Budapest Highlights: A First Timers Guide

Budapest Parliament

In this article, we’ll explore the top highlights of Budapest, offering a comprehensive guide for first-time visitors to the city.

The Capital of Hungary, The capital of Hungary, Budapest, emerged in 1873 through the merging of the historic cities of Buda and Obuda on the west bank of the Danube River, and Pest on the east. Despite the tumultuous history marked by wars and conflicts, Budapest has evolved into a modern metropolis, attracting thousands of visitors annually.

Budapest stands out as one of Europe’s most picturesque cities, boasting a blend of captivating activities and vibrant nightlife, making it an ideal destination for a weekend escape for couples or groups of friends. Its strategic location in Europe also positions Budapest as a convenient stop on a road trip, offering easy access to other fascinating cities such as Vienna and Bratislava.

Continue reading for valuable insights to help you plan your next adventure in Budapest.

Budapest Highlights That Cannot be Missed

Much of the city of Budapest is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and many consider it one of the best cities in Europe. Budapest bursts with a mix of catching-eye impressive buildings of old and new architectural styles. The city is also famous for its thermal springs, most of which were in use since Roman times.

So, let’s explore the best things to do in Budapest.

1. Thermal Baths

One of the standout highlights of Budapest is its thermal springs. Spending a full day indulging in relaxation at one of these baths is an essential experience. During our visit, we explored the Széchenyi and Gellert baths, each offering their own unique charm and rejuvenating qualities.

Széchenyi Thermal Bath stands out as one of Europe’s largest thermal complexes and is renowned throughout Hungary, offering an extensive range of facilities. Fed by two thermal springs, the complex boasts three outdoor pools and 15 indoor pools. While the complex includes massage shops and therapy centers, these services are not included in the entrance ticket. During the day, the baths offer a serene and tranquil atmosphere, but on weekend nights, they transform into vibrant party venues known as “Sparties.”

In contrast, the Gellert Thermal Bath is smaller in size and characterized by its Art Nouveau architecture, adorned with intricate mosaic tiles. The thermal waters, sourced from the natural hot springs of Gellert Hills, are renowned for their mineral-rich properties. The bath features ten pools of varying sizes and temperatures to suit different preferences. During the summer, visitors can enjoy the open-air swimming pool, which creates artificial waves every thirty minutes. While slippers, caps, and towels are available for rent, bringing your own is advisable to save costs.

budapest what to do
Gellert bath Indoor Palace
Gellert baths budapest
Gellert bath open-air wave pool

2. Parliament Building

The Hungarian Parliament stands as one of Hungary’s largest edifices and a defining symbol of Budapest. Constructed in the Neo-Gothic architectural style, the Parliament Building is a striking sight, commanding attention from every perspective. For the most breathtaking views of the structure, venture to the opposite side of the Danube River.

Accessible for tours when the government is not in session, the Parliament offers guided visits lasting approximately 45 minutes. These tours provide insight into notable features of the building, including the Hungarian Crown Jewels and the ornate lobbies. As demand tends to surge during the summer, it’s advisable to secure your tour tickets in advance to avoid disappointment.

things to do budapest

3. Buda Castle and Castle Hill

Budapest Castle Hill stands out as an unmissable destination within the city. This historic complex, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, boasts a collection of medieval landmarks and museums. Exploring the winding, pedestrian-friendly streets of Castle Hill offers a captivating journey through history. The blend of Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque architecture seamlessly integrates with the picturesque surroundings.

At the heart of Castle Hill lies the iconic Buda Castle, a formidable fortress erected in the 13th century to safeguard the city against Mongol and Tartar invasions. Today, the castle serves as a cultural hub, housing esteemed institutions such as the Hungarian National Gallery, the National Széchenyi Library, and the Castle Museum. To make the most of your visit, we recommend joining the Buda Castle Free Tour.

budapest highlights

4. Fisherman’s Bastion

The Fisherman’s Bastion stands as a remarkable Neo-Gothic stronghold, constructed between 1895 and 1902 in honor of the millennial anniversary of the Hungarian state. Situated within the Buda Castle precinct, this bastion serves as a focal point for ceremonies and national celebrations. However, its primary draw lies in its appeal as a tourist destination, offering breathtaking panoramic views of the city.

