, 2005.”
Danube River Cruise
As with everything else, Hungarians found a way to improve on their enjoyable Promenade experience. Cruise boats start or pick up passengers at the docks before continuing to sail down the river. On some of these cruises, you can enjoy a nice meal while a Gypsy orchestra plays wonderful Hungarian melodies.
The most scenic time to do a river cruise is at night when all the lights on the bridges and riverside buildings are alight. It creates a breathtaking ambiance, and passengers go onto the outside decks to enjoy the views, even on cold nights. There are many theme cruises (wine tasting, cocktail cruises etc.), so it’s best to do some research before buying the tickets.
Most river cruise boats start on the docks at the Pest side, between Margaret Bridge and the Liberty Bridge. Some cruises do begin from the Buda side of Budapest, usually from near the Szilagyi Dezso Square.
Note: Cruise companies have flexible docking places. They usually send the dock information in a reservation confirmation mail.
This place is what Budapest citizens call “The heart of Budapest.”
This island is in the middle of the Danube river, somewhere between Margaret bridge and Arpad bridge, and connects to both Buda and Pest side.
You won’t see any vital government institutions here, but some sports facilities, such as the National Sports Swimming Pool, Japanese Garden, petting zoo, musical fountain, and lots of green surfaces. There are also a couple of condos there for visitors. Yes, that might sound too much for one river island, but it isn’t. However, Margaret Island is not small at all. It is 2,5 km long, so there is plenty of room for these attractions, green surfaces, cycle paths, and Promenade.
Tip: In case you came to Budapest by car, or you rented one here, leave it behind when you come to Margaret Island because you cannot enter with your vehicle. Instead, take bus No.26 that goes from Nyugati Station. That will bring you there directly.
Different and interesting things to do in Budapest
Hungarian Railway Museum
No matter how old you are – you love trains! You have to love trains.
In this museum, you can traverse through the history of train and railway developments, from a replica of the very first train to the modern ones.
This museum is for both kids and adults; there is no shame in taking one ride in the featured railroad simulator.
The Railway Museum operates every day except Mondays, and the tickets are relatively cheap. Toddlers get in for free, while children up to the age of 18 get in for $3 and adults for $6. There is also a family ticket, which costs $14.5.
Faust Wine Cellar
There is a happy place for all wine lovers in Budapest, called Faust Wine Cellar. This cellar is a wine museum that holds an extensive collection of wines from 22 wine regions all over the country.
Of course, you get nothing from looking at the bottles around you. In this case, tasting is believing. Even if you were not a fan of white wine, you shouldn’t pass on the Tokaji. This white wine gets its name from the region where it is produced. It goes well with an assortment of desserts and cheese, but what makes this wine so unique is the production process.
The white grapes develop a fungus on their own, and during the dry season, the water evaporates, causing the sugar to increase. Due to the unique brewing method, there are limited production quantity each year. Therefore, boxes exported to other countries tend to be pretty expensive.
A wine tasting tour of the museum will cost around $50 per person.
Zoo and Botanical Garden
Budapest also has a zoo and Botanical Garden. This is one of the oldest in Hungary, and it is home to 1000 different animal species and about 2000 different plants species.
Children’s passes cost 6€, passes for adults cost $10. There are also family passes. You will spend between $25 for two adults and a child and $35 for two adults and three children. Keep in mind that children younger than 14 need a chaperone for entry.
Center of Scientific Wonders
Traveling with school kids? The center of scientific wonders is where they can have a fun and educational time. They might hate science, but here, they can learn physics through more than 250 games. They might not even notice it, but they will learn about science through a series of illusion displays, experimental fiction rooms, and escape rooms. A word of warning – you might have trouble getting them out of here.
You can buy your tickets at the entrance: children, students, and pensioners will get in for €8. A Regular Adult ticket will be €10. A Family Ticket for two adults and a child will cost you $30.
This exhibition takes place in Lathatatlan Kiallitas. The setup is a replica of several locations where we do our everyday chores – Garden, market, restaurants, bars, but the trick is that there are no lights. Why? This exhibition allows you to feel what life is like for the blind and understand how they can also live daily life with a little help and practice.
You will have to leave behind all devices at the entrance that can be a source of light. After that, you will go with one of the registered blind guides who will lead you through the exhibition. After you have gone through all rooms, you can enjoy a dinner that will be served by your blind guide. The ticket price does not include the dinner expenses, and payment can be made at the table.
The ticket prices differ between weekends and workdays.
On weekends, student and pensioner tickets are $8, family tickets for two adults, and a maximum of three kids will cost $30. Adults ticket will cost $9, and for a group of 20 people and more, it will be $8 per person.
These prices are slightly higher during the workdays – for students and pensioners, $9, a family ticket is $29, an adult ticket $11, and a group ticket is $9,5.
You can book the Hungarian Tours online. Tours in other languages – English, French, German, Russian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Italian. have to be booked personally. For English tours, you will have to book it one day ahead. Whereas for the other languages, you will need to make your reservations at least three days earlier. Tours in foreign languages will cost $3 more than the Hungarian one.
Metro Line M1
Metro Line M1 is the first metro line in Hungary, the first metro line in Central Europe, and the third metro line in Europe.
The official opening was on May 2nd, 1896. The line has a length of 4,4km and 11 stations. Even after several reconstructions since its introduction, the metro line M1 still kept its vintage spirit.
Usually, the price is $1.2 and free with the Budapest card.
Sightseeing and Guided Tours in Budapest
As a popular tourist destination, it comes as no surprise that there are various city tours and infrastructure catered for tourists. These include hop-on-hop-off buses, segway and bike tours that brings you to prominent attractions. There are also a variety of themed and insightful walking tours for those who like to take their time to experience more local delights.
Don’t forget to also check out if the Budapest City Card makes sense for you. If you are looking to hit up various attractions, this can be a real cost and time saver.
Budapest Nomad Travel
If you have not visited Budapest, this amazing city is undoubtedly one for the travel list. Are you planning a trip to Budapest? Get more tips about visiting Budapest in the Nomad Travel Guide for Budapest, Hungary.