Want to take a holiday along the grandeur of the Danube? The best things to do in Budapest are waiting for you.
This country was made for adventurers; it's the perfect time to visit. Keep your eyes open and you’ll find something exciting at what seems to be every turn. While the landscape certainly does offer something to be admired, not all of the beauty is God-given. In fact, this city is known for being an architectural treasure trove. Just take a look around and you’ll see what we mean. Baroque buildings are effortlessly juxtaposed with grand neoclassical, and art nouveau. Sure it’s an eclectic mix but it somehow works. And like the city itself, the best things to do in Budapest run the spectrum of ideas and adventures.
One of the first things you will notice about Budapest is its 19th century ‘golden age’ feel. And while most people forget about the past, it’s hard to do that here. Bullet holes and shrapnel scuffs still sit like scars on the skin of smooth buildings. WWII and the 1956 Uprising certainly left their marks. The story here is one of resilience and a firm belief in the power of faith and reconciliation.
This is one of our favorite cities in the world and we are beyond excited to share our favorite spots with you. Some of them are no secrets while others will definitely make you feel like you’ve stumbled upon your own piece of paradise.
Here Are Our Picks for the Best Things to Do in Budapest
1. Take a Dip in the Rudas Baths
Credit: Rudas Baths
Have you heard of the Rudas Baths? Visiting them is one of the best things to do in Budapest. Dating all the way back to the 16th centuries, these pools are a constant reminder that beauty lies around every turn. In terms of mineral water, Budapest is one of the richest cities in the world.
Now known as the city of spas, Rudas has been a well-known balneological center ever since the 1930s. While you’re there, you have the option to choose from a wide variety of local springs. Each offers a slightly different experience, including health and wellness options. Here’s a little history.
The Rudas Baths were made during the time of the Turkish occupation. Surely, the architectural style reflects that. At the center of the Baths lies an octagonal pool housed in a 10 meter dome. A swimming facility and sauna were added in the late 1800s. The bar offers a unique physiotherapeutic section including a drinking hall. Don’t get too excited. It’s not beer. Choose from three water springs. There’s Hungaria, Attila, and Juventus. There are so many things you can enjoy from within the wellness department. The Juventus pool, rooftop pool, immersion pool, and two hot water pools are just a few of them.
2. Explore the Buda Castle and Its Surrounding Area
If you’ve ever Googled pictures of Budapest, the Buda Castle is one of the first iconic landmarks to pop up in photos. Historically, it has served as the dwelling place and palace complex of the Hungarian Kings in Budapest. While the structure was technically first completed in 1265, the Baroque structure we see today was created during the span of 1749 to 1769.
In the past, this magnificent structure was referred to as the Royal Palace or the Royal Castle. Did you know that the castle is a part of the Budapest World Heritage Site? You have no idea just how much history this one building holds. Its lifespan incorporates the Middle Ages, Ottoman Era, destruction of the medieval castle, Baroque reconstruction, residence of the Palatines, Interbellum years and WWII, to modernization and the 21st century.
Today, the Buda Castle is home to both the National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum. So, the opening hours to the castle itself coincide with the interior offerings it holds. You can visit the National Gallery from Tuesday through Sunday between the hours of 10 am to 6 pm. The Budapest History Museum is open from March 1 to October 31 Tuesday through Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm. Between November 1 to February 29, it is open from 10 am to 4 pm.
3. Roam Around Ruin Pubs and Garden Pubs
Yes, this is every bit as awesome as it sounds. That’s why it’s at the top of our list of things to do in Budapest. This city has a reputation for its amazing festivals and nightlife scene. Why not add culture into the mix? Where else in the world could you possibly find a dance scene with lasers inside of a thermal bathhouse? We’ll let you sit with that one for a bit.
Okay… We’re back. So when you’re here, you will have to go and check out The Romkocsma. These local abandoned buildings have been converted into the most epic bars and hangout spots. Picture old factories, apartment complexes, and huge department stores all converted into a place to have a drink and kick back with friends. The city’s ruin pubs offer some of the best drinks, rooms like mazes, art, and historical relics to peruse. Some of our favorite ruin pubs and garden pubs include Szimpla Kert, Fogashaz, Durer Kurt, and Mazel Tov.
4. Go See the Parliament of Budapest
The Hungarian Parliament Building, also known as the Parliament of Budapest seats the National Assembly of Hungary. You’ll find this popular tourist destination and landmark located in Lajos Kossuth Square on the banks of the Danube River. Take a guided tour of the domed Neo-Gothic structure and learn all about the world’s third-largest Parliament.
As you walk through the great vaulted hall, you will start to gain a sense of appreciation for the vastness of this architectural masterpiece. From the richly decorated central staircase to the Hungarian Holy Crown and Crown Jewels, there is truly so much worth seeing. Taking a tour of Parliament is one of the best things to do in Budapest. After all, who doesn’t need a little more history and culture in their lives?
