Best Things to Do in Budapest

Budapest view

Having traveled to Budapest several times, we definitely get why the Hungarian capital welcomes thousands of tourists every year. On a budget? There are tons of places to explore at very reasonable prices. Are you into outdoor activities or want to dive into history? Budapest offers some of the world’s top attractions for both adults and kids, including some of the best food and most fun things to do!
Here is a quick guide to some of the best places to visit on your trip to beautiful and unforgettable Budapest.

Article contents

  1. 15 best sights in Budapest
  2. Best museums
  3. Cafes and Restaurants
  4. Budapest FAQs

The Hungarian Parliament Building

One of the most photographed buildings in all of Budapest, this historic site is every bit as beautiful in person as it is on the front of a postcard. Hungarians are very proud of the Parliament building, as it was constructed using Hungarian materials and designed by the Hungarian architect Imre Steindl, even if they’re not always ecstatic about what’s going on inside.

If you want to take a closer look, you can join one of the daily tours which start:

  • every hour from 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. (April 1st through October 31st),
  • and from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (November 1st through March 31st).

The price won’t blow your budget either—it’s HUF 3500 ($11 USD) for EU citizens and HUF 6700 ($21 USD) for visitors from other countries.

Hungarian Parliament Building St. Stephen's Basilica 1

St. Stephen’s Basilica

You can’t miss this gorgeous building; the main Catholic temple of the country is visible every time you lift your eyes to gaze at countless sculptures decorating the building in the city center. In fact, the site means so much to Hungarian people that there is an actual law forbidding the construction of anything taller.

More than just a religious structure, the Basilica offers fantastic acoustics, so if you happen to be in town, don’t hesitate to check out one of many concerts taking place here. Every Thursday, the Basilica hosts an unforgettable organ concert, tempting passersby to stop by and appreciate the classics.

Oh, and for just HUF 1000 ($4 USD), you can go up to the cupola, to view the sweeping city landscape from above, which will take your breath away.

Buda Castle

Сastle of the Hungarian kings

The Buda side of the city is wavy and hilly and home to the famous castle of the Hungarian kings. This structure is absolutely mesmerizing at night, shining with the glow of hundreds of golden lights. If you decide to do some walking while looking at different pieces of art, the castle will gladly assist you with that: nowadays it serves as a public gallery. The castle holds special appeal for museum and art enthusiasts as it’s home to the Hungarian National Gallery, the Historical Budapest Museum and the Szecsenyi Library.

The most expensive ticket will cost you HUF 1800 ($5.50 USD) per person. Guests can use the famous funicular or walk up to the castle for free, but here’s a tip: there’s an elevator on the left at the foot of the hill that’s also free. You’re welcome!

Thermal baths

Szechenyi bath

Oh, where should I even start.. My friend, who lives in Budapest, once told me that since she moved to Budapest, she’s worn her swimsuit possibly 50 times more often than she’d done in her whole life!

People in Budapest go to the baths to swim, relax, get a massage, chat with friends or even for a romantic date. In fact, these places are so popular that you might find it difficult to choose between them, so I’ll help you out:

  • Сhoose Gellert if you’re into a fancy interior, delicious cocktails and a fashionable night out.
  • Go for Rudasi if you have a love of Ottoman architecture and style and want to take some incredible photos (yes, this bath includes an open rooftop pool!) or have fun with your girls or boys, as there are days for just women, for just men and for both.
  • The usual choice of tourists is Szechenyi bath, but… Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very nice place to visit, but if you don’t want other thousands of tourists sitting on top of you, it’s best to avoid this specific bath.

Prices for baths vary—yet, in general, a ticket for the whole day will cost you around HUF 4000 ($12 USD).

The Jewish quarter

This is a beautiful historical area surrounding the Dohány Street Synagogue, also known as the Big Synagogue. As per the name, this synagogue is the largest in Europe, able to house 3000 people simultaneously. When walking around the exterior of the building, you can’t just pass by; as gorgeous as it is, the synagogue catches the eye not only with its beauty but also with the bittersweet yet charming memorial the Weeping Willow. A name is engraved on every leaf of the towering metal tree, reminding visitors of the lives lost during the Holocaust. Alongside the famous Shoes on the Danube Bank, the Weeping Willow is a must-see for anyone keen on the history of WWII.

For those eager to enter the synagogue, a ticket will run you HUF 4500 ($13 USD).

Dohány Street Synagogue District VII

Party District, a.k.a. “District VII”

It’s time to party, boys and girls, and here you will find a great place to do it… or two… or a hundred. The Hungarian passion for food and drink has led to this robust district boasting bars, pubs and restaurants.

