Looking for what to do in Budapest?
You’ll be spoiled with things to do in Budapest.
But there are so many places to see and activities in Budapest that most tourists to this uber-trendy city end up missing out on some awesome things they didn’t even know about.
That’s why this list of 33 activities in Budapest is the only one you’ll need for an epic trip.
I count myself as something of a Budapest travel expert – I’ve been to Budapest a half dozen times, most recently living there for two months in fall 2019.
After trying out just about everything to do in Budapest, here are my absolute 33 favorite things to do in Budapest:
My 33 Absolute Favorite Things to do in Budapest
#1. Soak in the View from the Top of 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 from out of town, this is usually the first attraction in Budapest that I take them to.
Tickets cost 1000 HUF (~3 euro) and is a bit of a hike up the steps (there’s an elevator too – but the link is longer). But you’ll be rewarded with a 360 degree view of the city.
After climbing up, it’s also definitely worth the 200 HUF admission to take a peak inside the beautiful interior of the Basilica.
Pro tip: If visiting around lunchtime, grab some traditional Hungarian langosh from the nearby uber-authentic street stall Retro Langos.
#2. Stroll Across the Széchenyi Chain Bridge
Sure, it’s a bit of a touristy attraction, but there’s no denying the appeal of a sunset stroll along this majestic 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, Buda Castle, and both sides of the Danube river.
Important Note for 2020 and Beyond: The Chain Bridge is supposed to be closed 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 back in 2018, but still hasn’t.
#3. Climb to Buda Castle at Night
While taking a tour of Buda Castle should also probably be on your list of activities in Budapest, my favorite thing to do at the castle is actually just to climb up to the free-to-enter grounds and enjoy the spectacular view of the Pest side of town set before you.
Pro tip: 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.
#4. Tour the Gorgeous Hungarian Parliament
Arguably the most beautiful building in Europe, the Hungarian Parliament 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.
Tours cost 3,500 HUF for EU Citizens (~10 Euro) or 6,700 HUF for non EU citizens (~$22 USD). Book tickets on the official site here, and be sure to check the language of your Parliament tour.
#5. Take a River Boat Tour of the Danube
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 dinner cruises along the river, and it’s undeniably one of the top things to do in Budapest.
Alternatively, if you’re on a budget, 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. Ride the Scenic Tram Number 2 Along the Danube
Possibly my favorite tram line in the world, Budapest’s Tram #2 basically runs the length of the Danube on the Pest side.
It’s 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, or are free with the Budapest Card.
#7. Take a Dip in the Outdoor 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 popular thing to do in Budapest.
And of course that 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.
#8. Or at the Art Nouveau 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 the nearby items # 27 (the Budapest Cave Church) and 26 (Gellert Hill) on this list of things to do in Budapest.
#9. Enjoy the View from the 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.
#10. Savor the Taste of 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.
It’s delicious, if not exactly healthy.
Pro Tip: My favorite spot to eat Langos in Budapest is at Retró Lángos Büfé (which is just steps away from the #1 item on this list of things to do in Budapest, btw). But you can find it at many restaurants in town.
#11. Try a Hungarian Chimney Cake
Hope you don’t have a sweet tooth, because this next activity to experience in Budapest might have you gaining a kilo or two while in town.
Hungarian chimney is a delicious sweet bread-based concoction made by roasting the dough on a spit.
You can find vendors hawking it in stalls all over the city. For a special treat, try the version with ice cream in the middle.
#12. 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.
#13. Enjoy a Meal at Mazel Tov – Budapest’s Trendiest Restaurant
Ok, so it’s kinda weird to include an Israeli restaurant on a list of what to do in Budapest right?
Mazel Tov 100% deserves its spot on this list, as the long lines outside for a table every night attest that this is one of the top restaurants in Budapest.
Inside this District 7 mainstay, you’ll find a trendy interior “ruin pub” design and delicious Israeli dishes.
Just be prepared to wait for it with the crowds, or call ahead for a reservation.
#14. Ride History on 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 Adrassy Avenue, taking a ride on this historic metro is worth it even if you don’t particularly need the transport.
#15. Pay Respects at the Shoes on the Danube Bank Memorial
Honoring Jews killed by fascists during World War II, this touching monument was conceived by film director Can Togay.
It’s located along the Danube on the Pest side just south of the Hungarian Parliament.
Even if it’s just a few minute stop on the Danube on the way to Parliament, appreciating this important history makes it worth the detour.
#16. Watch the 9 PM Show at the Margaret Island Singing Fountain
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 thing to do in Budapest at night (or, if you opt for the day show, to combine with a stroll around the park).
#17. Get the ‘Gram at Fisherman’s Bastion
I’ll be honest with you: Fisherman’s Bastion is at the top of most lists of things to do in Budapest. And no wonder why, because the shots you can get from this Budapest tourist attraction are truly worthy of Instagram.
So why did I leave it so far down this list of what to do in Budapest?
Honestly, Fisherman’s Bastion is an overcrowded mess of the worst of over-tourism even on a good day.
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.
#18. Marvel at Budapest’s Matthias Church
Located within Fisherman’s Bastion, the 700 year old Matthias Church is one of the best known landmarks in Budapest.
Adult entrance is 1,000 HUF ($3) and the church is open from 9 am to 5 pm Monday-Friday, with abbreviated hours on the weekends.
#19. Explore the Funky Szimpla Kert
Budapest is famous for its ruin pubs – 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, 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.
#20. Or Check Out These Alternative Budapest Ruin Pubs
Sure, Szimpla rightly gets a lot of the ruin bar glory in Budapest.
But there are many other ruin pubs worth a spot on your list of places to visit in Budapest.
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.
#21. Go on a Pub Crawl (just don’t be an idiot please)
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.
