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Budapest, the capital of Hungary, with its turbulent history, fairytale architecture, healing thermal waters, and exciting nightlife, has something to offer to everyone. Budapest is located in Central Europe, with the Danube River flowing through the city and dividing it into three parts with Obuda and Buda on one bank and Pest on the other.
Budapest is considered to be among the most beautiful cities in Europe. The city’s architecture, with many baroque and art nouveau buildings, only amplifies that impression.
Start your sightseeing by taking a walking tour of Castle Hill, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to see medieval monuments, the Old Town, and the Royal Palace.
The Great Synagogue, built in 1859, also known as Dohany Street Synagogue, is the largest Jewish house of worship outside New York City. The building has Moorish and Romantic architectural elements. Here you can find the Hungarian Jewish Museum and the Holocaust Tree of Life Memorial.
Visit the 14 meters high Liberty Statue, a monument dedicated to the Soviet soldiers who liberated Budapest in 1945. It is located at the Citadella (Citadel), a fortification upon Gellert Hill, a place with the best panoramic views of Budapest.
You can also explore rich art collections at the Hungarian National Gallery with its Gothic wooden sculptures, paintings, and medieval stonework. If you want to learn more about Hungarian history, visit the Budapest History Museum, housed in the Buda Castle.
Also, you can visit the Hungarian State Opera House, a richly decorated neo-Renaissance opera house from the 19th century. Get the guided tour to explore the wonderful interior with sculptures, paintings, and other ornaments.
At the end of the pedestrian shopping street Vaci utca, you will find the Great Market Hall. Also known as the Central Market Hall, it is the oldest and the largest indoor market in Budapest, founded in 1896. You can buy fruits and vegetables, fresh fish, wines, clothes, and souvenirs here.
In search of adventure, you can visit the Hospital in the Rock, an awarded European museum of the year. Also, Budapest is known as the capital of escape room games, with more than 160 rooms.
If you get tired of sightseeing all the beautiful places this city has to offer, you can always unwind at thermal spas, sip coffee at one of the cafes, or have something to eat at one of the restaurants with delicious food like goulash and excellent wines such as Tokaj and Eger.
But, before you do that, here are the top 10 attractions you can’t miss if you want to enjoy and get to know this city properly.
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1. Explore the Historical Heroes’ Square
The Heroes’ Square is a significant historical place where you can see the Millennium Memorial monument with statues of the Hungarian leaders and kings who founded and ruled the country through the centuries.
The Millennium Memorial was established in 1896 to celebrate the 1.000th anniversary of the Magyar conquest of the Carpathian Basin in Europe. The square is dominated by a 36-meter-tall column of Archangel Gabriel.
The Heroes’ Square is located at the end of Andrassy Avenue, near the City Park and the Museum of Fine Arts.
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2. Stroll the Danube Promenade
The Danube Promenade was developed in the 19th century on the left bank of the Danube River, between the Szechenyi Chain Bridge and the modern Erzsebet Bridge. It offers wonderful views across the Danube, where you can see the Buda Castle, Taban church, and St. Stephen’s Basilica.
Many important landmarks are located here, such as Vigado Concert Hall, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and the beautiful Art Nouveau Gresham-Palota palace.
At the Danube Promenade, you can also find sculptures of the notable poets Attilla Jozsef and Petofi Sandor, as well as the statue of the most famous Hungarian politician Istvan Szechenyi.
The Shoes on the Danube Bank is memorial on the Pest side of the promenade, with sixty iron pairs of shoes. The memorial was built in 2005 in memory of the crimes against the Jews by Arrow Cross Militiamen in World War II. Today it is one of the most important places among tourists who visit Budapest.
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3. Visit the Best Ruin Pubs
After the cold war period, several buildings in the Jewish Quarter of Budapest were ruined. People began to transform these buildings into bars and pubs with interesting and unique interiors. Thanks to its special atmosphere, many travelers choose those Budapest landmarks as nightlife spots instead of fancy restaurants and nightclubs.
Szimpla Kert is the first and the most popular ruin bar in Budapest. It also hosts farmer’s markets and flea markets. You can eat delicious pizzas here and enjoy live music events.
We recommend visiting the Instant and Fogas, the largest ruin bar in Europe with two gardens, seven floors, and 18 bars. You can also visit Anker’t, known for themed nights and DJs, and the Ellatto Kert & Taqueria ruin bar, where you can eat Mexican food.
For a great panoramic view of Budapest, you can visit the 360 Bar. Besides the city’s best views, you will also drink top cocktails.
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4. Get the Buda Castle Hill Funicular Ride
Did you know that the Buda Castle Funicular was the second funicular railway in Europe? It has operated since 1870, between Adam Clark Square on the west side of the Danube River and the Buda Castle.
The original funicular was destroyed during World War II, but it was reconstructed in the vintage style in 1986. There are two cabins with a capacity of 24 passengers each, which run every 10 minutes on a 95-meter route. The Buda Castle Hill funicular offers a stunning view of Budapest, Margaret Island, and the Danube.
