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9 things to do in Budapest

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Budapest is a beautiful city that you’ll love right away! Its streets, buildings, bars, restaurants, museums, and parks will make you want to stay there forever. As I was visiting Budapest for the first time, I did some research beforehand… but once I got there, I noticed there’s so much more to do and visit than what you can read in guides! So here I share the best places to visit in Budapest!

1) Go to the oldest electrified underground railway system in Europe

places to visit in Budapest

Price: a metro ticket is $1.21 USD (350 ft), you can use it for just one trip

Line 1 of the Metro system in Budapest is the oldest one in Europe (at least the oldest underground one)! Some of the stations look as to how they were constructed at the beginning of the 1900s, so you’ll feel like you’re going back in time. Of course, other stations and lines have been constructed since then. But, if you want to visit the old ones, go to Andrássy street. The old stations start on Bajcsy-Zsilinsky station up to Hősök Tere that will leave you right in Heroe’s Square. Note that in most of the stations of this line there are ticket inspectors so don’t take chances on not buying tickets/checking your ticket to use public transportation. Also important, if you’re going to visit Budapest for several days, the best thing is to buy several tickets in advance.

If you have any question, you can always use the BKK Trip Planner.

What’s even more interesting is that the stations are used now as they were used back then. So, for example, if you are mistaken in the direction where you have to take the metro, you’ll have to get out of the station, cross the street on the ground and get to the other station!

Also cool about the metro in Budapest is that there are some stations that are so steep you’ll feel like falling down, those on Line 3 because it goes under the Danube. If you’re looking for stations perfect for Instagram, go to Line 4.

2) Amaze at all the Hungarian architecture

Budapest has some of the most beautiful buildings I’ve ever seen! Just walking around, you can see amazing places, these are definitely some of the best attractions in Budapest. Of course, all these places are free to visit (from the outside, at least). These buildings are the best places to visit in Budapest:

2.1) Citadel

places to visit in Budapest citadel
An aerial view of the Citadel in Budapest

Address: top of Gellért Hill

The Citadel is a fortress built in 1851 with a U-shaped structure on top of Gellért Hill. It has a central courtyard that’s 220 meters long! Also, you can see 60 cannons and one of the best views of Budapest you’ll ever find. This is a perfect place if you also like nature since you have to walk through the forest to visit it.

2.2) Hungarian State Opera

Address: Andrássy út 22

Right in one of the most important streets of Budapest, the Opera House has a neo-Renaissance style. What’s more, it was designed by Miklós Ybl, one of the most famous Hungarian architects. Also, if you have time -and budget, you can take the Opera tour to see the inside of the building. Check all the details on the tour here.

2.3) Gresham Palace

Address: Széchenyi István tér 5

Nowadays, this building is a Four Seasons… but don’t let that stop you from visiting it! It sits along the river Danube and it’s a great example of Art Noveau architecture. It’s also close to other important spots such as the Széchenyi Square and the Chain Bridge.

2.4) St. Stephen’s Basilica

st stephens cathedral in Budapest

Address: Szent István tér 1

A Roman Catholic basilica that was named in honor of the first King of Hungary. It’s the third-largest church building in Hungary and it even has some concerts happening there from time to time. You can check all the activities here.

2.5) The Hungarian Parliament

Hungarian Parliament in Budapest
The Hungarian Parliament is especially beautiful during the night

Address: Kossuth Lajos tér 1-3

Maybe you’ve already seen it in pictures by now but believe me, it’s more impressive to look at it live. Just think that this is the tallest building in Budapest, 40 million bricks were used to build it, and half a million precious stones are part of the Parliament. It’s just impressive. You can also make a tour inside. One of the best things you can do in Budapest is to watch the Parliament from the Buda side during the night.

2.6) Vigadó Concert Hall

Address: Vigadó tér 2

Close to the Eastern Bank of the Danube, this is the second-largest concert hall in Budapest. It was first built in 1859 but destroyed during the War of Independence. Then, it was damaged again during World War II. Nowadays, it’s one of the most beautiful buildings in Budapest!

