Hungary’s capital is a boiling pot of cultural flavour. From historical landmarks, to thermal spas and delicious local cuisine the Pearl of the Danube is the ultimate mini break destination. Cruise down Europe’s second longest river and take in the world renowned architectural beauty of the city built on reams of history. Don’t waste time - follow our ultimate guide of top things to do in Budapest.
The first permanent structure linking the banks of Buda and Pest, the suspension bridge was built in the 19th century by Scottish engineer Adam Clark. Flanked by stone lions at either end, the national treasure boasts spectacular views of the city from each direction. During the summer, the bridge hosts a number of festivals almost every weekend and is lit up in the evening. This is a great place to start getting your bearings in the city with the Buda end leading into Clark Adam Square and the Pest end entering on to Szechenyi Istran Square. The bridge is such an important icon of the people it even has its own bridge master who has dedicated his life to the maintenance of the landmark.
Possibly the most well know feature of the Hungarian capital, the baths are responsible for attracting thousands of tourists each year. Nicknamed the City of Spas, Budapest sits on natural warm spring waters which has created a lively and healthy bathing culture. Each bath has a distinctive character so you can pick a pool suited to your needs. Drowning in history, stylish architecture and spa-like features, the most popular bath is Szechenyi, where you can relax in the day and party at one of the city’s infamous trance spa parties at night.
A major figure of 19th century Hungarian architecture, the neo-Renaissance state opera house is considered one of the best in the world. Since its opening night in 1884, the national monument constructed from marble and frescos has seen many of opera’s best walk through its doors. One of the most prestigious institutions in Europe, the auditorium holds 1200 people and is acknowledged for its impressive acoustics and horse-shoe shape. Statues of the esteemed composer Franz Liszt and first director of the opera, Ferenc Erkel stand on either side of the entrance. Guided tours are offered during the day and are the best way to see this important piece of Hungarian history.
Sitting on the banks of the Danube in the Pest district is the seat of the National Assembly of Hungary, the Parliament Buildings. Constructed by Hungarian architect Imre Steindl, this landmark took seventeen years to build and wasn’t finished until 1902. Take a tour of the main staircase, old upper house hall and the lounge and get up close and personal with the coronation jewels. Representing the nation’s sovereignty, you can’t miss the neo-Gothic building with its Renaissance style dome that penetrates the city’s skyline.
Right beside Parliament Buildings is an antique lovers paradise. Dating back as far as 1772 with the opening of BAV – Hungary’s largest antique shop, Falk Miksa Street has been dubbed Antique Row for its eclectic mix of flea markets, second hand stores and of course, antiquities. Book into one of the themed guided tours and explore the area with a local or catch one of the seasonal festivals such as Falk Art Forum, which celebrate antiques and modern art.
What better way to see the sights of the city than from a boat cruising down the middle of the river? As the only river in the world to flow through ten countries, the Danube has an impressive reputation in its own right and is well worth exploring. Take a daytime sight-seeing cruise and experience panoramic views of Buda and Pest from the centre of the action or opt for a dinner cruise and watch the light fade over the city as you demolish local delicacies. Try companies Mahart and Legenda for longer cruises and board EUrama for a hop-on hop-off style service.
Make your way through cobbled stoned streets and leafy promenades to the collection of landmarks at Castle Hill. Ride the funicular up to the top and spend the day exploring Budapest’s past. Visit Buda Castle, the palace now home to the Hungarian National Gallery and Budapest’s History Museum. For the best views in the city, wait until evening and head up to the turrets of Fisherman’s Bastion where you can see out over the Danube and marvel at the lit up attractions lining the river bank.
Heading to Hungary anytime soon? Tag us in your photos of things to do in Budapest using the hashtag #ryanairstories for a chance to be featured on Ryanair’s social media feeds.
Flights to Budapest
- Lucy Norris