Budapest is not only one of the most beautiful cities in all of Europe. It's also a tremendous bargain. Hungary isn't a member of the eurozone and has preserved its own currency, the forint, so international travelers can benefit from a good exchange rate. And even though in recent years Budapest has embraced its potential as a tourist destination and the accompanying rise in prices that comes with that, Budapest still has some real bargains to offer those willing to seek them out.
But no price is better than free. If you're looking to save a few forints on your trip to the Hungarian capital, you're in luck. Some of the best things to do in the city are totally free of charge. And if you're traveling with family, you'll find that some of the best things to do with kids in Budapest can be done at zero cost.
Before you go running through the city exploring all the free things to do in Budapest, don't forget you can make things easier yourself by dropping off your unneeded bags with Bounce's partners for luggage storage in Budapest. We've got luggage storage locations in thousands of cities around the world, including Budapest, so you always have an affordable place to leave your heavy bags.
Given its long and turbulent history, it's no surprise that Budapest has some stories to tell. And the best place to discover those stories is in one or more of the city's many fascinating museums. As the capital city of Hungary, Budapest has tons of the country's top cultural institutions, so fans of history and culture will find plenty to keep them occupied here.
Normally, admission to all these great museums would quickly add up. But if you time your visit right, you could see some of the historical and artistic highlights of the city with free admission. On Hungarian national holidays, you can gain free entrance to the Hungarian National Museum, the Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest City Museum, and the Museum of Fine Arts, among others. It's also worth noting that the National Gallery, National Museum, and the Museum of Fine Arts all offer free entry on the third Saturday of every month. Meanwhile, the Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art offers free admission on the last Sunday of the month.
Free walking tour
Budapest has a ton of history to explore, and a free walking tour is the ideal way to do it. The center of the city is very walkable, and several companies offer free tours that will give you a background on the city's long history and help you form a better idea of what you want to see while you're there. No matter what you're interested in, you can probably find a free walking tour to suit you, whether it's history, street art, food, or any other aspect of city life.
Often, these free walking tours are offered by companies to give you a taste of their product in the hope you'll then go on one of their paid tours. There's no obligation to do so. But if you do enjoy your free tour, you should at least tip your guide to thank them for the information they provided.
Many of the best things to do in Budapest are located in the city's Castle District, at the top of Buda Hill. All it will cost you to enjoy the stunning view of the city from Fisherman's Bastion is the price of the funicular railway to the top of the hill. If you prefer to walk, you can do that too, and this city trail offers one of the best hikes in Budapest.
At the top of the hill, you'll find Buda Castle and the Royal Palace, which houses the Hungarian National Gallery. You'll have to pay an admission fee to get inside (unless you visit on one of the museum's free admission days), but you could admire the impressive castle from the outside for nothing. Take a wander through the medieval streets at the top of the hill, and you'll soon see why Budapest's Castle District has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Great Market Hall
Budapest's central market hall offers a feast for the senses and a great free activity to enjoy in the city. Wandering through the stalls will put you in touch with the vibrant modern life of this Hungarian city, and you don't need to buy anything to get an understanding of the local flavors and delicacies. If you're lucky, you may even be offered some free samples. But even if you're not, there's lots to enjoy just window shopping among the fascinating vendors. Of course, the hardest part will be keeping your wallet in your pocket, as there's so much here to tempt you into a purchase.
St. Stephen's Basilica
As a functioning church, the imposing St. Stephen's Basilica is totally free to visit. The church dates back to 1905, and is named after the first King of Hungary. Make your way past the impressive paintings and frescoes of the richly decorated interior, and you'll be able to enter the crypt and see the severed right arm of this legendary king. Yes, it's a slightly strange way to spend time on your vacation. But it's completely free and is a fascinating encounter with the history of the city and the country that has made Budapest what it is today.
Budapest's City Park is one of the Hungarian capital's favorite green spaces. On a sunny day, you'll find locals and visitors alike enjoying picnics on the green lawns and taking a stroll through the tranquil shaded trails. The park is also a great place to let the kids burn off some energy while you still get to experience the local life and culture of the city.
City Park is also home to some fascinating attractions in its own right. Vajdahunyad Castle is an impressive fortress that, although it looks ancient, was in fact built at the turn of the 20th century. You can stroll around the castle grounds completely free, and it's worth it just for the photo opportunities you'll get here. Additionally, you'll often find plenty of street entertainers performing for the crowds here, so it's an excellent place for a stroll on a sunny day. Budapest Zoo is also located in City Park, but you have to pay to get in, so it doesn't belong in this article. Still, if you're looking for something to do with the kids, it's always a great option.
