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Budapest, the capital city of Hungary, is a vibrant destination that seamlessly blends history, culture, and breathtaking architecture. Budapest is one of my favorite places that I’ve visited over the years. It truly has something for every kind of traveler, with so many incredible places to visit both in Budapest, and throughout Hungary. While it may be known for its grandeur, Budapest also offers a plethora of budget-friendly experiences for the savvy traveler. Discover the best things to do in Budapest without breaking the bank with our wallet-friendly guide to this captivating city, plus what you need to know to plan your trip. 

yellow 48 tram in budapest
Taking the tram is one of the best ways to get around Budapest

The Basics of Budapest

Currency: Although Euros are widely accepted, the official currency is the Hungarian Forint. You’ll find ATMs readily available throughout the city. 

Language: The national language in Hungary is Hungarian, but you’ll find that most people in Budapest speak at least some English so it won’t be difficult to get around or ask for help! Many of the street signs in Budapest are also in English.

If you venture outside of Budapest to Hungary’s smaller towns and villages, it won’t be as common to find an English speaker. Therefore, it is always helpful to learn some basic words in the native language. 

Budget: Compared to other cities, especially in Western Europe, Budapest is relatively budget friendly. It is a super walkable city with lots of fun, free things to do.

Prepare for your trip to Hungary

Buda vs. Pest?

Budapest is made up of two distinct parts of the city. The two sides of the city, Buda and Pest, are split by the Danube River. 

Buda is the upper-class side of town, full of art, museums, and a castle. 

Where to stay in Budapest

One of the first things to decide when traveling to Budapest is if you want to stay in Buda or in Pest. 

If you’re a solo traveler, I recommend staying in Pest, as that is where you’ll find the bustling nightlife and quirky cafes. A stay in Buda will be more quiet and peaceful. There’s a lot to sightsee for tourists during the day, but the best hostels and ruin bars are in Pest. 

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Top tours in Budapest

Best Things To Do in Budapest

There are endless amazing things to do and places to visit in Budapest. You could spent months exploring all that the city has to offer. But if you have only a few days, here are a few of the most popular things to do in Budapest below.

Take a dip at the Szechenyi Bath 

Szechenyi Bath is easily the most popular thing to do in Budapest. Szechenyi Bath is the largest and most popular bath in Budapest, filled with naturally heated mineral waters. You’ll find over 15 baths here, but expect them to fill up quickly each day. 

The basic entrance ticket will give you access to the baths, plus a cold plunge pool and sauna. You’ll also have access to a complimentary locker. It is mandatory that you wear flip flops or sandals, so make sure to pack a pair. Otherwise, you will be asked to buy a pair on arrival for around $12 USD.

Don’t forget to pack your bathing suit and your own towel!

Looking for something a little different in Budapest? Other popular baths include Gellert Spa, Lukacs Baths, and Rudas Baths 

Take a free walking tour with GuruWalk

One of my favorite things to do when I arrive in any new city is to sign up for a free – or tip-based – walking tour. In Budapest we booked a tour with GuruWalk. They offer a number of different tours each day. Our tour specifically focused on World War II and the Jewish Quarter of Budapest. The 2.5 hour walking tour was incredibly informative and our local guide was super knowledgeable. Just make sure to tip on any free walking tour!

Book your free walking tour here

Admire St Stephen’s Basilica 

Whether you’re visiting at day or not, St Stephen’s Basilica is one of Budapest’s architectural marvels. While entrance to the basilica requires a small fee, you can attend a free organ concert held on most weekdays at noon. Don’t miss the opportunity to climb to the observation deck for panoramic views of Budapest.

Enjoy local Hungarian Food 

Hungarian food is rich and delicious – and Budapest has no shortage of incredible restaurants to visit, for any budget.

A few popular dishes to try are paprika chicken, fruit soup, and goulash, with a chimney cake for dessert.

A few of my favorite local restaurants include Frici Papa and Getto Guylas. I highly recommend making a reservation ahead of time for any restaurants you want to try.

Another way to enjoy the food is by signing up for a food walking tour, like this top-rated food tour.

Have a drink at a Ruin Bar 

The ruin bars are located in the old Jewish Quarter. Szimpla Kert is one of the most famous ruins bars, but Instant is another great option for a big night out in Budapest.

