Top 10 things to see in Budapest from the perspective of locals

Chain Bridge Budapest
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Considered by many as the “Paris of the East“, lying on a beautiful river the Danube, Budapest is one of the most culturally important metropolises in Eastern Europe and home to numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Although people lived here even in the Stone Age, this beautiful city only formally came into being in 1872 after merging of three previously independent towns – Old Buda (Óbuda), Buda and Pest, to become the administrative, commercial and industrial centre of Hungary.

What is amazing here is that Budapest successfully mixes its old history with a very modern and unique artistic style. There is a wide range of different things for visitors to see and do, from museums, historical monuments and parks, up to thermal spas and creative bars.

There is even a Formula 1 race here!

All that we have written so far is something you can easily discover about Budapest on Google.

But, we did not want this article to be like every other article you can find on this place. We wanted to make for you something special. To show you the unique places of Hungarian capital and to take you on a memorable journey through this amazing city.

Wanna know what we did?

We asked locals to share with us their recommendations, stories and tips. We asked them what they like, what they suggest and what for them makes Budapest so beautiful.

And they were super kind!

Each of them told us some different story, something new and authentic. Something we would never find out by ourselves. This made us realize how much love they carry for the city. Just by seeing with what kind of passion they speak about their capital, you can assume how proud they are to call this place their home.

By using their tips and pieces of advice, this mini guide to Budapest was made.

So, what do you say? Ready to explore this Hungarian beauty?

Top 10 things to see in Budapest

1. Spend the afternoon at the Buda Castle

Budapest castel

Buda or Budapest Castle is a royal historic palace built in the 13th century and is probably one of the most important and must-see places in the entire country! Even UNESCO included it the list of cultural sights.

The castle represents truly an authentic piece of history as it was built during the country was invaded by the Mongolian empire.  Throughout its rich and turbulent history, the castle has seen good and bad times, but luckily it managed to keep its charm and glory.

In recent years, some of the best gastro fairs and cultural festivals were also held here, such as Hungarian Palinka Festival, the Buda Castle Easter Fair, the Budapest Wine Festival, the Hungarian Festival of Folk Arts, and so on.

This castle is home to the Budapest History Museum, Hungarian National Gallery,  as well as the National Library of Hungary. Other attractions include the Lion Courtyard, the Matthias Well, the bronze statue of King Matthias, and the statue of the Turul Bird, the mythological bird of the Magyars.

How much does it cost to get inside of the castle?

Generally, the entrance to the Buda Castle District is free. Also, there is no entrance fee to get very close to the Castle building itself, through the courtyards, where you can see the Matthias Fountain and some very unique statues.

However, if you wish to enter the buildings of the Buda Castle (the Royal Palace itself), there will be a charge depending on which wing you wish to visit.

Local travel tip

Schedule your Budapest trip during the time some of the festivals are held here. It will surely make your holiday even more unforgettable.

2. Visit the Hungarian National Parliament

Hungarian National Parlament

Hungarian National Parlament is maybe the first place people will head to when they arrive in Budapest. Seen in almost every touristic souvenir here, this Neo-Gothic beauty was completed in the late 19th century, as a result of one single competition!

Except being spectacular from outside, Hungarian Parliament has some special things hidden inside. What you definitely must not miss is the old House of Lords and the Hungarian Crown Jewels.

The story says that those jewels were lost and stolen numerous times. After World War II, they were transported to Western Europe and eventually given to the American Army for safekeeping them from the Soviet Union. During the Cold War, the Crown Jewels were held at the United States Bullion Depository (Fort Knox, Kentucky) alongside with the bulk of America’s gold reserves. They were eventually returned to Hungary under the presidency of Jimmy Carter in 1978.

Today, Hungarian National Parliament is the world’s third largest parliament building, with incredible 691 rooms as well as impressive 19 kilometres of corridors and stairs. 

Local travel tip

Although the impressive building looks fantastic from every angle, to see the whole building in its full glory, it is worth viewing it from the other side of the Danube.

For more info on this place, check out its website.

3. Have a swim in a Széchenyi thermal bath

Thermal bath in Hungary

One of the things Budapest is most famous for is its thermal baths, and Széchenyi Baths are probably the best of the best. The picture above might give you an idea how huge this place is, but when you actually get here and witness it with your own eyes, it will take it to a completely new level. The hot thermal waters allow the outdoor pools to remain open during the winter months and swimming outside while snow is falling is a surreal experience.

Along with saunas and steams,  jaw-dropping entrance hall and beautiful mosaics, Széchenyi Baths might very soon become your favourite place in the Hungarian capital.

Local travel tip

You might not now, but you can even play chess in the water here! Usually, the locals enjoy having a game or two so it should not be hard to find someone interested to play.

But beware!

They tend to be quite good in this game.

4. Go on a cruise on the magnificent Danube river

Danube Cruise on a boat

Thermal baths are truly a different way to experience the city, but taking a cruise on the Danube is one of the trademarks of Budapest. Taking a cruise during the day will give you the chance to enjoy the beautiful panorama of the city where you will get the chance to see many of the city’s sights.
But in case you decide to take a night cruise, be prepared because city lights are super magical in the evening.

Local travel tip

In case you are on a tight budget and looking to save some money, go to one of Budapest’s four bridges. The view from there is also very spectacular.

