First of all, many of the top Budapest attractions are free to visit, and even if an attraction is not free, it does not cost a dime to take a look at a famous building from the outside, right? Secondly, you can take a look at the well-known Budapest landmarks in various tours. Some tours advertise themselves as free Budapest tours (at the end of the tour you will be asked if you wish to tip the tour leader. Most do.)
Free attractions in Budapest
- Fisherman’s Bastion (Halaszbastya) on the Castle Hill: the best views over the Pest side by day and night, free to walk on the ramparts in a Disney Castle like ‘fortification’. You will read on Budapest forum and Budapest travel sites that some tourists paid for entering the Fisherman’s Bastion: you only pay if you go up to the top of the turrets (extra 3 metre in height, but admittedly not really worth it if you are on a tight budget). But walking along the ramparts is free, and you will get amazing views from there too. During the winter season, from November to early March, the total entry is free for anybody visiting the Fisherman’s Bastion (including the upper towers).
- Castle Hill, Budapest: it is free to enter the Castle District on top of the Castle Hill. The hillside is very green and shady, which is a relief on hot summer days in Budapest. You can walk about the woods, or take a look around the Buda Castle – for free.
- Buda Castle: the courtyards of the Buda Castle are not only free to visit, but can be visited any time (the gates of the courtyards are not closed for the night). You can see wonderful statues, fountains, and views over the city. Occasionally you can listen to street busker performances, or even overhear the music of a festival or fair (there are lots of festivals in the Buda Castle throughout the year with live shows, concerts, etc. The entrance fee to the fairs / festivals is usually very reasonable). Unfortunately, entering the 6 museums on the Buda Castle Hill is not free, but, honestly, very cheap. So if you feel tempted, go ahead and give a few hundred HUF away for the interesting displays.
- Central Market Hall, Budapest (Vasarcsarnok): free to enter, cheap to eat at
- Hungarian Parliament: the Parliament in Budapest was free to visit for EU tourists until Jan 2013. These days you can ask for a 50% discount (children tickets are also available), but it is not free any more. The Parliament is on Kossuth square but take a look at the nearby Szabadsag square too.
- St Stephen’s Basilica – a magnificent cathedral in the heart of the city. Immense dome, 96 metre high (the highest building on the Pest side of the city along with the Parliament), beautiful interior, and the holy hand of the first Hungarian king. Free to enter.
- St Michael’s Church by Vaci utca shopping street, downtown Budapest – fantastic main altar.
- Szabadsag Square: a 2 minute walk from the Hungarian Parliament, you can enter into a pleasant park: Szabadsag sqaure – nice buildings, like the nearby Bedo House (now the Hungarian Art Nouveau House), a cafe, a much disputed Soviet monument about Hungary’s WW2 liberation, interactive fountains, a statue of Ronald Reagan in front of the US embassy. Have a free picnic and enjoy the free attractions around you.
- Margaret Island: parks and ruins in the city centre. Free to enter, walk, play etc. on the island. There is a small petting zoo on Margaret Island (ducks, peacocks, horses, etc.) open from April 15 to October 23. It’s free to enter. (And on a hot day you can enjoy the cool waters in the outdoor pools of the Palatinus lido – 11 pools, entrance fee is about 10 euros)
- Heroes square, City Park: Millennial Monument with beautiful statues, and a huge green park with frequent summer events, walk by the Vajdahunyad castle at the artificial lake in the park (it’s very cheap to enter the castle where currently the Agricultural Museum resides)
- Citadel on Gellert Hill, and the Statue of Liberty: nice green hillside, great views over the Pest side by day and night
- Gellert Statue and Water Fall on Gellert Hill – beautiful shady walk up to the statue of St Gerard, the first bishop of Hungary
- Cave Church, Gellert Hill: a small and cool church dug into the side of the Gellert Hill. Entrance is free (there is a donation box). The church belongs to the Pauline Fathers, a Hungarian order of the Roman Catholic Church
- Paris Courtyard, Budapest: a currently abandoned building with an amazing 19th century interior, one of the hidden gems in Budapest
- Chain Bridge and the Danube Promenade (including the famous ‘Shoes’ Holocaust monument)
- Andrassy Avenue in Budapest: like the Paris Champs Elysee, or La Rambla in Barcelona, or Unter den Linden in Berlin, but more modest, less shopping (at least between Oktogon Square and Heroes’ Square). Budapest has Andrassy ut, a beautiful avenue built in the 19th century, just as most of the magnificent villas along the avenue lined with trees. The avenue runs from about Deak square to Heroes’ square, and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage.
- Liberty Bridge, Budapest – spanning between the Central Market Hall in Budapest and Gellert Baths, the 19th century bridge is free to cross, and is beautiful in itself. Plus the views over the Gellert Hill, the riverside are really nice.
- Erzsebet Lookout Tower on Janos Hill
Free things to do in Budapest, Hungary
- Free Walking Tours in Budapest, Hungary (there are various free walking tours offered in the city of Budapest. Currently the most favoured on TripAdvisor is the one called TripToBudapest)
- Danube Carnival – an international folk dance festival on Vorosmarty square: lots of free folk dance shows in downtown Budapest (although there are several programmes where entrance fee is charged, most open air events on Vorosmarty square are free)
- Millenaris Picnic mid Jul to end of Aug in Millenaris Park on the Buda side.
- National Gallop on Heroes’ Square: spectacular horse races and horse show on the Heroes’ Square. Entries with seats are also available if you wish to enter the arena. Otherwise you can enjoy quite a few spectacles from the square.
- Terfilmzene Festival: open air cinema, various films throughout the summer
- Kapcsolat Festival: 1 day event with open air concerts
Free for All on special days (on Hungarian national holidays)
Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest: free visits on 15th March; 20th August; 23rd October
Hungarian National Gallery, Buda Castle: free visits on 15th March; 20th August; 23rd October
Hungarian National Museum: free visits on 15th March; 20th August; 23rd October
Museum of Hungarian Agriculture: free visits on 15th March; 20th August; 23rd October
Free for All on the Night of Museums
All museums in Budapest can be visited almost free of charge on the annual Night of Museums, which usually takes place on a day in June. For the actual date check the official website of Budapest Night of Museums (Muzeumok ejszakaja). The multipass of this nice summer museum festival enables you to enter various museums in Budapest for a few hundred forints (hence the ‘almost free’ category)
Free for EU citizens under 26:
Hungarian National Gallery: every 3rd Saturday of the month for visitors under 26 and for children (under 18) accompanied by two close relatives
Museum of Fine Arts: Every third Saturday of each month visitors under 26 and children under 18 with max. two accompanying adults