2.7) Historical bridges of Budapest

Chain Bridge in Budapest
Chain Bridge in Budapest

These link Buda with Pest. There are three:

  • Chain Bridge: opened in 1849. It is 380 m long and 14.8 m wide. This bridge gets you to the funicular of the city in the Buda side and to the Gresham Palace on the Pest side
  • Margaret Bridge: opened in 1876, it’s 607 m long and 25 m wide, it connects both parts of the city with Margaret Island (we’ll talk about it later)
  • Liberty Bridge: dates back to 1896 and it’s the shortest of them with 334 m. In one end you’ll find Géllert Hill and on the other, the Market. Here you’ll find a lot of locals hanging out in the bridge, having a beer or something to drink during the sunset

2.8) Heroes’ Square

Heroes' Square Budapest

Address: Hősök tere

One of the most iconic places in Budapest! Here, you’ll find statues of the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars and other Hungarian heroes. Also here, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

2.9) Fisherman’s Bastion

Fisherman's Bastion in Budapest

Address: Szentháromság tér

Neo-Romanesque and Neo-Gothic is the style of this bastion that lies in one of the Buda hills. This place is purely to get a great view of the city and to enjoy all the details that went into the making of this construction.

2.10) Matthias Church

Matthias Church in Budapest

Address: Szentháromság tér 2

A 14-century church that has one of the most colorful, beautiful roofs you’ll see in any church. Inside, you can also visit an ecclesiastical art museum. Go there if you want to visit one of the best places in Budapest.

3) Have a picnic at Margaret Island

Margaret Island in Budapest

How to get there: Bus 26 leaves you right inside. Also, you can take Tram line 2, get down on the last station (Jászai Mari) and walk through the Margaret Bridge

Price: entrance is free

Margaret Island is in the middle of the Danube between Buda and Pest. This island has everything: playgrounds, fountains, rose gardens, public pools, and running trails. If you have enough time, I’d recommend you to stay there at least a whole morning (especially if you’re visiting it during the summer). Take with you a sandwich and something to drink, you’ll love having a picnic after walking around!

One of the best places to visit in Budapest and obviously, one of the best things to do in Budapest to feel like a local!

4) Visit the different memorials around the city

Your Budapest travel is not complete if you don’t know more about the history of the city. Visiting some of its memorials will give you a broad idea of it. Maybe this is not a Budapest for tourists activity, but believe me, it’s worth it. There are a lot of memorials around the city but these were the most interesting ones for me.

4.1) Memorial at the Ministry of Agriculture

Memorial in the Ministry of Agriculture, Budapest

Address: Kossuth Lajos tér 11

How to get there: use tram line 2 and get down on the Kossuth Lajos tér station, you’ll see the Parliament and Ministry building right away

The Ministry of Agriculture is just some steps away from the Parliament (THAT YOU HAVE TO VISIT FOR SURE). In the right side of the building, you’ll find bronze spheres attached to the columns where marks of bullets once were. This is a memorial for those who perished during the Revolution of 1956 in Hungary. On October of that year, what started as a peaceful protest in front of the Parliament, turned into a very violent act where the secret police and Soviet troops, opened fire against protesters. Many of the protestors tried to hide behind the columns of the Ministry of Agriculture and that’s the reason many bullets were directed in that way.

4.2) Shoes on the Danube bank

Shoes in the Danube, Budapest

Address: Antall József rkp., 1054

How to get there: use Tram Line 2, get down on Széchenyi station and walk down the bank of the Danube

This is a memorial for those who were killed at the Danube during World War II. This memorial really made an impression on me. Please, before going, read a little about the history behind this memorial, don’t treat it just as a tourist attraction. Just as a little context, many Jews were killed there. They were instructed to take off their shoes, leave them in the bank, and go to the river. There, they were shot and the river took their bodies. The shoes are always filled with flowers and candles.

4.3) Memorial at Liberty Square

Memorial at Liberty Square, Budapest

Address: Szabadság tér

How to get there: use bus 15 and get down on Széchenyi station, Line 3 of the metro also gets you close, get off in Arany János station

Right in Szabadaság street, in front of a fountain, you’ll find two memorials. Both of them were created to remember the victims that were killed or displaced during World War II. One of them is “official” and the other isn’t. So what’s the deal? The official memorial says that the Nazis killed groups of people in Hungary, it has an eagle and a liberty statue.

Alternative memorial at Liberty Square, Budapest

On the other hand, right in front of it, there’s a memorial made by people. This memorial has thorn wire attached to some posts along with memorabilia of the people that were killed like shoes, suitcases, and chairs. Along with the memorial, you’ll find why it was built: the people that created it rejects that the blame of the killings is on the Nazis since it was also the Hungarian state who was in charge of this.

Read all the signs and then read further, you’ll learn a lot. One of the most interesting places to visit in Budapest.

