Being a city of unforgettable and unique charm, Budapest offers everything from history, cultural attractions like museums and architecture to picturesque hilltop views, stunning sunsets and landscapes, trendy spots and enticing blends of spices used in local cuisine. This bustling metropolis enchants budget travelers from around the country and the world. Here, I round up ten free things to do in Budapest.
Climb Gellért Hill: Gellért Hill with the Citadel on the top is one of Budapest’s biggest tourist attractions and probably offers the most beautiful view of the city, especially at night. There are buses full of tourists brought up there just for “the million dollar view”. Don’t be shy of being surrounded by thousands of tourists and take a breathtaking photo of Budapest at night.
Walk across Chain Bridge at Night: The first bridge that connected Buda and Pest, the western and eastern sides of the city. It became an iconic landmark of the Hungarian capital. Chain Bridge offers some of the best views in the city. It is absolutely beautiful to see the Chain Bridge at night bathed in hundreds of lights. Have a walk over the bridge and take a spectacular picture.
Ride the no. 2 Tram: If you are on a budget, ride the no. 2 tram – it can serve as your cheap sightseeing tour. It rolls along the Danube on the Pest side so you can see most of the amazing sights like Gellért Hill, the Chain Bridge and many more. All you need is a single ticket to hop on the tram.
Explore the Central Market Hall: It is the largest and most spectacular market hall in Budapest, a real architectural gem stone of the 20th century, a popular tourist stop but not in the ordinary souvenir-fetish way. Plenty of locals do their regular food shopping here as well. You can shop with locals or try some traditional Hungarian food at the Central Market Hall. Keep your eyes open and your taste buds ready for a special experience.
Discover the Castle Area: Discover the Castle Area with a magnificent walking tour where you can soak up the wonderful views and the city’s culture and history. The walls of the iconic area and its cobbled streets are going to remain a vision in your mind for a long time. Royal Palace, Mary Magdalene Tower, Vienna Gate, Matthias Church, Fisherman’s Bastion, Turul Bird and the National Gallery are all must-see sights of Budapest! Give it a go!
Window shopping and people watching on Andrássy Avenue: Take a stroll on the elegant Andrássy Avenue and you’ll understand why Budapest is often called the Paris of the East and why Andrássy Avenue is the Hungarian version of Champs-Élysées. It was built for the Millennium celebrations and connects Heroes’ Square with the city center. You find lots of world famous luxury designers’ shops and chic restaurants and cafes along the avenue. It is one of the most romantic and nicest places especially, at night or during the Christmas season.
Admire Heroes’ Square: Heroes’ Square is one of Budapest’s most emotional monuments and is the proud home of the Millennium Memorial, the Heroes’ Monument and two of Budapest’s major museums. You can sit on the stairs of the Fine Arts Museum or the Art Gallery and watch the local kids and teens on their skateboards generally arriving after the tour buses leave. Then you can stroll through the neighboring City Park and marvel the buildings of Vajdahunyad Castle, the Zoo and Széchenyi Bath.
Escape to Margaret Island: Though urban life is fun, at one point, we are all longing for Mother Nature. To get away from bustling city life, head to the green oasis in the middle of the Danube called Margaret Island. This wonderful emerald isle with its lovely paths, blooming flowers and verdant trees is just the place you need! Enjoy the relaxing atmosphere and a breath of fresh air right in the City!
Wander through the Jewish Quarter: The Jewish Quarter in Budapest is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. This beautiful part of the city offers an insight into a different side of Hungarian life. To get a taste of real local life just wander the streets of this fascinating area or sit in one of the hidden tea-houses and boutique eateries that are only visible to eagle-eyes. Then visit the Great Synagogue, in Dohány street which is Europe’s largest synagogue and the most important religious center of the local Jewish community.
Relax on Kopaszi Dam: Kopaszi Dam is a very nice recreational area on the Buda side, right next to Rákóczi Bridge. It is really a good place to take a relaxing walk, ride your bike or just sit in the sun watching the Danube. It is the place where you are allowed to step on the grass, unlike in other green parks in the city. With its restaurants and bars it is the perfect place to spend a lazy afternoon.
These are 10 things to do for free in Budapest. However, if you have more tips of your own you’d like to share in the comments section of this article, please do! I’m sure everyone could benefit from additional tips.
Photo: András Zombory