Hungary’s capital city is full of great things to see and do, from historic monuments to architectural wonders. While there are plenty of hidden gems and places to visit off the beaten path in Budapest, these are 15 of the must-see sights to tick off your Budapest bucket list.
Széchenyi Thermal Baths
Thanks to its abundance of thermal baths, Budapest has earned the nickname ‘City of Spas’. There are many great baths in the Hungarian capital, but Széchenyi gets our vote for its stunning architecture and open-air bathing: visitors can relax in two outdoor thermal pools, surrounded by neo-Baroque and neo-Renaissance architecture.
Széchenyi Thermal Baths, Állatkerti krt. 9-11, Budapest, Hungary, +36 (1) 363 3210
Hungarian State Opera House
Located on the historic Andrássy Avenue, the Hungarian State Opera House is widely viewed as one of the world’s most beautiful. The building has played host to world-class operatic performances as well as ballets, concerts and more; for anyone not wanting to catch a show, guided tours of the building take place on a daily basis, with the option to add on a ‘mini-concert’.
From July 2017 – May 24, 2018 the Hungarian State Opera House will undergo renovations in its auditorium, meaning there will be no performances during this time. However, the building will remain open for tours, and the Opera Shop and Café will also stay in business.
Hungarian State Opera House, Andrássy út 22, Budapest, Hungary, +36 (1) 814 7100
Hungarian Parliament Building
Hungary’s Parliament Building was built in 1902 and is the third largest parliament building in the world. Standing on the banks of the river Danube, in Pest, it’s an impressive edifice built in the Gothic Revival style and is worth visiting both for its stunning architecture and political significance. Tours of the building’s interior are available in a number of languages, while outside there’s a recently renovated square and a monument to the victims of the 1956 revolution in Hungary.
Hungarian Parliament Building, Kossuth Lajos tér 1-3, Budapest, Hungary, +36 (1) 441 4000
A fairytale castle on the Buda side of the city, the Fisherman’s Bastion is a lookout point affording stunning panoramic views across the Danube towards the Hungarian Parliament Building and Pest. Built in 1902, in the neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque styles, it’s an incredibly photogenic part of the city and is free to visit.
Fisherman’s Bastion, Szentháromság tér, Budapest, Hungary, +36 (1) 458 3030
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the construction of Buda Castle first began in the 13th century, and since then the building has undergone a number of architectural changes. Today, it’s a combination of the medieval, Baroque, Baroque Revival and modernist styles, and its grounds provide an impressive lookout point over Pest. It’s also home to the Hungarian National Gallery, an art museum showcasing local artists.
St Stephen’s Basilica
Along with the Hungarian Parliament Building, St Stephen’s Basilica claims the title as the tallest building in Budapest, standing at 96 meters tall. Construction was completed in 1905, with the Roman Catholic Basilica built in the neoclassical style. Its interior is free to visit (donations are welcomed), while its central dome is home to a panoramic lookout point which is well worth the small fee.
Found in old, dilapidated buildings previously destined for ruin, Budapest’s ruin pubs make use of derelict spaces to create unique places to eat and drink. There are plenty of great ruin pubs across the city; however, if you visit only one, make it Szimpla Kert. Widely seen as the founder of the ruin pub movement, it’s a quirky bar with interesting, unique decorations.
Szimpla Kert, Kazinczy u. 14, Budapest, Hungary, +36 (20) 261 8669
The Great Market Hall
Spread over three floors, Budapest’s Great Market Hall is home to stalls selling fresh fruit, vegetables, paprika, salami and more. In the basement, the focus is on meat and fish; stalls on the ground floor primarily sell groceries, spices, wines and meat; while upstairs, there are Hungarian crafts and food stalls selling traditional Hungarian dishes. Opened in 1897, the Great Market Hall is the oldest in the city and is notable both for its size and its beautiful architecture.
NB: The market is closed on Sundays.
The Great Market Hall, Vámház krt, Budapest, Hungary, +36 (1) 366 3300
Today, it’s one of Budapest’s most popular sights; however, at the time of its construction, it was intended simply as part of the Millennial Exhibition held in the city in 1896. Built from cardboard and wood and designed by Ignác Alpár, the castle featured replicas of buildings throughout the Kingdom of Hungary. It was converted into stone during the early 1900s and now plays host to a number of festivals and events, as well as being home to the Hungarian Agricultural Museum.
Dohány Street Synagogue
Europe’s largest synagogue (and the world’s second largest), The Great Synagogue was built in the Moorish Revival style in 1859. During WWII, the building suffered damage and misuse; it wasn’t until the 1990s that it would be restored to its former glory. Within the Synagogue’s complex, visitors will find the Jewish Cemetery – the resting place of thousands who died during the Holocaust – and the Raoul Wallenberg Memorial Park, dedicated to the Swedish diplomat who worked to save thousands from Nazi and Arrow Cross persecution.
Dohany Street Synagogue, Dohány u. 2, Budapest, Hungary, +36 (1) 343 0420
The Chain Bridge
The first permanent bridge to connect Buda and Pest, the Chain Bridge is known for its historical significance and beautiful architecture. A footpath allows pedestrians to walk across the suspension bridge, enjoying views over the Danube, while stone lions at either end are one of the monument’s defining features. It’s worth noting that the Chain Bridge is set to be closed between mid to late 2017 – 2019 due to renovations.
For natural surroundings not far from the city centre, head to the peaceful oasis of Margaret Island. Located on the Danube and reachable thanks to the 4/6 tram, the park is a great place to go jogging thanks to the dedicated, 5-km-long running track. It’s also the perfect space in which to enjoy a picnic and escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.
This large square at the end of Andrássy Avenue is known for its commanding statues of the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars, and is also the location of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. On either side of the square stand two of Budapest’s best art museums: the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Mücsarnok.
The Hospital in the Rock
Under Buda Castle Hill runs a network of tunnels and caves. During WWII, they served as an air raid shelter and as part of this, an emergency hospital was created. As well as treating both soldiers and civilians, it was also enhanced to withstand a nuclear attack. Today, the Hospital in the Rock is a fascinating museum allowing an insight into some of the country’s most turbulent times.
The Hospital in the Rock, Lovas út 4/C, Budapest, Hungary, +36 (70) 701 0101
New York Café
Budapest is home to some historically grand cafés, and the New York Café is one of the most opulent. In its heyday, the café was frequented by writers, artists and intellectuals; today, it’s more popular with visitors to the city. Prices match the ultra-luxurious setting, so visit for a coffee and soak up the fresco adorned, gold-plated surroundings.
New York Café, Erzsébet krt. 9-11, Budapest, Hungary, +36 (1) 886 6167