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Must see in Budapest: Start here when you plan your trip

This year, in 2023, I plan to travel a lot and my first destination was Budapest, without any intention to travel to Budapest in February. But I’m glad I did and I’m going to share with you a list of the things you must see in Budapest.

I was planning to visit Zurich, but bought plane tickets for March instead of February and decided to find a different city. And that’s how I ended up choosing Budapest for February.

It was a great experience. I was there for 6 days and had over 10 different activities, such as visiting museums, experiencing the boat cruise on the Danube, trying some delicious food, and visiting some beautiful coffee shops.

I’ll tell you all about it and even share with you some extra things I would have done if I would have had more days or if I would have gone there during summer.

But before being your trip advisor for Budapest, here’s my (almost finished) traveling plan for 2023.

Traveling plans for 2023

I’ve already mentioned Budapest (for February) and Zurich (for March).

Basically, the initial plan was to travel to one European city every month. But the plan is not finished. And I also changed the plan.

I’m thinking about taking a break in April (or just leaving at the end of the month) and then staying 20 to 40 days in Portugal. The plan there is to visit Porto, Lisbon, Sagres, Faro, and the coast of Portugal. 5 days per city. Plus, some extra time on the coast. It means that I’ll need at least 20 days. Maybe I’ll stay more but I don’t really know yet.

After that, it gets tricky because I know what I want to visit, but I haven’t set any specific date for any city. I plan on visiting Stockholm, Amsterdam, Milan, Berlin, Gdansk, Dubrovnik, and maybe more – not in this particular order.

By the end of the year, I should have a total of 60 days of travel. Which is a lot – way more than I’m used to.

Getting ready

Getting ready for Budapest

If you ever decide to travel to Budapest, don’t do it as I did.

I live in Romania and Hungary is one of its neighbors, so I told myself that I could go there by train. And I did. But after 12-13 hours of traveling by train, I was exhausted. Visiting Budapest shouldn’t start with a 12-hour train ride.

Getting there by train was all right, as in I didn’t have to walk around the city with my heavy backpack too much.

But getting back was so bad!

I had to leave the accommodation at 10 in the morning and my train was leaving at 19:10. So I started walking and visiting a few things. By the end of the day, before getting on the train and experiencing a 13-hour train ride, I had already walked 21 kilometers, carrying my big trekking backpack.

If you want to travel by train, I recommend you do it from your hometown to a nearby town that has an airport and get to Budapest by plane. It’s the best way.

The bright side was that the train ticket was really cheap – around 50 euros back and forth, compared to the plane ticket, which was 4 times more expensive.

But still… it’s not worth it.

Finding accommodation

I bought my accommodation for Budapest around 6 weeks before traveling.

I was curious about what options I have on Airbnb and, as soon as I open the app and searched for Budapest, the app prompts the accommodation as a Rare Find.

I click on it and guess what? It was a Rare Find!

Right in the middle of Budapest, for only 35 euro/night, so I decided to get it. Eventually, it ended up being a really nice experience, in a comfortable, cozy, and small apartment.

If you’re curious about the place, click here.

I was 15 to 30 minutes of walking distance away from the most important landmarks. And since I enjoy walking and getting to places without public transportation, this accommodation was great!

Budget and money

I didn’t have any cash on me at all.

I used Revolut for everything and exchanged the money I needed into Hungarian Forint.

In total, with travel, accommodation, food, and all the experiences, I spent around 500 euros.

There was only one situation where I kind of needed to have HUF or EUR in my pocket, but I found a way around it.

If you have a desperate need to go to the toilet, you’ll find that you have to pay by cash, either with HUF or EUR. But I was close to a train station and, instead of paying to enter the toilet with the money I didn’t have, I decided to go to the train station, get inside a train that wasn’t leaving soon, and do my business. Free of charge as well.

Therefore, no physical money needed. Revolut was more than enough.

My list of activities must see in Budapest

In these 6 days I was there, I experience over 10 different things, and a few of them are must see in Budapest.

You can find the Budapest pass that is at a reasonable price and will give you discounts or free entries to museums, but I decided to go against the pass and just see what I’m interested in seeing.

The list you’ll find below is just a small list of all the things you could see or do in Budapest. And if you’re in Budapest only for a few days or a weekend, I mentioned the things and activities you must see and do in Budapest.

