Budapest. This city is a bit two-faced, with Buda on one side of the Danube and Pest on the other, each with their own personalities. There’s plenty to see and do on both sides of the river that’s completely free, so you can save your forints for a pint of beer after a day of sightseeing.
Budapest has some pretty impressive sights and monuments that are free to visit. From large parade squares to a castle on the top of Buda Hill, from postcard-perfect bridges and a Gothic parliament building that gives the Notre Dame’s gargoyles a run for their money.
Heroes Square – On the Pest side of the city, this square will give you a history lesson on all of Hungary’s “heroes” from Stephen I of Hungary on the far left to Lajos Kossuth on the far right. Looking at the square, you’ll see the Museum of Fine Arts on your left and the Palace of Art on your right.
Castle Hill – For great views of the Danube and the cityscape, there’s no better place than Castle Hill on the Buda side of the city. Make the trip on foot for the best experience, winding your way up the narrow streets until you reach the Royal Palace. Admission is free for the palace and gardens but the small museums also housed inside all charge a small fee.
Fisherman’s Bastion – Just a short wander from the Hungarian Royal Palace, Fisherman’s Bastion has the best views of parliament. The name dates back to the Middle Ages when the city’s guild of fishermen were in charge of defending this stretch of the city walls.
Chain Bridge – This is likely the most iconic structure in Budapest and was a feat in engineering when it first opened in 1849. It was the second permanent bridge to span the Danube and the first to connect Buda with Pest. A photo with the lions is a must before you go!
Parliament – Want a closer look at the Hungarian Parliament building? EU citizens can take a free guided tour of the building and the Crown Jewels when they present their passport on arrival.
There are very few free museums in Budapest but most of the major ones are free on Hungarian holidays. The following museums are all free on March 15th, August 20th and on October 23rd.
- Museum of Fine Arts (next to Heroes Square)
- Hungarian National Gallery (in Buda Castle)
- Hungarian National Museum
- Museum of Hungarian Agriculture
For cheap eats, there are few places as remarkable as Budapest’s Central Market Hall, Kosponti Vasarcsarnok in Hungarian. You’ll find rows and rows of stalls selling jams, vegetables, sausages, cheese and liqueurs on the main floor but the hot food is upstairs, along with a dozen or so stands of tourist souvenirs.
The Jewish Quarter has the best nightlife, without a doubt. The city’s now-famous ruin bars sometimes need a trained eye to pick out but this is where you’ll find the cheapest beer and alternative Hungarian culture. Where else can you enjoy a pint with your friends in a rusty old trabant?
In the summertime, you can’t visit Budapest without a trip to Margaret Island, a green oasis in the middle of the Danube. The park is a lovely mix of open green spaces, secluded gardens, medieval ruins, sausage carts and open-air bars.
Luckily from London, Budapest is one of the cheapest places you can go. If you book your flights around three months in advance you can bag some return tickets to Budapest for around £60. It’s a steal, really! Wizz Air, easyJet, Ryanair and Flybe all fly from London.
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