After 70 countries and more than five years of constant travel, few cities capture my heart quite the same way as Budapest, Hungary. Budapest is home to more fascinating places to see, gorgeous historical sites, fun bars, and vibrant neighborhoods than just about any other city I can think of (and I’ve been to hundreds across the world).
There are so many things to do in Budapest that I could honestly list out hundreds of them and probably still have more to go. Instead, I’ll give you my 33 absolute favorites. These are the can’t-miss, must-do activities, plus a few hidden gems and personal favorite spots thrown in for good measure.
I count myself as something of an amateur Budapest travel expert – I’ve been to the city a half dozen times, most recently living there for two months. I’ve poured my heart and soul into trying to curate the best possible guide to the top sites in Budapest. I hope you like it!
So, without further ado, here are my absolute 33 favorite things to see in Budapest:
33 Best Things to See and Do in Budapest, Hungary
#1. St. Stephen’s Basilica
My absolute favorite place to visit in Budapest is the top of the observation deck at St. Stephen’s Basilica. When I have friends visit Budapest from out of town, this is usually the first attraction I take them to see. It’s a bit of a hike up the steps (there’s an elevator too – but the line is longer, and I always just hike it up). But you’ll be rewarded with a 360 degree view of the city.
After climbing up, it’s also definitely worth the separate 200 HUF admission to take a peak inside the beautiful interior of St. Stephen’s Basilica.
👉 Pro tip: If visiting around lunchtime, grab some traditional Hungarian langosh from the nearby uber-authentic street stall Retro Langos.
#2. Széchenyi Chain Bridge
Google Maps: Széchenyi Lánchíd
Sure, it’s a bit of a touristy attraction, but there’s no denying the appeal of a sunset stroll along the majestic Széchenyi Chain Bridge. The first permanent bridge connecting the Buda and Pest sides of the city, the Széchenyi Chain Bridge opened in 1849 shortly after the Hungarian Revolution – and is to this day considered something of a symbolic landmark in Budapest. The bridge has wide pedestrian walkways offering wonderful vistas of the Hungarian Parliament Building, Buda Castle, and both sides of the Danube river.
👉 Important Note: The Chain Bridge is supposed to be closed to foot and car traffic at some point soon for up to 24 months for renovation. Exact dates are hard to come by as work was actually supposed to start three years ago, but has constantly been delayed and restarted.
#3. Buda Castle
Taking a tour of Buda Castle should also probably be on your list of activities in Budapest. But my favorite thing to do at this UNESCO World Heritage Site is actually just to climb up Buda Castle Hill to the free-to-enter grounds, where you can enjoy spectacular view of Pest at sunset. If you’re feeling lazy, though, you can also take the Buda Castle Hill funicular to the top! There are also lots of fun tours of Buda Castle that will give you a different perspective on the history (including a Vampire tour!).
👉 Pro tip: For one of my favorite nighttime activities, combine this with a sunset stroll across the Chain Bridge, ending at the top of Buda Castle just in time to watch the city’s lights turn on (and then maybe end the evening at a ruin bar!).
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#4. Hungarian National Parliament Building
Google Maps: Kossuth Lajos tér 1-3 | Phone: +36 1 441 4000 | Admission: 3,500 HUF for EU Citizens or 6,700 HUF for non-EU citizens
Arguably the most beautiful building in Europe, the Hungarian Parliament Building is almost as beautiful on the outside as it is inside. Tours can fill up fast, so be sure to book ahead – especially if traveling to Budapest during the peak summer season. Book tickets on the official site here, and be sure to check the language of your Parliament tour, as many different languages are offered.
#5. Danube River Cruise
Budapest is defined by the Danube, and no visit to Budapest is complete without spending at least a little time taking in the city from the water. There are many companies that offer evening Danube river cruises along the river, and it’s undeniably one of the top things to do in Budapest. I’ve been on several tours, and suggest checking out either this high-end dinner tour if you can afford it, or this cheaper option if you cant.
Alternatively, for a real budget travel tip, Budapest public transport runs four different boat lines up and down the river. A ride costs just 750 HUF (~$3) and the boats are surprisingly relaxed for public transport (there’s even a bar). Click here and select the “D” icon for timetables.
#6. Hop-on-Hop-Off Bus Tour
Ok, admittedly this is a little bit touristy. Ok, a lot touristy. But I took a Hop-on-Hop-Off bus on my first visit to Budapest nearly 7 years ago, and I really enjoyed it! Budapest is just the perfect city to see from the top of those open air buses, and they offer such an easy way to get around and visit all the museums, churches, synagogues, attractions, and sights of Budapest.
