Sunset sky behind Budapest's Fisherman's Bastion

20 things to do in Budapest

It’s no surprise that Budapest is a hotspot for UK travellers, this beautiful European city really has it all. From relaxing in thermal baths, beautiful Art Nouveau facades and Neo-Gothic architecture, eclectic bars living amongst World War II ruins, eating your body weight in hummus/langos/goulash and epic sunset cruises along the Danube river. Budapest is perfect for couples, girls trips or solo spacations during any season of the year.

In this guide, you’ll find recommendations for the best things to do in Budapest along with suggestions for must-visit restaurants & bars, popular activities and landmarks, as well as advice on when and how long to visit.


Table of Contents

Things To Do in Budapest

Sunset sky behind Budapest's Fisherman's Bastion woman walking down steps that lead to a view across Budapest

Fisherman's Bastion

You would think these Medieval-esque towers were built for defensive purposes but alas they were constructed purely to provide an epic panoramic viewing terrace. It’s completely free to access Fisherman’s Bastion (Halászbástya), where you’ll be greeted with a 180-degree view across the river Danube, with views of the Hungarian Parliament Building and the Széchenyi Chain Bridge.

There are some upper terraces you can access for HUF 1000 (approx 2.5 EUR) however I’d only recommend paying for this if the lower terraces are extremely busy during your visit. You can access these upper terraces for free in the morning before 9 am and after 7 pm in the evening – perfect if you’re visiting Budapest in summer.

Danube River Cruise

Looking to get the evening started? Kick things off with a 90-minute Evening Cruise along the Danube, with a front-row seat to view Budapest’s most important landmarks such as Buda Castle, Gellert Hill and Margaret Bridge. Even better, unlimited drinks (prosecco & non-alcoholic drinks) are included for the affordable price of £17.33 per person. You really can’t miss seeing the Hungarian Parliament Building lit up in the evening from the open-air terrace on the boat.

Sunset sky behind tower rooftop on top of St. Stephen's Basilica​

St. Stephen's Basilica

You may have visited your fair share of basilicas across the world, however, St. Stephen’s Basilica (named in honour of the first King of Hungary, Stephen) is absolutely worth a visit. On top of this Roman Catholic Church sits a cupola (a dome-like structure) which gives you access to 360-degree views over Budapest and St. Stephen’s Square. You can either climb the 364 steps (no thanks) or take the elevator directly to the rooftop. Entrance to the church costs 1200 HUF (3 EUR) or 3200 HUF (8 EUR) for access to the church, look-out and treasury.

Castle on top of hill with sunset sky

Buda Castle

This historical castle sits on top of Várhegy Hill, where you can stroll through the Royal Palace which once served as a home for Hungarian Kings. These days, Buda Castle is a popular cultural hub, home to the Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest History Museum and the National Széchényi Library. The gardens and courtyards of the castle are open 24/7 – no entry fee is required.

beautiful church with tall tower

Matthias Church

Another gem you’ll find in the Buda Castle District is Matthias Church (Mátyás-templom), located next to Fisherman’s Bastion. This 700-year-old church is where Hungarian King Matthias got married, twice. Inside the ornate church, you can see replicas of the Hungarian royal crown and coronation jewels. Entry is HUF 1800 (approx 4.5 EUR) and if you fancy a hike, you’ll need to buy a separate ticket to climb 197 spiral steps to the top of the tower for one of the best viewpoints in Budapest. 

brick castle with bridge going over moat

Vajdahunyad Castle

This faux-castle was originally constructed from wood and cardboard to facilitate the 1896 Millennium Expo’s exhibitions. It was so popular that it was rebuilt with stone in the early 1900s, its architectural styles reminiscent of the Hunyad-castle in Transylvania. The castle has a moat (like all castles should!) and is free to enter. Vajdahunyad Castle is home to the Museum of Hungarian Agriculture as well as statues of famous Hungarian scientists, economists AND Dracula (well the actor, Béla Lugosi, who played Dracula). 

