Nicknamed the Paris of the Easy, Hungary’s capital city of Budapest is a treat for the senses. It boasts beautiful historic architecture, is famous for classical music, has many thermal spas, and there are plenty of places to sink your teeth into traditional Hungarian cuisine.
Split in two by the Danube River, today’s city of Budapest is actually an amalgamation of three former cities. Many people know about Buda and Pest, but the third area – Obuda – is often overlooked. Lots of travelers tend to stick in the area that they are staying and thus miss out on many of the city’s highlights.
We’ve created the ultimate guide to the best places to visit in Budapest so that you don’t miss a thing. Combining places in all three parts of the city and a mixture of well-known Budapest must-dos and places that are more off the beaten track, there’s no better list to arm yourself with when exploring Hungary’s vibrant capital.
Spoiler alert: Some of these best places to visit in Budapest are sure to blow you away!
Need a place quick? Here’s the best neighbourhood in Budapest:
District VI, Terézváros, is one of the smallest yet most densely populated neighbourhoods in Budapest. Located on the Pest side of the Danube, this lively district is a hub of excitement and activity.
- Dive deep into Hungary’s communist and fascist history at the House of Terror Museum.
- Wander along the iconic Andrassy Avenue, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Get back to nature and take a relaxing stroll through Városliget, one of the largest public parks in the city.
And, without further ado, here are the best places to visit in Budapest:
These are the BEST Places to Visit in Budapest!
We know you are absolutely rip-roaring ready to go to Budapest already. So, check out where some of the best Airbnbs in Budapest are and book yourself an excellent home away from home before embarking on your adventure.
#1 – Hungarian Parliament Building – A great place to see in Budapest if you love architecture
Why it’s awesome: If it’s your first time visiting Budapest then you may wonder what the awesome building sat on the river banks is. The Hungarian Parliament Building is one of the most famous landmarks in Budapest. Sitting on the edge of the Danube River, the cream and red architectural gem is a beautiful sight. Open since 1902 it is one of the biggest buildings in Hungary. Inside, there are more than 650 rooms (including two identical parliament halls), 10 courtyards, and 29 sets of stairs.
The interiors are symmetrical and there’s lots of impressive artwork, statues, stained glass, and other decorative features. The striking Gothic Revival building also has Baroque and Renaissance elements. Topped with a mighty dome, the spires, turrets, and towers look especially fairytale-like when illuminated at night time, and the building casts gorgeous reflections on the shimmering waters of the Danube.
What to do there: Admire the handsome building from the outside, both from across the river and from a closer perspective to see the many sculptures of Hungarian leaders and other historical figures that adorn the external walls. Take a 45-minute guided tour of the interiors to be further dazzled by beauty. (Top tip: book your tickets online to save queuing!) Climb the grand staircase, flanked by lion statues, to reach the main entrance. Inside you can marvel at exquisite frescoes, more sculptures, mosaics, and stained glass. Step into the impressive hall, visit the old House of Lords, peek inside a decadent lobby, and view the alluring Hungarian Crown Jewels.
#2 – Széchenyi Thermal Bath – Great place to visit in Budapest for couples!
Why it’s awesome: The largest and most famous of Budapest’s thermal baths, Széchenyi Thermal Bath is a great place for anyone looking to unwind and add something different to their trip. Although suitable for groups of friends, families, and solo explorers, it’s also one of the most romantic things to do when you travel to Budapest. The naturally heated spring waters were first discovered in the late 1800s and the bathhouse later opened in 1913. The waters have medicinal and soothing properties, thanks to the diverse mineral content and constant heat. With indoor and outdoor bathing areas, it’s possible to bathe here all year round. The palatial building itself is impressive, built in a neo-Baroque style, and there are various ways to treat yourself to some TLC while at the spa.
