The Hungarian capital Budapest is located in the north-central part of the country. Occupying the banks of the River Danube, one of Europe's most important waterways, Budapest has been an important city for centuries. In fact, it used to be two cities: Buda on one side of the river and Pest on the other.
Along with Vienna, Budapest was one of the most important cities of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This vast multicultural political entity ruled central Europe for centuries until the First World War. After that, Budapest and Hungary as a whole were often ruled from abroad and spent decades as a client state of the Soviet Union. However, in 1989, Hungary turned its back on Communism. In 2004, the country joined the European Union. Since then, its economy has grown steadily, and Budapest has become an increasingly popular tourist destination.
11 Best Ways to Experience Budapest in 2023
Budapest is a city with a long and complex history. The Hungarian capital was once the joint capital of the sprawling Austro-Hungarian Empire. And before that, it was the seat of powerful Hungarian kings. The European conflicts of the 20th century saw Budapest change rulers several times, eventually falling under the communist sphere of influence before breaking free in the late 20th century. Since then, Budapest has become a tourist hotspot, offering a rich and fascinating culture and a lively nightlife that rivals any European city.
To experience Budapest at its best, give one of the following companies a call. They can help you see the many different aspects of this fascinating city.
Most unique tours – Unique Budapest
Budapest is a unique city, and if you want to see the quirky side of the Hungarian capital, there’s plenty to explore. Unique Budapest specializes in showing visitors lesser-known spots that celebrate what makes Budapest unique. From street food tours to treasure hunts to a Godfather-themed adventure, this company offers tours you won’t find anywhere else in a city like no other. Contact them firstname.lastname@example.org or 36 21 380 0313.
Best quirky tours – B Side Tours
As the name implies, this tour company focuses on giving you something different from the usual offerings. They run walking, bus, and bike tours that can show you both the main attractions of the city and some lesser-known corners. Tours run both day and night, allowing you to see multiple sides of the city. Don’t miss the Szentendere tour that takes you by bus to a colorful town just outside Budapest and brings you back by boat.
Contact them on email@example.com or 36 30 490 7975.
Best off the beaten path tour – Behind Budapest Tours
Budapest has plenty of attractions that are known around the world. Once you’ve seen those, you may find yourself wanting to peer a little deeper into what makes the city so special. Behind Budapest offers a range of tours that can help you see more of the city. Of special interest are the thematic tours, such as Jewish Budapest, that allow you to explore a single historical or cultural theme through the most significant sites in the city. To book a tour, contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or 36 30 415 3229.
Best bike tour — Bike & Relax
There are no prizes for guessing the kind of tours this company offers. Their popular tours explore Budapest on two wheels, letting you cover more of the city in less time. But as the name promises, they also leave time to relax and enjoy the unique vibe. If you’re looking to see more of the city without working too hard, this is the company to call. You can book a tour via the contact form on their website or contact email@example.com or 36 30 300 8003.
Best alternative bike tour – BudaBike Tours
There’s no question that Budapest is great city to explore by bike. So it’s no wonder that multiple companies offer this experience. BudaBike differentiate themselves from the competition by offering unique twists on bike tours, such as street food and a retro communist tour. They also offer tours outside the city that will let you explore the greater Budapest area. Contact them firstname.lastname@example.org or 36 70 242 5736.
Best photoshoot - Budapest Photo Session by Birta Photography
Maybe you’re in Budapest for a special occasion. Maybe you could just use some professional quality portrayed photos. You don’t necessarily need a reason to take advantage of this professional photography service. When you see the photos they produce, you’ll be glad they did. Birta can take you to some of the most romantic locations in the city to capture photos, whether for an engagement, a wedding, a graduation trip, or just because. Contact them at email@example.com or 36303088288.
Best photography tour – Budapest Photographer
Sticking with the photography theme, this company focuses less on portraits and more on capturing stunning photos of the city itself. The professional photographer guide will take you to some of the best locations in the city for photographs and help you learn more about street and landscape photography. You won’t believe the photos you produce under the expert guidance, and not only will you come away with stunning images of the city, but you will also have upgraded your photography skills. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or 36308859199.
Best private walking tour – Budapest Private Walks
Walking is the best way to experience many European cities, and Budapest is no different in this regard. However, you need to know where to go. And as useful as regular tours are, you can sometimes feel like you’re getting lost in the crowd. Budapest Private Walks will arrange a walking tour just for you, focused on what interests you most about the city. And with a private tour, you know you’ll have the guide’s full attention while you explore the city. Reach out to them at email@example.com or 36 20 594 3225.
Best food tour — Budapest Wonderguides
There are lots of food tours you can take in Budapest to explore Hungarian cuisine. But Budapest Wonderguides offers something different by taking you outside the city to explore the countryside through the food and wine it produces. These relaxing tours are one of the best ways to experience a different side to Hungary as well as learn more about the country’s cuisine. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or 36 70 235 3547.
