Some say that Budapest is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Enjoying Art, wine, thermal baths, caves, cafes and history are some of the things to do in Budapest. Hungary’s capital has a distinct flavour that is an intriguing blend of east and west, with more of the west.
If you love food and culture or even if you’re visiting Budapest with kids, you won’t be wondering what to do in Budapest for long. As soon as you get your bearings, you’ll realise that this is a city you’ll want to see a lot more of and the first thing you’ll do is to hunt for a spot to photograph the best Budapest view.
- 25 Things to do in Budapest
- 1- Explore Buda Castle
- 2- Taste Traditional Hungarian Food in Central Market Hall
- 3- Go on a Danube Cruise
- 4- Drink Hungarian wine in an Underground Cellar
- 5- Soak in Budapest Thermal Baths
- 6- Enjoy the Budapest Opera
- 7- Take photos in Heroes Square
- 8- Explore Budapest’s caves
- 9- Eat cake in Cafe Gerbeaud
- 10- Go shopping on Király Street
- 11- Hunt for Bargains in a Flea Market
- 12- Visit the Great Synagogue of Budapest
- 13- Explore Millenium City
- 14- Visit Budapest’s Robot Cafe
- 15- Tour the Hungarian Parliament
- 16- Explore St Stephen’s Basilica
- 17- Walk across Chain Bridge
- 18- Explore Budapest’s Palace Neighbourhood
- 19- Hunt for Antiques along Antique Row
- 20- Party in a Ruin Pub
- Things To Do In Budapest With Kids
25 Things to do in Budapest
There are so many things to do in Budapest and fantastic Budapest attractions to visit. When you’ve had your fill of castles and churches, there’s hit the best Budapest shopping areas or get your fill in a Hungarian restaurant in Budapest.
1- Explore Buda Castle
Built as a viewing platform in 1905, Buda Castle (also known as Fisherman’s Bastion) offers some of Budapest’s best views.
Its neo-Gothic design with seven turrets gives it a fantasy quality; each turret represents one of the Magyar tribes that entered the Carpathian Basin in the 9th century.
The bastion was named after the guild of fishermen responsible for defending this stretch of the wall in the Middle Ages.
In front of the bastion, there is an ornate equestrian statue of St Stephen, who was Hungary’s first Christian King in 1000AD.
If you only have one or two days in Budapest, make sure you visit Buda Castle.
2- Taste Traditional Hungarian Food in Central Market Hall
Something you must do in Budapest is to taste Hungarian cuisine.
Budapest has a rich food culture and there are many local restaurants serving traditional Hungarian dishes such as a hearty Hungarian goulash, which is a rich and spicy meat, vegetable and noodle stew.
Hungarian cuisine is famous for their stews and soups, such as Halászlé (a seafood soup), Újházy (chicken broth popular at weddings) and Lecsó (a thick vegetable stew-like soup with red peppers, paprika and tomatoes).
Another food you will find in many Budapest restaurants is Nokedli, which is a home-made Hungarian egg noodle dumpling that originated in the 17th century.
The 19th century Central Market Hall (or Központi Vásárcsarnok) is a vast indoor market hall where you will find many different kinds of Hungarian food to try.
Central Market Hall is at Budapest, Vámház krt. 1-3, 1093 Hungary.
3- Go on a Danube Cruise
Budapest is one of the highlights of a multi-day European river cruise and many cruisers look forward to a shore excursion in Budapest.
If you’re exploring Budapest on land, the reverse applies and a river cruise on the Danube is an experience to look forward to.
Cruising the river is a great way to see the city’s skyline from a different perspective and being on the water will make you realise how beautiful this city is.
As you float past, see the vibrant Pest promenade, Buda Castle, bridges and the famous view of the 120-year-old Budapest Parliament is from the river.
The scenery is even more stunning after dark when Budapest sparkles like a fairyland, making a Danube cruise one of the top things to do in Budapest at night.
4- Drink Hungarian wine in an Underground Cellar
One of the most popular tourist areas in Budapest is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Castle Hill.
It is a 1 km-long limestone plateau that sits 170 m above the Danube River and is rich with medieval monuments, museums, a charming Old Town and Royal Palace (the original site of a 13th-century castle).
