If you are a first time visitor looking to make sure you don’t miss out on the top sightseeing attractions in Budapest you’ve come to the right place! We LOVE Budapest and compiled a list of essential sites every tourist in Budapest needs to make sure they don’t miss!
Budapest is loaded with sightseeing. Budapest’s center it’s super huge so it’s possible to see everything on foot. Conversely you can choose to take a bus tour or even a boat tour to get sweet views of some of Budapest’s top attractions.
Despite its relatively small size the historical center of Budapest boasts a long and vivid history. With so much to uncover it’s definitely safe to say that Budapest is a haven for exploration. Budapest’s attractions sprawl over the banks of the Danube river, from castles to bridges to roman ruins to the Jewish quarter, there are endless things to see in this exciting city.
To make it easier for those visiting we put together a list of MUST SEE places in Budapest. So without further ado, here are fifteen of the best sightseeing opportunities that Budapest has to offer!
Make sure to read out guide to Budapest public transportation to make sure you can get around the city like a local!
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Table of Contents
The Best Sightseeing Attractions in Budapest
One of the most popular of Budapest’s attractions, Buda Castle was once the palace of the Hungarian kings. It features a huge Baroque palace situated on Buda Hill, almost 50m above the Danube. Bordering the impressive courtyard are the Hungarian National Library, Hungarian National Gallery, and the Budapest History Museum.
Looking out from the courtyard, visitors can enjoy stunning views of the Danube river stretching into the sprawling city beyond. It is possible to hike up the hill to the castle, but if you want to rest your legs look no further than the funicular railway. The railway looks simply adorable, and runs every ten minutes, so don’t fear the queues of tourists waiting to board!
If you really want to delve in and learn all about Buda Castle then this three hour tour with a historian might be just what you’re looking for!
Perhaps one of the most emblematic images of Budapest is that of the imposing Parliament building. Built in the 18th century, the building is a work of mastery in neo-gothic architecture. It is equally stunning during the day, or at night; when, illuminated against the inky backdrop of the city, it truly glows on the banks of the river.
It can be viewed from Szechenyi bridge, or from most of the attractions on the Buda side of the river. However, the best views are surely to be found by taking one of the many boat tours available in the city.
Tours of the Parliament building itself are also available. These tours allow visitors to marvel at the vast halls and lobbies, and the elegant crown jewels. For certain, this is a gem of Budapest Sightseeing that must be explored!
St. Stephen’s Basilica
Another unmissable Budapest attraction is the largest church in the city – St. Stephen’s Basilica. This church is the same height as the Parliament building, and city rules dictate that no other building can stand higher. Together, the parliament building and St. Stephen’s Basilica tower over the other buildings in the city.
From the outside, the imposing church cuts into the skyline, drawing the attention of everybody nearby. Inside, visitors are treated to a playground of stunning artwork – from statues to tapestries; the interior of this church is nothing short of decadent.
Perhaps one of the most worthwhile things to do in Budapest is to climb the 300 steps to the top of the observation deck; from here soak in some breath-taking panoramic views of the city. Once back at ground level, stop for a coffee outside the church.
Sermons are still held regularly throughout the year; and the church is also home to frequent organ concerts.
Situated on castle hill, this marvel of Budapest sightseeing looks as though it jumped straight out of a fairy tale. The enchanting feel of the Bastion is reinforced by the seven turrets, and the broad stone staircase that creates the entrance to castle hill.
Whether you are on the lower terraces or the upper towers, Fisherman’s Bastion provides some of the best panoramic views of Budapest, and it’s no wonder – the building was designed with these views in mind! Created to celebrate the 1000th birthday of Hungary, the castle was built for locals to enjoy those amazing views. Nowadays, it’s one of the most famous tourist attractions in Budapest.
On a sunny day, there’s surely no better way to take in the city than a walk along the banks of the Danube. With the vast river flowing alongside you, this walk is a great opportunity for some relaxed sightseeing.
The promenade stretches between Elizabeth Bridge and Chain bridge. From here, you can get a different view of Buda Castle as it rises above the city. It’s also possible to see the stunning Vigado concert hall.
Finally, along the promenade lie iron sculptures of shoes, commemorating the deaths of Jewish people executed on the riverbank and providing a stark reminder of the horrors of the second world war.
This church is another of Budapest’s attractions situated on castle hill. Matthias Church is a delight in art and architecture that just must be explored. From the outside, the neo-gothic style can deceive you into thinking Matthias Church is like any other European church. However, a glance at the colorful rooftop gives a clue to the wonders that are found inside.
Stepping inside the church, you are met with an explosion of art and color. Adorning the interior is a phenomenal array of medieval art – from stained glass windows to red and gold frescos; this is an unforgettable church.
Over on the Pest side and located next to the city park, this is one of the most popular locations for Budapest sightseeing. It is the largest square in the city, and the most famous. In the middle stands the iconic statue of the archangel Gabriel, and around him are the seven founders of Hungary.
Originally, the square also included five statues of Habsburg emperors; but after the second world war these statues were replaced by those of Hungarian freedom fighters. The square is next to the city park, and close to the Museum of Fine Art and the Hall of Art. It’s easily reachable by public transport and makes for a fantastic sightseeing opportunity.
