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Budapest, Hungary is an affordable destination. However, as we started our research into what to see and do on a Budapest city break, we quickly realized how easily a budget Budapest trip could go bust. Almost every tourist attraction charges an entry fee – some upwards of nearly $20 USD. We set our daily Budapest budget at $75 USD total per day for our 2 week stay, so we had to get a little creative to discover the Best Things To Do in Budapest and stay on budget!
Best Things To Do in Budapest (On A Budget)
The first thing we had to do to ensure our Budapest travel budget stayed intact was cross off a few of the pricey activities. Paying $22 each to tour the Parliament Building just didn’t fit into our budget for Budapest. We also eliminated entrance into Matthias Church ($6) and the Great Synagogue ($15) – and, since we’re not huge museum people, we crossed all of those off our list, too. However, if these are top Budapest attractions on your must-see Budapest list, we suggest considering the Budapest Card to see if it will save you money! Once we whittled our list down to what we actually wanted to see and do in Budapest, we researched affordable alternatives to the mainstream tourist offerings. Our Budapest Budget Guide highlights 6 sights to see, 5 self guided walking tours for you to enjoy and tips on affordable eating and drinking.
Save, Pin or Bookmark our Budapest Travel Guide for your vacation to Hungary!
#1 See Budapest Sights On A Free Walking Tour
While entry into the sights can be pricey, viewing the beautiful architecture from the outside is one of the completely free things to do in Budapest. We mapped out the best buildings and Budapest neighborhoods we wanted to see and then grouped them together into manageable walks. (See below for details and tips and be sure to read our complete guide to the best Budapest Self-Guided Walks.)
For a lengthy yet enjoyable walk with views and changing perspectives, zigzag across the four bridges of Budapest (Margaret, Chain, Elizabeth and Liberty) that span the Danube River. Taking in the sights on foot is a good way to see the top landmarks and adds zero expenses to a Budapest trip cost.
#2 Visit Budapest Thermal Baths
Partaking in the thermal baths of Budapest have become an iconic activity for visitors, but the experience can add to the overall Budapest travel cost. The two most popular baths – Szechenyi and Gellert – charge about $20 USD to visit their baths. However, a trip to Lukacs Thermal Baths provides a low budget Budapest bath experience, with an offer for a short 2-hour visit for just about $10 USD.
#3 Go To A Budapest Opera House Performance
As budget travelers, we rarely consider attending cultural events like an Opera. However, we heard that tickets to the Opera in Budapest can be downright cheap – and it’s the truth! Our upper balcony seats cost just $2 USD, and, since it wasn’t sold out, we got upgraded to the main floor at no extra charge. Considering that a 45 minute tour of the Opera House costs $15 USD, we found this to be the budget Hungary deal of the trip.
#4 Take A Danube River Cruise
Several tour companies offer boat cruises on the Danube River, and while they looked like a lot fun, they tend to be a bit more than we are prepared to pay. Since we were willing to forego the narration and catering options, we hopped on the cheap Budapest city commuter boat for the 45 minute ride – which barely impacted our overall Budapest travel cost.
For a roundtrip experience, we boarded at Margaret Bridge on the Pest side, rode south to Liberty Bridge, disembarking again on the Pest side and rode the historic #2 tram back to the Budapest city center.
Top Tip: There are two types of ferry boats: one is fully enclosed, the other one has an open air upper deck, which provides better Budapest views.
#5 Relax in Budapest Parks
Looking for free things in Budapest? There are three parks that are easily accessible from the center of Budapest: City Park, Margaret’s Island and Gellert Hill. Each park has a plethora of trails, sights and green space for walking, lounging or picnicking.
Speaking of picnicking, it’s a great way to save on your Hungary budget! There are plenty of cheap restaurants in Budapest, but a trip to the grocery store or the Market Hall Budapest can cut down your Budapest cost per day.
