Budapest is one of Europe’s most beautiful and romantic cities, with a laid-back atmosphere and many unique attractions. Most places are within walking distance, meaning you won’t have to run from one place to another. And the best part, there are countless free things to do in Budapest! 

Did you know that Budapest used to be two cities? Buda(up on the hill) and Pest are located on opposite sides of the river, and over time, as the towns grew, they became one city: Budapest! 

I will reveal the best free things to do in Budapest, depending on which part of the city they are situated, just to make your life easier.

PEST SIDE

1. Take a Walk on Vaci Utca

Strolling the famous pedestrian street is one of the best free things to do in Budapest. Stretching parallel to the Danube River, Vaci Utca houses many buildings from the 19th century, so make sure to admire their facades. The promenade is lined with restaurants, cafes and shops on both sides of the street.

Here are a few things to do:

Marvel at the Philanthia flower shop facade and admire the handmade shoes inside the Vass Shoe.

Look for building No. 9, where the 11-year-old Mozart gave a concert back in the day.

Go inside the Central Market to experience an authentic Hungarian atmosphere. It’s a popular place among locals and visitors.

If you’re tired, stop for a slice of cake and a coffee at the famous Gerbeaud Confectionery.

2. Admire the St. Stephen’s Basilica Square

Situated near Vaci Utza, St. Stephen’s Basilica is Budapest’s largest Roman Catholic church. Named after the first King of Hungary, the large square offers unobstructed views over St. Stephen’s Church, which makes for beautiful photo opportunities! 

Grasp a delicious ice cream from the famous Gelarto Rosa, find a bench near the Basilica and enjoy the plaza’s vibe. Is the waiting line too big? I recommend trying the best macarons in town at Chez Dodo, an artisan macaron shop just a few steps away. 

One of the best free things to do in Budapest is to visit the square during the evening when the Basilica is lit up. Take a stroll through the surrounding streets for more views over the plaza and the church. 

view over St. Stephen's Basilica Square

3. Take a Stroll Along the Danube River on the Pest Side

Nothing is more relaxing than taking a stroll along the Danube River, admiring the views of the hilly Buda district. You’ll soon recognize the Fisherman’s Bastion, the Buda Castle and the Citadel in the distance. There are several sculptures along the way and benches where you can sit and relax are also available. Enjoying the area’s vibrant atmosphere and soaking up the views over the river are some of the best free things to do in Budapest.

Heading north, you’ll reach the Parliament Building or, heading south, the beautiful Chain Bridge. 

4. Marvel at the Parliament Building

One of the best free things to do in Budapest is to admire the city’s most impressive building, the Parliament Building. 

It is nowadays the world’s third-largest parliament building (after the Romanian and Argentinian ones); it measures 268 meters long by 118 meters wide, and its dome reaches 96 meters in height.

It is designed in a Neo-Gothic style and is the seat of the National Assembly of Hungary. Walk around it and appreciate the facade with its towers and central dome. 

TIP. You can visit the interior on a guided tour for a fee, but the building is more impressive from the outside. We joined a tour with too many people; everything felt rushed, and by the time we all got to one place, we had to move to another! But if it’s something you would like to do, you can join this TOUR

Parliament Building Budapest

5. Commemorate History at Shoes on the Danube Memorial

Not far from the Hungarian Parliament building, you’ll find a memorial commemorating the 20,000 Hungarian Jews who were shot on the banks of the Danube River by the members of the Arrow Cross Party. 

The inhabitants of Vadasz Street were dragged out of their homes on January 8th, 1945, here on the river banks. Before the execution, they were forced to remove their shoes, hence the name: Shoes on the Danube. Unfortunately, few know the sad story behind those shoes and treat this place like a great Instagram spot. 

Shoes on the Danube Memorial Site

6. Track Statues Across the City, One of My Favorite Free Things to Do in Budapest!

One of the fun, free things to do in Budapest is to track down various statues scattered across the town. While some have a history behind them, others are just art pieces. 

For example, you will find the Policeman statue close to St Stephen’s Basilica. The funny statue of Little Princess sits on a railing of a tram line right on the Danube River. 

