In this Budapest travel guide, I show you the 40 reasons to fall in love with Budapest. I wanted this to be shorter, but there are so many things to love about Budapest. Read my local’s guide to Budapest: architecture and must-see tourist attractions, viewpoints, concert venues, nightlife in ruin bars and rooftop bars, must-try food and drink. I help you to discover all of it!
I prepared a “40 reasons to fall in love with Budapest” checklist for your next trip, download it below.
Architecture and must-see tourist attractions in Budapest
1. Walk along the Danube riverbank and Chain bridge
The Danube is the river of Budapest, it divides Buda and Pest. My favourite part is the riverbank and the view from the bridges. The panorama is always amazingly beautiful with the historical buildings.
Don’t forget to walk through the Chain Bridge (Lánchíd), which was the city’s 1st bridge! Be fast because the bridge will be closed from September 2018.
2. Budapest has Europe’s 2nd largest Parliament.
The Hungarian Parliament was designed by Imre Steindl in neo-Gothic style, inspired by the British House of Parliament. The construction was finished in 1896, on the 100th anniversary of the founding of Hungary. It is open for visitors, book your ticket in advance.
3. St. Stephen’s Basilica and Parliament are the tallest buildings
Both are 96 m high, with this height St. Stephen’s Basilica (Szent István bazilika) is the tallest church in Budapest. Visit the Panorama Lookout Tower by elevator or climb 364 steps. The panorama is worth the climbing. The ticket is cheap and the view is awesome! Find out more information about the basilica and the Panorama Lookout Tower.
4. Budapest Ferris wheel
Our ferris wheel is called Budapest Eye. The highest point of the ferris wheel is 65 m. It goes more rounds and you have to take off after 5-10 minutes. I wrote more about the ferris in my other post called Top 5 viewpoints in Budapest Hungary, recommended by a local.
5. Relax in the thermal baths
- Gellért bath is my personal favourite. The building is super beautiful with the mosaics and its decorated indoor pools. Aaaaand in summer, the outdoor pool is also in use, which functions as a wave pool in every hour!
- Rudas thermal bath offers a great steam bath and a rooftop jacuzzi with a view to the river and Gellért Hill.
- Széchenyi bath is the most popular and well known. The outdoor pools have a totally nice atmosphere with the steam during winter.
6. Climb Matthias Church
For the best panorama, you have to climb 197 steps inside the tower of Matthias Church (Mátyás templom) to the panorama terrace at a height of 46 m. Before or after the climbing, you should also check out the Fisherman’s Bastion (Halászbástya) and the Castle District. Read more about the church and other viewpoints in my other post.
7. Cute parks in the city
Budapest has many parks in the city. My favourites are a bit hidden, Károlyi garden (Károlyi kert) at Astoria (on the photo) and St. Stephen’s park (Szent István park) in Pozsonyi street (district 13). The most popular parks are the City park (Városliget) and Margaret island (Margit-sziget).
8. Travel by the cute Metro Line 1
M1 (Millennium Underground Railway) is the oldest in Budapest, operates from 1896. It goes under the Andrássy Avenue between Vörösmarty square and Mexikói street. The stations are very cute with the tiles and the vintage station names.
9. Get lost on the Heroes’ square
It’s not that hard to get lost on Heroes’ square while watching the 14 emblematic figures of the Hungarian history, the Seven Hungarian Chieftains and the 36 m tall pillar of Millennium Memorial topped by Archangel Gabriel.
It was built with the 2 museums (Museum of Fine Arts and Kunsthalle) for the Millennium, most of the construction was completed in 1900.
10. Visit the Central Great Market Hall
The huge market hall is decorated with multicoloured Zsolnay tiles, it was opened in 1897. It’s visited by locals and tourist as well, so it can be very crowded. The ground floor offers fresh products, you can buy some dried or powdered paprika and sausage as a souvenir 😉 The upper floor presents handicrafts, souvenirs and food stalls. Try out some goulash soup or lángos (I’ll write about it at the must-try food part).
11. Travel by chairlift
Zugliget Chairlift (Libegő) is a funny alternative way of transport in the Buda Hills. It goes between Zugliget and János Hill (János hegy), where Elizabeth Lookout Tower (Erzsébet-kilátó) is located, which is the highest point of Budapest. Read more about the panorama from Lookout Tower in my Top 5 Budapest viewpoints post. After checking out the panorama from the Lookout Tower, return to the city by chairlift, the view is better while going down. At the bottom, take bus 291 (to Nyugati Railway station) back to the city centre. Check out the tickets and timetable here.
12. Street art
Színes Város (Colourful City) paints the firewalls in the city. They started in the 7th district, but now we can see their murals under overpasses as well, not only in the city centre. This one is in the yard of Kőleves in Kazinczy street.
