10 cheap and free things to do in Budapest

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Right, first of all. Get yourself on Cheapflights.co.uk and book those bargain Budapest flights. C’mon, you know you want to see what the hype is all about. Great, now that’s settled, you can start thinking about your itinerary. You’ll maybe have one of the famous baths on your to-do list and maybe a night bar-hopping around the infamous ruin bars scheduled in. But if you’re in need of some more budget friendly options to pad out your trip then have a read below…

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Gawp at the view from Fishermen’s Bastion

budapest view

The Fishermen’s Bastion – or Halászbástya – sits right in the middle of the Castle District. Fairy-tale turrets, collonaded balconies and sweeping staircases decorate this viewing terrace, while the windows frame spectacular bird’s eye views of Budapest and the Danube. You can pay a small fee to climb up to the very top terrace, but even that’s free outside peak times. Check out the website for details.

Sign up to a walking tour

Budapest street
Peter Sterling via iStock

From history walks around the Jewish quarter to ‘ruin pub’ bar crawls – Budapest has free tours coming out of its ears. The guides work for tips, so they pack the tours with loads of info. Free Budapest Walking Tours run several throughout the day, starting at Vörösmarty square.

Clamber up Gellért Hill

Panorama of Budapest

Got a bit of energy to burn? Gellért-hegy must be the most visible hidden gem in Budapest. Guidebooks have a habit of translating it as Gellért Hill, but ‘hegy’ is actually Hungarian for ‘mountain’ – which is exactly what it feels like when you’re halfway to the top, gasping like you’ve just been sucker punched. The climb is worth it though. The viewpoints-slash-breathing stops offer some of the best views of Budapest. And the Freedom Monument crowns the hill – a towering Communist statue that looms over the river.

Zigzag across the Danube River

Liberty Bridge Budapest

Bridges are pretty important in Budapest – they join the Buda and Pest sides of the city, which were separate towns right up until the late 19th century. Liberty Bridge is the loveliest, with its ornate forest-green ironwork. The Chain Bridge is another good ‘un. Walk along this suspension bridge at night to see Buda Castle and the Hungarian Parliament Building glittering on opposite banks of the Danube.

Peer up at St Stephen’s Basilica

St. Stephen's Basilica in Budapest, Hungary

Standing in the square of St Stephen’s Basilica, it’s easy to understand why this behemoth is the biggest church in Budapest. Inside, you can pull up a pew and admire the elaborately painted dome. Not sold yet? Then how about this – you can also peek into a side chapel and see the mummified right hand of St Stephen himself.

Tour the Parliament building (while you can)

Hungarian Parliament on sunset

One of the perks of having an EU passport? A discounted tour of the Hungarian Parliament Building. This massive Neogothic extravaganza sprawls out on the Pest bank of the Danube River. It’s worth having EU citizenship just to get a look at the palatial staircases and balconies.

Kick back on Margaret Island

Margaret Island
tupungato via iStock

Margaret Island piles a spa hotel, poet’s boulevard, medieval church, waterside jogging track, rose garden, playgrounds and Dominican ruins into one island package. It’s also home to some of the best climbing trees you’ll ever find. It’s easiest – and more fun – to hop on a riverboat from the city centre to Margaret Island. But you can also get there for free by walking across the Y-shaped Margit Bridge.

People-watch in the Great Market Hall

VitalyEdush via iStock

The Great Market Hall looks more like a grand Victorian train station than a market. Go there in the morning to see locals snapping up huge rounds of cheese and piling fresh vegetables into paper bags. Or there’s always lunchtime when the tourist-friendly lace and spice stalls open up. Pull up a chair and people-watch – and remember to keep an eye out for free samples of the Hungarian speciality, paprika salami.

Get a history lesson at the museums

UmbertoPantalone via iStock

Most museums and art galleries in Budapest show off their general collections for free. You can duck into the neoclassical Museum of Fine Arts, check out the oil canvasses at the Hungarian National Gallery, or get the lowdown on the traditional culture at the Museum of Ethnography. Fancy something a little off-piste? Try the crypt-like Golden Eagle Pharmacy Museum. Ancient cures on display include sperm whale vomit and powdered mummy hands. Delightful.

Promenade up Vaci utca and Andrássy

Vaci Street, Budapest
tupungato via iStock

Váci utca – or Vaci Street – is a bit like Barcelona’s Las Ramblas. There’s always something to see, from late-opening souvenir shops and heated restaurant terraces to guitar-wielding buskers and skateboarding street artists. Váci utca ends in Vörösmarty Square, where regular weekend markets reel in the crowds. Andrássy út is another epic avenue. UNESCO named it a World Heritage Site, thanks to the grand palaces and opera houses that stretch from St Stephen’s Basilica all the way to City Park.

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10 cheap and free things to do in Budapest was last modified: July 3rd, 2017 by Catherine Roberts
Author: Catherine Roberts (11 posts)

Catherine Roberts is a travel writer from Brighton who’s on a mission to Instagram her way around the world. She has a real love for northerly places – her greatest hits include road-tripping around south-west Iceland, bear-watching in the Canadian Yukon, and exploring Scotland by train. Greenland currently tops her (ever-expanding) travel wish list.