No more excuses to explore the city. There are countless things waiting for you in Budapest, which do not cost a penny. We can feel great even on a small budget.
We can hear excuses many times that people don’t travel because it’s a very expensive thing. Even if travel and accommodation are somehow affordable from the budget, there will certainly not be enough left for any programs.
On the one hand, nowadays travel is no longer a lord’s privilege, and on the other hand, you can’t imagine how many free but exciting programs await us in Budapest.
If the weather is good, obviously the number of these opportunities will increase considerably, but don’t be afraid even in bad weather. Sure, even on a much smaller budget, we can have fun without having a sense of lack.
Free (& cheap) things to do in Budapest
Is it possible to make it through the day for less than 10 USD a day?
Yep, it is possible. As a matter of fact, I even overcounted it as except for four programs, all events are for free.
And at those four, you only have to pay for travelling or admission fees into a tower, most of which are 500–1,000 HUF (approx. 2–3 USD). Sounds good, right?
Necessary things to do before free programs
If it is low-budget, you can also save a lot of money on traveling. If I were you, I would definitely buy a BKV pass. By doing so, you can enjoy several programs free of charge (cruising on the Danube, travelling to Szentendre etc.) or at a discount price (eg. travelling to Vác by train).
|BKV PASS||PRICE (HUF)|
For further information visit the BKV website.
The 30 best free things to do in Budapest
1. Fisherman’s bastion
Although the entry to the top level of the Fisherman’s Bastion is not free (only 1000HUF), even if we miss it, we still have a great view. The monument in the castle district is one of the must-see points of Budapest, and it is also worth walking around it because it has a completely different atmosphere than anything else in the city.
The name of Fisherman’s Bastion refers to the fishermen’s guild in a “surprising way”, as there was once a Fisherman’s City under the castle quarters, not far from here, and there was also a fish market in Holy Trinity Square.
Sure, this area used to look very different. Beautiful view of the whole of Budapest and historical atmosphere: this is the Fisherman’s Bastion.
Admission fee to the Fisherman’s Bastion is 1,000 HUF, but the view is also beautiful from the foot of the tower.
2. Elizabeth Lookout Tower
Want to look at the city from a slightly different perspective? Then visit the highest point of Budapest, the more than 100-year-old lookout tower on János Hill.
Getting up there itself is a special program: we can climb up with the little retro cogwheel, with the help of which we can get to know the area as well, but if we don’t want to walk much afterward, then sit on a chairlift. (The return ticket costs 1600HUF!)
With the chairlift we have time to take a look at the area, while the forest lies under our feet, and in the end even a photo is taken of everyone, which we can then take home. The neo-Romanesque building leads up 100 steps, from where we can see up to 25 kilometers away.
If you have a BKV pass, you can take the cogwheel train free of charge. A one-way ticket to Zugliget Chairlift is 1,200 HUF, a two-way ticket is 1,600 HUF. I would use it to travel downwards. The Elizabeth Lookout Tower costs 500 HUF.
3. Margaret Island and the Zoo – One of the best free things to do in Budapest
It might not be an exaggeration to call Margaret Island the lungs of Budapest, but at least its most popular green expanse. It is not uncommon for this island to reach the Danube, which is a real little green oasis right in the middle of the city center.
Many people come out here for a run – there is a built running track going around the island – or walking, cycling, or just sitting with a bottle of wine and watching the Danube. There is plenty of green and wooded area, and if you just want to look at the water and those having sport on it, it is also possible.
And whoever wants to get tanned can do it on outdoor sunbeds, taking a little vitamin D (of course, these are very popular, so we have to keep our eyes open to find free space).
But the list of free sights doesn’t end here, as the island also has its own Zoo. We can easily go into the small fenced area where bunnies are jumping freely, interesting birds can fly or we can even pet horses and deer.
A real little fairytale world unfolds in front of our feet, with all its cute characters. So if you’re already walking around the island, make sure to make a detour here.
4. Riding tram 2
It may sound strange to explore Budapest while sitting on a tram, but if you try the iconic line 2, you will immediately realize why this is a wonderful and cheap way to go on a trip.
It is one of the most beautiful tram routes in the world, leaving from Jászai Mari Square to the National Theater on the banks of the Danube. While we travel comfortably, we pass beautiful buildings and locations, which make it much easier and faster to walk through.
Tram 2 in Budapest – A fairy-tale sightseeing trip for one euro
Traveling around Christmas time will be even more exciting, as the “glitter tram” also runs on this line. At such times, fully lit, dressed in Christmas lights, the tram travels its usual route to the greatest delight of tourists and locals.
