Is Budapest Worth Visiting? 21 Reasons to Visit Budapest

by Sarah de Winne
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Budapest is made up of two cities, Buda and Pest, which are separated by the River Danube. The two parts of the city are joined by a multitude of bridges all of which are different in character. Budapest is Hungary’s capital and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002. Is Budapest worth visiting? I would say a big yes. I loved this city and, like me, most visitors consider Budapest to be the most beautiful city in Europe.

Where is Budapest?

Budapest is the capital of Hungary and shares a border with Austria, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Ukraine, Slovenia and the Czech Republic. Budapest is part of Europe.

budapest maps
budapest maps

What to Do in Budapest?

Part of what gives Budapest its charm is the Danube river which separates the city.  It is lovely to walk along the river and admire the landscape. Budapest has many things to offer visitors and below you will find my 21 reasons to visit Budapest.

1- The Chain Bridge

Part of what gives Budapest its charm is the Danube river which separates the city.  It is lovely to walk along the river and admire the landscape. Budapest has many things to offer visitors and below you will find my 21 reasons to visit Budapest.

During World War II, the bridge was destroyed and only the pillars remained. In the spring of 1947, the government took the decision to rebuild the bridge. The name, Chain Bridge, came from the iron chains which were part of the original bridge.

Is Budapest Worth Visiting chain-bridge-night
Is Budapest Worth Visiting chain-bridge-night

2- Hungarian Parliament Building

The Parliament of Budapest is the third largest parliament building in the world, standing at 96 meters (315 feet) tall with 20 km (12.5 miles) of stairs and 691 rooms. There are 90 statues and 40 kg of 23 carat gold was used to decorate the interior. If you only ever visit one parliament building, it should definitely be the Budapest Parliament. You can take a guided tour get the most out of your visit.


3- Budapest Zoo

Budapest Zoo is the perfect place to go with kids.  The Budapest Zoo is 150 years old and one of the oldest zoos in the world.  It’s located in the heart of Budapest and is a great day out for all the family.

The opening time is 9am to 7pm depending on the season.  During the winter months, the zoo closes at 4pm.

4- St Stephen’s Basilica

St Stephen’s Basilica is one of the tallest buildings in Budapest and is 96 meters high.  Added to that, the interior is beautiful.  We highly recommend that you pay the small fee to climb up the panoramic tower.  It’s 302 steps to the top but good exercise and the view from the top is worth the effort.


5- Budapest Pinball Museum

As the name suggests, this museum is amazing if you like pinball games!  When I was young, my father had a pinball machine and we played a lot. This museum houses Europe’s largest exhibition of pinball machines (130 at the time of writing this article).  When I visited the museum, I was immediately transported back to my childhood.  Once you’re inside, you have access to all the pinball machines. The museum is open until late in the evenings (12am).


6- Margaret Island

Margaret Island is Budapest’s green gem. Margaret Island stretches between the Arpad Bridge and Margaret (Margit) Bridge. The main attraction on the island is the musical fountain. The fountain’s jets spout as high as 10 meters. The musical fountain’s songs change throughout the day. Visit in the morning and you may hear children’s music whereas later in the afternoon you may find yourself enjoying the music of Tchaikovsky.

The island is also a great spot to enjoy walking and other sporting activities, such as running, swimming and biking.

7- Szechenyi Spa Baths

The Szechenyi Spa Bath are the best spa baths in Budapest. I went there during the wintertime and it was magical to be able to swim outside with snow on the pavements. The baths were built in 1913 and are the most visited attraction in Budapest. It is a nice place to have a relaxing moment. In addition to the 18 pools, there are 10 saunas/steam cabins.


8- Buda Castle

All of Buda Castle is now part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The castle was built to protect the citizens after the Mongolian invasion in the 12th century. Today you can enjoy many things in the castle such as its Gothic arches, cobblestone streets and Baroque houses, some of which date back to the 14th – 15th centuries. The castle is car free, so it is a pleasant experience walking around inside the castle complex.  One of the best things to do, is to walk on the cobblestone streets, get lost and discover interesting places to see. As usual, the best advice for you is to take your time exploring.  Don’t rush, take it easy because you are on holiday!  If you want to know some of the best places to visit in the castle, here is a list:

  • Trinity square
  • Matthias Church (see number 10 below)
  • Fishermen’s Bastion (see number 9 below)

You may be interested to know that many events also take place inside the castle during the evenings all year round.

The best way to reach the castle is to use the funicular from the Chain Bridge.


9- Fisherman’s Bastion

Located inside the Buda Castle, Fisherman’s Bastion is one of the most visited places in Budapest. Locals and tourists come here to enjoy one of the best views of the city. This bastion wasn’t built to defend the castle but for the views.  At the time of construction, Buda Castle was no longer considered as a military building. The seven towers symbolise the seven Magyar tribes that settled in the area in 895.  The Fisherman’ Bastion is one of the best places to visit when you are in Budapest.


10- Matthias Church

Matthias Church is located inside the Buda Castle. The outside of the church offers historical beauty in a traditional Gothic style. However, the real beauty is inside.  As soon you make your way inside, you will be impressed by the magical feeling of this church.  It’s a calming experience and very romantic. Mass is held regularly inside the church and you can also enjoy various concerts.