#7. Ride the Scenic Tram Number 2
Possibly my favorite tram line in the world, Budapest’s Tram #2 basically runs the length of the Danube on the Pest side, and is one of my favorite cheap things to do in Budapest. Riding the tram is a great way to cheaply get between the top sites in Budapest, and the river views along the way make the journey pretty special.
Tickets cost only about 1 Euro per ride. The official site has a good primer on how to use public transit in Budapest.
#8. Szechenyi Thermal Baths
Budapest is famous for its thermal spas, and so it’s no wonder that a visit to the Szechenyi Thermal Baths is arguably the most famous thing to see in Budapest. And of course that popularity means you’ll have to contend with the crowds at this large, but undeniably picturesque, outdoor thermal bath. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go though – just plan to get there early to beat the crowds! Note that you can easily access the baths, which are just north of Budapest’s inner city, on the M1 public transport line.
🍺 Love Beer? Next to the Szechenyi Baths you’ll find the aptly-named “Beer Spa,” where you can soak in beer while drinking a few yourself. Book a thermal bath / beer combo ticket here – just be sure not to drink the bath beer too!
#9. Gellért Baths
Budapest’s other popular thermal spa, the Gellért Thermal Bath is a bit more traditional than Szechenyi (and unlike the latter, is indoors). Located on the Buda side of town, the Gellért baths and spa are most remarkable for the ornate Art Nouveau design and style on the inside.
👉 Pro Tip: Given it’s location, it’s sensible to combine a visit to Gellért with a visit to the Budapest Cave Church and Gellert Hill, both of which also make on this list of things to see in Budapest.
#10. Rudas Bath Rooftop Hot Tub
Ok, are you ready for one of my favorite insider tips for enjoying your time in Budapest?
Forget the more popular thermal spas and instead head to the Rudas Baths, where you’ll find a hot tub on the roof with views out over the Danube! Plus, inside you’ll find several different spas and thermal baths to enjoy as well, with fewer crowds than the other spas. Note that unlike other baths, this one has several “zones,” and different tickets apply to each zone. Personally, I think it’s worth getting the all-zone ticket and seeing all the rooms, but if opting for just one zone make sure you get the one with the rooftop hot tub. It’s definitely getting more popular, but still one of my favorite Budapest hidden gems!
#11. Fisherman’s Bastion
Google Maps: Szentháromság tér | Phone: +36 1 458 3030 | Hours: 9 am to 11 pm daily | Admission 1000 HUF
Fisherman’s Bastion is one of the most popular things to see in Budapest, in part because because the shots you can get from this Budapest tourist attraction are truly worthy of Instagram. Constructed in the 1700s, the name supposedly comes from a guild of fisherman that used to protect the castle. The Neo-Romanesque structure looks like something out of a Disney fairytale movie, and there are many spots along the walls with panoramic views of Budapest. Just be prepared to fight the Instagrammers and the couples making proposals!
👉 Pro Tip: To be honest, Fisherman’s Bastion can sometimes be an overcrowded mess of the worst of over-tourism. Try visiting early in the morning or during off-season for the best chance of enjoying this popular attraction on the Buda side in peace.
#12. Matthias Church
Google Maps: Szentháromság tér 2 | Phone: +36 1 355 5657 | Website | Hours: 9 am to 5 pm weekdays, 9 am to 1 pm Sat, 1 pm to 5 pm Sun | Church Entrance: 2000 HUF (adult) | Tower Entrance: 2200 HUF (adult)
Located within Fisherman’s Bastion, the 700 year old Matthias Church is one of the best known landmarks in Budapest and is an exemplar of the Gothic revival. The Gothic revival interior of the church is stunning, and it’s also worth it to take the tour in the tower. The only problem is that they church and tower require separate admission tickets, which can get a little expensive.
#13. Szimpla Kert
Budapest is famous for its ruin bars – super hip drinking joints that originally sprouted up in abandoned buildings in Budapest’s Jewish Quarter. And the king of all ruin pubs is clear: Szimpla Kert is an impossibly funky and eclectic bar with a room for every taste in nightlife, all decorated with just the most random stuff you can imagine (really, I don’t even know how to describe it – and describing places to travel is a part of my job!). On Sundays, Szimpla takes on a different character with a farmers market and brunch combo that’s a great thing to do in Budapest for the Lazy Sunday crowd.
🍺 Want to see more ruin bars? For slightly less-crowded alternatives to Szimpla, try Anker’t or Ellato Kert. Or if you’re looking to take it up a notch, visit the combined location of Instant and Fogas Haz – a ruin pub/club nightlife complex also in the Jewish Quarter that keeps the music pumping until the wee hours of every morning.
#14. Taste Hungarian Langos
Hungarian cuisine isn’t exactly famous around the world, but if you try one Hungarian dish while in Budapest it should be Langos, which is basically fried dough with sour cream and various toppings on top.
