Things to Do in Hungary
Flowing through the heart of Budapest, the Danube River is the lifeline of the Hungarian capital, as well as its geographic center, separating the hilly Buda district on the west bank from the bustling Pest on the east bank. The striking waterfront is also part of Budapest’s UNESCO World Heritage–listed treasures, home to landmarks such as the Szechenyi Chain Bridge, the Liberty Bridge, Buda Castle Hill, Matthias Church, the Hungarian Parliament Building, and Margaret Island.
The Hungarian House of Parliament (Országház) is one of the world’s most photogenic government buildings. Perched on the UNESCO World Heritage–listed banks of the Danube River, the mainly neo-Gothic structure features 691 rooms, a handful of which are open to the public—including the Domed Hall, where the Crown of St. Stephen is on display.
Perched on a hilltop overlooking the Danube riverfront, the Buda Castle (Budai Vár), or Buda Royal Palace, is one of Budapest’s most photographed landmarks. The magnificent palace dates back to the 13th century, but has been destroyed and rebuilt multiple times throughout history, most recently in a neo-baroque style.
One of the largest and most famous thermal baths in Europe, Budapest’s Széchenyi Thermal Baths (Széchenyi Gyógyfürdo) are one of Hungary's most visited attractions. Soaking in the mineral-rich baths, with startling blue pools set against a backdrop of a grand neo-baroque palace, is a quintessential Budapest experience. It’s also a luxurious one, especially when coupled with a visit to the spa, which offers everything from saunas and mudpacks to rejuvenating massages and balneal therapies.
Matthias Church (Matays-templom), is a top sight in Budapest's must-see Castle Hill district. This Roman Catholic church boasts neo-Gothic architecture and intricate detailing, from ornately tiled roof and carved gargoyles, to frescoes and stained-glass windows. Visit Matthias Church as part of a Buda Castle complex tour.
Nestled in the Danube River, Margaret Island (Margit-sziget) is an oasis in Hungary’s capital of Budapest. This verdant park is packed with attractions, including a pool, a spa, playgrounds, and a Japanese garden. When the sun is shining, locals and tourists picnic on the island’s green lawns and, in summer, listen to free concerts.
It's no surprise that the Széchenyi Chain Bridge (Széchenyi Lanchid is a top Budapest attraction since this 19th-century landmark offers fantastic views of Castle Hill. You can walk across for waterfront views, pose for a snapshot with the Buda Castle in the background, and marvel at the bridge's stone towers while crossing the Danube.
With everything from holy relics to frescoes, the neoclassical St. Stephen’s Basilica (Szent István Bazilika) is a must for first-time visitors to Budapest. Marvel at the architecture, the clock towers, the stained glass windows—and the preserved hand of St. Stephen, the first king of Hungary.
Heroes' Square (H?sök Tere) is a grand public space at the entrance to Budapest's City Park. Visitors find sweeping columns, statues, and monuments to Hungary's celebrated statesmen. A worthy place to visit, Heroes' Square is an ideal stop for visitors wandering the park, or before stepping into Budapest's well-curated Museum of Fine Arts.
Gellert Hill (Gellert-hegy) is best known for its panoramic city views, 19th century Citadel, and historic monuments. While the hike up Gellert Hill’s stone steps can be challenging, the sweeping vistas of Budapest and the Danube River from the top are worth the climb.
More Things to Do in Hungary
Situated atop Buda's Gellért Hill—just west of the Danube—the Citadella is a 19th-century fortress that's a prime destination for urban hikers seeking some of the best views in Budapest. You can ascend the hillside to reach the fortification, stop by the small museum on World War II history, and marvel at the unbeatable panorama from the viewpoint.
Fisherman’s Bastion, or Halaszbastya, is one of Budapest’s most picturesque lookouts. Nestled high on Castle Hill, the neo-Romanesque terrace was built between 1895 and 1902, in celebration of millennial Hungary. Though today’s structure is decorative, it sits on fortified walls that were used to defend the city throughout its early history.
Andrássy Avenue (Andrássy Út is an elegant Budapest thoroughfare not unlike Paris' Champs-Élysées or Madrid's Gran Vía. The avenue is known as an upscale area full of art nouveau buildings, ritzy shops, and chic eateries. Among them all, the State Opera House (Magyar Állami Operaház stands as a grand testament to times past.
