Ahh, Budapest, the thriving, gritty, charismatic city that is full of life.  There are plenty of things to do in Budapest that a visit to this bustling city should be high on your list of places to visit in Europe.

Budapest, the capital of Hungary, is a city that seamlessly blends history, culture, and vibrant energy.  As you stroll along the banks of the Danube River, you are greeted by the breathtaking panorama of the city, with the iconic Chain Bridge connecting Buda and Pest.

The cityscape is adorned with architectural gems like Fisherman’s Bastion and Buda Castle.  Budapest is a haven for thermal baths, and a visit to Széchenyi or Gellért Baths is a must for a relaxing and rejuvenating experience.

The city’s culinary scene is equally enchanting, offering a delightful mix of traditional Hungarian dishes and modern gastronomic delights.  Don’t miss the chance to savor goulash, chimney cake, and the renowned Hungarian wines while exploring the charming streets and cozy cafes.

Best Things to do in Budapest

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Is Budapest worth a visit?  Beyond its historical allure, Budapest pulsates with a vibrant contemporary spirit. From the bustling ruin bars in the Jewish Quarter and locals and visitors gathering to witness the spectacular lights illuminating the Parliament building, Budapest is absolutely worth a visit.

Whether you’re drawn to the city’s history, soothing thermal baths or lively nightlife, Budapest captivates with its distinct charm and leaves an indelible mark on those fortunate enough to explore its treasures. On a whim, I spent a week in Budapest and it quickly made my top 10 favorite cities list.

I’m not a huge city person, 3 days is usually my max.  If you are a reader of my blog, you would know that I spend a lot of time outdoors and in nature, that being said, I LOVED Budapest and could have easily spent another week soaking up its charm and soaking in the thermal pools.

In this article, I’ll go over all the best things to do in Budapest. After we’ve gone over what to do in Budapest, at the end of this post I’ll also include some practical information that will aid you in your trip to Budapest, including where to stay, best time to visit and any useful tips to know before you go.

The Parliament building in Budapest
Bike in Budapest

Things to do in Budapest Quick List

Below I have a listed the best things to do in Budapest for easy viewing.  If you’d like more information on a certain activity, click on the blue links below for more details of that specific thing to do in.

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      34 Things to do in Budapest

      Things to do in Budapest
      Gellert Thermal Spa
      Gellert Thermal Spa in Budapest

      Soak in the Thermal Spas

      Of course you can’t visit Budapest without experiencing the thermal spas, I mean Budapest is often referred to as the “City of Spas” after all.  The city boasts a plethora of thermal baths fed by the city’s natural thermal springs.

      The most renowned among them, such as the Gellért Thermal Baths and Széchenyi Thermal Baths, offer an oasis of relaxation amid architectural splendor.  Stepping into the warm, mineral-rich waters, enveloped by the grandeur of historic buildings is an experience like no other.

      The thermal spas, with their therapeutic properties, provide not only a soothing escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life but also a cultural immersion in to Hungary’s longstanding spa tradition.  I would definitely buy tickets in advance so you don’t have to wait in long lines.

      Prices are the same if you book online in advance or in person at the thermal spa.  I went to both Szechenyi and Gellert, so if you need help deciding which thermal pool to try out, check out the article below.

      🚿 Read Next:  Which is Better Szechenyi or Gellert?

      Attend a Sparty

      For all my party animals out there, go for a sparty. A sparty, a fusion of spa and party, combines the vibrant nightlife of the city with the rejuvenating waters of the thermal baths.

      Just imagine, these events transform iconic venues like Széchenyi Baths or Lukács Baths into pulsating dance floors, where music, lights and the spirit of partygoers create an unforgettable atmosphere.

      Immersed in the warm thermal waters, attendees revel in the surreal combination of hot pools and pulsating beats. The sparty encapsulates the spirit of Budapest’s nightlife, making it a must-try for those seeking an exhilarating and unconventional night out in this dynamic European capital.