Langos is delicious, if not exactly healthy.
👉 Pro Tip: My favorite spot to eat Langos in Budapest is at Retró Lángos Büfé (which has a location just steps away from the #1 item on this list of what to do in Budapest). But you can also find Langos at many restaurants in town.
#15. Go on a Free Walking Tour
Budapest is such an incredibly walkable city. Most of the Budapest attractions on this are all in a pretty tight area of downtown. So the best way to explore it is to simply go on a free walking tour, where a local guide will show you around. Best, of all it’s free – well, sort of. The guides work for tips, but it’s up to you how much you leave. Personally, I always found it worth it.
👉 You can reserve your spot on a Budapest walking tour here through Guru Walks. My advice is to schedule it for your first day in town, as it’s a great way to get oriented to Budapest!
#16. Down a Shot of Pálinka or Unicum
When it comes to traditional Hungarian spirits, there are basically two worth trying while in Budapest. First, there’s Pálinka – a fruit brandy that comes in several flavors and will you get you in the mood to party for sure.
Alternatively, try Unicum – which is an herbal drink with a bitter taste, best done as an aperitif. Most bars and restaurants in Budapest will have both spirits on their menu. You could also try some Hungarian wine, as the country is increasingly getting international acclaim for its many wines.
#17. Mazel Tov
Mazel Tov is an Israeli restaurant that is – rightfully – one of the most popular places to eat in Budapest, as the long lines outside for a table every night attest. Inside this District 7 mainstay, you’ll find a trendy interior “ruin pub” design and delicious Israeli dishes. The food is absolutely delicious and totally worth the wait. Just be prepared to wait for it with the crowds, or call ahead for a reservation.
#18. Take a Food Tour
Ok, if all that talk of Langosh and chimney cakes has you a little hungry right now, you should definitely sign up for a guided tour tasting your way around Budapest. There are literally dozens to choose from, for every budget and style. From cheap eats with locals to high end chef tastings, experiencing Budapest’s food scenes is definitely a must-do!
#19. Vajdahunyad Castle
In the City Park of Budapest, near the Szechenyi thermal baths, you’ll find the fairytale-like Vajdahunyad Castle. It was modeled after Romania’s Hunyard Castle, and built as a feature for the 1896 Millennial Exhibition. Because of this, it was intentionally designed with architectural features from several different time periods, giving it a pretty eclectic feel. You can go inside and visit the watchtower and a small museum, or just stroll the photogenic grounds around the park and the nearby lake.
#20. Ride the M1, Continental Europe’s Oldest Metro Line
Budapest’s M1 metro line claims status as the first metro line in continent Europe (technically, London got there before Hungary). And boy does the line really show it’s vintage. Stretching the length of Andrássy Avenue, taking a ride on this historic metro is worth it even if you don’t particularly need the transport.
#21. Shoes on the Danube Bank Memorial
Google Maps: Id. Antall József rkp.
This touching monument honors the 3,500 people, many of them Jews, who were killed by fascists during World War II. They were told to take off their shoes by the Arrow Cross fascist militia, then killed on the river bank and their bodies pushed into the Danube. Shoes on the Danube was conceived by film director Can Togay to honor this tragic part of World War II history. It’s located along the Danube on the Pest side just south of the Hungarian Parliament building.
#22. Margaret Island Musical Fountain
Google Maps | Hourly Shows from 10 am to 10 pm
The Margaret Island park’s fountain actually plays a coordinated musical show every hour from 11 am, but the best time to visit is for the final much longer show at 9 PM. You’ll be treated to a choreographed fountain, light, and music show set to popular songs from a variety of genres. It’s a great free thing to do in Budapest at night (or, if you opt for the day show, to combine with a stroll around the park).
#23. Dohány Street Synagogue
Google Maps: Dohány u. 2 | +36 1 413 1515 | Hours (note: still closed due to health crisis as of mid summer 2021): 10 am to 6 pm (closes 4 pm Friday and all day Saturday and Jewish High Holidays)
In a city filled with gorgeous houses of worship, the interior of the Dohány Street Synagogue arguably takes the prize for the grandest of them all. It definitely takes the prize for the largest synagogue in Europe, and the ornate interior is one of the most popular points of interest in Budapest. Built in the 1850s in Moorish Revival style, today the Great Synagogue shares a building with the Hungarian Jewish Museum.
#24. Go on a Pub Crawl
I have mixed feelings about including this item on this list of what to do in Budapest. On the one hand, Budapest’s many pub crawls have provoked complaints from locals fed up with the worst of over-tourist behavior. On the other hand, these organized nightlife gatherings are great fun – and a good way to meet other travelers in Budapest. Go and have fun – just be a responsible tourist please!
