Budapest is a flavourful and eclectic artist’s paradise. The Hungarian capital offers plenty of captivating buildings and attractions to those lucky enough to visit.
The late Anthony Bourdain once mused, “They said that, of course, Budapest is beautiful. But it is in fact almost ludicrously beautiful.”
It is. Budapest is also flavourful and eclectic—an artist’s paradise. When I visited in October a few years back the weather was unseasonably warm, which made averaging 30,000 steps per day effortless.
Hit all these sights in as little as three days, or take a week. Either way, don’t miss these Budapest gems.
1. Embrace the Danube
No trip to Budapest is complete without a stroll on the Danube River. The River spans 2,850km through a number of European cities. If you’re less inclined to walk, take a boat tour breezing beneath the eight bridges that connect Buda and Pest.
Hungarian Parliament Building and changing of guards
Wander the grounds of the Hungarian Parliament Building, impressive day and night. You might get lucky enough to see the choreographed changing of the guards.
Shoes on the Danube Bank
Take a moment of silence at the Shoes on the Danube Bank, the 2005 memorial to honour Jewish people who lost their lives in the Second World War.
Amber’s French Bakery and Café
Stop for a raspberry red velvet cake from Amber’s—you’ve earned it after the walk!
2. Visit the Great Market Hall Budapest (Central Market Hall)
If you’re looking for picnic ready food and drink, and souvenirs galore, saunter through the Great Market Hall, aka Central Market Hall. For savvy travellers, scoop a baguette, brie cheese, jam, eggs and vegetables—your breakfast will set you up for an immersive day ahead and cost less than $5.
And if you’re a distance away from the Hall, grab an espresso from Caffe Torino, you won’t be disappointed by this Italian delight.
3. Explore Buda
While most choose to stay in Pest, Buda is worth a day of exploration.
Citadel on Gellért Hill
Gear up for the steep 15-20 minute walk up Gellért Hill to the Citadel. The views of the city are expansive and definitely worth the jaunt.
Buda castle and funicular
Choose to walk Castle Hill or take the funicular to the top. Once at the top tour around the Castle grounds—it’s a photographer’s paradise.
Also on the Buda side is Fisherman’s Bastion, popular for its many lookout terraces and statues. If you plan on grabbing a bite in the area avoid Jamie Oliver’s. It’s full of tourists, overpriced and anything but special.
4. Hop onto Margaret Island
A hidden gem is none other than Margaret Island. The 2.5km island sits in the middle of the Danube and makes for a perfect place to laze away the afternoon. Wander through the rose garden, rent an alternative vehicle (think golf cart), enjoy the thermal bath (seasonal) and be sure to take a seat with others to enjoy the dancing fountain. The fountain dances to music five times a day, at 10:30 a.m., and 5, 6, 7, and 9 p.m.
5. Meander through the Füvészkert Botanical Garden
Start your day at Füvészkert Botanical Garden. When travelling, I find myself drawn to gardens for some quiet within the hustle and bustle. Wandering through bamboo, cacti and fountains, I concluded my soothing visit with a short nap in a lounge chair. Insider tip: arriving at opening means more peace—my travel buddy and I were the only two there!
6. Get a Thai massage
You can’t escape the allure of a Thai massage in Budapest. Each street corner suggests the benefits of a Thai massage, so one night, on a whim, I had my first Thai massage. 10/10 would return.
7. Take a thermal bath
Tourists and locals alike flock to Budapest’s thermal baths. The baths, said to improve blood circulation and cell oxygenation, while detoxifying and improving digestion are not only healthy, they’re deeply relaxing. Don’t skimp on time at the baths either—be sure to spend an entire day to get the most of your visit.
8. Visit City Park and Vajdahunyad Castle
A bit of a walk, but well worth given there’s more than enough to do for the day. Make sure you stop at Hiszteria Cremeria, Andrássy út, on your way. Unique and incredibly tasty ice cream flavours await!
The castle, built on the expansive City Park just so happened to be hosting a chimney cake festival. The festival boasted dozens of food trucks, each with its own spin on the classic Hungarian dessert. Give your calorie counter the day off and indulge.
Also in the area is the Budapest Zoo. While I’m still determining my opinion on zoos (I love animals, and rehabilitation of them, but wild animals in confinement makes me squirm), a walk through the grounds and a visit with each animal made for a nice way to finish the day in the area.
9. Tour the historic Hungarian State Opera House
The lengthy tour provides ample opportunity to learn of the history and take photos inside of the lavish Opera House. The tour concludes with a dramatic live show.
10. Get lost in the Jewish quarter
The bright and airy scene in the Jewish Quarter is one you won’t want to miss. Check out boutiques, alley art and gastronomy galore. If you’re a fan of European and Middle Eastern small plates and a comprehensive wine list, book a table at Dobrumba.
Now you’re set to enjoy your time in the Heart of Europe! And if you’re looking for a place to stay in Budapest, look no further than the InterContinental Budapest hotel.
Deana is a writer, content marketer, operations manager, and big dreamer. For her, travel amounts to architecture gazing, market shopping and people watching at sidewalk cafés. Most importantly, when traveling she wanders endlessly on foot.