20 Best Things to do in Budapest Hungary on Your First Visit

things to do in Budapest

The capital of Hungary is rich in food, culture, architecture, and endless stunning attractions. When looking for what to do in Budapest, you will be overwhelmed from the start! Although it’s nicknamed the “City of Baths” for a reason, there’s so much more to do than soak in the famous thermals. Our travel guide will take you through the best things to do in Budapest Hungary, from ruin bars to castles, and more can’t miss sights! 

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Budapest Hungary General Information

Before diving into the best things to do in Budapest Hungary, there are a few things you should know about the city! Most importantly, it’s split into two sides by the Danube River.

To put it simply, the Buda side is the more residential part. Pest is where you’ll find the most bars, restaurants, and tourist attractions. However, as you’ll see in this article there is plenty to see on both sides of the famous Danube!

Official Language: Hungarian
Currency: Hungarian Forint
Airport: Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport (BUD)
Best Time to Visit:  Spring (April-June) & Fall (September-October)

Budapest Hungary

Getting to Budapest Hungary

Flight: Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport (BUD) is roughly 45 minutes from the city center. You can take a public bus, taxi, or shared van that will drop you off at your hotel. The bus is much cheaper and stops at three different points in the city near all the best things to do in Budapest. 

Train: Budapest Keleti Railway Station is the main international train station in the city and a quick metro ride away from the Jewish Quarter. Make sure you check your ticket because you could be arriving at Budapest-Déli Railway Terminal or Budapest-Nyugati instead!

Bus: There are different bus stations in Budapest depending on which company you use. The most popular is Budapest-Népliget Bus Station which serves both Euroline and FlixBus. Leave enough time to get there as Nepliget is just outside the city near the Groupama soccer stadium.

Getting to Budapest Hungary

20 Best Things to do in Budapest Hungary 

1. Stay in the Jewish Quarter 

First things first! Where do you stay in Budapest Hungary? Personally, we fell in love with the Jewish Quarter and found it was the perfect place to stay. It’s within walking distance of everything downtown, has dozens of bars and restaurants, and is close access to all public transportation.

When visiting Budapest we highly recommend staying in the Jewish Quarter or at any of the hotels between there and the Széchenyi Chain Bridge. This is the heart of the city so you won’t have to waste too much time getting to all the best things to do in Budapest. Below are a few more of our favorite places to stay for every budget!

Budapest Hotel Recommendations

Ultra Luxury (High End) – The Ritz-Carlton – The Ritz-Carlton is the premier luxury hotel throughout the world, and that’s no different when visiting Budapest! Enjoy the most central location in the city with all the amenities you’d expect from the Ritz.

Fun Vacation (Mid Range) – D8 Hotel – Just steps from the Chain Bridge, this hotel is the perfect location for your stay in Budapest Hungary. Great value for your money, unique interior design, and a large breakfast.

Hostel Life (Budget) – Wombats City Hostel – Located in the center of Budapest close to popular cafes and bars. Daily buffet breakfast, shared kitchen, and large common room. Private rooms here are also perfect for travel couples.

For more places to stay in Budapest Hungary you can explore the latest prices here!

Budapest Hungary Travel Guide

2. Eat Your Way Through Budapest

In a massive city like Budapest, there are endless local and international options to pick from. We had the best Hungarian traditional dishes, ate piles of hummus, doner kebabs, and even gave in to our guilty pleasure of Vietnamese food. Don’t worry! If you’re visiting Budapest in 3 days, a week, or even squeezing everything into one day… We got you covered!

Check out our one day delicious food guide for the ultimate foodie eating day. With so many diverse restaurants you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a good meal while working your way through what to do in Budapest.

Must-Try Local Dishes: Goulash and Spaetzle, Lángos, Fruit or Cheese Soup, Stuffed Cabbage, Sausages, and Chimney Cakes.

Budapest Hungary Food Guide

3. Drink Cherry Beer

Traditionally, Hungary is recognized for wine while its neighbors are known more for beer. However, in Budapest, it felt like everyone was throwing back huge pints at every turn! While we love wine as much as the next traveler, you should know that it can be saved for smaller Hungarian towns.

Budapest Hungary is a beer city! It was here that we discovered something that was unlike any other beer we’ve ever had. Just a few years ago Hungarian breweries started to make Cherry beer.

