25 Best Things to Do in Budapest: Discovering the Magic of Hungary’s Capital

Things to Do in Budapest

Budapest, the enchanting capital of Hungary, is a destination that’s often described as the “Paris of the East.” With its rich history, architectural wonders, and the romantic Danube River cutting through its heart, the city offers an array of unforgettable experiences.

Budapest never ceases to amaze, and as you journey further into its captivating avenues and bylanes, you uncover more gems that tell the tale of this historic city. If you’re planning a trip here, you’ll be spoiled for choices. Here are the top things to do in Budapest to make the most of your visit.

1. Buda Castle

Buda Castle
Photo: Google Maps/Yessika Landa

Historical Significance: Perched high on Castle Hill, Buda Castle (or Budapest Castle) once housed Hungarian kings and stands as a symbol of the country’s rich past.

What to Expect: As you walk through its expansive courtyards and elegant rooms, you’ll be taken back to medieval times. The Hungarian National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum, both located within the castle, offer a deep dive into the country’s art and history.

Don’t miss the changing of the guards ceremony or the panoramic views of the city from the Castle terraces.

Entry Fee: 1 400 HUF; Location: Check Map
Address: Budapest, Szent György tér 2, 1014 Hungary.

2. St. Stephen’s Basilica

St. Stephen's Basilica
Photo: Google Maps/Brian W

Historical Significance: Named after Stephen, the first king of Hungary, this neoclassical cathedral stands as Budapest’s largest church and an important religious and cultural monument.

What to Expect: The basilica boasts a stunning interior adorned with mosaics, frescoes, and intricate sculptures. A highlight for many visitors is the opportunity to see the relic of King Stephen’s mummified right hand.

For an unparalleled view of Budapest, climb to the top of the basilica’s dome.

Entry Fee: 3 200 HUF; Location: Check Map
Address: Budapest, Szent István tér 1, 1051 Hungary.

3. Hungarian Parliament Building

Hungarian Parliament Building
Photo: Google Maps/Lorant Orban

Historical Significance: One of Europe’s oldest legislative buildings, this neo-Gothic masterpiece stands as a testament to Hungary’s storied political past.

What to Expect: Guided tours take visitors through the grand interiors, where they can see the ornate Session Room, the impressive central staircase, and the Hungarian Crown Jewels. Its magnificent facade, best viewed from a Danube River cruise, is a marvel of spires, statues, and ornate decoration.

Visit at night to see the building illuminated against the dark sky – a sight that’s nothing short of magical.

Entry Fee: 5 000 HUF; Location: Check Map
Address: Budapest, Kossuth Lajos tér 1-3, 1055 Hungary.

4. Heroes’ Square

Heroes' Square
Photo: Google Maps/Gábor Németh

Historical Significance: Constructed in 1896 to mark the 1000th anniversary of the Hungarian conquest of the Carpathian Basin, Heroes’ Square is one of Budapest’s grandest landmarks. It pays homage to the nation’s most celebrated leaders and warriors.

What to Expect: Dominated by the iconic Millennium Monument with the Archangel Gabriel on top, the square is flanked by the Museum of Fine Arts and the Palace of Art. The statues of the seven chieftains of the Magyars are particularly noteworthy.

It’s an ideal spot for photography, especially during sunset when the statues are bathed in a golden hue.

Entry Fee: Free; Location: Check Map
Address: Budapest, Hősök tere, 1146 Hungary.

5. Fisherman’s Bastion

Fisherman's Bastion
Photo: Google Maps/Vassy Dorin

Historical Significance: Built at the turn of the 20th century, the neo-Romanesque Fisherman’s Bastion offers an architectural fairytale on the Buda side of the city. The name is derived from the medieval guild of fishermen responsible for defending this stretch of the city walls.

What to Expect: Its seven ornate turrets symbolize the seven Magyar tribes that founded Hungary. Besides its enchanting architecture, it offers one of the most panoramic views of the city, particularly the Danube and the Parliament Building.

Combine your visit with a trip to nearby Matthias Church.

Entry Fee: Free; Location: Check Map
Address: Budapest, Szentháromság tér, 1014 Hungary.

6. Széchenyi Chain Bridge

Széchenyi Chain Bridge
Photo: Google Maps/Natascia Pace

Historical Significance: Linking Buda and Pest, the Széchenyi Chain Bridge was the first permanent bridge across the Danube in Hungary. Completed in 1849, this engineering marvel revolutionized the city’s development.

What to Expect: With its imposing lion statues and massive iron chains, the bridge becomes even more spectacular at night when it’s illuminated, reflecting off the waters of the Danube.