#6 Ponder Budapest Monuments, Statues and Squares
Budapest is dotted with monuments, statues and squares. We could hardly walk the Budapest city streets without running into thought-provoking monuments, playful statues or small, bench-lined city escapes. The most moving monument for us was the Holocaust Monument along the Danube River (north of Chain Bridge on the Pest side). Bronze shoes mark the spot where, in 1944, the Arrow Cross shot Jews to death and let their bodies fall into the river to be washed away.
Budapest On A Budget: Tips For Going Out
We were joined by Budapest locals and have some great tips on where to eat and drink in Budapest!
Budapest Food and Drinks
Food options are almost endless, ranging from expensive and touristy to cheap eats in Budapest. Twice we had sit-down meals of traditional Hungarian food and were surprised to find the cost of eating out in Budapest was affordable. Entrees (main meals) were about $7 USD (as usual, the more touristy the place, the higher the price). However, for the best cheap eats in Budapest, we opted for take-away from the grab-and-go windows. Kebabs were our cheap meal of choice in Budapest, never costing more than $2.50, but we also indulged in langos (Hungarian flatbread) and pizza (large slices for about 75 cents).
For a taste of something sweet, the local bakeries outside of the Budapest city center were the way to go. Traditional cakes, by the slice, were about $1 each and baked fresh using traditional Hungarian recipes. Budapest food prices at the The Great Market Hall were not as inexpensive as other places around town, but still affordable.
Beer and wine always add a bit to our Budapest budget, but we are willing to splurge for it! The price of beer in Budapest is about $2 a glass (for local, mass produced) – and wine by the glass costs about the same. Craft beer, however, costs at least double – but is well worth the upcharge in our opinion and we made room in our daily budget for Budapest to imbibe. Read all about our favorite places for Budapest Craft Beer in our complete review.
All around Budapest there are spectacular vistas, walkways with benches and green parks – and eating and drinking in these spaces is completely acceptable. Save on Budapest expenses and grab food and drinks from the local market for cheap and fun dining experiences.
5 Budapest Self-Guided Walking Tours
Spending money in Budapest on tours isn’t necessary. Explore the city on your own self-guided walking tours to save on the cost of travel in Budapest.
Walk 1: Parliament to Chain Bridge
Sights: Parliament Building, Liberty Square (Szabadsag ter), St. Istvan’s Basilica, Zrinyi Street and Chain Bridge.
Pro Tip: Use our detailed blog post to pick your free, self-guided Budapest Walking Tours!
Click here for a map to Budapest sights from Parliament to Chain Bridge.
Walk 2: Castle Hill
Sights: Matthias Church, Fisherman’s Bastion, Mary Magdalene Church, Royal Palace.
Top Tips: Skip the funicular ($3 USD one way) and hike up; it is a fairly short walk. Don’t pay the fee for Fisherman’s Bastion; there are plenty of viewpoints from Fisherman’s Bastion that are free – like directly across from Matthias Church. At the arched entrance into the Royal Palace courtyard, on the right, is a small and informative display of the history of the castle – and it’s free.
Click here for a map to the sights on Castle Hill in Budapest.
Walk 3: Jewish Quarter Budapest
Sights: The Great Market Hall, The Great Synagogue, Rumbach Synagogue, Kazinczy Synagogue and monuments.
Tips: Entrance fees are charged at all of the synagogues, but free to look at from the outside…and quite beautiful.
Click here for a map to Budapest Jewish Quarter sights.
Walk 4: Oktogon to the Danube River
Sights: Opera House, Erzsebet Ter, Deak Ferenc Utca, Vigado Ter.
Tips: It is free to enter – and gander – at the gold flecked Opera House lobby, but tickets in the cheap seats are an awesome value for the money!
Click here for a map to sights from Oktogon to the Danube River.
Walk 5: Budapest at Night
Sights: St. Istvan’s Basilica, Chain Bridge, Royal Palace, Matthias Church, Fisherman’s Bastion and Parliamet.