Having that in mind, if you’ll looking to stay longer or if you’re interested in doing different things, I’ll mention some extra activities after I go through all the things I did.

Keep scrolling to read about everything or just click on what seems interesting to you from the bullet list below:

List of Activities
  • Danube Boat Cruise #boat-cruise
  • Margaret Island
  • Budapest Zoo
  • Museum of Fine Arts
  • House of Terror
  • Light Art Museum
  • Museum of Illusion
  • Opera House
  • Buddha Castle & Fisherman’s Bastion
  • The Magic
  • Lumen
  • New York Café

Note: The order below is not the order in which I traveled to these places.

Danube Boat Cruise

If you’re like me and you’ve never been ‘sailing’ before, the Danube Boat Cruise can be your first decent experience, of about 50 minutes.

It was one of the first things I did when I got to Budapest and it costs 5000 HUF, which is around 13 euros. When you’re visiting Budapest, make sure you put this one on your list.

Depending on the boat you’re jumping onto, you’ll probably experience different routes. I took the one from dock number 6.

We went to Margaret Island, paused there for around two minutes, and then went back.

But having a great cruise experience is all about the view you get. So make sure you sit next to a window.

To do that, here’s what I suggest: don’t sit down in the waiting room. There’s going to be a stationary boat – some kind of waiting room and you’ll have to get inside it, in order to get to the boat that’s going to sail around the Danube.

Don’t sit down. Just wait at the entrance.

You’ll wait for around 10-15 minutes and then you’ll have to embark on the other boat. If you’re closer to the door, you’ll get better seats.

Danube Boat Cruise:

  • Fee: 5000 HUF
  • Duration: 50 minutes
  • Start from: Dock 6

Margaret Island

This is a great walking area and you can spend there around half a day.

It’s surrounded by the Danube and you can either get there by boat or by crossing the bridge. You’ll find playing grounds, running tracks, hotels and SPAs, and even a small ZOO.

I was there on the second day and also on the last day. To my surprise, I haven’t seen any Margaret, but maybe there isn’t meant to be any in February, when the weather is still cold and windy.

I usually travel solo and the same happened in Budapest. If you like walking as I do, you can do it as I did:

  • The first time, I walked around the island and did a full circle, coming back to the city through the same bridge I went to the island.
  • The second time, I walked through the middle of the island and then crossed the bridge on the other side of the island to get back to the city.

Margaret Island:

  • Fee: FREE
  • Walking distance: from 5 kilometers up to 20 kilometers
  • Beautiful landscapes
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Budapest Zoo

The zoo in Budapest is great, as it has lots of interesting things to discover, which makes it one of the places you must see in Budapest.

You’ll find there a Japanese garden and environments (with both animals and fauna) from different parts of the world, such as America, Australia, Antarctica, and so on.

I remember seeing one rhino charging toward three zebras – that was funny and zero animals were hurt in the process.

You’ll see gorillas, flamingos, spiders, snakes, parrots, and all kinds of species.

Even more, there’s this kind of place, in the middle of the zoo, where you get the chance to walk up and have a beautiful view of the entire zoo and beyond. I got a picture there and was lucky enough to have the balloon nearby up in the air.

The Budapest Zoo is probably going to my top 3 experiences in Budapest. For sure a must see.

Oh, and I’d also add to the list the Kürtőskalács with raspberry that I ate there. It was a bit expensive (1900 HUF) compared to other prices I saw around the city, but it was delicious. Would definitely try it again.

Budapest Zoo:

  • Fee: 3300 HUF
  • Lost of species to see
  • Great landscape from the top of the Zoo
  • Delicious Kürtőskalács with raspberry

Museum of Fine Arts

If you love great architecture and paintings from the Renaissance Period, then you should definitely visit the Museum of Fine Arts. For you will probably be a must see in Budapest.

While I can’t really appreciate paintings in general because I know nothing about painters, I loved the architecture of the building. Big rooms, with great design, where I could spend hours contemplating about life.

Museum of Fine Arts

I don’t really go to museums with paintings and can’t share more than this. The only thing I remember were the creations of Simon Hantaï simply because they were bad. Not all of them, but most of them.

As I said, I can’t really appreciate paintings and painters, so maybe it’s just me.

Moving on!

