Budapest bucket list: featured image

Ah Budapest. The city of my dreams. A city that offers something for everyone, from its world-famous thermal baths to its stunning architecture and lively nightlife. And of course, the food. Oh, the food! If you find yourself headed to the Hungarian capital city, be sure to take some inspiration from this epic Budapest bucket list.

Budapest is quirky, offbeat and full of surprises. From the moment you arrive, you can feel the fascinating history and culture seeping from every corner.

Whether you’re visiting for a quick weekend getaway or planning to spend an extended amount of time exploring all that this city has to offer, you’ll definitely want to add these 30 things to your Budapest bucket list.

And best of all, the majority of this bucket list includes items that are completely free to do!

But first, here’s some must have information about visiting Budapest. If you want to skip straight to the Budapest bucket list, click here.

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Table Of Contents

How to get to Budapest

Budapest is located in Central Hungary and it’s easy to get there from just about anywhere in the world.

If you’re flying into Budapest, you will likely land at Liszt Ferenc International Airport (BUD), which is located about 16 kilometers from the city centre. There are direct flights from most major airports all over Europe, Asia and North America.

Check out some flights here.

The city is also well connected by train, with regular service from cities all over Europe. If you’re coming from Vienna, for example, the train ride is only about 2 hours, 45 minutes.

When I last visited Budapest, I actually caught the train from Prague, which took around 8 hours – it’s such a fun and cheap way to travel between cities!

Check train schedules here.

How to get around Budapest

Walking is really the best way to get around and see the sights in Budapest. The neighbourhoods are quite compact and most of the main attractions are within walking distance of each other.

If you’re planning on doing a lot of sightseeing and don’t want to spend too much, I recommend getting a Budapest Card. This card gives you free or discounted entry into many of the city’s museums and attractions, as well as public transportation.

Check out the Budapest Card here.

You’ll need to use public transport if you plan on travelling across the city.

You can also buy a day pass for the hop-on, hop-off bus – this is a great way to see the city if you’re short on time.

Of course, taxis are readily available and relatively cheap, but I find that they’re really only necessary if you’re travelling with a lot of luggage or outside of the city centre.

Where to stay in Budapest

There are so many great places to stay in Budapest, from luxury hotels to budget-friendly hostels

For a bit of luxury, I recommend the Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest. This hotel is absolutely stunning, with its Art Nouveau architecture and beautiful views of the city.

For a more affordable option, check out the House Beletage Boutique Hotel, which is centrally located in a beautiful 19th century building.

If you’re travelling on a tight budget, there are also a bunch of great hostels in Budapest. I recommend Zen Hostel by Central Market. Centrally located, with fantastic reviews, this hostel is a great option if you’re looking to save some pennies.

No matter what your budget is, you’ll be able to find a great place to stay in Budapest!

Check out more Budapest accommodation options here.

Ultimate Budapest Bucket List

Now that you have all the logistics out of the way, it’s time to start planning your trip! Budapest is such an amazing city with so much to see and do and I guarantee you’ll find something on this list that you’ll love.

1. Take a dip in the Széchenyi Thermal Baths

There’s nothing like a dip in a hot spring to soothe the body and soul. And when it comes to thermal waters, Budapest is one of the best places in the world to enjoy them.

The city is home to the Széchenyi Thermal Bath, which are world-renowned for their therapeutic waters and beautiful Neo-Baroque architecture.

Budapest bucket list: Széchenyi Thermal Baths
Széchenyi Thermal Baths – by Travor Hart from FlickrCC

There are 18 different pools to choose from (mostly outdoor pools), each with its own temperature. I highly recommend going from one of the warm baths straight into the cold thermal bath. I know it might sound crazy but it’s actually really therapeutic!

End the experience with a steam in the sauna. Trust me, you’ll feel like a new person when you’re done.

Check out tickets to Széchenyi Thermal Baths here!

2. Ride the Castle Hill Funicular

Budapest is a city with a lot of hills and, while taking a hike up them can be fun if you’re feeling energetic, sometimes it’s nice to take a break and let someone else do the work!

That’s where the Castle Hill Funicular comes in. This funicular has been taking people up to Buda Castle since 1870 and it’s still going strong today.

The funicular goes from the Buda side of Chain Bridge. And while it only takes a few minutes to ride, it’s a scenic ride!

3. Enjoy panoramic views of the city at Fisherman’s Bastion

Some of the best things to do in Budapest are completely free!

Fisherman’s Bastion is one of those things. This beautiful terrace provides stunning panoramic views of the city.

It’s the perfect place to enjoy a sunset with a glass of wine in hand or to watch the sunrise with a cup of coffee.

And if you want to find out more about the history of the city, there are also a bunch of informative statues and plaques dotted around the Bastion.

