Budapest, Hungary easily ranks high among our favourite cities in Europe and it is not hard to tell you why. Aside from being one of the most visually stunning capital cities in the world, Michael and I have been there a number of times and know that there are a million things to do in Budapest! However, the city is steadily increasing in popularity (and rightly so), making it increasingly difficult to find activities without hoards of tourists. This list compiles both the mainstream and some more unusual things to do in Budapest!
1. Free Walking Tours
Like most big European cities, Budapest offers a host of free walking tours. Being an incredibly walkable city with an interesting and complex history, this can be a great jumping-off point before exploring the city. Free Budapest Tours offer three different free tours — a general city tour, a tour of the Jewish Quarter, and a tour of communist Budapest — and having been on all three of them,
I can recommend them highly. Their guides are friendly and well-informed and they give you a great historical perspective on the city. If you’re keen to delve into a more nuanced side of the city’s history, going on either their Jewish Quarter or Communist tours is one of the more unusual things to do in Budapest.
2. Margaret Island
A 2.5 km long island park floating in the middle of the Danube, spending a warm summer’s day hanging out on Margaret Island is one of my favourite things to do in Budapest.
There are a number of gardens and green areas to walk or cycle through and some cute little cafes where you can get an ice cream, coffee, or beer to take the edge off of a hot day. However popular, Margaret Island is a calming oasis from the bustling city and is definitely worth a visit.
3. Visit the Baths
Perhaps one of the most iconic tourist activities, visiting one of the thermal bath houses is one of the best things to do in Budapest. If you want to stay away from the crowds at the Széchenyi and Gellért baths and head to the rooftop pool at the Rudas baths.
Located on the Buda side of the city, the baths may not be as architecturally stunning as its more famous counterparts, but you’ll certainly get a more local experience while gazing at the beautiful skyline. Spending a couple of hours soaking up the warm water and incredible views at the Rudas Baths is definitely one of the more unusual things to do in Budapest.
4. Shoes on the Danube
Designed to commemorate the Hungarian Jews murdered during the fascist occupation in WWII, this memorial represents the shoes the people were ordered to leave behind before being shot and dumped into the river. A harrowing but well-done memorial, it is one of the more sombre things to do in Budapest.
5. Go Caving
Budapest is as fascinating underground as it is above. Situated atop a labyrinth of hydrothermal caves, it is possible to go on tours taking you through these subterranean wonders!
To be warned, however, some of the spaces in the caves are quite small and aren’t great if you’re not super fit or claustrophobic. Regardless, caving is one of the most active and exciting things to do in Budapest.
6. The Great Synagogue
In the heart of the Jewish Quarter, touring the Great Synagogue is one of the top things to do in Budapest. At 1,200 square meters, it is considered to be the largest synagogue in Europe and among the largest in the world.
The temple itself is impressive, but please note that men are required to cover their heads upon entering (paper kippahs are provided). There is also a garden in the grounds housing a hauntingly beautiful memorial to the Hungarian Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust.
7. Go on a Day Hike
If you fancy communing with nature and spending some time outside of the city, head to Visegrád. About an hour and a half bus ride out of Budapest, there are a host of beautiful mountains and hiking trails with ranging difficulty.
If you are spending more than a couple of days in the, I would highly recommend getting out and enjoying some of the beautiful Hungarian countryside — you’ll leave with a great memory of one of the unusual things to do in Budapest.
8. The House of Terror
Located on Andrássy Út and using the old headquarters of both the Nazis and the KGB, the House of Terror is perhaps my favourite museum in the city and one the best things to do in Budapest.
Containing a range of exhibits regarding the fascist and communist regimes in Hungary, it isn’t an uplifting visit but will leave you with a greater understanding of the horrors of both of these occupations.
This is a fairly popular attraction and you may encounter a queue upon entering but in my experience, these tend to move quite quickly and it is worth the wait.
9. The Hospital in the Rock
As I mentioned earlier in this list, Budapest is sat atop a number of caves, but aside from being able to explore these in their natural splendour, you can also see how they were put to use.
Below the Buda Castle lies the Hospital in the Rock, an underground WWII hospital turned cold war bunker. Tours are offered of this fascinating piece of history and I assure you that they are worth going on. Not many people seem to know about the hospital, and it remains one of my favourite unusual things to do in Budapest.
10. Ruin Bars
These days, Budapest may be known for nothing in the backpacker circle if not for its world-class nightlife. The crowning gems of this would have to be its ruin bars, bizarre bars set up in abandoned buildings.
Almost all of these are located nearby in the Jewish Quarter, the most famous having to be Szimpla Kert. It is really worth checking out some of the lesser known bars as well, though. For instance, Liebling is small and has a lovely, romantic outdoor terrace and I ended up seeing an awesome band play at Kuplung.
Regardless of where you end up, the ruin bars are easily some of the most unusual things to do in Budapest at night.
Where to Stay in Budapest
Because Budapest is such a popular destination among travellers from all walks of life, there is really no shortage of accommodation to suit all budgets on both the Buda or Pest sides. Because of this, it can be difficult to choose from the seemingly endless options. To help you out, here are some of our top picks:
Best Hostels in Budapest:
Budapest is incredibly popular amongst backpackers for many reasons: it’s very affordable, there are many things to do (as you’ve already read!), and there is an amazing nightlife. As such, there are a number of fantastic hostels in Budapest that are great budget accommodation options. These are some of our favourites:
Big Fish Hostel – This small hostel located on the lively Pest side is a great place to base yourself if you want to be close to all of the action in the city, but still want to get a good night’s sleep. The facilities are clean, the staff is friendly, and they offer both dorm beds and private rooms. Click here to see the latest prices on Hostelworld!
Shantee House – If you’re after a hostel with a bit more peace and tranquillity, then look no further than Shantee House. Located in the more residential Buda side of the city, this hostel has a range of both private and dorm rooms available, along with a peaceful garden where you can easily spend your day lounging around in a hammock. Click here to see the latest prices on Hostelworld!
Best Boutique Hotels in Budapest:
If hostels aren’t necessarily your thing and your budget allows for a bit more luxury than a crowded dorm room, then there are a number of great boutique hotels to choose from in Budapest. Here are our recommendations:
Butterfly Home Danube – This boutique hotel located in a great area on the Pest side is a fantastic place to rest your head while in Budapest. They offer a range of rooms that are suitable for couples and families alike and there is also breafast included in the rate. Click here to see the rates and reviews on Booking.com!
House Beletage – Located within easy reach of all of the main sites on the Pest side, this is another great option for a hotel in Budapest. There are a number of rooms available and there is also breakfast included. Click here to see the rates and reviews on Booking.com!
If you want to see a more local side of Budapest away from traditional accommodation options, there a private rental is also a great choice. There are a range of properties available such as this beautiful apartment on the Pest side of the city. Click here to browse Airbnbs in Budapest!
Alternatively, if the above isn’t quite what you’re looking for then click here to browse other hotels in Budapest!
Of course, it’s impossible to cram all of the amazing things Budapest has to offer into a small list, but these are some of the things I absolutely love doing in this central European gem.
Have you been? What are your favourite unusual things to do in Budapest? Leave a comment below!