Are you wondering what are the best things to do in Budapest, Hungary? Welcome to Budapest, a city where history and modernity blend seamlessly, offering an enriching experience that left a lasting impression on me. I believe you’ll find Budapest equally captivating.

The city welcomes you with open arms, friendly locals, a delightful culinary scene, and affordable drinks that set the stage for memorable evenings. One such memorable night for me was attending an open-air rave atop the Buda hills – an experience I’ll always cherish.

For my Filipino friends considering a visit, remember to secure a Schengen visa for your European adventure.

Now, let’s explore Budapest’s rich history, shaped by the Celts, Romans, Magyars, Ottomans, and Habsburgs. This diverse heritage has crafted the Budapest we know today. A unique aspect of the city is its language, considered one of the most challenging in the world. Even saying ‘Goulash’ and ‘Széchenyi’ correctly proved to be quite a task for me!

During my exploration of Budapest, I discovered a wealth of experiences worth sharing. Whether you’re interested in iconic landmarks like Fisherman’s Bastion or hidden gems like the Budapest Pinball Museum, Budapest offers something for everyone. And for savvy travelers, consider getting the Budapest Card, your ticket to free or discounted access to numerous attractions across the city.

To save even more during your trip to Budapest, you have to make sure to book your hotels in advance and on the Pest side of the city.  You can check here some great suggestions on where to stay in Budapest.

Come along on this journey as we uncover Budapest’s hidden gems, dive into its history, and create unforgettable memories in this European gem

Here are the best things to do in Budapest:

1. Experience the Kávéház (Coffee House)

My List of the Best Coffee in the World
Best Things to Do in Budapest: Experience the Kávéház (Coffee House)

Budapest boasts a deep-rooted love affair with coffee that transcends generations. In the early days, coffee houses held a sacred place in the hearts of Budapest’s artists, writers, and poets. These establishments were their sanctuaries, where creativity flowed as freely as the coffee.

The renowned Kávéház even offered a “Writers Menu” that provided these luminaries with special discounts, fostering an environment conducive to artistic inspiration. It was here that many literary masterpieces were born.

Following the upheaval of the world wars, these Kávéház gradually opened their doors to the general public. What made them truly special was their affordability. They became beloved hubs, where both coffee and sustenance could be enjoyed without breaking the bank.

The enchanting relationship between Budapest and its Kávéház continues to thrive in the modern era. When you find yourself in the city, I wholeheartedly recommend setting aside an afternoon to immerse yourself in this coffee house culture.

Among these gems, Ruszwurm stands as a testament to the city’s enduring love for coffee. Founded in 1827, it’s not only the oldest coffee house in Budapest but also one of the finest. Stepping into Ruszwurm is like stepping back in time, where the aroma of freshly brewed coffee mingles with the echoes of the past, creating an ambiance that is both nostalgic and invigorating.

Join the Budapest Sweet and Coffee House Walking Tour: Book it here!

2. Visit the Széchenyi Chain Bridge

Szechenyi Chain Bridge in Budapest
Best Things to Do in Budapest: Visit the Széchenyi Chain Bridge

A stroll along the majestic Széchenyi Chain Bridge is like stepping into a living history book, unveiling tales of a city once divided, and the architectural marvel that united it.

Built in 1849, the Széchenyi Chain Bridge proudly stands as Hungary’s first stone and suspension bridge spanning the mighty Danube River. In those days, this bridge was the sole connection between two distinct cities – Buda and Pest. Yes, you read that correctly. Budapest, as we know it today, was once two separate entities, each with its own unique character and charm.

Buda, on the west bank of the Danube, is a picturesque haven characterized by rolling hills, lush greenery, and residential neighborhoods. Here, the historic Castle Hill proudly displays its timeless elegance, while the Citadella offers breathtaking panoramic views, and the Gellért Monument stands as a testament to the city’s enduring spirit. And if you venture even further back in time, you’ll discover Óbuda, known as Ancient Buda, where the Romans once left their indelible mark during their occupation.