It is free of charge with a BKV pass, but 350 HUF without it.
5. Hiking around the area
There are many exciting hiking trails around Budapest, such as the Buda Hills. There is plenty to choose from, there is shorter, longer, harder, or just easy to walk. Of course, it all costs nothing!
One of the fastest ways to walk or just to have some fresh air is the Árpád Lookout. This building is located on the 376-meter-high Látó Hill. The view can be quite magnificent: we can see not only the downtown bend of the Danube, but also Gellért Hill and Buda Castle.
The highest point of the Buda Hills is Nagy-Kopasz Hill with its 559 meters. You can easily get there by bus and car to complete this 10-kilometer hike.
The end of the tour lasts all the way to Nagykovácsi, where it is also worth a visit because it is a wonderful place.However, if we don’t want to go this far, we can plan the tour anyway by turning back from the Csergezán Pál lookout in the direction of the starting point.
Of course, there are many other excursion destinations in and around Budapest, and there are few better and more economical programs.
Alternative reality: hikes in the Budaörs Mountains
My personal favorite is the Budaörs Mountains, which is located in the immediate vicinity of Budapest. There are few people, but it’s easy to climb on it, no matter which hill we choose. The lavish sight is guaranteed.
6. St. Stephen’s Basilica
The Basilica may not need to be presented to anyone, not even those who are visiting Budapest for the first time. St. Stephen’s Basilica is the largest neoclassical building in the city, but many are content to admire it from the outside, even though it is dazzling from the inside and can be viewed for free.
The church can accommodate 8,000 people, and entering it really makes people speechless. It’s time to get a little immersed and admire the beautifully decorated interior. Unfortunately, you can only go up to the Dome if you pay the fee (1000HUF), but we don’t leave with a bitter taste if we only discover the inside.
What may even make it more interesting is that we can sit for Mass, and even listen to Mass in English at certain times, but here it is worth checking out the exact Mass order (link).
Entrance to the dome is 1,000 HUF. Don’t miss it.
7. BKK cruising
Rocking on the Danube is a real experience, I assure everyone of that. But the best part is that it can also be used as transportation, and how much cooler it is to get from A to B by boat than by any other way.
It is not true that it would be completely free (only 750HUF), but for a BKV season ticket (which is not a huge amount) we can sail from Haller Street to the Roman Baths, but we can also get off on Margaret Island.
How much different is it to look around Budapest and its surroundings while crossing the Danube. Plus, it’s a lot more economical than buying a ticket for a boat that’s on the same schedule, just costs twice as much. So it’s worth checking out the exact departure and even connecting it with a trip so you can explore the area.
It is free of charge with a BKV pass, but 750 HUF without it.
8. Climb Gellért Hill
For those who want to see Budapest from above, Gellért Hill is one of the best places. Getting up on the top is a lung-trying task, but it’s well worth it.
What is less often talked about in connection with Gellért Hill is the namesake itself and its statue. As the Statue of Liberty towers at the top, it’s hard to compete with it. Yet the statue of St. Gellert also offers a breathtaking view. The statue rises 40 meters above the city, and according to the legend it was here that the bishop died as a martyr, who also gave the name to the mountain.
It was originally designed to be only 3 meters, but then it became 7 meters to make it more striking. The waterfall also starts from here, and at sunrise and sunset it is a great experience to see the city from here.
9. Sunbathing in the City Park
City Park is another large green area of Budapest: people come here to do sports, play, and sometimes even sunbathe. City Park is big enough, so we don’t have to be afraid of being in each other’s private spheres; romantic couples, families with small children and dog walkers can also fit side by side.
The Lake of the City Park lends an even better atmosphere to the place, on the shore of which it feels good to sit in summer and it turns into a skating rink in winter. The City Park really has a thousand faces, plus we can really find it in the middle of the city, almost next to the Heroes’ Square.
In summer, those who can’t afford to go to the beach or waterfront, often choose some part of the Park for sunbathing. The most popular of these places is King’s Hill, where many who want to tan tend to settle down and soak up the sunlight.
It is a great experience to relax and walk here, and if you get hungry, there are also many cozy restaurants here. A magical atmosphere and environment await us.
10. Discovering the surroundings of Budapest
Not only the center of Budapest can be exciting and full of sights, but also its immediate surroundings. It is enough to get on a bus or, say, a HÉV, we can get to a surprising number of beautiful places. One such example is Szentendre, which can be reached by HÉV in about 40 minutes.