What to do there: Ogle the handsome palace and explore its diverse areas, from the beautiful yellow façade and the main hall with its chequered flooring to the gigantic outdoor pool filled with deep blue water and the smaller interior pools. Choose your favourite from the 18 pools and hop in to soothe away any stresses and strains, aches and pains. You will probably want to spend at least a couple of hours at the spa trying out several of the pools. Book a massage for some extra pampering—special couples’ massages are available too. Enjoy features like the saunas, steam rooms, water jets, and whirlpools. On a sunny day, you can unwind alongside the water with a nice cool drink.
#3 – Castle Hill – One of Budapest’s coolest historical sites!
Why it’s awesome: Perched on top of Castle Hill, the UNESCO-listed Buda Castle is one of the most famous places in Budapest. The former residence and stronghold of Hungarian kings of old, the stunning palace can trace its history back to the 1200s. Most of the present-day Baroque beauty, however, was built in the mid-1700s, and the oldest remaining section was constructed in the 1400s.
Today, the castle is home to the Budapest History Museum, the Széchenyi National Library, and the Hungarian National Gallery. In addition to the castle, the hill boasts many other cool things to see and do. There are caves and passageways beneath the hill, used for various purposes over the years. Some of the underground chambers were used as air raid shelters and a hospital during World War Two. Other points of interest in Budapest’s Castle Hill include the Fisherman’s Bastion, Matthias Church, and several charming walkways and squares.
What to do there: Explore the streets surrounding the hill to see the eye-catching blend of quaint homes and churches in various architectural styles, including Baroque, Medieval, and Neoclassical. Stroll along the atmospheric street of Uri Utca (Gentlemen’s Street) and appreciate the architectural beauty. Enter the Labyrinth beneath the hill to walk through subterranean passages and caves, visit an old war-time hospital (now converted into a museum), stand in a nuclear bunker, and learn more about past uses of the caves, caves around the world, war-time history, and nuclear weapons.
See ancient Turkish tombstones that stand in front of the hill. Ride the funicular up the hill and get an impressive up-close view of the spectacular palace. Visit the museums inside the castle and marvel at the lavish interiors. Walk through pretty squares like Trinity Square and Andrew Hess Square, admire the views over the city, see various statues and memorials, and have a look inside landmarks like the House of the Hungarian Culture Foundation, the old Town Hall of Buda, and the ruins of St. Nicholas Tower.
Two major hotspots in Budapest are located on Castle Hill: Matthias Church and the Fisherman’s Bastion. The Baroque Matthias Church dates back to the 1260s and was once used as a mosque. The whimsical Fisherman’s Bastion has splendid designs and offers great views over the Danube. Look out for interesting statues and sculptures as you explore the complex, including the Fountain of the Fishing Children, Matthias Fountain, the War and Peace memorial, Turulbird, Horseherd, and the Monument of Prince Eugene of Savoy.
#4 – Szabo Ervin Library – A nice non-touristy place to visit in Budapest
Why it’s awesome: Close to the Palace Quarter, the charming Szabo Ervin Library is an offbeat hidden gem to add to your Budapest itinerary. A peaceful retreat in the bustling heart of the city, it takes visitors back in time and offers a sanctuary of calm. Located in the historic Wenckheim Palace, built by a local aristocrat in the late 1800s / early 1900s, it has since been surrounded by a modern library. The elegant and intimate library is quite difficult to find, but it’s well worth seeking out to admire the interiors and relax in splendour.
What to do there: Explore the Central Library and seek out the hidden Szabo Ervin Library within the larger complex. The former mansion now forms the reading rooms of the library. Travel back in time and feel like you’ve stepped into a lavish abode, complete with dark wood walls, a spiral staircase, and atmospheric chandeliers. Settle into a comfy leather seat and bury yourself in the pages of a great book. Your surroundings and the words on the pages help to transport you to another time and place and the neo-Baroque designs are impressive.
#5 – Hungarian State Opera House – One of the most amazing places in Budapest!
