Visit Budapest Attractions and Monuments, Top 25 list
Welcome to Budapest!
Whether you read a lot about the city before you came or you just jumped on a plane on a whim, I know you could use good local tips on what to do and see in Budapest. Let me give you the essentials in brief so you can pick whatever best fits your plans.
A city with an unbelievably rich history
Originally the unification of Buda, Pest and Óbuda, Budapest (or among locals, ‘Pest’ for short) is a super vibrant city proud of its rich history and full of exciting things to see and do. Locals and visitors both love the fact that in Budapest, there’s a bit of everything, from Roman ruins to Ottoman baths, and from cool museums to jazz cafés and ruin bars. In our guide about how to best visit Budapest, we’ll give you our top 25 picks of the best Budapest attractions so you can start discovering the city.
My favorite Budapest visit fun fact is that any street, any square and any district you end up in will combine remnants of all the eras the city has been through: newly built condos will stand next to communist prefabs, and turn-of-century villas. So devoting a day to just exploring aimlessly is not a bad idea if you have the time. And for the specific sights and tips, use our guide!
Explore with a Budapest Card
In addition to free public transport, the Budapest Card gives you free access to 12 museums, free admission to the Lukács Thermal Spa and various discounts from 10 to 50% on attractions, cultural programs and sights.
Tickets are available for 24, 48, 72, 96 or 120 hours - the clock starts ticking when you use it for the first time, so you'd better buy a regular ticket for the airport bus and use your Budapest Card when you start sightseeing! (If you want a regular public transport pass without additional discounts, you can buy it at any ticket vending machine). Also, you can bike in Budapest, rent a bicycle and visit some of Budapest's attractions by bike.
Visit Budapest: List of the TOP 25 BUDAPEST ATTRACTIONS
Budapest Sign: locations in 2023
Looking for your first selfie in the city? The most famous Budapest sign was located in Heroes Square but nowadays there’s no Budapest sign like that in the city. Instead there’s other different signs. One of the most famous sign is located on Margaret Island, right past the famous fountain near the entrance. Although this one is less attractive than the sign that was in Heroes Square.
If you don’t want to miss the current buzz, right in the Budapest center there is another very prominent sign that is becoming a must-visit: #HelloHungary sign on Erzsébet square:
PIC Budapest sign 2020 Commons.Wikipedia.org
In Budapest there is another very striking sign that is becoming a must-visit: #helloHungary sign on Erzsébet square:
Szimpla Kert, aka the first ruin bar
A pioneer of ruin bars, Szimpla is the best-known venue of its kind in Budapest. Located a very short walk away from Maverick City Lodge (also in Kazinczy street), it is the most popular meeting point of foreigners, but many locals also like hanging out here. Besides parties, it also hosts a farmers’ market on weekends as well as cultural events. A great place to start getting around – as right in the same street, you can also check out Mika Tivadar or Kőleves, both very nice garden bars a very short walk away.
St. Stephen’s Basilica: best view of the downtown
Credits: Photo by Daniel Olah
Dedicated to the country’s founder and first king, the Basilica is the most spectacular cathedral in Budapest, with breathtaking stained-glass windows and an amazing balcony around its dome offering a unique bird’s-eye view of the city. Another must-see, the Holy Right (Saint Stephen’s ‘incorruptible’ right hand) is kept in the reliquary. Fun fact #1: even though St. Stephen was our first Christian king, converting to Catholicism didn’t stop him from having his own rebellious uncle drawn and quartered. Read more about Hungarian history here!
Erzsébet Square with the Budapest Eye Ferris wheel
Erzsébet Square is one of the most popular parks in the city center, which together with neighboring Deák square is also the most frequent meeting point for young people. Enjoy a wine spritzer at Fröccsterasz, take a ride on the Budapest Eye Ferris wheel or check out Akvárium club, which is located underground in the park under a glass bottom pool. When the weather gets warm, locals swarm to the grass around Akvárium with guitars and bottles of wine, feel free to join the fun and make new friends! If you’re not afraid of heights, you definitely have to check out the Budapest Eye – it’s an unforgettable ride!