Buda Castle area was constructed in the 13th century, and in 1987 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Buda is the latest of the Hungarian royal residences of the Middle Ages. The fortress, set at the top of Castle Hill, and the settlement extending along the bank of the Danube, feature several fascinating sights, such as Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church.
5. Visit Hungarian National Museum
The Hungarian National Museum was founded in 1802. It is situated in the Neoclassical building in VIII district on the Pest side of the Danube, surrounded by luxurious palaces.
Museum has seven permanent exhibits. You can learn more about the history of Hungary, including the period under the Turkish occupation and the ages of the Arpad ruling dynasty. You can also see many archaeological artifacts from the ancient Roman period, as well as the carvings and stone relics from the Medieval era.
The displays also include priceless items like a collection of ornate Roman silverware, the coronation mantle of Saint Stephen, and the coronation cloak used by the Kings of Hungary. You can also relax in the splendid garden outside the palace and enjoy a peaceful ambiance.
6. Enjoy Thermal Baths
Budapest became a popular destination for wellness vacations thanks to mineral-rich thermal waters. The benefits of balneotherapy on relaxation have been recognized and used for centuries, even by Romans in their public baths and Turks in their Turkish hammams.
Thermal spas have been popular during the communist era in the years after the Second World War. People come here to discuss political themes without fear of being spied on or arrested by the regime.
Today, Budapest has nine medicinal baths and 123 hot springs with water temperatures between 30 to 40 degrees Celsius. You can use swimming pools, steam rooms, saunas, and massages. Also, you can buy mineral-rich water to drink or fill up empty bottles at thermal water fountains.
We recommend visiting the Szechenyi Baths with 15 indoor pools and Gellert Baths, known for turquoise ceramics and Instagram-friendly spots. Other favored thermal baths in Budapest are Rudas, Lukacs, Kiraly, and Veli Bej baths.
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7. Explore the Christmas Markets
Christmas Markets in Budapest are some of the best in Europe, along with those in Prague, Vienna, and Zagreb. Thanks to many culinary and artisan stands, there is a lot of nice stuff and food available at the market. You will enjoy beautiful decorations and concerts which contribute to a magical atmosphere.
At the Vorosmarty Square, you will find the most famous Budapest Christmas Market, with Santa Claus programs for kids, folklore performances, and traditional Hungarian handicrafts. There are many tables and benches where you can sit and enjoy delicious Hungarian food such as Chimney cake.
The Christmas Market in front of the Saint Stephens Basilica is the second most popular in Budapest. It is located less than a 10-minute walk from Vorosmarty Square. You will love the amazing ambiance with lights, ice skating, and many gourmet stalls.
The Budapest Christmas Markets are open from November 20 to January 1. You can expect temperatures around 0-5 degrees Celsius with wind, so bring a jacket and hat.
8. Visit the House of Parliament
The Hungarian Parliament Building is the seat of the National Assembly of Hungary. It is located in Kossuth Square on the Pest side of Budapest. The building was built at the beginning of the 20th century in the Gothic Revival style, and it is known as the most beautiful building in Hungary and the third largest Parliament building in the world.
The House of Parliament has 691 rooms, 13 elevators, ten courtyards, and 242 sculptures that represent Hungarian rulers and military leaders. Every year around 700,000 visitors book guided tours to explore that amazing building. The most famous part of the building is the central hall, where you can see the Holy Crown of Hungary.
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9. Visit the Museum of Terror
House of Terror is a memorial to the victims of fascist and communist regimes, located at Andrassy 60. You can reach it by public transport via Metro Line 1 to Vorosmarty station.
The museum was opened in 2002 in the building that was used by the ultranationalist Arrow Cross Party, which collaborated with Nazi Germany, and by the AVH secret police, similar to the Soviet Union KGB.
Throughout the visual and emotional experience, you can see what life was like for Hungarians under the two terror regimes. There are many images of victims, rooms used for torturing and killing, and one T-55 tank. Although heartbreaking, the Museum of Terror visit can help you understand the Hungarian complex political history better.
10. Day Trip to Lake Balaton
If you visit Budapest in summer, don’t miss a day trip to Lake Balaton. That largest freshwater lake in central Europe is located 80 km southwest of Budapest or just over an hour’s drive from the Hungarian capital. At the peak of the season, around 300,000 people visit Balaton daily.
It is safe to swim in Lake Balaton. You can also go sailing, surfing, and kayaking. You can also hike the nearby mountains and hills or taste local wines in the Badascony wine region.
For the best nightlife spots in the Balaton region, you can visit resort towns, like Siofok and Veszprem. In Zamardi, you can find an adventure park and Balaton’s longest beach. If you want more adventure, you can enjoy exploring the Lake Cave in the charming town of Tapolca.
And, if you love museums, make sure to visit the Nostalgia Museum and Marzipan Museums in the town of Keszthely.
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Author Bio: Based in Serbia in Europe, Marija Stojanovic Petkovski worked as a journalist but realized writing about the most beautiful places in the world is something that inspires her. She is sure that a pint of good craft beer perfectly accompanies a tasty home-made lasagne. In her spare time, she enjoys playing with her children and spending time outdoors with her family.