Budapest is a BIG place with plenty to see and do. The good news is that it doesn't have to cost you a fortune, there are plenty of things to see and do in Budapest for FREE! Buda and Pest, the two main areas of Hungary’s capital city, are separated by the mighty Danube River. Although they've been populated for centuries, before 1873 Pest and Buda developed relatively independently of each other, giving them each distinct atmospheres. Today, this adds to the charm of Budapest as a whole. This guide includes both sides of Budapest, but if you're looking for what to do on each side of the city separately, take a look at our Ultimate BUDAPEST What To See And Do Guide.
Széchenyi Chain Bridge - The Chain Bridge is famous Budapest’s landmark and its most important bridge as it was the first permanent bridge across the Danube in Hungary that connected Buda and Pest. The Széchenyi Chain Bridge was built in 1849 and at the time, its centre span of 202m was the second largest in the world. Make sure that you cross the bridge both in daylight to admire it's unique chain link construction and also at night when it is lit up.
Fisherman’s Bastion - This neo-gothic terrace was built in 1905 and gets its name from the fishermen who defended this part of the city in the Middle Ages. Today it is one of the most visited spots in Budapest where you can appreciate the architecture, the statue of King Saint Stephen, the first king of Hungary, and most impressively, enjoy the incredible panoramic views of the whole city. It's also a great spot to sit and people watch while taking in the historic atmosphere and the architecture.
Matthias Church - Also known as The Church of the Assumption of the Buda Castle, this seven-hundred-year-old Matthias Church is one of the jewels of Budapest, unmistakeably neo-Gothic in style and decorated with coloured shingles and elegant pinnacles. It is a historic building with an important history as two Kings of Hungary were crowned within its walls. It also makes for stunning photographs.
Sándor Palace - Located adjacent to Buda Castle Complex, Sándor Palace serves as the official residence and workspace of the President of Hungary since 2003. If you can, try to time your visit for the hourly changing of the guards. From here, you can continue to explore the Buda Castle Complex and adjacent ruins.
Buda Castle - First completed in 1265, Buda Castle overlooks the city from Castle Hill. This is where Hungarian kings once lived and today the Buda Castle Complex is home to two museums, the National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum. It is not necessary to visit the museums, we enjoyed just roaming around and through the castle grounds.
Liberty Statue - Erected in 1947, this statue commemorates “all who sacrificed their lives for the independence, freedom, and prosperity of Hungary”. The panoramic views from here are stunning and definitely make the climb to the top of the hill well worth it.
Csúszdapark - This is just one of the many big playgrounds situated on the grassy green Buda Hills. This park has slides and trampolines and is a good place to keep the kids entertained or just to relax.
Hike The Buda Hills - For the best and most peaceful views out over Budapest, spend some time hiking around the beautiful green Buda Hills between the Citadella area and Gellért Hill Cave. Be sure to find one of the many Kilátóterasz (observation decks) or even just a good rock, for the best views over Budapest!
The Hungarian Parliament Building - This elaborate Neo-Gothic Parliament Building is also the biggest building in Hungary and is every bit as impressive in real life as the many perfectly captured photos of it. We happened to be at the front of the building (non-river side) just in time to see the changing of the guards at 12:30, which although interesting enough, was not as spectacular as one may expect. See for yourself in our YouTube video or compare it to the changing of the guards at the Hungarian President Palace Guards (Sándor Palace). Personally, we enjoyed the half-hourly mist fountains (also just outside of the Hungarian Parliament Building) much more. The water jets are so fine that it looks like there is a mist floating over the square, similar to the effect of dry ice! Although the building is impressive up close, in order to see the whole building in its full glory, it is worth viewing it from the West side of the Danube River. The best time to do so is around sunset when you can also wait for it to get dark and for the building to light up in all its magnificent glory. There is plenty of place along the West bank of the Danube River to grab a seat and enjoy the beauty of Budapest.
Shoes on the Danube Bank - In addition to being a visual work of art, these waterside shoe sculptures are also a sombre memorial of those who were held to gunpoint, told to remove their shoes and then killed along the Danube riverbank during WWII. Take some time to read up on the tragic historical event so that you can understand the significance of this memorial.
Liberty Square - This public square is a nice place to enjoy a walk in the park while admiring the Art Nouveau style architecture of the surrounding buildings and learning a bit about Hungarian history from the many monuments within the park.
Wall of Water Dancing Fountains - This interactive fountain in just across from the Liberty Square Park Entrance. There is a strange fascination with being able to walk through this "Wall of Water" and it can entertain both young and old for ages!
Hold Street Market – This indoor market was established in 1891 but has been recently renovated. The modern market hall is divided into two large farmers’ markets where you can find fresh fruit and vegetables as well as Hungarian specialities. The Downtown Market is also a colourful gastro spot lined with bistros and street-food kiosks that brings a traditional countryside market atmosphere right into the heart of the city. Be sure to try some local Hungarian food here!
St. Stephen's Basilica - Named in honour of Stephen, the first King of Hungary, this church is of equal height to the Hungarian Parliament Building, which is said to symbolise that worldly and spiritual thinking have the same importance. At 96m, these are the two tallest buildings in Budapest and although it's well worth climbing up the 365 spiral stairs of Saint Stephen's Basilica to the lookout balcony for stunning views out over the city, you can also just appreciate the beauty of the church from the outside. You can grab a glimpse of the view in our YouTube video. The area in front of Saint Stephen's Basilica is a great place to hang out people watching. And while you're there, maybe grab a rose sculptured ice-cream from Gelarto Rosa!
Andrassy Avenue – This 2.5km long avenue dates back to 1872 and was recognised as a World Heritage Site in 2002. It is now one of the main shopping streets in Budapest, elegantly lined with trees and fun just to wander along as it leads all the way to Heroes Square.
Heroes' Square - Located a short metro ride from the city centre, Heroes' Square is dominated by the Millenary Monument, with the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in front. Flanking the square are the Museum of Fine Arts and the Kunsthalle Budapest, and behind it, the City Park opens out, providing access to Vajdahunyad Castle.
Budapest City Park - This is a public park for the citizens of Budapest which includes sports facilities, swimming baths, and even a boating lake which is transformed into one of Europe’s largest ice rinks in winter. The park is also where you will find the Budapest Municipal Zoo and Botanical Gardens. Just outside of the park you can find one of the largest sand timers in the world, The Time Wheel. This modern and colossal hourglass sculpture is designed to record the passage of 1 year with the passing of sand grains and is rotated every New Year.
Palace District – This is both a historic and hip, up-and-coming residential district area with a trendy, creative vibe. The architecture is stunning as many of the old palaces are located in this area. There are also leafy squares full of restaurants and cafes, artsy boutique hotels, independent galleries and of course, the Hungarian National Museum.
Central Market Hall – The Great Market Hall in Budapest was built in1897 and is the most beautiful and largest of all Budapest market halls. It can be very touristy, but it's still a great place to browse fresh goods, do some tourist souvenir shopping or even just enjoy people watching. Don't forget to make your way up to the 3rd level where you can taste some local Hungarian specialities as we did!