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THE GRAND BUDAPEST TRAVEL GUIDE: HIDDEN GEMS AND MUST-DO EXPERIENCES

I won’t give you the basic “2 day itinerary to Budapest” article you can easily find elsewhere. Having spent extended periods immersing myself in this captivating European destination, I want to highlight numerous experiences I find worth exploring in the Hungarian capital through my curated ultimate Budapest Travel Guide. This way you can craft your own unique trip by selecting and prioritizing from a rich list of options curated by me.
Check out my ultimate Budapest travel guide and forget about being a basic tourist, let’s explore the city and create unforgettable memories!

Visit Buda Castle

Explore the magnificent Buda Castle on the Pest side of the city. As one of the Budapest’s most iconic landmarks, Buda Castle offers a captivating blend of history, art, and stunning architecture. Perched atop Castle Hill boasts breathtaking panoramic views of the Danube River and the city below.
You can immerse yourself in the rich Hungarian culture by exploring the castle’s various museums, including the Budapest History Museum and the Hungarian National Gallery.
To get to the top you can ride the iconic Budapest Castle Hill Funicular. Although it’s not very budget friendly (around $9 round trip) and the ride is only a couple of minutes long, it’s a fun experience that offers stunning views and a touch of Wes Anderson flair

Photo of girl at Budacastle, Budapest Travel Guide
Photo of girl at Budacastle, Budapest Travel Guide
Photo of girl at Budacastle, Budapest Travel Guide

VISIT Szechenyi Thermal Baths BUDAPEST:

Immerse yourself in the soothing mineral-rich waters of one of Budapest’s most famous thermal baths. Hear me out! The place is iconic but it’s not perfect. Nestled within a stunning Neo-Baroque/Renaissance palace, the place is a little ran down and it can get crowded but I had so much fun when I went so I still recommend it. We went early in the morning so it wasn’t too crowded. Be prepared to experiment in the baths with different temperatures, saunas, 15 indoor pools and 3 large outdoor pools!
Although this is a major tourist attraction you’ll get to experience a local feel as well!
*Cost: Around €27. You can rent a locker cabin to keep your belongings safe and to change clothes. Make sure to bring your own towel and flip flops.

Photo of statue at Szechenyi Thermal Baths BUDAPEST
Photo of girl at Szechenyi Thermal Baths BUDAPEST wearing an orange swimsuit
Photo of statue at Szechenyi Thermal Baths BUDAPEST

The Grand Budapest Bath Party “SPARTY”

Now, envision the same location transformed into a vibrant club on Saturday nights. If you prefer partying over a laid-back experience, “Sparty” is the ideal activity for you, offering a distinctive way to revel in the city’s nightlife.
*Ticket prices start at €60
I love to party, I really do but to be honest, this is not my kind of party. I’m just adding it here in case it’s something you’re into.
It looks something like this:


Gellert Thermal Baths:

The Gellert Baths are my absolute favorite. The Art Nouveau aesthetic of this place is absolutely beautiful. It’s also not perfect as it’s old and a little ran down but that adds to the charm (as long as it’s clean, I’m ok with that). This complex has many different areas with different types of pools you can enjoy, from very hot pools with 40°C water to freezing cold ones, saunas, steam rooms and more. It’s the perfect place to relax no matter what time of the year you go.
This place is very popular among locals who are lucky to get annual memberships to enjoy the benefits of the natural spring water and perfect for socializing. I’d be willing to move to Budapest just so I could do that!
*Cost: Around €39. Bring your own towel, flip flops, rent a locker/cabin and know that swimming caps are required in the pools.
Check out their site for more information here.


Go to Fisherman’s Bastion:

Having extensively explored Budapest, I can confidently say that Fisherman’s Bastion stands out as the most magical and picturesque location in the whole city. You can catch the sunset and stay once it gets dark as the place comes to live thanks to street performances. But the best experience you can have is by going for sunrise (during the Summer). Not many people make the effort of waking up so early to get there and they miss on the magic. The view from this castle looking landmark is unmatched, it’s something you definitely will not forget.
And of course, because there’s little to no people during that time, it’s perfect for photos! (It’s free before 9 am and after 9 pm)
*Matthias Church is located in the same complex as Fisherman’s Bastion. It’s a very beautiful building with unique architecture. I personally think appreciating its beauty from the outside is enough.

