Time to read: 10 minutes
In this article, guest writer Madison describes some of the best things to do in Budapest, Hungary’s charming capital city! I’ve also updated this article with additional info and new photos after returning to Budapest in 2023 (my fifth visit to the city).
A beautiful city filled with history, culture, gothic architecture and tasty cuisine, Budapest should be high on any traveler’s bucket list. The city itself is actually made up of two smaller cities separated by the Danube River: Buda and Pest.
Tourists around the world flock to Budapest to marvel at the Parliament building, relax in the thermal baths and drink Hungarian brews at historic Ruin Bars. No matter where your interests lie, you’ll find plenty of fun and exciting Budapest attractions.
Boring stuff: I have visited each of the places I recommend and give you my honest opinion, warts and all. All photos are my own unless otherwise stated and may not be reproduced without permission. Affiliate links may earn a commission at no extra cost to you.
Top Things to Do in Budapest for First-Time Visitors
1. See the City on a Hop On, Hop Off Bus Tour
One of the best things to do in Budapest is to take a tour on the hop-on, hop-off bus which takes in all the main attractions across the city. You can opt for a 24, 48 or 72-hour pass with unlimited stops.
You’ll get to see famous Budapest attractions such as Margaret Bridge, the Hungarian Parliament Building, Chain Bridge and of course the mighty River Danube. There is a commentary in 16 languages and the option of a one-hour river cruise and walking tour.
This is one of my favourite ways to go sightseeing in Budapest as you can see so much with ease. Click here to book your ticket.
2. See the Parliament Building
Budapest’s Parliament Building functions as the seat of the National Assembly of Hungary and is among the most recognized landmarks in the country. Located on the banks of the Danube in the Pest district, the building was designed by Hungarian architect Imre Steindl.
Completed in 1904, Steindl went blind shortly after completing his neo-Gothic masterpiece. A visit to the Parliament Building is a great addition to your list of the best things to do in Budapest. One of the best ways to see the buildings is from a river cruise. Book your cruise here.
3. Admire the Views from Fisherman’s Bastion
If enjoying beautiful views of Budapest and the Danube River is on your bucket list, head to Fisherman’s Bastion on Castle Hill for some of the best views in the city. The fantastic structure was built in the late 19th century to celebrate the 1,000th birthday of the Hungarian state.
Today, Fisherman’s Bastion is the perfect place to relax in the shade and take in the beauty of Budapest. The terraces themselves are free to enter and you’ll find a couple of charming bars and restaurants tucked between the neo-Romanesque arches.
This is one of my favourite places to visit in Budapest thanks to the incredible architecture, views and excellent cafes and restaurants.
Address: Budapest, Szentháromság tér, 1014 Hungary. Click here for directions.
Opening hours: 24 hours
Entrance fee: Free
4. Sunbathe at the Széchenyi Baths
Thermal baths are deeply rooted in Hungarian history and you can find various bathhouses scattered all over Budapest. In the middle ages, these thermal springs were primarily used for healing purposes throughout Hungary.
Nowadays, thermal baths are a relaxing and leisurely activity for Hungarian locals and tourists alike. Széchenyi and Gellért are widely regarded as the most popular thermal baths in the city, at least among tourists.
In addition to the 18 pools filled with water from medicinal hot springs, the Széchenyi Baths include 10 saunas, massage rooms, facial treatments and a Thermal Beer Spa. Click here to book your spa ticket.
5. Visit Buda Castle (One of the Best Things to do in Budapest)
After you’ve enjoyed the views from Fisherman’s Bastion, head across the street for a visit to Buda Castle, one of the must-visit attractions when Sightseeing in Budapest. Perched atop Castle Hill, Buda Castle overlooks the city below as the castle and palace complex of the Hungarian kings.
Constructed in the 13th century, the castle is now home to two museums: the Budapest History Museum and the Hungarian National Gallery. For more information on tickets and tours, visit the official Buda Castle website.
6. Take a Dinner Cruise on the Danube River
A dinner cruise on the Danube is a fun and exciting way to get the best out of Budapest sightseeing. As you drift down the river, you’ll admire the Parliament Building, Buda Castle and Fisherman’s Bastion lit up at night. It’s guaranteed to be one of your favorite things to do in Budapest!
You can find plenty of Danube river cruise tours through our partners at Get Your Guide:
- Daytime Sightseeing Cruise – Book Here
- Candlelit Dinner Cruise – Book Here
7. Visit the House of Terror
The Terror House in Budapest is a museum dedicated to the memory of the victims of the fascist and communist regimes in Hungary. The building, which was once the headquarters of the Hungarian Arrow Cross Party, was later used by the communist regime as a place of detention, torture, and execution.