Tips: After the sun goes down, the iconic monuments of Budapest are bathed in spotlights. Walking along the river in a loop from Margaret Bridge to Chain Bridge (and crossing both bridges) provides fabulous views – and doesn’t add a single dime to your Budapest cost of travel!
Click here for a map from Margaret Bridge to Chain Bridge.
Our Top Tips For Budapest on a Budget
Budapest Currency: Hungarian Forint (HUF) | Currency Converter
Budapest Budget Tips
- The public transportation in Budapest keeps the city well-connected. Click here for information and current cost of BKV modes of transportation; or catch a ride on the Big Bus Budapest, which makes stops at all the top tourist sights!
- If you are planning to visit the top Budapest sights and using public transportation, a Budapest Card provides Budapest discounts to the top sights.
- Get (and stay) organized for your Trip to Europe by using our Trip Planning Printables!
- Looking to Spend Christmas in Europe? Budapest makes our list as the Best Budget European Christmas Destination!
- Also check out our 3 Day Budapest Itinerary for more ideas for your vacation to Hungary.
Where To Stay in Budapest
We, once again, relied on our go-to travel hack option of Airbnb to secure accommodations – and we weren’t disappointed. Located in District Six, we were well within walking distance to the sights. Our high-ceilinged, bright apartment had one large room with a separate kitchen and bath – and only cost $30 a night.
The best place to stay in Budapest is in the heart of the city within walking distance to sights – and there are many cheap apartments in Budapest city centre. We have found that staying in apartments is often less expensive than hotel rooms – with the added benefit of a kitchen and more space. Budapest holiday apartments can also be searched on FlipKey (which is part of TripAdvisor) or on VRBO – Vacation Rentals By Owner.
However, for those who prefer staying in traditional accommodations, there are many Budapest hotels to choose from in – or close to – the city center. Check out these top-rated hotels (based on guest reviews!) for your upcoming trip: Hotel Moments Budapest, Callas House and Aria Hotel Budapest.
Budget travelers can search for Budapest Hostels – like Georges, Metropolis Hostel and Flow Hostel.
Getting To Budapest
Budapest can be reached by plane, train, bus or European River Cruise. We have arrived in Budapest by river cruise and train (Ljubljana to Budapest) and departed via plane to Dublin, Ireland and bus to Krakow, Poland.
Our preferred method of getting anywhere is by flying (we are JetSettingFools, after all!) and when we need to purchase plane tickets, we start our search for the best deals on airline tickets on Skyscanner.
To get between destinations when flights are not possible, we usually rely on public transportation and take trains or buses. In Europe, our preferred bus company is FlixBus – as it is economical, clean and comfortable with on-board Wi-Fi, seat-back entertainment, refreshments and a toilet. We aren’t keen on driving abroad, but renting a car can often save time and money (especially when traveling with more than two people) – and it allows for greater discovery.
Before You Go To Budapest
- Budapest is a walkable city…but only if you have the right travel shoes! Don’t forget to pack a pair of lightweight and comfortable walking shoes for your trip. I (Sarah) have traveled with these shoes by Columbia, Skechers and Reef. Kris prefers wearing these shoes by Merrell and Sanuk.
- We’re certain you’ll be snapping tons of photos during your trip to Budapest. Rather than relying on your mobile phone to capture the sights, upgrade to an actual camera for higher quality photos. We travel with a Canon Rebel (which takes amazing photos, but can be a bit clunky) and a Canon PowerShot ELPH (which takes beautiful pictures and is slim and lightweight budget camera).
- It’s easy to get turned around in any foreign city! Make sure to have a good city map and/or guidebook before arriving in Budapest
- Whether you travel with a backpack or suitcase, will also want a great day bag to organize all of your essential everyday travel items!
- If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your trip, consider traveling protected with World Nomads.
Start planning your trip to Budapest! Search for the lowest airfares, the best accommodations and fun things to do…then start packing! Want more travel planning tips? Head over to our Travel Planning page for more information and tips on traveling – and for country-specific information, take a look at our Travel Guides page!
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