If you’re on holiday, there’s no end to the ways you can spend your money. So it’s nice to see that not everything in the Hungarian capital requires a few forints from your pocket. Put on your walking shoes, bring your camera and set off for these fun and free things to do in Budapest.
- Climb Castle HillCastle Hill is the takeaway image for most visitors to Budapest. From ’Pest, Castle Hill looks like a drawing illustrating a children’s story. For a visual feast that also happens to be free, walk across the Danube on the Chain Bridge (Széchenyi Lánchíd) and then up Castle Hill. If you’re travelling with someone who can’t make the climb, there’s also the option to ride the funicular to the Fishermen’s Bastion. Once on top of Castle Hill, explore the grounds of the Royal Palace, take in the view from the Fishermen’s Bastion and scout out the various sculptures and statues along the way. While you’re walking, consider that the hill wasn’t settled until the Mongols threatened to sack the area and people realized they needed more fortifications. How fast could you climb the hill with a horde behind you.
- Visit the Great Market Hall in BudapestAt once an attraction for history, culture and cuisine, the Great Market Hall is a must-see in ’Pest. Surrounded by shopping streets featuring luxury items and souvenirs, The Great Market Hall still offers the same produce, meats, spices and snacks that it did in the 1890s when the present building was constructed. The three-story market was damaged by warfare in the early- to mid-1900s, and was restored in the 1990s. Visiting the market is free, but shopping there won’t be. If you’re of a mind to browse, it’s a good place to stop for a snack or complete your souvenir shopping. While on the ground floor, don’t neglect to try Hungarian pickles, langos (fried dough topped with sour cream, cheese or other ingredients), and Hungarian sausage. On the second floor, try some of the local eateries, or look for Hungarian crafts to take home.
- Stroll Around Margaret Island
Formerly covered by churches and convents, Margaret Island is named after one of its former residents: St. Margaret was a nun in the Dominican convent here. The ruins of the convent, and those of other medieval structures, add to the intrigue of the island. Sports enthusiasts can visit the water park or sports pool, or jog around the island on a 5,350-meter-long rubber-coated jogging track.
- Visit the Jewish QuarterDuring World War II, the Jewish Quarter became a walled ghetto. By the time the Soviets liberated the ghetto in 1945, nearly 50 percent of the city’s 246,000-strong Jewish population had died.Today, visitors can walk the narrow streets and see several historical synagogues, including the world’s second-largest synagogue, which was built in the 1850s. Two poignant sites to visit are the Holocaust memorial in the shape of a weeping willow tree, and the statue of Raoul Wallenberg. Wallenberg was a Swedish diplomat during World War II who saved many Jewish lives.
For lots of other things to do in Budapest see our regularly updated Budapest Guide which includes plenty of ideas that will not smash your budget.