50 Things You Must Do in Budapest: Ruin Pubs, Thermal Baths, Bike Tour...

things to do in budapest

Budapest, the capital of Central European country Hungary, is rapidly becoming one of the hottest spots in Europe, it suddenly seems to be on everyone's bucket-list, and it's easy to see why: it has culture, it has style, it has delicious food, it has (relatively ;) ) friendly locals and if you're coming from the West it's cheap af. What more could you want? Alright, you want a list of must do things to do in Budapest? I'm happy to oblige :)

50 Things You Must Do in Budapest

But who am I and why should you trust me? I accidentally ended up in Budapest for the first time in 2016 trying to get to Zagreb - but I ended up being won over first by the weather, then the prices, then by the locals who enjoyed laughing at me struggling with the language, then by my Hungarian bf... fast forward four years later and I've known Budapest as a tourist, as a local, and, (most importantly for authenticity), through the eyes of the natives.

Budapest is without a doubt one of the best cities in Europe. Personally, we think it is one of the best cities in Europe - essentially it cannot be missed off your European bucket-list. It has beautiful architecture to rival that of Rome and Paris, but it has a charming grundgy edge similar to Berlin. We spent a whole month in Budapest to put together this ultimate Budapest travel guide for you. What you'll get from this travel guide to Budapest:

  • how long to spend in Budapest;
  • the 50 best things you must do in Budapest (according to us), including how to give back & volunteer!
  • the best Budapest attractions and must-sees;
  • the best places to eat in Budapest;
  • the best hotels in Budapest

I've been on almost all the tours, I've even led a few myself. No matter what kind of things you want to do in Budapest, I can help. So, here are 50 things you must do at least once in Budapest including things to see, where to stay and what to do:

Check Out the Hungarian Parliament Building

cool things to do in budapest

(Arguably) the first thing you must do in Budapest? See the parliament. Yeah, it's full of fascists (most parliaments are), BUT, Hungarian Parliament Building is a gorgeous neo-gothic building. Which almost makes up for them. Almost. Okay not even almost. But moving on for now: It's the third largest parliament in Europe - and by far the prettiest in my opinion. It's exactly 96m tall - symbolically referring to 896 (the year Hungary was born). You can take a tour of Hungarian Parliament Building to see the crown and whatever else is inside (I've never been in so I don't know). But if you're a history/ architecture/ political buff it will probably be right up your street (to book your own tour of Hungarian Parliament Building click here.) I find it's a really nice place to start or end your tour of sightseeing Budapest. There's a convenient underground (red line) and a tram stop right next to it.

Pub Crawl: the Ruin Bars of Budapest

things to do in budapest

A must do in Budapest (even if you don't drink), is to see the Ruin Bars. These bars are in buildings which were abandoned and going to be torn down, but students bought them for pennies and made what is possibly the most hipster-friendly bar in the world. They are mostly located in the old Jewish Quarter, and I used to think very romantically about them, until my best Hungarian friend slash Hungarian sister Timi told me that they weren't exactly abandoned, Jewish people were pulled from them and shot in the street.. Not so romantic anymore.

Still, 75 years later and they really are the epitome of hipster culture. You'll find graffiti, gross toilets (where, I can tell you from experience, people have sex), people from all over the planet (apart from Hungary) and drinks. It's slightly more expensive than your average Budapest bar, (hence the absence of Hungarians), but it's still way cheaper than your average Western European bar and well worth it for the cool atmosphere and over-enthusiastic tourists. (Go in the daytime for a more chill vibe.) You can probably tackle these bars by yourself, but if you're anything like me (get lost easily and can't hold your drink), then I recommend doing a Ruin Bar Crawl - take the stress out of the evening and make lots of friends. You can book a Pub Crawl in Budapest here or (if you're feeling super fancy) book a Private Pub Crawl here.