The statue of Imre Nagy, the beloved hero who had strived to free Hungary from the Soviet regime, sits on a small iron bridge in a lovely park just off the Margit Bridge.

tracking statues while wandering the streets of the Hungarian capital

7. Hop on the Yellow Tram and Enjoy the Ride

This is the only cheap and not free thing to do in Budapest. Why did I bother to mention it, then? Because it allows you to make your own hop-on-hop-off trip at a low tram ticket cost! 

It is a comfortable way to sit and relax, watching everything from the viewpoint of a slow-moving tram. Easy to use and very affordable, taking a tram ride and seeing the sights at your own pace is the best way to get a glimpse of Budapest. 

Riding tram # 2, especially going north, offers you a view of some of the more beautiful parts of the east bank of the Danube and the buildings along its path, among them the stunning Hungarian Parliament Building. Just make sure to look both ways! Nevertheless, it’s a great way to get orientated for practically no cost, especially if you are a first-time visitor.

TIP. Buy a daily pass that allows you to ride any tram around the city for 24 hours. At the end of the northbound tram, you can change immediately to the opposite tracks for the southbound one. 

hop on a yellow tram in Budapest and enjoy the views

8. Find Antique Shops and Books and Get Lost in Their Story

While strolling Budapest’s streets, you will bump into many antique shops, book carts, and art galleries. The free exhibitions include sculptures, paintings, and photography. 

Opened in 1982, Antik Bazar is where you can find everything you could imagine: from old pictures, decoration furniture, old cameras, toys to old bills and soviet objects.

Bazar Bizi is a 2-floor antique shop where you can find a variety of old objects, clothes, and decorations. 

people looking for old books while wandering the streets

9. Get Lost in the Streets of the Jewish District

Exploring the Jewish District, one of the liveliest neighborhoods in Budapest, is one of the best free things to do in the Hungarian Capital. Take your time to appreciate the architecture of the synagogues and get lost in the streets. The area is quiet and relaxed, but during nighttime, the quarter comes alive. The food scene here is amazing: a fusion of Jewish and Hungarian cuisine, something you must try during your visit. 

empty streets of the Jewish District in Budapest

10. Ruin Bars

The Jewish District is also home to the famous ruins bars in Budapest. Places like Karavan, Szimpla Kert, Racskert, Instant and Gozsdu Court are located in the courtyards of abandoned buildings, and popping into each one is one of the best free things to do in Budapest. 

You can roam as much as you want, but if you want to soak up the atmosphere, you can always stay for a drink. The best part is you don’t have to dig into your pockets, as the prices are very affordable! 

What I loved about this place was the idea of leaving the walls in their original form and decorating them with second-hand, strange, vintage items. Pretty cool, right?

interior of the Ruins Bar in Budapest

ruins bar in Budapest

11. Track Down the Street Art

You are in the right place if you’re a street art lover! Budapest is an open-air street art exhibition, and strolling its streets gives you plenty of opportunities to find it. The Jewish District is full of creativity and street art. You can spot a few large murals while walking around; they are easy to notice and one of the best free things to do in Budapest. 

Street art is often political and speaks to social issues and local cultural references. If you’re into street art and want to learn the background in the right amount of detail, you might consider joining a street art tour. 

girl admiring a beautiful wall art

12. Visit Heroe’s Square

One of the most visited places in Budapest, Heroe’s Square, was built in 1896 to celebrate the country’s thousandth anniversary. 

Here, you’ll find a beautiful monument with Archangel Gabriel holding the Hungarian crown on top. The two arcades on both sides house various statues of Hungarian figures. 

Spend some time strolling the square before heading to the following free thing to do in Budapest! 

Hero's Square. Budapest

13. Vajdahunyad Castle

Built in 1896 to celebrate Hungary’s 1000th anniversary, Vajdahunyad Castle is one of the most beautiful castles in Budapest. It is also one of the lesser-known and most romantic places in Budapest! 

It combines elements from the Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance styles simultaneously. Now, it is home to several festivals, concerts and exhibitions of the Hungarian Agricultural Museum. Taking a stroll and admiring its facade is ‘one of the free things to do in Budapest, especially on a sunny day!

The castle was built on an island and is reachable via one of four bridges. During the summer, the castle’s outskirts become a huge gathering place for locals and visitors. You’ll see so many people sitting on their blankets and children playing that it will make you grab something to eat and enjoy some quiet time while admiring the Vajdahunyad Castle.