It was such a hit that it’s become a staple in bars throughout the city. You can now get a beer with different fruit flavors while visiting Budapest, but the Cherry Meggy is the best!

Where to Drink Cherry and Local Beer in Budapest

4. Take a Walking Tour of Budapest Hungary

For how large Budapest is it somehow still manages to be an extremely walkable city. When going between the best things to do in Budapest you’ll cross over bridges, stop at funky cafes, and wind through countless beautiful backstreets. It’s so impressive the way the old buildings blend with modern architecture.

We always prefer walking because it gives us a chance to exercise while also feeling like we’re not missing out on anything. Yet with so many things to do in Budapest Hungary, we sometimes had to take the tram.

Be warned though, if you’re trying to see Budapest in just a couple of days you may end up strolling for 10 miles or more. So get your walking shoes ready! 

City Tram: We recommend walking in our Budapest travel guide, but you should know that the trains are super convenient and inexpensive. For longer distances or to save time, you can always utilize the train and bus.

Book a 3-Hour Grand City Tour and Castle Walk of Budapest Hungary

Budapest Hungary Walking Tour

5. Relax at the Thermal Baths

Budapest holds the title of Europe’s “City of Baths” and after our many visits, we can tell you how deserving that is! There’s a huge range of different spas to choose from on your visit. 

Budapest has everything from famous baths like Gellért to smaller local spots hidden in the side streets. If you plan on including this in your trip to Budapest you could easily hit more than one!

It’s impossible to think about this city without daydreaming of the warm mineral-filled water in the many thermals. Make sure you get to one, especially if you’re traveling to Hungary in the cold winter months! You can read all about our experience at the most popular Budapest spa in our article below.

→ Széchenyi Thermal Bath: How to Visit the Best Bath in Budapest

→ Skip the Line and Book Your Széchenyi Spa Full-Day Pass

Szechenyi Thermal Bath

6. Shop At the Central Market Hall

The Central Market is your one stop shop for everything you could ever want in Budapest! The massive building makes up the largest and oldest market in the city, first opening in 1897. Here you’ll find local fruits, vegetables, meats, and even clothing or souvenirs.

Still, the star of the show is undoubtedly the food stalls on the second floor. This is where you can sample all the best traditional Hungarian food in the city. Have lunch here one day and be sure to add what’s also known as “The Great Market Hall” to your things to do in Budapest itinerary!

Budapest Hungary Central Market Hall

7. Cross Over the Many City Bridges

In total, Budapest has eight bridges crossing over the Danube River. They’re no doubt attractions in themselves, with each one having its own unique features.

The Chain Bridge is the oldest being completed in 1849 and was the first to connect the Buda and Pest sides of the city. Just a little bit further up the river, you’ll find Margaret Bridge which crosses over the Danube to Margaret Island.

Out of all the bridges we mention in this what to do in Budapest guide our favorite is the Liberty Bridge! They actually shut it down to traffic on the weekends during summer. IT turns into a big party with music where everyone brings their own drinks. How fun is that??

Things to do in Budapest Hungary

8. See History At the Buda Castle

It’s hard to find a place with more historical importance to Budapest than the Buda Castle! First built in the 13th century by King Béla IV of Hungary, it was then captured and recaptured countless times by opposing forces. The Buda Castle sits beautifully above the river next to the Fisherman’s Bastion, and there’s much to explore inside.

In addition to its unique exterior, it also has a history museum and the impressive Hungarian National Gallery. Our advice would be to go early and see both the castle and Fisherman’s Bastion on the same day as they’re next to each other on the Buda side of the river. You can even take the funicular ride to the top if you’re not up for the short hike!

Book a Budapest Classic Buda Castle Walking Tour

Budapest Hungary Castle

9. Explore Nature On Margaret Island

After experiencing so many of the best things to do in Budapest you might need a breath of fresh air. Luckily you’ll find all that and more on Margaret Island!

Known as the greenest part of the city, the 2.5 km long strip is filled with trees, flowers, and walking paths running along this small landmass in the center of the river.

It’s a great place to rent a bicycle and get some exercise while exploring a different side of Budapest Hungary. On a summer day in the city, you’ll see locals and travelers alike wandering around the scenic paths.

There are also swimming pools, an open-air cinema, a small zoo, two musical fountains, and even medieval ruins on Margaret Island!