Now, crossing the Széchenyi Chain Bridge to Pest, you’ll find a bustling urban landscape. This is the heart of the city, home to a myriad of shopping centers, cultural gems like the St. Stephen Basilica and the Grand Opera House, and countless more treasures waiting to be uncovered.

Walking across this iconic bridge is not just a journey across the Danube; it’s a journey through Budapest’s rich history and a testament to the enduring spirit of unity that binds this remarkable city together. As you stand in the middle of the bridge, take a moment to soak in the breathtaking views and reflect on the incredible journey that Budapest has undergone, all thanks to the Széchenyi Chain Bridge.

Visit the other bridges of the city: Megyeri Bridge, Arpad Bridge, Margaret Bridge, Elisabeth Bridge, Liberty Bridge, Petofi Bridge, and Lagmanyosi Bridge.

3. St. Stephen Basilica

St Stephen Basilica in Budapest
Best Things to Do in Budapest: Visit the St. Stephen Basilica

In the heart of Budapest, St. Stephen’s Basilica stands as a testament to faith and an architectural masterpiece. Combining Neoclassical and Neoromanesque styles, this grand structure took over 50 years to complete. It’s named after Hungary’s first king, Saint Stephen, and houses his preserved right hand, a significant relic. The real magic unfolds when you ascend the dome, offering panoramic views of Budapest’s landmarks, from the Parliament building to Buda Castle.

Beyond its architecture, the basilica is renowned for its impeccable acoustics, attracting musicians and enthusiasts. It’s the largest church in Budapest, accommodating up to 8,500 people. Located in lively Szent István Square, it’s surrounded by cafes and shops, creating a quintessential Budapest atmosphere.

St. Stephen’s Basilica isn’t just a place of worship; it’s a cultural hub. Regular Masses and events enrich both spiritual and cultural life. Inside, exquisite sculptures and artwork adorn the interior, with a stunning statue of Saint Stephen. The basilica’s preservation efforts highlight Budapest’s commitment to its heritage.

When visiting Budapest, make sure to explore St. Stephen’s Basilica. Experience the blend of faith, history, and architecture that defines this essential part of the city’s identity.

4. Margaret Island

Nestled in the heart of the Danube River, Margaret Island is a lush green oasis that offers respite from the bustling city of Budapest. Named after Princess Margaret of Hungary, this 2.5-kilometer-long island has a rich history dating back to the Middle Ages. However, it wasn’t all leisure and relaxation; during the Ottoman period, the island had its share of history too.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, when Budapest was under Ottoman rule, Margaret Island became a strategic military outpost. The Ottomans fortified the island with a small fortress and used it to control traffic along the Danube. Its gardens were transformed into gardens for growing medicinal herbs, and the island played a role in the region’s defense.

Yet, the island’s tranquil ambiance today is the result of its transformation into a recreational paradise during the 19th century. Today, it’s a favorite retreat for locals and tourists alike.

One of the island’s most notable features is the Margaret Island Musical Fountain, an enchanting water and light show that mesmerizes spectators during the summer months. Nature enthusiasts will appreciate the island’s beautiful gardens, walking paths, and diverse flora, making it perfect for a leisurely stroll or a picnic.

For those seeking cultural enrichment, the island is home to the ruins of a Dominican convent and a historic water tower, which has been converted into a modern art gallery. Sports enthusiasts can enjoy a range of activities, from swimming and jogging to tennis and golf. Margaret Island is also home to a small zoo, providing an opportunity to get up close and personal with various animals.

Whether you’re looking for a peaceful escape, cultural exploration, or outdoor adventure, Margaret Island offers it all within the heart of Budapest, making it a must-visit destination for anyone exploring this vibrant city.

Join the Budapest Half-Day Sightseeing Tour: Book it here!

5. Ruin Pub Culture

In the heart of Budapest’s nightlife beats to the rhythm of its Ruin pubs. It all started with Szimpla Kert, the pioneer that breathed life into abandoned buildings from World War II, now iconic establishments predominantly found in the Jewish Quarter.

During my visit to Budapest, ruin pub hopping became an unforgettable experience with friends, a night filled with laughter and, of course, Palinka and fröccs (Spritzer) flowing freely. Trying the famous Hungarian Palinka is practically a rite of passage; it’s a potent fruit brandy available in a delightful array of flavors, from apricot to plum.