Gellert Hill is home to some of the best sightseeing in Budapest. At the base of the hill you will find Gellert Baths – a stunning art-nouveau building that even features a wave pool! After a climb along the serpentine streets of the hill; visitors are treated to some fantastic views of the city.
From here, you can see the Citadel. It’s a 19th century fortress that locals say gives the best views of Budapest – especially at night. Another attraction here is the Liberty Statue. This is one of the few relics from the communist era that was not removed; since the message of freedom remains strong after the occupation.
Under the hill is one of the more unique Budapest attractions – the cave church. Gone are the spires and domes synonymous with European churches – instead this church is built into the hill. It’s a special treat of sightseeing in Budapest.
This is the largest park in the city and was the first public park in the world. In the center of the park stands a striking castle; surrounded by the sprawling gardens and vibrant greenery of the park. The giant castle and multiple playgrounds make this the perfect attraction for children.
Maybe one of Budapest’s most diverse attractions, the park is home to a range of exhibits and museums; as well as the world-famous Szechenyi thermal baths. There is also an artificial lake; which is open for boating in the summer and ice skating in the winter.
Located in the seventh district, this is the largest synagogue in Europe. It dates to the 1800s and is an intriguing mix of different architectural styles – most notably Romantic and Moorish. Its orange striped brickwork and nine-pointed stars stand out amongst the surrounding bars and cafes.
The synagogue functions not only as a place of worship, but also as a museum. Artefacts found inside give insight to the religious life of Jewish people in Hungary. Perhaps the most striking aspect of this building is not to be found in the museum, but in the grounds. A sculpture of a willow tree flows over the mass graves of holocaust victims, with family names of those killed inscribed in the leaves.
It’s a truly beautiful and poignant reminder of the recent history of the Jews in Europe, and an unmissable aspect of Budapest sightseeing.
Various Ruin Bars in Budapest
You’ve probably heard of the infamous ruin bars in Budapest. These edgy, artistic spaces have become a staple of the city’s nightlife and cultural scene.
The most famous of the ruin pubs are probably as well-known as the most famous sightseeing attractions in the city, and night after night they draw crowds of locals and tourists alike. It’s no wonder then that any good tourist guide offers a selection of ruin bars in Budapest for you to explore!
After the second world war many buildings in the city were abandoned, particularly around the Jewish quarter. To anybody else these crumbling ruins were useless and condemned, but to the local creatives and artists; they were a playground. So, the artists moved in and began adding their own soul to the dilapidated space. Using recycled furniture, surreal art pieces, and pretty much anything else they could find; these talented creatives were able to turn ruin pubs into unique edgy bars full of self-expression and fun.
Nowadays, ruin bars in Budapest attract people from all walks of life. From trendy bohemians, to bachelor parties, to family tour groups. They are a staple of any visit to Budapest.
The Best Sightseeing Attractions in Budapest – Aquincum
Long before the Austro-Hungarian empire, there was the Roman empire. The empire stretched across Europe, including Hungary. Remnants of this ancient civilization can still be found in Budapest, most notably the ruins of Aquincum. These ruins are from the second century and remained undiscovered until the 1700s.
Once upon a time Aquincum was a large settlement, adorned with mosaics and complete with an amphitheater. Today, it is a public museum showcasing the ruins of this ancient town. Each year, Aquincum museum hosts a small festival including Roman-inspired theatre performances (and gladiators!). So, this is a Budapest attraction well worth investigating, especially if you happen to be the city in time for the festival!
Szechenyi Chain Bridge
Originally constructed in 1839, this iconic bridge was almost completely destroyed during the second world war. Now fully rebuilt, it’s the perfect place to take a stroll and soak in some of Budapest’s most famous attractions, including the parliament building.
The entrance to the bridge is guarded by huge stone lions and at night, both the bridge and Parliament stand illuminated, glittering over the surface of the river. This makes Szechenyi bridge a wonderful spot for a lingering romantic moment, or some night-time photography.
Central Market Hall
After all that sightseeing, what better attraction to visit in Budapest than the bustling central market hall? Here you will find countless stalls loaded with various local specialties; including authentic Hungarian paprika. However, spanning three floors; it is not just paprika you will find; but a host of products ranging from everyday kitchen essentials to traditional Hungarian meals.
For the foodies among you, the best way to experience the central market hall is to take a guided food-tasting tour. These tours enable you to taste some of the best delicacies the market has to offer, and some even include wine tasting.
With all these concrete buildings making up the bulk of Budapest sightseeing, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the city is a concrete jungle. Solace from the bustling city life can be found in many places; but perhaps nowhere is quite so tranquil and beautiful as Margaret island.
Here you will find gorgeous parks just bursting with greenery. Visitors can rent bikes to make a faster journey around the island, taking in the views of the quaint musical fountains and expansive gardens. There are facilities for tennis and football, and a large public swimming pool. After a trip to Budapest filled with sightseeing, there’s really no better way to spend a sunny afternoon.
With that, we’ve finished our top 15 sightseeing attractions in Budapest. For more information on this amazing city, be sure to check out our other Budapest articles. If you visit any of these attractions after reading, be sure to let us know in the comments. Safe and happy travels!
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