13. Check out the view from the Citadel, Gellért Hill
Gellért hill (Gellért hegy) has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage since 1987. A lot of tourists climb to the top to admire the magnificent view. Read more about the viewpoint in my other post.
14. Explore Budapest by boat
Discover the city from the boats of BKK (Center for Budapest Transport). The boat service (D11 and D12) operates from May to October between Római beach (Római fürdő) and Kopaszi dam (Kopaszi gát). The boats have many stations along the embankment, so you can take on and off wherever you want. Be aware, the ticket is available only for one journey. Check the timetables on the homepage of the BKK before planning.
15. Travel by tram 2
Tram 2 is considered as a tourist sightseeing tram, only costs a single ticket. It goes on the riverside of the Danube on the Pest side between Jászai Mari square and Rákóczi bridge. The vintage yellow tram passes by the Parliament, Gresham Palace, Chain bridge, Vigadó, Bálna and Palace of Arts.
Awesome nightlife, party and culture
The nightlife of Budapest is legendary. Everyone can find the perfect match.
16. Ruin bars
The 7th district is the best area to find ruin bars, where the abandoned houses have been filled with life, vintage furniture and a little hipster vibe.
The most famous ruin bar is Szimpla Kert (on the photo). On Friday and Saturday evening, it can be very crowded, you have to wait in the queue to get in. So I’d recommend to visit it during the day and choose another bar for the evening. Another famous ruin bar is Instant-Fogas (used to be Fogasház), which is a good party place, but also busy during the weekend.
Here are my other favourites: Anker’t, Ellátó kert, Kuplung, Csendes and Púder.
17. Enjoy a concert or party on A38 boat
Yes, on a boat! A38 ship used to be a Ukrainian stone-carrying barge. Now it’s anchored near Petőfi bridge on the Buda side. It’s a popular club with a concert hall, open-air terrace, restaurant and bar. The concert hall hosts famous bands from around the world.
18. Freedom on the Liberty Bridge
Liberty bridge (Szabadság híd) was closed to traffic due to construction works in the summer of 2016. Oooooh, I liked that summer, we could picnic on the bridge and just be there without cars. On four weekend of this summer, the bridge will be car-free again! Be ready from the 14th of July 2018 😉
19. Learn the most important word: Egészségedre
Okay, maybe not the most important… Egészségedre means Cheers. Kind of hard to pronounce it, but you will get help from the Hungarians because we like to drink 😉 Keep reading, I’ll tell you more about our drinks…
Compared to other big cities the prices are lower. Of course, it depends on the places you visit. We have fancy and expensive places as well, but most places aren’t expensive, so you can find quality meals and drinks on a good price.
21. Watch the sunset at the Danube
The sunsets are amazing from the embankment and bridges. You can find many bars on the Pest riverbank to enjoy the sunset: Esetleg in Bálna, Terasz at Március 15 square or Pontoon at Chain bridge…
22. Enjoy a drink at Pontoon, next to the Chain bridge
Pontoon is located at the foot of Chain bridge (Lánchíd) on the Pest side, so the Castle District is in front of you on the other side of the river. Have a drink or just sit on the side of the embankment…
23. Grab a drink and enjoy it on the grass at Akvárium
Above Akvárium Klub, you can find a big grassy area around the pool. Grab a drink at Akvárium or Fröccsterasz and drink it on the grass.
24. Beautiful girls and handsome guys
Yes, we, Hungarian girls are beautiful and our guys are handsome 🙂 Come and see!
25. Sziget festival, the island of freedom
You can meet me there every year, it causes addiction… Sziget festival is the island of freedom! You might wonder about the name, sziget means island, Óbudai island gives place to the festival. What a coincidence 🙂 It won the best European Festival Award more times because it’s not just a simple festival, the area of the island is changing into a small city during the middle of August. I could talk about it a lot, but it’s easier if you experience it by yourself! See you there!
26. Discover the hipster pubs at Madách square
In Madách square, a lot of bars are waiting for you, most of them have outdoor seats as well. Choose Castro Bistro, keksz, Telep, Központ or Hivatal.
27. Rooftop bars
Rooftops are the best! You might notice I like to enjoy the view from the top, so I adore the atmosphere of rooftop bars. One of my favourites is 360 bar. The view is incredible during daylight, sunset and when the lights are turned on at night. I haven’t tried all of them. Yet… These 2 are kind of fancy and pricey: High Note SkyBar next to the St. Stephen’s Basilica and St. Andrea Wine & Skybar at Vörösmarty square.
28. Contemporary Hungarian design at WAMP
WAMP Design fair is an event once (sometimes more than once) a month, when Hungarian designers showcase their design products, such as accessories, clothes, paintings etc.
