Budapest is fantastic, so rich in history that it might be complicated for some people to wrap their heads around and focus on exploring the city. This is why, after a couple of visits, we decided to come up with a brief list of our favorite places to visit and things to do in Budapest.
Most of these locations have some historical value, mostly from the decades following the Second World War. But the sites here are not exclusively for history freaks; we know that people need to relax, and Budapest is an excellent place for that as well.
Below, you can see our list of our favorite places to visit and things to do in Budapest.
Relaxing at the Szechenyi Medicinal Baths
We have to start this list with our favorite place in Budapest: Szechenyi Medicinal Baths. This is the biggest and most popular bathhouse in Budapest and the ultimate bathing experience in the Hungarian capital and is the most enormous medicinal bath in Europe. If you need to choose between which bathhouse are you going to explore in Budapest, this is the one you should go to.
From outside, the building looks interesting since the bathhouse is located inside the City Park and was built in Neo-Baroque style by the architect Győző Czigler. The design is so stunning that it’s the first thing you will notice when you step inside the baths.
Inside the building, there are fifteen pools spread around several hundred square meters. From the outside area, this place like a museum surrounded by three pools. It’s fantastic and a place that everybody needs to visit in Budapest.
The Cat Café Budapest
Imagine that you are traveling through Budapest, exploring all the rich history and the beauty of this city, and you have a sudden urge to admire and play with some random fluffy felines? If this happened to you before, we might have the only solution to your problems: the super cozy Cat Café Budapest.
Since we are crazy about cats, as soon as we learned about this cat café, we knew we would spend some time there. And it was more than worth it since there were a bunch of kittens strolling around with their tails up, a few were sleeping quite profoundly, and others interacted with the customers.
And it’s not all about cats there, besides all the fluffy cat friends, this is a café by itself and a surprisingly good one!
Shoes on the Danube Bank
If you take a walk alongside the Danube Promenade, close to where the Hungarian Parliament Building stands, you will find an odd-looking memorial called Shoes on the Danube Bank.
At first glance, these iron shoes don’t say much, but this monument conceived by Can Togay, with the help of sculptor Gyula Pauer, is there to remember and honor the Jews that were murdered by a fascist militia called Arrow Cross.
The shoes were placed next to the water because those people who were killed along the edge of the Danube were ordered to take off their shoes and were shot at the side of the water. This way, their bodies would fall into the river and be carried away.
The memorial stands where 3,500 people were shot.
This small but significant memorial shows you a glimpse of life in Budapest at the end of the Second World War. During my first visit to the city, this was one of the first places I wanted to visit. I wanted to see it by myself and understand the reason why the Arrow Cross would shoot and kill people so close to one of the most visible places in Budapest.
But this is what they wanted to do. They wanted to spread terror, and this is what they did by shooting in sight of everyone.
The Bullet Holes on the Ministry of Agriculture
There is a memorial close to the Shoes on the Danube Bank and behind the Hungarian Parliament Building that most people overlook and ignore.
This might happen because there is no English plaque around, and these small iron balls are odd-looking. But they are there to remember one of Hungary’s most significant national tragedies: the 1956 Revolution against Soviet control.
Nobody knows with certainty how many people died during those days in October 1956, but everybody knows how Soviet troops opened fire at hundreds of peaceful protests. Some of these people took shelter next to the Ministry of Agriculture Building, and the facade was left scared with all the bullets fired at the protesters.
Nowadays, there are dozens of bronze balls attached to buildings’ facades, and they are there as a reminder to those who were killed during the 1956 Hungarian revolution.
A Visit to the Memento Park
Located a little bit outside of the touristic center of Budapest, surrounded by the hills south of the city, Memento Park feels like it’s where statues and the memories of the Hungarian Communist past go to die. There, you’ll see figures of some of the most essential Hungarian communist leaders side by side with Karl Marx, Engels, and Lenin, making it a surreal and quite unique travel experience.
When the Iron Curtain came down and Eastern Europe started to change fast, most of the statues and reminders of the communist dictatorship that took over Hungary were removed from the streets of Budapest. In 1991, these statues were placed outside the city in what came to be known as Memento Park.
These statues could be exhibited there as a reminder of what happened before. Rather than destruction, these statues were saved, and now they lay in a neutral setting.
Personally, it’s pretty exciting to be able to walk around so many beautiful historical statues. We loved taking pictures of authentic communist statues as we learned a lot about the recent history of Hungary and what happened in the country between the two World Wars. If you like this aspect of history, this park was made for you.
It’s time to eat at Pesti Burger
The last time we visited Budapest was close to when we started exploring burger places. It was in February 2019, and our #52weeksofburgers challenge was still fresh. And we decided to explore how Hungary deals with burgers.
After some research, we found out about Pesti Burger, a very nice and clean restaurant surrounded by some university buildings a little bit outside the tourist parts of the city. We found some great burgers there, and you should try it out.