Things To Do in Budapest on a Budget

11 Things To Do in Budapest On A Budget

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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 $20 USD. We set our daily Budapest budget at $100 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)

Iconic Budapest sights: A view of Chain Bridge from the bank of the river.

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 to tour the Parliament Building just didn’t fit into our budget for Budapest. We also eliminated entrance into Matthias Church and the Great Synagogue – and, since we’re not typically huge museum fans, we crossed all of those off our list, too.

However, if these are top Budapest attractions on your must-see 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 as well as tips on affordable eating and drinking.

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#1 See Budapest Sights On A Free Walking Tour

Budapest on a tight budget: Budapest Parliament Building - free to look at from the outside...and very impressive!

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

Budapest, Hungary Lukacs Thermal Baths Outdoor Pool

Partaking in the thermal baths of Budapest has 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 $25 USD. 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 $12 USD.


#3 Go To A Budapest Opera House Performance

Opera House Interior, Budapest Hungary

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

Budape For an affordable Danube River cruise, we hopped on the inexpensive commuter boat. The 45 minute ride only cost $2.50 each!

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

Budapest, Hungary Szechenyi Thermal Baths

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 even the Central Market Hall can cut down your Budapest cost per day. 


#6 Ponder Budapest Monuments, Statues and Squares

Budapest on a tight budget: Monuments and statues can be found all over Budapest. Some are silly, but the Holocaust Monument along the Danube River is quite moving.

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.

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Budapest On A Budget: Tips For Going Out

Friends in Budapest: Shots of Palinka at Szimpla, a popular Ruins Pub

We were joined by Budapest locals and have some great tips on where to eat and drink in Budapest for cheap!


Budapest Food and Drinks

Friends in Budapest: At Gellert Hill

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 quite affordable…if you know where to go!

Entrees (main meals) were about $7 USD, and 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 $3, but we also indulged in langos (Hungarian flatbread) and pizza (large slices for about $1).

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 added a bit to our Budapest budget, but this was actually something we are willing to splurge for it! The price of cheap beer in Budapest is about $2 a glass – 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

Budapest, Hungary Chain Bridge Lion Statue

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

Iconic Budapest sights: View from Chain Bridge of Parliament.

Sights: Parliament Building, Liberty Square (Szabadsag ter), St. Istvan’s Basilica, Zrinyi Street and Chain Bridge. 

Pro Tip: Use our detailed article to choose your free, self-guided Budapest Walking Tours!

Map to Budapest sights from Parliament to Chain Bridge. 


Walk 2: Castle Hill

Castle Hill sights: Matthias Church

Sights: Matthias Church, Fisherman’s Bastion, Mary Magdalene Church, Royal Palace.

Top Tips: Skip the ticket for the funicular ($12 USD round-trip) 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!

Map to the sights on Castle Hill in Budapest.


Walk 3: Jewish Quarter Budapest

Budapest on a tight budget: The Great Synagogue comes with a slightly high entrance fee ~ but it is astounding to look at!

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 still quite beautiful.

Map to Budapest Jewish Quarter sights.


Walk 4: Oktogon to the Danube River

Opera House from outisde

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!

Map to sights from Oktogon to the Danube River.


Walk 5: Budapest at Night

Spa Day and an Opera in Budapest: Parliament 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!

Map from Margaret Bridge to Chain Bridge.


Our Top Tips For Budapest on a Budget

St. Istvan's Basilica in Budapest, Hungary

Budapest Currency: Hungarian Forint (HUF) | Currency Converter


Budapest Budget Tips

The view of Chain Bridge and St. Istvan's Basilica from Castle Hill in Budapest, Hungary


Where To Stay in Budapest

Using Airbnb in Budapest, Hungary bedroom

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 everything and 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. 

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 Budapest trip: Hotel Moments Budapest, Callas House and Aria Hotel Budapest

Budget travelers can search for Budapest Hostels – like Metropolis Hostel and Flow Hostel


Getting To Budapest 

A Viking Cruise longship in Budapest, Hungary

Budapest can be reached by plane, train, bus or European River Cruise. We have arrived in Budapest by ship 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 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

Spires and dome of Budapest Parliament Building in Hungary

  • 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 high quality photos. We travel with a Canon Rebel (which takes amazing photos) 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 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 Hungary! Search for the lowest airfares, the best accommodations and fun things to do…then start packing!  Want more travel advice? Head over to our Travel Planning Page for tips on traveling – and for country-specific information, take a look at our Travel Guides Page!


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Things to do in Budapest on a Budget

12 thoughts on “11 Things To Do in Budapest On A Budget

  1. Pingback: Quick 4 Tips For A Budget Trip To Budapest - Travel With Her

  2. Isabel C

    Thank you for this wonderful post. We are planning to visit in middle June with our teenage son, hopefully the weather will permit us to do the walks that you post. Also, we want to visit Vienna. What do you think, budget wise, is the best way to do it? Train, bus or rental car?

    • A bus would most likely be the least expensive option. There are a range of buses to choose from, but we really like riding FlixBus. Their buses have free wifi, coffee and snacks, a bathroom and even seat-back entertainment. The ride from Budapest direct to Vienna is 3 hours. Have fun on your trip!

  3. Mariana van Aswegen

    Thanks for a wonderful post, this will help alot if we go in April. I noticed that you also went in April? How was the weather? Boots and jacket kinda weather?

    • Hi Mariana – The weather was fantastic in Hungary in April…for the most part! It was warm with blue skies – no jacket necessary – for days, but then it turned cold and we had to bundle up a few times. Unfortunately, spring weather can be so difficult to predict. Our best suggestion is to pack layers! Have a great trip! Budapest is a wonderful city 🙂

  4. Tom & Mickey Smith

    Mickey and I had the opportunity to travel for a day to Budapest from Vienna in 1983. The border had just opened up a few months before and the entire place looked like a black and white movie. As our bus traveled though the city there were very few people out, no restaurants, no cafes, just gray buildings. At one point we saw a long line of people waiting to get into a building. The guide told us they were waiting for a shipment of Levi’s that were going on sale that day. Things sure have changed. The place looks great. I would love to go back.

    • Miki

      Tom & Mickey, as a Hungarian I am sure that your trip shold have happened around 1989 instead of 1983, because in ’83 it was hardcore socialism in here, borders were closed (the iron curtain was solid & impossible to cross). The opening of the borders was in 1989 as the whole Eastern Block started to collapse. And yes, a Levi’s store was THAT big deal back then, just like the McDonalds. 😀

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