Budapest green MOL Bubi bikes

Best ways to explore Budapest

Whether you prefer to wander through the charming streets, zoom around the city on two wheels or embark on a guided tour, there are plenty of ways to explore Budapest. Keep reading for some of the best options, from walking tours to river cruises, helping you make the most of your visit to this captivating city.

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Tips for Exploring Budapest

Here are some valuable tips to enhance your exploration of Budapest and make the most of your visit:

  1. Plan Ahead: Research and create an itinerary based on your interests, ensuring you make the most of your time in Budapest. Consider getting a Budapest Card, which offers free public transport, free entry to many attractions and discounts on restaurants and certain activities.
  2. Comfortable Footwear: Budapest is a walkable city, so wear comfortable shoes to explore the streets and landmarks.
  3. Check Opening Hours: Many attractions and restaurants in Budapest have varying opening hours, so it’s essential to check in advance. Some museums and landmarks are open longer in peak tourist season (May-August) so plan accordingly.
  4. Currency: The official currency in Hungary is the Hungarian Forint (HUF). Ensure you have some local currency for smaller establishments and transportation.
  5. Dress Code: When visiting churches and religious sites, dress modestly and respectfully. Budapest can be very hot in the summer, but you shouldn’t walk around in swimwear outside of spas and pools.
  6. Public Etiquette: Be mindful of local customs and etiquette, such as respecting personal space.
  7. Safety: Budapest is generally a safe city, but it’s always wise to take precautions such as keeping an eye on your belongings and using reputable transport services. If you require emergency assistance in Budapest, dial 112 to contact emergency services.
  8. Language: While English is widely spoken in tourist areas, it’s polite to learn a few basic Hungarian phrases, such as please and thank you.
  9. Weather Considerations: Budapest experiences distinct seasons, so pack accordingly and check the weather forecast before your visit.
  10. Time for Exploring: Budapest is a city best explored at a relaxed pace. Allow ample time to soak in the atmosphere, enjoy the local cuisine, and embrace the city’s charm.
View over Budapest from Fisherman’s Bastion white castle at sunset
Fisherman’s Bastion at sunset

Discovering Budapest on Foot

Walking is undoubtedly one of the best ways to explore Budapest. The city’s compact size and pedestrian-friendly streets make it ideal for exploring on foot.

We recommend exploring the Buda side of the river and the Pest side separately. This is the most efficient way to see all the key sights on either side of the river without having to go backwards and forwards. This would be too time-consuming, particularly if you only have a few days in the city.

If you decide to take a walking tour, there are options for exploring either side of the river separately or together. You can also choose a tour based on your interests; options include history tours, neighbourhood tours and food tours.

Buda

Buda, the hilly side of Budapest, boasts a wealth of historic districts that are best explored on foot. Begin your journey at Castle Hill, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s home to the iconic Fisherman’s Bastion, Buda Castle, Hungarian National Gallery and Budapest History Museum, and you can also explore the cave system underneath. Elsewhere on the Buda side of the river you can visit Matthias Church, a stunning Gothic masterpiece, as well as outdoor attractions like Gellért Hill and Memento Park.

Pest

Crossing the iconic Chain Bridge, you’ll find yourself in Pest, the bustling and vibrant side of Budapest. We recommend strolling along Andrássy Avenue (Andrássy út), a grand boulevard lined with elegant buildings, luxury boutiques and numerous eateries. Starting from the nearby St. Stephen’s Basilica and ending at City Park, you’ll come across famous landmarks and attractions like the House of Terror Museum, the Hungarian State Opera and Heroes’ Square.

The streets around the Avenue are also home to numerous attractions- consider the Museum of Illusions and the Museum of Sweets and Selfies if travelling with kids. You should also bear in mind that even ten to fifteen minutes from the Avenue, cafes and restaurants will be slightly cheaper. Other notable attractions in Pest are Central Market Hall, Szimpla Kert, Dohány Street Synagogue and the Shoes on the Danube Bank memorial.

Exploring Budapest on two wheels: Bikes and Segways

If you’re looking to cover more ground and have an active adventure, bikes and Segways are an excellent choice for exploring Budapest. The city is renowned for its bike-friendly infrastructure, with dedicated bike lanes and paths that crisscross both Buda and Pest.

One of the most picturesque routes for cyclists is along the banks of the Danube River. The Danube-side cycle paths offer breathtaking views of Budapest’s landmarks, including the Hungarian Parliament and Castle Hill.

As well as its landmarks, Budapest is renowned for its lush green spaces and picturesque islands. These are perfect for exploring by bike or Segway during summer, spring and autumn (mid-April to late October). Margaret Island, located in the middle of the Danube River, is a cyclist’s paradise with its serene pathways, gardens, and thermal baths. We also recommend City Park, home to the iconic Széchenyi Thermal Bath, Vajdahunyad Castle, and the Budapest Zoo.

You can rent a bike from the MOL Bubi bike-sharing program- download the app and it will tell you where the closest bike station is, then scan the QR code on the bike and start cycling. You can also use platforms like BikesBooking for renting bikes and scooters, as well as motorbikes. Segways are usually only available on guided tours, so look for one which suits your interests.

Discovering Budapest from the water: Boat Tours and Cruises

The Danube River is the lifeblood of Budapest, and boat tours and cruises offer a unique perspective on the city. They take in iconic sites such as the Hungarian Parliament Building, Castle Hill and Gellért Hill. As well as sightseeing tours, there are options for wine, prosecco and cocktail cruises, as well as dinner cruises with live music and folk shows.