#25. Drum Cafe – Langosh and Gulash Bar
Want to try some Hungarian food? Cheap places in Budapest aren’t hard to come by if you don’t mind street stalls, but it’s getting harder to find quality sit-down fare in the center. A notable exception is the exquisitely authentic Drum Cafe, where affordable and authentic Hungarian food is dished out in a cozy (some might say a tad crowded) dining room. Note that Drum Cafe draws a line at peak times, but it seems to usually move quickly.
#26. Frici Papa
Another great local Hungarian restaurant to try is Frici Papa, conveniently located smack dab in the middle of District 7 near many of the other best things to do in Budapest.
🌱 Pro tip for Vegetarians and Vegans: You might find Hungarian food to be a bit challenging (as a veggie, I sure did), but thankfully Budapest has lots of vegan restaurants and cafes!
#27. Gellért Hill
You can take a taxi, tour, funicular, or even a bus to the top of Gellert Hill, where the Liberty Statute looks out over the city. But my favorite way to enjoy the views at the top of Budapest’s most famous viewpoint is to earn it by braving the 15 minute hike up the hill from the Buda shoreline. On the top you’ll find the Citadella, an 1851 fortification overlooking the city, the Liberty Statue (or Freedom Statue), and some of the best views in the city.
👉 Pro tip: Gellert Hill and the Liberty Statue gets busy during the day and at sunset, but the views are equally spectacular – and far less crowded – at night.
#28. Gellért Hill Cave Church
Google Maps | Hours: 9:30 am to 7:30 pm (closed Sundays) | Guided audio tour 550 HUF
Located immediately opposite the Gellert thermal baths is a pretty unique church … built inside a cave! The church inside Saint Ivan’s cave is named after a supposedly-healing hermit who lived there, and is open to visitors except during mass times. Tours or audio tours are offered inside.
#29. House of Terror
While this is undeniably a somber thing to do in Budapest, a visit to the impressive House of Terror will help educate you about two repressive regimes (one fascist, one communist) that rained terror on Budapest.
#30. Great Market Hall
Google Maps: Vámház krt. 1-3 | Phone: +36 1 366 3300 | Hours: 6 am to 6 pm (closes 5 pm Mon, 3 pm Sat, closed Sundays)
The Great Market Hall (aka Budapest’s Central Market Hall) is an enormous neo gothic hall in the center of Budapest filled with vendors hawking all sorts of produce, goods, and souvenirs. Wandering the stalls at the impressive central market hall is one of the best things to do in Budapest on a rainy day, but it’s worth a stop by any day of the week (except Sunday, when it’s closed!).
#31. Take a Cruise to Szentendre
While there are so many sights in Budapest itself, there’s at least one day trip from Budapest worth considering: visiting the picture-perfect artists’ town of Szentendre on the Danube river. There are a variety of cruises or tours to consider that will take you there.
#32. Heroes’ Square
At the end of Andrássy Avenue, just south of the City Park of Budapest, Heroes’ Square is an enormous city square featuring several large statues of the seven chieftains of the Magyars. It’s an important historical point of interest, and worth a quick stop on your Budapest itinerary.
#33. Watch Sunset from PONTOON
Google Maps: Vigadó 1/A kikötő | Closed Sundays
Though Budapest is filled to the brim with sunset spots, my personal favorite place to visit in Budapest for sunset is Pontoon Bar. Only open during the warm months, Pontoon is an open-air bar occupying the stretch of the Danube riverbank immediately north of the Chain Bridge. Grab a drink and find a seat by the river to enjoy one of the most spectacular sunsets in Europe!
FAQs About Travel to Budapest
What is the best time of year to visit Budapest?
The warm months of May through September are the most popular months to visit Budapest. For lower prices and fewer crowds, visit Budapest is in April or October, which is shoulder season.
How many days do you need to visit Budapest?
Budapest is a compact city, with most of the things to do in Budapest being located pretty near each other, so it is possible to cover the city in as few as 48 hours if you’re just looking for a weekend city break. With that said, I personally think that Budapest is deserving of at least 3-5 days if you have the time to spare on your itinerary. There’s just so much to do in Budapest.
What Should I Pack for Budapest?
For Budapest, be sure to pack swim suits for the thermal baths, decent clothes if you plan to go out, and something respectful to wear if you plan to go inside a church or synagogue. Otherwise, dress like you would in any European city.
👉 Need a backpack? Check out our list of the best travel backpacks for Europe!
That’s it for this guide to the top things to do and see in Budapest, Hungary! Have a question, tip, or a thing to add?
Scroll down and leave us a comment! And enjoy your trip to Budapest!