Budapest, the capital of Hungary and perhaps the most unique capital city in all of Eastern Europe. It’s a city brimming with interesting architecture, fascinating history, tons of activities to fill your time, and to top it all off, it’s an incredibly affordable city. As a solo traveler, there’s no better city to explore than Budapest and therefore there’s no reason that Budapest shouldn’t be at the very top of your list when visiting Eastern Europe; or Europe in general. Here are the best and most interesting things to see and do in Budapest as a solo traveler.
Things to Know Before Visiting Budapest
There are a few things to note before visiting this incredible city to make your stay easy and seamless. For starters, Budapest is split into two different areas – Buda and Pest. Separated by the Danube River, but now connected by the Szechenyi Chain Bridge, Buda on the west bank, Pest on the east bank. While the city is now collectively known as Budapest, you may still hear people say, “That’s on the Pest side”, or “That’s on the Buda side”. Buda is generally not as lively as Pest but is where some of the most famous attractions are located. Generally, it’s a great area to explore during the daylight hours, while I recommend going out on the Pest side at night and staying on the Pest side.
Another thing to know is that while English is widely spoken, the main language in the country is Hungarian. While you’ll find most menus are translated to English and most locals speak a bit of English, as a solo traveler, it’ll get you far to brush up on a few Hungarian phrases before visiting.
- Good day = Jó nap
- Hello = Helló
- Do you speak English = Beszélsz angolul
- Where’s the bathroom = Hol van a fürdőszoba
- Thank you = Köszönöm
Lastly, Budapest is pronounced BudaPESCHT. It’ll win you major brownie points with locals if you pronounce the name of their city correctly.
The Best Things to See and Do in Budapest As a Solo Traveler
Why should you visit Budapest as a solo traveler? For starters, it’s an incredibly affordable city. Hungary operates on the Hungarian forint (HUF), weaker than both the Euro and the USD meaning your money will go far. You can typically get by spending a minimal amount of money each day choosing affordable food options and cheap beer from the local bar. While there is an upscale side to Budapest with fancy cafes and expensive hotels, there are just as many options for cheaper alternatives.
Another reason to visit Budapest solo is because of the sheer amount of unique things to see and do in the city. Bathe in the thermal baths, take in the beautiful architecture, visit war museums, and more! Although you’re alone, there’s no way to be bored with all of the things there are to do to fill your time.
Lastly, Budapest hosts a ton of travelers each year. It’s easy to make friends by staying in a hostel or participating in a free walking tour of the city. If you prefer to explore alone, you’re free to do so! But if you prefer to explore with others then get out of your comfort zone and introduce yourself to the other travelers you meet along the way.
1. View the Hungarian Parliament Building from Fisherman’s Bastion
Fisherman’s Bastion first opened in 1902 and was built to celebrate the 1000th birthday of the Hungarian state. It’s located on the Buda side of Budapest and is the perfect place to enjoy views across the Danube of Pest.
One of the most impressive views from the Bastion is the views of the Hungarian Parliament Building. I recommend visiting both during the day, and at night when Parliament is all lit up. Entrance to Fisherman’s Bastion is free and is generally open from 9 am-11 pm.
2. Walk Across the Széchenyi Chain Bridge
The Szechenyi Chain Bridge is the main link between Buda and Pest, across the Danube. It opened in 1849 and at the time, was one of the largest bridges in the world. And while the bridge connects the two sides of Budapest, it’s also a symbol for strength and advancement, linking the West and the East.
Impressive both day and night, similar to the Parliament building, the Chain Bridge lights up at night creating a glowing suspension bridge under the starry sky.
3. Visit Matthias Church
If you’re visiting Fisherman’s Bastion make sure to step inside this Roman Catholic Church located in the heart of Buda’s Castle District, directly behind Fisherman’s Bastion. Entrance is a cheap 1,500 HUF (~$5). The church opens at 9 am and if you get there early, chances are you’ll be one of the first inside. Because the Bastion opens at 9 am, most people come around then to walk around the area before visiting the inside of the church.