I personally recommend using GPS to navigate Gozsdu Udvar, as this part of the district (with the best pubs, wine bars and cafes) is situated between several buildings, making it quite easy to get lost just like that. Well, if you ask me, this is not the worst place to get lost. Hungarian nightlife is intense and to be enjoyed in full: the world-known ruin pubs, which Budapest is famous for, are also in this district, but be careful what you wear, as it is very easy to get pulls. For those who want to take amazing Instagram pictures, I’ll drop just one name here: the Vintage Garden. You’ll thank me later.

The Budapest Zoo

If you happen to be in Budapest with kids or you’re just into animals and long walks, then one of the fun things to do is to explore the Budapest Zoo and Botanical Garden. This is one of the oldest and largest zoos in the world.

You’ll find it easily, as it’s situated right next to the city park Varosliget. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes and clothes, as the zoo is quite big. Also, it has some interactive sections, so you will spend there at least 3 hours. If you decide to feed a giraffe, please, make sure it doesn’t eat up your scarf!

Opening hours depend on the season, but visitors should enter the zoo not later than 3 p.m. Prices vary: for a daily ticket an adult will pay HUF 3300 ($10.2 USD), a child’s ticket will cost you HUF 2200 ($7 USD).

The Széchenyi Chain Bridge

The Széchenyi Chain Bridge

The Széchenyi Chain Bridge is probably the most famous and beautiful bridge in Budapest. By the way, there are nine bridges connecting Buda and Pest.

The Chain Bridge reminds of a tower for a good reason: its pillars are guarded by the stone lions. Legend has it that those lions don’t have tongues which is clearly not true. You simply can’t see them from the pedestrian point of view. The bridge connects Buda and Pest—the Buda Castle and the Gresham Palace. Actually, when Will Smith was visiting Budapest a couple of years ago, he performed the dancing challenge right on the top of the Chain Bridges pillars.

Fisherman’s Bastion and Mattias Church

Fisherman's Bastion

The breathtaking view must be taken into consideration, as well as, alas, the necessity to go up on foot, which can be quite challenging because of the angle. The good news is that you may take a castle bus number 16 to get to the Bastion or use the free elevator I’ve mentioned above to go to the castle yard. 10 minutes walking, and here you go, you’ve reached Fisherman’s Bastion!

For those enjoying history, this is a fantastic place to explore it. Here, you can enter the church which was founded in the 13th century, for just HUF 1500 ($4.7 USD). Fisherman’s Bastion has an exquisite spot for the photo to offer, with tons of arches, gothic windows, and views of the Parliament and Danube.

The Hungarian State Opera House

Budapest city view

House of Terror Andrassy Avenue

Another unique place to discover in Budapest. Whether you just stroll around Andrassy avenue, which is one of the UNESCO heritages in Hungary, or you are fond of classical music—the Opera House is obligatory to visit.

The tickets can be booked on the official website. I recommend taking a small guided tour to have a good look at the gorgeous red and gold interiors, as well as the paintings of Hungarian artists decorating the walls. These tours take place every day at 2 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. If you are not eligible for a student discount, you will have to pay HUF 2500 ($7.75 USD) for a regular ticket plus extra HUF 500 ($1.6 USD) for taking pictures or videos.

House of Terror and Andrassy Avenue

Andrassy Avenue is like the Avenue des Champs-Élysées of Budapest. It’s a wide street with luxury shops. As I mentioned above, the avenue is included into UNESCO World Heritage sites of Budapest.

Apart from the boutiques, you may find culture activities for the evening over here. For your taste there are Franz Liszt Memorial Museum, The Budapest Puppet Theater, Hungarian State Opera House, and House of Terror.

House of Terror is a museum dedicated to two periods of the history of Hungary: the German and further Soviet occupation. The atmosphere is quite dark, because both of the periods are considered to be the hardest times in Hungary. We haven’t been inside, yet even the facade of this museum is enough to put you in “terror”.

House of Terror is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Adult ticket costs HUF 3000 ($10.20 USD).

Heroes’ Square and Városliget Park

Heroes’ Square

Vajdahunyad Castle Városliget Park

Andrassy Avenue takes you right to the Heroes’ Square. Basically, it’s a war memorial with lots of space and a tall monument in the middle, called the Millenium Memorial.