      Book a Sparty →

      Budapest Hungary
      Budapest Buildings

      Go on a Free Walking Tour

      One of the best ways to get to know a city is by going on a free walking tour as soon as you arrive in a new destination. Opting for a Free Walking Tour in Budapest is a great way to get your bearings.

      It’s even better when you can do so with a local guide and a group of like-minded travelers. Plus it’s free (+tip) of course. A walking tour in my opinion one of the best things to do in Budapest.  Tours usually last around 2 hours and a local guide will be able to answer any questions that you have.

      Book a Walking Tour →

      Chain bridge

      Walk Across Chain Bridge

      Strolling across Budapest’s iconic Chain Bridge is a right of passage when you first explore the city. This infamous Budapest attraction gracefully spans the Danube River, uniting the twin cities of Buda and Pest.

      The Chain Bridge serves as a symbol of architectural elegance. You won’t be able to miss the Chain Bridge when exploring Budapest on foot.

      ImJessTraveling in Budapest
      Things to do in Budapest
      Lookout from Castle Hill

      See Castle Hill

      Perched atop a hill, Castle Hill is a majestic enclave that will transport you to a bygone era of grandeur and historical significance. Ascending the cobbled streets, you’re greeted with breathtaking panoramic views of the Danube River and the city’s skyline.

      At the summit is the iconic Buda Castle and National Gallery which I will talk more in depth in the next couple sections. Fisherman’s Bastion is also a must visit destination in Budapest.

      Castle hill isn’t merely a geographical high point, it’s a cultural pinnacle that invites exploration and contemplation, making it an essential thing to do in Budapest for anyone seeking to unravel the layers of Budapest’s captivating narrative.

      Castle Hill in Budapest

      Buda Castle

      Buda Castle, perched atop Castle Hill, unfolds as a living testament to centuries of royal heritage. Wandering through its courtyards and regal chambers, you’re immersed in the opulence of a bygone era.

      If you love all things spooky, book a tour of Buda Castle at night. A gothic-adorned guide will tell you stories of war, battles of medieval Budapest, vampires and folk stories from Hungary. This is one of the best things to do in Budapest in October.

      Book a Tour →

      Budapest History Museum

      Budapest History Museum

      Located within the confines of Buda Castle, this thing to do in Budapest invites patrons to traverse the corridors of time, exploring exhibits that unfold the layers of Budapest’s history with meticulous detail.

      From medieval artifacts to Habsburg-era treasures, the museum’s collection showcases the city’s evolution with a narrative that’s both informative and immersive.

      Whether you’re intrigued by the medieval exhibits, fascinated by the Ottoman influence, or enamored with the baroque aesthetics, the Budapest History Museum serves as a cultural trove, offering visitors a profound understanding of Hungary’s past while surrounded by the echoes of centuries-old stories. This is also one of the best indoor things to do in Budapest.

      A traditional Hungarian dish

      Eat a Traditional Hungarian Dish

      One of my favorite ways to get to know a culture and new country or city is by sampling the traditional cuisine. Budapest offers a wide array of traditional dishes including the iconic goulash or langos.

      Hungarian cuisine, deeply rooted in Central European traditions, features a delectable array of meats and paprika is a spice synonymous with Hungarian cooking.

      The most popular Hungarian dish has to be goulash, a hearty stew bursting with tender meat, paprika, and an array of aromatic spices.  Another must try dish is langos, a deep-fried flatbread topped with garlic, sour cream and cheese. I mean who doesn’t like a crispy exterior?

      One of my absolute favorite things to do when I come to a new city is to go on a Food Tour. What better way to experience the city’s diverse and delicious cuisine.

      Here are some top rated food tours in Budapest to check out:

      St. Stephen's Basilica in Budapest
      Budapest Eye a thing to do in Budapest

      St. Stephen’s Basilica

      You can’t miss the St. Stephen’s Basilica when visiting Budapest, it merges architectural grandeur with spiritual reverence. This iconic landmark, named after the first Hungarian king, Stephen, stands as a testament to neoclassical beauty.