If you’d prefer to explore independently, there is also a riverboat service, providing a convenient and scenic way to get around the city. In the summer months, Budapest Közlekedési Központ (BKK) operates boats along the Danube, connecting various stops along the riverbank. These boats offer a unique and budget-friendly alternative for sightseeing, allowing you to hop on and off at different landmarks, including the Castle Garden Bazaar and the Hungarian Parliament.

Using Public Transport: Sightseeing Made Easy

A surprisingly hassle-free way to explore Budapest’s highlights is to use public transport. Transport options available includes buses, trams, the metro, trains and boat services. You can also use Bolt, a taxi app alternative to Uber.

The Hop-on-hop-off bus is a popular choice for tourists, offering the flexibility to explore the city’s most iconic sights at your own pace. These tours provide a comprehensive overview of Budapest’s landmarks, with multiple stops at major attractions. Hop off at any stop that catches your interest, spend as much time as you like exploring, and then hop back on the next bus to continue your journey.

Outdoor pool in front of Széchenyi Thermal Bath yellow building during the day
Széchenyi Thermal Bath

Exploring Budapest based on areas of interest

In addition to the modes of exploration above, one of the best ways to explore Budapest is to focus on a particular aspect of the city. This is especially good if you’ve been to Budapest before and already know what areas you want to explore further. It’s also good if you don’t have much time, or you’re new to the city and have decided to visit for a specific reason.

Thermal Baths and Spas

Budapest is renowned for its thermal baths and spas, which have been an integral part of Hungarian culture for centuries. The famous Széchenyi Thermal Bath is located in City Park close to many other attractions, and is a tourist hotspot.

Meanwhile, the intimate Rudas Baths and Gellért Baths are both located at the foot of Gellért Hill on the Buda side of the river, and offer a quieter experience. If you purchase a Budapest Card, you’ll also get free admission to Lukács Baths, and discounts on Széchenyi, Rudas, Gellért, Király and Palatinus baths.

Culinary Experiences

Hungarian cuisine is a delightful fusion of flavours, influenced by the country’s diverse culinary heritage. There are plenty of traditional Hungarian restaurants in the city, many of them located on the Pest side of the river. You should also try Hungarian street food; you’ll see many stalls in popular tourist areas, squares and parks.

If you’d prefer some guidance, food tours take you to local markets, street food stalls, and traditional eateries, providing a true taste of Budapest. You can choose from tours that stop at multiple areas around the city, or tours that exclusively stick to Central Market Hall. Many tours also include local wine and pálinka (the national spirit) tastings.

A particularly fun way to learn about traditional dishes and delicacies is to join a cooking class. You can learn how to make classic desserts and pastries such as Kürtőskalács (Chimney Cake) and Strudel, as well as savoury dishes like Lángos, Goulash and Paprikash.

Wine Tasting

Hungary has a long and storied tradition of winemaking, and Budapest offers the perfect gateway to explore the country’s rich wine heritage. Visit one of the city’s wine bars or join a wine tasting tour to sample a variety of Hungarian wines, from crisp whites to full-bodied reds.

You can learn about Hungary’s wine regions, grape varieties, and winemaking techniques either on a tour in Budapest itself or on a day trip to the surrounding wine-makings regions. Etyek, Páty and the Mátra Hills are popular options for day trips. As well as the wine tasting, you’ll get to try locally produced food and hear about the history of the region.

You can often select wine tastings that include food tours or at least snacks, which we definitely recommend- after all, it’s best not to waste valuable time on your trip being too hungover to enjoy yourself! And in addition to learning about wine, there are also options to visit distilleries and sample locally produced whiskey, gin and pálinka.

History and Museums

Budapest has a fascinating history, and you can easily spend a few days exploring the city’s museums. If you do want to visit Budapest for its museums, you should opt for a Budapest Card and take advantage of the free entry to multiple sites, as well as discounts on others. The following are just a few of the options that offer free admission with the Budapest Card:

  • Hungarian National Museum
  • Budapest History Museum
  • Museum of Fine Arts
  • Museum Of Military History
  • Museum Of Óbuda
  • Hungarian Railway Museum
  • Memento Park

Museums that offer discounts include the Hospital In The Rock – Nuclear Bunker Museum and the Hungarian Jewish Museum and Archives. You also get access to free walking tours- one of Buda and one of Pest, in addition to heavily discounted Buda Castle walks.

Nightlife and Entertainment

When the sun sets, Budapest comes alive with a vibrant nightlife scene. From trendy ruin bars to stylish cocktail lounges, the city offers a diverse range of venues to suit every taste.

You can experience Budapest’s legendary nightlife by joining a pub crawl- this is one of the best ways to discover the city’s famous ruin bars. You could also go on one of the aforementioned dinner cruises, which include drinks and live entertainment, or even head to Széchenyi Thermal Bath for a late-night spa party.

If you want to try something a bit different, you could join a Vampire Tour in the Castle District. This is a great way to learn about the darker side of Hungary’s history, as well as the Hungarian origins of popular folk tales and mythology. For a similar vibe, opt for a haunted outdoor escape game.

Another great option is to immerse yourself in the city’s thriving music and theatre scene. From classical concerts at the Hungarian State Opera to underground gigs, Budapest’s entertainment options are as diverse as the city itself.

Conclusion

Budapest offers a multitude of ways to explore its historic districts, vibrant neighbourhoods, and iconic landmarks. Whether you prefer to wander the streets on foot, on two wheels, aboard a ferry or by way of a guided tour, there’s an experience to suit every preference and budget.

If you’ve gotten this far, we recommend checking out some of our other articles. The Best of Budapest: A Comprehensive Guide to the Top Things to Do, if you haven’t read it yet, should be particularly helpful in convincing you to book a trip- that is, if you haven’t already!

CTA: Check out Get Your Guide for tours and experiences in Budapest, Tiqets for booking attractions and Kiwi for flight deals!

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