Things to do Budapest Hungary

10. Visit the National Museum

Didn’t get enough history on the Buda side of the Danube River? Well, you’re in luck! The Hungarian National Museum is the best place to see art, history, and archaeology in the city.

It houses many exhibitions on different subjects as well as going through every era of history in this part of Europe. At the time of our visit entrance was 2,600 Huf ($9 USD). It’s open from 10am to 6pm every day except Monday.

Budapest Hungary National Museum

11. Hike to the Citadella

While there are dozens of great hikes in and around the city, the best view of Budapest is at the Citadel. From the Pest side, you can cross either the Liberty or St. Elisabeth bridges to start the hike up Gellért-Hill. On both ends, you should see many paths up to the top, and the hike in total only takes 20-30 minutes.

We went from the Liberty Bridge which was moderately steep and filled with several viewpoints as you get closer to the top. The day we hiked was extremely humid, but we didn’t let that stop us from getting an unreal view!

The Citadella is the fortress atop the hill built in 1851 by the Austrian Empire. It was not until the turn of the century that Hungary actually took control of it. On the front of the fortress, you’ll also find the gigantic Liberty Statue which was built by the Soviets after World War II.

Budapest Hungary Things to Do

12. Spend the Morning at Fisherman’s Bastion

Fisherman’s Bastion should be at the top of your list when looking for what to do in Budapest. It’s the city’s most recognizable architecture after the Hungarian Parliament, and you’ll see that it certainly lives up to the hype!

With its amazing towers and Danube River views, Fisherman’s Bastion is the perfect complement to the neighboring Buda Castle. Each of the seven towers represents one of the legendary Magyar tribes that settled in this region in the 9th century.

By the looks of it, you may think the building is just as old as the rest of the historical structures in Budapest… But not so fast!

Surprisingly, Fisherman’s Bastion was only finished in 1902 and built to celebrate the 1,000th anniversary of the Hungarian state. To enter the main building and viewpoint is free and to visit the upper towers is 1,000 Huf ($3 USD).

11 Fun Facts About Fisherman’s Bastion to Know Before You Go

Best Things to Do in Budapest Hungary

13. Marvel at the Matthias Church

Honestly, it’d be a shame if you missed out on the incredible Matthias Church behind Fisherman’s Bastion! Legend has it that Matthias was originally built in the year 1015 by the King of Hungary Saint Stephen.
It was then destroyed by the Mongols during their conquest of Budapest in 1241. The current building was erected shortly after that in the 13th century and still stands today. It may get lost in the luster of the Buda Castle and Fisherman’s Bastion but it’s totally worth seeing.
Matthias Church Budapest

14. Stroll Around the Hungarian Parliament Building

Among the endless things to do in Budapest, seeing the Hungarian Parliament reigns supreme! Its intricate designs are mesmerizing, and it’s one of the few buildings we’ve experienced in Europe that literally made our jaws drop. So where do you get the best view of this epic architecture? 

While you may think it would be directly across the Danube River we found many more ways to see this famous building. The Kossuth Lajos Square behind the Parliament is great for a close-up, and anywhere around the Buda Castle is perfect for long-range views and photos. Without a doubt though, the ultimate way to see it is to get out on the water!

→ Book a 45-Minute Guided Tour of Parliament

Parliament Building Budapest Hungary

15. Take a Sunset River Boat Cruise

Did you know one of the best places to watch the sunset is also THE SPOT to see the Hungarian Parliament building?? The sunset boat cruise was also one of our favorite activities we did in Budapest! Riverboats range from super low-key and budget to upscale dinner cruises, so it shouldn’t be a problem finding one that suits you.

We paid 9 Euros for a one-hour boat cruise, and it even included a free drink. It was amazing being out on the water just as the sun went down, sliding elegantly underneath all the magnificent bridges. If you’re only on a short trip to Budapest Hungary this is also a great way to see more sights quickly! 

Book a Budapest Night Cruise with Parliament View and Champagne

Best things to do in Budapest

16. Remember WWII with the Shoes at the Danube Bank

Hungary has long and storied Jewish traditions dating back thousands of years. Unfortunately, it all came to a crashing halt during World War II in Budapest. Using the same “racial purity” ideology as the Nazis did, the Hungarian Arrow Cross soldiers terrorized the city towards the end of the war.

As many as 20,000 Jews were taken from the newly formed Budapest ghetto, murdered, and their bodies thrown in the Danube River. There are several other monuments around the Jewish Quarter dedicated to these atrocities, but this one really moved us the most while visiting Budapest.