Located in the middle of the Danube, Margaret Island is another great place to get away from it all. Situated between the bridges of Arpad and Margit, this island was once a hunting reserve for Hungarian nobility. Now, Margaret Island has a Japanese garden, a thermal spa, and some medieval ruins to explore. But most of all, it's a great place to stretch your legs, get some fresh air, and enjoy the scenery of Budapest. You can reach the island by tram or on foot, and make sure you don't miss the regular shows of the musical fountain, which take place at 10:30 am, 5 pm, 6 pm, 7:30pm, or 9pm.
Located in the heart of the Pest side of the city, Heroes Square is an iconic place to see when you visit Budapest. Recognizable for its central column topped with a statue of the archangel Gabriel, the square is dedicated to notable figures from Hungarian history, hence the name. The square is the location of the Fine Arts Museum and the Mucsarnok Art Gallery. But as the biggest and most visited square in Budapest, what this place offers above all is one of the best spots in the city for people-watching. Take a stroll around the colonnades and take in the atmosphere of Heroes Square, and you'll feel like you're coming to know the city much better.
Of course, if you don't mind spending a little money, you'll also find that the square has some of the best bars, restaurants, and cafés in the city, and nothing beats grabbing an outside table on a sunny day and watching the world go by.
Tram Number 2
Okay, this one isn't completely free. But it's so cheap it may as well be. Besides, if you're visiting Budapest and using the public transport system a lot, chances are good you've already bought a Budapest Card or other public transportation card that gives you unlimited rides on the city's bus, tram, and subway network. If that's the case, a ride on tram number two won't cost you a thing.
Tram line 2 runs from Liberty Bridge all the way to the Hungarian Parliament. Along the way, it offers incredible views of Buda Hill, the castle, and Fisherman's Bastion. You'll also pass by the impressive Chain Bridge. As you reach the Hungarian Parliament building, don't forget to visit the Memorial known as Shoes on the Danube. This sculpture commemorates the Hungarian Jews murdered by Nazi forces before being thrown into the river. It's a moving memorial to an atrocity that is an important part of Hungary's past, and is totally free to visit.
Hungarian Parliament Building
The Hungarian Parliament Building may be the most beautiful building of its type in the world. Although it's modeled after London's Westminster Palace, the seat of the Hungarian government takes its own architectural direction and leaves most others in its shade. The parliament building looks almost like a fairytale castle, and its location right on the banks of the Danube River couldn't be better.
You'll get incredible views of the parliament building from Fisherman's Bastion on the other side of the river. But no matter what angle you see this building from, it's bound to impress. You can also go inside and learn more about the building with a guided tour, but you will have to pay for that.
Budapest Jewish Quarter is a fascinating place to wander at your own pace and discover for yourself. For one thing, it's one of the best locations in the city to see street art, and the colorful murals by local talent offers a fantastic photo opportunity. Filatorigat is the city's only legal graffiti wall, and it's a fantastic place to enjoy some local color on your visit to Budapest.
Additionally, Budapest's Jewish Quarter is home to Europe's largest synagogue and the Jewish Museum, which tells the story of the Jewish community in the city over the centuries. You'll also find lots of Budapest's famous ruin pubs in this district, which are quasi-legal drinking establishments usually set up in dilapidated buildings that were neglected during the Communist era of the city's history.
You don't have to spend a penny to enjoy the Jewish Quarter for its lively and countercultural atmosphere. But if you do, you'll find plenty of great bars and restaurants. And often, these slightly out-of-the-way establishments offer far better deals than you'll find in the city center.
Budapest isn't the outstanding bargain for budget travelers it once was. But compared to cities in Western Europe and North America, it still offers a lot for relatively little money. And taking advantage of some of the free Budapest attractions on offer can stretch your budget even further. As is the case in many European cities, just walking through the beautiful streets and soaking up the atmosphere can provide a fun day on your vacation. Once you factor in some of these totally free attractions, you'll be able to see a lot of the city for very little money.
And don't forget to leave your bags behind at a Bounce luggage storage before you head for the main sights in town. The lighter you travel, the easier it will be to have fun on a budget in Budapest.