I don’t like salivating terms like the little jewelry box, but it’s hard to find any other adjective for that. The small settlement on the banks of the Danube, with its narrow, cobbled streets, exudes an all-Mediterranean atmosphere that is worth exploring.
The beautiful Vác and Etyek are also within easy reach, where there are amazing wine days and picnics, but Visegrád and Nagymaros are not far away by train, which cannot be missed either. Apart from the minimal cost of the trip, exploring these places costs nothing and the sight is priceless.
- by HÉV from Budapest to Szentendre (timetable)
- by train from Budapest to Visegrád, Nagymaros, Vác (timetable)
- by bus from Budapest to Etyek (timetable of line 763)
If you have a BKV pass (eg. a one-day, three-day, weekly or monthly pass), you can travel by train at a discount price, too. This way you can travel to Vác for 560 HUF (approx. 1.5 EUR / less than 2 USD).
The fare to other destinations is approx. 500–1800 HUF.
11. Most beautiful parks
In the middle of great sightseeing, people sometimes like to stop, sit back and relax a bit. But what if we don’t want to just sit in a cafe where it’s obviously mandatory to consume.
There are many beautiful parks in Budapest, some of which I have already mentioned, but there are also less known ones that should not be missed. Vérmező is located in the 1st district of Budapest, where Ignác Martinovics and his colleagues were beheaded.
Although this story isn’t exactly happy, but we don’t want to deter anyone, the park is beautiful. Another interesting feature here is the restaurant made out of railway carriages, as the place is not far from the Southern Railway Station, so this kind of design was stylish.
The island of Óbuda is also very inviting. It is a popular excursion destination, but for many it may be known because of the Sziget Festival, which is held every summer. However, most of the island is now a recreation park and the best-known waterfowl migration observation site in the area.
So, if it is not youngsters and festival-goers who are raging for better and better bands, it is even worth visiting and taking a break here with family.
If you are interested in the most beautiful and romantic parks in Budapest, read my article about it.
12. Free galleries and museums
Getting to know the art and culture of a given city or country can be considered an almost obligatory program, of course, if we are also receptive to it. Many galleries and museums can be visited for free, some are only during certain periods, but some are available all year round.
Children under the age of 6, and adults over the age of 70, and children under the age of 18 accompanying adults under the age of 26 can visit these facilities for free at many times of the year, and it is worth paying attention to these. Also, during most of Hungary’s national holidays, you can visit museums and galleries free of charge.
Without a penny: free museums in Budapest
I would like to highlight a couple of those that can be visited free of charge: such as the Deák Erika Gallery (link), where you have to book in, or the Acb Gallery (link), which is also free. But there is also the Kelet Café and Gallery (link), which is at the same time a café, an exhibition hall, or just a venue for literary-themed evenings and a book-changing nook.
Most programs are subject to registration, but if we just want to look at the particular exhibition, or have a good coffee while looking through the shelves crumbling from the books, we can do it at any time during business hours.
13. Roman Beach
A little bit far away from the hustle and bustle of the city center, one of the favorite places for Budapesters is the Roman beach. The caressing waves of the Danube, the many great restaurants, and the beautiful and green environment alone have a calming effect on the nerves of Budapesters, but as a tourist, it is not a last experience either.
A big walk on the banks of the Danube or maybe watching the sunset, maybe a little stone skipping on the water: these are all the experiences that are sure to stay with us for a long time and don’t cost a penny in the meantime. But there are also ever-changing pebble sculptures that are sure to cause a few pleasant moments.
In summer, we can lie down on one of the shores, and although bathing in the Danube is still forbidden, there are more and more signs that the first free beach can be created on the Roman beach in 2021.
14. Barbecuing on Normafa
Normafa is one of the favorite excursion places of the people of Budapest, and it is not an accident. In summer you can hike and relax here, and in winter you can even ski and sled, if nature is gracious to us.
Moreover, it is possible to hold common barbecuing and stewing in designated places. All you have to do is shop for the ingredients and make something really delicious on nature’s soft lap.
An unbeatable combination of wonderful surroundings, panoramic views, and delicious flavors opens up in front of us.
15. Sports in Budapest
If you come to the city for a longer period of time and want to do sports, but don’t want to pay extra for a gym, there are a number of free options available to you.
After all, it is not obligatory to go home with extra pounds on every holiday. On the one hand, there is the already mentioned Margaret Island running track, where we can admire the landscape for almost 6 kilometers, but there are also quite a few street workout places too (link).
I will list, based on personal experiences, where you can find the best gyms in Budapest.
