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15 Things You Don't Want to Miss in Budapest

Budapest is one of Europe’s most glittering capital cities. Located in Hungary, Budapest straddles the Danube River and is full of old-world architecture and loads of cosmopolitan attractions. If you’re lucky enough to visit Budapest, there are many sites you won’t want to miss. Budapest's 23 districts feature a myriad of revered attractions you should definitely add to your must-see list.

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01 Parliament Buildings

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The Parliament Buildings of Budapest are easily some of the most recognizable structures of the city. Inaugurated in 1886, the Parliament features more than 690 rooms and is the third-largest complex of its kind in the world. Budapest’s Parliament faces a beautiful stretch of the Danube River. When visiting, be sure to take some photos of Parliament and sign up for one of the guided tours.

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02 Chain Bridge

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Budapest’s Chain Bridge is one of its most iconic features. Linking one side of the city to the other and spanning the Danube, the bridge opened in 1849 and is the oldest permanent bridge on the river in Hungary. Stone lions famously guard the bridge, and whether you walk along its pedestrian way or drive over it, this is a feature of the city you’ll certainly want to see up close.

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03 Matthias Church

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Located in the Castle District on the Buda side of the city, Matthias Church was constructed during the latter half of the 14th century; an early church that existed on the spot in 1014 is said to have been founded by King Stephen of Hungary but was destroyed by Mongol invaders in 1241. Today, many visitors come to see the church, which is distinctively gothic and painstakingly restored. If you’re touring the Castle District, visit this remarkable structure.

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04 Buda Castle

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Located on the aptly named Castle Hill, Buda Castle was constructed in 1259 to be the residence of Hungarian kings, but much of the structure we see today was added in the mid-18th century. Today, the castle houses the Budapest History Museum and the Hungarian National Gallery. The building, along with much of Castle Hill, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With so much to see inside, you’ll want to devote an entire day to its perusal.

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05 Margaret Island

Visitors and city residents alike love to visit Margaret Island, in the middle of the Danube. The island is about 1.6 miles long and is a major recreation destination, boasting several thermal springs that feed into medicinal baths. The Palatinus Baths cover 17 acres of the island and remain one of its most popular highlights. Concerts, dances, and special events regularly take place on this scenic isle.

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06 Budapest Zoo and Botanical Garden

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The oldest zoo in Hungary, Budapest Zoo and Botanical Garden lies in the heart of the city, in Varosliget Park. Founded in 1866 and home to more than 1,000 animals, the zoo features many historic structures that have been renovated over time to accommodate the zoo’s growing collection. When visiting, expect to see celebrated residents like ring-tailed lemurs, lowland gorillas, Indian lions, giraffes, and kangaroos.

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07 Gellert Hill

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Gellert Hill is a popular part of Budapest, with its extraordinary views of the city and Danube River. A citadel sits at the top of the hill, and there’s also a cave within the hill that enhances its tourist-worthy appeal. The area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Gellert Hill is celebrated for its beauty as well as its palatial embassies and ambassador residences.

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08 Fisherman's Bastion

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Completed in 1902, Fisherman’s Bastion is an architectural icon of the city. This picturesque structure is a neo-Gothic/neo-Romanesque terrace that features breathtaking views of the city from its perch on Castle Hill. Fisherman’s Bastion includes seven towers to represent the seven Magyar tribes. The structure boasts many stairs and walking paths, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes when you visit.

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09 Cafe Gerbeaud

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As one of Europe’s oldest and most beloved coffeehouses, Café Gerbeaud should not be missed on any visit to Budapest. The iconic cafe brims with old-world elegance, from its exotic wood paneling to its sparkling chandeliers. Be sure to visit to enjoy the coffeehouse’s rich coffees, pastries, and confections. It’s a great place to relax after a morning of sightseeing around the city.

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10 Traditional Hungarian Restaurants

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The food of Budapest is worthy of destination status. You’ll find the city is brimming with cafes, bistros, and white tablecloth-clad restaurants. For an authentic Hungarian dining experience, you’ll want to visit eateries that feature made-from-scratch specialties like chicken paprikash and goulash. Many of the traditional dining establishments feature musicians that serenade you while you dine. Be sure to find an establishment that serves the renowned Dobos Torte for dessert.

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11 Visit the Hungarian National Gallery

Nestled within the historic walls of Buda Castle, the Hungarian National Gallery is a treasure trove of Hungarian art. From medieval relics to modern masterpieces, the gallery offers a comprehensive journey through the nation's rich artistic history. As you wander through its expansive halls, you'll encounter works that tell the story of Hungary's cultural evolution, making it a must-visit for art enthusiasts and history buffs alike.

Budapest, Hungary - July 31, 2022: Rear View of Hungarian National Art Gallery Magyar Nemzeti Galeria at Buda Castle. Baloncici / Shutterstock.com

12 Ride on Tram 2

For a unique sightseeing experience, hop on Tram 2. This scenic route along the Danube offers breathtaking views of Budapest's most iconic landmarks. Glide past the Parliament, the Chain Bridge, and the majestic Buda Castle, all while seated comfortably in this charming tram. It's an affordable and leisurely way to soak in the city's beauty, perfect for photographers and casual tourists alike.

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - MAY 13 2016:Tram Number 2 ,the Danube Promenade is located on the Pest side of Budapest, Pfeiffer / Shutterstock.com

13 Explore the House of Music Hungary

The House of Music Hungary, a recent addition to Budapest's cultural scene, is an architectural marvel and a haven for music lovers. Inside, interactive exhibits take you on a journey through the history of music, while its state-of-the-art concert halls host an array of live performances. Whether you're a classical aficionado or a fan of contemporary beats, this venue strikes a chord with all.

Budapest, Hungary - 20 May 2023: view at the House of music at Budapest on Hungary Stefano Ember / Shutterstock.com

14 Tour Budapest's murals in District VII

Step off the beaten path and into the vibrant streets of District VII, where Budapest's street art scene comes alive. These murals, more than just splashes of color on urban canvases, narrate stories of Hungarian history and culture. As you explore these artistic expressions, you'll gain a deeper appreciation of the city's creative spirit and its people's resilience.

Budapest, Hungary - Mar 31, 2016: Eclectic terrace in one of the most attractive ruin pubs, the Szimpla. Ruin pubs, many in District VII, former Jewish quarter, are trend in Budapest nightlife. Alicia G. Monedero / Shutterstock.com

15 Experience the House of Terror Museum

The House of Terror Museum stands as a solemn reminder of Hungary's tumultuous past. Located in the former headquarters of the Communist Secret Police, this museum poignantly captures the struggles and sacrifices of those who lived through oppressive regimes. Its haunting exhibits and gripping narratives provide a moving and educational experience, shedding light on chapters of history that must never be forgotten.

Budapest, Hungary - July 12, 2017: House of Terror museum in central Budapest. Former SS and KGB headquarters now converted into a museum and memorial to those killed during the Cold War. Tito Slack / Shutterstock.com
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