The below sites should give a first-time visitor to Budapest a snapshot of the city’s past and present. Refer to this map for the specific locations.
45-minute guided tour is just the right amount of time to appreciate its lavish interior without getting tired and lost in one of its 691 rooms. After the tour, stop by Liberty Square for more dramatic buildings from this period.#1 - Go inside the Parliament Building: Constructed during Budapest’s golden era as a capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, this monumental Gothic Revival building dominates its Danube bank. The
#2 - Take a stroll down Andrássy Avenue: Andrássy Avenue is Budapest’s version of the Champs-Élysées - a grand 2.3km boulevard that connects the city center with Heroes' Square and the City Park. Starting in downtown, you’ll pass fancy retail stores, then end up amongst beautiful villas that have been converted to embassies, taking in the heart of Budapest along your way. Be sure to pause at the Opera House and the House of Terror, and don’t miss some of the treasures hidden in the side streets.
#3 - Learn about communism in Hungary at the House of Terror: Democracy may indeed be the way forward, but we're still suffering the pernicious effects of four decades of a repressive communist regime. This museum, inside the building that once headquartered the Communist Secret Police, is a must-see for anyone interested in exploring Hungary’s past and understanding its present. (Here’s our list of Budapest’s best museums.)
#4 - Roam the streets of the Castle Hill: Budapest’s medieval Old Town is usually swarming with tourists, but if you go up here a little before sunset, after many visitors have returned to the Pest side, you should have the Buda Castle, Matthias Church, and the charmingly winding historic streets mostly to yourself. Read this step-by-step guide to get the most out of the Castle Hill.
#5 - Go to a hammam: Commissioned by Turkish pashas in the 16th century, three atmospheric hamams are some of the last remaining traces of the Ottoman century-and-a-half occupation of Budapest. If you’re into time travel and soaking in hot water, don’t miss them. First, read this guide about Budapest’s thermal baths to decide which one is best for you.
#6 - Walk the “synagogue triangle” in the old Jewish Quarter: Before Hungary’s alliance with Nazi Germany and participation in the Holocaust, Budapest was home to a thriving community of more than 200,000 Jewish people. The Jewish community was integral to the development of modern Hungary with their contributions to commerce, the arts, and sciences. Take a moment to read about Budapest’s Jewish past, and then visit the old Jewish Quarter in District 7. Three stunning synagogues, including Europe’s largest, are near one another here.
#7 - Discover the Palace Quarter: An increasing number of locals have been frequenting the Palace Quarter as an alternative to the overcrowded streets of the hyped-up Jewish Quarter nearby. With pre-war palaces and quaint courtyards, the Palace Quarter was once the most desirable - the playground for the wealthy nobility. As in the rest of the city, communism’s gray pallor transformed this area, but these serene streets are springing back to life again thanks to charming restaurants and cafés.
#8 - Explore the Great Market Hall: This enormous brick-and-steel indoor building in the heart of Budapest has been the city’ main market hall since its opening in 1897. While it’s popular among tourists, plenty of locals, too, come here for fresh produce. Upstairs, you will find food stalls and vendors of knick-knacks and tchotchkes.
#9 - Visit Újlipótváros, Budapest’s West Village:Újlipótváros is a little city within the city and a hidden gem that somehow flies under the radar of most tourists. With a 1930s modernist housing stock, this middle-class neighborhood looks strikingly different than the rest of city’s classical revival architecture. Lined with bookstores and trendy cafés, the main artery of the neighborhood is Pozsonyi Road.
#10 - Discover the coolest Buda neighborhood: No doubt that Pest is where most of the action is, but the stately Bartók Béla Boulevard in Buda gives it a run for its money. This revitalized area is teeming with cafés, bars, art galleries, and a local, bourgeois-bohemian crowd.
#11 - Stroll down the Danube promenade in Ferencváros: Unfortunately, cars in Budapest have more access to precious Danube River views than people. One exception is the green promenade running down from the Great Market Hall to the Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art. Along the way, you can pop in to the historic market hall, and the whale-shaped contemporary building where bars offer panoramic vistas.
#12 - Use BuBi, Budapest’s city bike system: With densely built streets and a flat surface, the Pest side of Budapest lends itself to be discovered on two wheels. With almost 1,500 bikes and 124 docking stations, Budapest’s self-service bike sharing system, BuBi, provides an excellent coverage of all downtown neighborhoods. You can pedal away for the whole day for the equivalent of less than €2 (within 30-minute intervals). Just keep your wits about you and be respectful to others sharing the road.
#13 - Walk or bike around Budapest’s Central Park: Margaret Island is a massive green land perched in the middle of the Danube River - no wonder that the royal family kept it close to its chest before finally selling it to the state in 1908. Bike around the island's manicured lawns or join packs of locals on the running trail stretching around the island.
#14 - Go shopping: Budapest's shopping options span from antiques to craft chocolate, and include plenty in-between. Think: local designer labels, high-end china, vinyl records, local wines, and more - see if the city's best stores offer something of interest to you.