If you show up to Fisherman’s Bastion before it opens around 8 am, you can’t access the entire fortress but you can see the main parts of it in peace and quiet. Then pop into the church at 9 and you’ll have seen two of the main attractions in Budapest without crowds.
4. Enjoy Hungarian Wines Underground in Faust Wine Cellar
Step inside the Hilton Hotel located on the Buda side of Budapest, and go underground to enjoy Hungarian wines in this historical cellar. Your tasting expert will guide you through the regions the wines are made and provide a clear picture of Hungarian’s wine country. This is a small and intimate experience, with only five tables in the cellar, so I recommend booking reservations ahead of time.
5. Bathe in the Hungarian Thermal Baths
Budapest is famous for its thermal baths located throughout the city. Bathing in these thermal baths in Budapest signifies health and wellness. While tourists pay a fee, doctors can prescribe locals to go to the baths for medicinal purposes such as treating “orthopedic and degenerative conditions” as well as help with “premature aging of the body”.
The baths can be accessed all year round, and are set to a toasty 100(ish) degrees, meaning you can visit even if it’s snowing out! The three main thermal baths are Király Thermal Bath, Széchenyi Thermal Bath, and Gellért Thermal Bath. Out of the three main thermal baths, Széchenyi is the most famous and is the largest medicinal bath in all of Europe.
6. View Budapest from Above; Hike Gellért Hill
Gellért Hill is 235 m high and overlooks the city of Budapest. The hike itself is a short 20-30 minutes depending on where you start. I recommend coming at sunset with a bottle of wine to enjoy the city in peace and quiet before hitting the bars at night.
7. Participate in the Free Walking Tour With Trip to Budapest
As a solo traveler, one of the best ways to meet people and get to know the city you’re in is by participating in the free walking tour offered. The walking tour in Budapest is perhaps one of the best that I’ve been on in all of Europe. Expect to be provided with crucial information into the back-story of Budapest and how it has gotten where it is today. Plus guides will give you recommendations on where locals go to eat and drink, so you can have an authentic experience when visiting the city. I recommend squeezing this tour in upon arrival is that you’ll get your bearings and a clear idea of how to navigate the city. The original walk is daily at 1030 am, but they offer other walks too.
Make sure to bring cash! Tips are highly encouraged at the end of the tour.
If you’re looking for more recommendations on walking tours throughout Europe, read Free Walking Tours in Europe Ranked
8. Party in the Ruin Bars
Located in what was once the Jewish Ghetto, this area of Budapest all but collapsed after WWII when 10,000+ Jews were deported. In 2002-2004, these abandoned and crumbling buildings were transformed into what we now know as the “Ruin Bars”. Szimpla was the first to open up as an experiment, offering affordable drinks to a young crowd. Because of the success of Szimpla, many more bars have opened up in abandoned spaces around Budapest and are collectively referred to as the “Ruin Bars”.
Even as a solo traveler, I highly recommend checking out this unique concept. If you don’t feel comfortable going out alone at night, head there early for a drink and leave before the crowds start to roll in. Szimpla Kert is by far the most famous ruin bar and opens at 6 pm daily.
9. Visit the Hungarian Parliament Building
Located on the Pest side overlooking the Danube, the Hungarian Parliament building is one of the most impressive sites in all of Budapest. It’s a mix of Gothic Revival and Renaissance Revival architecture and stands big and proud in the heart of the city. If you plan to visit (and you should), make sure to buy tickets ahead of time.
10. Visit the Shoes on the Danube Bank
A harrowing display of history, the Shoes in the Danube signify a time when people of Jewish faith were persecuted by the Arrow Cross Military during WWII. The people were ordered to take off their shoes and were shot into the water so the river would carry their bodies away. It’s a touching memorial that was created in 2005 and is located near the Parliament building. The memorial is free to visit.
Budapest is an incredible and thriving city. While most people don’t immediately think of it when visiting Europe, I highly encourage you – solo traveler or not – to spend time in Hungary’s capital. There are so many things to see and do in Budapest as a solo traveler, don’t miss out.
For more on Budapest, make sure to read:
For a more visual look at Budapest, make sure to check out my IG page/highlight reel and search for “Budapest” in my highlights!