Budapest is such a beautiful city, but what makes it even better as a city break destination is that it’s really affordable; you can have a brilliant time here without having to spend obnoxious amounts of money.
Of course it’s always nice to have an idea of what ‘a brilliant time’ actually means, so we’ve done a little research for you and come up with a list of what to see, eat and the great things to do in Budapest on a budget.
Time to start thinking about that next weekend away…
This is very possibly Budapest’s most charming breakfast. Villa Bagatelle is the perfect place to start your day and fuel up for hours of walking and sightseeing the great things to do in Budapest on a budget.
You can sit outside on the terrace here even when it’s not particularly warm outside; there are blankets and heaters to keep you toasty.
Our recommendation is the Bagatelle Breakfast – you get tea/coffee, eggs, bread, bacon, sausage, tomato confit, and proper orange juice for 2490huf (€7.90).
Of course, you might get breakfast included at your hotel but if you don’t, get it here. And if you do, come here anyway. Call it brunch.
As usual, a free walking tour is the perfect way to give yourself an introduction to any city. Budapest’s free walking tour runs twice daily, at 10:30am and 2:30pm, and it’s the perfect thing to do on your first day in the city.
Take water and wear comfy shoes, because during the tour you’ll spend around three hours walking round Budapest’s best sights – and there are a lot of them.
You can choose to do slightly more niche tours within the city too if you like (there’s a really good one of the city’s Jewish Quarter), but they depart at different times so check online before you leave – and remember, the tours are ‘free’ but tips are appreciated, so don’t be stingy; tip your guide!
Stick your comfy shoes on and make your way up to Fishermen’s Bastion. It’s a huge neo-Gothic terrace, built high on Castle Hill overlooking the ‘Pest’ side of the city.
At first glance and from a distance it looks like maybe it was built for defence, but actually, when you look a little more closely you can see that it was built purely for decorative purposes, as a spectacular viewing point down over the river and the city.
If you can get there before sunset, do. Stay there until the sun goes down, the city’s light are twinkling, and the parliament building is illuminated. It’s quite a sight. And it’s free.
Budapest’s New York Café is a little pricey compared to other cafés in the city, but once you’re sitting inside, you’ll understand why. It’s one of the most beautiful cafés in the world.
It opened in the late 1800s, and immediately became a place where writers and thinkers congregated – newspapers were even edited upstairs in the gallery here.
It’s not the sort of place you pop in for a latte on the way to work – this is a place you need to take time to really enjoy. So sit, relax, spend your 1,540HUF (€4.90) on a latte, and take in your incredible surroundings.
You’d spend that for a take away lukewarm mochafrappasomething at home – this is worth every penny.
Budapest’s parliament building is probably the most recognisable landmark in the city. It’s huge, beautiful and imposing, and the inside of it is just as extravagant and over the top as the outside.
Go in and check it out. You can get guided tours of the building daily in most European languages. The tour lasts for 45 minutes, and your best bet is to book in advance online, it's one of the most popular things to do in Budapest on a budget so it fills up pretty fast.
It’s only 2,000HUF for EU citizens (about €6.30). If you time it right and you’re there around noon you can catch the changing of the guard too, which is quite cool (and a good photo opportunity).
Located on Frankel Leó út, these are the oldest Turkish baths in the city. They were built by the Ottomans but were beautifully restored by archaeologists and architects a few years ago, and are back to their former glory.
The spa is made up of five thermal mineral pools of different sizes, as well as a Jacuzzi and some steam rooms. It’s clean and well kept, and it’s really, really relaxing.
You get three hours of steamy thermal bliss for 2,800HUF (€8.90), and if you want to hire a towel instead of taking your own it’s about 50 cent (plus a deposit which you get back). Go on, treat yourself.
The House of Terror is a museum and memorial that commemorates the victims of both the Nazi and Soviet regime in Hungary.
The actual building used to be the HQ of the Nazi party in 1940, and the basement was used as a prison and later a torture chamber under the Soviet regime.
It’s fascinating, and at times difficult, but it’s an integral part of the city’s history, and really well worth learning about. If you have an EU passport you get discounted entry, and getting an English audio guide is a good idea too (2,500 HUF or €7.90 in total).
Budapest’s biggest, oldest, most famous indoor market is a brilliant place to wander around for a few hours. It has a massive variety of stalls selling all kinds of souvenirs, as well as food – and lots of it.
This is the place to go to sample Hungarian produce and local delicacies – spicy cured meats, salamis and sausages, cheeses, pickles, fruit, vegetables, spirits and wine… and of course, lots and lots of Hungary’s favourite flavour, that sweet smoked paprika.
Spend a couple of hours wandering around and sampling the stuff. Spend some of your tenner in one of the restaurants upstairs on some real Hungarian food, and blow the rest on paprika.
Run away from the world for a few hours. Margaret Island is a delightful little haven right in the middle of the Danube, and definitely somewhere you’ll want to spend a few hours.
It’s got a wildlife park, a 5km running trail, rose gardens, a Japanese gardens complete with sunbathing turtles, and loads of places to lie out under the sun and relax.
It’ll cost you about €1.50 to get here using public transport, and you can rent a bike for half an hour for only 690HUF (€2.10).
There’s a musical fountain near the south of the island that puts on a pretty cool show four (for free) times a day. Try to go when it’s dark; the lights are pretty impressive.
If you don’t know what Ruin Pubs are, and/or you’ve never been to one, please let this be your official introduction.
After WWII, Budapest’s old Jewish Quarter was littered with abandoned buildings that had been left to ruin… until some awesome and creative people came along, filled them with flea-shop furniture, lighting and art, and turned them into pretty excellent bars. Szimpla Kert opened in 2001, and it’s the first and best of the bunch.
It has art exhibitions, film festivals and an open-air cinema, and if you come for the sheer madness of the décor and set-up, you’ll stay for the cheap booze, live music and lovely atmosphere. Beers are around €2. Have a few of them.
If you think seeing these great things to do in Budapest on a budget is for you, check out our cheap flights to Budapest.
- Dee Murray