Nestling gently on either side of the Danube River, Budapest is a melting pot of historical influences. The Romans, Magyars, Mongols, Turks and Austrians have all left their cultural stamp on the Hungarian capital. And now it’s your turn…
Whether you’re getting lost in the Buda Castle Labyrinthor watching a host of international and local acts at the National Dance Theatre, Budapest has so much to offer. Adrenaline-junkies will dive head first into the Pál-völgyi–Mátyás-hegyi cave system (good luck pronouncing it!), while those looking for a more relaxing aquatic experience (we’re talking poolside cocktails) should visit the Danubius Grand Hotel for a taste of true luxury.
Budapest is a city that maintains the romance and adventure that old Europe used to inspire, with the convenience and innovation that modern Europe makes possible. The best of both worlds, in other words.
Budapest Top 10
10. Szechenyi lanchid Opened in 1850, this magnificent chain bridge joins together the twin cities of Buda and Pest.
5. Central Synagogue The second-largest synagogue in the world and features an intriguing mix of Moorish, Byzantine and Gothic architectural influences.
9. Fisherman’s Bastion Named after the fishermen who defended its walls in the middle ages.
4. Szechenyi Baths and Pool One of the largest spa complexes in Europe, the intricately designed marble interior alone is worth the entry fee.
8. Gellert Hill Traditionally a wine-growing region and now one of the wealthiest neighbourhoods in Budapest. Worth a trip to spot Hungarian celebrities like... um…
3. Hungarian State Opera House Built in the neo-Renaissance style and widely considered the most beautiful building in Budapest.
7. Parliament House Situated on the banks of the Danube and modelled after the British parliament, the Orszaghaz is a stirring monument to Hungarian independence.
2. Rudas Baths Founded in 1550, these thermal baths are renowned for their restorative and medicinal qualities.
6. Castle Hill Once home to the Royal Family and besieged a stress-inducing 37 times during WWII.
- Buda Castle – This castle complex built in 1265 was once home to the Hungarian kings.
- Aquincum – The ruins of this ancient settlement were once home to Roman inhabitants, including gladiators.
- Országház – The Parliament building is Hungary’s legislative centre and a symbol of the union of the three original cities as one.
- Memento Park – Hungary’s Communist history is on display through various statues in this open-air museum.
- Timewheel – This monumental hourglass commemorates the admittance of Hungary into the European Union.
Budapest Art & Culture
- Hungarian National Museum – Shows the history of Hungary from its founding to the present.
- Szent István Bazilika – Hungary’s largest church and home to St Stephen’s mummified hand, which is paraded through Budapest annually on 20 August.
- Rudas Baths – One of the oldest thermal baths in Budapest, dating from the 16th century.
- Hungarian State Opera House (Magyar Állami Operaház) – This building is one of the most celebrated performance halls in all of Hungary.
- Museum of Fine Arts (Szépművészeti Múzeum) – This museum features exhibits spanning Egyptian, Greek, Roman and other cultures.
- Chinese Market (ozsefvarosi Piac) – A bargain place to buy cheap Asian goods, with the food stalls being the biggest draw.
- Great Market Hall (Nagycsarnok) – Built in the late 1800s, this must-see market offers goods that are popular with both tourists and locals.
- Mammut I & II – These shopping centers boast amusements, eateries and other attractions.
- West End City Center – Located next to the train station, this 400-store shopping mall sells everything from books to spices. Kind of like a treasure hunt, the Bav shops offer secondhand and antique goods, mostly in the fine to decorative categories.
- Ecseri Piac Flea Market – This large flea market is all about finding just about anything, and shoppers should be prepared to haggle.
Budapest Gay & Lesbian
- Action Bar – A gay basement bar that pulls out all the stops with a striptease show nightly.
- Why Not Café & Bar – This gay-friendly café is located by the river and turns into a bar at night.
- CoXx – This attractive-looking nightclub gets busy on the weekends and may be more appropriate for gays looking for action.
- Gay Pride Budapest – Typically occurring in mid-June, the gay pride festival and parade takes place in the streets of Budapest.
- Club Alterego – One of the most popular dance clubs, with nightly drag shows and DJs.
- Capella Café – The first gay bar in Budapest boasts a popular, sweaty dance floor and many intimate rooms
- Széchenyi Chain Bridge – The city’s oldest and most famous bridge.
- Széchenyi Hill – Take the train or tram to this area, where many enjoy picnicking and other outdoor activities.