Take a Dip: the Széchenyi Thermal Baths

things to see in budapest

Budapest is the only city in the world with healing thermal baths. So of course it must go on this list of things to do in Budapest. I recommend you go the day after you visit the ruin bars, because they're the best for curing hangovers. And other things probably. When it comes to which bath to visit, most say Széchenyi because it's the most famous bath in Budapest and is actually the largest medicinal bath in Europe. (Click here for Szechenyi Bath Tickets.) I actually wrote a whole blog post on whether it is worth visiting Széchenyi baths, spoiler alert: it is, hence why I put it as number 3 of must do in Budapest 😅 but as the biased writer I still recommend that you read that post to make sure you don't make the mistakes I did when I visited :)

Gorge on Goulash!

must do in budapest

One of the top things to do in Budapest is to try Goulash. Goulash is Hungary's national dish. It's a stew seasoned with Hungary's national spice: paprika, it's usually meat based but you can also find a vegan version at Kozmosz. Goulash isn't my favourite Hungarian dish (lángos is), it's heavy and in the summer it's a bit much. But it's still a must do in Budapest (when in Rome ;)

Go On a Wine Cruise Along the Danube

top things to do in budapest

Pair up two of Hungary's gems: the wine and the Danube. The Danube is the river which splits Budapest in two (literally, Buda is on one side and Pest is on the other). As for Hungarian wine, I was surprised to discover it's some of the best in Europe, but that's because most of it stays in Hungary, so it's kind of a secret. If you're a wino like me, bring an extra suitcase in case you want to take bottles home with you. You can book a Wine Cruise On The Danube here, but if you're not so into the sea, have a look at this post about the best Wine Tasting in Budapest!

Treat Yourself to a First Class Meal

where to eat in budapest

Backing it up to the beginning where I spoke about the low prices in Hungary, at least for Westerners, here is your chance to do all those fancy things you haven't been able to afford at home. Like going out for a seven course meal for a fraction of the price. Hungary may not be renowned for its cuisine, but some of the best meals I've ever had have been in Budapest. One that particularly stands out was at the Corinthia. A must do in Budapest in my opinion.

Stay at a Grand Budapest Hotel

where to stay in Budapest

Okay so you can't stay at the Grand Budapest Hotel, because it doesn't exist, but you sure can stay at a Grand Budapest Hotel - like the Corinthia, for example, one of the most luxurious hotels in the whole of Hungary - and one of the hotels that actually inspired the Grand Budapest Hotel. (And unlike the Grand Budapest Hotel, you can safely take your grandma.)

Explore Budapest's Vegan Foodie Scene

vegan food budapest

One of the cool things to do in Budapest is check out the vegan foodie scene. Surprisingly, (considering that this country is in a long-term non-monogamous relationship with pork and sour cream) Budapest is a haven for vegan foodies – from burgers to goulash to falafel, from restaurants to cafes and everything in-between. Budapest actually has over 20 Vegan restaurants and a vegan market every month. Here is a whole blog post about Vegan Budapest - which includes cheap eats, 'traditional' eats (both accidentally vegan and veganized versions of traditional dishes), and reviews of almost all of the vegan restaurants in Budapest.

Take a Bike Tour

cool things to do in budapest

Budapest is very flat, or at least Pest is - which makes it perfect for cycling around. Budapest is a great size for a city - not so big that you could never explore all of it (like say London, New York or Bangkok), but not so small that you can easily see it all in a couple of hours on foot (like Bratislava or Zagreb). It's somewhere in the middle, and thus you can see the best bits in a day by bike. We took a bike tour with Budapest Bike Breeze and loved it - we saw the main sights, learnt a lot of history and made some new friends - plus lunch was included. Definitely one of the cool things to do in Budapest.

You can book a Budapest Bike Tour here.

Help the Homeless

free things to do in budapest

Like most big cities, Budapest sadly has a lot of homeless people. But instead of being a rubbish tourist and just ignoring them (or being an even more rubbish Hungarian government and imprisoning homeless people...) you can actually make a difference by joining up with Budapest Bike Maffia - these guys make a big difference cycling around the city helping the homeless. They collect donations, make meals, distribute the meals, listen to the people and see how they can help. You can be any part of this operation. We've been along a couple of times - you can read more in this post.

