Favourite Sights in the City
Here are the most important attractions visitors to Budapest must see:
- historic monuments
- famous squares and streets
- examples of great architecture
- cultural attractions.
These are the sights that we pass by the most often during our wanders in the city and recommend to tourists to include in their must-see lists.
The Castle Hill with the Royal Palace and Matthias Church in Buda is featured among the most popular attractions in Budapest in all guidebooks.
The district together with the Danube Bridges and the embankment is a World heritage site due to its importance played in Budapest’s history and development.
Getting to Castle District:
- by bus 16A or 116 from Széll Kálmán tér (trams 4,6, M2 metro),
- by funicular (sikló) from Clark Adam Square at the Buda end of the Chain Bridge, Ticket: 1 200 HUF/adult, 700 for children (if you plan to use the funicular for both the upward and downward trip then you have to buy a return ticket: 1 800 HUF/ 1 100 HUF for children)
Historical monuments are abound on Castle Hill:
- lovely old houses,
- interesting museums
- romantic walkways, and
- intimate cafes and some great restaurants.
One of the city’s best panoramic views can be admired from Fishermen’s Bastion.
Although the district’s history dates back to medieval times most of the buildings are from later era (17-19. centuries).
Festival of Folk Arts– a 4-day festival around 20th August, the Budapest Wine and Champagne Festival – first half of September, Pálinka & Sausage Festival in October on the Savoy Terrace of the Royal Palace.
Admission to the Castle District itself is free, but there’s entrance fee to the major monuments and the museums in the Palace.
Wine Tasting in Buda Castle – Faust Wine Cellar
Address: Hess András tér 1-3, district I. (within the Hilton Hotel)
a historic cellar in Buda castleOpening Hours: every day (excl. Tuesday and Wednesday) from 13.00 till 21.00
Complete your sightseeing in Buda Castle with wine tasting in a romantic stone cellar within the Hilton Hotel.
The vaulted cellar is part of the underground labyrinth system built by the castle inhabitants during the middle ages.
English-speaking wine experts will introduce you to the wines and wine regions of Hungary.
See more details about the Castle District.
TIP: See the Top Sights of the Hungarian Capital Protected by the UNESCO’s World Heritage Program. An ideal and relaxing way of exploring the landmarks on the Danube banks and admiring the beautiful vista is by going on a boat excursion.
For a trully romantic experience choose the Cruise with Dinner & Live Music starting every day at 19.00.
During the excursion you can enjoy fine food and drinks, authentic gypsy music, and the illuminated night cityscape of Budapest.Reserve in EUR
Read also our account of an evening boat tour on the Danube.
The beautiful historical building complex at the southern foot of Castle Hill had been completely renewed by August 2014. One of the most stunning works of the prolific 19-century architect Miklós Ybl was in a run-down state in last decades.
Known to locals as the Várkert Bazár, received new functions with the historical monuments restored to their original state:
- exhibition halls,
- a state-of-the-art underground event centre
- escalator up to the castle
- shops and a cafe make the sight one of the new landmarks of Budapest.
Another well-known Budapest attraction is the Chain Bridge (Széchenyi Lánchíd) spanning the Danube at the foot of Castle Hill.
Built in the middle of the 19th century the stone bridge with the lion bridgeheads was the first permanent connection between Buda and Pest.
The bridge used to hosted an annual summer festival titled the Summer on the Chain Bridge during which it is a pedestrians only bridge with colourful programs on weekends in July and August.
The Danube Promenade – also part of the UNESCO’s World Heritage program- runs along the river between Chain bridge and Elizabeth Bridge.
A walk along the promenade, or known by locals as Duna Korzó offers wonderful views of the Danube and the Buda side with the Gellért and Castle Hills. Tram 2 runs along the promenade should you wish to see a longer stretch of the river bank.
Read more about Budapest’s World heritage Sites.
While you walk along the river bank don’t miss one of Budapest’s architectural gems, the art-nouveau Gresham Palace on Széchenyi Square at the Pest end of the Chain Bridge.
The palace is especially magnificent illuminated by night.
The dolomite cliff in Buda is one of the loveliest green spots in Budapest. Gellért hill is one of our favourite places for weekend outings.
Winding walkways lead up to the top where the Citadella, a former fortress and the Liberty Statue stand.
The hill is dotted with groves and flowery parks; an excellent place for Sunday afternoon walks for the family or nice rendezvous spot for couples.
Find out more about Gellért Hill.
The church is the largest monument after the Hungarian parliament building, dominating the Pest side of the Danube.
The Basilica regularly hosts classical concerts including a fantastic organ performance. Inside you can see one of Hungary’s most treasured relics, the Holy Right hand of King St. Stephen.