Visitors are welcome to explore the lower terraces and towers free of charge, while access to the upper terraces and towers requires a nominal fee. The bastion remains accessible 24/7, allowing for unforgettable experiences at any time of day. Transportation options include the funicular railway to Castle Hill or a leisurely 20-minute walk from Szell Kalman square. For deeper insights into the history and significance of the Fisherman’s Bastion, consider joining the Budapest Guided Tour.

The Fisherman’s Bastion Budapest highlights

5. Heroes Square

Heroes’ Square stands as a magnificent testament to Hungarian history, adorned with an iconic monument showcasing the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars. Dominating the center of the square is the towering Millennium Column, soaring 36 meters high and crowned by the majestic figure of Archangel Gabriel. Flanking the column, stately colonnades pay homage to a diverse array of historical Hungarian figures. For deeper insights into the rich history and symbolism of Heroes’ Square, consider embarking on the Budapest Guided Tour

best things to do in budapest

6. St. Stephen Basilica

St. Stephen Basilica holds a revered position as Hungary’s foremost religious sanctuary. Completed in 1905 after 54 years of construction, this Roman Catholic Basilica pays homage to Stephen, the nation’s inaugural King. Its imposing Neo-Classical architecture beckons visitors from near and far.

Two distinctive features draw pilgrims and visitors alike to this hallowed site. Firstly, the mummified right hand of St. Stephen rests in solemn repose within a glass case beside the main altar, offering a tangible connection to the saint’s legacy and reputed miracles. Secondly, the Basilica’s enchanting Classical organ concerts, a cherished tradition among locals, fill the air with melodic strains that often spill over into the bustling square outside.

For those seeking elevated perspectives, ascending to the cupola affords one of the city’s most breathtaking panoramas. St. Stephen Basilica holds a prominent place on the itinerary of the Historic Budapest Free Tour, offering profound insights into the city’s cultural and religious heritage.

things to do budapest

7. Margaret Island

Margaret Island is a vast green area that stretches out on the river Danube, right in between Buda and Pest. This is the place locals would go to get some rest from the hustle and bustle of the city. A 5 km running track goes on a circle route, making it perfect for some jogging or biking. There are plenty of kiosks renting out self-powered vehicles for those who want to explore the island in full. The Island also features the “music fountain”, famous for dancing to the rhythm of classical music, and also a small zoo and ruins of a Dominican convent from the XIII century.

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The music fountain

8. City Park

The city park is a tranquil leisure facility where you could easily spend a full day in. You could, for example, relax at the swimming baths or take a ride on the boating lake. The park features the Municipal Zoo, the Botanical Gardens, and the Budapest Circus. But that is not all. The park is also home to the Vajdahunyad Castle, a magnificent Romanesque, Baroque, Gothic, and Renaissance complex; one of the most important buildings in Hungary. On its interior, the castle hosts the Hungarian Museum of Agriculture, the largest one in Europe.

9. Gellért Hill and Citadella

Perched on the Buda side of the Danube, Gellért Hill offers breathtaking panoramas of the cityscape below. Rising majestically to over 200 meters above sea level, this historic site was once a pivotal military stronghold. Crowned by the remnants of the Citadella, a formidable fortress erected in 1851 under the auspices of the Austrian Empire, Gellért Hill beckons visitors to explore its storied heights. Within the confines of the Citadella, an open-air exhibit showcases a modest array of weaponry from the Red Army, predominantly hailing from the tumultuous era of World War II. Accessible to the public at no charge, this collection offers insight into the area’s rich military history and strategic significance.

best places to stay in budapest
Gellert hill view

10. Ruin Bars and Food in Budapest

Exploring Budapest’s ruin bars and culinary scene is an absolute must. These bars, often housed in abandoned or historically significant buildings, have evolved into cultural landmarks of the city. From flea markets to vintage decor adorned with ancient furniture and retro video games, these establishments offer a unique and eclectic atmosphere. Plus, their affordable prices make them even more appealing. Among the most renowned ruin bars are Szimpla Kert and Instant.