Drink Coffee with Cats

things to do in budapest

Cat cafes are no longer just a thing you find in Asia - they are taking over Europe too! Head over to the Cat Cafe - it's very central, between Opera and the Cathedral - and pet your heart out. Purrrfect for those that love cats.

Take a Bath with a View

must do in budapest

Whilst Széchenyi is the bath that's the most popular with tourists, Budapest has many other awesome thermal baths like Rudas. The pros? Fewer tourists, awesome view of Budapest from the rooftop pools, and it was built by the Turks in the 1500s (so you know it's beautiful). Cons? Mixed is only at the weekend - though actually that might be a pro for you. We actually preferred this one to Széchenyi because it's so damn pretty (and there are fewer tourists).

Book Rudas Bath Budapest here.

Live in a Quirky Local Airbnb

where to stay in budapest

Budapest is filled with gorgeous buildings, and you can stay in one for a very reasonable price with Airbnb.

Take a Unique Walking Tour

must do in budapest

Unique Tours Factory offer unique walking tours all over Europe, including in Budapest! We went along one day and loved it - it was a private tour of Pest that ended with our favourite thing ever (Hungarian wine).

See a 1000-Year-Old Mummified Hand at St Stephen's Basilica

cool things to do in budapest

Many visit Stephen's Cathedral because it's beautiful, but did you know you can actually see a 1000-year-old mummified hand inside :O It's actually the hand of St Stephen himself!

...Then Head to the Top of St Stephen's

must do in budapest

Talking of St Stephens, head to the top - the views from the top are incredible! This is one of our favourite things to do in Budapest. And although it's not a free thing to do (unlike going inside St Stephens) it's only a quid and it well worth it for the views.

Make a Day Trip to Lake Balaton!

what to do in hungary

Did you know that landlocked-Hungary has a sea? Okay, it's a lake, but it's absolutely gigantic, it's beautiful and it's less than an hour and a half away from Budapest! If you have a bit of extra time, this is definitely something you must do. And if you go in the summer, you have to check out Balaton Sound one of Europe's largest open-air electric music festivals. [Speaking of Hungarian music, here are 11 Hungarian songs that I think you should hear right now.]

Pig Out On a Food Tour

things to do in budapest

So you've treated yourself to a fancy dinner, checked out the vegan foodie scene and had some goulash. Now, how about a food tour? Taste Hungary offer the best food tours in Budapest without a doubt. We highly recommend this as a thing to do in Budapest.

You can book a Budapest Food Tour here.

Admire the Danube

best things to do in budapest

Even if you don't go on a cruise on the Danube (wine related or otherwise), you must at least cross one of the bridges to admire it from either side. The Danube is Europe's second longest river and cuts straight through Budapest (literally).

Sit on Liberty Bridge

must do things to do in budapest

Whilst lots of people (understandably) love Chain Bridge, we've decided that Liberty Bridge is our favourite. Simply because we love the architecture, but also because on certain days they close it down and only pedestrians can cross (and/or climb the bridge at their own risk).

Take a Cable Car up Castle Hill

budapest sightseeing

Whilst the Pest side of Budapest is extremely flat, the Buda side is extremely hilly - seriously it could give San Francisco a run for its money. The castle is strategically placed on the best hill, and if you don't fancy walking up that hill there's another option: cable car.

Discover Bullet Holes from WW2 and the '56 Uprising

top things to do in budapest

Budapest is a city scarred by history - literally in some places. For example at Castle Hill and next to the Parliament you can still see the bullet holes left behind from World War Two.

Make New Friends at the Tasting Table

budapest must see

If you're looking for something that locals and tourists alike love, head to the Tasting Table on a Thursday night, where they put on dinner and a wine tasting for a small lucky group (around 20).

Stay at the Number one Hotel in Budapest

where to stay in budapest

The Aria Hotel was voted number one on TripAdvisor for hotels in Budapest. Stay here if you like comfy rooms, delicious food and beautiful spas!

Go Dog Spotting in Városliget

things to do in budapest

Budapest is blessed with many beautiful parks. Varosliget or City Park is our favourite, it's massive! And you can be sure to spot many super cool dogs here. The Hungarian Vizsla is (you guessed it) Hungarian and a very popular breed in Hungary.