4. Stroll across Chain Bridge

One of the best ways to take in Budapest’s stunning architecture is by strolling across one of its many bridges. The city is bisected by the Danube River, and there are several bridges that link the two halves of Buda and Pest. The most iconic of these is the Chain Bridge, which was built in 1849 and spans almost a kilometer in length.

Chain Bridge, Budapest
Chain Bridge, Budapest – by Pal Kobor from FlickrCC

Taking a stroll across this architectural masterpiece is a must-do for any visitor to Budapest. From the bridge, you’ll get breathtaking views of both sides of the city – be sure to bring your camera!

5. Climb Gellért Hill

If you thought the views from Fisherman’s Bastion were good, wait until you see the views from Gellért Hill!

Climbing to the top of this hill is one of the best ways to get a bird’s eye view of the city. The walk up is tough, not gonna lie. But, the climb is definitely worth it, as you’ll be rewarded with insane views of the entire city.

If you don’t feel like walking, you can always take a bus to the top.

Get there just before sunset and enjoy the views as the city lights up – I promise you won’t be disappointed!

6. Take a romantic River Cruise

While Budapest may not be known as the most romantic city in the world, it certainly has its fair share of charms. There’s something inherently romantic about a river cruise, and Budapest’s Danube is no exception.

As you float down the river, you’ll get to take in all of Budapest’s stunning architecture, from the Parliament building to the castle district. And if you time it right, you can even enjoy a cruise with dinner and live music on board!

Whether you’re cruising in the daytime to take in the sights of the UNESCO World Heritage Site banks of the river, or enjoying a dinner cruise at night and enjoying the twinkling lights reflecting off the water, this definitely needs to make it onto your Budapest bucket list.

You’ll definitely want to pre-book your tickets for a river cruise. This highly rated cruise includes a four-course meal with traditional live music. And if you don’t want dinner included, this cruise has the essentials – unlimited prosecco!

7. People watch in Heroes Square

One of my favourite things to do in any city is to sit and watch the world go by! And if you’re looking for something to do in Budapest that doesn’t cost a cent, then head on down to Heroes Square and do some people watching.

You’ll find all sorts of interesting characters here, from buskers and performers to locals and tourists.

Watch the world go by as you take in the striking architecture of the square, which was built in 1896 to commemorate the 1000th anniversary of the Hungarian state.

And be sure to stop by the nearby Gundel Café Patisserie Restaurant nearby for some of Hungary’s best cuisine.

8. Catch a stunning sunset over Liberty Bridge

Budapest is a city that’s best enjoyed at night, when the fairy lights come on and the city sparkles.

One of the best places to enjoy a sunset is from Liberty Bridge, which offers incredible views of both Buda and Pest.

Sunset over Liberty Bridge
Sunset over Liberty Bridge – by Harry Schuessler from FlickrCC

You can also see some of Budapest’s most iconic landmarks from here, including the Parliament building, St. Stephen’s Basilica, and Gellért Hill.

Make sure to bring your camera to capture the beautiful colours of the sunset! If you’re lucky, you might even see the famous ‘green flash’ which is said to occur when the sun sets over the water.

9. Take a hike

Didn’t think Budapest was the place for hiking? Think again! There are actually a ton of great hiking trails just outside the city.

One of the best places to go hiking is the Danube Bend, where you’ll you’ll find stunning scenery, including waterfalls, forests, canyons, picturesque villages, and of course, the Danube River.

This hike is a day trip from Budapest, so be prepared to be out all day. And the hike itself is around 11km, so it’s not for the faint of heart!

But, if you’re up for the challenge, this hike is definitely one of the best things to do in Budapest. You’ll be rewarded with some of the most incredible views in Hungary!

10. Explore City Park (Városliget)

If you’re looking for things to do in Budapest, City Park should definitely be on your bucket list! This sprawling park, is the largest in the city, and it’s packed with activities and attractions.

Take a stroll through the gardens, explore the castle ruins, or rent a boat and go for a paddle on the lake. If you’re visiting in the winter, don’t miss the chance to go ice skating at the outdoor rink, which happens to be the largest ice-skating rink in Europe! 

11. Eat a lot of Lángos

For a delicious and unique snack while in Budapest, be sure to try lángos! This deep-fried bread dough is often topped with cheese, sour cream, and other tasty savoury toppings.

It’s the perfect Hungarian street food, and I recommend heading to Ligeti Lángos in City Park for a taste of the best lángos in Budapest.

But don’t say I didn’t warn you – they’re addictive!

12. Ride the giant Ferris Wheel in Elizabeth Square

There’s no better way to get a bird’s eye view of Budapest than from high up in a ferris wheel. And at Elizabeth Square, you can ride one of the largest in Europe.