Drink prices tend to be a bit higher at the popular ruin bars, but shouldn’t get you back more than a couple of dollars for a local beer.

Ride the local tram

Riding the local tram in Budapest is one of the best things to do in the city. It’s a super affordable and easy way to explore the city, and see all of the best things that Budapest has to offer.

You can either purchase single ride tickets, 10 packs, 24-hour, or multi-day passes based on the duration of your stay and need to get around. It really just depends on how often you plan to use it.

You can download the BudapestGo app to simply the process. This can be used on all buses, trams, and the metro. Otherwise you will need to buy a physical ticket. Just make sure to validate your ticket and that your validated ticket is legible. Otherwise you’ll get stuck with a $30 fine.

Stroll the grounds of Buda Castle 

Hike up Castle Hill and you’ll find yourself at the beautiful Buda Castle. While some attractions within the castle require an entrance fee, you can still soak up the ambiance and admire the stunning architecture of the castle grounds, including Fisherman’s Bastion.

There is also an option to take a funicular up to the castle which costs 3,000 HUF ($9). But the walk is a super quick one so I recommend skipping the ride to save a few bucks.

Enjoy the views at Fisherman’s Bastion

Fisherman’s Bastion is easily one of the most popular attractions in Budapest. Set on Buda Castle Hill, Fisherman’s Bastion overlooks the famous Danube River and the Pest side of the city.

The design of the bastion is reminiscent of a fairytale castle, with neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque influences.

The lower terraces and the exterior of the bastion are accessible free to visit (as shown below), but there is a small fee for some of the upper viewing decks.

For the best view without the crowds, visit at sunrise!

girl at Fisherman’s Bastion
Fisherman’s Bastion is one of the most popular photo spots in Budapest
Fisherman’s Bastion view of budapest
There are so many great view points from Fisherman’s Bastion

Walk across Chain Bridge

One of the best things to do in Budapest, especially if you’re on a budget, is to walk across Chain Bridge. This bridge, which crosses the Danube river, connects the two sides of Budapest – Buda and Pest. Many tourists choose to stay in Pest, so a walk across the Chain Bridge will give you access to many of the best things to do in Budapest such as Buda Castle and Fisherman’s Bastion.

Take a walk around the Danube – or a boat cruise down the river 

The Danube river is one of the most beautiful parts of Budapest, forming a barrier between the Buda and Pests sides of the city. On the weekends, some of the streets along the river will close off car traffic, making it a pedestrian and bike only street. We took a run along the river at sunset, and I promise it was an experience that I will never forget.

A boat cruise is another amazing way to experience the city of Budapest. There are tons of options to choose from. Many of which include lots of alcoholic drinks!

Walk through the Great Market Hall 

The Great Market Hall, or Central Market Hall (Nagyvásárcsarnok in Hungarian) is a great stop on any Budapest itinerary. The hall is filled with souvenirs, fruits, veggies, meats – you name it.

Opened in 1897, the hall is an impressive three-story structure with a distinctive combination of neo-Gothic and Art Nouveau architectural styles. The building features large arched windows.

Prices tend to be on the higher end, as it caters to tourists, but it is a great place to try Hungarian specialties.

Great Market Hall 
Great Market Hall 
View of the city of Budapest
View of the city of Budapest

Admire the beautiful Hungarian Parliament building 

Visiting the Hungarian Parliament was one of first big ‘wow’ moments in Budapest. The building and it’s grounds are so large and spectacular, a true architectural masterpiece. In front of the building you’ll run a bike/running path, which we took advantage of for a run with one of the best sunset views.

Grab a cup of coffee at New York Cafe 

If you’re looking for one of the most beautiful and iconic places in Budapest to grab a cup of coffee, New York Cafe is just that.It is often referred to as the “most beautiful café in the world,” but you’ll have to check it out and decide for yourself.

Historically it served as a gathering place for writers, poets, and artists, making it a hub of creative inspiration and intellectual discourse. A visit to New York Cafe is more than just a cup of hot coffee, but rather a peek into Hungary’s past.

The food itself is just alright, but it is worth it for the beautiful ambiance. Arrive early or expect a wait.

Spend a slow morning at Kelert

After a busy morning exploring Buda’s popular sights – Buda Castle and Fisherman’s Bastion – hop on a quick tram ride to Kelert cafe.