Travel photos at Fisherman's Bastion Castle, Budapest at sunrise
Travel photos at Fisherman's Bastion Castle, Budapest at sunrise

Explore The Hungarian Parliament Building:

Inside and out! You want to book a guided tour in advance as that’s the only way to get access to the inside of this incredible historical building.
I personally didn’t love the guides as they weren’t very charismatic/engaging but you do get to see unbelievable things, including the “Holy Crown of Hungary”. The crown jewels dates back to the early 11th century which is pretty cool! All the decor inside is absolutely stunning and is 100% worth seeing.
Tickets get sold out weeks in advance so you want to make sure you don’t miss the chance to experience it by booking in advance. It happened to me the first time I traveled to Budapest and I was pretty bummed about it, so when I went back that was the first thing I did.
Also, walk outside the parliament building and surroundings (Kossuth Square), it’s such a pleasant area! It’s also a great location for iconic photos.

Photo-of-girl-inside-Hungarian-Parliament-Building-Budapest
Photo-of-girl-inside-Hungarian-Parliament-Building-Budapest

STROLL AROUND THE DANUBE RIVER

Take a stroll along the iconic Danube Promenade, where you can soak in breathtaking views of historic landmarks like the Parliament Building and Buda Castle. There’s also many bars and restaurants around for you to hang out at but make sure you check TripAdvisor reviews so you don’t fall into some tourist trap.
Along this area you’ll also see plenty of operators selling tickets for a Cruise along the Danube River. If that’s something that interests you, you can do it there or you can book tickets online.

The Shoes on the Danube Bank

The Shoes on the Danube Bank in Budapest is a powerful memorial that honors the lives lost during a very dark time in history. As you walk up to the riverbank, you’ll see a row of 60 pairs of iron shoes – it’s a pretty moving sight.
Each pair of shoes represents the shoes left behind by Jewish victims who had to undress before they were executed and thrown into the Danube River during World War II.

Venture into Varosliget, Budapest’s beloved City Park:

This urban oasis invites you to explore lush green spaces, enchanting pathways, and serene ponds that comq e alive with every season. Home to iconic landmarks like VAJDAHUNYAD CASTLE and the Széchenyi Thermal Bath, Varosliget seamlessly marries historical grandeur with recreational delight. Whether you’re seeking tranquil moments by the water’s edge or immersing yourself in the park’s rich heritage, a visit to Varosliget promises a serene escape amidst the bustling heart of Budapest. This whole place is giving: Fantasy!


CHECKOUT MARGARET ISLAND (MARGITSZIGET)

Margaret Island is another idyllic break from the urban hustle of Budapest. It is in the middle of the Danube River and offers huge spaces with beautiful nature and cultural spots. There’s even an area that houses deers! Margaret Island has many serene pathways, opportunities for leisurely bike rides, and quiet spots for picnics. When the tide is out you can access a little beach under the bridge and you’ll get to appreciate the city from a different perspective.


Go to the famous New York Cafe in Budapest:

When you find yourself in Budapest, a visit to the New York Cafe is an absolute must for any coffee lover or lover of all things beautiful. Walking into this grand establishment feels like stepping into a different era altogether. The atmosphere is opulent, with ornate chandeliers, gilded decorations, and intricate details that make you feel like you’ve entered a luxurious palace. My favorite thing from this experience was the live classical music band, they played amazing songs while we indulged in coffee covered in gold and delicious desserts.


RIDE THE TRAMVIA

I know it looks quite intimidating as it’s all in a different language but with some Google Translator help, you’ll be able to experience Budapest like the locals! Forget those lame overpriced Hop-On Hop-Off bus tours and dare to be more of an explorer than a tourist! I swear it’s so worth it! In no time you’ll get the hang of it and you’ll be able to enjoy and experience the city in a very special way. The route that I love the most and would recommend takes you around the Hungarian Parliament area… it’s honestly breathtaking.

NIGHT AT THE RUIN BARS IN BUDAPEST

I know I said this was going to be a list of experiences I personally find worth having while in Budapest so I’m sorry for including this one here. I did’t love the Ruin Bars and was actually disappointed when I went.
I thought it was going to be much cooler but at the end of the day it was just a night out so it didn’t hurt.
The atmosphere mostly leaned towards a bachelorette/stag party vibe, which I’m not a fan of. However, it might be appealing to others, and that’s why I mention it here.
Around the area you’ll find dedicated places where you can find delicious street food, though!

CHECKOUT HERO’s SQUARE

Hero’s Square is one of Budapest’s most iconic landmarks and a significant historical and cultural site. There are massive and stunning sculptures that make it feel like an open-air museum.
With other museums nearby to delve deeper into Hungary’s story, Hero Square is a must-visit spot in the city for anyone seeking to immerse themselves in the rich Hungarian culture and history.