Museum of Fine Arts:

  • Fee: 4200 HUF
  • Lots of paintings from 1600 (Renaissance Period)

House of Terror

This is the kind of museum that you’ll enjoy only if you’re passionate about history because everything is about the story of how Natzi and the Soviets killed thousands.

We weren’t allowed to take pictures and I wouldn’t go there a second time.

There were some interesting things, such as the clothes they were wearing, a big-ass tank at the entrance, and the way rooms were designed during the war and some weapons. I also saw some computers used for communication.

House of Terror:

  • Fee: 4000 HUF
  • Must see in Budapest if you are passionate about history
  • You’ll get to see a big-ass tank

Light Art Museum

Probably the most interesting museum of them all and I’d put this on the top of the list of things anyone must see in Budapest.

The people from the museum did a great job combining light with technology to create amazing art. I was impressed.

Over 20 rooms with different arts, all made with light.

The most interesting one was the big balloon in the middle of the museum, for sure.

I spend around 10 minutes inside, sitting on the floor, and staring at the lights on the ceiling.

Here’s a short presentation video I found on the Light Art Museum YouTube channel:

If you ever get to Budapest, this should have a top priority.

Also, important to mention, the Light Art Museum is not part of the Budapest pass and you won’t get any discounts with the pass for this museum.

Light Art Museum:

  • Fee: 6000 HUF
  • Over 20 different kinds of art created with light

Museum of Illusions

Right before getting a ticket, I was warned that it was better to go inside with someone else if I wanted to have fun.

Unfortunately, I travel solo and that wasn’t an option. But they were right.

If you want to take pictures inside the Museum of Illusions in Budapest, someone else has to take these pictures for you.

Someone from the museum’s staff saw that I was alone there and they offered to take me a picture.

“Oh no… I’m falling! Help me!”

Or at least that’s what you should have heard if the picture below had audio.

Museum of Illusions in Budapest

On the other hand, at the end of the museum is a shop with all kinds of cool things. And inside the museum, there was some sort of tunnel that got me scared for one or two seconds and I started laughing.

I would definitely recommend going there with someone else, as it is for sure more fun.

Museum of Illusions:

  • Fee: 4900 HUF
  • Over 30 illusions
  • Must see in Budapest if you have someone else with you
  • Great things to purchase from the shop at the end

Opera House Tour

Because a friend recommended and insisted that I should see the opera, I decided to go for it.

While the shows were fully booked, there was an option to see the building during a guided tour. There are three tours per day, at 13:30, 15:00, and 16:30 and they’re available in many languages, not just English. There’s also French, Spanish, and Hungarian, I think.

Opera House Tour must see in Budapest

To be even more specific, they don’t allow people to see the building without a guided tour. Currently, this is the only way of seeing the building, except for buying a ticket for a concert.

The tour was great, I learned many things about the Opera House in Budapest, and got to see a 5-10 minutes concert at the end of the tour.

During the tour, we got to learn about the story of the Opera House, some insights about the rooms, and sadly there are no hidden passages. Or so they said, but I don’t believe them. Such a big building without hidden passages or rooms? Can’t be true.

Opera House Tour:

  • Fee: 7000 HUF
  • You get to see the Opera House
  • There’s a short concert at the end of the tour

Buddha Castle & Fisherman’s Bastion

On the left side of the Danube River, there’s the Buddha Castle and the Fisherman’s Bastion.

I put these two together because you can easily get to one from another, in around 15 minutes of walking. When visiting Budapest, you’ll find these two landmarks on the left side of the Danube river.

I didn’t go inside the Buddha Castle or the Fisherman’s Bastion, but inside the castle was another museum. I was too tired and didn’t have any energy left.

Instead, I enjoyed the views from the gardens of the castle and bastion.

Here are some photos from the Buddha Castle:

While the place around the Buddha Castle wasn’t too crowded, the place around Fisherman’s Bastion was full of people. I don’t know why. The views were kind of the same but people seemed to like more that area.

Walking around these two locations was great and I enjoyed a lot spending a few hours there.

Buddha Castle & Fisherman’s Bastion:

  • Fee: FREE
  • Walking distance: around 2 to 5 kilometers
  • Great landscapes

The Magic

We’re switching from places to visit in Budapest to restaurants.