The Square is a part of Városliget Park, where you’ll find five main sights:

  • The lake, where you can rent a boat in summer and ice-skate in winter at one of the oldest rinks, which turned 150 years old. The entrance to the rink is 1500 HUF ($5.10 USD) on the weekdays and 2000 HUF ($6.80 USD) on weekends. Rent of the skates is 2500 HUF ($8.50 USD) + deposit of 2000 HUF ($6.80 USD).
  • Vajdahunyad Castle, whose name and exceptional architecture inspired me for thoughts about royal families living here, but…nobody lived here. The Castle was built in the 1900s as part of the Millennial Exhibition—first out of wood and later renovated with stones. Nevertheless, this Castle is a pure masterpiece! Inside, you’ll find the Museum of Hungarian Agriculture.
    A little sidenote for you: sometimes, Vajdahunyad is called Dracula’s Castle, because the architect—Ignác Alpár—was inspired by Hunyad Castle in Transylvania, where the prototype of Dracula spent many years in imprisonment.
    You may visit the Courtyard of the Castle for free. The entrance to the Museum is free on March 15, August 20, October 23. Usually, the entrance costs 1600 HUF ($5.40 USD), and it includes the entrance to the tower. You may enter the tower separately without visiting the Museum—the entrance costs 400-600 HUF ($1.50–$2.00 USD). The Museum is closed on Mondays.
  • Zoo and Circus, which are great places for kids. Entrance to the Zoo costs 3300 HUF ($11.20 USD) for adults, and 2200 HUF ($7.50 USD) for children under 18.
  • Széchenyi Medicinal Bath. In other words, this place is a spa resort with outdoor thermal water pools. There are few baths in Budapest but Széchenyi is the most popular. There are several outdoor pools with different water temperatures. Széchenyi contains 10 saunas and steamrooms and even has the Russian Banya. Apart from the public sections, you can visit the separate sections for men and women. If you haven’t visited public baths before, I recommend you to google some info, because it’s not to everyone’s taste. The price for Széchenyi is 5900 HUF ($20.00 USD) for a public changing room with a locket, and 6400 HUF ($21.70 USD) for a private room.

Gellért Hill

Gellért Hill

On the opposite side of the Central Market Hall—across Liberty Bridge—stands Gellert Hill overlooking the Danube in Budapest. There you won’t find any historical buildings, only walking paths which will lead you to the top of the hill—the Citadella fortification.

At the foot of the hill, you’ll see the Gellert Hotel and Gellert Baths. This place might seem familiar to you, if you watched “The Grand Budapest Hotel” movie. The Baths will grab your attention as well: apart from the regular thermal baths, there is an outdoor bath with the waves!

On Gellert Hill, you’ll see:

  • The Cave Church
  • The Citadella fortification
  • The Liberty Statue that commemorates victory of the Soviet Army in WWII
  • The Garden of Philosophy—it’s a cluster of statues of famous philosophers. In the inner circle, you’ll find five founders of the world’s major religions: Abraham, Jesus, Buddha, Laozi, and Akhenaten.

I can’t say this is a must-visit sight in Budapest. If you have only one day, you better choose the Castle Hill.

Váci Street

Váci Street

By the end of the day, it’s a good idea to walk towards Váci Street—it’s a walking street which reminds me Istiklal in Istanbul or Arbat in Moscow. You’ll easily recognize it by the crowd and full restaurant terraces.

It’s a heart of the city and paradise for shopping lovers. Sometimes, you can be lucky and buy something on sale, otherwise this area is a bit pricey. It’s better to buy magnets on the streets next to Váci.

While you’re there, look around: there is a lot of street art on the buildings and it looks very stylish.

Museums of Budapest

National Hungarian Museum Museums in Budapest

There are plenty of museums in Budapest. I could recall at least fifteen of different types.
Here are some of the most popular ones:

  • Hungarian National Gallery—it is probably the main museum in Hungary. Not only because it’s located in Buda Castle, but also because it includes the best works of Hungarian talents. Painting and sculptures of XIV-XX centuries is a must-see for fine art lovers. Tickets cost 3200 HUF ($10.50 USD). The museum is free for visitors on March 15, August 20, October 23.
  • Hospital in the Rock—is a very interesting place. It used to be a real hospital, which provided emergency care for injured civilians during WWII, and later it turned into a nuclear bunker. The museum shows the terror and life of those days. Tickets cost 4000 HUF ($13 USD). The tour is conducted in a group of 10. Children under 6 are not allowed in the museum.
  • Hungarian National Museum—includes everything that can tell you about the history of Hungary from the very beginning until our days. The cost is 2600 HUF ($8.50 USD). The museum is free for visitors on March 15, August 20, October 23.
  • Museum of Fine Arts—this place is also full of paintings and sculptures, but unlike National Gallery, this museum has artwork of foreign artists. From the permanent exhibitions one of the most amusing ones will be the Egyptian with its real (or not?) mummy. But the best reviews are given to the temporary exhibitions, even though they are not included in the price of the main ticket. The entrance costs 3200 HUF ($10.50 USD). The entrance to the temporary exhibitions varies from 3400 HUF ($11.10 USD) up to 4000 HUF ($13 USD).