It’s a great place to go in Budapest when the climate is colder in winter, especially in Budapest in January or December.
Spending a rainy afternoon in the Castle district in the underground cellar of the House of Hungarian Wines is a fabulous Budapest activity.
The cellar displays over 700 wines from 22 regions in Hungary.
The wine tour offers a sample of over 50 different wines, including the famous Hungarian Tokaj.
5- Soak in Budapest Thermal Baths
As Budapest is one of Europe’s major spa centres, a trip to a thermal bath is a must and it’s also one of the things to do in Budapest at night.
The city lies on a geological fault which divides the Buda Hills from the Great Plain and has over 120 thermal springs.
The waters contain minerals which are believed to have powerful healing qualities that can cure anything from arthritis to skin ailments.
Most bathhouses no longer distribute drawstring loincloths and require guests to wear bathing suits instead.
Here are the famous bathhouses:
- Szechenyi Baths is a sprawling complex with three swimming pools and a dozen thermal baths.
- Gellért Baths is a photogenic Art Noveau bath built in 1918 with Roman columns and an impressive pool.
- Lukács Baths opened in 1894 and has a courtyard with historic marble tablets inscribed by bathers who were cured in the bath’s waters.
- Császár Baths were built in 1570 and is home to one of Budapest’s oldest Turkish baths in Budapest and a traditional octagonal-shaped pool.
- Rudas Bath is one of the oldest of Budapest’s thermal baths and has a Turkish bath a well as lovely architecture.
6- Enjoy the Budapest Opera
Designed in 1884, the Hungarian State Opera House is one of the city’s most beautiful buildings.
The facade is decorated with statues of 16 of the world’s greatest composers including Mozart, Beethoven, Verdi and Tchaikovsky.
Over seven kilograms of gold was used to decorate the main horseshoe-shaped auditorium that also has a magnificent frescoed ceiling depicting Mount Olympus, the home of the Gods.
The guided tour of the opera house includes a brief musical performance (2500HUF).
7- Take photos in Heroes Square
The Millenary Monument is one of the famous Budapest landmarks and the central focus of the square.
It has a 36m-tall pillar topped with Gabriel the angel holding the Hungarian crown and cross.
The colonnades behind the pillar have 14 statues of rulers and statesmen who were Hungarian heroes.
On the northern side of the square is the impressive Museum of Fine Arts which has over 3000 works from European masters.
The Spanish section is significant, carrying paintings of El Greco, Vélazquez and Goya.
8- Explore Budapest’s caves
Exploring Budapest’s system of caves is a cool thing to do in Budapest, especially on a hot day.
There are over 200 caves underneath the city, two of which are open for guided tours.
Discovered in 1904, Palvolgy Cave is the second-largest cave in Hungary.
Guided tours run on the hour and follow a 500 m route which involves climbing steep steps and ladders.
Szemlo-hegy Cave has beautiful stalactites and stalagmites.
9- Eat cake in Cafe Gerbeaud
Over the past two centuries, Budapest has been as famous as Vienna for its cafes, cake shops and café culture.
Just like in Vienna, cafes in Budapest were common meeting places for writers, poets and artists who ordered from a writer’s menu (usually bread, cheese and cold meats) at a discounted price.
Many cafes also provided ink and paper free of charge.
At the beginning of the 20th century, there were over 500 cafes but by the time communism collapsed in 1989, there were only a few remaining.
Today, Café Gerbeaud is the most famous – founded in 1858 it was the meeting place for the city’s elite.
One of the things to do in Budapest in winter is to warm up in the cafe with a hot drink and the signature treat.
The Gerbeaud cake is a creamy treat with ground walnut and jam squashed between layers of sponge and covered with chocolate.
10- Go shopping on Király Street
Király utca is filled with boutiques, galleries and interior design stores if you’re looking for a quality souvenir.
Things to buy in Budapest include traditional folk art like painted eggs, dolls dressed in traditional folk costumes or hand-painted Zsolnay porcelain.
These items can also be found in other major tourist and shopping areas as well as the city’s flea markets.
