Located on the beautiful river of Danube, Budapest attracts visitors with a sense of adventure, with surprises lurking around every corner. But that’s not where its wonders end – the stunning architecture is enough to make the heads of tourists spin, showcasing baroque, neoclassical, art nouveau and eclectic buildings. There is more to admiring the architecture of Budapest than just glancing over the style, with numerous reminders of the grim history, like bullet holes from WWII still present in the walls of many of the buildings. But while Budapest does not forget, it does not mourn over the past – today, it’s a lively city with plenty of entertainment and a strong will to live life to the fullest. Once the sun sets, the many clubs and pubs, and in some cases, even streets, fill themselves with tourists and locals alike, who engage in a vibrant nightlife. Once you get your fill of partying, there is no better way to relax than to hit one of the hot springs. Budapest offers an abundance of bathhouses which come in every style and shape you could imagine. The eclectic character of the city, reflected in the architecture and the customs alike, is what makes Budapest such an interesting choice for a city break.
Top 10 Things to See and Do in Budapest
Private Entrance to Szechenyi Spa
This premium attraction will not only allow you to skip the lines and enter the baths and spa with top priority, but you will also get a private changing cabin. The private entrance includes full-day access to eighteen different pools, and you can opt-in for an aroma massage and other spa activities.
Budapest Folklore Show
The show features a one-and-a-half hour folk show by two different groups – the Danube Folk Ensemble and the Hungarian Folk ensemble, both backed by a skilled orchestra. The show allows you to extend your knowledge on the historical setting of Budapest, all the while being amazed by visual arts.
Budapest Parliament House Tour
A one-and-a-half hour tour which will take you along the corridors and rooms of the Parliament House of Budapest. This premium attraction will allow you to see the home of the Holy Hungarian Crown for yourself, including a look at its impressive staircase, the Session Room, and the Great Vaulted Hall.
Budapest Pub Crawl
If you’re looking for a wild night out, this tour will give just that and even more. The tour lasts for five hours during the night and takes you along the most visited pubs placed amidst the city centre of Budapest. You get to visit five different pubs, and in each, you get a complimentary drink for free, as well as various discounts.
Gellert Spa Private Entrance
The lines and Gellert Spa tend to span for miles, as hundreds of people wait for their turn to enter its premises. Save your precious time with this private entrance, which allows you to fully skip the line and even includes a private changing cabin for every person, so you do not have to use the communal dressing room.
Budapest Bike Tour
This unique tour will allow you to see many of the sights of Budapest while exercising and staying healthy. The bike tour will take you on a three-hour long drive along the city, and a private guide will steer you along the Heroes’ Square and City Park, Opera, Parliament, Liberty bridge and many others.
Small Group Budapest Caving Adventure
Being a somewhat unusual tour, this one will show you the marvellous wonders that await in the underground natural cave system of Budapest. Sure to provide some unforgettable memories, this tour will also provide you with a geological history of the region, lectured by a knowledgeable tour guide.
Hungarian Cooking Course
This four-hour long class on the cuisine of Hungary will showcase you some of the most famous dishes eaten by the local population. With a short tour of the Market Hall included, you will be taught and guided by professional chefs in a real cooking school, and you even get to eat your own creation.
Budapest Wine Tasting Tour
This tour will take you along the Danube river on a private ship, all the while presenting different regional wines for you to taste. Seven different Hungarian wines are provided in the tasting experience, including the most famous one – Tokaj. The cruise will take you along the Parliament and the Chain Bridge, so you get plenty of sights to see.
Other Things to See and Do
Being one of the most attended and photographed spots in Budapest, the Heroes’ Square is certainly a spot worth visiting. With a great column, which has a height of over thirty-six meters, and a statue of the archangel Gabriel on top, the square provides plenty to look at, with further sculptures depicting Hungary’s history.
This one-kilometre long walk provides plenty of sights to see along the way. On the top of the hill lies the Buda Castle, which houses the Hungarian National Gallery, a library, and a museum. All of them have a small fee to pay for entrance unless you have a Budapest Pass, but the gardens around them are free.
Located at the top of the aforementioned Castle Hill, the Fisherman’s Bastion provides some of the most beautiful views of the cityscapes in all of Europe. You can easily see all of Budapest and the Danube river from it, and, moreover, you will be able to admire its unique architecture, built by fishermen in the Middle Ages.
