Top Budapest Attractions

Favourite Sights in the City

View of Budapest lit up at dusk

Here are the most important attractions visitors to Budapest must see:

  • historic monuments
  • famous squares and streets
  • examples of great architecture
  • cultural attractions.

Buda Castle – Historic Monuments, Museums, Fine Cafes

the Royal Palace in Buda castle from Pest on a cloudy dayThe Castle Hill with

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 HUF 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/adult, 1 100 HUF for children

Castle Hill Abounds in Historical Monuments :

the white turrets of Fishermen's bastion and part of the Hilton Hotel on the left
Fishermen’s Bastion in Buda Castle
  • 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).

TIP: Buda Castle Hill gives home to several large-scale festivals and events throughout the year, so it’s a good idea to time your visit around one of these major events:

Festival of Folk Arts– a 4-day festival around 20th August, the Budapest Wine and Champagne Festival – first half of September on the terraces of the Royla palace.

 

TIP: If you do not like crowd then avoid these events, and time your visit in the low season: early or mid-spring, or mid-autumn.

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

vaulted stone cellar in Buda Castle
The Faust Cellar in the Castle

Address: Hess András tér 1-3, district I. (within the Hilton Hotel)

A historic cellar in Buda castle

Opening 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.

Book a Wine Tasting

Read more details about the Buda Castle District.

Chain Bridge and teh Royal Palace in Buda photographed on a Night Cruise on the DanubeTIP: See the Top Sights of the Hungarian Capital Protected by the UNESCO’s World Heritage Program.

A boat excursion is a convenient and relaxing way of exploring the landmarks on the Danube banks.

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.
Book A Danube Cruise

Read also our account of an evening cruise on the Danube.

Castle Bazaar and Royal Gardens, Buda

Várkert Bazaar-souther palace as seen from the gardenThe 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.

Chain Bridge and the Danube Promenade

teh bridge over the Danube on a slighly cloudy sping day
Chain Bridge, a historic stone bridge over the Danube

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 Danube Promenade – also part of the UNESCO’s World Heritage program- runs along the river between

  • Chain bridge and
  • Elizabeth Bridge.
old yellow tram car along Danube promenade with the number 2 displayed on the top
Tram 2 on Dunakorzó
a bronze sttaue of a princess on a snowy day on the railing at the promenade
The Little Princess statue, Danube Promenade

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.

TIP: to be close to the most popular attractions, stay in a city centre hotel. Central Budapest Hotels offer good-value accommodation in 3-star, 4-star and 5-star hotels.

Gresham Palace – Art Nouveau Splendor

Gresham Palace, now the Four Seasons Budapest Hotel
Gresham Palace, now the Four Seasons Budapest Hotel

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.

After an extensive restoration finished in 2004, the palace houses the Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace, one of the best hotels in Budapest.

The building is especially magnificent illuminated by night.

Gellért Hill – Hiking & Amazing Panorama

The dolomite cliff in Buda is one of the loveliest green spots in Budapest.

Gellert Hill in fall with the Statue of Liberty
Gellért Hill & the Liberty Statue

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.

A nice rendezvous spot for couples too.

Find out more about Gellért Hill.

St. Stephen’s Basilica & St Stephen’s Square

front view of the Basilica in daytime
St. Stephen Basilica

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.

Read details about the history and architecture of St Stephen’s basilica.

Parliament & Kossuth Square

the front facade of the Parliament illuminated at night
Parliament

The 3rd largest in the world and the 2nd largest in Europe, the Parliament Building is home to Hungary’s greatest treasure the Holy Crown of St Stephen.

The impressive neo-Renaissance building with its 96 m high dome dominates the Pest bank of the Danube standing between the Chain Bridge and Margaret Bridge on Kossuth Square.

Tram 2 and the M2 metro (red line) have a stop here.

You can easily get to the Parliament by walk when you’re wandering around the city centre.

TIP: Best to explore on a guided tour: our Budapest Grand City Tour has a stop here with guided interior visit.

Cafe TIP: Szamos Cafe on Kossuth tér, on the side of the square offers a wide range of sandwiches, gourmet pastries, cakes, coffee, hot chocolate and light lunch. There’s also a small Chocolate Museum & Shop on the 1st floor. Great view of the Parlaiment from the terrace.

The Central Synagogue in Dohány Utca

the 2 onion-cupoled towers of the Great synagogue on a cloudy day
Great Synagogue in Dohany Street

The Great Synagogue in Dohány Street, in district VII. is one of the world’s largest and most beautiful synagogues.

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.

You can explore the Central Synagouge, and other Jewish sights on a guided tour.

Andrássy Avenue-Opera House, Museums, Luxury Shops

The terrace of Callas Cafe next to the Opera House
The terrace of Callas Cafe next to the Opera House

One of my absolute favorite attractions in Budapest is Andrássy út.

