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Best things to do in Budapest

Alex Grande

Alex Grande

Jun 21, 2021 • 5 min read

Best things to do in Budapest

©Kate Kasutich

The "Pearl of the Danube" or "Paris of the East" are some of the nicknames that Budapest receives: the city is a small jewel sheltered among big sisters of renown like Vienna or Prague that has nothing to envy to the rest of European capitals. Here is a list of the 10 essential activities for your trip to Budapest:

1. Take a guided tour of the city center.

Church of St. Matthias | ©Keith Yahl
Church of St. Matthias | ©Keith Yahl
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At the end of a trip many images will come to mind, but in a while will we know what they mean? Will we remember the names of the places? Probably not and that is because visiting a city and knowing it is not the same thing; the difference between both concepts is in a guided tour in which an expert teaches us to look at the city as a local would do it, discovering its true history and meaning.

Therefore, my recommendation is that you take one of the guided tours that I have selected in this article: Day Trips and Excursions from Budapest. This way you can discover the city center, the Hungarian Parliament, the Jewish quarter, St. Stephen's Basilica or the Chain Bridge, among many other things.

2. Relax in a spa

Interior of the Géllert Spa ©Sandra Cohen-Rose and Colin Rose
Interior of the Géllert Spa ©Sandra Cohen-Rose and Colin Rose

What in any other city could be a "filler" activity, in Budapest becomes a must-see at the level of the Parliament or the Danube River. The spas in this city are simply breathtaking: sumptuous decoration and outdoor pools make the experience unique. Going to Budapest in winter with several degrees below zero and bathing outdoors in a steam pool is something you will never forget.

You can buy online your full day ticket for a Budapest Spa:, either the Széchenyi Spa or the Géllert Hotel.

3. Take a cruise on the Danube

Cruise along the Danube as it passes Budapest | ©Adam Jones
Cruise along the Danube as it passes Budapest | ©Adam Jones
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The Danube River is the soul of Budapest and the reference point to locate in the city since it is the one that separates the two banks corresponding to the two parts of the city: Buda and Pest.

To enjoy the Budapest river, it is best to take a Danube river cruise: some include dinner, others live shows and others are simpler and just take a stroll through the main points of interest in the city.

4. Visit the Hungarian Parliament

The Parliament from the Danube | ©Cor Oosterbeek
The Parliament from the Danube | ©Cor Oosterbeek

The Hungarian Parliament is unmistakable; the first time you visit the city it is impossible that your eyes do not go to this huge building which is also the largest in the country. Its facade is impressive and its night views a real privilege for the eyes, but seeing the interior is not far behind either.

I recommend a guided tour of the Parliament to learn interesting details about the political organization of the country in addition to appreciate its luxurious rooms whose decoration and architecture mixes neoclassical, Renaissance and baroque styles.

5. Tour the surroundings of Budapest

Gödöllo Palace ©Károly Szántai
Gödöllo Palace ©Károly Szántai
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The city of Budapest has a lot to offer to the traveler, but the surroundings are not far behind. The geographical location of this city allows you to discover a different part of the Hungarian countryside, taking a day trip from Budapest:. From a visit to the Gödöllo Palace, the favorite of Queen Sissi, to an excursion through the villages of the Danube Bend; variety is served.

6. Cross the city in one of its tourist buses.

Tourist bus ©Albert Lugosi
Tourist bus ©Albert Lugosi

If what you want is not to miss any of the points of interest of the city of Budapest and enjoy the sights of this city in a comfortable way and without crowds or walking, the option of taking a tour of Budapest in tourist bus is something to value. No matter how much you walk through the center, there will always be more distant tourist spots that you can see during a guided bus tour with panoramic views.

7. Enter the church of San Matías

Interior of St. Matthias Church | ©Anne and David
Interior of St. Matthias Church | ©Anne and David
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About tastes and opinions there is nothing written, but if you could only enter one of the buildings in Hungary, on a personal level I would recommend this church. Located in the Buda's Ring, the exterior is neo-Gothic style and already draws the attention of the traveler by the harmony of its forms, but the interior ... is amazing.

As you enter the Catholic Church of Matthias, also known as the Church of Our Lady, you have difficulty deciding which corner to look at. All the walls are covered with mosaic and walking through the arcades of this church is like walking down the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland.

8. Stroll through the Central Market

Budapest Central Market ©BriYYZ
Budapest Central Market ©BriYYZ
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During a visit to a city, there is always someone who prefers to go shopping and others who are more inclined to go sightseeing or enjoy the gastronomy (guilty). The plan to visit the Central Market is ideal for both types of travelers because it is a point of interest in itself. It is not the typical tourist market, although you will also find souvenir stalls; it is rather a meeting point for all the humble traders of the city whether they sell fabrics, prepared food, fruit, juices or handicrafts.

9. Taste a good goulash

Typical Hungarian goulash | ©stu_spivack
Typical Hungarian goulash | ©stu_spivack

Enjoying the gastronomy of each country is a tourist experience in itself. In this case, although there are different tastes, in Hungary you will find a variety of hot dishes, different, at a very low price and with excellent quality.

The one you will have heard most about is goulash: a soup seasoned with paprika that may contain meat or vegetables, but its real flavor is in the broth. Even if you're not too attracted to the contents, you have to try the soup just as you have to try the official snack of the city: langos, a hot fried bread with toppings on top that will remind you of a kind of pizza.

10. Enter a "ruin pub".

Ruin pub in Budapest | ©Daniel Edwins
Ruin pub in Budapest | ©Daniel Edwins

Surely you have heard the name of Szimpla Bar; it is one of the most famous ruin pubs in Budapest, but it is not the only one. At night, the city is transformed leaving aside its stately air to bet on a more alternative and daring. Different dilapidated buildings in the city have been converted into alternative bars, with an interesting decoration and a special charm.

Things to do in Budapest