THINGS TO DO IN BUDAPEST
As you start preparing your visit, you will quickly realize that there are a lot of interesting things to do in Budapest that you should not miss.
From caving to mountain segways, sandy beach to Turkish baths, underground mazes to houses of terror, street food to fine dining, this city has plenty to offer.
So many things to do, so little time.
I try to help you by listing the most bucket-list worthy experiences (aka things to do) in Budapest.
Grab a cup of coffee, read it through and pick some of these, uncountable number (really, I did not count them because I am going to add new stuff to this list) of things to in Budapest.
RECOMMENDED EXPERIENCES IN BUDAPEST
Visit the Castle Hill
Take a look at the Royal Palace, the Matthias Church and take some cool photos at Fisherman’s Bastion.
Visit a hidden gem in the Castle District, not far from the Matthias Church: the entrance to the Koller Gallery is free. Don’t hesitate to ring the door bell, you will not disturb anybody. As soon as the door opens you meet friendly and welcoming staff. The Gallery has a beautiful art collection and a wonderful sculpture garden.
Discover hidden gems in the Jewish Quarter
One of the liveliest areas of Budapest is its Jewish Quarter.
This neighborhood lays behind the Dohány street Synagogue.
Wander around its narrow streets, try some of the best street foods Budapest has to offer and chill in one (or more) of the ruin bars.
Read more about the best ruin bars in Budapest here.
Very close to the to the city center lies Margaret Island with ancient trees, rose gardens, Japanese garden, huge green lawns. But this island is much more than these. It is also a historical and cultural spot and even has it’s own medicinal thermal water spring and spas.
Rent a bike, visit its (free) tiny zoo and watch the sunset while listening to the music of the fountain situated close to the Margaret Bridge entrance of the island.
Budapest baths are unique: they are either historical Turkish baths or housed in palaces.
The baths have a range of thermal and swimming pools, saunas and they offer massages and other therapies as well so you can easily spend at least half a day in one of them.
See my related post here.
Are you looking for something more exciting? Try Aquaworld: one of the largest indoor water theme parks in Europe. It has 17 pools, including a swimming pool, a wave pool and a surf pool, and 11 slides.
If you enjoy the sight of water but wouldn’t like to get wet, try a river cruise.
River Cruise on the Danube
The best part of Budapest is that it’s a truly unique riverside city. The Danube plays a vital role in our everyday life. If you look down on the river from a lookout point you will see bridges full of cars and buses, people running errands on both riverbanks and ships of every size moving up and down.
To make the most of the presence of the Danube, take a river cruise and see most of the main sights of the city from a unique perspective.
There are several kinds of boat trips both within and in and out of Budapest.
Be it just a public transportation method to visit Római Riverbank from the city centre, a sightseeing within Budapest or a dine and wine, candle lit dinner or a party boat, a river cruise will definitely be a memorable experience.
Especially at night, during sunset one of the best thing you can do is attending a boat cruise – day or night – on the Danube.
See the world heritage sights on the two sides of the river:
- Parliament building
- Buda Castle
- Gellért Hill
- Fisherman’ Bastion
- Grasham Palace
- Danube promenade and Vigadó
- St. Stephen’s Basilica
You will find many types of boats on the river, there is one for every taste and wallet.
Choose any of the boat cruises, you will have an unforgettable experience.
Besides sightseeing cruises we even have a public boat service if you are short on time and/or money.
Are you looking for something more exciting? Try RiverRide floating bus!
One of the most spectacular tram rides of Europe - Tram line 2
The cheapest and most beautiful way of sightseeing is taking Tram line 2 that chugs along the Pest riverside of the Danube, driving in front of iconic buildings, architectural gems like the Parliament, Gresham Palace, Chain Bridge, the National Theatre and you can see also the Castle District, Matthias Church, Fisherman’s Bastion and Gellért Bath on the Buda side.
Shopping in Budapest
There are plenty of places to buy Hungarian art, clothing, and groceries.
Check out my post about Hungarian designers here.
The Central Market Hall in District 9 is the best place to go for food and delicacies.
Take a walk through Kiraly Utca, Budapest’s design street of the Jewish Quarter where design galleries and boutiques, local art and craft shops popped up.
Go to Andrassy Avenue for high-end international designer clothing and accessories from Louis Vitton, Burberry, Gucci and others.
Visit Deák Ferenc street aka Fashion Street for more exclusive shops and downtown vibes.
Are you with kids?
While plenty of the attractions are interesting even for kids, there are some places that are made especially for them. Are you traveling with teens? No problem. Check out my post about kids friendly things in Budapest.
Try some of these:
Visit some museums and monuments
Museum of Fine Arts
After it’s renovation, the Museum of Fine Arts was re-opened to the public in 2018.
Besides displaying the art of Egypt and Ancient Antiquity, the history of international and Hungarian art is presented all the way up to the end of the 18th century.
House of Terror Museum
House of Terror museum is dedicated to the horrors suffered in Hungary under the fascist regime, and the communist dictatorship.
It’s located in the former headquarters of the Nazis and it also served as the headquarters for the Communist secret police.
The first thing you see as you enter the central courtyard is a Soviet tank and a wall covered with the pictures of people who were tortured here.
