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fun things to do in Budapest

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There are a ridiculous amount of fun things to do in Budapest. Prepared to be instantly sucked in!

While it did take every ounce of motivation to get out and explore the city in the dead of winter, I still enjoyed myself and without a doubt will be returning – in the spring or summer of course.

This post is by no means an exhaustive list of things to do in Budapest, well because, I didn’t do everything.

However, I experienced all I could in 4-days, including a New Years Eve celebration on the Danube. More of that story to come.

Here are the top 10 things to do in Budapest:

  1. Gozsdu
  2. Great Market Hall
  3. Hungarian Parliament Building
  4. Fisherman’s Bastion
  5. Danube River Cruise
  6. Thermal Spa
  7. Caving
  8. Szimpla
  9. Budapest Christmas Markets (winter season only)
  10. Sziget Music Festival (summer season only)
fun things to do in budapest

Budapest city center

But first a brief Q&A

What language do they speak in Hungary?

Hungarian is known to be a difficult language. Give the following words a try:

Szia – Hello / Bye

Kérem – Please

Köszönöm – Thank you

Egészségedre! – Cheers

Igen – Yes

Nem – No

Is the Euro the main form of currency?

No. Hungary has its own currency known as the Forint (HUF). While they do accept Euros and major credit cards, it’s always best to carry Forints with you. Plus, it’s often cheaper.

So it’s two cities in one?

Yes and no. To my knowledge, the best way to describe Budapest is that it’s one holistic city with two sub-territories: Buda & Pest.

I was told by a local that if you are wanting to remember…“The Pest Side is the Best Side”.

From her comment, I could tell she meant Pest was more of the party side, while Buda was the more pretentious side.

However, I found both sides offer a mishmash of fun things to do.

fun things to do in budapest

How do I get to Budapest city center from Budapest Airport?*

*answers pulled from official Budapest airport site

100E Bus

100E is a direct shuttle bus that runs from the Airport to Deak Ferenz ter (city center). It leaves from Deák tér every thirty minutes from 04:00 to 23:30.

The first bus leaves from the airport each morning at 05:00, and the last one at 0:30. Bus 100E stops at the BKK bus stop at the airport between the two terminals on the arrival level.

200E Bus

From 4:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., take bus number 200E. A shuttle bus that runs from the Airport (terminal 2) to Kőbánya-Kispest metro station  (metro line M3).

From the Kőbánya-Kispest metro terminal, passengers can take the M3 metro towards Újpest Központ to reach the city center. It is possible to change to metro lines M1 and M2 at the Deák Ferenc tér stop in the inner city.

From 11:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. bus 200E, from 1:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m. night bus number 900 operates between Budapest Airport Terminal 2 and the South Pest bus garage.

Either bus line costs HUF 900. I personally went with 100E Bus.

You can, of course, take a taxi, but public transportation is significantly cheaper and doesn’t take much longer.

It’s also worth mentioning that once in the city, trams and metro lines run all over make getting around super easy.

fun things to do in budapest

Karavan Food Market for the win!

Visit Budapest Food Markets

Food markets spread across the city offering some serious grub. Surprisingly, a wide range of ethnic food options – Spanish, Italian, American, and more.

Karavan is a narrow sliver of outdoor food trucks tucked between apartment buildings. With a simple sign out front, you might miss it if you’re not actively looking for it.

Karavan makes for a great lunch spot.

Sample their local coffee roast, vegan burgers, and beer. Being from Vegas I really appreciated their “Las Vegans” food truck.

 

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Gozsdu is a must-see for many reasons. 1) It has tons of food options with my favorite being pizza and Spanish tapas. 2) The nightlife scene is great with bars, discos, and karaoke galore. 3) It’s near two ruin bars, which we will get to momentarily.

You may have heard Budapest has happening courtyards that are not visible from major streets. Gozsdu is one of them.

Plus a giant party hostel is located right next to the entrance. Keep reading to learn more about this fun hostel! It’s a place not to be missed.

Additionally, you will find the amazing Great Market Hall. If you are planning to walk around the city all day, stop by the Great Market Hall for fresh fruits, vegetable, and traditional Hungarian snacks.