Budapest Hungary Shoes

17. See St. Stephen’s Basilica Day or Night

You may never have to add St. Stephen’s Basilica to your itinerary because we ran into it almost every day while exploring! The former theatre turned church is the perfect centerpiece to Budapest Hungary and will leave you speechless the first time you see it.

The inside of St. Stephen’s is almost more breathtaking than the exterior as its beauty stretches from bell tower to bell tower. The way it shines during the day and lights up with the night sky clearly makes it one of the most noticeable places in Budapest. Plan to wake up early one morning to take the tour and climb to the top of the dome.

St. Stephen’s Basilica Website with Tour Hours and Information

Budapest Hungary Church

18. Enjoy the Views from the Pontoon Bar

By now you’ve probably figured out that almost everything in our things to do in Budapest guide is centered around the Danube River. Along with the many sights near the water, there’s also a great assortment of bars and restaurants with amazing views.

The most fun that we came across was the Pontoon Bar next to the Chain Bridge! Grab a drink and watch the boats pass by as you take in one of the coolest spots in Budapest.

Budapest Hungary Pontoon Bar

19. Grab a Meal on Karavan Food Street

Now that you’ve checked off so many items on your Budapest list it’s time to eat! Karavan Food Street is in the center of the Jewish Quarter and features dozens of delicious food trucks.

With its location next door to the most popular ruin bar in the city (Szimpla Kert) there’s no doubt you’ll end up here at some point. The only problem will be figuring out what to order!

Karavan has every type of food from American BBQ to tacos and even burgers with fried dough as the buns. Nevertheless, the winner for us was the hummus truck!

We went here on numerous occasions to get the tasty falafel pitas and our mouths are watering just thinking about them now. You’ll also find plenty of great Hungarian Beers and drinks here to wash down your food with. Cheers!

Budapest Hungary Food

20. Spend the Night Ruin Bar Hopping

While we’re on the topic of drinks we might as well tell you about Budapest’s epic nightlife! The ruin bars have become a staple of the city, and a symbol of its great artistry and creativity. These once-abandoned buildings have been uniquely remodeled and are now the hottest places to go out in Budapest Hungary.

If you only have time for one ruin bar go to the original at Szimpla Kert. Do your best to get there early so you can see every funky room display before the masses come to party the night away. For more awesome ruin bars in Budapest Hungary check out our post below!

→ 5 Fun Szimpla Kert Tips: Visit to the Original Ruin Bar in Budapest

Budapest Hungary Beer

After All These Things to do in Budapest… Go to Eger Hungary!

We absolutely fell in love with this small town two hours east of Budapest. It may be quiet in Eger, but there’s so much to do and see! The Eger Castle, Turkish baths, and cute neighborhoods will be a nice switch up from the craziness of Budapest.

Oh, and did we mention the over 40 wine cellars just outside of town that make up the “Valley of the Beautiful Women.” Yes, that’s right! For around $1 per glass, you can spend hours sampling all the best wines that Hungary has to offer. 

→ Eger Hungary Guide: Thermal Bath, Castle, & More Amazing Things to Do

Tasting 47 Wines in Eger Hungary at the Valley of the Beautiful Women

Budapest Day Trip

What are some of your favorite things to do in Budapest Hungary? We want to know in the comments! Also, if you have any questions about what to do in Budapest feel free to reach out.

Safe Travels,
Brigitte & Jake

Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar

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Budapest Hungary

Hungary Travel Planning 

 Flights: We always find great flight deals using Skyscanner and Kayak. This way you can plan your trip around the cheapest and most direct routes.

 Accommodation: Compare multiple sites to get to the best deal such as Booking.com and Agoda! Also,  Hostelworld should be your go-to source if you’re traveling on a budget. 

Rental Car: We use Discover Cars to rent vehicles on our travels. In Hungary, there are many beautiful cities and small towns to explore. 

Tours: Check out Get Your Guide for hundreds of activities around the country. You can book a Széchenyi spa full day pass in Budapest, try a Hungarian wine tasting, or jump on a sightseeing river cruise

 Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without being covered! We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.

 Packing Lists: Find all the inspiration you need with our Amazon packing lists. Including our electronics and camera gear, must-have medical items, and long flight essentials

Hungry Travel

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