Visit Budapest Attractions and Monuments, Top 25 list 2019
Welcome to Budapest!! Whether you read a lot about the city before you came or you just jumped on a plane on a whim, chances are you could use local tips on what to do and see after you landed. Let us lay out the essentials in brief so you can pick whatever best fits your plans.
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 we’ll give you our top 25 picks of the best Budapest attractions so you can start discovering the city.
Szimpla Kert, aka the first ruin bar
A pioneer of ruin bars, Szimpla is the best-known place of its kind in Budapest. Located a 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 and 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 a very short walk away.
St. Stephen’s Basilica: best view of the downtown
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 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!
Dohány Street Synagogue
Budapest is home to one of the largest 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. The seventh district today is mostly known to young people as the party district of the city, but it’s also full of 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
This 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 attractions here.
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 Habsburgs, but when it was finished, it astonished the 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.
Looking at the spectacular building, you’d think that the Hungarian Parliament 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 majestic as the Habsburgs’. You can look around inside the Parliament building on organized tours available in several languages. The imposing building is obviously also home to 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.
Imagine the biggest Communist statues relocated in a museum dedicated to their living memory – 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
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 twentysomethings, locals and tourists alike. The vast party complex offers a variety of styles, and has managed to keep its original allure despite its growing size and appeal 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 scenic.
Overlooking the Danube and the Pest skyline, the Castle Hill with its panoramic view is the perfect spot to take fancy 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.
Margaret Island (Margitsziget)
The favorite island of all locals is a true green oasis right in the heart of the city – the perfect place to stroll around, go jogging or cycling on a summer afternoon. The trams 4-6 conveniently 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.
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 spots with fashionable cafés and stores.
Millenial 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). 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. As of spring 2019 it’s still being renovated, but you can take a tour every afternoon to see the splendid interior.
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. That said he was a proud patriot, which in turn makes Hungarians proud, even if a lot of them would never listen to classical music.
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 terrifying basement where political prisoners would be held and tortured.
A beautiful monument built 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 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.
Széchenyi Thermal Baths
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 commanding 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 and City LodgeThe Best Hostel in Budapest.