The spacious plaza in front of the cathedral is flanked by cafes and restaurants.
There’s a Starbucks at the side of the square to the right of the Basilica (if you stand opposite the building); a great place to sip a latte and see the world go by at the small terrace during summer time.
Read details about the history and architecture of St Stephen’s basilica.
The Great Synagogue in Dohány Street, in district VII. is one of the world’s largest and most beautiful synagogues, so even if you aren’t religious you must see this magnificent Jewish monument.
Budapest once had a large Jewish community, the monuments of which are scattered in the former Jewish Quarter.
One of my absolute favorite attractions in Budapest is Andrássy út; an elegant avenue similar to Parisian boulevards, that connects the inner city with Heroes’ Square and City Park.
The avenue is lined with cafes and restaurants where you can while away by a cup of coffee and cake.
The Lotz Room in the Alexandra Book Cafe is worth a visit for its old world coffee house atmosphere, amazing decor and fine cakes.
You can also while away in the spacious two-storey bookstore that has a nice selection of foreign language books and magazines.
The most notable sight on Andrássy road is the Hungarian State Opera House, an artfuly decorated building which you can explore on guided tours.
Besides the Opera House, the avenue is a treasure trove of fine architecture so it’s well worth a long walk.
For a quick lunch or coffee, try Callas next to the Opera House. Their cakes are scrumptious, and they also serve splendid cocktails that you can enjoy on the terrace.
If you plan a longer walk, you can take a rest in one of the many sidewalk cafes and restaurants lining the road. Két Szerecsen cafe on Pesti Broadway
Liszt Ferenc tér and Nagymező utca, two side streets opening from Andrássy út, offer a wide choice of cafes and restaurants with outdoor terrace.
Some of the best places to stop for eating are
- Pesti Disznó,
- Cafe Vian, and
- Bohemia Bistro.
- Try Két Szerecsen Cafe & Restaurant (Nagymező utca 14.) for a fine cappuccino and tasty breakfast.
- The ice cream in Fragola (Nagymező utca 7.) is a must on a sultry summer day.
Andrássy Avenue and its environs have some unique, interesting museums:
- the Postal Museum in Benczúr utca,
- the House of Hungarian Photographers (Magyar Fotográfusok Háza, Mai Manó Ház) at 20. Nagymező utca,
- the Ferenc Hopp Museum of East Asian Art (Andrássy út 103.)
Find information on Budapest Museums.
The House of Terror Museum is located on Andrássy út should you want to find out about the terrible Nazi and Communist Era.
The exhibitions shad light on the violent things the Nazis, and later the organizations of the Communist party committed during those years (WW II and after).
Some tourists noted that a little bit more explanation in English would help foreigners to better understand the exhibits.
Read more about sights and attractions along Andrássy Avenue.
Although Váci utca tends to be crowded during the tourist season, it is one of the best known attractions in Budapest, and during a walk in low season (early spring or mid-autumn) you’ll be able to discover some nice, historic buildings, and monuments.
As a pedestrian shopping street – and one of the most beautiful ones in the world based on a recent contest – Váci utca offers plenty of luxury shops, boutiques, upscale restaurants, and cafes. Find out more about Váci utca and its attractions.TIP: Váci utca ends in Vörösmarty Square where the main Christmas Fair of Budapest is held each year, from mid November till end of December.
A great place to shop for wonderful folk art presents, taste good Hungarian food and sip fragrant hot drinks in the Christmas holiday season.
TIP: the Budapest Card provides free admission or discount entry to several museums and sights as well as free use of the city’s public transport system.
You can buy your card conveniently through a secure online system here (the 24-hour card costs 17 EUR, the 48-hour card is 27 EUR, and the 72-hour card is 33 EUR ( Free Delivery to Your Hotel!).
Budapest’s city centre, the inner city or downtown is district V., strictly speaking the area bordered by the Danube between the Chain Bridge and Elizabeth bridge and the Small Boulevard (Kiskörút). We Hungarians call this part Belváros (=inner city).
The city centre is rich in historic buildings, lovely squares (Vörösmarty tér, that hosts the Christmas market from end of November till the New Year, and home to the iconic Coffee House & Cake Shop, Gerbeaud, Erzsébet tér, Szent István tér where the Basilica stands), restaurants, cafes, shops, banks.
Most luxury hotels are also located here, especially on the Danube bank (Four Seaons Gresham Palace, Marriott, Intercontinental, Sofitel).
The renovated Vigadó Hall on the riverbank in Pest is home to concerts and exhibitions. You can view and learn about the history of the 19.-century building, originally called Redoute on guided tours (tickets can be bought in the Vigadó’s ticket office).
