Planning a trip to Budapest? I will help you discover the best things to do in Budapest that you should certainly add to your itinerary. I can guarantee that you will end up loving Budapest after ticking off these experiences just like I did.
Budapest is filled with nice attractions, cool districts, and cute yellow trams. Let’s not forget about goulash soup which is part of the deal when visiting Budapest.
In this article, we will discover what are the best things to do in Budapest and what are some of the attractions that you can’t miss. I want you to use your time wisely and experience only the best, so keep on reading!
*Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking one of these links, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
How to arrive in Budapest?
First of all, Budapest has a huge airport with many great destinations. If you are based in Europe, you have a big chance to have a direct flight to Budapest with a low-cost airline. Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport (BUD) is the main airport in Hungary and is located 16 km to the southeast of Budapest.
If you are traveling around Europe, keep in mind that there are trains that connect Budapest to Vienna and Bratislava. These trains arrive on a daily basis, even multiple times per day.
And then there is a bus. I always suggest Flixbus as it has affordable prices and is very reliable. The name of the bus station is Nepliget.
Many people choose to visit Budapest together with Vienna and Bratislava since it is relatively close and well-connected. I suggest you do the same if you have enough time.
Also, from my experience border crossing was faster and easier with a bus. The train stopped at the border and there were few workers that had to check the entire train. It took 2 extra hours, but I’m unsure if every train is checked.
How to move around in Budapest?
The best way to move around Budapest is to walk. A lot of main attractions are located close to each other and you can find some hidden corners as you walk.
The best way to move around Budapest is to walk. A lot of main attractions are located close to each other and you can find some hidden corners as you walk.
If you need to cross the city, public transport is frequent, reliable and very affordable. Budapest has a great metro line, so this way you can avoid the traffic. A single ticket is 350 HUF and multiple travel cards are available, so make sure you check it to find the best deal.
Taxi is another great alternative. You will see yellow taxis all around Budapest or you can download Bolt and book a taxi via application. If you ask me, this is the best option so that you can avoid possible scams.
The basic fee is 1000 HUF, the per kilometer rate is 400 HUF, and the waiting time charge is 100 HUF per minute. Overall, it is very affordable.
When is the best time to visit Budapest?
Spring is a popular time to visit Budapest, as the weather becomes milder and the city is adorned with colorful blossoms. The crowds are still relatively moderate, making it a great time to explore the city’s attractions without the peak tourist rush.
Summer brings warm temperatures and a lively atmosphere to Budapest. This is the peak tourist season, so expect larger crowds at popular sites and longer lines. However, the city’s vibrant outdoor events, festivals, and open-air cafes thrive during this time.
Fall is a delightful time to experience Budapest’s charm. The weather remains pleasant, and the city is painted with the golden hues of changing leaves. Crowds tend to thin out compared to summer, making it a more peaceful time for sightseeing.
Budapest transforms into a winter wonderland during the colder months. The city’s Christmas markets, thermal baths, and cozy indoor attractions make winter a unique and enchanting time to visit. While the weather can be chilly, the festive ambiance and fewer tourists offer a more intimate experience.
I visited Budapest in spring and the blossoms were absolutely spectacular. But during one month of my stay, it was pretty cold and I even experienced snow at the beginning of April.
Where to stay in Budapest?
Most of the main attractions are concentrated around the Danube River, so that is the best area to stay in Budapest. However, Széchenyi Chain Bridge is currently under construction, so the traffic is a mess around there.
This is hands down the most beautiful 5-star hotel in Budapest and one of the best places to stay. The location makes it perfect. If you are looking for a splurge, this is your go-to.
MID-RANGE: Hotel Vision
Great mid-range options with a convenient location, modern design, and spacious rooms. Everything that you need during your travels for a moderate price. Hotels like this would cost a lot more in other European cities.
AFFORDABLE: Buda Butik Rooms, by BQA
Budapest is an affordable city, so this means that you can still find great hotels for affordable prices and Buda Butik Rooms is one of those hotels. For less than 100 euros per night, you get a stylish room in the heart of Budapest
Overview of the best things to do in Budapest
As always, I want you to enjoy the best things to do in Budapest, maximize your time there, and make your trip unforgettable. In every chapter, you will find a lot of useful travel tips for Budapest and everything else that you need to know while you plan your Budapest itinerary.
Sunrise at Fisherman’s Bastion
I know that many of you don’t like early wake-up calls, especially during the holidays, but you have to trust me on this one. Visiting Fisherman’s Bastion and seeing the city from the top at sunrise is one of the best things to do in Budapest.