Pay Your Respects at the Shoes Along the Danube

best things to do in budapest

The Shoes Along The Danube is a symbolic memorial - it's there to honour the people killed during World War II. They were ordered to leave their shoes on the banks of the river, where they were then shot at the edge so the water would take their bodies away.

Check Out the Paprika at the Great Market Hall

cool things to do in budapest

One of the free things to do in Budapest is to check out the Great Market Hall - Budapest's oldest and largest indoor market. Here you can find tonnes of Hungary's favourite spice: paprika. Although you will find tourists here (and thus when it comes to souvenirs, tourist prices), you will also find that locals (like me) come to shop here - thus everyday items like fruit and veg (and olives) are reasonable here. Be sure to check out the different types of peppers here - you might find some you've never seen before.

Drink Local Handcraft Beers at Eleszto

Head over to Eleszto for a non-touristy experience, it's not really close to the main sights or the ruin bars, and thus it's mainly only real locals that drink here. Try the cherry beer - it's incredible.

Take a Picnic to Margaret Island

things to see in budapest

Margaret Island is a gigantic island in the middle o the Danube. It's named after Saint Margaret - a daughter of one of the Kings of Hungary who lived in a convent on this very island. Margaret Island is beautiful and the perfect place to take a picnic, be sure to check out the Japanese garden and music fountain whilst you're there!

Ride the Waves at Gellért Bath

things to do in budapest

A must do in Budapest is Gellert Bath. Gellert Bath is our favourite thermal bath in Budapest - far less crowded than Széchenyi and even more beautiful than Rudas, this bath has a wave machine too!

Marvel at the Largest Synagogue in Europe

things to do in budapest

Nagy Zsinagoga or Great Synagogue is the largest synagogue in Europe and the second largest in the whole world (after one in New York).

You can book the Jewish Heritage Tour here.

Pamper Yourself at the Four Seasons

where to stay in budapest

Another hotel that looks like it's straight out of the Grand Budapest Hotel is the Four Seasons. Stay here for first class service and to be pampered beyond your wildest dreams.

Book your stay at the Four Seasons.

See the View of Pest from Buda

budapest sightseeing

For a gorgeous view of Pest (and the Parliament House), you should climb up Buda. Castle Hill offers some awesome insta-good lookouts.

Escape from the Escape Rooms

Looking for a thing that's fun to do in Budapest but will also be good for your brain? Try one of the many escape rooms - fun for all the family.

Book Escape Rooms in Budapest

Check Out Heroes' Square

things to do in budapest

You must stop off at Hosok Tere or Heroes' Square. It's a gigantic square with monuments to important historical figures - nice to look at, more interesting if you go on a tour and find out who they are.

Book Budapest Walking Tour.

Learn Some History at the House of Terror

must do in budapest

Budapest has a very sad history, the House of Terror is a museum that concentrates on the fascist and communist regimes in 20th century Hungary.

Ice Skate in the Winter

One of the best things about Hungary is the weather: sweltering hot in the summer, blistering cold in the winter. Whilst one of those (or both) might not be your cup of tea, you can't deny Hungary does classic European summer and winter weather perfectly (unlike the UK where it's mostly just crap). In the winter you can even ice skate in Budapest!

Climb Up to the Liberty Statue

must do in budapest

Climb up Gellért Hill to see the Liberty Statue and to be rewarded with epic views of Budapest. We haven't actually done this yet, it's on our list of things to do in Budapest :) (Update: done it twice. HA. Take that past Laura.)

Go Underneath Budapest

cool things to do in budapest

If you've seen Budapest from above you may as well see it from below, there's a lot going on under there from caves to churches to bunkers and even a hospital!

Book A Cave Tour.

See an Opera at Budapest Opera House

Budapest has a beautiful opera house and from what I've heard tickets are a lot cheaper here than say London or Vienna. So if you've always wanted to see an opera but never done it, perhaps Budapest is the place for you.