Be sure to snag some Hungarian Paprika (a staple spice) to bring home with you.

Try Traditional Hungarian Food & Drink

Food markets aside, you must sample a bit of traditional Hungarian food and drinks. Budapest has an amazing culinary scene that can take up an entire trip.

Chimney Cake. The obvious and most popular choice, but for good reason. Seriously,

Chimney Cakes are better than Disneyland Churros. Shhh….that’s between us only.

If you are unfamiliar with Chimney Cakes, it’s a cone-shaped sweet dough coated with cinnamon and sugar on the outside, and inside, drizzled with Nutella, and filled with ice cream.

Like literally, I would sell most things in my house to have a chimney cake right now.

To balance out the meal try this. . . 

Stuffed Cabbage & Goulash. Rather than tell you about the specifics of these dishes, I am going to instead direct you, actually, order you to eat at Blue Rose.

Without a doubt the most traditional of all traditional Hungarian restaurants I ate at.

Have you ever walked into a place so local, people stop to look at you enter and take a seat? That was Blue Rose.

 

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To cleanse the palette so you can have more chimney cake order a round of this

Palinka: I love being a cheap date…to myself. Seeing as I am the one paying for all my travels, I can appreciate a single shot doing the trick.

All it took was one shot to get me feeling warm and fuzzy inside.

Did I mention it was, in fact, snowing outside? How else are we supposed to stay warm?

If Palinka is not for you, there are plenty of other options including traditional Hungarian wine. Try before you buy at Cultivini located in the heart of Budapest.

fun things to do in budapest

Elizabeth Square

Go Sightseeing at These “Awe-Inspiring” Places

Located in the heart of downtown is Elizabeth Square (Pest Side), a large green field playing host to local festivals, markets, and afternoon hangouts.

Two of the biggest attractions here are the Budapest Eye and Danubius Fountain. Tickets for the Ferriswheel run around 2,700 HUF.

Second to London and biggest in continental Europe is the Hungarian Parliament Building (Pest Side) and third largest in the world.

At the time of construction, Hungary was a much larger country that could accommodate such a large Parliament.

Today, this Gothic style building is by far one of the most spectacular sights in all of Budapest. Even more so at night. Though the inside is just as amazing.

Book your inside tour and learn even more about the past and present.

St. Stephen’s Basilica (Pest Side) is a Roman Catholic Basilica and the tallest building in all of Budapest. Second is the Parliament Building.

Though once a concert hall before a place of worship, you can still catch an organ concert.

However, the real attraction here is climbing to the top of the Basilica for a great view of the entire city. After all, it is the highest you can get.

Connecting the Pest side to the Buda side is the iconic Chain Bridge.

Known as the first permanent bridge to connect both sides, yet the most interesting part of the bridge are the real chains supporting the structure, as well as, the stone-carved guardian lion statues.

If you start from the Pest side and walk across you will be greeted by Castle Hill.

Castle Hill (Buda Side) is a collection of sights and activities from Buda Castle, Trinity Square, and Fisherman’s Bastion. Easily a day’s worth of entertainment.

fun things to do in budapest

Fisherman’s Bastion

Fishermans Bastion (Buda Side) offers fairytale vibes and panoramic views of the entire city. No wonder it’s a top instagrammable spot in Budapest.

Since being built, the purpose has always been the same; a lookout tower.

And great news for you off-season travelers. Fisherman’s Bastion is open 24/7, 365 days a year!

Entrance is free with the exception of the top walkways, which run around 1 euro.

Upgrade your experience and dine at their cafe overlooking the city as well.

Enjoy a Free Walking Tour. They are a great way to get acquainted with the layout of the city and learn from local guides themselves.

You know that facts about Parliament Building being the largest in Continental Europe? I have the free walking tour to thank for that knowledge.

Though Free, please remember, it is respectful to tip your tour guide at the end.

Visiting a thermal spa is easily one of the most unique and fun things you can do in Budapest. They are truly unlike anywhere else. Stop by one of these top spas:

  • Szechenyl Thermal Bath (the largest)
  • Lukacs Thermal Bath (the oldest)
  • Gallert Baths (best indoor options)

After relaxing above ground, head underground for an exciting Caving experience.

