26 things to do in Budapest, Hungary Travel Guide
Budapest is indeed one of the most underrated and charming city in Europe. When we were there, we experienced much fewer crowds, great weather and friendly locals. Furthermore, Budapest in Hungary (like Portugal), is one of the more inexpensive cities in Europe, making it a great destination for students on exchange, or just travellers who would like a more bang-for-buck Europe experience.
All you need to know about Budapest, Hungary
Hungary's capital city is actually made up of the gradual union of three cities: Óbuda, Buda and Pest. The oldest of the three is Óbuda, located on the West bank of the Danube River together with Buda, and Pest located on the East bank. Considered by many visitors as one of the most beautiful city in Europe, much of the city has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
How to get into Budapest, Hungary?
Budapest is well-connected by train to its neighbouring cities. Great for day or short trips from Vienna or Bratislava, you could grab yourselves a Global Eurail Pass to visit Budapest in Hungary. We took the train from Vienna and arrived right in the city centre. You can read more about our experience here.
Alternatively, you could take a flight into Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport (Budapest Nemzetközi Repülőtér), which is located just 30 minutes away from the city centre. It is the largest commercial airport in Hungary and serves as a base for Ryanair and Wizzair. Budapest Airport has convenient public transport connections. To get into the city centre, the cheapest way is to take bus 100E or 200E. You could purchase a ticket from the ticket machine before boarding the bus (350 ft). For those with lots of luggage, you may also wish to consider taking the private transfer. It is not too expensive and gets you straight to your accommodation!
How to travel within Budapest, Hungary?
It is easy to travel within Budapest via its public transport. Metros are superbly convenient and takes you to most of the attractions. The public buses are also clean and is a great add-on to your metro rides. When in Budapest, it is super helpful to grab a Budapest City Card that allows you unlimited travel on all the public transportation in the city and also entrance to a variety of attractions. First-timers who prefer a more guided experience could go on a Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus Tour.
What to do in Budapest, Hungary?
With its rich culture and history, Budapest is an artistic city with a wide variety of things to see and do for all kinds of visitors. From thermal baths to ruin pubs, everyone should be able to find something they love.
So let's find out the best things in Budapest, Hungary!
1. St Stephen's Basilica (Szent István Bazilika)
St Stephen's Basilica is an amazing huge church in Budapest. The exterior looks mammoth and is a great icon in the city centre. As compared to other attractions and churches in Europe, they are extremely underrated so you won't find huge crowds.
You do not have to pay to enter the cathedral but should you wish to find a guided tour, these are also available. Do enquire them at the entrance!
Besides visiting the cathedral, you could also attend an organ concert in the beautiful interior. It is definitely nothing like listening to the organs resounding in the huge cathedrals.
St. Stephen's Basilica
Budapest, Szent István tér 1, 1051 Hungary
Nearest metro: Bajcsy-Zsilinszky út
2. Hungarian State Opera House (Magyar Állami Operaház)
The Hungarian State Opera House was first opened way back in 1884, following a commission from Emperor Franz Joseph. The Neo-Renaissance building holds up to 1,200 people and is considered to be one of the best in the world for opera performances. Unlike the Vienna State Opera House, it is much more affordable to watch an opera here! Should you not find time to watch the opera, you could also enter the opera house for a guided tour.
When we were there, the Hungarian State Opera House was under reconstruction so we weren't able to marvel at the actual architecture. Nonetheless, it is still an amazing place to visit for lovers of music!
Hungarian State Opera House (Magyar Állami Operaház)
Budapest, Andrássy út 22, 1061 Hungary
Nearest metro: Opera
3. Hungarian Parliament Building (Országház)
The Hungarian Parliament Building sits on the Pest side of the Danube River Bank. It is designed and constructed in the Gothic Revival style and is one of the largest edifices in Hungary.
You can enter the Parliament Building via a guided tour, where you get to see certain parts of the building that is open to the public. There will be an extensive security check since this attraction is an extremely important one in the city!
Home to hundreds parliamentary offices, the building looks so impressive from every angle. But, the best way to see the entire building is to look at it on the other side of the Danube River, or even to see it on the Danube River Cruise.
We went on an evening cruise and it was amazing! Read more about our experience here. To get on the river cruise, you can purchase your tickets in advance online in the various links we've included or just head to the river bank (right in front of Budapest Marriott Hotel), select your tour operator and cruise away! We would definitely suggest booking your cruise in advance as they do get crowded and you may not be able to get the timeslot of your choice! =/
Pro Tip: For those who have already gotten themselves the Budapest City Card that offers you unlimited transportation all over Budapest for 24/48/72/96/120 hours, you'll be glad to know that you'll get an additional 20% off your tickets should you grab the Danube River Cruise by Legenda!
Hungarian Parliament Building (Országház)
Budapest, Kossuth Lajos tér 1-3, 1055 Hungary
Nearest metro: Kossuth Lajos Tér
4. Shoes on the Danube Bank (Cipők a Duna-parton)
After the Hungarian Parliament Building, walk over to the side of the building where you'll find the Shoes on the Danube Bank! This stretch of the walkway from Széchenyi Chain Bridge is such a scenic walk. Somewhere in the middle, you'll find this monument commemorating the 3,500 people, 800 of them who are Jews, who were killed by the fascist in Budapest during World War II.
