Every guidebook suggests the best things to do in Budapest, Hungary: Hősök Tere (Heroes’ Square), Gellért-hegy (Gellért Hill), Széchenyi Gyógyfürdő (Széchenyi Thermal Bath), and Százéves Étterem (Hundred-Year-Old Restaurant).
But the capital of Hungary offers so much more. This remarkable European city is a composite of two cities, Buda and Pest, sitting along the shores of the mighty Danube River. Let’s get acquainted with some of the other best things to do in Budapest, Hungary that are lesser-known treasures of both Buda and Pest.
- Országháza (Hungarian Parliament Building)
- Újpalotai Vásárcsarnok (Újpalota Market)
- Rudas Fürdő (Rudas Baths)
- Mini Sculptures on the Széll Kálmán Tér (Széll Kálmán Square)
- Ruszwurm Cukrászda (Confectioner)
- Táncház (Dance House) Movement
- Gyermekvasút (Children’s Railway)
- Szoborpark (Memento Park Budapest)
- St Stephen’s Bazilika (Basilica)
- Pálvölgyi Cseppkőbarlang (Pálvölgyi Dripstone-Rich Cave)
- ELTE Fűvészkert (ELTE Botanical Garden)
- Hungarian State Opera House
- Sziklatemplom (Rocky Church)
- Kopaszi-gát (Kopaszi Dam)
- Tram 2 on the Danube
- Shoes on the Danube
- Where to stay in Budapest
Országháza (Hungarian Parliament Building)
The magnificent Hungarian Parliament Building, designed by Imre Steindl, winner of an international competition, is the largest building in Hungary. At 879 feet long, 404 feet wide, this largely symmetrical structure built in the neo-Gothic style opened in 1902.
During a guided tour you can admire not only the imposing architecture, but the Hungarian Holy Crown and the Coronation Insignia as well. Book your tickets online in advance.
Újpalotai Vásárcsarnok (Újpalota Market)
Every district in Budapest has its own unique market. The most famous and most visited is the Nagycsarnok (Great Market Hall) at the Pest side of the Szabadság-híd (Liberty Bridge). But why not try a more local one?
Újpalotai Vásárcsarnok is an authentic market in the northeast where you’ll still see elderly village aunties wearing headscarves and aprons marketing their own garden produce as they did in days gone by.
Rudas Fürdő (Rudas Baths)
Budapest is a city of spas. The healing hot springs of the area date back to ancient Roman times, and since then the city has always had baths for the rich and poor alike.
The Rudas, which is found near Erzsébet-híd (Elisabeth Bridge) on the Buda side, was built by the Turks in the 16th century. A spa section was added 300 years later, and its present 21st-century form includes a panoramic jacuzzi and sunbathing terrace. The Turkish bath section, in its original shape and tiles, is still in operation. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday are for men only, Tuesday is for women, and on the weekends both genders are allowed to enjoy the Turkish bath together.
A Saturday romantic night bath is offered as well.
Mini Sculptures on the Széll Kálmán Tér (Széll Kálmán Square)
When one of the busiest traffic junctions in Budapest was renovated, a brilliant idea came to life. To keep the skateboarders away from the edges of flowerbeds and benches, designers used funny little sculptures to protect the areas.
Altogether more than 30 mini-creations including snakes, birds, umbrella and more decorate the square. Antal Plank sculpted the statues, however, many credit them to Mihály Kolodko, a famous Ukranian-Hungarian sculptor.
Ruszwurm Cukrászda (Confectioner)
Imagine a confectioner’s shop in an ancient castle area. This confectionery founded in 1827 still maintains its original Biedermeier interior, including the cherrywood counter that has survived battles for Hungarian freedom and two world wars.
Taste the famous traditional Ruszwurm cream pastry or order one of their many delightful sweet treats. You won’t be disappointed.
Táncház (Dance House) Movement
The Hungarian Táncház folk dance movement which has since been adopted all over the world began in Budapest in the early 1970s. This has been embraced by the urban youth who are interested in their roots, learning from older generations.
The dance houses still operate today. These now include Scottish, Irish, Greek, Balkan, and more in addition to the Hungarian folk dance. Every March, the Táncház Festival is held bringing Hungarian dancers, musicians, and locals together.