The rooms have some kind of earthy smell and dampness and it somehow helps to comprehend how the reign of terror made the people suffer.
The exhibition spaces are interactive and effective in the museum. It includes a Russian tank, Nazi Arrow Cross uniforms and a trip to the cells and gallows.
The basement is like a punch in the stomach. It was the place where people were routinely tortured and execute for many years.
Before the exit there is a wall with photos of those who committed these crimes or supported those who did. Many of them are still alive today and it is a reminder that justice hasn’t been served since then.
You can feel yourself very fortunate that you can walk out the building freely and unscathed.
World War 1 exhibition
An exhibition by the House of Terror Museum.
This exhibition is located in the Castle Garden Bazaar, at the foot of Buda Palace.
Read my post about it here.
Hungarian National Museum
One of the most important museums of the county, that played major role during the 1848-49 revolution.
Here you can have a look at the mantle that used to be worn by Hungarian monarchs at their coronation and that was made in 1031 and was first worn by King Stephen I.
There is an exhibition about the history of Hungary between the foundation of the state and 1703. And one that continues it from 1703 until 1990, including a room that shows the rise and fall of communism (1945-1990).
Shoes on the Danube Promenade
The Shoes on the Danube Bank is a memorial that honours the Jews who were killed by fascist Arrow Cross militiamen in Budapest during World War II.
Statue of Liberty
One of the best known monuments in Budapest.
I recommend visiting the statue on foot, following a route of Gellért Hill.
The statue was erected in memory of the victory of the Soviet forces after WWII came to an end.
After 1989, when the Communism fell, the soviet themed statues were finally removed and moved to Monument Park. This statue was allowed to stay.
Escape! from one of the escape rooms
Budapest is famous for its escape rooms. We have plenty to choose from. Some of the best ones:
- Mystique Room One of the best in town. One of the best and biggest escape games, with nine different themed rooms.
- Parapark Budapest’s very first escape game when it opened in 2011 has three different themes and a loyal following.
- Gozsdu Mission A sophisticated new venue with three games on offer.
- E-Exit Escape Game – connected room, variety of puzzles
While Budapest is a big, modern city, it also has some easily reachable green spots. If you are tired of the buzz, head to one of them.
Elisabeth Lookout Tower
To breathe some fresh air and enjoy the nature without traveling far from the city center, head to Elisabeth Lookout Tower.
It’s on the highest point of Budapest at 527 m.
In clear weather the hilltops of Pilis and Mátra (as far as 77 km or 47 miles) can be seen from it’s top.
From Normafa it takes only half an hour to climb up to Erzsébet Lookout tower.
From here you can take a look at the whole city and it’s surroundings.
To descend, I recommend using the zugliget Chairlift.
From it’s station you will be able to take a bus to the city center.
Budapest Eye Ferris Wheel
You can find this Ferris Wheel at Erzsébet Square, right in the center of the city.
The view is gorgeous from it day and night. (I would recommend visiting the lookout terrace of the Basilica during the day and after dark, when the terrace is already closed, I would buy a ticket to the Budapest Eye to see the lights of the city.)
Head to the City Park
Rent a rowboat (or a skate during winter) to enjoy the lake.
The Budapest Zoo and Vajdahunyad Castle are also here.
Try some of the unusual transportation methods
The Cogwheel Railway provides easy access to Normafa.
Children’s Railway is operated by kids between the age of 10 to 14.
For some adrenaline rush
Challenge yourself in Challengeland Adventure Park a rope course adventure park in the forests near to Budapest. Perfect for both kids and adults.
Looking for a place where you can try even more adrenaline boosting sports? Try Budapest High Tech Sports Base at Normafa: fight with lasers, drive off-road segways, hill-dogs etc. It is a fantastic place to try out sports and activities which would ordinarily be hard to come by.
Canoeing & Kayaking
The best place for canoeing and kayaking in Budapest is at Rómaifürdő and Kopaszi Dam. You can also try paddle boarding.
Cycle-friendly parts: City Park, Margaret Island and the Danube promenade between Petőfi bridge and the National Theater (or even to Kopaszi dam, through Rákóczi bridge).
Rent a public MOL Bubi. Bubi Bikes have handy rental spots all over Budapest (you have to register online first).
The trails of Buda Hills are for mountain bikers.
Under the surface of the busy Budapest, there is a subterranean world of caves. The entire network of tunnels under the Hungarian capital is thought to be over 120 kilometers long.
The underground water springs in the area have, over many years, carved out this vast warren of tunnels.
The three main caves that can be explored:
- Pál-völgyi Cave
- Szemlő-hegyi Cave
- Mátyáshegy Cave
Pál-völgyi cave tours usually take about 40 minutes.
Szemlő-hegyi cave doesn’t include any stalagmites or stalactites – rather the walls are covered in incredible flower-like mineral formations. You don’t need any specialist equipment, but this is probably not the best activity for claustrophobics.
Mátyáshegy Cave have a minimum participant requirements for caving with limited spaces, so it’s best to book ahead.
I am pretty sure that you will not be bored in Budapest. This city has so much to offer, it has so many attractions and things to do that your time will fly away in the blink of an eye. Fortunately, it is always possible to visit us again! 😉
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