With a skyline that towers over the banks of the Danube River, dividing the distinctive towns of Buda and Pest, there is much to explore in Hungary’s capital city of Budapest.
Rooted in dramatic history, a patchwork of treasured Neoclassical and Baroque architecture, sculptural palaces, spiritual sites, and vibrant squares boasting Eastern and Central European culinary gems, these highlights are just the beginning as you explore it all.
The Parliament of Budapest stands in stunning Gothic Revival glory on the banks of the Danube River. To capture the breadth and detail of the iconic building it’s best to view it from the other side of the water. Exploring the government complex thereafter, visitors are able to unpack the history of the structure.
It is the largest building in the country, the third-largest parliament building in the world, in a site built in the 1880s to honor Hungary’s 1,000th anniversary. The building is home to the Hungarian Crown Jewels, ornate statues, delicate paintings, and glistening treasures that reflect the country’s history.
The Fisherman’s Bastion, one of Budapest’s most famous monuments, offers some of the greatest views over the Danube. Its tall towers, representing the legendary Magyar tribes, lush courtyards hemmed between imposing defensive walls, and antique colonnades built around the turn of the 20th century exquisitely express the period's Neo-Romanesque design.
From lofty foundations laid by fishermen in the Middle Ages, you will swoon over spectacular panoramas that sweep across the Danube from Margaret Island to Pest. At sunset, boats pass lazily along the waterway, and the aroma of pastries from century-old bakeries fills the air.
The Szechenyi Baths is the largest “medicinal” bath complex in Hungary and central Europe. It’s famous for waters rich in healthy natural minerals, such as sulfates, calcium, magnesium, and more. Even those without ailments indulge in the soothing properties of the thermal pools, baths, saunas, and steam rooms.
The atmosphere is surprisingly tranquil on cold nights, when visitors relax in the warm water enjoying the steam rising around them that adds a touch of mysterious mist to the impressive city. Massages and beauty treatments are also available for those wishing to partake in a full spa-like experience.
Buda Castle, the Royal Palace of Budapest, is one of the most important heritage locations in the city, with archeologists having found artifacts dating back to the Stone Age. The lavishness of the former royal residence remains and emanates from the restored exterior and collective museums located on the grounds. These include the Szechenyi National Library, the Hungarian National Gallery, and the Budapest History Museum.
The majority of the medieval castle grounds were rebuilt in the 18th century in a Neo-Baroque style, and its palatial structure has now become a fashionable hotspot for night owls, who create a vibrant atmosphere in the courtyard at sunset.
Ruin Bars capture the unique history of Hungary in stylized shabby-chic atmospheres inside deserted buildings. Each has its own distinctive style, ranging from decorated with pictures of wild animals to dangling teeth, labyrinths, and public spaces tagged with art from local creatives. As you search the city’s back alleys for these fascinating bar bazaars, you will get the sense of hidden gatherings that occurred across Budapest during the communist era.
This experience will give you a true taste of Budapest’s pulsing nightlife, with bartenders serving iconic cocktails and Hungarian specialties, including Unicum, a traditional herbal liqueur.
Dohány Street Synagogue, Budapest’s Great Synagogue, dates back to 1859 and remains the largest Jewish house of worship in Europe and second in the world, only to Belz Great Synagogue in Jerusalem. The fascinating interior design leads visitors through the history of the Jewish community in Hungary, with Romantic and Moorish aesthetics setting the architecture apart from other Jewish sites in Europe.
The museum has a stunning collection of artifacts from around the world, including a 3rd-century Jewish headstone from Roman Pannonia and a handwritten book of the Burial Society from the late 18th century.
St. Stephen’s Basilica is Budapest’s premier cathedral and remains a popular attraction for visitors due to its impressive architecture, remarkable interior design, and gorgeous dome that provides a sensational panoramic view of the city. The cathedral is dedicated to St. Stephen, the founder of the Hungarian state, and was built in the 19th century.
The Neoclassical façade gives way to an interior that features restored Venetian mosaics representing allegories of mass. The holy relic near the high altar is the mummified right hand of Hungary’s first king. Visitors also enjoy 360-degree views of the Danube from the crown of the cathedral.
Danube Promenade offers one of the best ways to experience the city, with walkways connecting Elizabeth Bridge to Chain Bridge, and featuring plenty of heritage along the way. The nearly mile-long path along the banks of the Danube River offers remarkable views to the Buda side of the river, which feature the Liberty Statue, Fisherman’s Bastion, and boats making their way along the water.
The Danube Promenade takes you past restaurants, cafés, and lively Szechenyi Istvan Square, in addition to the stoic war memorial dedicated to the 3,500 people killed by the fascist regime during World War II.
From the royal and historic Gothic Revival walls of the Parliament of Budapest to the Neo-Romanesque observation deck of Fisherman’s Bastion, captivating cultural encounters at the Ruin Bars, and the inspiring European spiritual highlight of Dohány Street Synagogue, Hungary’s capital city offers an endless list of things to see and do.
To experience these top things to see and do in Budapest, explore our collection of featured Hungary tours and vacations or customize them with a Hungary travel specialist.