Vajdahunyad Castle Budapest

14. Join a Free Walking Tour

Joining a free walking tour is always a great idea to learn more about a place.

To find them, skim online and research common meeting points or ask at the hotel. They can point you in the right direction. Daily tours in different languages cover topics such as history, faith, communism, or terror. The local guides are always passionate about sharing their knowledge and are always happy to answer your questions. What better way to learn more about a place, right?

TIP. While the name suggests free, it is expected to tip the guide if you are satisfied with the tour. 

15. Check out the Churches

Rising high above the city or buried below ground, the churches of Budapest are impressive! While wandering the streets, you will always bump into a church. Most of them are free to enter, so feel free to step inside and admire their amazing interior. 

From Gothic to Baroque to BauhausBudapest has such unique architecture and checking out the churches is a must while in Budapest. 

16. Relax at Margaret Island

Like New York City, Budapest also has a green oasis. Situated in the middle of the Danube River, Margaret Island was a hunting reserve in the Middle Ages and a convent residence during the Mongol invaders. Today, it’s a public park connected to the city by Margaret Bridge on the south and Arpad Bridge on the north. 

After so much sightseeing and exploring, relaxing on Margaret Island might be a great idea. The 2.5-kilometer-long and 500-meter-wide island is a favorite among locals. Here, you can lay in the sun, sit on a bench and read a book, walk an entire loop around the island, or do sports. Most importantly, see the musical fountain on the island’s southern end. Music is played at 10:30 a.m., 5, 6, 7 and 9 p.m. 

TIP. Tram 4 or 6 takes you to Margaret Island, or you can walk from the Pest Side. It will take about 45 minutes. 

17. Stroll the Stalls of the Central Market

Recognized as Hungary’s most extensive indoor market hall, strolling the Central Market is one of the best free things you can’t miss in Budapest! Back in the day, it used to be a local market, but now it targets mainly tourists. Many items here are available for sale, but the prices are high.

But walking around the two floors of dozens of stalls selling authentic Hungarian foods and clothing, handcrafted jewelry, antiques, and books while talking to local entrepreneurs is an experience you can’t miss. And you can probably relish enough free food samples here to fill your tummy.

people looking for goods inside the Central Market

18. Discover Vorosmarty Square in Winter

Vorosmarty Square is one of the busiest squares in Budapest, especially in winter. It’s home to Budapest’s largest Christmas market and the well-known Cafe Gerbeaud.  The square is the starting point of the famous Vaci Utca, Budapest’s main touristy shopping street, which leads to the Great Market Hall. Get ready to be hit by the smell of chimney cake, cinnamon and mulled wine! 

Christman Market at St. Stephen's Basilica Square in Budapest

BUDA SIDE

If you’re wondering what you can do for free on the Buda side, check out the list below to get a good idea:

19. Climb up Gellert Hill for Beautiful Views over the City!

One of the most popular things to do in Budapest is climbing Gellert Hill, a fairly 30-minute walk from Buda Castle or a 20-minute walk from Elisabeth Bridge. The trail gets pretty crowded, especially during the summer, but the city’s views are worthwhile!  

With plenty of attractions, such as the Rock Chapel, the Hungarian National Museum, the Fisherman’s Bastion, the Matthias Church, and Trinity Square, climbing up to Gellert Hill might be the best budget-friendly option in Budapest. While you’ll have to pay a small fee for some of the attractions, you can still do a lot for free here. As a recommendation, choose to spend at least half a day here.

beautiful views over the city from Gellert Hill, Budapest

20. Explore the Grounds of the Buda Castle

The giant dominating the Danube, Buda Castle, used to be a royal house. Today, it houses the Hungarian National Gallery and the Budapest Historical Museum and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

One of the great free things to do in Budapest is to stroll around the castle grounds and enjoy the city views. The gardens are impressive, with fountains, statues and amazing flowers to admire in spring and summer. It’s the perfect place to slow down and relax.   

a gorgeous fountain inside the Buda Castle

21. Discover the Fairytale Castle Fisherman’s Bastion, One of My Favorites Free Things to Do in Budapest (Buda Side) 

One of the most important attractions due to the beautiful panorama over the Pest side, Fisherman’s Bastion is a must for anyone traveling to Budapest. The intricate complex is comprised of two terraces with many viewing platforms. It was named after the Fisherman Guild, which defended this part of the city walls during the Middle Ages. 