Fisherman’s Bastion is one of the main attractions of Budapest and it was built to protect Buda Castle. Nowadays, it’s a hotspot for photography lovers and we can certainly say it is one of the best photo spots in Budapest.
On top of that, you get amazing panoramic views over the city. Here you will find seven stone towers that symbolize The Seven Chieftains of the Magyars.
The Bastion is located in the Buda Castle District and you will have to climb for a while to get there. As an alternative, there is a bus. Look for 16, 16A, or 116 and find the closest stop. However, I highly suggest taking a taxi, so you can make it for the sunrise and save some of your beauty sleep.
There is no entrance fee and it is open any time of the day. However, if you want to visit the upper terraces during summer, you will need to pay 1000 HUF (2.49 EUR). It is free until 9 AM and I count on you to make that sunrise mission!
Don’t miss Matthias Church
And just on the back of Fisherman’s Bastion, you will find Matthias Church. It is another important attraction in Budapest and a part of a World Heritage Site.
The church was constructed in the 13th century but it has changed a lot since then. As part of the 1873 – 1896 restoration by Frigyes Schulek, the Matthias Church received a colorful tiled roof and that’s what makes it so special if you ask me.
Tiles are known as Hungarian Zsolnay tiles and you will see them all around Budapest. These colorful ceramics can withstand extreme temperatures, so it’s a very convenient and beautiful way to cover the buildings in Hungary.
You can appreciate the exterior of the church from the Bastion – you get a beautiful view from the upper terraces. But if you want to see it from inside, the entrance fee is 1800 HUF (4.50 EUR) and you should check the opening times in advance. Many events could affect opening times.
Spend a couple of hours at the Buda Castle
Another important attraction of Budapest in this area is Buda Castle. Previously known as the home of many Hungarian royalties, nowadays it hosts two museums: the Hungarian National Gallery and the Budapest Historical Museum.
The gardens are stunning and certainly deserve a visit. It is on the top of the hill, so you still get those panoramic views over Budapest. Just like Bastion, it is open any time and you don’t need to pay the entrance fee.
If you are planning to combine Buda Castle with Bastion and Matthias Church, you are only a short walk away and you don’t need to climb down. Take Tárnok utca and head to the Castle. I highly suggest visiting these three places on the same day which makes it a perfect morning Itinerary for Budapest.
If you are visiting Budapest in late spring, make sure you make a stop at Gránit Lift nearby Bastion – you will find a blossoms paradise in front of you. And then head to the Buda Castle.
Once you are done, take a funicular to get down.
Discover a hidden gem of Budapest – Metropolitan Ervin Szabó Library
I’m always on the hunt for hidden gems. And when I find a place filled with locals, I know that I have succeeded. Metropolitan Ervin Szabó Library was one of those places. Technically, it’s a library for local students, but if you don’t have a student’s card, you can still purchase a ticket for a small fee and visit the library.
You might be wondering what is so special about this library? Well, take a look at the photos. The library is inside 19th-century neo-baroque Wenckheim Palace and the rooms look like part of a museum or royal palace. Far from other libraries that I have seen before.
Let me warn you that this place gets extremely busy and you need to keep it silent since most of the people are there to study. I advise you to visit this library one hour before closing time. And trust me, you need to visit this hidden gem in Budapest.
The entrance fee is 1500 HUF (3.80 EUR) and it is open from 10 AM until 8 PM on weekdays and until 4 PM on Saturdays. It is closed on Sundays. The closest metro station is Kálvin tér.
Visit Hungarian State Opera (Magyar Állami Operaház)
Hungarian State Opera is one of the most beautiful places in Budapest. And you certainly shouldn’t miss it when you are in Budapest – so come for a guided tour or see one of the performances. Luckily, it is open again after a couple of years of renovation and you can include it on your list of best things to do in Budapest.
If you want to see a performance, click here to see upcoming events and buy your ticket.
If you don’t have enough time to see the performance or it’s simply not your thing, you should still find time to visit Hungarian State Opera. It’s more like a museum if you ask me. A 60-minute tour will cost you 7000 HUF (17.50 EUR). Tours start every day at 13:30, 15:00, and 16:30 in English and you can tickets to the opera house before your visit. Make sure you arrive early to buy your ticket because the spots fill up quickly.
Inside you will find neo-Renaissance style, with elements of Baroque. The tour is very informative and you can access closed places like Bertalan Székely hall or the marble king staircase. If you want to take photos, make sure you stay at the end and wait until every else leaves.