The sculptor, Gyula Pauer, created sixty pairs of shoes out of iron on 16 April 2005. These shoes range from heels to shoes appropriate during that period. The shoes are actually attached to the stone embankment.
When you are here, be considerate and do not take inappropriate pictures such as posing in-between the shoes, touching them, and looking happy. When we were there, there was an inconsiderate traveller who was doing so and was ticked off by unhappy locals.
Shoes on the Danube Bank (Cipők a Duna-parton)
Budapest, Id. Antall József rkp., 1054 Hungary
Nearest metro: Kossuth Lajos Tér
5. Szechenyi Chain Bridge (Széchenyi Lánchíd)
Szechenyi Chain Bridge is a picturesque and historic stone bridge that connects Buda and Pest. You can walk on the bridge to get from the Pest side to the Castle Hill Funicular or just to take in the sights. You'll get to see the Danube flowing below you, the grandiose Parliament Building on the Pest side and Buda Castle on the Buda side.
Szechenyi Chain Bridge (Széchenyi Lánchíd)
Budapest, Széchenyi Lánchíd, 1051 Hungary
Nearest metro: Vörösmarty tér
6. Buda Castle (Budavári Palota)
Buda Castle is the historical castle complex of the Hungarian Kings in Budapest. Now, it houses both the Hungarian National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum. The Buda Castle is the first Hungarian attraction that is named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
To get to Buda Castle, you'll have to take the fastest option, the Castle Hill funicular, the second oldest funicular in the world. Weights and counterweights are used to help raise the carts up and down the hill.
When up on Castle Hill, you'll be able to marvel at an amazing view of the Danube River, a spectacular view of the Szechenyi Chain Bridge, and at the various attractions on Pest! :)
Buda Castle (Budavári Palota)
Budapest, Szent György tér 2, 1014 Hungary
Nearest metro: Vörösmarty tér
7. Ruszwurm Bakery
A short walk away from Buda Castle, you'll find the quaint castle district. When you are here, you have got to try Ruszwurm Bakery cakes! While many head to the most beautiful New York Palace Cafe or the famous Cafe Gerbeaud, here's a hidden gem!
Like the coffeehouse culture in Vienna, Budapest's cafe culture centres around allowing people to sit, relax, and people-watch. Sitting outside the cafe also grants you a splendid view of Matthias Church as you sip on your coffee and enjoy your pastries.
While many would tell you to try the Dobos Cake, we found that not many would like the dry texture of the cake. Instead, try the Ruszwurm Cake - a square shaped pastry filled with delicious cream.
Read more about Ruszwurm Confectionery in our blogpost here!
Ruszwurm Cukraszda (Ruszwurm Confectionery)
Budapest, Szentháromság u. 7, 1014 Hungary
8. Matthias Church (Mátyás Templom)
Unlike all the other churches and cathedrals you've visited in Europe that dates all the way back to the Middle Ages, Matthias Church is a stunning church that is off-the-beaten-track. Especially after taking that stroll from Buda Castle and being greeted by this church peeking out in-between the buildings is absolutely a delight.
Similar to the Mezquita of Cordoba, the Matthias Church was turned into a mosque when the Turks occupied Buda in 1526. The artefacts within the church was taken away, precious ornate furnishings destroyed and the altars and paintings were replaced with whitewashed brick walls. Only after the Turkish era, the Matthias Church was rebuilt on the remains in a Baroque style.
How to get to the Castle Hill District?
To get to the Castle Hill District, you could take bus 16A from Szell Kalman Square (M2 metro station) or bus 16 from Deak Square (M1/M2/M3 metro lines), or take a 10 to 15 minutes walk from the Castle Hill Funicular.
Matthias Church (Mátyás Templom)
Budapest, Szentháromság tér 2, 1014 Hungary
9. Fisherman's Bastion (Halászbástya)
Right beside Matthias Church is the Fisherman's Bastion. Initially built in the 19th century as a decorative fortification lookout tower for the best views in Budapest, it is now one of the top Budapest attractions. It looks like a real Disney castle from the Disney logo (only better)! The towers used to be real castle walls where you get to take photographs from, and when up at the towers, you'll get a splendid panoramic view of Budapest.
Discover more of Matthias Church and Fisherman's Bastion on a Buda Walking Tour!
Fisherman's Bastion (Halászbástya)
Budapest, Szentháromság tér, 1014 Hungary
10. Gellert Baths
Still on the Buda side, is the Gellert Bath. Known as one of the most beautiful indoor bath, have a great time soaking in the thermal waters on a cold winter day or head out to the outdoor pools for a splashing good time!
We visited Gellert Baths when we were in Budapest and had a relaxing afternoon in the thermal pools and in the sauna! Read more about our experience at the Gellert Baths in our previous blog post here: Gellert Spa and Bath Experience in Budapest, Hungary.
Should you wish to visit Gellert Bath, it is definitely recommended to get skip-the-line tickets online as it can get pretty crowded during the summer.