But Budapest’s alcoholic offerings don’t stop at Palinka. The city boasts a rich wine tradition, with Tokaj being celebrated for its sweet dessert wines. There’s also Unicum, a herbal liqueur with a unique taste, and fröccs, a refreshing blend of wine and sparkling water to beat the Hungarian summer heat.

So, when you’re immersed in Budapest’s nightlife, it’s not just about drinks; it’s about discovering the city’s soul, one sip at a time, in its captivating ruin pubs and its iconic spirits like Palinka. Cheers to Budapest’s vibrant spirit!

Join Budapest Pub Crawl Through the Ruin Bars: Book it here!

6. Relax in the Thermal Baths

Budapest Thermal Bath.jpg
Best Things to Do in Budapest: Relax in the Thermal Baths

When you visit Budapest, immersing yourself in the city’s thermal baths is an experience that transcends relaxation; it’s a journey through history and healing. Budapest is home to over 100 thermal springs, and each one tells a unique story.

One of the thermal baths that captured my heart is the Rudas Thermal Bath, nestled in Buda near Gellert Hill. Its history dates back to the Roman occupation, where these soothing waters were a refuge for weary soldiers to relax and rejuvenate their aching muscles.

What makes Budapest’s thermal baths truly exceptional is their mineral-rich waters, believed to possess remarkable healing properties for various muscular, joint, and respiratory ailments. It’s not merely a soak; it’s a therapeutic ritual that has been cherished for centuries.

During my visit, I had the opportunity to indulge in a whole-body massage, a rejuvenating experience guided by a skilled male masseur. It’s a testament to the city’s commitment to offering holistic well-being in its most traditional form.

Beyond Rudas, Budapest boasts a constellation of iconic bathhouses. The Széchenyi Thermal Bath is Europe’s largest medicinal bath, offering a grand architectural marvel along with its therapeutic waters. Gellert Baths, housed within the stunning Gellert Hotel, provide a regal setting for relaxation.

So, when you step into Budapest’s thermal baths, you’re not just soaking in water; you’re soaking in centuries of tradition, healing, and rejuvenation. It’s an experience that transcends the ordinary and leaves you with a profound sense of well-being in the heart of this enchanting city.

Get this Private Entrance to Széchenyi Spa in Budapest with an Optional Massage: Buy it here!

5. Castle Hill

Fishermen Bastion and the Matthias Church
Best Things to Do in Budapest: Explore Castle Hill

Budapest’s Castle Hill, a treasure trove of history and architectural wonders, is a must-visit destination for anyone exploring the city. Perched high above the Danube River, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a testament to Budapest’s rich heritage.

Buda Castle:

At the heart of Castle Hill stands the magnificent Buda Castle, a symbol of royal grandeur. This historic palace complex has witnessed centuries of change, from medieval kings to modern presidents. Today, it houses museums, galleries, and the National Széchényi Library, offering a fascinating journey through Hungary’s past.

Trinity Square:

Trinity Square, nestled at the foot of Matthias Church, is a picturesque square that exudes charm and history. It’s named after the Holy Trinity Column, a Baroque masterpiece. The square has been a witness to countless events, including coronations and historic gatherings.

Fishermen’s Bastion:

Fishermen’s Bastion, a whimsical, neo-Gothic terrace, offers breathtaking panoramic views of Budapest. Its fairytale-like architecture, with seven ornate turrets representing the seven Magyar tribes, is an enchanting sight. It’s named after the medieval fish market that once operated nearby and is now a favorite spot for photographers and romantics.

Matthias Church:

Adjacent to Fishermen’s Bastion stands the Matthias Church, a true jewel of Gothic architecture. With its colorful, geometric roof tiles and stunning interior, it’s a masterpiece of art and history. It’s where kings were crowned, including the famous Matthias Corvinus.

What’s more, Castle Hill itself is a living museum, with cobblestone streets, charming houses, and hidden courtyards waiting to be explored. The Castle Hill Funicular, dating back to 1870, offers a unique way to ascend the hill while enjoying splendid views.