      Tickets to tour St. Stephen’s Basilica run about $15. As you approach the basilica, the sheer scale of its dome and intricate facade commands admiration. The interior reveals sense of divine magnificence, with ornate frescoes, marble columns and the gilded high alter.

      A journey to the top of the basilica rewards visitors with a breathtaking panorama of Budapest, where the Danube River gracefully winds through the city.

      Book a Ticket in Advance →

      Ruins Bars Budapest
      Ruins Bars Budapest

      Have a Drink in the Ruin Bars

      The Ruin Bars are one of the best things to do Budapest. It’s a cluster of bars inside an old, graffitied building/complex. There are multiple levels inside where you can wonder around and look at the “rustic” items and pick an area to sit and relax with your beverage. There were also a bunch of pop up shops selling local crafts.

      These repurposed eccentric spaces, often found in the historic Jewish Quarter, have become synonymous with Budapest’s alternative culture. These bars stay open til the wee hours of the night. We of course arrived at noon when they opened and Joe was loving it, it was definitely a haven for photographers.

      Whether you’re sipping a craft cocktail or enjoying a local beer in a courtyard adorned with fairy lights, the atmosphere infused with a sense of creativity and community.

      Nightlife in the Jewish Quarter
      Nightlife in the Jewish Quarter

      Nightlife in the Jewish Quarter

      Since we’re on the subject of the ruin bars, if you’re into the nightlife, make sure you go out in the Jewish Quarter. As the sun sets, the district comes alive with the pulsating beats of music and clinking glasses.

      The ruin bars define the scene, offering a unique blend of artistic expression and laid-back socializing. Trendy pubs, eclectic clubs and lively street-side cafes line the cobblestone streets, attracting a diverse crowd of locals and travelers alike.

      The Jewish Quarter’s nightlife is not just about the abundance of venues, it’s a cultural experience where history meets contemporary creativity.

      Budapest Dinner on the Danube

      Night out on the A38 Boat

      If you are looking for a unique thing to do in Budapest, you should opt for an outing on the A38 Boat. Located on top of an old Soviet rock carrier ship, this is not only a rooftop bar but a restaurant, concert venue and place to unwind for the night.

      Hospital in the Rock

      Nestled deep within the Buda Castle district, the Hospital in the Rock Museum is a unique journey into the city’s wartime past. Carved into the natural caverns beneath Castle Hill, this underground complex served as a secret hospital and nuclear bunker during World War II and the Cold War.

      As you explore the dimly lit corridors and rooms, the museum vividly portrays the challenging conditions faced by medical staff who operated in these cramped quarters. Authentic medial equipment, preserved artifacts and haunting exhibits offer a glimpse in to the resilience and determination of those who provided care in the face of adversity.

      Book a Ticket →

      Cave Hill Church
      Cave Hill Church
      Cave Hill Church

      Cave Hill Church

      Perched atop Gellert Hill, the Cave Church is a hidden gem and one of the best things to do in Budapest on a budget, as it only costs $2.50 to enter. This is a great thing to see in Budapest after or before experiencing the Gellert Thermal Baths as it’s located directly across the street.

      Carved into the rock, this active church provides a unique experience. Inside the church, the chapel creates a peaceful ambiance and flickering candlelight illuminates the rock-hewn walls adorned with religious symbols.

      Back in the day, the Cave Church was a refuge during turbulent times and a place of worship for centuries. It is also a nice refuge from the heat in the summers and the cold in the winters.

      Matthias Church

      Another thing to see in Budapest located within the Buda Castle District is the Matthias Church. Its intricate Gothic architecture and colorful ceramic tiles make it a jewel in Budapest’s crown.

      The church is covered in inspiring frescoes, ornate stained glass windows and a regal ambiance that reflects centuries of Hungarian heritage. The interior emits a harmonious blend of medieval and Baroque elements and showcases its role in royal coronations and historic events.

