Our experts recommend the top attractions in and around Budapest—with advice on how to get the most out of your visit.
“In a city of superlative views, some of the most memorable can be had from the landmark Fisherman’s Bastion.”—Adrian Bridge, travel writer, Daily Telegraph. Neo-gothic and neo-Romanesque structure built at the turn of the 20th century; seven towers, walking paths, and unobstructed city views from the terrace. Located on the Buda side, behind Matthias Church on Castle Hill. Fee in summer.
One of the city’s oldest cafés, noted for its fine cakes and pastries. Can be crowded at times, particularly at weekends, but in the summer the spread of its tables reaching into the lively Vörösmarty Square eases the congestion, while providing a fine place for watching the world go by. V. Vörösmarty tér 7.
Dohány utca Synagogue
“A neo-Moorish extravaganza that embodies the confidence and prosperity of the Budapest Jewish community at the end of the 19th century.”—Adam LeBor, Budapest-based author and journalist. Europe’s largest synagogue has a fantastically rich and spectacular, basilica-like interior, with carved pulpits, massive organ, and glittering chandeliers, all fully restored. Fee. Tip: The entrance ticket also gives access to the Jewish Museum next door and the Holocaust memorial courtyard to the rear. VII. Dohány utca 2-8 (corner of Dohány utca and Wesselényi utca).
Hungarian National Gallery
“An outstanding treasure of old and modern Hungarian fine arts of the long ago and more recent past.”—Erzsébet Marton, senior editorial staff member, Múzeum Café. Main building of the former Royal Palace, Castle Hill; tel. 36 1 439 7325. www.mng.hu
Several Soviet-era statues and monuments—Lenin, Marx, Engel—were moved here in the early 1990s after the fall of Hungary’s communist regime. Impressive and sometimes, as intended, overpowering works of art. XXII. Corner of Balatoni út and Szabadkai utca; fee. www.mementopark.hu/
St. Stephen’s Basilica
Budapest’s largest church houses the Szent Jobb (Holy Right Hand), the mummified hand of Hungary’s first king, St. Stephen. Organ concerts on Mondays, July-October. Tip: Take the lift to the cupola, from where can be had a grand bird’s-eye view of the Pest side of the city. V. Szent István tér.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
One of Europe’s largest spas includes 15 pools for swimming, massaging, and soaking, including year-round, outdoor thermal pools. Neo-baroque building constructed in 1913 and recently renovated. Watch the locals play chess on a table floating in the steamy water. Állatkérti körút 11; tel. 36 1 363 3210. www.spasbudapest.com
Hungarian National Museum
“Great spirits gave it birth at the same time as the British Museum and the Louvre were established.”—Erzsébet Marton. Permanent exhibition about Hungary’s history with English descriptions. VIII. Múzeum körút 14-16; tel. 36 1 338 2122. www.mnm.hu