5. Stroll Around the Danube and its Bridges
There’s nothing quite like taking a scenic walk in a country you’re visiting for the first time. Whenever we set foot in a new place, one of the things we do is seek out a park or riverfront to stroll. Start out by the Hungarian Parliament and work your way down. Before crossing the Chain Bridge, take a walk past it so you can admire all of the sculptures. The artwork really does run the gamut of ideas.
From statues of Hungarian painters to devilish children, creativity is unfettered. A random fact you can ponder while walking this route is that the Rubik cube is a Hungarian invention. While you can walk this path during the day, there is something particularly magical about it at night. Add this to your list of the best things to do in Budapest.
6. Tour the Great Synagogue
The Dohany Street Synagogue holds a lot of records. As the largest building in the Erzsébetváros, the 7th district of Budapest, Hungary, it’s the largest synagogue in all of Europe and the second largest in all of the world. Seating some 3,000 people, it’s no wonder that it is the house of Neolog Jerusalem. Visiting this place of worship is one of the best things to do in Budapest.
Built in 1859, you can easily distinguish its Moorish style. Its spacious presence demonstrates the lofty economic and cultural standards that pervaded Budapest’s Jewry during that age. During the time of its origin, the temple was designed by Ludwig Forster, a German architect and Professor of the Vienna Academy. After he left, Frigyes Feszl designed the temple’s inner sanctum. Official consecration took place on September 6, 1859.
Historically, the Great Synagogue holds so much significance. It was and always has been so much more than a gathering place for worship. Memories of the Holocaust are strongly connected to the area of the Jewish Quarter. In fact, Dohany street constituted the border of the ghetto during World War II. The area which had been originally planned as a garden is the burial place of nearly 2,600 Jewish people who died during the Holocaust.
If you would like to visit the Synagogue, you can do so during weekdays. The memorial is closed on Saturdays and for Jewish holidays. While it is predominantly a place of worship, it still houses many different cultural programmes and concerts.
7. Walk All Around Andrássy Avenue
Why visit this part of Budapest? Think art, architecture, cafes, the Budapest Opera, people watching, and the Liszt-Ferenc Square. Need we say more? Listed as a World Heritage Site, Andrássy Avenue was first built to connect the city center with the City Park. Construction began way back in 1872 and the avenue was inaugurated three years after. Distinguished architects of the time incorporated a variety of Neoclassical palaces and houses throughout. It didn’t take long before aristocrats, bankers, landowners, and nobles began to move in.
Since its official inauguration, this avenue has had many different names. After World War II it was called Stalin, the Hungarian Youth in 1956, People’s Republic after 1956 and running until 1989, and Andrassy Ut since then. Over the last few years, this area has become increasingly trendy, drawing in some of the world’s most prestigious designers to its site. But that’s not all. You’ll also find plenty of cute restaurants and cafes dotting the avenue. Needless to say, you’ll have your pick of places where you can stop and sip on a cappuccino.
While you’re there, you will find a host of other things to do and see too. After all, Andrássy Avenue is great for walks and discovering a lot of turn of the century architecture. Since it’s a long walk, you should know that the Underground Railway runs directly beneath it, should you become tired. One of the most famous tenants on the avenue is the State Opera House. And as we previously noted, you’ll find a slew of upscale boutiques as well. Shops like Louis Vuitton, Ermenegildo Zegna, Burberry, and Gucci all call it home.
8. See St. Stephen’s Basilica
Also known as the Budapest Cathedral, St. Stephen’s is the largest church in all of the city. While in architectural terms it is just a cathedral, it was granted the title of Basilica minor by Pope Pius XI in 1931. The building commenced in 1851 and took more than 50 years to build. In 1868, the dome collapsed and the builders had to start all over again from scratch. While it was originally house in Neoclassical style, it was finished in Renaissance style according to the plans of Miklos Ybl, one of Europe’s leading architects during the mid 19th century.
St. Stephen, the church’s patron saint, was the first king of Hungary. After he passed, his body was mummified and is kept in a glass case in the chapel to the left of the main altar. The impressive dome measures 96 meters high, the same height as the stunning Parliament Building. Perhaps it could have been higher but regulations in the city stipulate that no other structure in the city can supersede 96 meters. Having equal height at the Parliamentary building is symbolic of the balance between church and state.
Book Your Dream Vacation and Check the Best Things to Do in Budapest off Your List
Budapest is a popular destination for travelers and with good reason. It's one of the most beautiful places in Europe. This city offers a truly unique, rich history, fascinating architecture, captivating artwork, and a beautiful spirit to explore. Its traditions, trials, errors, and successes are memorialized in a tangible way. Explore old cobblestone streets, visit the resting place of the greats, and dive head first into this gem.
From walking scenic city streets and parks to going on a foodie quest, spending the day at cultural centers and museums, or hitting up the thermal baths, you’ll never run out of things to do in Budapest. Whether you’re traveling solo, with the family, or that special someone, the activities run a wide spectrum of interests. The only hard part about spending a vacation in this Hungarian city is narrowing down what you want to see. Which one of the things on our list would you like to do the most?
Related Article: 11 Best Things to Do In Munich, Germany