11- Hunt for Bargains in a Flea Market
Wandering around Budapest’s flea markets is a great way to meet the locals and you might be lucky enough to bag a souvenir you’ll love.
Ecseri Plac is one of the biggest flea markets in Central Europe and sells everything from antique jewellery to Soviet army watches.
City Park flea market has a good collection of collectibles and crafts.
12- Visit the Great Synagogue of Budapest
Outside of New York City, the Great Synagogue is the largest Jewish house-of-worship in the world.
Built in 1859, its architectural style is both Romantic and Moorish.
Its renovations were funded by the Hungarian government and a New York-based charity headed up by the actor Tony Curtis (whose parents emigrated from Hungary in the 1920s).
In the rear courtyard of the synagogue, the Holocaust Memorial, a weeping metal tree, stands over the mass graves of Jews killed by the Nazis.
The family names of many of the 400,000 victims are engraved on its leaves.
It may not be one of the happiest things to do in Budapest but you won’t regret the historic lessons you will learn.
13- Explore Millenium City
Millennium City occupies 10 hectares of land on the Pest side of the Danube.
It is a modern precinct dedicated to artistic pursuits with contemporary buildings and is not on the usual tourist route.
Locals often enjoy the park-like surrounds, which are peppered with imaginative statues of famous Hungarians.
The Museum of Contemporary Art, also known as the Ludwig Museum is one of the best museums in Budapest.
It showcases international contemporary art and works by international contemporary artists as well as Hungarian, Czech, Slovakian, Romanian, Polish and Slovenian works.
The National Theatre is a popular venue for Hungarian plays.
14- Visit Budapest’s Robot Cafe
Amidst the rich history and culture of Budapest, the Enjoy Budapest Cafe is an incongruous distraction that highlights the city’s historical past.
You’ll be entertained and served by Pepper and other AI robots while you rest your feet in cheerful surrounds.
Enjoy Budapest Cafe is at Práter utca 6. 1083 Budapest, Hungary.
15- Tour the Hungarian Parliament
Completed in 1902, the Hungarian Parliament is a stunning blend of Neo-Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture.
With 20 km (12,5 miles) of stairs and 691 rooms, this building is the third largest Parliament building in the world.
The Republic of Hungary is a parliamentary republic with a complex election system and the country has a President and a Prime Minister.
Take a guided tour of the Hungarian Parliament, which is only possible when Parliament isn’t in session, to see the old House of Lords and the Hungarian Crown Jewels.
During the Cold War, the Hungarian Crown Jewels were given to the United States army to keep them safe from the Soviet Union.
They were kept in the United States Bullion Depository (Fort Knox, Kentucky) with America’s gold reserves and were returned to Hungary by Jimmy Carter in 1978.
The Budapest Parliament is at Budapest, Kossuth Lajos tér 1-3, 1055 Hungary.
16- Explore St Stephen’s Basilica
Budapest’s largest church tool 50 years to build and was completed in 1906.
St Stephen’s Basilica is more of a cathedral of neo-classical design, with a dome that is 96 m high, two bell towers and the largest bell in Hungary.
It was built to match the height of the Budapest Parliament as a symbol of the equality between church and state.
Inside St Stephen’s are famous artworks, including a painting by Gyula Benczur with St.Stephen offering a crown to the Virgin Mary.
St Stephen was Hungary’s first king and his mummified right hand is displayed in a glass case beside the main altar.
Walk up the 364 steps (or take the elevators) to the dome’s observation deck for one of the best views of Budapest.
St Stephen’s Basilica is at Budapest, Szent István tér 1, 1051 Hungary. Visiting St Stephens is one of the free things to do in Budapest but there’s a small cost to access the deck (open between 1 April and 31 Oct 31st).
17- Walk across Chain Bridge
Another free thing to do in Budapest is crossing the Danube between the Buda side and the Pest side over the Chain Bridge.
The Chain Bridge was one of the wonders of the world at the time of its construction in 1849.
The suspension bridge is a larger version of the Marlow Bridge on the River Thames, by the same designer William Clark.
It’s a short walk across the bridge from which you can enjoy the view and the vibrant atmosphere when there are festivals in town.