Admission to the lower terrace is free of charge. From here, enjoy views of the Danube, the imposing Parliament Building, the four main bridges of Budapest, Margaret Island, and Gellert Hill. I’m sure you’ll fall in love with this place!

Then, take your time and admire the gorgeous Matthias Church from the outside. 

TIP. Admission to the upper terrace is for a fee and you must buy a ticket from the vending machine opposite Matthias Church(1.000Huf pp, 2.5€, 2.5$). But if you’re visiting for sunrise, you won’t have to pay for the upper terrace – simply walk and explore!

view over the city from Fisherman's Bastion in Budapest

Fisherman's Bastion in Budapest

 

22. Admire the gorgeous Matthias Church

Immerse yourself in Budapest’s historical grandeur at the Matthias Church, a magnificent structure nestled within the grounds of the Fisherman’s Bastion.

Originally built in the 11th century, most of what stands there today was constructed during the 14th century. The church was restored in the 19th century by Frigyes Schulek, who is credited with the spire laden with gargoyles and the gorgeous diamond-pattern roof tiles. Admiring the church from outside is one of the best free things to do in Budapest. 

Matthias Church. Budapest

23. Enjoy Sakura Blossom in Budapest

When in Budapest in April, don’t miss the opportunity to visit Toth Arpad Walkay, conveniently located near Matthias Church and Fisherman’s Bastion. 

It’s cherry blossom season, and the walkway is packed with beautiful blossom trees. The walkway provides lovely views of the Buda Hills and is a popular photographer spot. There are also many beaches to sit on and soak up the views!

Cherry blossom. Budapest

24. Parliament Building by Night, One of the Best Free Things to Do in Budapest at Night

Equally impressive during the day and night, admiring the Parliament Building in the evening from the Buda side is one of the best free things to do in Budapest! This panorama point provides excellent views of the Elisabeth, Liberty and Chain bridges. For sure, one of the things you can’t miss when in Budapest, don’t you agree?

The Parliament Building view by night, Budapest

25. Cross the Liberty Bridge and Search for the Boatman Lock!

Multiple bridges connect the Buda and Pest sides of Budapest. Unfortunately, all bridges were destroyed during World War II and rebuilt afterward.

My favorite bridge in Budapest is, for sure, the Liberty Bridge, connecting Gellert Hill to the Central Market. And not just for me, as you’ll notice many people sitting on the bridge, reading a book, chatting or admiring the views. What I loved the most was that there was a walkway dedicated to pedestrians. You can walk on foot on this stunning architectural structure, undistorted from vehicles or any other means of transportation. 

girl crossing the Liberty Bridge in Budapest

If you’re into finding hidden treasures, I challenge you to find the Boatman Lock, a wonderful accessory given by a Bridge lover. 

find the boatman lock on Liberty Bridge in Budapest

Helpful Info for Visiting Budapest

Save time and book a tour

For a local experience, I recommend checking out the guided tours on GET YOUR GUIDE.

Get an eSIM before the trip

Because phones have become our most important devices, it’s necessary to have a data connection as soon as you step foot in a different country. Your home data plan might only work if you paid for a much more expensive package, finding wifi connections in airports or train stations might be tricky, and seeking a local store to buy a SIM card might be exhausting. Forget all of that!
You just purchase an e-SIM, install it on your phone, and activate the plan when you’re ready to use it. Getting out of the plane and instantly connecting to data was a game changer for me. I didn’t have to waste time standing in line to get a local SIM card or finding a wifi connection to book a taxi to reach my hotel.
If you ask me, getting an e-SIM is a quintessential part of traveling. There is no physical installation and no long-term commitments. And the best part is that you can always top up or purchase a new plan through the app. Pretty convenient, right? Find the best data plan for Hungary HERE.

Secure your travel insurance

We never leave home without travel insurance designed to cover our expenses if something goes wrong. If you’re still on the lookout for travel insurance for your trip to Hungary, I highly recommend HEYMONDO, a trusted insurance provider for leisure and business trips, backpackers, long-term travelers, and digital nomads. Their travel insurance protects against theft, flight delays, injury, illness, cancellations, and much more.

Looking for further European cities? Check out my articles:

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25 Free Things To Do In Budapest, Hungary

Disclosure: *This post contains a few affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through my link.*

 

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