This neo-Renaissance opera house (Magyar Állami Operaház) has an illustrious history as one of Budapest’s greatest cultural venues, with legendary composer Gustav Mahler having once served as director here. Behind the Miklós Ybl–designed facade, which features statues of Puccini, Mozart, Liszt, and Verdi, is a plush interior with gilding, marble, and chandeliers.
Budapest’s largest indoor market is a hub of activity, with hundreds of stalls spread over three floors. Housed in a striking 19th-century building, it’s a place where local chefs shop for fresh produce, tourists haggle over traditional handicrafts, and the upstairs food court serves delicious Hungarian cuisine.
Budapest is home to several bridges, and though the Elisabeth Bridge (Erzsébet Híd may not be the most famous, it's among the most important. Destroyed in World War II and rebuilt in the 1960s, today it's the city's most trafficked bridge, offers great city views if you walk across, and serves as the gateway to Buda's must-see Citadella.
Vajdahunyad Castle is a picturesque attraction nestled in Budapest's City Park (Városliget). Originally built in 1896 for Hungary's millennial festivities, the architecturally diverse complex includes the city's agricultural museum inside the palace. Wander the lovely grounds, or stop by museum exhibits on hunting, forestry, and wine.
Ranking as the largest synagogue in Europe—and the second-largest in the world—Dohány Street Synagogue is one of Budapest’s most striking monuments. Aptly nicknamed the “Great Synagogue,” it’s not only an architectural marvel but also an important part of Budapest’s Jewish history and heritage.
The century-old Gellért Thermal Bath and Spa is one of Budapest’s largest and most luxurious spa complexes. Housed in a magnificent art nouveau building, it boasts a grand colonnaded indoor pool, multiple thermal baths, saunas, steam rooms, a rooftop wave pool, and a panoramic sun terrace.
Budapest's Liberty Square (Szabadság Tér is among the most picturesque of the city's public spaces. Nestled in District V, the square is flanked by grand buildings like the United States Embassy and Hungarian National Bank headquarters. A stately Soviet War Memorial is the park's centerpiece, and the interactive fountain is a must-see.
Szentendre sits on the western flank of the River Danube Bend just north of Budapest, an arty hotspot crammed with brightly painted Baroque houses, Orthodox churches and museums tucked among scores of galleries, craft shops and cafés. Largely constructed in the 18th century by Serbian refugees, the heart of the town is found in the cobbled, triangular Main Square (Széchenyi Tér or Fo Tér), which is dominated by an elaborate memorial cross erected by the Serbian Trade Association in thanks for being spared an epidemic in 1763. Today surrounded by delicate wrought-iron railings, the cross is inscribed with the dates of its renovations across three centuries. Also standing on the square is the Baroque Serbian Orthodox Church, constructed in 1752 and topped with a bronze spire, along with the pastel-hued town houses of Serbian merchants. In summer music and drama festivals take place in the square, in winter a bustling Christmas market takes pride of place. The souvenir stores in the labyrinthine winding lanes leading off the Main Square all have colorful displays spilling out into the streets; this is the spot to load up with pálinka (Hungarian fruit brandy) and hand-embroidered linen tablecloths.
Castle Hill (Várhegy) is the medieval heart of Budapest and the centerpiece of the Buda neighborhood. Part of the Budapest UNESCO World Heritage site, the district is home to the city's big-hitter attractions, including the royal fortress of Buda Castle, Matthias Church, and the Fisherman's Bastion. Stroll through Old Town’s cobblestone streets and you’ll find a wealth of historical sites, as well as spectacular views of the the Danube River and adjacent Pest neighborhood.
Tokaj is an historic town in northern Hungary, as well as the center of the Tokaj Wine Region Historic Cultural Region, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2002. The region is home to almost 600 wineries and is where the world renowned Tokaji wine is produced. The oldest classified wine region in Europe, vineyards were established here as early as the 12th century, although most wine cellars were built between the 16th and 17th centuries, including a vast system of cellars carved out of solid rock. The region produces only white wines, primarily sweet dessert wines.
The town of Tokaj stands at the confluence of the Tisza and Bodrog Rivers and dates back to the 14th century. Although it once belonged to Hungary’s royal family, it suffered during the world wars and lost its importance, only regaining town status in 1986.
Located steps from the Danube River in Budapest's opulent District V, the mid-19th-century Vigadó Concert Hall (Pesti Vigadó was restored after suffering damage in World War II, and today stands as a premier Hungarian music venue. The Vigadó—home to the Hungarian State Folk Ensemble—frequently hosts top-notch classical music concerts.
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- Things to do in Szentendre
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