Dohány Street Synagogue
Budapest is home to one of the greatest synagogues in the world, which is located near Astoria in the old Jewish quarter – in fact this beautiful building built in the 1870’s in the Moorish Revival style was once the border of the Budapest Ghetto. It’s very much alive with not just services but also cultural events such as concerts throughout the year. The seventh district today is mostly known to young people as the party district of the city, but it’s also full of other fascinating Jewish monuments. Fun fact #2: the Central Synagogue in Manhattan is an almost exact copy of the Dohány Street Synagogue.
Gozsdu Udvar: a whole passage of bars and restaurants
Credit: Facebook @GozsduUdvar
This famous passage made up of six connected courtyards as well as the surrounding buildings offers a fine selection of restaurants, bars and clubs. If you’d like to see several places without having to walk around too much, Gozsdu is your spot where you can immerse yourself into Budapest nightlife. You’ll literally need several days if you’re looking to try ALL the Budapest attractions here. It’s conveniently close to Kazinczy utca, the beating heart of the party district as well as Maverick City Lodge.
Credit: Photo by Daniel Olah
A true symbol of the unified Budapest, the Chain Bridge was the first permanent bridge connecting Buda and Pest on the opposing sides of the Danube. Work on the construction was once halted by the 1848-49 revolution against the Habsburgs, but when it was finished, it astonished the whole region. Sadly, all bridges of Budapest were blown up in the Second World War, but luckily they rebuilt them all very nicely. Walk across from Pest to Buda to take the Funicular up the Castle Hill – or the other way and check out the business district on the Pest side.
This incredible building is the best example of the Hungarian Neo-Gothic revival, with a distinct tinge of eclecticism. Looking at the spectacular building, you’d think that the Hungarian Parliament buildings must have thousands of MP’s – in fact, only around 200, but the builders (just as was the case with the Opera House and many others) wanted to show Austrians that Hungarian architecture can get just as regal as the Habsburgs’. You can look around inside the Parliament building on organized tours available in several languages – and on the tour you can check out the Holy Crown of St Stephen.
Shoes on the Danube Promenade
To remember the turbulent and often tragic history of the city, the 60 pairs of shoes by the river honor the memory of the victims of the Holocaust shot into the Danube during WW2. Many locals and visitors consider the monument a place to reflect on the brutal past the country had to go through in previous centuries. It’s very close to the Parliament building, so you can walk over easily after you’re done with your tour.
If you visit Budapest for the first time you should definitely go to Memento Park. Imagine the biggest Communist statues relocated in a cool museum – in Memento Park, you can take a selfie with Lenin, sit into a Trabant and even watch an original secret police tutorial. A bit further out from downtown but worth a detour if you’re into Ostalgia!
Instant and Fogas Ház: biggest ruin bar
Credit: Facebook @fogashaz
Unique, hip and enormous, Instant and Fogas Ház merged in spring 2017 to open the biggest ruin bar in the city. Self-defined as an ‘enchanted forest’, they’re immensely popular with visitors and locals, from all walks of life and all ages. The vast party complex offers a variety of styles, and has managed to keep its original allure despite its growing size by also accommodating niche sidekicks such as Liebling and Lärm.
Gellért Baths: the most beautiful of all
The most beautifully built of all Budapest baths, Gellért (located below the hotel of the same name by the Danube at the Buda end of Freedom Bridge) is decorated with Art Nouveau furnishings, sculptures and mosaics. It’s slightly more expensive than the average thermal bath, but it’s an experience you’ll definitely always remember!
Castle Hill Funicular
If you want to visit the Buda Castle, you might as well arrive in style, right? Inaugurated in 1870, the Funicular originally served as the simplest way to reach the Castle District up until the first bus line up the hill was launched in 1928. 150 years on, it is still the most picturesque.
Overlooking the Danube and the Pest skyline, the Castle Hill with its panoramic views is the perfect spot to take impressive pics that all your friends will secretly envy. Check out the Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church (once the second largest church in medieval Buda), or just walk around on the cobblestone streets under the ancient walls to live the old Buda ambience.