You can have a ride on the Budapest Eye from end of May till mid January. The 65 m high wheel offers unbeatable panoramic view of the whole city.Note: The Eye is currently being rebuilt into a bigger wheel so it is closed till spring 2016.
The New Main Street of Budapest is a a major development project of the Inner City (district V.) the 1st phase of which was finished in spring 2010.
The Új Fő utca runs between Kálvin tér and Szabadság tér, parallel with the Danube. Much of the traffic is directed away to create a cleaner, fresher, more pedestrian-friendly area in the city centre.
A unique, interactive water fall at the southern end of Szabadság Square is the highlight of the project.
Elegant lamps mimicking trees, comfy benches line the two sides of the street adding a cool contemporary look.
Cafes, restaurants are plenty in the neighbourhood, should you get peckish during exploring this new part of the Belváros.
TIP: Taste the Best Strudels in Budapest
One of our favourite place is the First Strudel House of Pest Restaurant and Cafe where you can taste the finest strudels in town.
The take away box with cafe is great if you’re in a hurry.
But for a complete culinary experience we recommend that you have a tasting menu to be able to sample strudels with various fillings.
For me the Central Market Hall is like a large treasure trove of fresh vegetables, fruits, meat, fish and culinary delicacies.
The spacious market at the Pest end of Liberty Bridge (Szabadság híd) however is famous for its architecture too. Built at the turn of the 19-20. centuries it was one of the most modern indoor markets not only in Budapest but in the whole world.
When I do my shopping there, I take my time and walk row by row to admire the attractively arranged produce and products.
For fish and game take the escalator to the basement level. My favorite store selling Asian specialties, and a wide variety of herbs and spices is located at that level too.
The Great Market hall is an ideal place for buying Hungarian souvenirs (paprika powder, wine, fois gras, salamis and sausages).
For Hungarian folk textiles and embroidery go to the first level. The first level also has some restaurants and buffets offering traditional Hungarian fare.TIP: since the two attractions are close to each other, you can connect visiting the Central Market with a walk in Váci Street. See other food markets in Budapest.
Budapest Whale – the City’s Newest Attraction
The Budapest Whale Cultural and Shopping Centre opened in November 2013. Apart from shops, restaurants and cafes, it will host cultural programs and exhibitions.
The unusual looking building on the Pest bank of the Danube is in the place of four 19th century public store houses (some of the original architectural elements were kept intact).
The New Budapest Gallery on the second floor is a place for modern art exhibits created by local artists.
If you are strolling along Nagykörút (Grand Boulevard), the grand building of the New York Palace on Erzsébet körút will catch your eye.
Once a headquarter of the New York Insurance company, the lavish building was converted into a 5-star luxury hotel by the Italian Boscolo Group between 2001-2007.
Read a detailed review of the New York Palace Boscolo Hotel.
The ground-floor of the palace housed the famous literary coffee house, the New York Cafe which had been considered to have been one of the most attractive cafes of the world at that time (turn of the 19th-20th centuries).
The New York Coffee House was also restored to its original glory during the hotel construction.
Some might find the interior too glitzy with all the gold gilded stuccos and pillars, fancy plaster, chandeliers, and ornate wood works but it’s a stylish place reflecting the grandeur of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy.
Prices are matched to this grandeur too, but a cup of tea or coffee is worth the price to see the amazing architecture and decor as well as to experience the grand coffee house atmosphere Budapest was famous for in the first third of the 20th century.
My favorite parts of the New York Palace are the demonic bronze lamp holders outside the building.
Besides Gellért Hill, Margaret Island (Margitsziget) is another of our family excursion spots in Budapest. Situated at Margaret Bridge, the island on the river Danube attracts nature lovers with its flowery parks.
Numerous ruins tell about the history of the island.
Jogging tracks run along the line of the Danube, and bikers, skateboarders also have lots of space to practice their favorite sport. Read more about Margaret Island (Margitsziget).
Part of the lake functions as an ice skating rink in the winter months.
The park has some fine restaurants like the famous Gundel, or the Bagolyvár Restaurant.
And last but not least, in a list about top Budapest Attractions the world-famous thermal baths must be included.
The capital city, and the whole of Hungary, abound in thermal springs with healing qualities upon which numerous spas and thermal baths have been built.
The thermal baths of Budapest can be divided into two categories:
Apart from these, there are several spa and wellness hotels in Budapest too, providing upscale accommodation with modern and traditional massage therapies and other wellness services.
Most baths have outdoor pools to enjoy in the hot summer months.
You can read more about Budapest baths with outdoor pools here.TIP: some of the spas (the Széchenyi in summer, the Lukács in autumn) host parties, should you want to try some unique way of night enetertainment: dancing on music provided by star DJs, laser effects, splashing, and drinking.