These historical landmarks on Castle Hill are like chapters in Budapest’s story, and each one adds a layer of richness to the city’s narrative. As you wander through this captivating district, you’re not just exploring architecture; you’re stepping back in time and immersing yourself in Hungary’s illustrious past.

6. Gellert Hill

Budapest Hungary
Best Things to Do in Budapest: Head to Gellert Hill

Rising majestically on the Pest side of Budapest, Gellert Hill is a captivating blend of nature and history. Its name honors Saint Gerard, whose legendary story is intertwined with this hill. Atop Gellert Hill stands the imposing Citadella, a fortress built by the Habsburgs in the 19th century. Today, it symbolizes freedom, with the Liberation Monument at its summit commemorating Hungary’s liberation from Nazi occupation by Soviet forces during World War II.

Descending the hill, you’ll discover the Gellert Thermal Baths, an Art Nouveau masterpiece where healing waters flow. These baths pay homage to Bishop Gellert, who met a tragic fate on this hill and provide a luxurious retreat for relaxation and rejuvenation. Gellert Hill also offers breathtaking views of Budapest’s Pest side, where landmarks like Liberty Square, St. Stephen’s Basilica, and the Hungarian Parliament grace the cityscape. As you explore Gellert Hill and its surroundings, you’re not merely witnessing nature and architecture; you’re delving into Budapest’s rich history and experiencing its multifaceted identity.

Join the Budapest Sightseeing Tour with Parliament House Visit: Book it here!

7. Try the famous Hungarian Cuisine, the Gulyás (Goulash)

Hungry in Hungary?  You are in the right place to be!

Goulash in Budapest

Hungarian’s love for paprika and other spices are undeniable.

One of their popular dishes is Gulyás (Goulash) made from beef, potatoes, onions and seasoned with paprika. This is actually one of my favourite dishes, so this one thing I will surely not miss to try in Budapest. Most of the Hungarian dishes are flavoured with paprika and other spices and commonly based on pork or beef.

Another popular dish in Hungary is the Goose Liver (foie gras) however I don’t know if I can able to eat it due to the inhumane practices that they do to the poor goose.

Join the Budapest Food Walking Tour: Book it here!

7. Cruise on the Danube River

Danube River has been the heart of Budapest and other 9 countries in Europe. There are loads of river cruises company that you can try. If you have plenty of time, you can also try to cross countries via the Danube river and explore a unique way of travelling around Europe.

Join the Budapest Danube River Dinner Cruise: Book it here!

These are some of the Budapest attraction that I can recommend in case you want to visit Budapest.
In case you are looking for a cheap accommodation in Budapest, see this for the best hostels in Budapest that will suit your budget.

Where is Budapest?

Budapest is located in the heart of Europe.  The capital Hungary and considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Budapest is one of the budget-friendly destinations in Europe. Hungary is part of the EU, but they do not use the Euro, Budapest currency, or the whole of Hungary for that matter, use Hungarian Forint.

Enjoy and have a great time in Budapest!

If you have been to Budapest, share your experience in the comment box below!

Special thanks to Gabi and Peter who showed us the beauty of their home city! During our trip to Budapest, we collaborated with Budapest Bike Breeze, Rudas Baths, Aria Hotel Budapest, and Marco Polo Travel Guides.  All opinions are my own.

Things to do in Budapest Chain Bridge


Ryazan Tristram EverythingZany Author Bio

Ryazan Tristram

Travel Writer & Photographer

Ryazan has a Bachelor’s Degree in Tourism and Hotel Management. She also has more than 10 years of work experience gained from working in the hotel and travel sectors in Asia and Europe. Her work has been featured and published on Huffington Post, Reader’s Digest, Discovery Channel, World Travel Guide, MSN, CNBC, GMA, Daily Mail UK, Lonely Planet and many more. She is currently living in the UK as a dual citizen (British – Filipina). Join her in travelling around the UK and beyond with a mission to promote sustainable tourism and share travel guides, travel tips, foodies, history and culture.


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