Don't Miss Out on the Best Flight Deal

When booking flights be sure to check out Kiwi - this website compares all the rates to find you the best deal. It's a really flexible website - you can be flexible with your dates and even where your flying from. Not sure which city is best to fly from? Put both in the search bar. And it's so much more than just finding the cheapest flights (which admittedly most flight comparison websites do well), Kiwi takes it a step further - they will also find you the most convenient flight. Why take the cheapest flight which takes 20 hours and changes four times, when you can take a direct flight for just £5 more?

Book flights to Budapest.

Party On at the Hive Party Hostel

where to stay in budapest

With cheap prices in Budapest comes cheap hostel prices. But they're not all created equally The Hive Party Hostel Budapest is one of the good ones, fun and party positive, but safe and clean too.

You can book the Hive Party Hostel here

See Matthias Church

budapest sightseeing

Another one of the free things to do in Budapest is check out Matthias Church. Like Budapest this church has a long history of being occupied and used in different ways (including at one point as a horse stable). I love it because I think it's looks quirky. Definitely one of the cool things to do in Budapest in my opinion.

Visit Gondor... I Mean, the Fisherman's Bastion :)

must do things to do in budapest

Right next to Matthias Church is Fisherman's Bastion which was actually the inspiration for Gondor :O at least in the films anyway, I don't think Tolkien went to Hungary?

Try Homemade Pálinka

must do budapest

An absolute must do in Budapest is to try Pálinka - the Hungarian national drink which comes in all different types of flavour - give a Hungarian a fruit and they can make Pálinka out of it (yes even banana). The best flavour of Pálinka though is one made and drank with your new Hungarian friends :) Special thanks to Kata, Lilla, Brigi, Tamás and Zoli for sharing their Pálinka with us.

...and Don't Forget about Unicum!

things you must do in budapest

Nowhere near as loved as Pálinka, but still definitely worth a try is Unicum - it's also a Hungarian spirit and tastes a lot like Jägermeister, but better (#sorrynotsorry). Any time I get sick now I reach for the Unicum, cold? Solved by unicum. Sore stomach? Unicum. Heartache? UNICUM. (and yes I laughed too much when I first saw the name).

Embarrass Yourself by Trying to Say Cheers in Hungarian

With all the drinking and friend making you'll be doing in Budapest, you'll need to learn how to say cheers, it's really hard. (e GAY SHAY ged RE)

Learn Hungarian

Once you've learnt a bit of Hungarian you might not want to stop. Hungarian is a beautiful language and very unique. If you're looking for a language that's unusual and impressive Hungarian is for you. I cannot recommend Catch Budapest's Smart Hungarian Audio Course highly enough. It's perfect for everyone from beginners to advanced - with audio pieces by real Hungarians, matching Hungarian transcripts, incredibly clear English translations and helpful questions along the way. Use WEASELS30 for 30% off!

Explore More of Hungary

travel hungary

Don't just stop with doing things in Budapest, explore the whole of Hungary - it's just as beautiful and has stunning buildings and kind locals in every corner. Check out our guide to travelling around Hungary to find our recommendations of where to go, where to stay and what to do when you get there.

Watch the Sunset Over the Danube

things to do in budapest

Budapest has some stunning sunsets. Particularly nice from the bridges or Castle Hill, or any of the pre-mentioned high spots in Budapest. Thank you if you've made it through this entire list of things to do in Budapest (or even if you've just scrolled to the bottom). My heart definitely is in Budapest, and I suppose yours will be too. Let me know if you have any questions! I'm here to help :) I'm easily found (and very responsive) on both Facebook and Instagram! Also, here is a video we made about why we think it's worth visiting Budapest in 2021 :) Enjoy!

Giving Back in Budapest: Helping the Homeless

Budapest is our favourite city in Europe, it's fun, cheap and beautiful, but we were so sad to see so many homeless in Budapest, it's almost comparable to San Francisco in this sense. We spent a whole month in Budapest this summer and were shocked by how many homeless in Budapest there really are. This was partly because we were there for a long time, so started recognising certain people, but partly because homelessness in Budapest is some of the highest in Europe.