5) Go to a thermal bath

Szechengyi Baths Budapest
Szechengyi Baths in Budapest

Thermal baths are all the rage around Budapest (and Europe). It doesn’t matter the season, you’ll find a thermal bath to go to. These are specially popular during the cold weather. Not only is it a great activity to relax, but the buildings are also beautiful! Most of the buildings where the baths are located are super old. You’ll, again, feel like you’re traveling in time. A classic if you want to see the best places to visit in Budapest. Here are the most famous ones:

5.1) Rudas Baths

Address: Döbrentei tér 9

How to get there: Tram station Rudas is right in front, Döbrentei bus station is a 2 min walk away and Rudas bus station is behind

Price: from $17 USD (4,800 ft) to $22.50 USD (6,500 ft) depending on the day of the week you’re visiting

This building is from the 16th century and it has pools, Turkish baths, and a sauna. Both men and women can use pools whenever it’s open. On the other hand, if you want to use the vapor bath, there are specific days for men and women that you can check here.

5.2) Géllert Thermal Baths

Address: Kelenhegyi út 4

How to get there: Szent Gellért tér – Műegyetem station is right across. If you’re in the Pest side, take Tram Line 2, get down in Fővám tér and cross the Szabadság bridge, the baths are right in front of it

Price: from $20.39 USD (5,900 ft) to $22.50 USD (6,500 ft)

These baths are part of the Géllert hotel and the building is impressive. It was finished in 1918 and has a very intimate atmosphere (depending on when you go, of course). Here, there a lot of pools to choose from. Since it’s a bit expensive, bring your own towel and swimming cap so you don’t spend extra money renting those.

5.3) Szchény Baths

Address: Állatkerti krt. 9-11

How to get there: Széchenyi fürdő is the closest station. To have more sightseeing, you can use Metro Line 1 and get down in Hősök Tere, you’ll walk through Heroe’s Square and the park where these baths are located

Price: $19 USD (5,500 ft)

This place has indoor and outdoor pools and it was built in 1913. Since it’s inside the City Park (Városliget), the crowd is a bit more touristy. Nonetheless, the place is beautiful and you’ll spend some very relaxing hours. To avoid extra costs, bring your own slippers, towel, and a swimming cap if you’re planning on swimming on the lanes. One of the best places to visit in Budapest!

6) Indie design stores

Designer stores in Budapest
Designer stores in Budapest

The capital of Hungary is full of talented, creative people. It’s no surprise that there are a lot of designer’s stores around the city. I always find unique, beautiful objects in these stores… and they make for great presents for your loved ones! Here’s a list of the best designer stores in Budapest:

  • Rhododendron: small and cozy, you’ll find t-shirts, baby clothes, earrings, bags, and local art. Something especially cool about this place is that they have a postcard section on the back. In this little room, you can serve yourself a coffee while you choose from a great variety of postcards.
  • MONO art & design: a bit pricey but you’ll find unique items. Many say this place is the essence of contemporary design in Budapest, it definitely is! Prepare to find all things concrete… from earrings to mugs.
  • Printa design shop: a great shop if you’re into art. Besides it being a gallery, here, you’ll also find environmentally-friendly designer products. They also have workshops on different, interesting topics. Be sure to check their Facebook to know if there’s something you might like before going.
  • PaUZa: this store specializes in home goods so you’ll find a lot of interesting things to fill your home with some of Budapest’s style. This store is owned by a couple that ensures that every client has a great experience when they enter their store.
  • ZUN Store: they have a great selection of products made by local designers. The staff is super helpful if you’re looking for a specific product or size. Here, you’ll also be able to buy vintage stuff.

7) Children’s railway in Budapest

 

Children's Railway, Budapest
Kids in the Children’s Railway

How to get there: the line has several stations, you can check how to get to any of those here.

Price: one trip for one person is $2.77 USD (800 ft), two trips (if you’re doing a stopover) for one person are $4.85 USD (1,400 ft)

This was something that sounded not interesting at all when I found out about it but it was a great surprise! I enjoyed this a lot. The Children’s railway is a train line that’s almost completely operated by kids between 10 and 14. It feels a little surreal to go into the station and find all the kids wearing a uniform and being super professional about their jobs. Also, kids conduct the trains! Kids will sell you the tickets, then check them while on the train, and even make announcements when necessary.

You can take the train on any of the starting stations and travel until the last one. The sights are beautiful as the train goes through the forest. But, you can also make some stops along the way since there are interesting places to visit, like a viewing tower, some parks, and places to eat. If you take the complete journey without stopping, it takes around 40 minutes. If you make some stops (like I did), you can spend the whole day in this activity.

This had to be on our list of best places to visit in Budapest! Also perfect for the kids.

8) Go to all of the museums!

Well, maybe not all of them… depends on your time and likes! I’m a museum person, I love going to places and learning more about them by going to all kinds of museums. Budapest, of course, has a lot to offer. Museums are one of the best places to visit in Budapest. If you have limited time, try one of these museums.

