Budapest is often called the Paris of the east, and as you will hopefully discover in this post, there is a big reason why it is that way. Only, one shouldn't really compare the two. There is so much beauty in Budapest, that I often wonder if Paris shouldn't be called the Budapest of the West.
In our extensive, 6-part travel series to Budapest, I pretty much showed everything that we did in the one week that we visited this amazing city. But I never really spoke about my favorite places that we saw and things that are an absolute must. In this post, which is sort of an extension of the series, I will list my personal Top 10 Things to Do in Budapest.
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1. Explore the Danube River Front
This is a no-brainer. Budapest has many striking skylines, that are best explored from the Danube river. Weather you take a guided tour on one of the many cruisers docked along the Danube, or you snap some shots from the Buda Castle, this is the most prominent part of the city and not to be missed.
2. Visit the Budapest Zoo
Looking for a break from the busy city life? Take a couple of hours off and stroll casually through the Budapest Zoo. For a small entrance fee, you can see everything the zoo has to offer, including traditional food and drinks inside the zoo.
3. Enjoy a Trip to the Vajdahunyad Castle
Only around 100 years old the Vajdahunyad Castle looks like something from the middle ages. There is a special history to this place. Thought by many to be the home of Count Dracula, it was once a part of the Hungarian state (the Austro-Hungarian Empire).
4. Get around on the Metro
The Train and Metro system in Budapest leaves nothing to be desired. Getting around the city is a breeze and all the major attractions are connected with the underground as well as the above ground train system. But there is a reason I'm including a transportation system on this list. Budapest has one of the oldest Metro systems in Europe, and exploring the many lines (a 4th line has been adapted last year) and their stations really is a tourist attraction all by itself.
5. Explore Budapest by Night
If there is one thing you have to do while visiting Budapest, then it's definitely exploring the city by night. Budapest transforms at night. Not one single corner is not attractive in the elaborate light set up. The warm glow of the lights, really sets you in a calm mood, while the view of the Danube from the Fisherman's Bastion at night is breathtaking.
6. Buda Castle and Fisherman's Bastion
No list about Budapest would be complete if it didn't include these two iconic sights. Located one next to the other, the Buda Castle, with it's many museums, squares, cafes and restaurants and the Fisherman's Bastion that glistens above the city with all of its Gothic charm. The view from both of these places is simply amazing. You have whole Budapest at your hand.
7. Visit the Liberty Bridge and Great Market Hall
The Great Market Hall or Central Market Hall is the largest and oldest indoor market in Budapest.It's located right next to the Liberty Bridge. Most of the stalls on the ground floor offer produce, meats, pastries, candies and spices, so if you are on the lookout for authentic Hungarian food, this is the place to go. If you are not hungry, you can still enjoy the sights!
8. Take a trip to the Heroes Square
This is really a short stop on your way to the Budapest Zoo or Vajdahunyad Castle, but definitely one worth taking. The central site of the hero's square, as well as a landmark of Budapest, is the Millennium Memorial (also known as Millennium Monument or Millenary Monument) with statues of the leaders of the seven tribes that founded Hungary in the 9th century and other outstanding figures of Hungarian history.
9. Roam the Streets and Parks in Budapest
Many of the most wonderful sights we discovered in the city, we did so by roaming through the city. We visited the obvious tourist attractions (some of which are listed in this post), but we always made sure to venture out into the side roads, explore further. Often, when the night had set, we walked around the various city parks. Getting lost in this city is definitely an advantage.
10. The House of Terror in Budapest
Budapest, like most cities in Eastern Europe is undoubtedly linked to the Iron Curtain in Europe and it's fall. Then there are many parts of the city where you will discover remnants from World War II. One of them is the House of Terror, dedicated to the Jews killed here during the war. But it also contains exhibits related to Hungarian organizations such as the fascist Arrow Cross Party and the communist ÁVH (which was similar to the Soviet Union KGB secret police). Part of the exhibition takes place in the basement, where you can see examples of the cells that the ÁVH used to break the will of their prisoners. You can see more from the House of Terror on this blog as well.
What part of Budapest speaks most to you?