Summer fairs are on Erzsébet square. Other times, the fair is hosted in Milleráris B hall, where the ticket is 500 HUF, which can be used as a voucher.
29. Buy Hungarian design products as souvenirs
Are you tired of pens and fridge magnets? I totally understand you, I don’t like fridge magnets on my fridge. Buy some accessories, beauty products, clothes, bags, notebook or postcard with Budapest graphic.
So here are few options to find the perfect Hungarian souvenir: mono art & design, wonderLAB, insitu, Printa Design and Stilshop.
30. Escape from a panic room
In Budapest, the escape rooms are very trendy and exciting. It’s so fun and sometimes a bit scary (in a good way) to solve the mystery and the puzzle. The most popular ones are Paniq room, Locked room, Mystique room, E-Exit escape game or Trap.
Must-try food and drinks
Lángos is a fried bread dough. The most popular (and my favourite) version is topped with sour cream and cheese. The best place for the traditional lángos is Retro Lángos at Arany János street metro station or Lángos burger at Karaván Street food. Would you like to know more about lángos? Read my other post about must-try Hungarian food.
32. Try out the special chimney cake (kürtős kalács)
The original chimney cake is coated only with sugar, cinnamon, cacao or whatever you choose. It has an advanced level. Visit Töltött Kürtős (Street Cakes) at Andrássy street, where you can choose fillings, toppings and extra toppings for your chimney cake cone. Ooooooh, must-try if you’re into special sweets. Read more about chimney cakes in my Budapest food guide.
33. Eat Hungarian meat stew and chicken paprikash
The Hungarian goulash and chicken paprikash (paprikás csirke) are seasoned with red paprika (almost every typical Hungarian dish), can be served with noodles (nokedli), egg barley (tarhonya), pasta with cottage cheese (túrós csusza).
Read my Budapest food guide to traditional Hungarian dishes and you will know what to order in a Hungarian restaurant. For that post, I prepared a guide for the side dishes with photos and descriptions.
My favourite place, where I always bring my foreign friends and what I recommend, if someone is asking for a Hungarian restaurant is the Gettó Gulyás in Wesselényi street.
34. Sunday Szimpla Farmers’ Market
On every Sunday, Szimpla turns into a breakfast and brunch place from 9 am to 2 pm. Farmers sell their own products, what they grew and made by their own hands. You can buy many kinds of meat, cheese, honey, jam, vegetables and fruit, spices and sandwich spreads.
35. Have breakfast or brunch
Budapest has a lot of breakfast & brunch places, so you don’t have to wake up early after the party. Have a breakfast on the terrace of Briós or choose the fancy Á La Maison (on the photo) or go to Fekete for tasty food and great coffee.
36. Choose the cute local coffee shops
You can find the big coffee brands here, but they are everywhere, sooooo visit a local café. I mentioned Fekete before or go to my other favourite Espresso Embassy.
3 Hungarian coffee shops get into the new Lonely Planet book called Global Coffee Tour. I agree with Lonely Planet, so don’t forget to try the coffees at Madal, Kontakt and My Little Melbourne.
38. Goulash soup (gulyás leves)
The soup is a mix of meat, vegetables and noodles flavoured with paprika and other spices. The mix of these ingredients is super tasty, must-try! This one on the photo is from the 1st floor of Central Market (Fakanál bistro). This red pot looks small, but it was a big portion.
I write about goulash soup and more traditional meals in my Budapest food guide.
39. Pálinka, the must-try drink
If you’re in Hungary, drink pálinka! Pálinka is made of ripe fruit. The most common fruits for pálinka are apricot, plum, cherry, pear. Be careful with it, it has a strong alcohol content of 40 to 70 % AVB. The right method to drink it: inhale deeply, drink (for one sip or more) and enjoy the fruity flavour during exhaling. Cheers! Or I could say Egészségedre!
40. Tasty Hungarian wines
Hungarian wines are super tasty. My favourite is dry red wine from Szekszárd. Hungary has huge and quality selection of white, rosé and red wines. Another famous white wine is the sweet dessert wine from Tokaj called Tokaji aszú.
That’s it, the must-try list for Budapest: 40 reasons to fall in love with Budapest. It could be shorter or longer, I wanted to share the must-visit places, must-try food and drink.
The short version: discover the attractions of Budapest during the day, eat a goulash soup for lunch, a chicken paprikash for lunch and finish the day in a ruin bar with pálinka 😉
Wow, now I’d like to eat a goulash soup… and a chimney cake… Maybe later 😉
Soooo have you fallen in love with Budapest?
Tell me, why do you love Budapest?
I prepared a “40 reasons to fall in love with Budapest” checklist for your next trip, download it below.
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