10 must-have experiences in Budapest
The capital of Hungary, Budapest is home to numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites and considered one of the most culturally important metropolises in Eastern Europe. From thermal baths to the impressive Castle District, here’s our list of the best things to do in Budapest.
1. Enjoy the most amazing views from the Castle District
Budapest’s Castle District is a traveler’s dream. This entire historic complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and contains many of the city’s most important medieval monuments and museums. Topping the list of these impressive structures is Buda Castle, a massive 200-room palace that replaced a 13th-century castle built to protect the stronghold from Mongol and Tartar attacks.
Overlooking the Danube, on the spot where the city’s fishermen’s guild built their defence walls in the Middle Ages, stands the impressive Fisherman’s Bastion. Built between 1895 and 1902, this place has a collection of Neo-Romanesque towers with spectacular views over the city and the Danube.
You can reach the castle on the restored historic Castle Funicular Railway or buy a bus ticket to travel around the complex.
2. Relax in the Széchenyi Thermal Bath
The thermal waters and their supposed healing powers have been enjoyed since Roman times over 2,000 years ago. In Budapest, thermal spas are a big deal! Bathing culture was established in the Hungarian capital during the Turkish occupation in the 16th and 17th centuries and today there are more than 100 natural hot springs in the city. Built in 1913, Széchenyi, the most popular of Budapest’s spas. The Neo-Baroque palace houses 11 indoor thermal pools, three large heated outdoor pools, several saunas and steam rooms. There’s even a Beer Spa where you soak in thermal water infused with malt, hops, and yeast. This is a place you cannot miss in Budapest.
A daily ticket includes locker rental. Towels and slippers are useful and can be rented in the property. The Gellért baths, Lukács, Rudas, Király,Veli Bej Bath and Palatinus Strand are among the favorite spas in the city.
3. Drink a beer at Szimpla Kert Ruin Pub
In the early 2000s, a group of young entrepreneurs wanted a community space for hosting cheap parties and events. In 2004, the first ruin bar, Szimpla Kert, opened at 14 Kazinczy Street. Without money to invest in upgrading and furnishing the place, the owners brought in whatever thing they could, and the bar gradually took on the eccentric, mismatched appearance that made the successful that is today.
Exactly as the name suggests, the ruin bars are abandoned buildings with whatever inside! Most have an open-air courtyard, eclectic and mismatched furniture, and, in general, cheap beer.
If you are wondering whatever you may need to open your own business, here is a lesson! Make sure to include a ruin bar in your itinerary.
4. Enjoy Danube Promenade
One of the top free things to do in Budapest is strolling along the Danube Promenade. The river flows through Budapest from north to south and offers great views of the city’s stunning architecture. Over there you’ll find the Shoes on the Danube Bank memorial. The memorial is to honour the Jews who were massacred by the Nazis during the Second World War.
The Jews were ordered to take off their shoes and were shot at the edge of the water. Their bodies fell into the river and were carried away while their shoes were valuable and could be stolen and resold by the militia after the massacre.
Numerous tourist excursions depart regularly from this area and are highly recommended, including the cruises with great views of Danube.
5. Explore the impressive Parliament Building
The world’s third largest parliament building has an impressive structure boasting 691 rooms with19 kilometers of corridors and stairs. The Neo-Gothic building was inaugurated in 1886 to mark the country’s 1,000th anniversary when Hungary was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
In addition to explore and take great pictures outside, visitors can book guided tours which includes many of the building’s highlights, such as the main entrance hall with the red-carpeted interior, lobbies, and the Hungarian Crown Jewels.
Make sure to book in advance and be aware the Fisherman’s Bastion offer great photography opportunities in case you want the Parliament Building in the background.
6. Try a traditional Hungarian dish at the Central Market
From classics like lángos to unique souvenirs, your Hungarian gastronomy needs can be met in a single stop: the Central Market Hall. The largest and oldest of Budapest’s many markets was built in 1897 and it’s the perfect spot to grab a bite to eat.
Fresh fruits, cheeses, breads, sausages, fish, paprika and pálinkas, you will find it all. This popular indoor marketplace encompasses an area of over 10,000 square meters and has an interesting view both from the inside and on the outside.
The market it’s closed on Sundays, and while Saturdays are naturally the busiest days, you can avoid the larger crowds with a weekday visit. This place will certainly enhance your cultural experience in Budapest.
7. Indulge yourself at New York Café, one of the most beautiful cafes in the world
Budapest is known for its grand cafe culture, and New York Café has been welcoming visitors for over 125 years. Built in neo-renaissance style, with marble columns, sparkling chandeliers, stunning frescoes, and gilded details, the cafe transports you to another era. Some of the most popular items include the Afternoon Tea, a delightful selection of sandwiches, cakes, bonbons, coffee or tea and fresh orange juice for two. You can check the full menu here. Beyond the beauty, there is live Gypsy music from 11am, which provides a certain ambience that is unmatched anywhere else in Budapest.
Opulent and extravagant, it’s easy to understand why New York Cafe is often voted the most beautiful in the world. Visiting this place is a once in a lifetime experience!
8. Have fun eating and playing at Gozsdu
Gozsdu Courtyard has an adventurous past, its history dates back up to the very beginning of the 20th century. During World War II the Gozsdu Courtyard was a part of the Budapest ghetto and UNESCO has declared it to be the part of world inheritage.
Nowadays, Gozsdu Courtyard is one of the most dynamically improving centers in the downtown of Budapest combining entertainment, gastronomy and culture. This is an excellent place to explore beautiful local stores and enjoy a nice dinner. The bars are modern and food is awesome.
You can check more here.
9. Visit the most famous architectural spots in Budapest
Neo-Gothic, Turkish, Baroque, Art Nouveau, you name it. Budapest’s famous architecture will make you impressed at every turn. Reserve at least half day to explore the famous architectural spots, such as the Hungarian Parliament Building, Fisherman’s Bastion, Széchenyi Thermal Bath, Heroes’ Square, Vajdahunyad Castle, Castle Hill, Széchenyi Chain Bridge (and all other 7 bridges), Dohány Street Synagogue and the St. Stephen’s Basilica.
St. Stephen’s Basilica is one of Budapest’s most beloved structures due to its impressive architecture, the beauty of its interior, and the panoramic views from its dome. The cathedral’s displayed under glass the mummified right hand of the the first king of Hungary.
10. Shop in the high-end Fashion Paradise
The Budapest Fashion Street, nickname Deák Ferenc Street has concentration of fashion boutiques and a mix of international brands including some of Hungary’s top designs.
The place is a realization of a bold dream to create the first High Street development project in Central Europe to cover an entire street section in the prestigious city center of Budapest. The space includes 9000 square meters of retail space, combined with the renovation of the antique and prestigious buildings.
From local stores to the High-end designers, this Fashion Paradise, it’s a great place to walk and take home a piece of Budapest with you. Váci Street, Andrássy út, Grand Boulevard and Falk Miksa Street are other great places for shopping in the city.
Let us know what is your favorite activity in the comments.