As the capital of Hungary, there’s a staggering choice of attractions in Budapest. This naturally scenic city is set by the shimmering waterfront of the Danube River, which is also where you’ll find most of the things to do.
The city is large and spread across several districts, but the biggest landmarks are focused on the historic centre of Buda and Pest. Plus, you can always catch the metro (the oldest of its kind in central Europe) to maximise your time. We’ll save you a search too, with our list of the top things to do in Budapest:
- Castle Hill
- Great Synagogue
- Memento Park
- Danube River
- Fisherman’s Bastion
- St Stephen’s Basilica
- Hungarian Parliament
- Chain Bridge
- Budapest Zoo
- Buda Castle
1. Castle Hill
For a magnificent view of the city, one of the best things to do in Budapest is head straight for Castle Hill. You can join the queue for the Funicular to take you to the top – it’s an experience in itself as this vintage line was built back in 1870, making it the second oldest in Europe.
Alternatively, to the left of the Funicular you’ll find the recently renovated Buda Gardens with a snaking pathway and escalator that also lead to the top of the hill. When you get there, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking panoramic views of the bridges of Budapest over Danube River, as well as the Hungarian Parliament. You’ll be standing in the shadow of the mint-green Prince Eugene of Savoy statue, too.
2. Great Synagogue
The Great Synagogue, also known as the Dohany Street Synagogue, is the largest synagogue in Europe and the second largest in the world. Built in 1859, it represents the long heritage of Jewish communities in Hungary.
The interior is resplendent with mosaics and stained glass windows. Inside, you can also discover the Hungarian Jewish Museum, as well as the Heroes’ Temple dedicated to those who served in the First World War. Outside, there’s the sad story of the Jewish Cemetery and the Raoul Wallenberg Holocaust Memorial Park dedicated to at least 400,000 Hungarian Jews who were killed by the Nazis.
3. Memento Park
Hungary was under Communist rule from 1949-1989 and during those 40 years there was plenty of time for Budapest to build up quite a collection of Soviet-inspired statues. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, the city tore down these colossal sculptures. But rather than send them to the scrap heap, they’re presented for your viewing at the unique open-air museum, Memento Park.
Stroll around the park and you’ll see huge stone statues of Lenin, Marx and Engels, as well as propaganda monuments dedicated to the labour movement and Communist principles. It’s certainly a fascinating spectacle to see these massive, politically-charged statues up close.
4. Danube River
Wherever you go for Budapest sightseeing, you’ll find that the Danube River is a constant companion. This mighty river flows through 10 different countries in Europe and actually splits the city in two – with Buda on one side and Pest on the other.
It’s also the place to head to spot the most iconic Budapest attractions, such as the eight great bridges including Chain Bridge, Margaret Bridge and Elizabeth Bridge. You could even join a cruise by day or night. If the weather’s good, enjoy dinner and drinks outside with the Hungarian Parliament and Buda Castle as a beautiful backdrop.
5. Fisherman’s Bastion
Carved in startlingly pristine white stone, this historic viewing terrace is the perfect platform for taking in all the sights. Get your camera ready for panoramic views of the Danube River, Chain Bridge and the Hungarian Parliament.
Before you step onto the terrace along Castle Hill, be sure to get some snaps of the nearby statues, too. Stephen I of Hungary presides over the bastion, while a huge Turul (a mythological bird) opens it wings at the top of the hill.
6. St. Stephen’s Basilica
Set in front of a large square, this grand basilica is one of the centrepieces of Budapest. It’s been a focal point since it was built back in 1905 in an ornate, neoclassical style. Inside, the sanctuary and altar are incredibly decorative with huge frescoes, colourful marble and beautiful golden embellishments.
It’s also worth taking the stairs (or lift) to the top of the main dome. Here, you’ll have another great perspective of Budapest’s attractions including Castle Hill, Buda Castle and Fisherman’s Bastion.
7. Hungarian Parliament
Gazing across the banks of the Danube River, you can’t miss the neo-gothic beauty of the Hungarian Parliament Building. Its intricate spires reach skywards, making it the tallest building in Hungary.
You may want to spend time admiring the façade, but step inside and you’ll find all sorts of fascinating exhibits. The building houses the Holy Crown of Hungary in the Central Hall, while the Parliament Museum hosts seasonal events and exhibitions throughout the year.
8. Chain Bridge
Chain Bridge is one of the most photographed of all Budapest attractions. It’s famed for being the first bridge over the Danube that links the two sides of the city, Buda and Pest. Built back in 1840 by English and Scottish engineers, the suspension bridge was considered a wonder of modern design at the time.
As you’d expect of a capital city, it’s dual carriage road is often very busy, but walk across and you can still feel the sway of the suspension. Look up and you’ll see the stone carving of a lion’s head of the archway, while mist rises from the river below.
9. Budapest Zoo
As it’s slightly further out from the historic city centre, it’s best to catch a Line 1 metro to get to Budapest Zoo. Welcoming more than a million visitors a year, the zoo dates back to 1866 making it one of the oldest in the world.
There are more than 1,000 animals on show here, ranging from rhinos to kangaroos and giraffes. The zoo is also divided up into different zones to match different species’ regions, such as America Tropicana, Savannah Zone and Australia Zone.
10. Buda Castle
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a sprawling fortress that stretches across an entire hill. Buda Castle has a long heritage, as there has been a residence for the rulers of Budapest in this location since 1247.
Get a ticket to explore inside and you’ll be wowed by the decorative interiors. It also houses the Budapest History Museum, which tells the story of the city over the past 200 years. That’s not forgetting the National Gallery, which hosts a great mix of local artworks and international exhibitions.
Now you know the top things to do in Budapest thanks to our handy guide, are you ready to book a getaway?
Posted: 3rd Dec 2018.