There are many fantastic experiences to be had in Budapest. From soaking in muscle-melting waters at centuries-old thermal baths, to romantic meeting points above the city and traveling back in time at a 19th-century coffeehouse, this guide to things to do in Hungary’s vibrant capital will keep you busy.
Here are some of Budapest's best activities.
Budapest’s neo-Gothic Parliament building dominates the curve of the Danube and is a true postcard superstar. It houses the Holy Crown (used to crown the country’s monarchs since the 12th century), as well as other royal jewels.
Not too far from Parliament, you’ll find one of the city’s most moving memorials – the Shoes on the Danube. The poignant monument honors the victims of the Holocaust who were marched to the riverbank on a dark winter’s day and ordered to remove their shoes before being shot and falling into the fast-flowing river beneath.
Planning tip: English-language guided tours of Parliament are available, but it’s best to book ahead.
Budapest sits on a patchwork of thermal springs – mineral-rich water spouts from the ground – hence the abundance of thermal spas, many dating back to Turkish times. These waters are said to be capable of curing just about anything, and soaking in a thermal pool is a top Budapest experience.
The world-famous Széchenyi Baths is the biggest spa complex in Europe, and while the location could certainly be described as a tourist trap, its majestic architectural elements and outdoor pools still make it an unmissable place to visit. Other spas dotted throughout Budapest also have special amenities, such as the rooftop hot tub at Rudas Baths.
Planning tip: Gellért Baths, with its stained-glass windows and colorful porcelain tiles, is a wonderful place to go if you want more peaceful plunging.
The Buda side's rolling hills are crowned by the former Royal Palace, one of the city’s most emblematic buildings. Razed and rebuilt several times through the ages, today it houses the Hungarian Natural Gallery and major temporary exhibitions.
Other iconic landmarks include Fishermen’s Bastion, with its unparalleled panorama of Pest's skyline over the Danube. The Gothic Matthias Church is just steps away on twisting cobble-stoned streets.
For coffee and cake, be sure to stop by Ruszwurm, the longest-running confectionery in Hungary. The Hospital in the Rock Museum, packed with wax figures and original medical equipment, was once a functioning hospital beneath the Royal Palace. The vintage funicular – one of the oldest funicular railways in the world – whisks you up to the palace in minutes. Alternatively, hop on bus 16, which has many stops throughout the city, or just hike up (it’s not as far as it seems, we promise).
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