Top 15 Things To Do In Budapest
To me, Budapest is one of the few cities that i would ever consider living in, wander down the streets and get lost in a myriad of secret lanes and unearthed courtyards. My favorite thing about Budapest is that every door hides another hidden secret, a scrappy door worn by years of use and abuse could hold the most beautiful secret garden and bar. You just never know! And so, to start off your trip to Budapest and to get you exploring I thought I’d write out the top fifteen things to do whilst during your trip. Enough of me jabbering on about how great Budapest is, and lets get down to business…
1. Hang out in City Park (Városliget). Every city needs one, that guaranteed place to find all walks of people from the young trying to impress one another to the old couple sitting on a bench enjoying their ice cream. This particular city park is huge, and i mean HUGE; covering 302 acres (1.2 km2). You could always use your legs to get around but for something a bit more fun be sure to rent a peddle-bike for 1000HUF (4 USD).
2. Visiting Parliament wouldn’t usually make it on my list of top things to do anywhere unless there is something special about it. And well, the special thing about Budapest’s Parliament building is that it is a photographer's’ wet dream for a dusk shot due to its ornate neo-gothic architecture. It is also the third largest parliament building in the world and includes, rather surprisingly 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) of stairs. Daily exercise anyone?!
3. Take a dip in a Thermal Bath because we all know that's the real reason people flock to Budapest; to have a fancy bath. There are an abundance of thermal baths to choose from, over 125 in fact, and if you don’t have the time to scout them all out then it can be a bit daunting. Some thermal baths have gender only specific days and times, also each has its own ‘feel’; Turkish style, tourist traps, ‘locals only’. Although differing in styles, you can generally expect the same thing: a series of indoor (and sometimes outdoor) thermal pools, each with a varying temperature from sauna-heat to ice-cold plunging pools. Some spas offer treatments as well so be sure to see what’s on offer. The Széchenyi Baths in City Park are popular and come highly recommended. I opted for Rudas Gyógyfürdő baths which was built at the end of the 19th century and focuses on the healing power of the water. There is also a drinking hall which offers drinkable cures from three water springs: Hungária, Attila and Juventus. There is a good list covering various thermal spas here at
4. Check out Hero Square which is the largest square in Budapest dedicated in 1896 to mark the thousandth anniversary of Hungary. Located at the end of Andrássy Avenue and next to City Park, Heroes’ Square is one of the most visited sights in Budapest. Personally i found it a bit dull, there wasn’t really anything going on when i visited but, hey it’s still good to check it off of that tick list.
5. Stand tall next to The Hungarian ‘Statue of Liberty’, although it's official name is Szabadság Szobor. It was erected in 1947 in memory of the Soviet liberation of Hungary from Nazi forces during World War II. Expect to walk up high, it stands proud at 40 metres tall ontop of Gellért Hill making it a prominent feature of Budapest's cityscape.
6. Be a hermit at Cave Chapel which is on the way up to or down from the statue. Be sure to stop off at this Roman Catholic chapel built into Gellért Hill; it is like no other church that i had seen, its home is a natural cave formed by the thermal springs that make Budapest famous. The story is that Szent Iván-barlang, a hermit belonged to the Hungarian Paulite ordr, lived in the caves and healed people. The church was then founded in his place in 1926 by a group of fellow Pauline monks. You can simply pop in for a visit and explore this unique cave church or you can even attend service, which takes place three times a day.
7. Escape the humdrum on Margaret island which lies in the middle of the Danube river with access from Margrit Bridge. It has a somewhat bohemian feel, more so than the main City Park, you can often see groups with guitars or performers practicing their circus skills. There is a running track around the whole park, for those of you who don’t want to be too idle. If you search away from the paths you can even find medieval ruins to explore.
8. Stroll by the Memorial Shoes on the Danube Bank on the Pest-side and you’ll see a series of bronze shoes. The installation was the brainwave of film director Can Togay with sculptor Gyula Pauer. It honors the many people who were killed by fascist Arrow Cross militiamen in Budapest during World War II.
9. Jump in early at Ecseri Flea Market, can’t promise that you’ll pick up a bargain but I had a great time chatting to the traders and rummaging through all the items on offer. As always, finding a real bargain is part luck and part skill but either way i really enjoyed a few hours getting lost in Ecseri. It is not in central Budapest, but public transport does run to the site, and although the market is open on weekdays, the weekends are the most fun!
10. Buda Castle and Funicular Ride. Either walk up the pretty hill gardens to reach Buda Castle or take the Funicular Ride which gives you great views over Budapest. Built in 1275 the Castle offers an insight in historic Budapest, with its grandeur architecture. Stop at the top and take a panoramic picture of Budapest below. You can see it independently or book onto one of the many tours available. Connecting the banks of River Danube and the Buda Castle, the Funicular has been in service since 1870.
11. Walk over the Chain Bridge which was the first permanent stone-bridge connecting Pest and Buda. It’s a nice walk over the Danube river and can be most enjoyed in the evening when the lights of Budapest are at their brightest.
12. Stop for a photo at Fisherman's Bastion because this popular spot offers the best panoramic views of the entire city below. The Bastion itself is on the eastern side of Castle Hill.
13. Grab some grub at the Great Market Hall. Built in 1897 this popular market now plays host to regular souvenir traders and amazing food stalls! With three floors you’re bound to find something that takes your fancy. The ground level floor is butchers and farmers markets, the lower level is home to the fish market whilst the upper floor is handmade items. Enjoy mooching!
14. Find your inner child at Flipper: Pinball Museum. I didn’t know about this one at the time that i went, but i wish that i did; I am including it in this list so that you don’t miss out! The museum is home to a large number, over 100, retro arcade games dating back to the 1940s. For just a small entrance fee of 3000 HUF (11 USD) you can play them all... unlimited! Reading on Tripadvisor some people even said that they had spent over 2 hours there!
15. Enjoy a cocktail or beer at one of the many Ruin Bars, which are based in old dilapidated buildings ruin bars are a treat for every person’s taste, regardless if you want a fancy modern cocktail or a retro beer! Since the beginning of the popular Szimpla Kert the dawn of Ruin Bars has been upon us. There’s no big neon signs that tell you where the Ruin Bars and as some are sold out new ones are born. Be sure to ask someone where to go for a night of Ruin Bar fun!
Behind every door.
Budapest has been one of my favourite places to spend time, I’ve been a few times now. Now only is there lots to do both during the day and at night, there is also much to still discover and explore. Behind every door in Budapest you never know what you will find. It’s a secret world just waiting to be explored, so why not head there this weekend with a copy of this list and start your own exploring!