The Magic is a Harry Potter themed restaurant, where you can enjoy the Harry Potter vibes. If you’re a Harry Potter fan, this is definitely a place to visit in Budapest and a must see.

The Magic must see in Budapest

I ordered a vegetarian burger which was decent but I guess it had too much goat cheese and their special chocolate dessert, called Chocolatearmus. The dessert was amazing!

Two perfectly cooked brownies, still hot from the oven, with two cups of ice cream in the middle, and some unusual (but delicious) sprinkles on the top.

Towards the end of the article, you’ll find a short video (Instagram Reel) and the first 10-15 seconds are from The Magic.

The Magic:

  • Fee: Around 10000 HUF for a vegetarian burger, tea, and dessert
  • A must see in Budapest if you’re a Harry Potter fan
  • May have to wait a few minutes if the place is full


I went here in the last day and got there a bit before 11:00.

I wanted to try a cream soup there, but the kitchen wasn’t open, so I just ordered a tea and a croissant. The cup of tea was probably as big as my head.


Even though there isn’t something special about this restaurant, I enjoyed the quiet atmosphere and it was a great place to start my day, as it gave me time to think about what I wanted to do next.


  • Fee: Around 2000 HUF for a croissant and a tea
  • Nice and quiet restaurant

New York Café

This was the most expensive restaurant I visited in Budapest. Actually, this is where I spent the most money in one single place while visiting Budapest.

When I got there, it was a queue of around 30 people. Maybe more. Luckily, I didn’t have to wait more than 15 minutes to get inside. Unluckily, after getting inside I had to wait 10 more minutes to get a table and 20-30 more minutes for the food to get served.

It’s that kind of place that’s very luxurious and if you want to get inside fast, it’s better to have a reservation.

New York Café in Budapest

I ordered a lemonade, cream soup, and a slice of cheesecake and paid… more than I would have wanted. Around 13500 HUF. Almost twice as much as I paid for the Opera House Tour.

While I’d never go back, I’d recommend you visit it because it’s a nice restaurant. Probably one of the nicest you’ll see in Budapest.

Oh, and one more thing. If you order something, don’t get up and leave your table to take some photos. Do that only after you finish eating/drinking.

I saw two guys who just ordered their coffees, took a sip, and then left their table to take some photos. 2 minutes later, a waiter comes and cleans the table, thinking nobody was there anymore. 2 more minutes later, someone else was sitting at that table. That’s how big the demand is there.

New York Café:

  • Fee: 13500 HUF
  • Waiting time: 30 to 60 minutes

That’s it when it comes to the things I did in Budapest. Here’s a short video where you’ll see some of the things I saw:

Other things worth doing

There are a few more things I would like to add to the list and I’ll keep everything short this time.

  1. You can fly with balloons

As you can see in the photo I took at the Budapest Zoo, there’s a balloon behind me. You can have the experience of getting 20-30 meters above the ground in that balloon, if the weather is all right.

I decided not to do it because I didn’t find it fun to just get up in the air. I wanted to see the city and fly around the city.

If you visit during summer, there’s another business that can fly you around the city in a balloon. With a simple Google Search you’ll find it.

  1. Seeing the Synagogues

There are at least 3 synagogues in Budapest and you can see them all in only one day, as they’re close to each other.

For me, seeing them was not a priority and I didn’t have the time or the energy to see them.

  1. Thermal baths

Yes, that’s an option. But I have no idea where, when, or how much.

How is the food in Budapest?

I know that the Kürtőskalács with raspberry from the Budapest Zoo was delicious.

I also tried Lángos with cheese and didn’t like it.

And because I don’t eat meat, I didn’t get to experience the local food as much as I could have.

But if you’re like me, I have great news! I found a delicious Vegan restaurant, called Tökmag Vegan Street Food.

The Nachos Burger is soooo good, especially if you like jalapenos.

Final thoughts about Budapest

Budapest is a great city and I loved walking around.

If I’d change something at my time spent there, I would probably go in April or May. In February, the weather is a bit too cold and windy, and visiting Budapest during this period may not be such a great idea.

Other than that, I got to experience a great city and I didn’t find any rude people. Every time I asked strangers for directions, they did their best to guide me, even though some of them had a hard time speaking English.

Budapest is a city I’d visit again.

With love and optimism,

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