Today, the museum houses exhibitions and archives documenting the atrocities committed by these regimes, as well as the resistance movements and the struggles for democracy and human rights. The House of Terror serves as a stark reminder of the dangers of extremism and the importance of preserving freedom and democracy.
I’ve visited the House of Terror twice now, once in 2012 and again in 2023. It gives a fascinating glimpse into the dark side of the city and is one of the top places to visit in Budapest. Cameras are not allowed inside.
8. Check Out the Street Food Karavan and Beer Garden
One of my favourite new additions to Budapest is the small Street Food Karavan and beer garden that has popped up on Kazinczy Street next to the Szimpla Kert ruin pub (see below for more on ruin pubs).
There are stalls selling everything from locally made goulash (I love goulash), burgers and wraps to coffee, beer and cocktails. There is a pleasant courtyard with seating to enjoy your treats. I sat here with a coffee the other day while waiting for Getto Gulyas to open.
Address: Kazinczy u. 18, 1075 Hungary. Click here for directions.
Opening hours: 11:30am to 11pm Sun-Wed and 11:30am to 12am Thu-Sat
Entrance fee: Free
9. Ride the Budapest Eye (Ferris Wheel of Budapest)
If you’re a bit of a thrill-seeker, make sure to add riding the Budapest Eye to your list of Budapest tourist attractions. Although the lines can get long in the on-season, there are certain views you can only experience from 215 feet in the air.
An adult ticket will only set you back $11 and they can be purchased online in advance. This is a great way to see the city skyline, River Danube and Parliament Building among other top attractions.
10. Shop Around Central Market Hall
A visit to Central Market Hall is a welcome addition to any list of things to do in Budapest. Built in 1897, it’s the largest and widely considered the most beautiful of all the historical markets in Budapest.
With hundreds of merchants selling fruits, vegetables, spices, meat, fish, wine, souvenirs, clothing and more, there’s guaranteed to be something for everyone. The Central Market Hall also offers a variety of fun tastings and food tours for tourists looking to taste authentic Hungarian flavors.
Budapest also has one of the best Christmas markets in Europe. I spent Christmas in Budapest a few years ago and loved wandering around the different stalls sipping mulled wine!
Address: Vámház krt. 1-3, 1093 Hungary. Click here for directions.
Opening hours: 6am to 6pm from Mon-Sat
Entrance fee: Free
11. Relax in the Thermal Beer Spa
In the last couple of decades, beer spas have been popping up in all corners of the world. From the Czech Republic to the United States to Japan, there’s something about bathing in hops that just seems to leave people rejuvenated and relaxed.
A visit to the Thermal Beer Spa in the Széchenyi Baths should definitely be on your list of top Budapest attractions. Once you’ve changed into your spa attire, the Bath Master at the spa will add the dry ingredients to your tub. These ingredients include hops, malt, yeast and beer salt.
The best part of your 45-minute soak is the unlimited beer tap next to your tub! Click here to buy your tickets to the Thermal Beer Spa.
12. Go to a Sparty
“Sparties” started in Budapest in 1994 when a group of friends decided to combine Budapest’s historic bath culture with electronic dance music. These parties are held at the Széchenyi Baths every Saturday from February to December.
If you’re interested in attending a Sparty in Budapest, you can book your tickets here.
13. St. Stephen’s Basilica
A Roman Catholic basilica located in the heart of Budapest, St. Stephen’s Basilica is named after Stephen, the first King of Hungary. It’s free to tour the basilica and, upon entry, you’ll be greeted with high arches and wall after wall of religious artwork.
St. Stephen’s Basilica is also home to one of Hungary’s most sacred treasures, the mummified hand of St. Stephen. After visiting the basilica, head next door to the Aria Hotel Rooftop and enjoy a couple cocktails or a local brew with a view.
14. Visit Budapest’s Ruin Bars
Visiting Budapest’s historic Ruin Bars is a great way to spend a night out on the town. An old factory building converted into an open-air cinema and pub, Szimpla Kurt is one of the most famous Ruin Bars in the city and is well worth a visit during your time in Budapest.
Budapest’s original Ruin Bars are found in the Jewish Quarter on the Pest side of the city. Check out this list of six of the best Ruin Bars in Budapest!