Why it’s awesome: The Hungarian State Opera House is one of the grandest attractions in Budapest. Construction began on the handsome building in the 1870s and the opera house opened in 1884. Today, it is the country’s second-biggest opera house. Built in a neo-Renaissance style with several Baroque details and a musical theme, it is beautiful both inside and out.
It has hosted a number of famous performers over the years and is the home of the traditional Budapest Opera Ball. Performances at the opera house continue to draw large crowds and the acoustics are world-class. Indeed, it is often said to be one of Europe’s most beautiful opera houses with some of the best acoustics in the continent.
What to do there: Appreciate the fine details of the symmetrical building, taking in the opulent decorative touches and artistic features. See the statues of Franz Liszt and Ferenc Erkel (composer of the Hungarian national anthem) that stand proudly in front of the building, and take a daily guided tour (available in several languages) to admire the gorgeous interiors.
The marble columns and ceiling murals of the nine Muses inside the foyer help to set the scene. Ascend the wide stone steps, lit by wrought-iron lamps, be dazzled by the sublime main hall (complete with a huge chandelier and paintings of Greek deities), see the royal box with its symbolic sculptures, and spot other art throughout the building. You can also book tickets to attend a high-class performance.
#6 – House of Terror – Possibly one of the most important places to visit in Budapest
Why it’s awesome: The House of Terror is an informative, moving, and thought-provoking museum and a memorial to those who suffered under the Nazi and Communist regimes in Hungary. It is a Budapest must-do for anyone who wants to know more about the nation’s past. While a visit is sure to stir up a range of emotions, it’s a vital place to teach lessons from times gone by. The stern-looking building was once the city’s Nazi headquarters. Despite only being in control for a short period, the group tortured and murdered hundreds of victims, mainly Jews, in the underground cellar, dead bodies later tossed into the river.
A short while later, the Soviet Union took control of the city and used the building as the head office of the State Security Authority. A brutal and feared organisation, it sought to control the people through fear and oppression. Spies kept an ever-watchful eye on the population and many people were tortured and killed. The building is a painful reminder of the scars left behind in Budapest and Hungary by power-hungry and cruel regimes. It has been open as a museum and memorial since 2002.
What to do there: Shudder as you look at the imposing and drab building from the outside and mentally prepare yourself for the harrowing scenes to come. While there’s good information in English, an audio tour really helps you to delve deeper into the city’s tragic story. Explore displays and see gruesome exhibits that bring the country’s horrifying past to life, learning more about the times of Nazi and Communist control. One of the biggest items is an old tank. You’ll see how the building played a pivotal role in the past and learn about the hardships faced by Hungarian people. For many visitors, the most jarring section is the cellar network. Descend underground and stand in rooms and tunnels where horrific events took place.
#7 – Vajdahunyad Castle – One of the most romantic places to visit in Budapest!
Why it’s awesome: One of the most charming, romantic, and attractive landmarks to see when visiting Budapest, Vajdahunyad Castle is located in City Park. Despite its ancient appearance, the fairytale-like building is only a little more than a century old. The original castle was built from cardboard and wood as a temporary feature for the Hungarian Millenarian Festivities. It had become such a popular landmark by the time that it was dismantled that it was subsequently rebuilt in sturdier materials. Sitting alongside a lake and surrounded by verdant nature, the folly blends various architectural styles from across the country. From Renaissance and Baroque to Gothic and Romanesque, the different styles certainly help to create a visual treat.
What to do there: Take a stroll around the lovely grounds, hand in hand with your significant other. There’s no charge to enter the castle’s gardens and courtyards and appreciate the magnificent building from the outside. You can also see a number of large statues. Go inside to visit the Hungarian Agricultural Museum, home to a wide selection of farming tools and implements as well as folk and everyday objects. Exhibits include clothing, tools, weapons, and more. When you’ve finished, why not keep the romance alive for longer with a boat trip on the lake?