      Book a Tour →

      Riding the M1 in Budapest

      Take a Ride on Hungary’s Oldest Subway Line

      Budapest has an efficient metro system and chances are, you’ll be hopping on a metro or two when exploring the city. Make sure to hop on the M1 line to experience Hungary’s oldest subway line.

      You’ll know when you’ve made it to the M1 as it’s like stepping into a living museum that seamlessly connects the city’s past and present. Dating to 1896, this iconic underground journey offers a nostalgic voyage through time.

      The charmingly preserved carriages, with their wooden paneling and vintage aesthetic, evoke a bygone era, while the stations themselves exude an old-world charm. I rode the Line 1 on my way to the Széchenyi Baths.

      Things to do in Budapest<br>

      Fisherman’s Bastion

      One of the best places to watch sunset in Budapest is at the Fisherman’s Bastion. Its fairytale-like panorama enchants visitors with its architectural splendor and breathtaking views.

      The terrace offers a spectacular vantage point overlooking the Danube River, the Chain Bridge and the stunning Hungarian Parliament building on the opposite bank.

      Brunch at the New Yorker one of the best things to do in Budapest

      Have Brunch at the New Yorker

      Like many European capitals, Budapest has a terrific coffee culture. If you want a glamorous experience while you enjoy a cup of Joe, splurge at the New York Cafe.

      The New Yorker is an elegant cafe located inside the Anantara New York Palace Hotel. Located in the heart of the city, this stylish eatery offers a cosmopolitan atmosphere and it is absolutely beautiful.

      Frescoes cover the ceilings and everything looked like it was plated in gold. They even had a classical band serenading you with the sounds of a piano and violin.

      I experienced the New Yorker for a coffee but if you love to brunch, this is an excellent place to do it. Prices reflect its interior. Make reservations in advance as it gets super busy and there’s a special line for reservations made in advance.

      The Parliament building in Budapest
      The Parliament building in Budapest<br>

      Tour the Parliament Building

      Of course I couldn’t make a list of the best things to do in Budapest without including the grand Parliament building. This is one of Budapest’s most famous landmarks after all.

      Standing proudly on the banks of the Danube River, not only does this building look magnificent from the outside but the inside is equally impressive. The only way to view the inside of the Parliament building is on a tour.

      Tours cost $30 and should be booked in advance as tickets sell out fast. Tours are available in several different languages and last 45 minutes.

      I won’t spoil all the details but the inside features gold walls (with real 24k gold), a sweeping central staircase, the great dome and its perfect symmetry, murals on the ceilings painted by a famous Hungarian artist and the dazzling Crown Jewels on display.

      Plus, all materials used to make the building and hall are Hungarian which I thought was pretty cool.

      Sunset at the Parliament Building in Budapest
      Sunset at the Parliament Building in Budapest

      Sunset across the River of the Parliament Building

      Since we’re on the subject of the Parliament building, the Parliament’s strategic location on the Danube River provides an epic view of sunset if you watch it from the opposite bank.
      This is a popular spot for sunset, and there will be plenty of space to pick a spot on the wall and watch the sky change from light to dark.

      Ride the Children’s Railway

      One of the most unique things to do in Budapest is to ride the Children’s Railway. Originally built after World War II, this railway is operated almost entirely by children, under the guidance of adult supervisors of course.

      The young “railway pioneers” handle tasks such as ticketing, station announcements and even driving the train. The scenic route winds through the picturesque hills of Buda, offering passengers stunning views of the city and the Danube River.

      Inside the Great Hall Market
      Hungarian Market
      Fruit inside a market in Hungary

      Wander the Great Market Hall

      The Great Market Hall is one of the oldest, largest and most beautiful indoor markets in Budapest. Also known as the “Nagycsarnok”, this iconic market, located at the heart of the city near Chain Bridge, offers a kaleidoscope of colors, aromas, and flavors.

      Inside, a bustling scene unfolds, featuring stalls brimming with fresh produce, aromatic spices, local meats and an array of traditional Hungarian delicacies. This is a great place to enjoy a traditional Hungarian meal.

