1. Buda Castle
Buda Castle, also known as The Royal Palace is known for its dominating position on the Budapest skyline atop Castle Hill. From the castle you can enjoy stunning views of the River Danube and the Pest side of Budapest. The Castle is a World Heritage Site and home to a number of Budapest’s museums; The Hungarian National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum.
The Hungarian National Gallery displays Hungarian fine arts, sculptures and stone carvings. Temporary exhibitions feature pieces of art from Hungarian artists and collections from the Museum of Fine Arts which is closed for refurbishment until 2018.
Opening Hours: The National Gallery is open 10am-6pm, but the Castle is free to stroll around.
Tickets: 1800 HUF
Address: Szent György tér 2, 1014
2. Take a lesson at Budapest History Museum
The Budapest History Museum explores the history of the castle, Buda, and Pest with collections of prehistoric artefacts from archaeological excavations from the surrounding area.
Opening Hours: 10am-6pm March – October, 10am-4pm November – February
Tickets: 1400 HUF
Address: Szent György tér 2, 1014
3. Fisherman’s Bastion
On Castle Hill, a short walk from Buda Castle lies the fairy tale neo-Gothic viewing terrace with seven towers, acting as an entrance to Buda Castle. The Fisherman’s Bastion is one of Budapest’s most visited attractions thanks to the panoramic views across Budapest, Margaret Island and Gellert Hill which you can enjoy from one of the many viewpoints.
Opening Hours: 9am-11pm
Tickets: 800 HUF per adult for a tour of the tower – but you can see the Bastion for free
Address: Szentháromság tér, 1014
4. Try one of the best spas in Budapest
We liked the baths in Budapest so much, we put together a guide so you could choose your favourite. Budapest is known as the ‘Spa Capital of the World’ with 130 hot springs throughout the city. The spas offer pools of healing thermal waters, each with a slightly different mineral and metal composition which come with an array of reported health benefits. Szechenyi, Gellart and Kiraly are some of the most popular spas in the city.
The Szechenyi Spa Baths are the oldest in the Budapest and the largest in Europe located in a beautiful neo-baroque building in City Park. There are over 15 indoor pools of varying temperatures, 3 outdoor pools and spa treatments such as detoxification in the thermal waters, massages, and pedicures.
Opening Hours: The baths tend to open from 9am, and close at 5pm/6pm. Some will open later for SParties (see below to see what we mean).
Tickets: For the Gellart Spa: 5300 HUF per person, with a locker. For the Szechenyi Spa: 5400 HUF per person, with a locker.
5. Stroll through Budapest City Park
Budapest’s City Park has a central position covering over 300 acres and is home to a number of the popular attractions and UNESCO World Heritage sites alongside quiet spots away from the bustle of the city. Budapest’s most photographed site, the impressive Heroes’ Square at the main entrance of the park is dedicated to those who have fought for the country and the seven founding fathers.
Attractions at City Park include the Palace of Art which is a contemporary art museum, Budapest Zoo and Botanical Gardens, Holnemvolt Amusement Park, an Ice Rink, Grand Circus, Vajdahunyad Castle, Petofi Hall, The Timewheel and the Transport Museum of Budapest.
Opening Hours: 24 hours
Address: Kós Károly stny., 1146
6. See an Opera
Budapest is known for its world class opera and the Hungarian State Opera House is considered to be one of the world’s best opera houses thanks to its acoustics and fine neo-Renaissance architecture.
You can take a guided tour of the opera house during the day but the best way to experience the opera and acoustics of the building is to see an opera show in the evening.
Opening Hours: Shows tend to start at 7pm. See the full timetable on the website.
Tickets: Guided tours of the Opera House are 2900HUF.
Address: Andrássy út 22, 1061
7. Visit the Hungarian Parliament Building
When admiring the views from Buda Castle the most prominent, and beautiful piece of architecture you will see is the Neo-Gothic Hungarian Parliament Building on the Pest side of the Danube.
Inside the Parliament building is just as spectacular as the outside and you can take guided tours during the periods where Parliament isn’t in session. A 45-minute tour will take you around the lobbies, Assembly Hall, Congress Hall, the old House of Lords and to view the Hungarian Crown Jewels.