11- Budapest Food

I’m a food lover and when I travel, I love to taste new flavours. The food in Budapest was of good quality and wasn’t too expensive.  I enjoyed may of the Hungarian dishes.  So, what kind of food should you try in Budapest?

  • Fisherman’s Soup (Halaszle)

In France, we have “soupe de poisson” made from rock fish from the sea. Budapest is far from sea, so the Fisherman’s soup is made with fish from the river.  It’s excellent if you like fish.  Originally, this recipe was prepared by fishermen along the bank of the river, but now this recipe is a popular part of Christmas menus.

  • Goulash (Gulyas)

Goulash is also a national dish and is probably the most famous dish when you are talking about Hungarian food. There are plenty of different goulash recipes, but traditionally this dish was cooked in the kettle over an open fire. The goulash sauce recipes vary, so you can have a goulash like a soup or cream, depending on the chef.

  • Lángos

Lángos is another great speciality of Hungarian cuisine. This dish was influenced by the Turkish. I would describe Lángos as Hungarian pizza.  It’s a deep-fried flat bread and you can choose your topping like a pizza. It is very good, but quite heavy to eat. From my point of view, this dish needs to be tried when you are in Budapest.


12- Vajdahunyad Castle

Vajdahunyad Castel is one of the most romantic places to visit. The castle is a mix of different architectural styles (Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque). The castle was built for the Millennial Exhibition and was originally made from cardboard and wood. Due to its popularity, the castle was rebuilt with stones and brick. Located in the city park, the castle benefits from a boating lake or skate rink depending on the season. The castle hosts festivals and exhibitions all year long.

13- Heroes’ Square

Heroes’ Square is the most impressive square in the city and the largest.  It’s located next to the city park at the end of Andrassy Avenue. The square is a good place to spend time and relax.  We recommend you try and visit during the day and night. During the night, you can experience a different atmosphere. Take time to look at all the statues in this square.


14- Night Life

Budapest night life attracts a lot of people from all over Europe to party. Budapest night life is becoming more and more trendy and the city is catching up with Berlin and London. You will find plenty of amazing clubs in Budapest. Locals have creatively re-imagined and reused buildings.  For example, they have transformed former Soviet buildings into trendy clubs and the ruins of an old car park into a bar with graffiti-covered walls (Racskert).

There are some venues where you probably wouldn’t expect to find a night club.  For example, you can experience night-time events in the Szechenyi Baths. Imagine yourself partying in the middle of this iconic Turkish bath, swimming and dancing around the giant pools. As you can see, you will find everything you need for party evenings in Budapest.

15- New York Café

This isn’t a normal café.  This is the world’s most beautiful café. This place has survived many eras and is still the best. I don’t know how to describe the New York Café.  All I can tell you, is that it’s worth going there to have a look. The café has changed over the years and now it’s back to its original splendour with eclectic Italian Renaissance-style decorations. You can enjoy a coffee or, if you want, you can eat there as well.  You will find all the classic Hungarian dishes like Goulash and Fisherman’s soup…


16- Street Art

Street Art is blooming in Budapest.  Local artists have been joined by international artists and the city is starting to be recognized for this medium. You will discover plenty of walls which feature Street Art during your visit, especially in the Jewish Quarter.  Take time to admire the work of the artists and enjoy the fact that it’s a free activity.

17- Gellert Spa

Gellert Spa is less well-known by tourists because most visitors head for the thermal baths at the Szechenyi Spa. However, Gellert Spa is one of the best thermal baths in Europe. Inside you can enjoy the pool, wave pool and spa treatments are also available.  You can easily spend a day in this elegant and historic building. You can enjoy plenty of different treatments at a lower cost than you’d pay elsewhere in Europe.

If you can’t decide whether to visit Budapest or Prague, this post might help you make up your mind: Prague vs Budapest

18- Great Market Hall

I love to visit this indoor market, perhaps because it reminds me of French markets. By visiting a market, you quickly learn about the food culture of the country you are visiting. So, if you want to visit one market in Budapest, make sure you check out the best one which is the Great Market Hall.  There are other historic markets in Budapest like the Downtown Market Hall which is also very good.

The Great Market Hall is very easy to reach.  Locals call it the central market because it is less than a 5-minute walk from the centre of Budapest.  The market offers something for everybody and has something different to see at every corner.  Have a look to the butcher cutting his meat, watch local people go about their daily business and take some great pictures.


19 – Shoes on the Danube Bank

Many tourists pass this moving memorial without noticing it. This memorial was created to remember the Jewish people who were shot on the edge of the banks of the Danube.  During World War II, Jewish people were obliged to remove their shoes before being killed so that their bodies would drift more quickly down the river.  Take a moment to reflect on the past.


20 – House of Terror (Terror Haza)

This museum educates visitors about the cruelty of living in Budapest under the Soviet regime. The museum recreates living conditions during this time and shows how difficult it was to live under oppressive regimes.

21 – For Sale Pub

If you want to leave a message in Budapest, you can go to this pub and leave a message on the wall, floor or ceiling. You can leave a drawing, a note, business card … anything you have with you. This place is very interesting to see.

Is Budapest Worth Visiting?

From my point of view, Budapest is definitely worth the visit for a weekend or more. Whether you go as a solo traveller, a couple or with kids, you will find Budapest an interesting and rewarding place to visit.

If you want to know more about Budapest you can check Budapest visitor centre

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