Here we can train with our own weight, with the help of accessories. For those who would rather do this in groups, there are running clubs organized on the Internet where different distances can be completed.
It is not only good because you get to know a super company, but you can even explore Budapest while running. This is something!
16. Free dance houses
Do you really want to get to know the Hungarian people? How differently than through their folk customs, their culture. Hungarian folk music and folk dance is one of the most obvious and fun ways to do this.
There are a number of dance houses available where we can learn the basics or just enjoy the ever-heightening atmosphere. In the place called Pótkulcs (link), not only Hungarian folk music, but also musical events featuring world music genres await you, or there is the Rácskert (link), where a huge dance house party awaits us every Friday.
These programs are free, but in exchange for up to a few hundred forints, we can find many similar initiatives.
17. Outdoor concerts, festivals
The concert and festival season kicks off in spring and summer. Sure, these are events with an entry fee in most cases, but there are certainly many outdoor events that anyone can enjoy for free. It all depends on the right timing, it’s worth checking these out beforehand, but of course, it’s not bad to accidentally bump into one of these parties.
One of the most popular in recent years is the BelFeszt, a downtown festival in the 5th district. Free concerts, parties, and better and better band names. As a foreigner, of course, the names of many bands probably wouldn’t say anything, but it’s worth listening to them, you could easily leave as a huge fan.
The summer kick-off festival is usually held at the end of May.
Then, there is the Danube Regatta, where students from different universities and colleges compare their strengths in the rowing competition. We can watch and support all in addition to many free programs.
Recommended events and festivals in Budapest and in the countryside
Beer festival, Gourmet Festival is on in almost every part of the city, as is, of course, a wine festival, so it is worth following them, but in summer it is almost impossible not to walk into one of them. You will not be disappointed in the atmosphere.
Anyone who has been to a rag-fair knows exactly how special an experience it is. It’s a good program to walk around the many items that might be titled as junk for others, but we can also buy them for pennies. A long-desired book, or a vinyl record believed to be lost, or perhaps a lamp that has become fashionable again… can be found here now.
There are many rag-fairs in Budapest, which we can mostly go to for free, even just for a look around. One of perhaps the best known, truly iconic venues is the Ecseri market. The fair is open all week, but the biggest hustle and bustle is expected on Saturday. As this is the largest rag-fair, there is almost nothing here that we would not find.
But it is also worth mentioning the rag-fair of Buda, where the marketed goods are very mixed. Starting with antique furniture, through clothes, books, but also food, vegetables, or meats that can be purchased from local farmers.
There are also unwritten rules at the rag-fairs that are worth paying attention to. Let’s come as early as possible, as then the choice is even greater, however, if we just wish to look around and don’t really want to be disturbed by the crowd, we should really time our visit toward the end of the day and of course, bargaining is not only free but must be.
19. Have a picnic in the park
In great weather, I haven’t got any better idea than to pack a pile of food and drink, sit out in nature and have it there. Fortunately, there are many green areas and parks in Budapest, where you can spread out the small checkered blankets and have a good picnic without any problems.
There are a few more low budget yet fun programs. A suitable place for this may be the already mentioned City Park or Margaret Island, but there are still good places.
There is, for example, the Great Meadow (Nagyrét) in Hűvösvölgy, with its 3 hectares, or the valley at the foot of Gellért Hill, Tabán, which is also the site of many other programs. I can still recommend the Kopaszi Dam, from where we can also admire the Danube, or, for example, the Károlyi Garden in the heart of the city.
20. Hinge sculptures everywhere
Surely, everyone knows the feeling of seeing a statue in, say, a museum and would love to touch it. However, since as soon as you move toward the statue, 5 security guards would move toward you, these often remain just dreams.
Unless we are talking about hinge sculptures, which Budapest is full of, these can be seen for the most part without a pedestal, built into the street view, and can often be believed to be human from afar.
And the best thing about them is that we can safely grasp them, grab them, and yet they are true works of art. In addition to sculptures that personify quite large, famous people, such as Columbo, we can also find cute little things, such as the famous figures of Hungarian cartoons; Master Mekk or the Main Worm.
21. Budapest firewalls
Walking around the city, if we leave the usual routes a bit, we can also bump into many exciting buildings and attractions. One of these is the firewalls in Budapest, which have been rehabilitated since 2013.
We can see this in almost any part of the city, but the area which is the most rich in “firewall art” is the VII and VIII district. These wonderful works of art, always made on a different subject, decorate the often perhaps crumbling walls and also changes the street scene.