Hungarian architecture. Rather than relying on Western European examples, Lechner's colorful ceramic tiles and curvilinear shapes took inspiration from Hungarian and Asian folk motifs. One of the best examples is the Postal Savings Bank from 1901.#15 - See one of Ödön Lechner’s buildings: At the turn of the 20th century, Ödön Lechner created a unique
#16 - Check out the award-winning M4 subway stations: A crisscross system of exposed concrete beams, playful lighting solutions, and customized designs lend a distinctively 21st century feel to the platforms of Budapest's M4 subway line. The Fővám Square and Szent Gellért Square stations, both designed by Hungarian architects, won the highly prestigious Architizer A+ Award in 2014.
#17 - Visit the scenic tomb of Gül Baba: Gül Baba, "father of the roses" in Turkish, was a charismatic Bektashi monk who died in 1541 in Buda, when the Ottomans occupied the city. His octagonal tomb (türbe) is the northernmost point of Islamic pilgrimage in the world and also a scenic and peaceful area with sweeping views of Budapest. For the best experience, climb up on Mecset Street through the rose garden, and leave the area on the other side down the winding Gül Baba Street.
#18 - Explore the Fiumei Road Cemetery: The “Père Lachaise of Budapest.” This vast land of 56 hectares (140 acres) close to the city center hides the beautifully landscaped garden cemetery where Hungary’s most famous citizens are buried. Enjoy a stroll through its towering limestone mausoleums and impressively designed tombstones while getting to know the country’s leading statesmen and artists, including Lajos Kossuth and Tivadar Csontváry. At the back, but accessed from outside, is the Salgótarjáni Street Jewish Cemetery, which boasts elaborate tombstones of the turn-of-the-20th-century Jewish upper class.
#19 - Discover the Bosnyák Square market: This chaotic, partially outdoor marketplace in the outskirts of Pest is the opposite of the organized and clean Great Market Hall downtown. Besides the standard fruits, vegetables, and meat vendors, Hungarian farmers sell homemade goods including jams, vegetable spreads, and fruit syrups in the back of the space. Don’t miss the little lángos eatery, which makes some of the best of this fried dough. For the best experience, go early on Friday or Saturday.
#20 - Try Hungarian food: Across the city, heavy traditional Hungarian food is being updated with healthier ingredients and inventive recipes. But make no mistake, Hungarians still love goulash and chicken paprikash, and there's plenty to choose from. You can try traditional Hungarian restaurants, modern establishments, or no-frills, everyday eateries.
#21 - Try Hungarian wine: Hungary’s most famous wine is Tokaji, the sweet dessert wine that has counted Voltaire, Thomas Jefferson, and Louis XIV of France among its fans. Hungary, however, also produces some excellent dry wines these days. Look for Furmint or Hárslevelű (white), or Kadarka (red) for varieties indigenous to the region.
#22 - Visit the food court in the Hold Street Market: This historic downtown market hall has transformed into a bustling food court where several local celebrity chefs operate fast-casual restaurants, and the area swarms with local office workers at lunch-time. My favorite food stalls include A Séf utcája, Buja Disznó(k), and Stand25 Bistro.
#23 - Eat in Budapest's Chinatown: With c. 30,000 residents, Budapest has the largest Chinese community in Central Europe. This of course means that plenty of excellent food options abound, be it Sichuan, seafood, or Chinese barbecue you're after. Budapest's Chinatown (Monori Center) comprises a wholesale center complete with 13 restaurants and five Chinese supermarkets. It's located a bit outside the city center, reachable in half-hour by public transport from downtown.
#24 - Grab a drink at a ruin bar: Budapest’s ruin bars started when derelict, pre-war buildings in the old Jewish Quarter, barely escaping the bulldozers, were transformed into atmopheric bars. They serve cheap drinks and feature a hodgepodge of flea-market furniture. Although it has become a tourist-favorite, Szimpla Kert, the city’s first ruin bar, is still the best one in Budapest.
ruin bars, that marries resourcefulness and locality. The ship used to be a Ukrainian stone-carrier lumbering on the Danube before being transformed into Budapest's go-to concert venue. It hosts A-level international and local bands almost every night of the week.#25 - Go to a concert on the A38 ship docked on the Danube River: This commercial-ship-turned-concert-venue is one of those unique Budapest creations, similar to
#26 - Experience the nightlife of the old Jewish Quarter: After the Holocaust, Budapest's Jewish Quarter was abandoned for decades. Recently, however, thanks to an influx of young people, these streets are home to a revitalized culture, teeming with cafés, bars, and restaurants. Packed with both locals and tourists at night, the area has become the city’s party district.
#27 - Mingle with locals: The best way to get to know a city is of course by meeting locals. Here are a few casual, laid-back bars, where you will be able to meet some Hungarians who hopefully will be glad to meet you.