#8 – St. Stephen’s Basilica – One of the most religious places to see in Budapest
Why it’s awesome: Named after the first king of Hungary, St. Stephen’s Basilica is one of the largest churches in all of Hungary. The fabulous building can fit up to 8,500 worshippers at any given time. Located on the Pest side of the River Danube, it is one of the most recognisable landmarks in Budapest.
Standing on the site of an old theatre, construction of the church began in the mid-1800s. Built in the shape of a Greek cross, two soaring bell towers flank the main Neoclassical dome-topped structure. Filled with religious art and artefacts and with an air of tranquil spirituality, the church is also home to several gigantic bells (including the biggest in the country, which only rings out on very special occasions).
What to do there: Gaze in wonder at the fantastic place of worship before letting your eyes adjust to the dim light inside. There is no charge to look around the main part of the church or attend a religious service, but a guided tour will provide many more insights and help you to spot the finer details that you may otherwise miss. Fees are payable to visit the tower and treasury, but both are well worth the costs.
Take the elevator (or climb the 360-plus stairs) up the tower for far-reaching panoramic views across Budapest. See an incredible array of religious memorabilia in the Treasury. Don’t miss visiting the reliquary, which is said to contain the corpse hand of Saint Stephen I of Hungary! During the summer, you can hear the Basilica Choir sing each Sunday, and there are regular musical performances throughout the week too.
#9 – Margaret Island – A perfect place to visit in Budapest if you are on a budget!
Why it’s awesome: Budapest can be expensive at times so this is a great place to come if money becomes a bit tight. Located in the River Danube, the charming Margaret Island is 96 hectares (238 acres) in size. It is connected by a bridge. Mainly covered in lush parks, there is no charge to wander around the island and soak up the sights. (Do note that some attractions on the island do have entry fees, though.)
There are some medieval-era ruins on the island, legacies from times gone by, when the island was filled with religious buildings, convents, and monasteries. They include the remains of a Premonstratensian church from the 12th century and Dominican and Franciscan churches from the 13th century. Today, there are diverse sightseeing and leisure opportunities.
What to do there: Cross to the island on the Margaret Bridge, pausing to enjoy the great views along the Danube. Travel back in time as you explore ancient ruins, climb to the top of the 1911 Art Nouveau Water Tower for great views, stroll through the Japanese Garden, watch squirrels scampering through the parks, and see animals typical to the island at the small zoo.
See the 1973 Centennial Memorial, which was erected to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Budapest’s unification. In the summer, watch the beautiful musical fountain in action. You can visit the large swimming pool, thermal baths, running tracks, athletics centre, too.
#10 – Semmelweis Medical Museum – Quite the quirky place in Budapest!
Why it’s awesome: Located at the bottom of Castle Hill, Semmelweis Medical Museum is housed in the birthplace of its namesake—Dr. Semmelweis. It’s one of the most unusual things to do in Budapest and also one of the most underrated. Dr. Semmelweis was a pioneering doctor in the mid-1800s who tried hard to make other medical professionals aware of the need for cleanliness.
He had a basic awareness several years before Louis Pasteur came up with the germ theory of disease. Sadly, Dr. Semmelweis passed away before he saw medical advancements and his insights confirmed. He did, however, lower the death rates in his hospital through his efforts. The museum shows how Western medicine has advanced over the ages and contains some unusual items.
What to do there: Learn more about the developments of medicine from prehistoric times to the 1900s and discover more about the life and work of the interesting Dr. Semmelweis. See how, through actions considered the bare basics today in medicine, the doctor helped to prevent the needless deaths of pregnant women and new mothers. He understood the importance of washing hands in the hospital and cleaning surgical instruments in between operations.
You can also see an array of medical instruments and objects used in research and teaching from yesteryear, including a shrunken head, a rare and delicate anatomical sculpture by Clemente Susini, surgical implements, and an old X-ray device.