Opening Hours: 8am-4pm on weekends, 8am-6pm on weekdays
Tickets: 2000 HUF to tour inside
Address: Kossuth Lajos tér 1-3, 1055
8. Play ball at the Budapest Pinball Museum
Something a little different from the rest of our favourite things to do in Budapest, the Budapest Pinball Museum is a relatively new attraction having opened in 2014. One of the most interactive museums in the city; there are over 130 different retro pinball machines for you to play and guided tours of the history of the pinball machine.
Opening Hours: 4pm-12am
Tickets: 2500 HUF
Address: Radnóti Miklós utca 18.
9. Get deep into Budapest in Szemlőhegyi Caves
Explore the underground world of Budapest in the Szemlőhegyi Caves, a hidden gem and often overlooked by visitors to the city. You can tour 250m of the 2200m of caves, discovering the beautiful stalactites and stalagmites which have been formed over millions of years by the thermal waters. Guided tours are available which take around 40 minutes.
As you’re underground the caves can get chilly so bring warm clothes.
Opening Hours: 10am-4pm
Tickets: 1000HUF per person
Address: Pusztaszeri út 35
10. Take that photo at the Chain Bridge
The Chain Bridge, constructed in 1849 was first bridge which connected Buda and Pest over the Danube is now one of Budapest’s most iconic pieces of architecture. You’ll probably cross the Chain Bridge when exploring the city but it’s worth walking over in the evening when the bridge is lit up offering views of Buda Castle and the Hungarian Parliament building.
Address: Széchenyi Lánchíd, 1051
11. Go for lunch at the Central Market Hall
Taste local food and buy traditional Hungarian products at Central Market Hall. This huge indoor market has everything from chocolates and spices, to clothing and souvenirs. Head to the food stalls and restaurants on the second floor to sample famous local dishes such as beef gulyás (goulash) and rétes (Hungarian fruit strudel).
Opening Hours: 6am-6pm, closed on Sundays, 6am-3pm Saturdays
Address: Vámház krt. 1-3
12. Walk up Andrássy Avenue to Heroes’ Square
If Budapest is the Paris of the east, Andrássy is the Champs-Elysees to the city. This is where you can find Chanel, Dior, Gucci, many restaurants and plenty of bars too. You can walk directly from the river banks up Andrássy toward Heroes’ Square in the city park. It should take you 40 minutes to an hour – depending on how many of the shops and bars you bounce in and out of.
Address: Andrássy ut
13. Hike up to Mattias Church
This is one of the best view points for seeing the Danube and the houses of Parliament in Budapest. Start your ascent once you’ve crossed the Chain Bridge, heading up towards the Castle District, and join the crowds for a glass of wine at sunset.
Opening Hours: 24 hours
Address: Szentháromság tér 2, 1014
14. Festival on Margaret Island
With medieval ruins, a small zoo and a flower garden, it’s a surprise more people don’t go to Margaret Island. This is a green island in the centre of the Danube, better known for being the home of Szigyet Festival in summer.
Opening Hours: 24 hours
How to get there: Use tram 4 or tram 6 to get to Margit híd Budai hídfő metrostop, and make your way over to the island. Alternatively, use the Margit Bridge to walk over to the island.
15. Pub crawl through the ruin bars
A city break in Budapest isn’t complete without an experience in Szimpla Kert. The ruin bars in Budapest have been built from what was left after the War, but now the hipsters have been the dilapidated ruins into kitsch bars, full of trinkets, alleyways and slightly trippy decorations. You’ll need to see it for yourself.
Best ruin bars in Budapest:
- Szimpla Kert – 1075 Budapest, Kazinczy utca 14.
- Anker’t – 1061 Budapest, Paulay Ede utca 33.
- Ellátó Kert. – 1075 Budapest, Kazinczy utca 48.
How to get to Budapest from the UK
There are direct flights to Budapest from Leeds, London, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Birmingham, Liverpool, Humberside and Nottingham. You can also catch connecting flights from Aberdeen, Belfast, Exeter, Newquay, Cambridge and Norwich.
Where to stay on a city break in Budapest
If you’re looking for a hostel:
Friends Hostel & Apartments offer dorms, as well as private rooms, to make sure you meet plenty of other travellers in Budapest.
If you’re looking for a hotel:
Let Soho Boutique be your room for rest and respite from Budapest’s amazing nightlife. The main bars are within walking distance – but you wouldn’t know in these quiet rooms.
If you’re looking for luxury:
Live like a royal at your own suite in the Kempinski, one of the few 5 star hotels in Budapest.
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