#22. Better Yet – Party Like a Local at Morrison’s
While the tourists jam the ruin pubs in the city center, Hungarians looking to get their party on instead head to Morrison’s – which is possibly one of the unique nightclubs I’ve ever visited?
Why do I say that?
Because Morission’s includes – check it – a pop dance bar, a pub, a karaoke lounge, a hip hop dance floor, a techno club, and a retro Hungarian pop club … all in one!
Be prepared to pay a ~5 euro entrance fee.
#23. Or Go Out to a Party in Spa (A Sparty!)
Sure, the sanitation of it all is questionable, but there’s no denying the great fun to be had at the weekly “Sparties” in Budapest’s famous Szechenyi.
At ~50 euros per ticket, this unique thing to do at night in Budapest isn’t going to come cheap. But if you’re young and in the mood, it’s really something to see the spa lit up with lasers and smoke machines.
#24. Try Some Local Fare at Drum Cafe
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.
#25. Or Try the Local Fare at 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.
Note that Frici Papa, in keeping with its truly local character, is closed Sundays.
#26. Hike to the Top of Gellert Hill
Ok, sure, you can take a taxi, tour, or even a bus there.
But the best 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 (alternatively, you can ride a funicular).
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 gets busy during the day and at sunset, but the views are equally spectacular – and far less crowded – at night.
#27. Visit Budapest’s Cave Church
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.
#28. Revel in Budapest’s Sziget Festival
Each August, an island in Budapest plays host to one of the largest musical and culture events in all of Europe: the famous Sziget Festival.
If you’re lucky enough to be in town at the right time, taking part in the festival should definitely be near the top of your list of what to do in Budapest, as it consistently ranks as one of the top festivals in all of Europe.
#29. Get Educated at the House of Terror
Museums aren’t for every type traveler, but this gallery may be different than what you are expecting.
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.
Tickets cost 3,000 HUF (~$10 USD). Note that the museum is closed on Mondays and public holidays.
#30. Wander the Great Market Hall
The Great Market Hall (aka Budapest’s Central Market) is an enormous neogothic hall in the center of Budapest filled with vendors hawking all sorts of produce, goods, and souvenirs.
Wandering the stalls at the impressive market 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 town of Szentendre on the Danube river.
#32. Watch the Sunset from Pontoon Bar
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!
#33. Take the Hop-on-Hop-Off Bus Tour
Ok, admittedly our final item on this list of what to do in Budapest is more than a little bit 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.
Where Should You Stay in Budapest?
Budapest accommodation books up fast, as it’s quickly becoming one of the hottest tourist cities in Europe.
Here are some my personal favorite hotels in Budapest (all on the Pest side, which is the only side I’d suggest staying on):
- Utto Luxury Suites – The best hotel I’ve ever personally stayed in in Budapest, it’s shockingly how big these amazing suites are for the reasonable price you pay. Plus, it’s walking distance to everything. Click here to check prices on Booking.com.
- Aria Hotel Budapest – If you’re the luxury travel type, you won’t find a better hotel in Budapest with a better location for walking or more comfortable interior. Click to check prices on Booking.com.
- Maverick City Lodge – My favorite hostel in Budapest. Clean, (relatively) quiet, central, and focused on enjoying the city more so than partying all night. Click here to check prices on Booking.com.
Alternatively, why not rent an entire apartment through Airbnb and have access to a full kitchen, more space, etc.? Pretty much any of the many apartments located in the central Jewish Quarter will put you in walking distance of most of the Budapest sights on this list.
If it’s your first time using Airbnb, you can get $40 off your first booking with this link!
5 Tips for Visiting Budapest
After a half dozen visits to Budapest, here are a few simple tips I’ve picked up to help you make the most out of your travel to one of the best cities on the planet:
- Visit During Shoulder Season – During April and October the weather is still pleasant, but if you travel to Budapest during this time, you’ll find fewer crowds and better prices.
- Stay in Pest – The Buda side of the river is wonderful to explore during the day but there’s very little open in the evenings and, while others debate whether to stay in Buda or Pest, in my opinion there’s no question that Pest is the better side for accommodation.
- Get the Budapest Card for Convenience – This single card gives you access to Budapest’s public transport system plus entrance or discounts at lots of top sites around the city. It’s best if you just want the convenience of not having to figure out transport passes or how to travel around town.
- Pack a Swimsuit for the Spas – It’s an easy thing to forget (who needs a swimsuit for a city break?), so just remember to pack that Speedo for your dip in the famous spas.
- Don’t be an Over-Tourist – Hungary’s capital is one of those destinations that’s quickly falling pretty to overtourism. Try to be respectful as you enjoy this city – remember that people live here! Here are some tips on how not to be an overtourist.
FAQs About Travel to Budapest
What’s the best time of year to visit Budapest?
While Budapest is always beautiful, the warm months of May through September are the most popular months to visit the Hungarian national capital (with a small uptick around Christmas time as well).
Personally, I think the best time to visit Budapest is in April or October – shoulder season, when prices are lower and the crowds thinner.
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’s 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 here after all!
What Should I Pack for Budapest?
That depends in part on the weather. Just be sure to bring a swim suit 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.
Is Budapest worth visiting?
Hungary may not be my favorite country in Europe (that’s Georgia), but Budapest is definitely my favorite city.
Despite the recent influx of a few-too-many tourists, Budapest remains my favorite city in Europe and one of the most magical places I’ve seen on the planet (and I’ve been to a lot of places!).
You won’t find a city with quite the same combination of history, nightlife, incredible restaurants, and beautiful architecture. And it’s all set along the stunning Danube riverbank.
That’s it for this guide to the top things to do in Budapest, Hungary!
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