A beautiful monument envisioned to commemorate Hungary’s leaders starting with the tribal chiefs leading the Hungarians into the Carpathian basin over a thousand years ago. Heroes Square conveniently connects Andrássy Avenue to the City Park – so it’s a perfect addition to a Pest stroll either way.
City Park (Városliget)
The best thing to do in this enormous park in the middle of the city other than strolling around is renting a boat and rowing on the Városliget lake. You can also go skating on the pond in the winter, when it is turned into the most popular ice rink in the city.
Margaret Island (Margitsziget)
The “Central Park” of Budapest is the favorite island of all locals – a spot-on green oasis right in the heart of the city. The perfect place to walk around, go jogging or cycling on a summer afternoon. The trams 4-6 handily stop in the middle of the bridge, where you can walk (RUN!!) inside, to the nagyrét (great field) in the middle of the island. There’s plenty of street food and several (fee-paying) swimming pools in case you were wondering. Enjoy!
The city’s most elegant street, Andrássy Avenue is not only home to the stunning Opera House or the House of Terror museum, but it also has a bunch of pretty popular and fashionable cafés and stores. Along Andrássy, Liszt Ferenc tér is the most popular square for outdoor restaurants.
Millennial Subway (M1)
Built to commemorate the millennium Hungarians have spent in the Carpathian Basin, the line is not only the first in Budapest, but also the first on the European continent (to be fair, London, off the coast of the European continent, had one before Budapest, but let locals enjoy their moment of pride!). The line is still used, in fact, you can ride it with a regular ticket or pass.
Even if you’re not into opera, you must see this splendid Monarchy-era building – you don’t need a ticket to walk around in the lobby or enjoy a drink at the café. It is newly refurbished, so it's worth to check out!
Liszt Ferenc Square
Looking for a nice place to have lunch or dinner? Liszt Ferenc Square, named after the famous Hungarian composer, has plenty of great restaurants (our pick: Menza). You can also find the Liszt Academy of Music here. Fun fact #3: Although Ferenc (Franz) Liszt was Hungarian by birth, he was so busy honing his music skills that he never really learned to speak Hungarian.
House of Terror
The dreaded political prison of several regimes is now a museum looking back on the horrible crimes once committed behind its doors. The exact same building was used by the Nazis and the Communists, and visitors now get to visit the startling basement where political prisoners would be held and tortured.
In the City Park, at the M1 stop of the same name, Széchenyi fürdő is a long-time favorite of many locals. Take a dip in the medicinal natural hot spring waters in eighteen pools, try one of the ten 10 saunas and steam cabins, and mingle with locals while enjoying outdoor bathing. Tip: if you’d like to see a Turkish bath in addition to this amazing Neo-Baroque spa palace, check out Király or Rudas.
Great Market Hall
The beautiful red-brick market hall is visited daily by tourists and locals alike – which means you can find souvenirs just as easily as sausages and vegetables. The market hall is right next to the equally impressive Corvinus University, which before the regime change (fun fact #4!) used to be known as Karl Marx University of Economics.
Buda Hills: hike inside the city
Besides numerous parks, Budapest also boasts beautiful hills not just surrounding, but also stretching into the city. Hint: take the Cogwheel Railway (Fogaskerekű) from Városmajor Park up Széchenyi Hill if you’re into a scenic hike while still in the city!
Aquincum Museum and Ruin Garden
Known today as Óbuda, Aquincum was once a border town of the Roman Empire, and its ruins can still be seen – not just in the museum, but also in random places such as the Flórián square underpass. There is also a (relatively small but cool) Roman amphitheater that you can visit. Fun fact #5: each year, amateur reenactors celebrate Roman festivities in Aquincum. So flip out your ancient Roman calendar and join them for Floralia or the Ludus Gladiatorum!
Have a safe trip! Recommended accommodation: Maverick Hostel, City Lodge or Student Lodge: The Best Hostel in Budapest.