Budapest is a great destination for a weekend city break, not only because it’s beautiful and there’s loads to do but because it’s also really cheap! Budapest is one of the most affordable European city breaks you could take.
I often find that the ‘affordable’ city breaks are a bit boring because there’s not a lot to see or do once you arrive. But Budapest is chocker full of things to do and a lot of these things are free.
So for all you budget conscious travellers out there, here are some of the best free (or very cheap) things to do in Budapest.
Explore Fisherman’s Bastion
With a gorgeous combination of stunning city views and beautiful neo-Gothic architecture, Budapest’s Fisherman’s Bastion, located on the Buda bank of the Danube, is a must-see during any trip to the city.
Climb up Castle Hill
A 1km walk that sees you climb above the Danube on the Buda side of the city. You’ll enjoy some more incredible cityscapes from the top of this famous hill. At the summit you’ll find Buda Castle, whose gardens are free to wander.
Visit Heroes Square
Defined by its imposing 36-metre high column which is topped by a statue of the angel Gabriel, this structure, dedicated to those who gave their lives for Hungarian independence, is one of the most photographed locations in the city.
Read more: Flytographer review from Heroes Square
Stroll around the Jewish Quarter
Home to Europe’s largest synagogue and presenting a maze of narrow and picturesque streets that are a joy to walk around, this historic neighbourhood is well worth a morning of your attention.
Marvel at the Parliament building
Arguably the most memorable of Budapest’s archaeological triumphs, this landmark on the banks of the Danube bears a striking resemblance to the Houses of Parliament in London – make sure you get a photo of this complex by night.
Wander through Kerepesi Cemetery
The resting place for many of the country’s most famous historical figures, Kerepesi Cemetery is Europe’s largest outdoor statue park and is superbly preserved, making it worth the short journey out of the centre to see it.
Chill and explore in the City Park
Home to the city zoo and one of its most famous thermal baths. You have to pay to enter the zoo and baths but you can avoid the entry costs in favour of strolling around and admiring the many statues, as well as the façade of Vajdahunyad Castle.
Admire the churches
There are some beautiful churches to be admired across the city, including the Cave Church near the base of Gellert Hill. It is St. Stephen’s Basilica though that takes the biscuit, with its two large bell towers and Neo-Classical vibes.
Grab a drink in a ruin pub
While not a free experience, it is worth parting with a little cash to experience the environment of a ruin pub. There are several dotted around the city, such as the iconic Szimpla, which reclaim derelict spaces and transform them into some of the most alluring nightspots in the city.
Watch the sunset from Gellert Hill
After checking out the Cave Church, head up to the top of Gellert Hill for one of the most memorable sunsets in Europe. While enjoying a similar view to that enjoyed from Castle Hill and Fisherman’s Bastion, Gellert Hill is a quieter spot to admire the vistas of the Danube, Chain Bridge and Parliament building.
Have a picnic on Margaret’s Island
Located in the middle of the Danube to the north of Budapest’s centre, Margaret’s Island is a great spot for a quiet daytrip, decorated by tree-lined paths and various monuments, perfect for an afternoon picnic.
Grab some free samples through the Great Market
You can pick up some bits and bobs for that picnic from the city’s Great Market, or if you’re particularly adamant on saving the pennies, you can probably enjoy enough free food samples here to fill your belly. The market is located in a large hall opposite Liberty Bridge.
Visit the Shoes on the Danube Bank
A haunting and moving memorial to the Jewish people who were shot into the Danube during World War II, you’ll find this simple yet powerful tribute on the banks of the river to the north of the Chain Bridge. It can get quite busy here, so it is worth learning about the history of the location before or after your visit.
Cross the bridges of Budapest
Joining Buda and Pest together as one, the bridges of Budapest are far more than a convenient path between the two halves of the city. Each bridge has an interesting history to read up on, and what better way to appreciate their history than walking to and from Buda and Pest, or vice versa, until your legs ache!? If you fancy ticking off the key bridges, don’t miss out Liberty Bridge, Elizabeth Bridge, Margaret Bridge and Chain Bridge.
Take a free walking tour
The best way to get a comprehensive historical background and impression of a new city, a free walking tour is easily the cheapest method for discovering the best of Budapest. Free Budapest Tours offer two tours every day, at 10:30am and 2:30pm respectively.
Absorb the culture and history at some cheap museums
There are few museums in Budapest that offer free entry but most of them you’ll need to pay for. Thankfully, they’re mostly really cheap. The Hungarian National Museum is around £4 to enter and offers an insightful journey through Hungarian history, housing over 3.5 million pieces.
The Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art is a good option for art lovers on a tight budget. You can enter this complex on the banks of the Danube from around £5, introducing you to some of Eastern Europe’s best contemporary art.
Finally, and arguably the best museum in the city, is The House of Terror. Providing entry for around £5, this clever, interactive and unique museum is dedicated to revealing the fascist and communist regimes that occurred in the country, and is set in the very building that housed the Nazi headquarters in the 1940s.
Travel Hack Tip: Fork out a little extra for the headset guide at the House of Terror, particularly if you don’t speak Hungarian. The museum makes very little sense without it as most of the descriptions are in Hungarian.