Things to Do in Hungary
Flowing through the heart of Budapest, the Danube River is the lifeline of the Hungarian capital, as well as its geographic center, separating the hilly Buda district on the west bank from the bustling Pest on the east bank. The striking waterfront is also part of Budapest’s UNESCO World Heritage–listed treasures, home to landmarks such as the Szechenyi Chain Bridge, the Liberty Bridge, Buda Castle Hill, Matthias Church, the Hungarian Parliament Building, and Margaret Island.
The Hungarian House of Parliament (Országház) is one of the world’s most photogenic government buildings. Perched on the UNESCO World Heritage–listed banks of the Danube River, the mainly neo-Gothic structure features 691 rooms, a handful of which are open to the public—including the Domed Hall, where the Crown of St. Stephen is on display.
Perched on a hilltop overlooking the Danube riverfront, the Buda Castle (Budai Vár), or Buda Royal Palace, is one of Budapest’s most photographed landmarks. The magnificent palace dates back to the 13th century, but has been destroyed and rebuilt multiple times throughout history, most recently in a neo-baroque style.
One of the largest and most famous thermal baths in Europe, Budapest’s Széchenyi Thermal Baths (Széchenyi Gyógyfürdo) are one of Hungary's most visited attractions. Soaking in the mineral-rich baths, with startling blue pools set against a backdrop of a grand neo-baroque palace, is a quintessential Budapest experience. It’s also a luxurious one, especially when coupled with a visit to the spa, which offers everything from saunas and mudpacks to rejuvenating massages and balneal therapies.
Matthias Church (Matays-templom), is a top sight in Budapest's must-see Castle Hill district. This Roman Catholic church boasts neo-Gothic architecture and intricate detailing, from ornately tiled roof and carved gargoyles, to frescoes and stained-glass windows. Visit Matthias Church as part of a Buda Castle complex tour.
With everything from holy relics to frescoes, the neoclassical St. Stephen’s Basilica (Szent István Bazilika) is a must for first-time visitors to Budapest. Marvel at the architecture, the clock towers, the stained glass windows—and the preserved hand of St. Stephen, the first king of Hungary.
Nestled in the Danube River, Margaret Island (Margit-sziget) is an oasis in Hungary’s capital of Budapest. This verdant park is packed with attractions, including a pool, a spa, playgrounds, and a Japanese garden. When the sun is shining, locals and tourists picnic on the island’s green lawns and, in summer, listen to free concerts.
It's no surprise that the Széchenyi Chain Bridge (Széchenyi Lanchid is a top Budapest attraction since this 19th-century landmark offers fantastic views of Castle Hill. You can walk across for waterfront views, pose for a snapshot with the Buda Castle in the background, and marvel at the bridge's stone towers while crossing the Danube.
Heroes' Square (H?sök Tere) is a grand public space at the entrance to Budapest's City Park. Visitors find sweeping columns, statues, and monuments to Hungary's celebrated statesmen. A worthy place to visit, Heroes' Square is an ideal stop for visitors wandering the park, or before stepping into Budapest's well-curated Museum of Fine Arts.
Gellert Hill (Gellert-hegy) is best known for its panoramic city views, 19th century Citadel, and historic monuments. While the hike up Gellert Hill’s stone steps can be challenging, the sweeping vistas of Budapest and the Danube River from the top are worth the climb.
More Things to Do in Hungary
Fisherman’s Bastion, or Halaszbastya, is one of Budapest’s most picturesque lookouts. Nestled high on Castle Hill, the neo-Romanesque terrace was built between 1895 and 1902, in celebration of millennial Hungary. Though today’s structure is decorative, it sits on fortified walls that were used to defend the city throughout its early history.
Situated atop Buda's Gellért Hill—just west of the Danube—the Citadella is a 19th-century fortress that's a prime destination for urban hikers seeking some of the best views in Budapest. You can ascend the hillside to reach the fortification, stop by the small museum on World War II history, and marvel at the unbeatable panorama from the viewpoint.