Take a leisurely evening stroll across the bridge for breathtaking views of both parts of the city.

Entry Fee: Free; Location: Check Map
Address: Budapest, Széchenyi Lánchíd, 1051 Hungary.

7. Matthias Church

Matthias Church
Photo: Google Maps/Elena Reyes

Historical Significance: With its roots dating back to the 11th century, Matthias Church has been the backdrop for several coronations and pivotal events in Hungarian history.

What to Expect: The church showcases a captivating blend of architectural styles, but it’s most renowned for its ornate interior, colorful roof tiles, and neo-Gothic spires. Inside, the frescoes, stained glass windows, and the Loreto Chapel with the statue of the Black Madonna are of particular interest.

After visiting the church, enjoy a coffee or meal at one of the charming cafés in the surrounding square.

Entry Fee: 2 500 HUF; Location: Check Map
Address: Budapest, Szentháromság tér 2, 1014 Hungary.

8. Hungarian State Opera

Hungarian State Opera
Photo: Google Maps/Yaron Messing

Historical Significance: Inaugurated in 1884, the Hungarian State Opera House stands as a neo-Renaissance masterpiece. Designed by the renowned architect Miklós Ybl, it has since been a cornerstone of Hungary’s musical heritage.

What to Expect: A guided tour will introduce you to the grandeur of the auditorium, the royal staircase, and the illustrious frescoes. If possible, attending a live opera or ballet performance is an unmissable experience.

Even if you don’t catch a show, the exterior is worth a visit, especially in the evening when it’s illuminated.

Entry Fee: 2 490 HUF; Location: Check Map
Address: Budapest, Andrássy út 22, 1061 Hungary.

9. Shoes on the Danube Bank

Shoes on the Danube Bank
Photo: Google Maps/Charlie Main

Historical Significance: This poignant memorial pays tribute to the Hungarian Jews who were executed during World War II. Created by Gyula Pauer and Can Togay in 2005, it serves as a heart-wrenching reminder of the atrocities of war.

What to Expect: 60 pairs of iron-cast shoes represent the victims who were ordered to remove their shoes before being shot at the edge of the river. The installation evokes deep emotions, and many visitors leave flowers and candles in remembrance.

Visit during sunset; the setting sun’s reflection on the water adds an extra layer of melancholy to the memorial.

Entry Fee: Free; Location: Check Map
Address: Budapest, Id. Antall József rkp., 1054 Hungary.

10. Széchenyi Thermal Bath

Széchenyi Thermal Bath
Photo: Google Maps/Alexandra Tataru

Historical Significance: Dating back to 1913, Széchenyi stands as one of Europe’s largest public baths and is a testament to Budapest’s moniker as the “City of Spas.”

What to Expect: Dive into a world of relaxation with its 21 pools, including three grand outdoor pools, steam rooms, and saunas. The Neo-baroque architecture adds to the ambiance, making it a luxurious experience.

Visit during winter for a surreal experience of soaking in the warm waters with snow all around.

Entry Fee: 7 500 HUF; Location: Check Map
Address: Budapest, Állatkerti krt. 9-11, 1146 Hungary.

11. Central Market Hall

Central Market Hall
Photo: Google Maps/Sebastian Czekaj

Historical Significance: Established in 1897, the Central Market Hall (Nagyvásárcsarnok) remains a hub of Budapest’s culinary and commercial heritage.

What to Expect: This three-story market offers a range of goods from fresh produce, meats, and spices on the ground floor to souvenirs and eateries on the upper levels. It’s a feast for the senses and a haven for food lovers.

It’s a great place to sample traditional Hungarian dishes and buy paprika or Tokaji wine as souvenirs.

Entry Fee: Free; Location: Check Map
Address: Budapest, Vámház krt. 1-3, 1093 Hungary.

12. Dohány Street Synagogue

Dohány Street Synagogue
Photo: Google Maps/Matoous

Historical Significance: As the largest synagogue in Europe and the second-largest in the world, the Dohány Street Synagogue stands as a beacon of Jewish history and culture in Budapest.

What to Expect: This Moorish Revival architectural wonder is more than just a place of worship. It also houses the Hungarian Jewish Museum, where visitors can delve deep into Jewish heritage, art, and tradition.

The synagogue’s courtyard holds the Raoul Wallenberg Memorial Park, dedicated to the non-Jewish Hungarians who saved Jews during the Holocaust, a poignant space for reflection.

Entry Fee: 5 000 HUF; Location: Check Map
Address: Budapest, Dohány u. 2, 1074 Hungary.

