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10 Awesome things to do in Budapest you should not miss

By Katalin Válóczi The Hungarian food-lover and architecture addict who came to Budapest in search of new sights and a new perspective
13 February 2020
10 Awesome things to do in Budapest you should not miss

Edited by Holly Jenson

Welcome to Budapest, Hungary’s vibrant enigma of a capital city. If I had to sum up my home town in one sentence I would say that it has everything to offer. With an amazing nightlife and so much art, music, history and architecture to be explored, I am still (after 12 years) finding new things to see in my amazing city. My favourite thing about this place is its amazing architecture and skyline, so I want to share with you my favourite viewpoints and sunset spots, as well as some other awesome things to do in Budapest so you can discover some of the hidden gems that visitors often miss.


Ruin Pubs

One of my favorite things to do in Budapest is exploring our rich history and architecture, but you might be surprised that our ruin pubs are some of the best places to do that. Szimpla Kert was the first one to open in 2002 and was originally a secret bar, only discovered by the most curious of locals. Since then, this converted factory has become world famous and the centre of Budapest nightlife, hosting parties, concerts and outdoor cinema screenings. There is a really cool maze of different décor to lose yourself in here; from balconies to booths within vintage cars, it may take you a while to decide where to sit with your cocktail. The best room in here is filled with glowing vintage tv’s, there’s a special kind of mood lighting in this pub! These bars are so full of history and unique to this city, they are definitely a Budapest must see.

Rudas Thermal Bath

Photo credit: welovebudapest.com/en/2017/07/27/4-budapest-thermal-baths-where-you-can-soak-in-history

Another thing that needs to be on your ‘Budapest not to miss’ list is taking a dip in one of our famous thermal baths. One of the most popular activities in Budapest, many locals are come to the baths to ease their aches and relax. The most well-known baths are Syenchenyi and Gellert, but Rudas is the best thermal bath in the city in my opinion. Originally a Turkish bath, Rudas is almost 500 years old and has some stunning architecture both on the inside and the outside that I could admire for hours on end. The best part of this place is the rooftop pool with amazing views of the city. You can float in the centre of the maze surrounded by bright arches and a beautiful skyline, you can’t find this experience anywhere else. To top it all off, you can bathe here until 4 am. Is there a better way to end your day?

City Park

The City Park area is one of the most secret places in Budapest and one of my favourite spots to relax. Although it has always been popular with locals, tourists often miss this hidden gem as it is not in the centre of the city. With a beautiful old castle and museum as well as peaceful grounds to be explored, this place should definitely be on your Budapest not to miss list! In the summer you can rent little canoes or rowing boats and spend an afternoon gliding on the lake and bask in the sunshine. In the winter the lake freezes over and becomes the city’s best ice skating rink! Whatever the weather, the City Park is a refuge for locals and visitors alike and an absolute Budapest must see.

Opera Hall

Photo credit: www.pinterest.com/pin/502784745876382813/?lp=true

Soon to re-open following reconstruction works, visiting the Opera Hall is one of the best ways to experience Bohemian Budapest. I really love coming here, I go every year to see the opera shows; they are always very moving and emotional. The architecture inside the hall is truly breathtaking. The rows of arches curve round in a Colosseum-style and the ornate ceiling has paintings so detailed you won’t be able to tear your eyes from them. Coming here to watch one of our traditional opera shows is one of the most fun things to do in Budapest and allows you to soak up our history and culture. I recommend this place to all my friends, I promise you won’t be disappointed.

360 Rooftop Bar

360 Rooftop Bar

Photo credit: www.therooftopguide.com/rooftop-bars-in-budapest/360-bar.html

360 is one of Budapest’s secret places and one of my favorite parts of the city. The bar has a beautiful view of Budapest’s skyline wherever you’re standing; it’s the best place to watch the sunset. In the summer, this is a great place to sit outside and drink Fröccs with the locals. White wine mixed with soda water, this is our version of Pimms and the best way to cool down in the heat. In the winter they convert the rooftop into a wonderland filled with heated igloos, so you can still enjoy the view when temperatures are below freezing. With a huge variety of local produce on their menu, this is also one of the best places to eat in Budapest. The fairy lights combined with the view create a dream-like feel which perfectly sums up our extraordinary city.

