Before you read this article take a look at the previous post about a weekend in Budapest: you will find some information there about things to see, local specialties to try and a list of souvenirs to bring back home. This time I would like to tell you about the best 10 things to do in Budapest. You went on a spontaneous trip and you are looking for some ideas how to spend your time in Budapest? Or maybe you want to plan your city break? How about…
1. Travel back in time with a cup of coffee.
The city has many nice cafes, including historical coffee houses where you can soak up the atmosphere of ‘the old Budapest’. The most famous one is New York Café which was a home for writers and poets of the 20th century. Legend says that writer Ferenc Molnár wanted the café to stay open day and night so he threw its key into the Danube.
Ruszwurm, the oldest cafe in Budapest, was the most favorite one of Elizabeth ‘Sisi’, Austrian Empress and Queen of Hungary, who even sent couriers there to take cakes for her breakfast. Another great coffee house is Café Gerbeaud famous for its delicious cakes and ice creams.
Centrál Café, Auguszt, Astoria and Művész are also worth visiting but I encourage you to walk around the streets of Budapest and find your own hidden gems. We have discovered Komédiás Kávéház just like that, really nice cafe located next to the Operetta Theater. If you like the atmosphere of Kleines Café in Vienna, you will love this place too! Don’t forget to try delicious Dobos torta and other Hungarian specialties: Krémes, Gesztenye püré, strudels, Eszterházy and Oroszkrém torta.
2. Take a walk along the Danube.
Whether it’s day or night you will enjoy the view of the Hungarian Parliament Building and the Chain Bridge from the Buda site, it’s totally amazing! The Danube Promenade on the Pest site is a perfect place to watch the sunsets although, don’t forget to take a look at the Shoes on the Danube Bank memorial while walking there. Long walks are not for you? Catch the yellow tram number 2 or take a romantic cruise on the Danube.
3. Explore the Buda Castle Hill.
Take the Funicular railway from Chain Bridge up to the Castle Hill. Walk along the cobblestone streets of Várnegyed district, visit Buda Castle, Trinity Square, Matthias Church and enjoy the panorama of the city from Fishermen’s Bastion. If you have more time you can also visit Hungarian National Gallery, Széchenyi National Library and Budapest History Museum.
4. Relax at one of the famous thermal baths.
Budapest is the only capital in the world with healing water flowing beneath its grounds. There are eleven thermal-heated baths in the city, six of which with a history dating back to hundreds of years. The largest one is the Széchenyi Bath with an outdoor pool where you can play chess in the water with the locals. The Gellért Baths with its Art Nouveau architecture and an outdoor wave-pool during the summer months is also a must-see. If you have more time, I suggest you to visit also another thermal baths: Rudas, Lukács, Király and the lesser-known Veli Bej.
5. Walk down the Andrássy Avenue.
Andrássy Avenue is a boulevard full of stunning Art Nouveau style architecture and one of Budapest’s main shopping spots, with fine cafes, restaurants, theatres, Embassies and luxury boutiques. You can start you walk at St. Stephen’s Basilica, then go to the Elizabeth Square, pass the Hungarian State Opera House and walk down the boulevard reaching the famous Heroes’ Square and the green area of the City Park where you can relax at the Széchenyi Bath, visit the Budapest Zoo or sightsee the extraordinary Vajdahunyad Castle.
After long walk you can take the yellow M1 underground right back to Elizabeth Square. This historical line is the oldest subway in the continental Europe and it’s definitely another must-see attraction in Budapest.
6. Sightsee the Hungarian Parliament Building.
Explore the Hungarian Parliament Building: the symbol of Budapest and the largest building in Hungary. Tip: The one hour guided tours are free for EU citizens and 3 500 Ft (10 €) for the others, don’t forget to take your ID. Booking ahead by e-mail is strongly recommended.
7. Buy some souvenirs at the Central Market Hall.
Buy some souvenirs and try local food at the great 19th century Central Market Hall. The list of Hungarian specialties to try and things to bring back home you will find here.
8. Visit Váci Utca, the most famous shopping street in Budapest.
Take a walk along and window shop on Váci Street, one of the world’s most attractive shopping streets lined with beautiful buildings, cafes and fashion stores. This great pedestrian zone stretches between the Central Market Hall and Vörösmarty Square. There is lot of things to do and to see, but remember that the neighborhood is geared towards tourists, so the shops, and cafes are a bit overpriced.
9. Watch the Musical Fountain on the Margaret Island.
The Margaret Island provides a peaceful hideaway from hectic downtown Budapest with large green areas, flowery gardens, old trees, and lots of entertainment. One of the most well known attractions of the island is the Musical Fountain. Tip: Watch the show at night when the plumes of water and water vapor are illuminated by alternating coloreds lights.
10. Climb up the Gellért Hill.
Gellért Hill rises steeply right from the Danube and is considered one of the most beautiful parts of the city. On the very top of the hill is the citadel from the 19th century which is used nowadays as a lookout terrace where you can enjoy the most stunning panoramic view of Budapest.