10 Attractions in Budapest You Shouldn’t Miss

Experience the beauty and romance of the Paris of the East.

Often referred to as the Paris of the East, Budapest is famous for its stunning architecture and is home to numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

But did you know that Hungary’s capital actually comprises three previously independent cities: Old Buda (Óbuda), Buda and Pest? The three were united in 1873, forming one of the largest cities in the European Union.

Today, the 19th-century Széchenyi Chain Bridge straddles the scenic River Danube and connects the hilly Buda district with flat Pest, which is where you’ll find Budapest’s most famous tree-lined boulevard as well as Fraser Residence Budapest.

From a 200-year-old Hungarian coffee house serving up traditional chocolate cake to the gorgeous bath houses, read on to discover other Budapest attractions that are worth putting on your itinerary.

1. Széchenyi Chain Bridge

Széchenyi Chain Bridge

Completed in 1849, Széchenyi Chain Bridge (Lánchid) across the Danube was the first permanent bridge to connect Buda and Pest. At that time, the grandiose Chain Bridge was dubbed as one of the wonders of the world.

In the summer, festivals are held on the bridge almost every weekend. The Pest end of the bridge is at Széchenyi István Square and the Buda end of the bridge is at Clark Ádám Square, where you can ascend Castle Hill by the funicular that has been running since 1870.

Tip: During the day, walk across the suspension bridge for the wonderful views and again in the evening when the bridge is all lit up.

2. Fisherman’s Bastion

Fisherman's Bastion, Budapest, Hungary

For panoramic views of the city and great photo opportunities of the Parliament building and Széchenyi Chain Bridge, take the Castle Hill funicular up to the Fisherman’s Bastion (Halászbástya).

Built between 1895 and 1902, the seven ornate turrets symbolise the tents of the seven Magyar tribe leaders who settled in the Carpathian Basin around 896, which ultimately led to the existence of modern-day Hungary.

The lower section of the fairytale-like neo-Gothic lookout towers is free to visit 24 hours, but the upper levels can only be accessed via a coin-operated turnstile gate depending on the time of your visit.  

While up there, do admire the adjacent 13th century Matthias Church, which has a unique multi-coloured tiled roof.

Matthias Church in Budapest

3. Ruszwurm

Ruszwurm, in the Castle district, is one of Budapest’s oldest traditional confectioners. Dating from 1827, the cafe is small but well worth a visit for excellent coffee and cake in a traditional Hungarian coffee house.

Apparently the cafe was once so popular that Queen Sissi of Hungary (1837-1898) would send her staff there to buy cakes for breakfast. All of the pastries look good, but the dobos torte (a sponge cake with layers of chocolate and butter cream) is superb.

Behind the 200-year-old cherry wood counter, you’ll also find glass cabinets with knick-knacks of the confectionery industry from over the past 50 years, including hundreds of artistic figures.

4. Buda Castle

Buda Castle on Castle Hill in Budapest

Perched on Castle Hill, the castle is one of the city skyline’s most distinct features with its huge green dome. The massive 200-roomed palace is, like much of the city – spectacularly illuminated at night.

The home of Hungarian kings in Budapest, the Buda Castle, also known as the Royal Palace, was built in the 13th century as the first royal residence. Today, Buda Castle is home to the Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest History Museum and National Széchenyi Library.

The Labyrinth of Buda Castle is an underground attraction with about a kilometre open to the public. Always cool inside and somewhat damp, this was a former prison where Count Dracula was held in captivity by Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus during the 15th century.

5. St Stephen’s Basilica

Dome of St Stephen's Basilica in Budapest

Over on the Pest side, St Stephen’s Basilica (Szent István Bazilika) is a Roman Catholic basilica and one of the most beautiful and significant churches in Hungary. It is dedicated to the first king of Hungary, St Stephen, who is considered to be the founder of the Hungarian state.

Building work started in 1851, but the dome collapsed in 1868 the dome. A rebuild was needed and the church was finally dedicated in 1905.

Entry is by donation and the interior is extraordinarily beautiful, especially the dome. Behind the main altar is an object of great devotion and what everyone comes to see: the mummified right hand of St Stephen, which is also known as the Holy Dexter or Holy Right.

Tip: For a small fee, you can also take the lift up to the observation deck to get some of the best views of the city.