      From paprika and sausages to handcrafted embroidery and souvenirs, the market caters to both culinary adventures and those seeking authentic Hungarian crafts.

      Dohány Street Synagogue

      Dohány Street Synagogue

      The Dohány Street Synagogue also known as the Great Synagogue, is the largest synagogue in Europe. The Moorish architectural influences, intricate details and vibrant colors create a striking facade that draws visitors.

      The inside not only serves as a place of worship but also houses the Jewish Museum, memorial courtyard and the powerful Holocaust Memorial Tree. It cost 900H to enter and is open til 8 everyday expect in Fridays, Saturdays and Jewish holidays. Fridays open to 4 due to shabbat and closed on Saturdays.

      Book a Ticket to Skip the Line →

      Sunset at Gellért Hill

      Another epic place to watch sunset in Budapest is on Gellert Hill. Perched on this elevated vantage point, you’re treated to a breathtaking panoramic view of the Danube River winding through the heart of Budapest, with iconic landmarks like the Parliament building and Buda Castle illuminated in the soft, fading light.

      Heroes’ Square (Hosök Tere)

      Heroe’s Square is a grandiose square, framed by majestic statues and monuments, is the largest square in Budapest. Dominated by the Millennium Monument, featuring the Archangel Gabriel at its pinnacle, the square pays homage to the country’s founding leaders and historical figures.

      The colonnades on either side are adorned with statues representing Hungarian kings, tribal leaders and key national figures. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the surrounding Museum of Fine Arts and Palace of Art only add to the cultural depth of the square.

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        Shoes on the Danube

        An interesting yet solemn thing to see in Budapest is the shoes on the Danube. Along the banks of the Danube River, this memorial consists of 60 pair of iron shoes, representing the Jewish victims who were executed and thrown into the river during World War II.

        Each pair symbolizes the lives lost and the collective tragedy of the Holocaust. The memorial’s location, with Buda Castle in the background and the river flowing quietly beside, adds to its somber beauty.

        Museum of Houdini

        If you love illusions and magic, then you must visit the Museum of Houdini when in Budapest. This museum takes you on a journey into the life and mystique of the world’s greatest escape artist.

        Located in the heart of the city, the museum showcases a collection of memorabilia, artifacts and interstice exhibits that showcase Houdini’s extraordinary feats and contributions to the world of magic. From his iconic straightjacket escapes to his legendary underwater challenges, if you weren’t a fan before, you will be by the time you leave.

        Rent a bikes in Budapest

        Explore the City on 2 Wheels

        Exploring the city of Budapest on two wheels is one of the most fun things to do in Budapest. MOL Bubi is the cities rent-a-bike system, which offers an environmentally friendly option for getting around the city centre.

        You can pick up and drop off your green bike at one of the 197 stations across the city. This not only makes exploring the city convenient but its also much quicker than walking.

        If you would prefer to explore the city with a guide, check out these Budapest bikes tours below.

        Im Jess Traveling in Budapest
        andrassy avenue

        Stroll Down Andrássy Avenue

        Andrássy Avenue is Budapest’s version of the Champs-Élysées in Paris or the Ringstrasse in Vienna. The avenue is a shopper’s paradise, with high-end boutiques and designer stores punctuating its length. Cafes and restaurants with outdoor seating invite you to pause and absorb the atmosphere.

        🍜 Travel Tip: The Vietnamese restaurant at the end of the avenue is a great spot to enjoy lunch or dinner.

        Visit Memento Park

        Situated on the outskirts of the city, Memento Park is a repository of monumental statues and sculptures that once adorned Budapest during the socialist period. Among the towering relics are iconic figures like Lenin, Marx, and other symbols of the communist regime.

        The park serves as an open-air museum, providing visitors with insights into the propaganda and ideologies that shaped Hungary during this historical period. Beyond the statues, exhibitions and guided tours offer a comprehensive understanding of life under communism.

