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Best Things To Do in Budapest

I am sure that Budapest will not leave you indifferent: often underrated next to Vienna or Prague, the Pearl of the Danube has a lot to offer to its visitors. I'll tell you all about it below

Alex Grande

Alex Grande

7 min read

Best Things To Do in Budapest

Panoramic view of 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

St. Matthias Church| ©Keith Yahl
St. Matthias Church| ©Keith Yahl

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 , discovering its true history and meaning.

Therefore, my recommendation is that you do one of the guided tours that I have selected in this article: Day Trips and Excursions from Budapest, even more so if you visit Budapest for one day or even two days, very just enough time to know the main attractions of the city.

With these tours you can discover the city center, the Hungarian Parliament, the Jewish quarter, the Buda Castle, 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 open-air 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. It is also a great plan if you want to add it to your list of things to do at Christmas in Budapest.

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

3. Take a cruise on the Danube

Cruise on the Danube river passing through Budapest| ©Adam Jones
Cruise on the Danube river passing through Budapest| ©Adam Jones

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 river of Budapest, and you visit the Hungarian capital in summer the best thing to do is to make a cruise on the Danube. Some include dinner, specifically many of the night curceros, others offer live shows and others are simpler and are limited to a stroll through the main points of interest in the city.

If you are one of those who like to experience the cities at night, I recommend you to visit this post about 10 things to do in Budapest at night.

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 in whose decoration and architecture are mixed neoclassical, Renaissance and baroque styles. You can also find out how to get tickets to the Parliament here.

5. Tour the surroundings of Budapest

Gödöllo Palace| ©Károly Szántai
Gödöllo Palace| ©Károly Szántai

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 to discover, by making day trips from Budapest, a different part of the Hungarian landscape. 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.

Or even, if you have more time to spend in Budapest -for example if you have three days in Budapest, four or if you are lucky enough to have five days in the Hungarian city-, and you want to know another European capital, I leave you this post for you to find out how to get from Budapest to Bratislava.

6. Cross the city in one of its sightseeing buses

Tourist bus| ©Albert Lugosi
Tourist bus| ©Albert Lugosi

Once you have closed the transfers from the airport to the city of Budapest, and you are organizing your trip, I recommend that you consider purchasing the Budapest Card, with which you can enjoy free public transport.

However, if what you want is not to miss any of the sights of the city of Budapest and enjoy the sights of this city comfortably and without crowds or walking, the option of making a tour of Budapest by 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.

Another comfortable and fun way to get to know the city is by bike. Therefore, I leave you this link where you can see the best bike tours in Budapest.

7. Enter St. Matthias Church

Interior of St. Matthias Church| ©Anne and David
Interior of St. Matthias Church| ©Anne and David

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 on the edge of Buda, 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.

Entering the Catholic Church of Matthias, also known as the Church of Our Lady, you have difficulty deciding in which corner to fix your eyes. All the walls are covered with mosaics 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

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 a typical market for tourists, although you will also find souvenir stalls; it is rather a meeting point for all the humble merchants 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 for different tastes, in Hungary you will find a variety of hot dishes, different, at a very low price and with excellent quality. Do not miss this post in which I leave you the best gastronomic tours of the city.

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 bars in Budapest, but it is not the only one. At night, the city is transformed leaving aside its stately air to bet for a more alternative and daring one. Different dilapidated buildings of the city have been converted into alternative bars, with an interesting decoration and a special charm.

What time of the year is better to travel to Budapest?

If you are deciding when to go to the Hungarian capital to make the most of its spectacular views, I leave you a selection of the best plans by months of the year:

You can not miss this post where I will tell you 10 tips you should follow on your trip to Budapest.