WALK THROUGH Széchenyi Chain Bridge

Chain Bridge connects Buda and Pest, the two distinct halves of Budapest. It has pedestrian paths and it’s another iconic place to appreciate the rest of the city from.


WATCH SUNSET FROM Liberty Bridge

This beautiful green bridge, with its intricate ironwork and iconic turquoise hue, spans the Danube River, connecting Buda and Pest as well. Strolling across the Liberty Bridge is like stepping into a Wes Anderson’s movie set. The bridge’s unique design and its breathtaking views of the city and the Gellért Hill make it a must-visit spot.
This is a popular place to catch sunset from and right after in the evening, when the bridge is illuminated, it transforms into a magical sight, casting its glow on the river below.


EXPLORE BUDAPEST’S CENTRAL MARKET HALL

Just by Liberty Bridge you’ll find a place that hubs Hungarian culture in the way of food and traditional products. This historic marketplace, housed in a grand neogothic building, offers a sensory feast with its vibrant stalls and diverse array of goods. As you stroll through the market’s three levels, you’ll encounter lots of fresh produce, local delicacies, and traditional crafts.

VISIT THE HOUSE OF TERROR MUSEUM

The House of Terror offers a somber yet impactful experience that encourages reflection on Hungary’s past having survived two terror regimes. It’s also a memorial to the victims.
I personally learnt a lot from my visit to this museum and although it is a very upsetting topic, we should learn as much as we can about the history of the places we visit.

terror-museum-budapest

Visit St. Stephen’s Basilica

St. Stephen’s Basilica is situated in the heart of Budapest. It’s a neoclassical church that stands tall in the middle of one of the busiest areas in the city. As you step inside, you’ll face the stunning gilded interior.
You can climb to the basilica’s panoramic terrace for a couple of Euros.
I want to add, every time I visit Budapest, I like to stay around this area. As I said, it is the heart of the city, so the location is amazing, plus there are so many restaurants nearby.


HIKE CITADELLA FOR THE BEST CITY VIEWS

Ascend to the pinnacle of Budapest’s history and panoramic beauty at Citadella. Perched atop Gellért Hill, this iconic fortress offers an awe-inspiring vantage point that captures the city’s essence in all its grandeur. 
Take in the breathtaking views of the Danube River and the beautiful skyline. This is a hike that requires you to be fit, so wear comfortable shoes and bring water to stay hydrated! 

CHECK OUT THE HUNGARIAN STATE OPERA

You can experience this stunning place in different ways. There is a tour in which the opera house provides insights into its history, architecture, and behind-the-scenes areas. You can explore the majestic auditorium, royal box, and other exclusive spaces while learning about the opera house’s fascinating stories. 
This historical building showcases a blend of Renaissance, Baroque, and classical architectural styles. You can admire the opulent interiors, grand staircases, and beautiful ornamentation.
If you don’t feel like paying, you can just walk in a have a little peek at the entrance (be discreet of course!) 👀 It’s not going to be the same but it’s still beautiful to see! 
Lastly, the Hungarian State Opera is renowned for its world-class performances. It hosts a variety of opera, ballet, and classical music productions featuring talented local and international artists. You can enjoy the highest caliber of artistic expression in a historic and elegant setting.


Explore Budapest’s Jewish Quarter

This vibrant district is filled with narrow streets and lively squares. A highlight is the grand Dohány Street Synagogue. Wander through Kazinczy Street to discover a thriving scene of ruin bars, trendy cafes, and unique street art, encapsulating the district’s modern, artistic spirit.


GO THRIFTING IN BUDAPEST

Thrifting in Budapest is so good!! There’s many brilliant second hand shops all around the city where you can find incredible treasures! My favorite is Retrock (check this video). Here’s a list of other thrift shops worth checking: Ecseri Market, Szputnyik, Gozsdu Weekend Market, Ludovika, Humana, Antifactory…

WHERE TO EAT IN BUDAPEST

Budapest is packed with fantastic restaurants and eateries!! That’s the main reason every time I visit I end up joining the gym (I actually love that gym!) so I get to eat everything I want and then work it all out! Plus Budapest is a very walkable city so I’m always on my feet going everywhere!
You know how good the food in Budapest is? So good I’ll have to create a full article about it! So stay tuned for that!

~

I fell in love with Budapest from my very first visit and I love what this amazing European destination has to offer (which is a lot!). 

As promised at the beginning of this article, my goal was to provide you with a rich list of options for things to do in Budapest. With my work now complete, I hope this detailed guide contributes to making your trip truly epic!

Don’t stop dreaming of adventure and find more Travel Guides here!

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