This magnificent cafe is located not too far from the Buda Castle complex, but tucked away from the tourist crowds. A peaceful cafe filled with books and a large selection of coffees and tea.

Take a day trip to a nearby city: Esztergom, Visegrád, Szentendre, or Eger

There are so many amazing towns just a few hours outside of Budapest that are well worth a day trip. The best way to explore outside of Budapest is by rental car or by train.

If you’re traveling by train, book your tickets early for the best deals.

Esztergom: Located northwest of Budapest, Esztergom is home to the largest basilica in Hungary, Esztergom Basilica. The town has historical significance as a former royal residence and is a popular pilgrimage site.

By Car: 1 to 1.5 hours, depending on traffic

By Train: 1.5-2 hours, with direct trains available

Visegrád: This medieval town is situated along the Danube Bend and is known for its historic castle and palace ruins. The Citadel offers breathtaking views of the Danube and the surrounding landscapes.

By Car: 1 to 1.5 hours, depending on traffic

By Train: 1.5-2 hours

Eger: Eger is a city known for its thermal baths and historic sites. The Eger Castle, with its panoramic views, and the city’s baroque architecture are among the highlights. The city is also famous for its red wine, or Egri Bikavér (Bull’s Blood). Eger is the further day trip on the list, but still doable if you plan accordingly.

By Car: 1.5 -2.5 hours, depending on traffic

By Train: 2.5-3.5 hours, direct trains available

Szentendre: This charming town is one of the easiest day trips from Budapest. Located just north of Budapest, you’ll find Szentendre along the Danube River. It is known for its narrow cobbled streets, art galleries, museums, and craft shops. It’s a great place to explore Hungarian art and culture in a picture-perfect setting.

By Car:: 30-45 minutes

By Train: 40 mins from the city center

How to get there 

By flight 

The main airport in Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport (BUD), which is located 10 miles southeast of the city center. 

Although there are no direct flights from the US to Hungary, Budapest is well connected to the rest of Europe. There are a number of popular low cost airlines that fly to Budapest including RyanAir, WizzAir and Aegean Airlines.

The airport can be reached easily from the city center from taxi or public transportation. To reach the airport by public transportation, take the 100E bus from Deák Ferenc tér. The one-way bus ticket costs 2200 HUF ($6) and must be validated before riding.

Look for cheap flights from your city below:

By train

There are two main train stations in Budapest, Nyugati and Kelenföld. While Nyugati is slightly closer, both are well connected to the local metro and buses to easily reach your hotel or hostel. 

Vienna to Budapest: 2 hour 20 minutes

Prague to Budapest: 6 hours 30 minutes

By bus 

Vienna to Budapest: 2 hours 50 minutes

Prague to Budapest: 6 hours

By car 

If you are traveling through Europe, a great way to visit Budapest is by renting a car and doing a road trip. While you won’t need a car in Budapest, having your own car is one of the best ways to explore the rest of the country with day trips.

Rent your car here

Getting Around Budapest

By public transportation

One of the things that makes Budapest so great for travelers, especially for those on a budget, is its accessibility. Budapest has a well-developed public transportation system of buses, trams, and metro lines. Throughout our trip we found that all forms of public transportation ran quickly and efficiently.

You can either purchase single ride tickets, 10 packs, 24-hour, or multi-day passes based on the duration of your stay and need to get around. We found that the 10 pack made the most sense for us since we did a lot of walking.

You can download the BudapestGo app to simply the process. This can be used on all buses, trams, and the metro. Otherwise you will need to buy a physical ticket. Either way, make sure to validate your ticket and that your validated ticket is legible. Otherwise you’ll get stuck with a $30 fine (like us, oops).

By foot

If you’re looking to do all of the best things in Budapest on a budget then you are in luck! Budapest is a super walkable city, especially if you’re mostly exploring on side (either Buda or Pest) for the day. With a robust nightlife in the city, you can just about always guarantee to have people out and about on the streets as well.

By bike

Budapest has tons of cycling paths and bike-sharing services to go along with them, such as MOL Bubi. Renting a bike is an excellent way to explore the city at your own pace while enjoying the beautiful riverside promenades and park areas. You can opt for either hourly or daily rates, making it a budget-friendly option for transportation and sightseeing.