statue of angel on top of tall column

Heroes' Square

You’ll pass Heroes’ Square on your way to City Park, it’s hard to miss the large statue of Archangel Gabriel who sits on a tall column, surrounded by statues of the chieftains of the seven Hungarian tribes who founded the country.

brown shoes with roses in them lined up on the bank of a river

Shoes on the Danube Bank

Along the Danube promenade, in front of the Hungarian Parliament Building, you’ll come across a chilling memorial honouring the Jewish victims of the second world war. During World War II, Jews in Budapest were ordered to remove their shoes moments before they were shot into the icy river. This installation, created by artists Can Togay & Gyula Pauer, is incredibly moving a must-see for anyone who wants to learn more about Budapest’s Jewish history. 

large statue of man riding horse outside neo gothic style Hungarian Parliament Building

Hungarian Parliament Building

Trust me, you wouldn’t normally be fussed about visiting a city’s parliament building (a bit of a yawn tbh), however, the Hungarian Parliament Building is one of Budapest’s most iconic landmarks due to its impressive Neo-Gothic architecture. There are guided tours available where you can explore the Cupola room, Golden Staircase and the Hungarian Crown Jewels. Otherwise, you can simply marvel at the building’s beautiful exterior when it’s lit up in the evening from a Danube river cruise.

large market hall with vaulted ceiling

Central Market Hall

Claimed to be the most beautiful market in Europe, Central Market Hall is really a one-stop shop for purchasing fresh local foods, Hungarian snacks (like Langos and Goulash) and souvenirs. It’s the perfect place to head to if it’s raining during your visit to Budapest as the market is completely covered by an impressive vaulted ceiling. The market is open Monday-Saturday.

Baths & Thermal Spas in Budapest

Gellért Thermal Bath

The most beautiful baths in Budapest in my opinion. These Art Nouveau-style thermal pools are a must-visit for a spacation. If you’re in your thirties like me, you’ll want to actively avoid the lads & stag dos who frequent Széchenyi Baths. Gellért Baths attracts an older crowd and as a result, is a much more peaceful experience. It’s worth noting that you have to wear swimming caps when using the pools so make sure to bring one with you otherwise you can purchase one at reception. Small thermal baths can be privately booked which is great if you’re on a baecation.

Rudas Baths

Rudas Baths’ main attraction is their epic rooftop hot tub where you can enjoy stunning views across the Danube/Budapest. It’s also the only spa which has men-only and women-only days on weekdays where aprons are worn by guests in their Turkish baths. The swimming pool and wellness centre are open 7 days a week for both genders. They also offer night bathing – open Saturday nights from 10 pm3 am.

Lukács Baths

Have you ever heard of a BeerSpa? At Lukács Thermal Bath you can enjoy a private spa session where you quite literally sit in a tub of beer, next to a beer tap where you can help yourself to unlimited pints of beer. Like Budapest’s other baths, Lukács has 8 various sized indoor & outdoor thermal pools. Entry is free for Budapest Card holders. Note: wearing a swimming cap is obligatory in the pools.  

Note: Entry to Lukács Baths is FREE with a Budapest City Pass.

Széchenyi Thermal Bath

Hands down the most famous spa in Budapest is located in City Park. At Széchenyi Baths there are 18 geothermal pools – both outdoor and indoor. During summer, the complex hosts rowdy ‘sparties’ on Saturday evenings with pop-up bars around the exterior pools, light shows and DJs.

Restaurants & Bars in Budapest


TwentySix is a must-visit for a banging brunch in Budapest. You could easily mistake this cafe/restaurant for a botanical garden given the number of plants and trees located inside which is quite literally a breath of fresh air thanks to the oxygen-rich surroundings. TwentySix partners with Plant A Tree Project, meaning with any breakfast order you’ll be helping plant a tree. My menu recommendations? They do a sensational shakshuka!

Szimpla Kert Ruin Bar

Yes, there are lots of other ruin bars in Budapest but no, none are as iconic as Szimpla Kert – the first bar to open within the abandoned ruins left behind after WWII. Inside you’ll find a maze of eclectic rooms & courtyards, adorned with quirky art installations and sculptures from disco balls, a disused Trabant car, empty bathtubs and vintage televisions.