Best art tour – Budapest Flow
Budapest has museums and galleries to rival any major European city. But that’s not what this company is all about. Instead, they offer street art tours and ruin pub crawls that will help you see the countercultural side of the city. The small group tours are excellent for seeing a different side of Budapest and understanding how some of its most interesting citizens live. Contact them at email@example.com or 36 30 969 3815.
Best anti pub crawl - Conquer Budapest
This company offers a range of unique tours of the city. Of particular interest is what they call their Anti Pub Crawl. Budapest’s ruin pubs are the stuff of boozy backpacker legend, but they’re not to everyone’s taste. That’s why this company offers a tour of restaurants and wine bars focusing on a more adult experience based around the city’s incredible nightlife. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or 36 20 590 6364.
A weekend in Budapest
Budapest's long history means there's far more to see here than you can appreciate on a short visit. However, a couple of days will give you enough time to get your bearings in the city and see some of the main attractions. Drop off any heavy bags at a Budapest luggage storage locker and dive into the history and culture of this fabled city.
- Explore the art and history of Hungary at Buda Castle. Perched on a hill overlooking the Danube River, this imposing castle was the home of Hungarian rulers and Austrian emperors. Now, it houses one of the country's premier art collections.
- Dive into an important aspect of Hungarian culture at Szechenyi thermal baths. This grand spa was opened in 1913, and has been providing the people of Budapest with a place to relax and take the waters ever since.
- See what could be the world's most beautiful government building at the Hungarian parliament. This fairytale-like structure sits on the banks of the river and is worth visiting just for the photos you'll get. But you can also go inside and see where Hungarian laws are still made to this day.
Like many cities of similar age, Budapest is more or less designed for walking. The layout of many of its streets long predates the car, and the city also boasts an extensive and easy-to-use transit system featuring both a subway and streetcars. Therefore, the best thing to do is to drop off your heavy bags at a suitcase storage locker in Budapest and start exploring for yourself. There's no telling what you'll uncover on a walk through this fascinating city.
Off the beaten path in Budapest
Budapest has plenty of famous attractions. But it's also a city rich in hidden secrets. Ask anyone who's lived in Budapest for a while, and they'll be able to tell you about some quirky places that few tourists ever find. If you're a fan of the esoteric, Budapest is the perfect place to visit.
- Explore the ruin pubs of the city. These former communist offices and apartment buildings were occupied after the fall of the Soviet Union and turned into bars and nightclubs. Now, some of the more famous establishments, such as Szimpla Kert, are tourist attractions in their own right. Filled with Soviet memorabilia and with fascinating architecture, the ruin pubs simply ooze charm.
- Check out over a hundred different pinball machines and other vintage arcade games at the Flippermuzeum. The largest pinball exhibit in Europe, this quirky attraction is far more fun than any museum has a right to be. Drop off your unneeded bags at a Budapest luggage storage locker and chase that elusive high score.
- Enjoy Communist art at Memento Park. This park is home to many of the Soviet statues that used to occupy various locations throughout the city. Pose for pictures next to gigantic statues of Lenin, Marx, and other important figures in the Communist movement.
What to do alone in Budapest
Budapest is an exciting city that rewards exploration. The longer you spend here, the more you'll find to do. But as a city that only opened up the West in recent memory, Budapest can be far friendlier and more welcoming to foreign visitors than more established tourist destinations. Exploring Budapest by yourself, whether on a business trip or on a solo vacation, is a great way to experience the unique charm of the Hungarian capital.
- See some of the city's top sites on a cruise along the Danube River. A relaxing one-hour boat trip lets you see most of the city's most famous monuments, and a tour guide will explain their importance in Hungarian history. Try to go toward the end of the day to watch the buildings light up at sunset for the best possible photo opportunities.
- See the city and burn off some energy at the same time with a Budapest bike tour. Knowledgeable guides lead small groups on rented bikes to see many of the city's top attractions. Saint Stephen's Basilica, Vajdahunyad Castle, and other attractions are all stops along the route. It's a great way to meet other travelers while exploring the city.
- Spend a night out in the Jewish quarter. Home to some of the city's top bars and restaurants, you'll find plenty of places to hang out and take in the energetic vibe of this part of the city.
The best souvenirs in Budapest
Herend porcelain from Hungary has been famous around the world for centuries. It is still manufactured in the Hungarian countryside, and the company has showrooms around the city. For something a little more affordable, pick up a traditional painted egg. Not just for Easter, these ornately decorated eggs are an ancient Hungarian custom and can be found almost anywhere in the city. Check out the craft market on Castle Hill for some of the best examples.
For something even more intriguing, try a Hungarian secret box. These brightly decorated boxes look like jewelry boxes, but are virtually impossible to get into unless you know the secret. Full of hidden compartments and hand-carved by craftsmen, these boxes are widely available. Check out the Great Market Hall for some of the best selection and prices.