The below sites give a first-time visitor to Budapest a snapshot of the city’s past and present. It isn’t your first time in Budapest? Check out this list instead.
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 and 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: It can be difficult to enjoy Budapest’s medieval Old Town because it’s usually swarming with people. 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 essential 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 two hundred thousand 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 very popular among visitors, plenty of locals too come here to buy their fresh produce. Upstairs you will find some standing-only eateries and vendors of knick-knacks and tchotchkes.
#9 - Try Hungarian food: Across the city, heavy traditional food is being updated with healthier ingredients. But make no mistake, we still love goulash and chicken paprikash. These restaurants serve the best modern Hungarian food, try these for classic Hungarian flavors, and visit any of these for a no-frills, everyday local lunch experience. Another option is the Hold Street market hall, a wildly popular food court, where leading local chefs operate excellent fast casual eateries.
#10 - 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. However, we also produce some excellent dry wines throughout the country these days. Look for Furmint or Hárslevelű (white), or Kadarka (red) for varieties indigenous to the region.
#11 - Grab a drink at a ruin bar: Budapest’s ruin bars started when dilapidated pre-war buildings, barely escaping the bulldozers, were transformed into bars featuring a hodgepodge of flea-market furniture and cheap drinks. Although it has become a tourist-favorite, Szimpla Kert, the city’s first ruin bar, is still the best one in Budapest.
#12 - Experience the nightlife of the old Jewish Quarter: After the Holocaust, the Jewish Quarter was abandoned for decades. Recently, however, thanks to the 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.
#13 - 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.