        Buy your Ticket →

        Have Drinks at the High Note Skybar

        If you love rooftop bars, the High Note Skybar is one of the best in the city that elevates both spirits and scenery. Perched atop one of the city’s iconic buildings on Andrássy Avenue, the bar offers a panoramic views of the city.

        Whether you choose to sip on a classic cocktail or indulge in a local craft beer, the ambiance is nothing short of enchanting. Even better, enjoy this thing to do in Budapest at sunset and soak in the magical atmosphere of Budapest from above.

        Visit Margaret’s Island

        Our final attraction to make the best things to do in Budapest list is to visit Margaret’s Island. The island is located in the middle of the Danube separating Buda and Pest.

        To reach the Island, you can get there on foot or by tram, using lines 4 and 6, to get to Margaret Bridge. The island is a place for relaxation attracting both locals and tourists. It features historical sites, a Japanese garden, recreational facilities and even a spa.

        Book a Spa Day →

        Where to Stay in Budapest

        Where to stay in Budapest

        There are tons of amazing places to stay in Budapest for every type of traveler on every type of budget. It was hard to widdle down a list to just a few hotels in Budapest so I’ll list the top places to stay in Budapest for each budget and for easy booking.

        Best Hotels in Budapest for Luxury $$$

            Best Places to Stay in Budapest on a Mid Range Budget $$

                  Where to Stay in Budapest on a Budget $

                    • Made Inn Budapest – Location, staff & spacious.
                    • MT SUITES – Apartments with washing machines and close to public transportation.
                    • Maverick City Lodge – Dorms or privates in the Jewish quarter.
                    • Alice Apartment – Bright, airy and big apartments close to public transportation, restaurants and shops.

                    🛖 Read Full Post:  Best Places to Stay in Budapest (+ Areas)

                    Things to do in Budapest
                    A person in Hungary

                    Best Time to Visit Budapest

                    The best time to visit Budapest largely depends on your preferences for weather and the type of activities you want to enjoy.

                    Spring (March to May) is a pleasant time to visit Budapest as temperatures start to rise, and the city begins to bloom with flowers. It’s an excellent season for sightseeing, outdoor activities and enjoying the vibrant parks.

                    Summer (June to August) is the peak tourist season and the city comes alive with festivals, outdoor events and open-air concerts. The weather is warm to hot, making it ideal for exploring the city’s outdoor attractions.

                    Fall (September to November) brings milder temperatures, and the cityscape is adorned with autumn colors. It’s a great time to visit if you prefer fewer crowds and still want to experience outdoor activities before winter sets in.

                    Winter (December to February) in Budapest can be cold, but the city takes on a magical atmosphere with festive decorations and Christmas markets. If you enjoy winter sports, nearby hills offer opportunities for skiing. The thermal baths are particularly inviting during the colder months.

                    Keep in mind that the summer months are the busiest and most expensive. If you prefer a more relaxed vibe and a slightly lower cost, I’d visit during the shoulder seasons of spring or fall.

                    Things to do in Budapest Hungary
                    Inside of Gellert Thermal Spa

                    Budapest Travel Tips

                    • The official currency is the Hungarian Forint (HUF).  While credit cards are widely accepted, it’s always useful to carry some cash for smaller shops and local markets.
                    • This is how you get from Budapest airport to the city centre.
                    • Hungarian is the official language, knowing a few basics will only enhance your experience.
                    • Budapest has an efficient and extensive public transportation system, including buses, trams, and a metro. Don’t ride public transport without buying a ticket as the fine is $75 and up.
                    • Pack flip-flops and a swimsuit to enjoy in the thermal baths.
                    • Budapest is well connected with trains going to and from any major city.
                    • Don’t miss out on trying traditional Hungarian dishes like goulash, chimney cake or langos.
                    • Budapest is generally a safe city, but like any other destination, be cautious of pickpockets, especially in crowded areas and public transportation.

                    Do you have any favorite things to do in Budapest?  Let other travelers know in the comments below ↓

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