Budapest is one of my favorite cities in the world. Of course, I have a special connection, because of my mother’s Hungarian roots. But, it’s also just the ideal European city. It’s never packed with tourists, it’s one of the most affordable Capital’s in Europe, many residents speak English, and of course, it’s gorgeous. I was lucky enough to experience a little bit of everything while I was over there. Now, when someone I know visits, these are the things I immediately recommend.
#1. Budapest Great Market Hall (Nagyvásárcsarnok)
When you go to the Great Market Hall, make sure you’re going back to your hotel directly after, because you will want to do some shopping! This is the place to buy gifts for all your friends and family (and of course yourself). The first floor is like the biggest Hungarian farmers market you’ve ever seen; fruits, veggies, meats, cheeses, spices, pastries, wine, pálinka. (Don’t forget to pick up some authentic Hungarian paprika!) On the second floor, you will find beautiful Hungarian embroidery, folk art, handbags, glassware, ceramic, and pretty much anything else you can imagine. There are also a number of restaurants and food vendors throughout the market, so you can grab a quick bite while you’re there.
#2. Széchenyi Baths
We just don’t have anything like this in the states. Over 100 years old, the beautiful Széchenyi Baths are some of the largest natural hot springs in Europe, with 18 pools, and 10 saunas. After walking through room after room of smaller pools, saunas, and steam rooms, you will find yourself outside at the largest pool. There, you might find some locals playing chess on the floating chessboards. It’s unbelievable. It’s like swimming at a palace. It is open year-round, including the outdoor area. We were comfortable outside, in February! Plan to spend a few hours there, or it won’t be worth it.
#3. Boat Tour Down the Danube
The boat tour is a great way to rest your feet for an hour or so, while admiring the beauty of the city. The tour offers views and insights to both parts of the country, Buda and Pest. Food and drinks are available on most tours. This will be your opportunity for AMAZING photos! You will be cruising past Parliament, under the chain bridge, and there are even a couple stops for you to get off the boat and get the best photo possible. We took this tour during the day, but I would love to go back and take it at night! The city is beautiful all lit up, and you won’t get a better view than from the Danube (except for maybe #7).
#4. The Ruin Bars
The ruin bars in Budapest are usually the first thing I tell people about if they are visiting. As the story goes, at the turn of the century, a bunch of bar-owners were looking for good spots to put their bars, pubs, etc. Someone had the idea to buy the old World World II ruins that still stood throughout the city. Many of which were structurally sound, but were missing basic amenities like a roof….or a floor. But who needs those luxuries? So a wave of trendy, derelict bars started erecting throughout the city. Many of these bars have mismatched furniture, sculptures, projectors showing everything from home videos to vintage films…you get the picture, right? It’s like a thrift store on an acid trip. My favorite, by far, was Szimpla Kert. Not only was it a spectacle, but they also had greasy bread! Another Hungarian essential.
#5. Hungarian State Opera House
If you are not lucky enough to see a show at the beautiful Opera House, at least stop by for a guided tour. Not only is the space beautiful, but there is so much rich history filling the theatre. On the tour, you will hear stories about everything from how it survived WWII, to funny anecdotes about Madonna. Some of my favorite stories I came home with, were from the Opera House.
Honestly, I’m not sure I can remember one word our tour guide said, because I was so captivated by the extravagant and grandiose Hungarian Parliament. The building is beautiful on the inside and out. Seeing the Holy Crown of Hungary was my favorite part of the tour – it felt like standing in the presence of royalty. If you’re lucky, you may even get to see the show of the guards.
#7. Fishermans Bastion
Not only does this look like a place straight out of Lord of the Rings, but you will not get a better panoramic view of the city than from Fisherman’s Bastion. It is also a good starting point for a walking tour. It is a short walk to the Buda Castle District, Matthias Church, and tons of shops and cafes.
#8. Museum of Music History
Okay I studied music in college, so I may be a little biased on this one. But I was nerding out in this museum! Handwritten sheet music from famous Hungarian composers like Kodaly, Bartok and Lizst – are you kidding me?! Also, there is an entire room of instruments that you can play. Were they meant for kids? Maybe. Did that stop us? Of course not.
#9. Beer Tour
If you’ve had enough history lessons for the day, end the night with a beer tour! My dad, the beer-lover and brewery owner, found this amazing Budapest beer tour for us. Not only is it a great way to find all of the cool bars in the area, but you get a locals opinions and insight into the local brews. It was five stops, with a beer at each stop.
With this list, I hope you will have just as magical of a time in Budapest as I did. Enjoy!
16 thoughts on “9 Things You HAVE to do in Budapest!”
I’d love to go to Budapest! Everyone I know who’s been there is already dying to go back!
I’m dying to go back! I was there for two weeks, and there was still so much I wanted to see! It’s a magnificent city.
So many great things to see and do. I especially would want to try the hot springs!
The hot springs were great – I wish I were able to see more while I was there!
A beautiful story about beautiful city! Thank you!
One of my favorite cities <3
Hello Anna, I will be visiting Hungary in June of this year. Most of my relative live outside of budapest so we will need to find Airbnbs in budapest. Do you have any suggestions? I have already gone ahead to look for places on the same street my mother grew up as a child on Csengeri Utca. There were so many great places but I am open for other suggestions.
We actually stayed at the K+K Opera Hotel for the whole trip! It was great – right downtown, and walking distance to ALMOST everything on my list. My advice would be to find somewhere near public transit, because you can get to everywhere easily through their public transit. The subway system is great there! Plus buses, trolleys, all of it is so convenient!
I am hoping to go in July of 2019.
I can’t wait! I want to spend more time in Budapest.
Thank you for the insight. 💖😊
It’s one of my favorite cities <3
Budapest was never on my radar until I started a travel blog- now it’s on our bucket list! Looks amazing!
It’s magical <3
I would love to visit Budapest, a friend is traveling there in a few weeks and I’m sure your post is going to be very helpful for her. The Opera house should be on the visit, it looks so beautiful.
The Opera house was jaw-dropping! Hope you can make it to Budapest someday!
Budapest is one of my favorite cities. You definitely gave me a couple of new things to see on my next trip.
Me too! These are all my favorite stops, but there’s still so much more I want to see! It’s such a huge city!