8.1) Terror Háza

Terror Haza in Budapest

Address: Andrássy út 60

How to get there: Octogon station is one block away, all public transportation gets there

Price: $10.40 USD (3,000 ft)

If you’re visiting just one museum, make it this one. Terror Háza or House of Terror is a museum about the effects of the Soviet and Nazi regimes in Hungary. What I really liked about this museum is how different and modern it feels. This is more like an immersive experience, made with very careful thought and that truly makes you feel the weight of humanity.

For starters, right away where you buy your tickets, you can see testimonials of people whose family members were disappeared, killed, or displaced. If you don’t like reading that much, it’ll be difficult to enjoy this museum since at the beginning of each room you have to read a sheet of paper to understand what you’re looking at. But, if I could recommend something to you is that before visiting you read a little about recent Hungarian history to be more in context. That way, you won’t have to read everything.

Especially difficult and heart-wrenching is the basement (and the trip to it). If you’re sensitive about these subjects, be prepared.

8.2) Hungarian National Museum

Hungarian National Museum in Budapest
This museum has one of Beethoven’s pianos (that then was the property of Liszt!)

Address: Múzeum krt. 14-16

How to get there: check all the ways you can get there here.

Price: $9 USD (2,600 ft)

A bit underrated, if you ask me. This museum has everything about Hungary since the Paleolithic until the fall of the Soviet regime. Basically, everything. This is a very big museum so take, at least, half a day to visit it with no rush. The place is full of very interesting, unique objects that will transport you back to the different times of Hungary. I especially enjoyed the rooms on the Soviet occupation in Hungary.

8.3) Flippermúzeum

Address: Radnóti Miklós u. 18

How to get there: Balzac utca station is the closest one

Price: $10.40 USD (3,000 ft)

This is not a museum per se, but I love that it exists. Did you ever play pinball when you were younger (or old hehe)? This museum has an exhibition of 130 pinball machines. The first pinball machine ever made is here and there are machines from the 30s and 40s. But, this is not the only interesting thing about the museum. What’s really cool is that you can play with every machine! Yes! Just with your entrance ticket, you can play for as long as you want with any machine (although it’s stated in the house rules that you have to change machine after your game is over to respect pinball etiquette).

This is more of a fun and not learning activity but hey… having fun is also important!

8.4) Hungarian National Gallery

Hugarian National Gallery in Budapest

Address: Szent György tér 2

How to get there: there are a lot of ways of getting there, check this link to know more. A cool tip I’d give you: use the funicular to get there. Find more information about the funicular here

Price: entrance to the permanent exhibition is $9.5 USD (2800 ft), temporary exhibitions have different prices that you can check here

For the art lovers and if you’re interested in knowing more about Hungarian art. This place has a collection of Hungarian works from the 15th century up until today. This museum also has great temporary exhibitions (that you can check here). What’s also nice about this place is that it has a great view of Budapest from the Buda side of the city. You can spend hours going up and checking the gardens down.

9) Have a beer at the ruin bars

Szimpla Kert in Budapest
Szimpla Kert in Budapest

Ruin bars are the hype in Budapest right now. These places look, as their name says like they’re in ruin. They have random decorations all over, they seem old, the bathrooms are filled with stickers, and all the chairs and tables look different. Don’t be fooled by the looks. In these places, you’ll find delicious craft beer and amazing food (sometimes). You’ll find most of them in the Jewish Quarter and they’re definitely some of the best places to visit in Budapest. These are some of the best:

9.1) Szimpla Kert

Address: Kazinczy u. 14

One of the most famous ones. If you get there late, you’ll even have to make a line to enter (there are bouncers). This is more like a place where you’ll find a lot of different bars, restaurants, a small concert hall, and even a garden. You can buy from any bar or restaurant and just sit on any table. A great place if you’re with your friends since there are options for everybody.

9.2) Ellátó Kert & Taquería

Address: Kazinczy u. 48

A very big place with two small bars inside and even a taco place. The tacos in this place are the closest to the Mexican ones you can get in Budapest (trust me, I’m a Mexican). The place is super colorful and has a lot of Mexican decorations. Go there early since it’s a popular spot for bachelor and bachelorette parties, and also for pub hoppers.

9.3) Csendes Vintage Bar & Café

Address: Ferenczy István u. 5

Super cozy, full of random decorations and a local crowd. This bar is perfect for a casual meet-up with your friends. They have a good selection of beer and it’s also kind of hidden (since it’s not in a main street), which makes to an intimate experience.

 

Ready to go to the best places to visit in Budapest? Have you been already? Tell us in the comments if we left out some of your favorite spots!

And, if you’re looking for more inspiration for your next travels, check all of our destination guides.

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