A Complete Guide to the Top Attractions in Budapest

April 11, 2019

by Ann Brace

From historical sites and relaxing thermal baths to eclectic ruin bars, there’s something for everyone in the Hungarian capital of Budapest. Although I spent two enjoyable weeks in this beautiful city, it only took an afternoon to fall in love as I walked around to explore some of it’s interesting sites.

If you only have a few days to spend in Budapest, you can certainly see all of the must do attractions as it is a pedestrian-friendly city that also has a great transit system. The public transportation system consists of a subway, streetcars, buses and trolley buses which are all quite affordable.

Divided by the Danube river, many people don’t realize that the city is actually split into two parts; Buda on one side of the river and Pest on the other. I chose to stay in Pest because it houses most of the tourist attractions and is relatively cheaper and flatter in comparison to the hilly, upscale Buda. There’s a range of hotels, airbnb, and funky hostels to choose from, including Grandio hostel which is also a ruin bar.

Top Attractions in Budapest

I thoroughly enjoyed all of the activities and sites I experienced during my two week visit, but what I love most about Budapest is that there are a few attractions that are truly unique to the city. Here are some must do’s while you visit Budapest:

  • Ruin bars
  • Thermal Baths
  • Danube boat cruise
  • Margaret Island
  • Central Market Hall

Ruin Bars

Literally built in the ruins of abandoned buildings, these bars have a hip vibe with funky furniture, unconventional artwork and leave you with the feeling of being underground. Each bar seems to have it’s own personality, yet each one has a great atmosphere, good music, delicious drinks and some even serve food. Szimpla Kert is the most popular ruin bar and is a great place to go day or night to grab a bite to eat and a drink. If you like to dance, check out Instant or Fogashaz. Many of the ruin bars have multiple rooms throughout with a variety of music and djs, as well as chill out areas to simply soak up the atmosphere.

Thermal Baths

After a night out at one of the ruin bars, there’s nothing better than a relaxing afternoon in the medicinal waters of the thermal baths. The two most popular ones are the Szechenyi baths and the Gellert baths. The Szechenyi baths is one of the biggest natural hot springs in Europe and has 18 pools, some indoors and some outdoors. You can also enjoy saunas, a gym and massage services. For something a little less relaxing and a little more fun, you can attend spa parties on Saturday nights with dj music, performers, lights and of course, alcohol. These parties run from 10pm to 3 am in the outdoor pool and I can personally tell you that they are a lot of fun! If you want to avail of the bar service, you can get a card worn on a lanyard around your neck that you can load money onto. Then all you have to do is swipe it at the bar next to the pool so you can leave your personal belongings, such as your money, in one of the many lockers available inside.

The Gellert baths also offer medicinal pools and spa treatments, and is known for it’s beautiful architecture.

Danube Boat Cruise

There are many tour companies offering day or evening boat cruises along the Danube promenade. Some of these cruises also offer dining and have a bar on board. I would suggest going at night because the parliament building, as well as many other sites along the river, are beautifully lit up. Don’t forget to get your iconic photo with the parliament building in the background! I stayed in a hostel (Grandio) which organized a bi-weekly boat cruise that comes with the option of a personal bottle of champagne. As you cruise along the Danube, you will pass under several bridges, such as the infamous Chain bridge with it’s lion statues. Don’t be surprised if someone asks you for a kiss while sailing under a bridge, it’s a Budapest tradition!

Margaret Island

This island is a delightful green space in the middle of the Danube and can be accessed on either side by bridge. You can rent bikes or golf carts to cruise around or simply walk or run the track all around the island. There’s also a musical fountain, a thermal bath, sports facilities and even a hostel.

Central Market Hall

Venture into the market to buy some delicious Hungarian dishes, produce, souvenirs and various wines. I highly recommend tasting some goulash stew, paprika chicken, or the traditional Hungarian snack, Langos.

Other Tourist Attractions:

There’s many other things to see in Budapest that are worth mentioning, such as:

  • House of Terror- A museum dedicated to the Communist and Nazi regimes in Hungary.
  • St. Stephen’s Basilica – A beautiful Roman Catholic basilica built in honor of Stephen, the first king of Hungary.
  • Buda Castle- You can take a funicular on the Buda side to see the spectacular castle and get a panoramic view of the city.
  • Dohany Street Synagogue- This is the largest synagogue in Europe and the second largest one in the world.
  • Fisherman’s Bastion- This is a great place to take pictures of the Pest side and is a lovely area to walk around. This was one of my favorite tourist sites because of the views of the Danube river and the stunning architecture.
  • Heroes’ Square- This large square holds the Millenium Monument and is next to the Museum of Fine Arts and the City Park.
  • Shoes on the Danube Bank- This is a memorial to honor the Jewish people who were lined up along the Danube river and shot during World War II. People tend to place flowers in the iron shoes to show their respect to the victims.

There’s no shortage of fun and interesting things to do in Budapest! My advice to see the tourist attractions would be to take one of the many free walking tours or one of the hop on hop off bus tours that are offered by various companies along the Danube. You will get a lot of interesting background information about the city from a knowledgeable local.

Enjoy buda-ful Budapest!

Ann Brace

By Ann Brace

Hi, I'm a Canadian teacher with a love for travel, languages, coffee and animals! When I'm not travelling the world with my 45 liter backpack or teaching, I enjoy hiking, reading and writing.

Read more at lavieaccordingtoann.com

Leave a Comment...

Sharon Gareau

April 12, 2019

Great article, definitely makes me want to visit

Sandra Brace

April 12, 2019

Fantastic read ! Very interesting information to help people with travelling in the area