Hungarian cuisine is renowned for its bold and flavorful dishes. While the original recipe for Goulash may have been lost to time, this hearty beef stew remains a beloved classic. Made with tender beef, carrots, potatoes, and a blend of aromatic spices, including the iconic paprika, Goulash embodies the essence of Hungarian cooking. Variations of the recipe abound, with some opting for veal or pork instead of beef, resulting in a delightful array of flavors to savor.

11. Danube Cruise

One of the most popular things to do in Budapest is taking a Danube Cruise. The cruise would typically last about 1 hour and will give you the possibility to enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of the city’s monuments and most famous bridges. You also get 1 drink included. There are different cruise themes such as the popular Danube Sunset Cruise. Not to be missed!


If you find yourself with limited time in Budapest or your flight departs in the evening, consider utilizing Radical Storage for bag storage. With multiple locations across the city, Radical Storage offers a convenient solution for storing your luggage. Simply book your storage location for your chosen day and time, then drop off your bags upon arrival. We’ve found storing our bags with Radical Storage particularly convenient when we’ve had only a day to spend in the city and didn’t need to stay overnight.

How to Get from Budapest Airport to the City Centre

Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport serves the Hungarian Capital city of Budapest.

Let’s have a look in detail at how to get from Budapest Airport to the city centre.

From Budapest Airport to the City Centre by MiniBUD

The Minibud offers shared minibus transfers to and from the airport, providing the quickest route to the city center. It’s particularly convenient as it connects you directly to your preferred location in Budapest’s city center. You can choose from either a one-way or round-trip ticket and benefit from 24-hour service. Tickets can be purchased here

From Budapest Airport to the City Centre by Bus 200E

Another option to reach the city center is by combining bus and metro transportation. The BKK (Budapesti Közlekedési Központ) bus stop is situated at the arrivals level between the two terminals. If you arrive at Terminal 2A, you’ll find the bus stop on the right, and if you arrive at Terminal 2B, it will be on your left.

Look for bus 200E, which will take you to Köbánya-Kispest Metro Terminal on Line 3. From there, board Metro Line M3 towards Újpest-Központ. You can disembark at Kálvin tér if you wish to transfer to Metro Line M4, or at Deák Ferenc tér if you prefer to switch to Lines M1 and M2.

When using bus 200E, you’ll need to purchase two tickets: one for the bus and another for the metropolitan area. Tickets can be bought at BKK customer service points in the arrivals hall, from newsagents, or from the ticket machines at the bus stop.

From Budapest Airport to the City Centre by Bus 100E

The 100E shuttle service operates between the airport and Deak Ferenc Ter in the city center. Buses run every 20 minutes from 5:00 am to 1:20 am. Drop-off points include Kalvin Ter M, Astoria M, and Deak Ferenc Ter M. Special tickets for the 100E shuttle service are required and can be obtained from BKK customer service centers, ticket offices, vending machines, or via the BKK app.


While Budapest is generally considered safe, there has been a rise in thefts and scams targeting tourists in recent times. Taxi scams, in particular, have become a significant concern.
We strongly advise against taking taxis at night, but if you must, ensure they are official taxis with the meter turned on. For those seeking vibrant nightlife, it’s advisable to stay close to the party hubs to minimize travel risks.


Budapest Neighbourhoods: The Best Areas to Stay in Budapest

The city of Budapest is divided into two main areas: Buda, situated on the left bank of the river Danube, and Pest, located on the right. Together, these areas comprise a total of 23 districts. Given Budapest’s size, finding the ideal place to stay can be challenging, especially for first-time visitors. Your choice of accommodation will depend on your preferences and budget. To assist you in planning your trip, we’ve compiled a shortlist of the best areas to stay in Budapest. Let’s explore the different options.