Budapest Eye
Budapest Eye – by Ferenc Mráz from FlickrCC

The wheel is 65 meters tall and has 36 cabins, each of which can hold up to 8 people. The ride takes about 10 minutes, and on a clear day, you can see for miles. If you’re feeling like treating yourself, book a private cabin with champagne!

13. Wander down the Danube Promenade

Stretching for nearly two miles along the riverbank, the Danube Promenade is one of the best places to go for a walk in Budapest

Start at Elizabeth Bridge and walk towards the Parliament Building, admiring the stunning views of the river and the cityscape along the way.

If you’re visiting in the spring or summer, be sure to stop by one of the many food stands for a refreshing drink or some ice cream.

14. Shop till you drop on Andrassy Street

f you’re looking for some retail therapy during your trip to Budapest, then Andrassy Street is the place to be. This famous shopping street is home to a variety of high-end stores, designer boutiques and luxury department stores, as well as more affordable options.

Whether you’re looking for clothes, cosmetics, or souvenirs, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for on Andrassy Street.

If you’re looking for souvenirs to bring home, you’ll find plenty of Hungarian-themed items like matryoshka dolls, traditional clothing, and hand-painted ceramics.

15. Check out the coffee scene at the London Coffee Society 

“Born in London, made in Budapest” – that’s the motto of the London Coffee Society, and it perfectly sums up this popular coffee shop.

The London Coffee Society is known for having the best coffee in Budapest, plus it’s also a great place for brunch – I love their smashed avocado and poached eggs!

16. Take a day trip to Lake Balaton

This beautiful lake is Hungary’s largest freshwater lake, and it’s only about an hour and a half from Budapest.

Lake Balaton
Lake Balaton – by Yang Jackie from FlickrCC

Take a dip in the refreshing waters, go for a stroll along the scenic shoreline, or visit one of the many charming towns and villages that dot the landscape. You can even take a cruise on the lake to admire the views from the water.

This day trip from Budapest to Lake Balaton includes all of the above, as well as a drive to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Tihany Peninsula, with its rich architecture and extensive vineyards. Read more about it here.

17. Visit Vajdahunyad Castle

Vajdahunyad Castle is one of the most unique and interesting buildings in Budapest. Built in 1896 for the Hungarian Millennium Celebration, it was intended to be a temporary structure and is actually a replica of Corvin Castle in Romania.

At the time, it was built out of cardboard and wood! However, its popularity led to it becoming a permanent fixture of the cityscape and they rebuilt it using more durable materials.

The castle is home to the Museum of Hungarian Architecture and is a mix of Gothic, Renaissance and Romanesque architecture.

18. Have a Hungarian Beer at a Ruin Bar

Have you even been to Budapest if you haven’t had a beer at a ruin bar? These unique bars are located in abandoned pre-war buildings, mostly in the Jewish district of Budapest, and are decorated with an eclectic mix of furniture, graffiti and bric-a-brac.

Ruin bars are the perfect place for a chilled, relaxed atmosphere and cheap drinks. Some of the most popular ruin pubs in Budapest include Szimpla Kert, Instant and Fogas Haz for some dancing or Csendes for a more relaxed vibe.

19. Go on a tour of the Hospital in the Rock

This unconventional tour of the Hospital in the Rock should absolutely be on your Budapest bucket list.

The reinforced bomb shelter and emergency hospital was used during WWII and the Hungarian Revolution, and it now serves as a museum.

The tour takes you through the various wards, operating rooms, and living quarters, and you can even see some of the original medical equipment in place.

You’re only able to visit the Hospital in the Rock when you take a guided tour so I recommend pre-booking your ticket in advance.

20. Join a walking tour around the city

Walking tours are my go to when I’m visiting a new city as they’re an easy and efficient way to see all the main sights while learning about the history and culture from a local guide.

Buda Castle Cave
Buda Castle Cave – by Selam Yohannes from FlickrCC

There are plenty of different walking tours on offer in Budapest, but I recommend taking the Buda Castle Cave walking tour as you get to explore the limestone caverns and labrynths beneath the castle hill in a unique journey through time.

Some other really interesting Budapest walking tours are:

21. Eat like a local at Central Market Hall

Central Market Hall is Budapest’s largest indoor market and it’s a foodie paradise, with over 100 stalls selling everything from Hungarian sausages and salamis, to fresh produce, cheeses, pastries and more.

You can also find some excellent street food here like lángos (we talked about these earlier – yum!), chimney cakes and kürtőskalács (a kind of spit cake (not that kind!)).

There are THREE floors to the Central Market and it’s not just food – you can also find clothes, souvenirs and Hungarian arts there too.

22. Spend a few hours on Margaret Island

Margaret Island is a 2.5km long island in the Danube, located between Buda and Pest. It’s a gorgeous spot for a stroll, with landscaped gardens, fountains, playgrounds, a musical fountain (which puts on a light show and plays classical music!) and even thermal pools!

