Budapest, the Hungarian capital, has seen a big increase in popularity over the past few decades, and it has quickly become something of a bucket list destination for any traveller wanting to see the very best sites that Europe has to offer. The city is steeped in rich history and culture, and it’s breathtakingly beautiful. There are countless fascinating things to see and do across the city, which is why I was thrilled to spend a short weekend there with my friend Sassy and my partner Nate last year.
Although a weekend was nowhere near enough when it comes to exploring this beautiful city, I felt I was definitely able to see exactly why people love to visit. I know I’ll be back to explore more one day, but for now here are some top things to see in Budapest that you need to consider adding to your itinerary:
Things To See In Budapest
Fisherman’s Bastion is a gorgeous lookout tower, build on the historic site of castle walls. Today, it serves as one of the best places in the city to get a great view, and parts of the Bastion are free to visit and walk around.
We paid a fee to climb up to the top turrets, but the views from the top are absolutely stunning, so it’s definitely worth it if you appreciate a good view and want to see the area from a unique perspective. It’s also much quieter up here so perfect for photos.
Top tip: if you want to experience Fisherman’s Bastion before the crowds, the best time to go is sunrise. In the evening as the sun starts to set, it’s very over crowded and busy.
An important national symbol for Hungary, Buda Castle is a wonderful place to spend some time, no matter what your interests are. In centuries past, Buda Castle was the residency of Hungarian kings and other royalty, but today, you can find the Budapest History Museum within the walls of the castle, along side the National Széchényi Library and the Hungarian National Gallery. Aside from the amazing culture you’ll find, there are also some fantastic views to see as the Castle is nestled on a hill, and you’ll be able to walk across the infamous Chain Bridge (which was unfortunately under construction during our visit).
Sunset Danube River Tour
If you have the time and want to add a bit of adventure to your list of things to see in Budapest, a river tour or cruise is an absolute must while in Budapest. There are many different tours along the Danube on offer, some with food and drinks included too, but the sunset tours and cruises in particular are spectacular. You will be able to see the city’s beautiful architecture light up as the sun goes down, and experience some of the city’s most iconic sites from a totally different angle.
Pro tip: look for the tour that has unlimited Prosecco included, this is by far the highest rated sunset tour in Budapest and for good reason.
St Matthias Church
St Matthias Church can be found on Castle Hill, and should be on everyone’s itinerary when in Budapest. Luckily, it’s right next to the Fisherman’s Bastion, so you can visit them both at the same time.
The church holds immense historical significance as it’s where centuries of Hungarian monarchs were crowned. Later, the church served as a mosque to the Ottomans, and today it’s a Catholic Church! Take an hour or two to explore the inside of the building and feel the history in the walls!
New York Café
New York Café is the perfect place to stop and enjoy food and drink with a really luxury feel to it. Often dubbed as the most beautiful café in the country, you can enjoy a selection of food and drink, including afternoon teas and cocktails. Opened in 1894, the New York Café was originally a coffee house inside the European headquarters of the New York Life Insurance Company and has since become a popular destination for people of all walks of life!
When we visited the walk-in line was extremely busy and so I highly recommend making a booking beforehand. I also recommend only visiting for a drink as unfortunately, I didn’t think what we had was worth the money we paid. While it’s a beautiful view and worth seeing, it’s not somewhere I would return in a hurry.
Try A Chimney Cake
Chimney cakes have started to take off all over the world, but they are a traditional Hungarian pastry, called kürtöskalács, so if you want to sample the original delicacy, do it while you’re in Budapest. Chimney cakes are cooked around a wooden spool, so they are hollow when fully baked – the outside should be warm and crunchy while the inside is doughy. You’ll find plenty of places offering this delicacy across the city, and you’ll find different flavours and toppings on offer too! My favourite is vanilla sugar.
Visit The Hungarian Parliament Building
You can get a glimpse of Hungarian culture, history, and government by visiting the Hungarian Parliament Building when looking for things to see in Budapest. Here, you can indulge in a guided tour or an audio guide which will take you through a series of jaw droppingly gorgeous rooms where you’ll see all kinds of fascinating treasures. The Hungarian Parliament Building is one of Hungary’s iconic pieces of architecture, and it’s a masterpiece whether you’re looking at it from the inside or the outside. If you have the time, visit at night when the birds circling the building are lit up like fireflies in the sky - it’s beautiful and I couldn’t stop watching!
Watch The Sunset At St Stephen’s Basilica
St Stephen’s Basilica is the biggest church in Budapest, and visitors are welcome to enjoy the wonderful interior of the building, where you’ll be able to come close with the mummified right hand of St Stephen. While the inside of St Stephen’s Basilica is undoubtedly worth a look, one of the best things to do here doesn’t actually involve going inside the building. Thanks to its prime location, just outside St Stephen’s Basilica is one of the best places in the city to capture both sunrise and sunset! All you need to do is find a seat on the steps at dusk and wait.
We did, however, head to the top of the Basilica for sunset. For six euros each we were able to get the lift to the top of the tower and although we got lost and ended up climbing a lot more stairs that we had planned, we discovered on the way down that there was a lift the entire way up and down (barring four or five steps).
This was definitely one of my favourite things we did while in Budapest as you can walk the full 360 around St Stephen’s, giving you incredible views across the whole city. With the sun setting in the background, it was absolutely incredible and a memory I won’t forget.
Leo’s Rooftop Bar
There is nothing quite like being able to enjoy a drink in a rooftop bar while watching the hustle and bustle of the city down below, and Leo’s Rooftop Bar is no exception! Here you can experience some of the best views in the whole city while enjoying some of the most creative cocktails I’ve ever tried. Although it was a special menu, I worked my way through a couple of the astrology-themed drinks and they were delicious.
Again, if the Chain Bridge wasn’t under construction, this would have been the perfect viewpoint to see the Bridge from above. You can still see Buda castle and the funicular perfectly, at least.
Spend a Relaxing Morning At The Szechenyi Thermal Baths
Spending a morning at one of Budapest’s most famous thermal Baths is a great way to relax and unwind. For a reasonable price, you’ll have access to several different baths that have been heated by natural hot springs in the earth. Your ticket allows you stay for the day which is easily doable with the many areas to relax, but if you’re short on time in Budapest, I recommend only staying for a few hours.
Top tip: purchase a ticket with a cabin, as this will give you a place to get changed and store all of your belongings.
Walk Through Heroes Square
Heroes Square has become an iconic destination to visit, and is instantly recognisable thanks to the two huge memorials on either side of this large square. These famous memorials were built to commemorate Hungarian kings and various national heroes, and there is a column with a winged angel between the memorials. This is a fantastic place for a wander, and it’s hard not to admire the statues adorning the memorials as you pass by.
Go Window Shopping On Andrássy Avenue
Andrássy Avenue is the place to go if you want to have a leisurely mooch. Here, you’ll find countless shops and boutiques, with a range of different price ranges. All this is underpinned by the stunning architecture that’s typical of Budapest – wherever you look there are beautiful buildings! We were able to cross off Andrássy Avenue as we walked to another destination, so make sure you check whether you’ll be passing by during your trip.
More Things To See In Budapest
For even more things to see in Budapest, check out Get Your Guide here.
I always have such good experiences with Get Your Guide and highly recommend booking them for all of your Budapest experiences!
I absolutely fell in love with Budapest and it’s undeniable beauty during my trip and rewriting this post has made me remember exactly why I want to return.