Margaret Island

Photo credit: greatruns.com/budapest-hungary-margaret-island

Margaret Island is another one of the great things to do in Budapest if you are looking from an alternative day in the city. The park is a really great place for runners as it has a path around the outside that measures an easy 5k (not easy for me though, I hate running!). The park has something for everyone; woodland trails, a playpark, a historic water tower… It’s wonderful for an afternoon walk. The Palatinus thermal bath is located here and is one of the best family-friendly places in Budapest. This bath is unique with a huge swimming pool for everyone to enjoy as well as a wave pool and slides to keep the children occupied. There is also a lovely musical fountain which has a show every hour in the afternoon; the water is always in time with the songs, it really is a spectacle! Margaret Island is a great place to escape the busyness of the city centre and still embrace Hungarian culture.

Fisherman’s Bastian

Photo credit: www.afar.com/places/fishermans-bastion-budapest

I know we’ve already spoken a lot about viewpoints, but there are just so many amazing ones here, they’re a Budapest must-see. My favorite one in the city is the Fisherman’s Bastion in the Buda Castle area of town. This is the best view in the city because you can perfectly see the parliament and the west side. The archways frame the Danube and there’s a sea of the red roofs that Bohemia is known for. While you’re here you can learn about the 7 tribes who founded the country of Hungary; today the castle has 7 towers to honor their memory. The original castle was built in the Middle Ages and guarded by the Fisherman’s guild, this is a wonderful place to soak up the city’s proud history and see an unbeatable view of Budapest.

Cycle Around Budapest

One great thing that I love to do in the city is taking advantage of the public bike system. Pick up a green bike at any of the major landmarks and see the sights from a different perspective, it’s one of the most fun things to do in Budapest. You can ride along Andrassy, the longest street in Budapest and pass all of the designer shops and the Grand Opera Hall. My favourite summer ride is to go north along the Danube and out of Budapest to a place called Szentendre. This beautiful village is filled with colourful and traditional Bohemian-style buildings and lines of patterned lampshades hang from the main streets. There are lots of independent shops and restaurants to explore and lots of fresh flowers everywhere, it’s perfect for a relaxed summer afternoon. I love to come here with my friends and would recommend it for anyone looking to discover Budapest’s hidden gems.

Buda Hills

Photo credit: fineartamerica.com/featured/1-lampshades-hanging-in-szentendre-hungary-richard-rosenshein.html

Budapest can feel like a concrete jungle at times so it’s great to head up to the Buda Hills for some quality time with nature. With lots of trails and excursions in the woods, the hills are really popular with mountain bikers, runners, and anyone looking for a peaceful walk. You can head to the Elizabeth lookout for a cool view of the city below, or use the chair lift next to it to reach the highest point in Budapest. You can see all of our most famous landmarks from here; Buda Castle, Saint Stephen’s Basilica, our lovely street markets…It’s a lovely way to get a different perspective. The Buda Hills are a lovely place full of locals and getting the monorail to the top is definitely one of the best activities in Budapest, don’t miss it!

Sziget Festival

Photo credit: martin-audio.com/news/press-release/mla-again-reinforces-record-sziget-festival

One of the most awesome things to do in Budapest is experiencing the Sziget festival. One of the biggest multicultural music and arts festivals in the world, this is the biggest event in Hungary. Usually nicknamed the ‘Island of Freedom’ Sziget is a week-long celebration of all things culture, full of colour and excitement. Big names such as Ed Sheeran, The 1975, Catfish and the Bottlemen and Florence and the Machine are on the set-list for 2019; it’s no wonder that tens of thousands of people come every year! There are over 1000 shows across 60 stages as well as art exhibitions and dance performances representing 100 nationalities. Grab a group of friends, a tent and some glitter and come and join in on one of the most fun things to do in Budapest.