Nestled along the banks of the Danube river is the Hungarian capital Budapest, which is considered as the Paris of the East for many reasons. Eiffel Tower and Mona Lisa aside, Budapest has a lot like Paris to offer. This jewel at the heart of Eastern Europe beckons with a rich history, stunning architecture, and gorgeous scenery — there are really tons of things to do in Budapest.
Before we start, be sure to check out our Cultural Places platform and discover the amazing tours that will help you explore your destinations at your own pace.
Originally consisting of the three cities Óbuda, Buda, and Pest, contemporary Budapest will allure you with its unique charm and cultural richness, and that is not all. Discover a city full of delights for all senses – but not to worry! This travel guide will point you towards ten must-sees in the enchanted hills and alleys of Budapest, so you can confidently go there for the first time without getting stranded in the riches this city has to offer.
Ready for the adventure? Then let’s go…
Explore the Castle District
Dive right into historic Budapest by starting your walk in the historic Castle District. Walk along narrow cobblestone streets and feast your eyes on spectacular views of the city. Highlights include the UNESCO World Heritage Site Buda Castle and the Matthias Church. Fishermen’s Bastion will make you feel like you’re in a fairytale. It is the perfect spot to satisfy all your photographic desires.
Take as much time as you like to explore the multi-layered history of this area of the city and allow yourself to get a little lost in it – we recommend saving some energy by going up by funicular.
The View of Budapest’s Castle District
Buda Castle in Budapest
Cross the Chain Bridge
Now that you have seen it from above, it is time to descend and explore Pest. Cross the Danube via the spectacular Chain Bridge, one of the landmarks of Budapest. A marvel of 19th-century engineering, it is especially breathtaking at night. Can you guess why?
The Chain Bridge at Night
Admire St. Stephen’s Basilica
Once you’ve crossed that amazing bridge, there are more than a few must-visit landmarks. One of them is the glorious St. Stephen’s Basilica (Hungarian: Szent István-bazilika), named after the first king of Hungary, whose right hand is housed in the reliquary. It’s the third-largest Cathedral in Hungary, with a magnificent dome 96 meters high and is the most important religious building in Hungary, as well.
Gorgeous St. Stephen’s Basilica
Visit the Parliament Building
The Parliament Building (Hungarian: Országház) doesn’t just look enormous, it is, in fact, the third-largest worldwide and one of the largest buildings in Hungary. It’s an impressive Gothic-Revival building, dating back to 1902, with amazing gilded halls that you must explore. We highly recommend taking a guided tour through this architectural wonder.
The Hungarian Parliament Building
The Hungarian Parliament Building
Walk Down the Danube Promenade
Take a nice walk along the Pest bank, between the Chain Bridge and the Elizabeth Bridge to find some of the most famous sights of Budapest. Like in many other European cities, you will find not only beautiful remnants of the past but also spots calling for a moment of solemn reflection. Walking down this promenade, you will find a trail of iron shoes commemorating the Jews murdered here during WWII. But you will also see the Castle District from another angle, and you’ll find some quite nice restaurants to have a little break from all that walking.
The Shoes along the Danube Promenade
Explore the Andrássy Avenue
We hope you brought good shoes, as there is so much more to explore in the city! From Andrássy Avenue, it is a breathtaking walk to Heroes’ Square. The UNESCO-listed avenue is lined with gorgeous buildings housing many museums and other cultural highlights such as the Opera House. Here, you can also treat yourself to a little something in one of the many cafés or even (window)shop in one of the many high-end boutiques.
The Heroes’ Square
Enjoy Budapest’s Cool Districts
Now that you have seen all the landmarks and sent some great selfies to your family, it is time to explore the hip parts of Budapest, the 7th and 8th district. Here, everything slows down to a more relaxed pace, so you can let yourself wander and discover local culture and nightlife. We recommend having a drink at the quirky bar Szimpla Kert.
Budapest’s Hustle and Bustle
(cc) Jorge Franganillo/ CC BY-SA 2.0
Experience the Magyar Cuisine
After all this walking, it is time to pamper yourself a little! Head to the Great Market Hall to dive deeply into traditional as well as contemporary spicy Hungarian cuisine and food products. We recommend anything pickled as a tasty souvenir. And try the national brand “goulash”, a soup made of potatoes, vegetables, meat, and spicy paprika, you will not regret it.
Magyar Cuisine — The Spicy Goulash
Go to One of the Famous Spas
To really relax after all the walking you’ve been doing and to let all the new experiences sink in, visit one of the many spas located all over the city – it’s no coincidence that Budapest is also called City of Spas. For a truly outstanding experience, we recommend Gellért Baths, where you can soak surrounded by art-nouveau extravaganza.
Climb up the Gellért Hill
After this relaxing soak, you might not be interested in exercise again so soon, but the walk up Gellért Hill is really worth it. You will be rewarded with a breathtaking view of both sides of the city. What better way to conclude your stay in this amazing jewel on the banks of the Danube! It is especially magical to see the sunset from here and the ensuing city lights.
Interested in talking this walk through the streets and districts of Budapest? You can download this tour for free with all precise information, including GPS navigation, opening hours, and prices, on our Cultural Places platform.
We hope to have tickled your wandering feet a little bit with this short selection of top things to do in Budapest. In the words of Hungarian physicist Loránd Eötvös: “It is much better to see something once than read about it tenfold.” So what are you waiting for?