Andrássy Avenue (Andrássy Út is an elegant Budapest thoroughfare not unlike Paris' Champs-Élysées or Madrid's Gran Vía. The avenue is known as an upscale area full of art nouveau buildings, ritzy shops, and chic eateries. Among them all, the State Opera House (Magyar Állami Operaház stands as a grand testament to times past.
This neo-Renaissance opera house (Magyar Állami Operaház) has an illustrious history as one of Budapest’s greatest cultural venues, with legendary composer Gustav Mahler having once served as director here. Behind the Miklós Ybl–designed facade, which features statues of Puccini, Mozart, Liszt, and Verdi, is a plush interior with gilding, marble, and chandeliers.
Budapest’s largest indoor market is a hub of activity, with hundreds of stalls spread over three floors. Housed in a striking 19th-century building, it’s a place where local chefs shop for fresh produce, tourists haggle over traditional handicrafts, and the upstairs food court serves delicious Hungarian cuisine.
Vajdahunyad Castle is a picturesque attraction nestled in Budapest's City Park (Városliget). Originally built in 1896 for Hungary's millennial festivities, the architecturally diverse complex includes the city's agricultural museum inside the palace. Wander the lovely grounds, or stop by museum exhibits on hunting, forestry, and wine.
The century-old Gellért Thermal Bath and Spa is one of Budapest’s largest and most luxurious spa complexes. Housed in a magnificent art nouveau building, it boasts a grand colonnaded indoor pool, multiple thermal baths, saunas, steam rooms, a rooftop wave pool, and a panoramic sun terrace.
Budapest is home to several bridges, and though the Elisabeth Bridge (Erzsébet Híd may not be the most famous, it's among the most important. Destroyed in World War II and rebuilt in the 1960s, today it's the city's most trafficked bridge, offers great city views if you walk across, and serves as the gateway to Buda's must-see Citadella.
Ranking as the largest synagogue in Europe—and the second-largest in the world—Dohány Street Synagogue is one of Budapest’s most striking monuments. Aptly nicknamed the “Great Synagogue,” it’s not only an architectural marvel but also an important part of Budapest’s Jewish history and heritage.
Budapest's Liberty Square (Szabadság Tér is among the most picturesque of the city's public spaces. Nestled in District V, the square is flanked by grand buildings like the United States Embassy and Hungarian National Bank headquarters. A stately Soviet War Memorial is the park's centerpiece, and the interactive fountain is a must-see.
Castle Hill (Várhegy) is the medieval heart of Budapest and the centerpiece of the Buda neighborhood. Part of the Budapest UNESCO World Heritage site, the district is home to the city's big-hitter attractions, including the royal fortress of Buda Castle, Matthias Church, and the Fisherman's Bastion. Stroll through Old Town’s cobblestone streets and you’ll find a wealth of historical sites, as well as spectacular views of the the Danube River and adjacent Pest neighborhood.
The Hungarian National Museum (Magyar Nemzeti Múzeum is the oldest public museum in the country. It preserves national heritage through diverse art and history exhibits as well as a trove of original documents. The 1848 Hungarian Revolution began on the museum's steps, and the palatial institution today remains a testament to Hungary's past.
With its maze of cobblestone lanes and wealth of historic landmarks, Budapest’s Jewish Quarter (District VII) is one of the city’s liveliest areas. The district has a harrowing past, as the site of the Jewish Ghetto during the city’s Nazi occupation, and it’s dotted with monuments and memorials. But in recent years, it’s also undergone regeneration, emerging as one of Budapest’s coolest quarters, full of cozy cafés, gastropubs, kosher restaurants, and live music venues.
Located steps from the Danube River in Budapest's opulent District V, the mid-19th-century Vigadó Concert Hall (Pesti Vigadó was restored after suffering damage in World War II, and today stands as a premier Hungarian music venue. The Vigadó—home to the Hungarian State Folk Ensemble—frequently hosts top-notch classical music concerts.
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