Cafes and Restaurants in Budapest: where to eat?

Menu in Budapest cafe Food in Budapest

Budapest has positive reviews for its attractions as well as for gastro experience. Here you will find everything—starting from traditional Hungarian dishes and finishing up with popular avo toasts.

Some places I checked in advance and some places were a pleasant accident. Here are my favorites:
Stika Gastropub – I came there for breakfast and, in my humble opinion, they serve the best benedict ($7–$9 USD). However, pancakes were average. The place is quite small but has a spacious terrace.
Hummus Bar – this is a hummus chain in Budapest, where for $7–$10 USD you can get a decent meal for two (!), but only if you’re fond of Israeli cuisine.
Karaván – is an outdoor foodmarket, open from 11:30 a.m. to midnight, with various food. I tried a burger with Hungarian scones and goat cheese in Lagos Burger, very unique in a good way.
Szamos Gourmet Haz – you can dine in this place or, just like us, simply buy marchpane candies. It’ll be the most memorable souvenir from Budapest.
Bors Gasztrobár – is an amazing streetfood! I recommend you to take soup in a cup. If there is soup with salty caramel and creams on the menu, consider yourself lucky! However, chicken curry is also worth trying. The ingredients often change. The place is small, so it’s better to order takeaway. The menu is in Hungarian.
Drum Café – serves Hungarian cuisine at reasonable price, always full but very atmospheric. I took goulash soup, classic lángos and something from the main dishes. A three-course will cost $7 USD.

Here is a little sidenote for you: a popular place in Budapest—called Szimply—unfortunately, didn’t meet my expectations. Yes, it’s trendy but we had been waiting for our order for about an hour outside and the meal was just average. Portions were poor and pricey: for avo toast and scramble we paid $20.00 USD.

How about coffee? Where to find a good cappuccino? Is there a hope to find filter or coldbrew? Yep, there is:
GoaMama – is a place to take a big cappuccino to go for 950 HUF ($3.10 USD) and explore Budapest. Or maybe you brought a laptop to get some work done, then welcome inside, the atmosphere is very cozy.
Flow – is a third-wave coffeeshop with specialty coffee and vegan food on Andrassy Avenue. They make a good filter and cappuccino for 850-950 HUF ($2.80–$3.10 USD).
Mantra – is the best place to hide in on the rainy day. Delicious giant latte for 800 HUF ($2.60 USD) and desserts will definitely brighten your day.

Please, don’t ignore classic Hungarian streetfood:

  • Shawarma – 800 HUF ($2.60 USD)
  • Pizza by slice – 450-550 HUF ($1.50–$1.80 USD), can save you at nigh
  • Kürtöskalács – sweet pastry.

Budapest FAQs

Trip to Budapest St. Stephen's Basilica 2

1. How much is for the metro pass?
The Metro works from 4:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. The pass costs 300 HUF ($1.00 USD)

2. How to get from/to the airport?
The Bus 100е is the cheapest way, operates 24/7. The pass is 900 HUF ($3.00 USD) per person, 3-4 stops from the city center. On the way to the airport, we took Uber and for 25-minute-drive we paid 7500 HUF ($25.00 USD).

3. What currency to use? Where to exchange money?
In Hungary, they use Forints, 1 HUF = 0,0033 USD or 1000 HUF = 3,3 USD. You can withdraw forints from any ATM, including the airport. It’s essential to have some cash in Budapest.

4. Where to stay?
In the city center or nearby. I lived on Podmaniczky st. and walked to all places mentioned in this article. A flat on Airbnb approximately will cost 15,000 HUF ($50 USD) per night. If you prefer hotels or hostels, then I recommend you to check HotelsCombined.

5. When is the best time to visit Budapest?
As in many other cities, spring is the season when Budapest in its beauty. But summer season and Christmas time should be taken in consideration as well. I visited Budapest in November, the greyest season, and have no regrets at all! It’s great if you can come to Budapest during the 7-day festival Sziget in summer.

6. What are the prices in Budapest?
Comparing with other European cities, Budapest is affordable. Here is a shopping list from Spar grocery store:

  • Bread – 300 HUF ($1 USD),
  • 2 avos – 1100 HUF ($3.70 USD),
  • Eggs – 300 HUF ($1 USD),
  • Cream cheese – 450 HUF ($1.50 USD).

A bottle of wine costs 800 HUF ($2.70 USD), a bottle of water is 180-200 HUF ($0.70 USD). With such prices you don’t have to worry every time you put a new item in your basket.

7. How to rent a car?
Book a car on international companies’ websites, such as RentalCars. 1 gallon of petrol in Budapest will cost 2000 HUF ($6.50 USD) in average.

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