I can recommend the VII district, Rumbach Sebestyén street, Akácfa street, but the painting in Dohány street, which adorns the inner courtyard of the school, is not the last. Explore these districts and discover your own favorites while getting to know Budapest.
22. Skate parks in downtown
Are you a big skateboarding fan, maybe sometimes you roll too? You can try yourself in several places in Budapest, but it can even be a good program to watch the guys while doing tricks.
This is a completely different face of Budapest that we are used to, but at least it is exciting. Without wishing to be exhaustive, there are a few places to visit.
One of the best-known Skateparks is on Elizabeth Square, which is always crowded with skateboarders. But there is also the Skatepark in Óbuda, the Daru-Hill and the Zugló track. Whichever one we choose – be it active participants or just observers – we are sure that we will immediately be captivated by this atmosphere, which is typical of every skatepark.
23. Ervin Szabó library
The main building of the Ervin Szabó library (link) is impressive even if we only admire the building itself. Entering the stunning interior, the atmosphere immediately attracts everyone.
For a minimal amount of money, we can exchange a reading ticket, which entitles us to use any of the rooms in the library. We have many books and records in foreign languages, but we also usually hold free cultural programs here.
For a rainy day, a visit to the library can be a particularly good program to make the day meaningful.
24. Cultural Institutions
Also in case of bad weather, a good free program can be to visit different cultural institutions (but of course not only in case of rain).
These institutes deal with the care of different language areas and cultures and also organize related programs. Whether in French, German, Italian, or English, there are many exhibitions, film screenings, and readings.
A real multicultural environment in Budapest.
- French Institute Gallery (link)
- Goethe Institute (link)
- Italian Institute (link)
25. Botellón Budapest
If you want to get to know the most beautiful parts of Budapest along with a good party, then Botellón Budapest (link) is the program for you. It’s an organization that promises real public music, a spontaneous party, and all in places like the Museum Garden or the Garden of the Philosophers, perhaps the roof of the Tunnel.
Partying in such unusual places is unforgettable in itself. Music, glasses and other accessories are provided by the organizers, all we have to do is bring a drink and have fun.
26. Budapest Music Center
A true cultural, not just musical, information center is BMC, which music fans are required to visit. We can also enjoy free concerts in addition to other cultural events: be it a movie club, a conversation. In most cases, we just need to register, but it is definitely worth looking up their website beforehand.
27. Walking the dogs from the shelter
If you want a really unusual program that you will even help, I recommend that you visit the animal shelters. The dogs here can be taken for a walk, which is a great help to the people working there and of course the puppies are happy with all the kind gestures.
All you have to do is visit one of the animal shelters and offer your help. It only takes you a few hours, but for the shelter it can be a big help.
28. Try it for yourself! Open mic nights
Open Mic nights (link) are popular in many cities, and there are several places in Budapest too. They are designed to nurture musical talent and anyone can grab a microphone to prove they are good enough.
Even if we are just sitting in such a place as a spectator, – or if we are brave enough – as a performer, a great show and entertainment is guaranteed. And in addition to consumption, it all costs nothing, but we may witness the birth of the next world star. Who knows.
29. Empathy Cafe & Bistro
This café is also special because the Hungarian Red Cross established it and still operates it till today and is a community collaboration.
There are plenty of free programs here: craft workshops, the results of which will decorate the café, tastings, or even concerts. It is even more worth consuming here, as with every forint spent here we support the work of a charity.
30. Patios, houses
History bangs on every house wall in Budapest, on the street corner. You don’t even need a tour guide to explore these. As you may have read here earlier (I wrote about it in a previous article), there is a so-called Budapest100 program (link), where we can get a free insight into the life and history of various interesting buildings and houses.
If we don’t arrive exactly when this event takes place, we still can organize our own Budapest100 for ourselves. Wandering in Budapest, there are many wonderful architectural masterpieces, not everyday courtyards, we just have to be attentive. Of course, keep in mind that people live there, be quiet, and don’t spend too much time there.
As you can see there is a huge variety of free things to do in Budapest. You don’t have to go to great expense to have fun and explore the city. Some creativity, flexibility and the use of public transport in Budapest, and you can have some amazing things to do on a low budget.
Purchase a weekly BKV pass for 4,950 HUF (approx. 14 EUR / 16 USD) and save a lot of money in the capital and – in case you fancy seeing something else – in the surrounding area. You can travel to Szentendre, Vác or Visegrád for free or at a discount price with the BKV pass.
So no more excuses! Get to know Budapest, its turbulent history and most beautiful sights. All for free!