6. Heroes’ Square

Heroes' Square in Budapest at night

Heroes’ Square (Hősök tere) is one of Budapest’s grandest landmarks as well as the largest public square in the city. The impressive Millennium Monument stands at the centre of the square: a 36m column crowned by a figure of the Archangel Gabriel.

The square itself is flanked on both sides by museums, including some of the best in Budapest such as the Museum of Fine Arts.

The City Park (Városliget) behind is also worth visiting to enjoy a picnic or relax by the lake. There’s plenty of other options as well: Vajdahunyad Castle, Széchenyi Baths and Budapest Zoo are all within the park.

To get to Heroes’ Square, start from Elizabeth Square and take a stroll down the famous Andrássy Avenue, a UNESCO World Heritage-listed street lined with high-end shops, cafes, restaurants and theatres.

Or for an easy way to see the major sights, head underground to hop on continental Europe’s first metro (M1 or the yellow line).

7. Széchenyi Baths

Szechenyi Baths

A visit to the thermal baths is a quintessential Budapest experience. The thermal water is warm all year-round, so the outdoor pools remain open in the winter.

More than 100 thermal springs beneath the city supply mineral-rich water to various baths that cater to different tastes – from pure relaxation to late-night dancing. One of the most popular and the largest of its kind in Europe is Széchenyi Baths.

With 18 pools – 15 of which are spring fed ­– as well as a maze of saunas and steam rooms, it’s easy to feel like you’re swimming in a palace. If you’re looking to experience nightlife like no other, Széchenyi is also famous for its spa parties during summer.

Tip: The baths are open from 6am to 7pm (10pm for the outdoor facilities) every day, so you should be able to find a time without the crowds. This is a mixed-gender bath and swimwear is required.

For a different experience, try other baths such as Gellert, which is in a smaller but an equally beautiful building reminiscent of a cathedral; Király, a small Turkish bath that dates back to the 1500s; or Lukács, which transforms into a party venue on Saturday nights during winter.

8. Hungarian Parliament Building

Hungarian Parliament Building

With almost 700 rooms, the world’s third largest parliament building is also the largest building in Hungary and tallest building in Budapest.

The eclectic style of the Parliament is aesthetically pleasing. A blend of Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance architectural styles, the impressive building was completed in 1902.

You can visit on most days, but do book a guided tour in advance to really get a good look around. You’ll get to see many areas including the Domed Hall where the Crown of St Stephen is on display along with more of the Hungarian crown jewels.

Afterwards, do take a walk along the Danube Promenade to see the poignant Shoes on the Danube Bank memorial by sculptor Gyula Pauer. The 60 pairs of iron shoes commemorate the Jews shot here during WWII.

9. Great Synagogue

Learn more about Budapest’s Jewish community at the Great Synagogue on Dohány Street.

This is the largest Jewish house of worship in Europe and the second largest in the world, seating up to 3,000 people. Built between 1854 and 1859, the synagogue blends both Romantic and Moorish architecture styles.

Inside, the Hungarian Jewish Museum contains objects relating to both religious and everyday life, including a gravestone dating back to the time of the Roman Empire.

On the synagogue’s north side, the Holocaust Memorial stands over the mass grave of those killed by the Nazis. Designed in 1991 by Imre Varga, the ‘leaves’ of the tree, which resembles a weeping willow tree, are inscribed with the family names of some of the thousands of victims.

Nearby in Goldmark Hall you can also find an exhibition, documenting what life was like in the Jewish Quarter from the 18th century.

Tip: The synagogue is open daily from 10am, except on Saturdays. Closing times vary according to the season, so do check with your concierge for timings.

10. Margaret Island

Fountain on Margaret Island in River Danube

If the buzz of Budapest gets too much, head to the green oasis of Margaret Island (Margitsziget) in the middle of the Danube.

The island’s attractions include the pretty Rose Garden, medieval ruins, a historic water tower that you can climb up for the views, playgrounds, an open-air theatre and a musical fountain that is illuminated at night.

The outdoor Palatinus spa complex is a major highlight, complete with giant slides and a wave pool.

At 2.5km-long, you can walk everywhere, or explore the island on a small train or bus. You can also hire a bike or an electric golf cart if you wish.

Whether for short or extended stays, the luxury apartments of Fraser Residence Budapest make it easy to explore the many attractions in Budapest. Situated on the Pest side of the city, its city centre location in the lively Corvin Quarter offers convenient access to metro and tram lines.

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