The Orientation Tour is one of the many free tours provided by the city locals to foreigners and alike, starting at 10:30 a.m. each day. This tour provides two different options, one of which takes you from Pest to Buda, and the other one focuses on the Pest part of the journey, covering the topics of faith.
The Great Market
Housed in an old, 19th-century building on the Pest side of the Liberty Bridge, the Great Market covers three floors and is an overwhelming variety of different vendors, showcasing the marvels of regional cuisine. Here you can eat some famous Hungarian langos, as well as buy some unique souvenirs.
Put some time aside to wander around the Jewish Quarter of Budapest, which shows and retells the history of oppression. The Jewish Quarter was once a ghetto where Jews were banished under Nazi rule, and now is home to the largest synagogue in Europe, as well as a couple of museums and art galleries.
While guided tours of the Parliament are not free, yet still relatively cheap, you can still wander around the building and admire its neo-gothic architecture in all of its might. Take a walk around the building, which is well-lit even during the night, and take a photo in front of the building which was inspired by Westminster Abbey.
This cemetery is a resting place for many of Hungary's most famous and well-renowned artists, politicians and craftsmen. The Kerepesi Cemetery is also the biggest outdoor statue park in all of Europe, covering over fifty-six hectares, and allows you to marvel at its beauty at your own pace.
If you’re looking for a calm and tranquil way to spend your afternoon during your stay in Budapest, take a walk along the City Park, which makes for a leisurely stroll with some interesting sights to see along the way, including the mysterious statue of Anonymous, the unknown historian of Hungary.
Placed in the middle of the City Park, the Vajdahunyad Castle is an unusual gem to see. The architecture of the castle is made out of parts of various elements reflecting different periods of time and architectural styles. It also houses the Agricultural Museum, which is also worth seeing itself.
The Museum of Fine Arts
If you’re under the age of twenty-six, are a citizen of the European Economic Area, or have the Budapest Pass, you can gain free entrance to most of Budapest’s museums on the third Saturday of each month. This museum specifically features a wide collection of different arts and various regional exhibitions and events.
The National Museum
The Hungarian National Museum is the largest and most well-maintained museum in all of Hungary, showcasing many rotating displays and exhibitions daily. Here you can get a lecture on Christian persecution in the Middle East or see for yourself the ceremonial robe worn by Hungarian kings at their coronations.
The Military Museum
This unique museum allows free entrance to all people under the age of twenty-six on every last Sunday of each month. The museum is packed full with military memorabilia, such as an extensive collection of weaponry used in the present and the past by Hungary, as well as uniforms, flags, armours and even coins.
Saint Stephen’s Basilica
The Basilica is a Roman Catholic church, named to honour Stephen, the first king of Hungary, who ruled between 975 and 1038. The right hand of the king is supposed to be housed in the reliquary of the basilica. The church used to be the sixth biggest church in Hungary but has developed to take the third place now.
Located inside of the Gellert Hill, the church is truly a one of a kind wonder that you really must see for yourself. It is set inside of a natural cave system inside of the hill, formed by thermal springs. The cave itself is called the Saint Ivan’s Cave after a shaman who lived there and supposedly healed travellers.
Another one of Roman Catholic churches located in the vicinity of Budapest. This one was originally built in Romanesque style in 1015, but no remains exist of the old church. It has been rebuilt from scratch in the late Gothic style in the second half of the 14th century and stands tall today with its marvellous tower.
Inner City Parish Church
This one is the oldest building in all of Pest neighbourhood of Budapest and is located next to the Elizabeth Bridge. Founded in 1046, the church is almost a thousand years old and features a few different architectural styles, combining a Romanesque façade, Gothic walls, and a Romanesque basilica.
A great way to escape the bustling city of Budapest and have a moment of peace and quiet is to take a bus to Margaret's Island, which is a two-kilometer-long island placed in the middle of the Danube. The island is home to luscious greenery with tree-lined paths, a few thermal spas and a vast number of monuments.
The third newest bridge in Budapest might be quite new but is still a sight worth seeing. It connects the Buda and Pest districts across the Danube and is situated at the narrowest part of the river. It is not named after Queen Elizabeth, but rather Elizabeth of Bavaria, a famous Empress of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
The Virag Judit Gallery
If you're into something fancier, the Virag Judit Gallery not only houses a vast collection of visual arts but also hosts auctions where you can get some of the pieces yourself. Of course, the auctions themselves require some money to buy anything, but you can still attend them and watch the show.