#11 – Budapest Zoo & Botanical Garden – Awesome place to visit in Budapest with kids!
Why it’s awesome: One of the top things to include on your Budapest itinerary if visiting the Hungarian capital with children, Budapest Zoo & Botanical Garden is home to more than 1,000 species of animals from all over the world. Open since 1866, it is one of the oldest zoos in the world and the oldest zoo in Hungary.
Operating as a nature reserve, it is also home to many interesting plant species. Furthermore, visitors can admire the various Art Nouveau buildings scattered throughout the well-maintained grounds. There are interactive displays, various demonstrations, play areas, places to eat and drink, and, in short, everything you need for a great family outing.
What to do there: Take time to fully explore the zoo’s different areas and see the various creatures and plants that live in the zoo and botanical gardens. Step inside the palm house of America Tropicana to see wildlife from the tropical Americas. Journey to Africa at the Savannah Zone, home to creatures like zebras, rhinos, gazelles, and giraffes. Spot hyenas and lions in the India zone, animals from Southeast Asia in János Xántus House, and kangaroos, wombats, and other Oceanic creatures at the Australia Zone.
Other animals that call the zoo home include elephants, monkeys, gorillas, marmosets, birds, snakes, and the fearsome Komodo dragons. Watch animals being fed and learn about the zoo’s breeding and research programs. Don’t miss taking the kids to Holnemvolt Vár too. Standing on the site of an old amusement park, the complex offers tons of fun for younger members of the family. The four-level Hetedhét Palace houses a fabulous play area with each room designed around traditional Hungarian stories. There’s also a small petting zoo, an aquarium, art events, small fairground rides, and horse riding.
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#12 – Wekerle Estate – An unknown (but awesome!) place to see in Budapest!
Why it’s awesome: Located in Budapest’s 19th District, the Wekerle Estate is an often overlooked place. It’s named after a former Hungarian prime minister. Charming and picturesque, the village dates back to the early 1900s. Built-in a vernacular secession from Hungary style (Art Nouveau), a number of pretty buildings surround a quaint main square, with two large gateways leading into the estate. Inspiration came from rural peasant architectural styles from the past. Although initially built to provide housing for local workers, the eye-catching village is a pleasant place to simply walk around and admire the designs.
What to do there: Take a walk around the photogenic estate and see the various buildings created in the Garden Style. There are houses and apartments, shops, schools, churches, a post office, a cinema, and various other amenities. Stand in the main square and admire the surrounding buildings, designed by eminent architect Károly Kós. You could also consider taking a guided tour of the area to learn more about its construction and purpose as well as hearing local stories and anecdotes.
#13 – Central Market Hall – A great place in Budapest if you love to shop!
Why it’s awesome: The Central Market Hall is one of the best places to visit in Budapest for shopping and browsing. Open every day except Sundays, the market hall has been in operation since the late 1890s. The building was eventually restored in the 1990s following damage during World War Two. It’s the biggest and most attractive market hall in the city, with orange walls and a colourful roof.
As well as being a Budapest must-do for people who love to shop, it’s also a top place for window shopping and people watching. There are stalls spread across three levels, offering all manner of goods. It’s also among the best hotspots in Budapest for foodies, with a huge selection of tasty treats to tempt hungry visitors. It’s one of the top places to eat in Budapest for quick and easy local fast food and snacks. Another bonus: it’s an ideal all-weather attraction.
What to do there: Join the crowds and make your way through the stalls laden with a huge selection of goods. Pick up traditional souvenirs like Hungarian dolls, glassware, embroidered items, and hand-painted ceramics, as well as trinkets and souvenirs. You can also browse fashions and accessories and come across stalls selling household items, footwear, kitchen accessories, toiletries, and more.
There are many stalls selling fresh produce, dried goods, and typical Hungarian products. Look out for paprika, jars of pickles, Hungarian wines, Pálinka (a fruity brandy), confectionary, and salami. Savour some local fare from food stalls as you wander, or sit down for a meal in the affordable café. You’re sure to get some great photos of the bustling market. Some of Budapest’s best hostels are located nearby in this central location too!