Breakfast in the New York Cafe
New York Cafe was one of the highlights, so it certainly goes on the list of the best things to do in Budapest. They claim to be the most beautiful cafe in the world and they certainly didn’t disappoint. Rooms are filled with art, live music is there to guide you around and food is served to satisfy your every taste bud. You become part of royalty here and who wouldn’t like that kind of experience, right?
New York Cafe has lived through centuries and different eras. From welcoming intellectuals and artists to selling sporting goods to survive. Nowadays, it has become one of the best Budapest attractions and you will want to be part of that.
This cafe opens at 8 AM and I strongly advise you to be there for the opening time. Start your day with breakfast in the best cafe in Budapest? Why not? This way I was able to see the place almost empty and didn’t have to wait in line.
Also, I have seen some negative reviews about their dining experience, but in case you must go for dinner, make sure you book a table in advance.
Considering the prices in Budapest, this is certainly on the high end, but if you ask me, it is totally worth it. Check their website to see the menu and make your reservation.
Sunset at the Hungarian Parliament Building
What is the best way to end your day in Budapest? Certainly with a sunset over one of the most beautiful places – the Parlament Building.
I highly advise you to go to the other side of the Danube and see the sunset from there. The closest metro stop is Batthyány tér and you will find some of the best spots around there. You can go down the stairs and hang out by the water or stay nearby the tram. It is one of the best photo spots in Budapest and the views are epic all around.
The sun sets dows on the opposite side of Parliament, however, that creates amazing golden light that shines over the details of the building. If you want to see some colors behind the parliament, you will need to wake up for sunrise. And trust me, it’s completely worth it.
Since we are talking about Parliament, you have an opportunity to visit inside as well. Don’t miss it! It’s a very cool experience and of the top things to do in Budapest.
You can buy your ticket here and make sure you book it in advance because the tickets sell up quickly.
Eat your way through Budapest
Food is another passion, so I had to include it in this list. I’m sure most of you have heard about goulash and paprika, but what else there is in Hungarian cuisine?
Hungarian cuisine is based on meats, seasonal vegetables, fruits, bread, and dairy products. Hungarian cuisine has been influenced by Ottoman Empire, especially in using spices in the preparation of the dishes.
Goulash is the most famous dish and you will find it in most of the restaurants in Budapest. It is a soup, traditionally prepared with beef, vegetables, and spices like paprika and cumin. Kiado Kocsma has one of the best-rated goulashes and it is one of the best restaurants in Budapest. I loved Lánchíd Söröző as well.
Other famous dishes are: Töltött Káposzta, Halászlè, Töltött Paprika, Chicken Paprikash.
If goulash is the king of Hungarian cuisine, Dobos Torte is the queen of Hungarian sweets. It is a chocolate cake and it requires long preparation. My favorite Dobos Torte was in Café Gerbeaud.
Other products to try are Hungarian salami, Kürtőskalács Chimney cake, and Lángos (fried bread dough). Famous drinks are Tokaji Wine, the herbal bitter Unicum, and the Hungarian brandy Palinka.
You will see the famous Hungarian paprika all over Budapest and it’s a perfect souvenir to bring home and keep the flavors of Hungary even when you are back home.
Visit the Second biggest synagogue in the world and discover the Jewish district
Dohány Street Synagogue is a historical building in Erzsébetváros and it is the largest synagogue in Europe, the second biggest in the world as you already know. But it’s not only the size that makes it so special.
The synagogue is certainly the most impressive part, but the complex consists of the Heroes’ Temple, the cemetery, the Memorial, and the Jewish Museum.
The entrance fee is a bit less than 20 euros and you get a guided tour in many different languages. It’s very interesting to learn about the Jewish community in Hungary and discover the beauty of the synagogue itself. The tour takes around 40 minutes and the whole visit will be 1 hour or more.
I highly recommend visiting the rest of the Jewish district and getting lost in the area. If you want to book a tour with a guide, make sure the Synagogue entrance fee is included. Many guides just stop at the entrance, but the real gem is inside.
Take a ride on the Budapest eye
Budapest eye or Ferris Wheel of Budapest is located in a public park and offers wonderful views over Budapest. If you ask me, it is particularly beautiful after the sunset once the lights switch on and you can see Budapest from the top.
The adult ticket is 3000 HUF (7.50 EUR) and you get multiple rounds, so you will have a lot of time to take some photos as well. The ride is not scary, even if you are afraid of heights.
You will find it in Elizabeth Square and it is open every day from 11:00-23:00. This is a popular tourist attraction in Budapest, so the lines can be long. I suggest you come here during the week if your schedule allows.
Once you start to go up, you will notice the beauty of St. Stephen’s Basilica and then the overview of the rest of the city. Unforgettable experience.