Where to eat and drink in Budapest 

Mazel Tov

Although not typical Hungarian cuisine, Mazel Tov is easily one of the best restaurants in Budapest. Mazel Tov is a popular ruin bar and restaurant housed in a stunningly restored warehouse. Fresh and flavorful Middle Eastern-inspired dishes served in a bright airy space – filled with hanging plants. Most days you can enjoy live music or a DJ while you eat and drink. 

Make sure to order the labneh and hummus platter – with the falafel and fried eggplant sides. And don’t forget to order fresh Israeli and tabouleh salad with a side of warm pita. 

Reservations can be hard to come by so be sure to make one in advanced, especially if you’re traveling with a group or looking to dine at a prime time. 

mazel tov budapest
Mazel Tov is one of the best restaurants in Budapest – just made sure to make a reservation!


A peaceful cafe filled with books and a large selection of coffees and tea. This quiet cafe is located not too far from the Buda Castle complex, but tucked away from the tourist crowds. 

It’s a great place to get some work done, or simply get lost in a good book over a hot cup of matcha. Alternative milks are available here, which is always a big plus for me.

Kelerts cafe
Kelerts cafe


If you are looking for an excellent night out to dinner, go ahead and make a reservation at Deryne. This spot is usually busy, so a reservation is crucial.

Is possible, request a seat indoors to fully soak up the ambiance of Budapest’s trendy elite. From the birds chirping in the bathroom to the schnitzel that is, quite literally, bigger than your head, this is a meal that you don’t want to miss.

Prices are on the higher end, so for two people with dinner and drinks you can expect to spend around $100.

Frici Papa

Cheap, local, authentic Hungarian cooking in a laid back atmosphere. Sometimes you can’t ask for anything more.

Dishes are about $5, so you can eat and drink for super cheap, while still leaving super full.

I recommend the popular paprika chicken and a cucumber salad, but honestly everything is good.

Moto Pizza 

Definitely not traditional Hungarian fare, but a very excellent pizza outside of Italy. If you’re looking for a thin crust, cheesy pie – Moto Pizza is for you.

A super cute and trendy spot – perfect for a Sunday lunch or a casual date night.

Ghetto Gulyás

Getto Gulyás is not just a restaurant but also an initiative with a meaningful message. It aims to raise awareness about the history of the Holocaust and the Jewish community’s past in Budapest.

Getto Gulyás offers a dining experience that combines traditional Hungarian flavors with a focus on remembrance and education.

The traditional food is delicious and reasonably priced, set in a beautiful cozy atmosphere.

I highly recommend making a reservation in advance.


If you’re looking for a quick and casual lunch then Bors is for you. A small sandwich and soup shop with a Star Wars flare. T

here are a selection of sandwiches that can be ordered as full or half sandwiches. I recommend the French Lady and the Pulled Pork. 

There is also a selection of daily soups, served in a large paper cup. Bors is a great option for trying traditional Hungarian soups on a budget. 

Szimpla Kert

It would be impossible to put together a guide to Budapest without mentioning the famous Szimpla Kert. The space is huge with over 10 different rooms, each with it’s own feel. You’ll find over 6 different bars throughout Szimpla Kert, including a beer bar, cocktail bar and a wine bar. 

Don’t miss my favorite attraction, the bathtub in the first room to the left. I actually planned my first trip to Budapest back in 2015 after reading an article about the bar with the bathtub. 

Considering the bar’s fame, drinks are not too expensive. Beers and wines are around $5, while a cocktail will set you back around $12. 


Recently awarded a Michelin star, Marlou is a french-owned wine bar serving small bites and a wide selection of Hungarian natural wines. The staff is incredibly knowledgeable about the wines and happy to chat. 

Marlou wine bar
Marlou wine bar
Frici Papa - casual Hungarian fare
Frici Papa – casual Hungarian fare


Part natural wine shop, part casual bar. TÁBLA natural wine bar and shop is your spot for the best natural wine in Budapest. They have a large selection and the staff is super knowledgeable on the different wines.

No reservation needed, but come on the earlier side as it isn’t a late night spot.


Looking for a fancy evening? Head to DOBLO for a nice glass of wine and an evening of live jazz. The music starts at 8:30pm each evening. DOBLO has a large selection of local and international wines, including a selection of natural wines. 

If you’re planning to stop by on a weekend night I would definitely make a reservation.


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