It’s a whimsical playground for adults, there’s no entrance fee however I recommend arriving early to beat the crowds. On Sundays, this bar hosts a weekly farmers market with live music, fresh produce and a special all-you-can-eat Szimpla Brunch available.

bar with disco balls hanging from ceiling
rooftop bar balcony, cocktail on table, view of river in background with sunset sky

Leo Rooftop

Head over to Leo Rooftop (located above Hotel Clark on the Pest side) for sunset drinks and an epic panoramic view over Budapest, with views of the Hungarian Parliament Building and the Széchenyi Chain Bridge. They make delicious cocktails based on star signs and if you’re a fellow Scorpio like me, then you’re in for a treat!


Most Popular Budapest Activities

Mazel Tov

Mazel Tov is a popular Mediterranean restaurant located in Budapest’s old Jewish Quarter. No matter what the season, their open-air garden filled with plants & trees welcomes you to dine in this beautiful oasis and gastronomy hotspot. Serving a mix of delicious Israeli dishes, I recommend ordering one of their hummus bowls along with one of their many tasty cocktails. Bookings should be made in advance to avoid missing out on this gem.

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High Note SkyBar

This rooftop terrace has breathtaking 360° views across Budapest, situated up close and personal with St. Stephen’s Basilica. Located on the 9th floor of Aria Hotel, High Note Skybar‘s panorama terrace is open from 2 pm on weekends, during all seasons of the year. Named as one of the Top 10 Best Rooftop Bars in the World by Conde Nast Traveller, make sure to add High Note to your Budapest bucket list.

Cafes & Foodie Spots

beautiful Renaissance-style cafe/restaurant with ornate chandeliers hanging from the ceiling

New York Café

Holding the title of the world’s most beautiful cafe, New York Café is indeed a feast for the eyes, a feast for your stomach and certainly a feast for your wallet. Budapest is known for being affordable, however at New York Café you can expect to cough up close to 23€ for a latte & pastry which is exactly what I did but it was 100% worth it.

The cafe is an Italian Renaissance-style masterpiece with exquisite chandeliers and frescoes reminiscent of the Sistine Chapel. It first opened in 1894 as part of New York Life Insurance Company European headquarters – in case you were also wondering where its name originated from. This cafe gets incredibly busy, so I recommend booking a table online for 8 am when it first opens to beat the crowds.

colourful street food market with bright orange sign that says Karavan


Karavan is Hungary’s first street food court, located in the heart of Budapest, right next to the most famous ruin bar, Szimpla Kert. Here you can find an array of tasty and affordable street food snacks, the perfect spot to head to after an evening bar crawl. You have try Lángos, the classic Hungarian fried bread traditionally smothered in sour cream, garlic butter and lots of shredded cheese. Please note: Karavan closes during winter from Jan 8th, opening again in March, be sure to check their Facebook page for updates.

beautiful courtyard restaurant with glass roof

Párisi Passage

Tucked away in a luxurious grand courtyard of a department-store-turned-five-star-hotel, you’ll find a Parisian-style cafe & brasserie on the ground floor passage. The space is simply stunning and an ideal coffee pit stop where you can recharge and refuel before embarking on the rest of your Budapest adventures.

hand holding a cup filled with a doughnut spiral cake topped with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce

Chimney Cakes

Don’t leave Budapest without trying the Hungarian Chimney Cake (Kürtőskalács). It’s basically a cake in the shape of a spiral (almost like a slinky), coated in cinnamon sugar. Served freshly made and warm, perfect on its own but on a whole other level filled with vanilla ice cream. Fellow Australians, this is the closest thing I have found in Europe that is similar to our beloved cinnamon doughnuts.

Where to stay in Budapest

Buda or Pest? Which side of Budapest should you stay in? If you’re planning on partying, I would highly recommend staying in the energetic Pest side, closest to all the lively restaurants and bars in the Jewish quarter. If you want to be close to all the iconic landmarks with epic views, then I recommend staying on the Buda side along the River Danube. Either way, you can’t go wrong as Budapest is incredibly well-connected.