13. Szimpla Kert

Szimpla Kert
Photo: Google Maps/Ryan Mitchell

Historical Significance: One of the pioneers of Budapest’s now-famous “ruin bars”, Szimpla Kert transformed a dilapidated building into the city’s vibrant nightlife and cultural scene.

What to Expect: Beyond its eclectic decor and bohemian vibe, Szimpla Kert hosts film screenings, live music, art exhibitions, and a farmers’ market, making it a pulsating hub of contemporary Budapest life.

Drop by on Sunday mornings for the farmers’ market where you can enjoy a rich selection of Hungarian organic products.

Entry Fee: Free; Location: Check Map
Address: Budapest, Kazinczy u. 14, 1075 Hungary.

14. Vajdahunyad Castle

Vajdahunyad Castle
Photo: Google Maps/Rafał Sobierański

Historical Significance: Built in 1896 for Hungary’s millennium celebrations, Vajdahunyad Castle is a fairytale ensemble of architectural styles, showcasing the evolution of Hungarian design over centuries.

What to Expect: Nestled in City Park, the castle offers an enchanting walkthrough Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque architecture. It also houses the Hungarian Agricultural Museum, a delightful exploration of the country’s farming history.

The castle is surrounded by a serene lake. Depending on the season, you can either paddle in boats or ice skate, making it a perfect spot for relaxation.

Entry Fee: 1 600 HUF; Location: Check Map
Address: Budapest, Vajdahunyad stny., 1146 Hungary.

15. Margaret Island

Margaret Island
Photo: Google Maps/Krisztina Rába

Historical Significance: Located in the middle of the Danube, this verdant oasis has served as a recreational area since the 12th century and is named after Saint Margaret, the daughter of King Béla IV.

What to Expect: Margaret Island offers expansive parks, a musical fountain, an open-air theater, swimming pools, and even a small zoo. It’s the city’s green lung and a preferred spot for both locals and tourists to unwind.

Rent a bike or a golf cart to explore the island. It’s also an ideal location for picnics and lazy afternoon strolls.

Entry Fee: Free; Location: Check Map
Address: Budapest, 1138 Hungary.

16. Citadella

Citadella
Photo: Google Maps/Jacob Newcomb

Historical Significance: Perched atop Gellért Hill, the Citadella is a fortress that was built by the Habsburgs after quelling the Hungarian Revolution of 1848 to control the city below.

What to Expect: The fortress itself stands as a symbol of dominance, but today it is celebrated for offering some of the best panoramic views of Budapest, especially at sunset.

Wear comfortable shoes for the climb. The reward at the top, with views of the Danube snaking through the city, is more than worth it.

Entry Fee: -; Location: Check Map
Address: Budapest, Citadella stny. 1, 1118 Hungary.

17. Budapest City Park (Városliget)

Budapest City Park (Városliget)
Photo: Google Maps/Raja Ramakrishnan

Historical Significance: Stretching over 302 acres, Városliget has been a prominent part of Budapest since the 13th century and played host to numerous exhibitions and events, most notably the 1896 Millennium Celebration.

What to Expect: A delightful blend of green spaces, historic buildings, a serene lake, and a plethora of attractions including Vajdahunyad Castle and Széchenyi Thermal Bath.

In winter, the lake transforms into Europe’s largest ice-skating rink—a must-try experience!

Entry Fee: Free; Location: Check Map
Address: Budapest, Kós Károly stny., 1146 Hungary.

18. House of Terror

House of Terror
Photo: Google Maps/Edward Tourist

Historical Significance: This museum stands as a grim testament to the dark periods of Hungarian history, particularly the Nazi and Communist regimes.

What to Expect: Housed in the former headquarters of the secret police of both regimes, the exhibits offer deep insights into periods of oppression, terror, and atrocities.

Set aside ample time for this museum—it’s not just about viewing exhibits, but also absorbing the heavy history it represents.

Entry Fee: 4 000 HUF; Location: Check Map
Address: Budapest, Andrássy út 60, 1062 Hungary.

19. Ferris Wheel of Budapest (Budapest Eye)

Ferris Wheel of Budapest (Budapest Eye)
Photo: Google Maps/János Szablya

Historical Significance: While not historic in the traditional sense, the Budapest Eye, situated in Erzsébet Square, gives a modern twist to panoramic city views.

What to Expect: At 65 meters high, it’s one of the tallest Ferris wheels in Europe. A ride provides a unique vantage point of Budapest’s skyline, both day and night.

Consider timing your ride around sunset for a captivating view of the city bathed in a golden glow.

Entry Fee: 3 000 HUF; Location: Check Map
Address: Budapest, Erzsébet tér, 1051 Hungary.