The elegant avenue similar to Parisian boulevards, connects the inner city with Heroes’ Square and City Park.

It 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 Hungarian State Opera House an artfuly decorated building which you can explore on guided tours is also here.

fornt view of the Opera House
Budapest Opera

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.

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

  • a face terrace full of people on Liszt Ferenc terPesti Disznó,
  • Menza,
  • Cafe Vian, and
  • 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 at Andrássy út 60.
The House of Terror Museum at Andrássy út 60.

The House of Terror Museum is also located on Andrássy út should you want to find out about the terrible Nazi and Communist Era.

The exhibitions shed light on the violent things the Nazis, and later the organizations of the Communist party committed during those years (WW II and after).

Read more about sights and attractions along Andrássy Avenue.

Váci Street – High-End Shops, Some Great Architecture

a cafe terrace with many people, a lamp post and a Burger King logo on Vaci Str.
The terrace of Anna Cafe in Váci utca

Although Váci utca tends to be crowded during the tourist season, it is one of the best known attractions in Budapest.

On 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 Váci utca offers plenty of

  • luxury shops,
  • boutiques,
  • restaurants and cafes (mostly overpriced and geared towrrds tourists).

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.

It is also home to the iconic Coffee House & Cake Shop, Gerbeaud.

City Centre/Downtown Budapest

Budapest’s city centre, the inner city or downtown is district V., is 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).

It is where once the heart of historic Pest was.

The remains of the former city wall can be spotted at some places (e.g. in Kecskeméti utca).

The city centre is rich in

  • historic buildings,
  • lovely squares (Vörösmarty tér, Szervita tér, 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).

The classic interior of the Gerbeaud Cafe
The Vigadó Hall in Pest
The Vigadó Hall in Pest

 

TIP: Just walk leisurely, take in
  • the fine architecture,
  • the vista along the river bank (the Danube Promenade or Dunakorzó),
  • take a rest sitting on a bench in one of the parks (Erzsébet Square, Károly Garden),
  • have a lunch at a bistro,
  • pop in one of the small designer shops or art galleries

to really get the feel of the downtown

New Main Street (Új Fő Utca)

Kecskeméti utca - part of the Main Street
Kecskeméti utca – part of the Main Street

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.

Central Market Hall (Központi Vásárcsarnok)

the green and gold tiled roof and facade of the Great Market hall, street view
Central Market

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.

For fish and game take the escalator to the basement level.

The Great Market hall is an ideal place for buying Hungarian souvenirs (paprika powder, wine, fois gras, salamis and sausages).

paprika spice in red packaging, paprika paste,strings of red paprika and garlic at a stall
the spacious ground floor and the iron structure amd roof as seen from the 1st level

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

side view of the Whale building at daytime
Whale

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.

New York Palace – Luxury Hotel & Elegant Cafe

front view of the New York Palace's facade on a gloomy day
New York Palace

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.

round white-clothed tables surrounded with dark red chairs in New York cafe
New York Cafe

The ground-floor of the palace housed the famous literary coffee house, the New York Cafe which is 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.

Demonic bronze lamp holder-
people on the street outside the cafe

Margaret Island – a Green Budapest Attraction

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.

lots of green and flower bedson Margaret Island
Monastery ruins on 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).

City Park (Városliget)

The City Park is another sprawling green field behind Heroes’ Square/Hősök tere with lots attractions for children and grown-ups alike

  • Vajdahunyad Castle,
  • Fairy-tale Park and Pannon park,
  • City Park Lake,
  • the Széchenyi Bath).

Part of the lake functions as an ice skating rink in the winter months.

front view of Vajdahunyad Castle on a cloudy day
Vajdahunyad Castle – Houses the Agricultural Museum

Ice Rink in City Park (Varosligeti Műjégpalya)
Ice Rink in City Park (Varosligeti Műjégpalya)

The park has some fine restaurants like the famous Gundel, or the Bagolyvár Restaurant.

Thermal Baths – Fun, Relaxation and Healing

And last but not least, in a list about top Budapest Attractions the world-famous thermal baths must be included.

Swimming Pool inside the Gellért
Swimming Pool inside the Gellért

Outdoor Pools in the Széchenyi
Outdoor Pools in the Széchenyi

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.

Outdoor pools in summer in the Gellert Spa
Outdoor pools in summer in the Gellert Spa

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.

TIP: Take your time to visit some of the hidden attractions, secret places that mostly locals know about: lesser-known historic sights, off-the-beaten-path neighbourhoods, tucked-away parks, interesting shops.

Related:

Museums in BudapestStatue Park (Memento Park)Caves in Budapest

One comment

  1. We have just returned from 4 great days in Budapest to sum it up
    Amazing city with lots of history