Gyermekvasút (Children’s Railway)
The Children’s Railway, formerly named Úttörővasút (Pioneer’s Railway), is a unique light rail attraction fully run by children. The diesel locomotive and the little red carriages run between Széchenyi Hill and Hűvösvölgy in the Buda mountains. Take a seat and enjoy the view or get off at one of the stations and explore the nearby forest.
Szoborpark (Memento Park Budapest)
Massive sculptures from the Communist era, once scattered throughout the capital, were collected and redisplayed in Memento Park. In addition to the sculptures, visitors can learn about the Communist-era Secret Police training methods, and sit in a Trabant, an iconic Communist-era car produced in Eastern Germany.
St Stephen’s Bazilika (Basilica)
This is one of the most beautiful churches and tourist attractions in Hungary. Built between 1851 and 1905, its towering structure is the same height as the Parliament Building.
The church is renowned not for its architectural beauty, but as holder of the Holy Right Hand, the holy relic of St Stephen. During reconstruction in the 21st-century, a Basilica cupola was added as a panoramic lookout. Visitors not inclined to climb 364 stairs can access the cupola by elevator.
Pálvölgyi Cseppkőbarlang (Pálvölgyi Dripstone-Rich Cave)
The dripstone-rich cave, the longest in the Buda Hills and the third-longest in the country, has been a highly-protected natural preservation area since 1944. Its length exceeds 4.5 miles with an impressive height of 350 feet. The temperature is a constant 54 degrees Fahrenheit, so dress accordingly, wear hiking boots, and expect to climb ladders.
ELTE Fűvészkert (ELTE Botanical Garden)
In his famous novel “The Paul Street Boys,” written by Ferenc Molnár, one important chapter takes place in the first botanical garden of Budapest, ELTE Fűvészkert, established in 1771.
The botanical garden was created to help medicine and pharmacology students in their studies and to aid the conservation of endangered plants. Today it is a beloved place where you can find peace and nature escaping the busy-ness of the city around you.
Hungarian State Opera House
If you love classical music or are interested in architecture, a visit to the Opera House is a must. The Neo-Renaissance palace designed by Miklós Ybl has entertained lovers of opera and ballet for more than 130 years. After an extensive refurbishment, the Opera House reopened in 2022. It is renowned for its amazing and magnificent interior and guided tours are available.
Sziklatemplom (Rocky Church)
The Sziklatemplom Pálos Fogadóközpont is located at the side of Gellért Hill. From the rocky outcrop in front of the church, there is a breathtaking view of the Danube, Liberty Bridge, Hotel Gellért, and the Art Nouveau-style Gellért thermal bath.
The church itself is comprised of two parts, the original cave and excavated rooms underneath. Originally built for the Hungarian Barnabites, they reclaimed possession after a regime change and now operate it as a church and place for visitors to come.
Kopaszi-gát (Kopaszi Dam)
One of the best places in Budapest to enjoy the outdoors is the Kopaszi-gát south of Rákóczi Bridge. This green island has playgrounds for children, an esplanade, restaurants and views of the Danube. It’s well worth a visit if you want to relax after long hours touring the many city attractions.
Tram 2 on the Danube
To save the wear and tear of walking, you can enjoy the city by hopping on Tram 2 at the Jászai Mari station at the Pest side of Margit-híd (Margaret Bridge). The tram brings you to the Soroksári út, where you can view five bridges, Castle Hill, Gellért Hill, and numerous old university buildings on the Buda Side. Also in sight are the Vigadó, the Big Market, the Danube Whale building, and many other interesting sites on the Pest side. At the end station, take time to visit the Müpa (Palace of Arts) and the Nemzeti Színház (Nation Theater) as well.
Shoes on the Danube
This memorial to a World War II era massacre makes a powerful impression upon all who find it. BookCottages.com has written a separate article on the shoes.
Where to stay in Budapest
Most of Budapest’s hotels are located on the flatter, Pest, side of the Danube River. Use the map below to find the perfect accommodation for your stay.
If you only have one day to visit Budapest, here are our recommendations, but here’s hoping you’ll have several days as there’s so much to see. The capital of Hungary offers many treasures for tourists, both large and small.Budapestdestinationhistoric
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