15. Try Traditional Hungarian Food
You can’t get an accurate feel for Hungarian culture without sampling the local cuisine. Budapest is filled with delicious and affordable Hungarian fare that you definitely won’t want to miss!
Lángos is a type of street food consisting of a round piece of deep-fried dough covered in sour cream, shredded cheese and various other toppings. You can find vendors selling lángos all over Budapest, but to experience the best in the city, head to Retro Lángos.
Cabbage rolls, egg dumplings and goulash are among the other tasty dishes Budapest has to offer. Pickled vegetables, including onions, peppers and cucumbers, are commonly served in the city and the region is known worldwide for its flavorful paprika.
Getting to Budapest
Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport (BUD) is located 20 km from the city center. There are taxis available outside the airport, but the cheapest way to get to the city center is on the 200E bus. The bus takes only 25 minutes to reach the city center and costs only 350 Ft ($1.10). Trip.com offers some of the cheapest flights on the net!
Unfortunately, Uber was banned in Hungary in 2016 due to a taxi strike.
There are three international railway stations in Budapest and trains run frequently to the neighboring cities of Vienna and Bratislava. The Trainline is the easiest place to purchase train tickets online.
One of the easiest and cheapest ways to get here is by bus. The best place to search for departures and fares is through Flixbus.
Getting Around Budapest
Many of the best neighborhoods are best explored on foot! However, if you are in need of public transportation, the city offers plenty of easy and affordable options.
The city has four subway lines to connect most of the important areas in the city. The main station to connect the four lines is Deák Ferenc tér.
The city also offers bus lines with over 200 routes. The express buses are marked by red number signs and serve the busiest routes in Budapest. Pest also offers trolley cars with 13 routes around the city.
Weather in Budapest
You’ll experience all four seasons in Budapest! The summers are warm and sunny and the winters cold and snowy.
Best Time to Visit Budapest
The best time to visit Budapest is from March to May and September to November. The summer months tend to be very hot and the winter months very cold. These months are the mildest in Hungary and perfect for tourist activities!
If you are planning on spending a few days in the city, check out this 4-day Budapest itinerary.
Is Budapest Safe to Visit?
The short answer? Yes! Budapest’s crime rate is 36 on a scale of 100, which is considered very low. Like all cities, it’s important to have your wits about you and not participate in risky activities. If you pay attention to your surroundings, you should feel very safe in Budapest.
Click here for more safety tips for travelers, especially for those traveling alone.
Although Budapest is a very safe city by world standards, it always pays to be covered in case the unexpected happens.
Accommodation in Budapest
For solo travelers or those traveling on a budget, Wombat’s City Hostel is one of the best in the city. It’s centrally located, offers large lockers in each room, has an on-site bar and plenty of exciting activities for travelers.
If you’re in the market for mid-range accommodation, you might consider Art’Otel with panoramic views of the Danube River and Castle Hill. The hotel is only a short, 10-minute walk from Buda Castle and many of Budapest’s top tourist attractions.
When it comes to visiting Budapest in style, there’s no hotel more luxurious than The Corinthia Hotel. Dating back to 1896, this grand hotel offers an indoor pool, Turkish steam bath and full spa service on-site.
Things to do in Budapest FAQs
Three days is an excellent amount of time to spend in the city as it will allow you to see all the major tourist attractions and experience the local nightlife and food culture.
Budapest is one of the cheapest cities in Europe with transport, accommodation and going out a lot cheaper than in northern and western Europe. You can find hostels for under 10 Euros a night and have a meal out for around the same too.
There are lots of excellent places to visit in Budapest from the impressive Parliament Building to the thermal baths and spas, Buda Castle and much more.
The city is famous for its thermal baths and spas with Széchenyi and Gellért the most famous. The city is also famous for its cool ruin pubs which are a must-visit.
When in Budapest you can’t miss Buda Castle, the Fisherman’s Bastion, the thermal baths and the awesome ruin pubs.
The list of things to do in Budapest is a long one and, if you had the time, you could spend months getting to know this spectacular and historically rich city. If you’re planning a trip throughout Eastern Europe, you may enjoy these related travel guides to visiting Kraków, Poland and Prague, Czech Republic.
About the Author: Madison is a solo travel blogger based in Roatán, Honduras. She fell in love with solo travel during her 2017 semester abroad in Rome, Italy. After graduation in 2018, she moved to Florence to pursue her love of travel even further.
Explore more of Madison’s destination guides and solo travel tips on her travel blog, Madison’s Footsteps. Blog: madisonsfootsteps.com Instagram: @madisonsfootsteps