18- Explore Budapest’s Palace Neighbourhood
District 8 is a growing neighbourhood of art, architecture and music where the aristocratic families of the Austro-Hungarian Empire once lived.
Between 1867 and World War I, more than 30 palaces and mansions were constructed here, making District 8 one of the places to visit in Budapest for history lovers.
Many of these grand palaces have been rejuvenated and are now hotels and public institutions you can visit such as the National Museum.
Other palaces in District 8 are:
- Eszterházy Palace at Pollack Mihály tér 4 now the offices of Hungarian Radio.
- Hotel Palazzo Zichy was a former aristocratic residence.
- Festetics Palace at Pollack Mihály tér 3 is now the German-Language University.
19- Hunt for Antiques along Antique Row
Budapest’s antique row in Falk Miksa utca is packed with antique shops and galleries where you can take home a priceless souvenir of your Budapest visit.
Go to the auctions at Kieselbach Gallery or Virág Judit Gallery then walk along the street gallery hopping.
The galleries carry a range of art including classical, folk art and modern art.
Antique Row is near the Budapest Parliament and is one of the Budapest attractions to explore.
20- Party in a Ruin Pub
A quirky feature of Budapest is peppered throughout the city are atmospheric Ruin Pubs (rom kocsma), which are pubs located in cellars of old houses and abandoned buildings.
Many of these pubs are open throughout the year and come alive with Hungarian bands belting out pop to the party crowd.
Ruin Pubs is a trend in Budapest that has been gaining momentum for the last 10 years and having a drink in one is a different thing to do in Budapest at night.
Most open from around 5 pm to dawn.
Popular ruin pubs are:
- Corvintető for a fantastic view of the city from the top floor of a department store building at Blaha Lujza tér 1-2, Pest, District 8.
- Dürer Kert for table tennis and live music at Ajtósi Dürer sor 19-21, Pest, District 14.
- Instant at Nagymező utca 38, Pest, District 6.
Things To Do In Budapest With Kids
Many of the Budapest attractions above are suitable to visit with kids but if you’re looking for some different things to do in Budapest with kids, here are some attractions your munchkins will love.
21- Discover Science in the Palace of Miracles
The Palace of Miracles is not a palace but an interactive science museum with displays specifically for kids.
Among the fun experiences for kids are the moonwalk simulator and miracle bike.
The Palace of Miracles is in the Campona Shopping Mall and is open from Monday to Sunday (10 am to 6 pm). Entrance is HUF 1,550 (adult) and HUF 1,250 (child) on weekdays, and HUF 1,950 (adult) and HUF 1,550 (child) on weekends.
22- Splash around in Aquaworld
With 17 pools and 11 slides, Aquaworld Budapest is one of the more impressive indoor water theme parks in Europe.
The large indoor pool is connected to a heated outdoor pool and there’s a wave pool, a surf pool and a summer beach.
Younger kids can splash around in the children’s pool on the slides and the playhouse.
23- See the animals in Budapest Zoo
One of the world’s oldest zoos, Budapest Zoo & Botanical Gardens has operated since 1866.
Throughout the zoo, there are eye-catching Art Nouveau buildings where you can enjoy both architecture and animals.
The kids will love seeing the baby animals in the Kindergarten.
24- Have fun at the Municipal Circus
One of the things you’ll like about Budapest is everything has a long history, including the Municipal Circus (Fővárosi Nagycirkusz) which started in 1783.
The circus is a fun attraction in Budapest with clowns, animals, jugglers and acrobats.
Budapest’s Municipal Circus is also host to the International Circus Festival every second February.
25- Ride the Children’s Railway
Explore the Budapest on the Children’s Railway (Gyermekvasút), which is a historic railway run by children who are supervised by railway workers.
Local kids work in various jobs, such as selling tickets and managing traffic.
There are seven stops along the railway route where you can get off and explore.:
- Csillebérc for the Challangeland zip-line
- Normafa for lovely scenery
- János Hill, which is the highest peak in Budapest
- Vadaspark for the zoo
- Hüvösvölgy for a meal at Náncsi Néni and the museum
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