#14 – Cinkota Old Cemetery – A nice quiet place to see in Budapest
Why it’s awesome: Rather eerie and with a forgotten feel, the peaceful and historic Cinkota Old Cemetery can be found on the outskirts of the city. All but abandoned with the passing of time, nature is trying hard to reclaim the land, engulfing tombstones from days long past. An old church stands next to the graveyard and adds to the atmosphere. Definitely away from the typical tourist trail, the cemetery is usually empty.
What to do there: Experience a sense of the stillness of time as you look at the aged tombstones among a tangled mess of overgrowth. Statues adorn some of the graves and it’s difficult to stop your imagination from running wild as you imagine the lives of those who have long since departed from this Earth. The sounds of nature fill the air. The surrounding village also has a timeless feel, with old homes at the edges of the winding streets, chickens pecking at the dirt in back gardens and a slower pace of life than in the heart of the city.
#15 – Old Jewish Quarter – A great place to visit in Budapest at night
Why it’s awesome: One of the most fascinating neighbourhoods to visit when you explore Budapest, the Old Jewish Quarter is a hotbed of activity both by day and by night. Whispers from the past echo along the streets and the Jewish heritage is evident in the synagogues, homes, and former ghetto area. Colourful street art covers now-crumbling walls, and the neglect of many parts of the area enhance the atmosphere.
Far from being sad, however, many of the once derelict and abandoned properties have been given a new lease of life in the form of so-called ruin bars. Scruffy buildings that were slated for demolition were taken over by fun-loving locals, artists, and entrepreneurs and turned into bars full of character. Visitors can sip a drink while surrounded by the ravages of time for a night out that’s different to the norm.
What to do there: Visit one of the biggest synagogues in Europe (the Dohány Street Synagogue) and contrast the religious practices and architecture with the synagogues on Rumbach Sebestyén Street (no longer in active use) and Kazinczy Street. See the houses, once designated with the Yellow Star label, where Jews were forced to live in cramped conditions and see what remains of the old ghetto wall.
Admire interesting street art, sample tasty street food, and peek inside cool and quirky shops. Stay in the old Jewish Quarter until nighttime to experience the famous ruin bars. Whether you’re looking for laid-back and chilled-out establishments or places that know how to rock, there’s a ruin bar for all tastes.
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Some more of the best places to visit in Budapest
Step away from the beaten path and wander around the quaint Óbuda Main Square, a neighbourhood that is often forgotten by locals and tourists alike. The Old Town Hall is especially impressive. Soak up the views from the top of the Budapest Eye, located in the vibrant Erzsébet Square, enjoy beauty and a peaceful air in Füvészkert Botanical Garden, and see the unusual statues in the offbeat Memento Park.
Tour Budapest’s many museums, including the Hungarian National Museum, Budapest History Museum, the Fine Arts Museum, the Franz Liszt Memorial Museum, the Museum of Ethnography, the Hungarian Railway Museum, and the quirky House of Houdini. There are museums in Budapest to suit all tastes and interests.
Go hiking in the scenic Buda Hills and escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, and spend a few hours (or longer!) exploring the diverse spots around Gellért Hill. You can explore the mighty Citadella on top of the hill, one of the most famous places in Budapest, and soak up the splendid vistas. Other highlights include Gellért Hill Cave, walking trails, and the Liberty Monument. A visit to the Dohány Street Synagogue is also highly recommended.
Once you’ve covered most of the best places to visit in Budapest, take day trips to exciting nearby destinations like Esztergom, Szentendre, and Lake Balaton. You certainly won’t have any reason to feel bored when visiting the Hungarian capital city!
Start planning your memorable trip and don’t forget to include these best places to visit in Budapest when exploring the diverse city.
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