Located in Budapest’s trendiest neighbourhood, this boutique hotel is just a short walk away from St. Stephens Basilica, with three metro stations nearby that will easily get you anywhere in Budapest. Modern rooms with designer furniture, eclectic decor, and home to the popular TwentySix restaurant.

Hilton Budapest

This Hilton property is located in the heart of the Castle district, close to all the iconic landmarks like Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church (both a 1-minute walk). Rooms are available with amazing panoramic views across the River Danube.

Matild Palace

This luxury hotel is definitely worth the splurge for a special occasion trip to Budapest. With regal rooms overlooking the Danube river, elegant decor and a stunning rooftop terrace – you’ll struggle to find a more beautiful hotel in Budapest.

Hotel Clark

A sophisticated adults-only hotel set on the waterfront Víziváros neighbourhood along the Danube River, close to Buda Castle a 4-minute walk from the iconic Chain Bridge. Make sure to visit their epic rooftop bar, Leo, during your stay.

Budapest Card

Buying the affordable Budapest City Pass is a no-brainer. Valid for 24/48/72/96/120 hours, these passes will give you a huge range of discounts, free entries to attractions and unlimited free public transport. If it’s your first visit to Budapest, you’ll get so much value out of the Budapest Card.

Entry to the Lukács Thermal Bath is free with this pass as well as free entry to lots of museums & tours + discounts on various restaurants I’ve mentioned in this post.


When to visit Budapest

With endless activities, there is no perfect season to visit Budapest however I would recommend avoiding travelling in peak summer holiday periods (July/August) to avoid crowds. If you can skip travelling during January or February when the weather is undeniably miserable much like the rest of Europe, and a lot of outdoor attractions are closed. That being said,  you can easily warm up in one of the many thermal spas.  December would be the preferable winter month to visit, with charming Christmas markets and decorations across the city to distract you from the cold and mulled wine to spice things up.

The best time to visit Budapest is during Spring (March-June) and Autumn (September-November) with mild weather, long-ish days and not as many crowds.

How long to stay in Budapest (+ example itinerary)

A 2-night/3-day trip is the perfect ideal length for a first-time visit to Budapest, even better if you can plan your long weekend over a UK bank holiday. You could easily complete 10-15 activities within this post over the course of three days, though if you plan on being hungover most mornings you may want to give yourself four days to explore.

Here’s an example itinerary for a 3-day trip:


– Brunch at TwentySix
– St. Stephen’s Basilica
– High Note SkyBar
– Stop for a Chimney Cake at Molnár’s kürtőskalács
– Shoes on the Danube Bank
– Evening Danube River Cruise


– Fisherman’s Bastion
– Buda Castle
– Leo Rooftop Drinks
– Lunch at Mazel Tov
– Szimpla Kert Ruin Bar
– Dinner at Karavan Street Food


– Breakfast/Coffee at New York Cafe
– Heroes’ Square
– Vajdahunyad Castle
– Széchenyi Baths

Getting to & around Budapest

Budapest is a super quick 2-hour flight from London, arriving at Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport.

A taxi to the city centre directly from the airport will cost around 26€ and take 35 minutes. For a cheaper alternative, catch bus 100E directly from the airport – this 45-minute journey will take and cost 900 HUF (2.30€) and take you to the central stops of Kalvin Square, Astoria and Deak Ferenc Square

The city is mostly walkable however I recommend downloading the BudapestGo app where you can purchase a 72-hour travel card for £11.30 which can be used on the metro + all buses & trams.
Public transport is FREE with a purchase of the Budapest City Pass .

For any past midnight trips, the Bolt app is your go-to for ordering taxis. Otherwise, the public transport system is incredibly easy to follow via the BudapestGo app or Google Maps app.

Map of Budapest

Here’s my map of Budapest with all the recommendations mentioned in this post (with a few extras added!). 

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xx Kelsey

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