Margaret Island is also home to the ruins of a 13th century Dominican convent, and there’s a beautiful Gothic Revival style church worth checking out too.

23. Visit St. Stephen’s Basilica 

This Neo-Classical church, which is named after Hungary’s first Christian king, is one of the tallest buildings in Hungary and its cupola offers stunning views of the city.

Inside, the basilica is just as impressive with its ornate altar, marble columns and stained glass windows. You can also see the crypt where Stephen’s right hand is preserved (yup, that’s a thing!).

24. Take a hike in the Buda Hills

Want to get out of the city for a bit and do some light hiking? Then head to the Buda Hills and get your heart pumping.

Budapest bucket list: Buda Hills
Buda Hills – by Peter Tarn from FlickrCC

This nature preserve is located on the west side of the city and offers various hiking trails ranging from easy to difficult. You’ll get to see the city from a whole new perspective, and you might even spot some wildlife along the way. 

25. Drink the night away on a Craft Beer Cruise

Budapest has no shortage of places to drink, but for something truly unique, try a Craft Beer Cruise.

This two-hour tour takes you down the Danube while sipping on some of Hungary’s best craft beer.

As you cruise, you’ll enjoy scenic views of the city and learn about the history of beer-making in Hungary. And of course, there will be plenty of time to mingle with your fellow passengers and sample the various brews on offer.

26. Explore the Jewish Quarter

Budapest’s Jewish Quarter is one of the most fascinating and historic parts of the city. A visit here is a must for anyone interested in the city’s rich history and culture.

The quarter is home to a number of important historical sites, including the Dohány Street Synagogue, the largest synagogue in Europe. There are also a number of museums and galleries devoted to Jewish history and culture.

There’s also a vibrant nightlife scene in the Jewish Quarter, with a number of bars and clubs catering to a diverse range of tastes.

Whether you’re interested in history or nightlife, the Jewish Quarter is sure to have something for you.

27. Ride the Gyermekvasút Children’s Railway

This is a must-do for anyone visiting Budapest with kids. The Gyermekvasút, or Children’s Railway, is a mini railway that runs through the Buda Hills.

The railway is operated entirely by children, from the conductors to the ticket sellers – how cool is that?! And if you’re lucky, the steam locomotive will be in operation when you visit.

28. Explore the Golden Eagle Pharmacy Museum

This unique museum is devoted to the history of pharmacy in Hungary

The museum is located in a beautiful Art Nouveau building in the Buda Castle District and contains a wealth of historical artifacts, from ancient medical texts to traditional Hungarian remedies, and tells the fascinating story of pharmacy in Hungary through a series of exhibits.

The Golden Eagle Pharmacy Museum is a must-visit for anyone interested in the history of medicine or Hungarian culture

29. Tour the Hungarian Parliament Building

Situated on the banks of the Danube River, this massive Neo-Gothic structure is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. Built in 1902, the Parliament Building is home to the Hungarian National Assembly, and its interiors are just as impressive as its exterior.

Hungarian Parliament Building
Hungarian Parliament Building – by Kirk K from FlickrCC

Highlights include the ornate Main Hall, which is decorated with mosaics, stained glass, and carved wood paneling, and the Dome Hall, which features a huge fresco depicting the coronation of King Saint Stephen.

Of course, no tour of the Parliament Building would be complete without a stop at the Crown of Saint Stephen, which is displayed in a glass case in the main lobby. 

Tickets can only be purchased in advance online.

The Parliament Building looks incredible all lit up at night, so don’t miss the opportunity to see it in all its glory.

30. Enjoy a little magic at the House of Houdini 

The House of Houdini is devoted to the life and work of legendary magician and escape artist Harry Houdini, who was born in Budapest in 1874

The museum traces Houdini’s life from his humble beginnings in Hungary to his rise to fame as one of the most famous magicians in the world

Visitors can see original artifacts, including Houdini’s handcuffs and escape equipment, as well as live magic performances.

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Things to do in Budapest

FAQs About Budapest

What is Budapest famous for?

Budapest is famous for its stunning architecture, aromatic coffeehouses, therapeutic thermal baths, and delicious food.

Is Budapest safe to visit?

Yes, Budapest is a safe city to visit. However, as with any major city, it’s always important to be aware of your surroundings and take precautions against pickpockets.

How many days should I spend in Budapest?

We recommend spending at least 3-4 days in Budapest to make the most of your visit.

What is the currency in Budapest?

The currency in Budapest is the Hungarian Forint (HUF).

What language is spoken in Budapest?

Hungarian is the official language in Hungary, but English is also widely spoken.

When is the best time to Visit Budapest?

The best time to visit Budapest is from April to October, when the weather is mild and there are plenty of events and festivals taking place. Alternatively, visit in December to see the Christmas markets!

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