- Margaret Island – Located in the middle of the Danube, this island is a must-see for nature and history lovers.
- City Park (Városliget) – Near Heroes’ Square, this park contains a botanical garden, medicinal bath, museums, zoo and amusement park.
- Fisherman’s Bastion (Halászbástya) – An early 20th-century terrace offers stunning views of the Danube and several parts of Budapest.
March’s Budapest Opera Ball has been wowing audiences since the late 19th century (with breaks in between, obviously). The best in Hungarian and international opera talent comes to perform.
Showcasing the best of Hungarian art, dance and music, the Spring Festival in March and April is a great source of pride for Budapest.
With thousands of concerts spanning all musical genres August’s Sziget Festival is the largest of its kind in central Europe.
The International Wine and Champagne Festival comes to town in September.Taste your way through the best in Hungarian and international wine in the beautiful Castle District.
When To Go
- Not surprisingly, July and August are the hottest, most humid and busiest months.
- January and February are by far the coldest months. Expect below-zero temperatures, with a little snow and rain thrown in for good measure.
- Autumn is the best time to visit, with cool breezes making the days pleasant.
- Many of Budapest’s leading attractions are only accessible on foot, so make sure to pack your walking shoes.
- Public transport is reliable and safe, and covers most of the city.
- Travel via tram has become a travellers’ favourite because it’s quick enough to get you to where you need to be but slow enough for you to catch more than just a passing glimpse of the city around you.
The capital of Hungary and primary focal point of Central Europe is awash with sites that inspire awe and enchant the imagination. A veritable UNESCO World Heritage City, Budapest is a time warp, with compositional references to the Bronze and Iron Ages, Celtic Diaspora, Roman Empire, Huns, Tartars, Mongols, Ottoman and Hapsburg Empires. Clearly, the city has seen it all and as a result, illustrious, glorious Budapest is a marvel to behold.
The “Pearl of the Danube” and “Capital of Freedom” has enough historical milestones to compete with the likes of London, Paris, Prague and Rome. For a bona fide Budapest experience, set aside a minimum of three days. A cursory walk around the city, with the Danube as a wonderful compass point, takes you past most major city landmarks, though public transportation is superb.
Where do you start in a city like Budapest? World Heritage Buda Castle on Castle Hill is a wonderful choice, with a history that dates back as far as 1247. The castle is one of the most awesome hunks of architectural eye candy in a city chock-a-block with them. Fabulous auxiliary and interior wings, far too copious to name, include the Great Ballroom, St. Sigismund Chapel, Hapsburg Room and Budapest History Museum.
To declare Andrássy Avenue one of the most important streets in Europe is no mere hyperbole. The link between Elizabeth Square and the extravagant City Park sports one neo-Renaissance palace after another, with sites that include the State Opera House, House of Terror Museum - a fierce rebuke of the Nazi and Communist occupations over the last century — Franz Liszt Academy of Music, Museum of Fine Arts and Palace of Art. These fine Andrássy Avenue draws deserve a visit.
With a novel construction in 1015 and several subsequent restorations, Matthias Church is a gem. The cathedral features astonishing glimpses into Budapest's stormy past, with panoramic vistas of the city courtesy of the nearby neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque Halászbástya terrace.
Budapest's City Park merits more than a brief allusion. At over 300 acres, the broad public space is full of curious highlights, from Vajdahunyad Castle to the Széchenyi Medicinal Bath, to Heroes' Square.
Few capitals in Europe can rival the regal stage Budapest provides classical performers. The State Opera House is a grand hall for ballet and opera, while the Palace of Arts provides wonderful recitals in the Béla Bartók National Concert Hall.
Every August the Sziget Festival draws top heavy metal, alternative and rock acts from around the world to Budapest, typically with over 300,000 fans in attendance.
Hungary's strides as a New World wine power come to the fore every September, amid the idyllic backdrop of the Castle District, at the Budapest International Wine and Champagne Festival.
The paramount celebration in the country takes place in the capital every March and April, with the Budapest Spring Festival. The bash is a mishmash of world class jazz, film, classical music and theatre.
Budapest has four distinct seasons, with cold, snowy winters and hot, humid summers. The most popular time to visit the city is the mild fall months.
- Winter (November to March) -1-11°C
- Spring (April to May) 7-22°C
- Summer (June to August) 14-27°C
- Fall (September to October) 8-22°C
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