Come to take a photo at Brudern House and enjoy cakes in a 5-star hotel in Budapest
I already recommended this hotel as one of the best places where to stay in Budapest, however, if you went with another option, you still should visit the Paris Court in Brudern House. Initially, I saw it in an old spy movie, so I was curious to visit.
Nowadays, it is very different since a 5-star hotel took over the building, but it is still impressive to see. It is open for visitors, so you can go there and just take a photo as long as you don’t disturb guests, but I still advise you to take a coffee and try some of their delicious cakes. It is quite pricey compared to other places in Budapest, but worth it.
And don’t forget to admire the building from the outside as well. Glimpses of Neo-Gothic, Art Nouveau, and Moorish aesthetics can be spotted throughout the covered space.
Try Kürtőskalács and enjoy it in front of St. Stephen’s Basilica
There is another thing that every food lover should try when visiting Hungary and it is Kürtőskalács. This famous chimney cake can be found all over Europe, but originally it comes from Hungary.
Right next to St. Stephen’s Basilica, you will find a famous chimney cake shop called Kató Néni Finomságai Downtown. I suggest you grab your sweets and enjoy the walk around Basilica as it is one of the main attractions in Budapest. Also, it might be tempting, but don’t exaggerate with sweet toppings as it can get very sugary.
Once you are done with your sweet, you can use the chance to visit St. Stephen’s Basilica. For 1200 HUF (2.95 EUR) you can visit the church, for 2200 HUF (5.39 EUR) you can go up to the terrace and see Budapest from the top, or for 3200 HUF (7.85 EUR) you can get access to both.
Another famous place for chimney cakes is Molnár’s Kürtőskalács. If you are planning to eat it more than once, I suggest you try that place as well.
Go souvenir shopping at the Central Market Hall
Central Market Hall is another important tourist attraction in Budapest even for those who are not planning to buy anything. It is the largest market in Budapest and it is a famous photo spot as well.
Here you will find many local products like Palinka, Salami, and Paprika together with typical souvenirs like magnets, postcards, and other handmade goodies. On the second floor, there is a food court, but I heard many bad reviews about those restaurants, so I can’t recommend it.
Keep in mind that the market is closed on Sundays and it gets very busy and filled with group tours starting from 10 am up until the late afternoon. I suggest you visit after 2 pm, so you don’t have to get lost in the crowds.
Also, don’t forget to come up to the second floor. The view is spectacular up there and you can truly appreciate how grand it is. This is the famous photo spot that I mentioned earlier. And if you don’t want to buy anything, still come for a visit. One of the best free things to do in Budapest.
Take tram number 2 and enjoy Budapest from your window
If you are one of those tourists that usually go on a hop-on hop-off bus, I have something interesting for you. It’s a great thing to do in Budapest for everyone because we all get tired of walking at some point. So that’s where tram number 2 comes to the rescue.
Also, it is one of the cheapest ways to sightsee in Budapest. This route goes together with the Danube river and you will cover some main attractions like Parliament, the Gresham Palace, Chain Bridge, and Elizabeth Bridge. You will be able to see Buda Hills as well as the Castle District and Gellért Baths. If you pay attention, you can see the famous shoes of Budapest.
And all this for 350 HUF (0.87 EUR). If you have a daily ticket, you won’t need to pay anything extra and you can get off any time to see some of these attractions up close. It’s a great deal and one of the best things to do in Budapest.
Climb up to Citadel and discover the bridges of Budapest
If you are looking for unforgettable panoramic views over Budapest, you will have to climb up to Citadel. You will be able to see most of the main attractions in Budapest from here including the famous bridges. As of now, Citadel is under renovation until the end of 2022, but it is still accessible to the public.
Another great viewpoint is Szent István Király szobra and it has the best view over Liberty Bridge. From here you can also visit a church that is built inside the cave. So many tourists miss this beautiful place, so I would call it a hidden gem of Budapest.
And we already talked about Buda Castle and Bastion – these places offer wonderful views over Budapest as well.
See the iconic Heroes’ Square and Vajdahunyad Castle
Heroes’ Square is a major square in Budapest and it was originally erected in 1929 as a tribute to those who died defending Hungary’s 1000-year-old borders. It was removed in 1951 as its message was politically unacceptable to the Communist regime. The current one was built at the same spot in 1956.
It is dominated by the Millenary Monument which is a 36m-high pillar topped by a golden Archangel Gabriel, holding the Hungarian crown and a cross. Nowadays, the square attracts many tourists and it is a famous photo spot in Budapest.
