If you’re low on funds for travel, Budapest is great option. It has the grandeur of Paris, but the price of central/eastern Europe. To make things even better: there’s a great amount of free things you can do in the city! Here are nine free things you can do in Budapest.
1. Climb up the Citadella
The Citadella is a fortress located on the top of the Gellért Hill in Budapest. The Citadella got built to defend the city and instill fear among Hungarian citizens. After a climb of 235 meters you can enjoy the breathtaking view of the Donau, the bridges and all the beautiful buildings in Budapest. Nowadays, the Citadella houses a restaurant.
2. Visit the Matthias Church (and Fisherman’s Bastion)
Are you a Sisi fan? Make sure to visit the Matthias Church. It was this church where Franz Joseph and Sisi got crowned king and queen of Hungary in 1867. The church is already quite impressive in itself, but the colorful roof is something you don’t see very often. You can have a look at the outside of the church for free, to go inside you have to pay between €3,20 and €4,50. If you want to climb the 197 stairs, you have to pay an additional fee between €3,20 and €4,50.
Surrounding the church you’ll find the Fisherman’s Bastion. This got built in the 19th century as a lookout point, and it still has a beautiful view of Budapest, including the parliament building. You can visit the bastion for free, but you have to pay a fee at some towers.
3. Admire the nature on Margaret Island
Thinking about going for a run, getting some rest or just feel like getting into nature? Don’t skip Margaret Island! You can find the island in the middle of the Donau. There’s a 5,8 km trail for runners, a petting zoo and you’ll even find open air night clubs. Want to know the highlights on the island?
- The Musical Fountain has a show about every three hours with colored water and music by The Rolling Stones, Andrea Bocelli and Vivaldi.
- The trail is made especially for runners and is 5,8 km long. Would you rather do some gym-like exercises? On the island you’ll find all sorts of gym devices you can use.
- There’s more than enough space to enjoy the sun in one of the parks on the islands. Bring some food and have a picnic!
- The water tower on the islands is over 100 years old and beautifully designed. Nearby you’ll also find the Promenade of Hungarian Artists, with statues of Hungarian writers, artists and musicians.
4. Walk along the Andrássy Boulevard
The Andrássy Boulevard is the most important street in Budapest. The street, which is 3.3 km long, is on the UNESCO world heritage list. Not surprising, since the street is filled with beautiful buildings like the Hungarian State Opera House. You’ll also find lots of cafes, restaurants, theaters and shops. I recommend starting at the St. Stephens Basilisk and walk along the boulevard to the Heroes’ Square.
Below the Andrássy Boulevard you’ll find the Millenium metro line, the oldest metro line in Budapest. It’s the second oldest metro line in the world (London has the oldest) and you can tell by the beautifully designed stops. On a quiet day you can have a look at the station, but they’re very strict with checking tickets, so keep this in mind!
5. Visit a library
In wonderful Budapest you’ll find libraries just as beautiful and impressive as the city itself. Even if you’re not an avid reader it’s worth visiting. Reading rooms are often free to visit and admire.
- You can visit the reading room of the Eötvös Loránd University for free with a visitors pass. This was the first public accessible library in Hungary!
- The library in the Hungarian parliament building is worth a visit too. In order to go in you have to register, which you can do on their website.
- At the National Library of Foreign Literature you’ll find books in over 100 languages! Here you’ll also just need a visitors pass in order to get in.
6. Visit museums and admire some art
Because of a Hungarian law, Hungarian museums have to ask for an entrance fee for almost all their exhibitions. Because of Hungarian holidays, all the big museums are free to visit on 15 March, 20 August and 23 October. One day a month they also offer free entrance to visitors below 26 or someone below 18 joined by two adults. Unfortunately it’s not always on the same days. Check here if you can visit one of the museums for free.
Apart from the museums there are some free exhibitions at galleries in town, fortunately. A famous one is Telep, a centre for the local art scene, where you can have a drink or a bite as well. Várfok Gallery focuses on Hungarian art from both upcoming and well-known artists.
7. Go on a Free Walking Tour
One of my favorite ways to discover a city is still the good old free walking tour. My favorite is Sandemans New Europe. The tour takes you throughout the whole city centre so apart from familiarising yourself with the city you’ll also get some more context, which makes your trip more valuable. Don’t forget to tip!
8. Visit the Jewish Quarter
The Jewish Quarter was a real ghetto during World War II. A neighborhood full of (sad) history, for sure. The Jewish Quarter also has the biggest synagoge in all of Europe, so you practically can’t miss it. Budapest is known for it’s ruin bars – bars in desolated and ruinous buildings – and a few of them you’ll find in this neighborhood!
9. Release your inner foodie at the Great Market Hall
Real foodies simply cannot skip the Great Market Hall in Budapest. Here you’ll find everything you need for a cozy picnic or a lovely hostel dinner. The market takes up three floors and is located in a beautiful 19th century building.