How to Help the Homeless in Budapest: Budapest Bike Maffia

Donations, especially food, clothing, and pads/tampons, are always needed and helpful. There are also a handful of non-profit charities in Budapest, working to feed, clothe, house and help Budapest homeless. We wanted to find out more about them.

budapest homeless

We met up with Budapest Bike Maffia, to learn more about the work that they do. Budapest Bike Maffia (or BBM) is one of the best Hungarian non-profit organisations. Their goal is selfless assistance to help those in need. They buy sandwich provisions, get volunteers to make the sandwiches, and then head out on their bikes to distribute the sandwiches across the city. BBM also organise '+1 Sandwiches' at school where children and adolescences bring in an extra sandwich to donate to BBM. It's not all about giving out food, the BBM talk to the Budapest homeless and see if they can help them out in other ways - a job here, a shelter there.

Volunteering with Budapest Bike Maffia: Our Experiences

We went with them for two nights and this is what it was like: we started off by going to Aldi and buying sandwich provisions with the donations made to BBM. Next, we went to one of Budapest's coolest pubs: Eleszto. They kindly let Budapest Bike Maffia and another food charity use their back room free of charge. (They also serve the best cherry beer.)

budapest bike maffia

We sat in that backroom and started making sandwiches with other volunteers and Budapest Bike Maffia members. Making the sandwiches took a long time (we made like 100) but it was a good opportunity to talk to the other people there and hear their thoughts.

budapest homeless

Once the sandwiches had been made, they were loaded into backpacks and panniers and we whizzed across the city handing them out. Handing out sandwiches on bikes proved to be very useful for two reasons:

1. We could cover a lot more ground a lot faster than if we'd been on foot.
2. Lots of members had got into Budapest Bike Maffia because they love cycling and were looking for a group to share that enthusiasm, helping the homeless in Budapest was an added bonus.

homeless budapest

Giving out the sandwiches felt like a really nice thing to do. And it didn't just stop there. BBM were also handing out disposable cameras. The homeless Budapest people could take photos of Budapest through their eyes (similar to the HONY project). When they give the cameras back they each get about $7, and the one with the best photo wins $50.

budapest bike maffia

After we'd finished giving out the sandwiches, we shared some beers with BBM. They were all such lovely people and they told us about their other projects - like trying to stop one of the biggest green spaces in Budapest being concreted over. We really like the way that BBM combine lots of things like socialising and biking to create a system to help others.

The second time we went with BBM was quite similar to the first, with a few differences: Strike Bikes kindly lent us bikes to use (the bikes were awesome); one of the members of BBM brought some leftover soup from their work to use, and I cried my eyes chopping an onion 👍. To find out more check out BBM's website: bbm.hu/en/ and check out the YouTube videos we made about volunteering with them:

Through Budapest Bike Maffia we not only found an effective way to truly help others but a great group of lovely people. If (when) you come to Budapest we hope you get a chance to go along with BBM, and/or donate to them. They're a really great charity who totally deserve it! And thank you for your interest in helping Budapest homeless people. So many tourists like to complain or ignore a problem which makes everything worse. You are awesome!

Wrap Up: The Best of Budapest

best of budapest

Hopefully it's clear at this point that we LOVED Budapest, it's a fun, pretty, cheap city and one of our absolute favourites places in Europe.

There's lots to do in Budapest, no matter what your tastes are and so hopefully this post has given you some ideas to add to your own Budapest bucket-list. We used to make daily vlogs on YouTube, so if you're looking for more information on any of the above tours/hotels and/or you just fancy vegging out and watching a playlist, be sure to check out our Budapest playlist!

P.S.: If you're interested in a way of travelling and getting accommodation cheaply, you might wanna check out house sitting. Trustedhousesitters.com was kind enough to provide us and our readers with a 10% discount, feel free to click on the link to use it :)

Share this:


We overland. We eat plants and fungi. We live outside as much as possible. We are all connected. A female travel blogger overlanding and writing about ecotourism, ethical and sustainable travel, socially conscious travel and housesitting. An online travel magazine since 2015.


    Disqus Comment
    Facebook Comment
comments powered by Disqus