20. Budapest Zoo & Botanical Garden

Budapest Zoo & Botanical Garden
Photo: Google Maps/Viktor Dusil

Historical Significance: Opened in 1866, it is one of the world’s oldest zoos. The entrance gate, from the 1912 Budapest Art Nouveau, is especially noteworthy.

What to Expect: Home to over 1,000 animal species and a comprehensive botanical garden, it’s a space of learning, wonder, and relaxation.

Don’t miss the Palm House, which not only showcases tropical plants but also offers panoramic views from its top.

Entry Fee: 4 500 HUF; Location: Check Map
Address: Budapest, Állatkerti krt. 6-12, 1146 Hungary.

21. Shoes on the Danube Bank

Shoes on the Danube Bank
Photo: Google Maps/Michal

Historical Significance: A haunting memorial that stands testament to the atrocities of World War II. It commemorates the Jews who were executed by the river’s edge.

What to Expect: Witness 60 pairs of shoes made of iron, symbolizing the shoes of victims left behind. Each pair tells an unspoken tale, making it one of the most poignant landmarks in the city.

The reflective waters of the Danube add to the atmosphere, making it a place of quiet contemplation. Allow yourself some time here to absorb its deep meaning.

Entry Fee: Free; Location: Check Map
Address: Budapest, Id. Antall József rkp., 1054 Hungary.

22. Hungarian National Museum

Hungarian National Museum
Photo: Google Maps/István Géczy

Historical Significance: Established in 1802, this museum holds the key to Hungary’s past, tracing its history from its inception to modern times.

What to Expect: Venture through exhibits showcasing prehistoric times, the age of the Magyars, the Ottoman era, and much more. The museum also holds a significant collection of Hungarian art and artifacts.

Don’t miss the Coronation Mantle, which holds a special place in Hungary’s royal history.

Entry Fee: 4 500 HUF; Location: Check Map
Address: Budapest, Múzeum krt. 14-16, 1088 Hungary.

23. St. Stephen’s Basilica

St. Stephen's Basilica
Photo: Google Maps/Stephanie Ward

Historical Significance: Dedicated to Hungary’s first king, St. Stephen, this neoclassical cathedral stands as one of Budapest’s architectural marvels and religious hubs.

What to Expect: Ascend to the dome for a 360-degree view of the city. Inside, admire the intricate artwork, the grand organ, and the relic of St. Stephen’s mummified right hand.

Attend an evening organ concert to experience the basilica’s acoustics in all their glory.

Entry Fee: 3 200 HUF; Location: Check Map
Address: Budapest, Szent István tér 1, 1051 Hungary.

24. Gellért Thermal Bath

Gellért Thermal Bath
Photo: Google Maps/Zsuzsanna Újvári

Historical Significance: Part of the famous Hotel Gellért, this Art Nouveau thermal bath opened its doors in 1918, though the location has been known for its healing waters since the 13th century.

What to Expect: Dive into a world of relaxation with multiple pools, including thermal baths, swimming pools, and plunge pools. The stained glass, mosaics, and sculptures add to the ambiance of opulence.

Visit the outdoor wave pool, a unique offering, and a favorite among visitors.

Entry Fee: 9 400 HUF; Location: Check Map
Address: Budapest, Kelenhegyi út 4, 1118 Hungary.

25. Dohány Street Synagogue (Revisited)

Dohány Street Synagogue (Revisited)
Photo: Google Maps/Jose Maria Castillo de Dios

Historical Significance: Apart from its religious significance, the synagogue, in the heart of Budapest, stands as a symbol of the city’s Jewish heritage and resilience.

What to Expect: Beyond the stunning Moorish architecture, the complex hosts the Jewish Museum, which documents the history and traditions of Hungarian Jews. The adjoining memorial garden and the Holocaust Tree of Life Memorial are poignant reminders of the tragedies faced by the community.

Join a guided tour to delve deeper into the stories and significance of this sacred space.

Entry Fee: 5 000 HUF; Location: Check Map
Address: Budapest, Dohány u. 2, 1074 Hungary.

In Conclusion

Budapest seamlessly blends the past and the present, offering visitors a chance to step back in time while also experiencing the vibrancy of a modern European city. With a plethora of architectural wonders, historical monuments, and cultural experiences, the list of things to do in Budapest is endless. Whether you’re an avid history buff, an art lover, or simply someone looking to immerse yourself in a new culture, Budapest promises an unforgettable journey.

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Hannah J

Hannah specializes in travel and lifestyle content. She has an innate ability to capture the essence of a place, from bustling city streets to serene mountain landscapes.

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