Did you know Budapest is considered the capital of caves?

Caving.hu is a great site that separates all the caving options by adventurous types, walking types, and those interested in geological cave tours. Just remember to wear warm clothes.

fun things to do in Budapest

Walking over the Danube River towards Castle Hill

Enjoy a River Cruise on the Danube

River Cruises in Budapest are unlike most others in other cities. Reason being, there are so many iconic places to see from the river such as the Chain Bridge and Parliament Building.

To date, spending New Year’s Eve cruising the Danube, toasting champagne while watching fireworks has been the most memorable.

To ensure you book a good cruise, check out one of these tours from Get Your Guide. I wouldn’t choose any other way.

Ruin Bars

Ruin bars are a great option if you are looking for fun things to do at night. No two ruin bars are alike. One could be popping with dance music and the other a quiet, reserved place.

Szimpla is Budapest’s most famous ruin bar. I’m sure you’ve heard of it well before reading this post.

But did you know Szimpla is essentially the godfather of ruin bars?

This popular bar trend was pioneered by Szimpla way back in 2002. Despite its increased popularity among tourists especially, Szimpla has always stayed true to its original self.

 

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Red Square is a soviet themed ruin bar with walls painted blood red from top to bottom.

I feel it’s always necessary to report two sides of nightlife – popular and lesser known. Red Square being the lesser known.

So if you’re looking for a small ruin bar visited more by locals than visitors, give Red Square a try.

The bartenders are great and not afraid to throw a few Palinka shots your way. Downstairs you will find it gets a little more sketchy.

fun things to do in Budapest

Christmas market at St. Stephen’s Bascillica

More Fun Things to do in Budapest by Season

Christmas Season

If you plan to visit during the Christmas holiday season, stop by one of many Christmas Markets such as:

  • Christmas Fair at Vörösmarty Square
  • Fashion Street Advent
  • Advent Feast at the Basilica

For more details about Christmas’ markets read this.

Summer Break

Sziget is an epic 7-day music festival. Basically the Coachella/Burning Man of Europe.

The 2018 festival is happening August 8-15 with tickets ranging from 25 Euros to 325 Euros.

What, you think it’s over?

Best Hotels & Hostels in Budapest

I don’t identify with being just a budget traveler, because the life of luxury is necessary every once in a while.

That’s why I’ve gathered a list of best places to stay in Budapest – from budget to luxury.

The Hive Party Hostel

The Hive Party Hostel is located right next to the entrance of Gozsdu in prime party location! The Hostel itself has its own ruin bar, hosts nightly drinking games, and organizes those free walking tours mentioned earlier.

Regarding the rooms, they are extremely nice with en-suites, central AC, giant lockers, and outlets for each bed. Can’t ask so much more in a hostel.

Tip: bring your own towel for it costs to rent them and they are paper thin.

For more party hostels check out these top 5.

Mercure Budapest Buda

Situated in the castle district near attractions and transportation, make Mercure your choice. A beautiful hotel for a great price. Rooms are spacious and decorated nicely. Plus, they have two restaurants and a bar on property.

Aria Hotel Budapest

Luxury is what Aria Hotel is all about. From their rooftop bar that overlooks the entire city to complimentary breakfast. Aria is a hotel you will never want to leave. Sleep in luxury and step out to all the main attractions. The best part of this hotel is the location, and of course, comfort!

Moral of this post and my ultimate goal is to prove that Budapest is freakin’ awesome and if you haven’t already added it to your Travel Bucket List then add it now. Also, share this so more people can see how incredible Budapest is!

Psst. . . Looking for more Europe trips? Check out a few of these posts:

Have you ever been to Budapest? Share your experience in the comments below!

This post contains affiliate links. I earn a small commission (at no cost to you) when you purchase through these links, which helps me keep my lights on and order pizza from Dominos! I am extremely grateful. Thank you.

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fun things to do in Budapest

This post contains affiliate links. I earn a small commission (at no cost to you) when you purchase through these links, which helps me keep my lights on and order pizza from Dominos! I am extremely grateful. Thank you.