Budapest, the capital of Hungary, is a city with many points of interest: rich history, beautiful architecture, tasty food and an amazing nightlife. If you are visiting the stunning capital and you are wondering how to spend your time, this list of the top 10 things to see and do in Budapest will guide you.
Visiting one of the thermal pools in Budapest was an experience I did not want to miss. Budapest sits on natural thermal springs which allow for some of the outdoor baths to be open year-round. The baths offer water temperature ranges from warm to hot, steam rooms, saunas, ice-cold plunge pool and rooms for massage. With the Budapest City Card I visited Rudas bath which is a medieval Turkish bath dating from the 16th century. It was renovated in 2012 to offer modern amenities and to restore the antique and aesthetic charm.
Fisherman’s Bastion is on the Buda side of the Danube on Castle Hill surrounding St Mattias church. It’s a beautiful neo-Gothic and Romanesque fort. It was named after the guild of fisherman that were responsible for defending that area of Buda in the Middle Ages. The seven towers also represent the seven Magyar tribes that settled in the region in the ninth century. Receive a discount to walk along the fort walls with the Budapest City Card.
Fisherman’s bastion is truly on of the top photogenic and photographed areas of Budapest. I was there early in the morning to have unobstructed photo opportunities, though I imagine Fisherman’s Bastion is just as beautiful at sunset.
Hungarian Parliament building
I had a little love affair with the Hungarian Parliament. I stood in awe every time I was in its presence and felt the need to photograph every detail despite my photos falling short of capturing its grandeur. The best views are from the water so I truly recommend hoping on a boat tour. Discounts are available with the Budapest City Card, or you can take the municipal ferry for free which tends to be less crowded than the boat tours.
I also had the opportunity to witness the changing of the guard ceremony. It was a dazzling spectacle with a sword routine and salutes. Super cool!
Buda Castle is the castle and palace of the Hungarian kings in Budapest. It’s the long building with the green dome in the centre and you are bound to see from almost everywhere on the Pest side of the Danube. Construction began in the 1200’s. Renovations almost never ceased due to new royalty sitting on the throne and wanting to modify the palace to their taste.
Today, Buda Castle is home to the Hungary National Gallery, the Hungarian History Museum and the National Széchényi Library. Entrance to the Hungary National Gallery and the Hungarian History Museum is free with the Budapest City Card.
Chain Bridge is most famous for the lions guarding both entrances to the bridge. The suspension bridge is a beautiful piece of architecture and engineering, and it was the first permanent bridge connecting Buda and Pest.
It’s a bit difficult to snap a photo due to the traffic, but it’s a lovely bridge at which to marvel during the day and lit up at night.
Shoes on the Danube
You are sure to see the Shoes on the Danube monument walking to the Parliament along the Danube. If you’re not walking to the Parliament, I highly recommend taking the short walk to see this monument. The shoes commemorate the Jewish Hungarians who were murdered in the Second World War. Standing at the waters edge facing a firing squad, they told to remove their shoes before being shot. The reason for this was that shoes could be reused as these kinds items were beginning to become scarce in the final years of the Second World War.
This touching memorial conceived by Can Togay and Gyula Pauer should be one of your stops to pay tribute to the victims of the Second World War.
Heroes’ Square is one of the major squares in Budapest. It is easily recognized by the columned wings featuring bronze statues of the seven chieftains of the Magyar tribes on either side of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The square lies at the outbound end of Andrássy Avenue. Be sure to take the yellow metro line to ride on one of the oldest metro lines in Europe.
Budapest’s Castle Hill Funicular
Getting to the top of Castle Hill can be a bit challenging. If walking up steep streets and many steps doesn’t sound like a good time, take the funicular to Castle Hill! You’re sure to see stunning views of the Chain Bridge and the Pest side of the Danube.
Margaret Island is a quiet gem in the center of the Danube filled with gardens, medieval ruins, fountains, playgrounds, a water park and so much more! Rent a bike and cycle around the island to see the beautiful areas offered by the little oasis island. Or, if you’ve packed your running shoes, there is a great running track circling the island.
Remember to use the Budapest City Card on the BKV ferry to and from the island.
Great Market Hall
Great Market Hall is the largest and oldest indoor market in Budapest. The building was completed in 1896. It is located at the end of the famous pedestrian shopping street Váci utca. The market offers a huge variety of stalls selling produce, meat, cheeses, spices and souvenirs on three floors.
St Stephen’s Basilica
St. Stephen’s Basilica is a Roman Catholic basilica in Budapest in honour of Stephen, the first King of Hungary. Tours of the basilica and treasury are available. You can pay a separate small fee for the panoramic view of Budapest from atop the cupola. Make sure you bring your climbing legs because there are a lot of stairs to climb!
There are countless ruin bars: abandoned buildings that have been converted to bars. The bars are decorated with an assortment of art and random items for decor (think plastic chairs hanging from the ceiling, Christmas lights strung along the wall for lighting, and lots of graffiti). Many of them are filled with tourists so your experience in a ruin bar may not be very authentically local. On the other hand, you’re pretty much guaranteed a good party and cheap alcohol.
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I received a complimentary Budapest City Card during my stay in Budapest, but opinions are my own. All photos are owned by Amanda Holmes