Nearby, you will find Vajdahunyad Castle. The castle was built in 1896 and it’s a fantasy pastiche showcasing the architectural evolution through centuries and styles in Hungary. It is the home of several festivals, concerts, and exhibitions of the Hungarian Agricultural Museum. It is one of the free things to do in Budapest and you certainly shouldn’t miss it.
The castle was designed by Ignác Alpár to feature copies of several landmark buildings from different parts of the Kingdom of Hungary, especially the Hunyad Castle in Transylvania (now in Romania).
Chase the best views over Budapest at the Intermezzo bar
If you are looking for the best rooftop bars in Budapest, Intermezzo should be your number one choice. It is located on top of the Hotel President and receptionist will help you find a way to the bar.
You get a direct view of the Hungarian State Treasury which is covered with famous Hungarian tiles that we already discussed before. Side view of Basilica and peak of the Parliament.
Once this view is served with a nice drink and sunset, you simply fall in love with Budapest. I would say that this is a perfect way to end your day in Budapest and wrap up your itinerary.
Click here to see their bar menu, but keep in mind that they serve food as well in case you are planning to have dinner here.
Indulge a cruise on the Danube river
Another perfect sunset activity is a cruise on the Danube river. There are a lot of cruises available and you simply have to find the most suitable one for you. Take a look at the options here.
I highly suggest choosing a cruise that passes by Parliament. Also, I don’t recommend dinner cruises as there are better places to eat in Budapest. And we booked a sunset cruise for 3 hours, but I can honestly say that it was a bit too long and unnecessary. Anything between 1-2 hours would be the best.
It’s a very affordable activity in Budapest and you get to see the famous attractions from a new perspective. It is one of the best things to do in Budapest for couples and not only.
Enjoy the famous nightlife of Budapest and visit Ruin Bars
Budapest nightlife is another thing that brings tourists to this city. The best bars in Budapest are known as Ruin Bars, but maybe you still don’t know what it is?
Derelict buildings and unused outdoor spaces have been transformed into friendly, pleasingly chaotic bars where you can still get drinks for affordable prices. It’s far from fancy, but it is something that you will find only in Budapest. Nowadays, Ruin Bars are filled with tourists and expats, so it’s a great place to make friends.
Szimpla Kert is the most famous bar, but you can go bar hopping and try other places like Ellátó Kert, Doboz, and Garden Kobuci. Just make sure you walk around and check different rooms.
Visiting Ruin Bars is one of the best things to do in Budapest at night. I’m not a person who goes out every Friday, but I didn’t want to miss this experience during my time in Budapest.
Relax at the thermal baths
One of the best Budapest attractions is thermal baths. Also, it’s a perfect solution after a crazy night out in the Ruin Bars. There are multiple thermal baths available in Budapest and Széchenyi Thermal Bath probably is the most famous one.
Széchenyi Thermal Bath is not only good for your health but it is built-in modern Renaissance style which makes it one of the most beautiful places in Budapest. A large complex with 18 pools offers many beauty treatments, massages, and even a little restaurant.
The entrance fee is around 20 euros for the entire day and there are different options available that can change the price. It is open all year round and you can still enjoy outdoor pools in winter. While in summer, the outdoor area becomes kind of a beach club where people come to party. If you are looking for a relaxing experience, you will need to come early as it gets very busy after midday.
Gellért Thermal Bath is a great alternative. It is still pretty crowded, but it feels more intimate compared to Széchenyi Thermal Bath.
Bonus tip! Take a day trip to Szentendre
Do you have some extra time in Hungary and you are looking for the best trip from Budapest? Szentendre should be your number one choice. If you want to know more about Szentendre or you are looking for a road trip around Hungary, here are some of the most beautiful places in Hungary that you should visit.
Further reading for the best things to do in Budapest
Other useful tips for visiting Hungary
🏠 Need a place to stay? Browse Booking or Agoda
💃 How about fun experiences? GetYourGuide and Viator have it all
🚗 Considering renting a car in Greece? Use Rentalcars
✈️ Looking for the best flight deals? Check WayAway
🔒 Don’t forget about travel insurance from HeyMondo
I believe that this list of the best things to do in Budapest will help you plan your time in the Hungarian capital and make your trip memorable. Once you check off most of these activities, you can truly say that you have experienced Budapest!
If you are planning to visit Bratislava before or after Budapest, make sure you read my recommendations. If you are unsure if you should visit Bratislava, here are some photos that will change your mind.
I would love to hear your thoughts, so if you have any feedback or additional tips, leave a comment below. Also, check out my Instagram for regular travel videos and travel inspiration. Or explore other destinations on this travel blog.