1. Budapest I – Castle District

District I, also known as Budapest I, is the heart of the city’s most popular tourist attractions, including Buda Castle, Fisherman’s Bastion, and Matthias Church. From this district, you’ll enjoy unparalleled views of the cityscape and have access to numerous excellent restaurants. While the area buzzes with activity during the day, it transforms into a charming and tranquil haven at night.

For first-time visitors seeking a central location without the nighttime crowds, District I is an ideal choice. You’ll be close to major landmarks and amenities, ensuring a memorable stay in Budapest.

Check out the best places to stay in Castle District 

Matthias Church where to stay in budapest
Matthias Church

Budapest V - Belvaros

ituated on the Pest side of the Danube, the 5th district, also known as downtown Budapest, exudes elegance and sophistication. It boasts excellent connectivity via public transportation and is renowned for its upscale shopping streets, abundance of cafes, and diverse dining options. Many of Budapest’s iconic landmarks, including the Parliament and St. Stephen’s Basilica, grace this district.

Characterized by its tranquility and refined atmosphere, the 5th district is a haven for those seeking a luxurious experience. However, it may not be the most suitable choice for budget-conscious travelers.

Check out the best places to stay in Belvaros

Budapest VI – Terézvaros

District VI is a haven for culture enthusiasts, boasting an array of renowned landmarks and attractions. Visitors can explore the iconic Andrassy Avenue, home to the Opera House, the Music Academy, and the Operetta Theatre. Additionally, the district is adorned with the Millennium Monument, the Horror Museum, and the famous Szechenyi Baths.

With its vibrant cultural scene and diverse offerings, District VI offers plenty to see and do. Compared to districts 1 or 5, prices here tend to be more affordable, making it an attractive option for travelers seeking value without compromising on experiences.

Check out the best places to stay in Terezvaros

Budapest VII – Erzsébetvaros

Home of the former Jewish Getto, the 7th is a vibrant, multicultural district. Here, you will find the Dohany Street Synagogue (Nagy Zsinagoga), the largest synagogue in Europe, and plenty of famous ruin bars, as well as nightclubs, cafes, and boutiques.

District VII also boasts a diverse array of dining options, with many restaurants offering delicious Middle Eastern cuisine alongside a variety of other culinary delights. However, it’s the district’s bustling nightlife that truly sets it apart. As the nightlife hub of the city, District VII is alive with energy and excitement, making it an ideal destination for those looking to experience Budapest’s vibrant party scene.

Check out the best places to stay in Erzsebetvaros

Nagy Zsinagoga where to stay in budapest
Nagy Zsinagoga

Budapest VIII – Jozsefvaros

Often referred to as ‘the hipster district’ by locals, Budapest’s 8th district is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. Nestled on the Pest side of the river, this underrated neighborhood boasts stunning architecture, rich historical sites, eclectic restaurants, and trendy bars. Despite its vibrant atmosphere, it remains relatively undiscovered by mainstream tourism.

Conveniently located just a 15-minute walk from the city center and major attractions, Budapest 8 offers easy access to landmarks such as the Hungarian National Museum, the Ervin Szabo Library, and the Rakoczi Market Hall. This bustling market hall is a haven for those seeking authentic Hungarian delights at affordable prices, away from the hustle and bustle of more central markets.

Check out the best places to stay in Jozsefvaros


If you’re still searching for the perfect place to stay in Budapest, consider checking out the map on With countless options available, you’re sure to find something that suits your preferences and budget.

Got some extra time?

Have you got some extra time to spend in Budapest? Check out these popular activities below!

Time for conclusions…

Budapest has proven to be a city suitable for all ages and all kinds of travellers. Its unique thermal baths are like small oases within the city walls and the impressive architecture of the Castle District is second to none. The bar culture is different than anywhere else so much so that the Ruin bars have become a top attraction in Hungary. Walking in the streets of Budapest, as well as in its green parks and along the river Danube is something you would never get tired of. Enjoy Budapest, one of the best European cities!

Do you like city breaks? Read our articles on Amsterdam, Dubrovnik, Lisbon, London, Naples, Paris, Edinburgh, Rome and Barcelona !


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