5. Visit Heros’s square and the city park

Heros square and city park

Heroes’ Square (Hosök tere), which marks the end of Andrássy Avenue is home to an iconic monument which features depictions of the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars, who are believed to have led the Hungarian people from central Asia to the Carpathian basin.

Atop the central pillar is the Archangel Gabriel, who is holding the Hungarian crown. At either side of the central column are two matching colonnades, which depict a variety of other historical Hungarian figures. The impressive buildings on either side of the square are art galleries.

Local travel tip

Please take care when crossing to the statue, because traffic around the monument can be erratic.

6. Enjoy the contemporary art at Ludwig Museum

Ludwig Museum Budapest
The museum hosts a permanent collection of many valuable pieces of American pop art (including Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg and Robert Rauschenberg). There’s also a strong focus on Eastern and Central European art and presents the Hungarian art of the 60s to recent days in an international context.

But you wanna hear something cool?

You might not know but there is a very fun way how you can discover Ludwig museum. We realize that museums sometimes can be a bit boring so we decided to do something so great we are sure it will make your visit here truly memorable.

What is it about?

We have created a special audio tour, designed to show you everything there is to know about this place. All you gotta do is download this travel app and let it take you to best museum experience you will ever have.

Local travel tip

Check out some of the leading artists from the international scene as well as the best-known Hungarian masters. It’s all here.

7. Go back in time at Vajdahunyad Castle

Vajdahunyad Castle

Located on an artificial island in the heart of Budapest within spitting distance of Hungary’s national monument, Vajdahunyad Castle presents an odd contrast to its stately surroundings.

Even one very interesting story is connected with this place.

Originally, the castle was intended to be a temporary exhibition and was constructed out of wood and cardboard. However, the attraction proved such a hit with locals and visitors alike that a more permanent structure was built in 1904.

Today, this place is divided into four sections, showcasing Gothic, Baroque, Renaissance, and Romanesque architecture.  Within each section, the castle is further divided, in total comprising twenty-one smaller buildings linked together, each having been designed as a replica of other significant structures to be found throughout Hungary and Romania.

Local travel tip

Don’t forget to visit perhaps the most striking section of the castle – Gothic wing, modelled on Corvin Castle in Romania, which served as the historical home of János Hunyadi, the Hungarian noble from whom Vajdahunyad Castle derives its name.

The castle also houses the Museum of Hungarian Agriculture.

8. Explore Fisherman’s Bastion

Fisherman bastion - top 10 things to see in Budapest

Although the Fisherman’s Bastion looks like a medieval monument, it was actually built in the early 20th century in a neo-Gothic style, specifically to act as a panoramic viewing platform across the Danube, Margaret Island and Pest.

It is named after the Guild of Fishermen, which was responsible for defending that stretch of the city walls during the Middle Ages.

The seven towers of the Bastion represent the seven Magyar tribes that helped to settle the Magyar people in the Carpathian Basin.

Local travel tip

In case you are looking for some outstanding view of the city, come here at sunset. We will not tell you what the view is like. This one you should discover on your own.

9. Discover Hungarian cuisine

Hungarian cuisine

One thing that is sure for Hungarian cuisine is that it’s spicy.  But let’s clarify just one thing. When we say spicy we mean very spicy.  Not like hot ketchup spicy. More like Indian and Chinese food spicy.

But with a mix of old traditional tastes as well as the new culinary ideas that were brought by chefs around the world, you will quickly fall in love with many of the local dishes here.

Locals told us that the best restaurants can be found in Pest, but if you are searching for a place with a great view, check out some of the restaurants on the Danube.

Local travel tip

Make sure you try “goulash,”. This super-famous soup is one of the country’s brands and it is also very healthy. Just potatoes, vegetables, meat and some spicy paprika for a grand finale.

10. Visit the local zoo

Budapest zoo

Who doesn’t like animals? As a big city as it is, Budapest has one of the best zoos in the region. The place itself is quite old, as the gates of the Budapest Zoo and Botanical Garden were opened in 1866, which makes it one of the oldest zoos in the whole wide world.

It houses several iconic establishments, such as the Palm House and the Elephant House.

What we liked the most about this place is that they are constantly working on the rescue of sick, injured or orphaned birds. Two rescue centers have been opened so far, with the aim to increase the quality of zoo-animal keeping and giving more possibility to the wild animals being repatriated. On each of the two places, qualified keepers work with birds and other animals.

Local travel tip

As the Budapest Zoo is home of about 773 species of amazing animals, it is recommended to spend a whole afternoon here. If you get hungry after so much strolling, a delicious steak at Robinson, or a palatable pancake at Gundel is always a good choice.

…………..

Aaaaaaaand that’s it, folks. This were the 10 things to see in Budapest.

Honestly saying, it was not an easy task to decide for just 10 places. Budapest is such an amazing city with tons of attractions.

But, we believe we have chosen the best of the best. The creme de la creme of the Hungarian capital.

Let us know what your favourite place in Budapest is, and in case you need more information about the city, feel free to write us.

Oh!

Just one more thing.

Don’t forget to check our travel audio guide at Ludwig Museum.

P.S. Thanks to visit Budapest, The Crazy Tourist ,Atlas Obscura and Budacastlebudapest for the help on writing this text.

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