Hop-on hop-off buses, boat rides, walking tours, and more – here’s everything you need to know for the perfect sightseeing experience in Budapest.
Budapest has a thousand faces, and no two visits are the same. You might want to see the historical side of the capital and check every important landmark during your stay. Or, you might choose to see the hip side of Budapest, visiting ruin pubs and posh cafés. Prefer exploring the surroundings either on foot or by bike? You’re spoiled for choice. There is, however, a less talked about yet obvious way of doing all the above: going on a sightseeing bus tour. Hop on and strap in, because we’re about to take a deep dive and explore the best hop-on hop-off sightseeing tours Budapest has to offer.
In this article, we recommend multiple hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus tours. Keep reading to get the full picture, or click the links below to jump to the company you’re interested in.
1. City Sightseeing – Book with us for a 10% discount
2. Big Bus – Book with us for a 5% discount
3. RiverRide – book with us for a 5% discount
There’s hardly a more extensive way of exploring the city than Budapest Sightseeing’s Hop on-hop off tours. It’s almost unfair how many things you can do and see over the course of a few hours – getting on one of the signature red or green buses guarantees a memorable sightseeing trip through the streets of Budapest. But let’s see the numbers first! The main tour itself lasts for roughly 2 hours and includes 22 stops (2 of which with a quick stop for taking photos), and audio guide is available in 16 different languages. City Sightseeing Budapest’s double deckers give a unique vantage point for sightseeing: if you’re lucky enough to snatch a spot on the top, you get to see most attractions within arm’s reach – quite literally.
Hop on-hop off stalls and offices can be found throughout downtown Budapest, but if you already have a ticket, you can get on the bus anywhere along its route. Finding a stop is super easy: just pinpoint the location using your map or the app. Signposts are clearly visible and easy to differentiate from regular bus stops. While there’s no set schedule, there’s a ride every 20-30 minutes, so no matter where you want to get on board, you don’t have to worry much about waiting.
Budapest Hop on-hop off day tours start as early as 9 AM, and the last bus departs at 5 PM. There’s also a night tour leaving at 8:30 PM from the Basilica. Tours operate all year: if you’re visiting during the hottest months, open top and air-conditioned buses grant a cool sightseeing experience, and if it’s colder during your stay, you can stay warm while seeing the landmarks of the city.
While some of the main attractions of Budapest are within walking distance, exploring the city on foot could take days. Now imagine getting on a Hop on-hop off tour and checking out every UNESCO World Heritage Site plus a dozen more spots, all in a matter of two hours! Don’t worry about rushing through the attractions: buses roam through downtown at a more than casual 30-40 kph (18-24 mph) speed, allowing you to marvel at every landmark.
So, without further ado, here’s what you can see during the two-hour trip:
Stop 1: Basilica
The journey starts right in front of St. Stephen’s Basilica. This massive cathedral was built over a century ago and has been an iconic monument of downtown Budapest ever since.
Stop 2: Széchenyi István tér
While the square itself is not that remarkable, the buildings around it certainly are. You’ll get a sneak peek of the Chain Bridge, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, the Gresham Palace, and a handful other majestic buildings.
Stop 3: Március 15. tér
Dubbed as the “Gate of the Danube Promenade”, Március 15. tér (named after the failed revolution in 1848-49) houses several attractions, including the Inner City Parish Church, which was built almost 1,000 years ago.
Stop 4: Fővám tér
After passing Elizabeth Bridge and Liberty Bridge to your right, the iconic main building of the Corvinus University of Budapest and the equally imposing Great Market Hall continue the line of attractions.
Stop 5: Kálvin tér
Just a few hundred meters away from Fővám tér, Kálvin tér is another important stop on the “Kiskörút”(Small Boulevard). While it primarily functions as a busy downtown hub, it also boasts the marvelous building of the Reformed Church.
Stop 6 and 14: Astoria
One of the major junctions in the heart of the city, Astoria, is actually named after Hotel Astoria, one of the city’s most extravagant and storied hotels: this stunning building has preserved its looks for 100 years with almost no change.
Stop 7: Anker köz
Although undisputedly an iconic landmark of downtown Budapest, Anker Palace (located in Anker köz) can only be enjoyed from the outside as it had been neglected through the decades to such extent that it was closed in 2013.
The Hop on-hop off tour takes a brief stop here: you’ll have 10 minutes to walk around and snap a few photos before continuing the trip.
Stop 8: Andrássy Avenue 3
A part of the UNESCO World Heritage, Andrássy Avenue is perhaps Budapest’s best-known road. Right where the avenue runs into Deák Ferenc tér, you can see the eclectic façade of the Saxlehner Palace, which is one of the many landmarks on Andrássy Avenue.
Stop 9: Opera
Built by Miklós Ybl (who also designed St. Stephen’s Basilica), the Hungarian State Opera House is a gorgeous gem from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Composers like Gustav Mahler and Ferenc Erkel (composer of the Hungarian anthem) have served as directors of the Opera, a bustling hub for musicians, singers, and composers to this day.
Stop 10: Liszt Ferenc tér
Dotted with tiny cafés and crowned by the Academy of Music, Liszt Ferenc tér is a serene spot located just a few steps from Oktogon, another busy junction in the city.
Stop 11: Heroes’ Square
Definitely a finalist on any “Top Budapest Sights” listicle, Heroes’ Square is a must-see attraction. Apart from the immense statue complex dominating the view, it also serves as the gate to Városliget, which is the largest green area within the city limits.
Stop 12: Keleti railway station
Serving as one of the three major railway stations of the city, Keleti is the easternmost landmark during the tour. Built in eclectic style, the building itself is also adorned by statues of James Watt and George Stephenson, two iconic figures of the Industrial revolution and pioneers of rail transport.
Stop 13: New York Palace
Approaching downtown Budapest once again, New York Palace marks yet another spectacular stop of the Hop on-hop off tour. Home to the famous New York Café and a historic hotel, New York Palace is the jewel of Nagykörút (lit. Grand Avenue) with its rich, ornate façade and dazzling interior.
The tour takes its longest break here: you’ll have 15 minutes to walk up to the Citadel and take pictures of the breathtaking view.
Stop 15: Ferenciek tere
Just before crossing Elizabeth Bridge to explore the Buda side, your last stop is Ferenciek tere (lit. square of the Franciscans). Apart from being an important traffic junction, it’s worth remembering that Váci street, the go-to fashion and shopping street in the city, starts from this stop.
Stop 16: Citadel
After a steep climb to the top of Gellért Hill, the Citadel is the Hop on-hop off tour’s first stop on the Buda side. This is arguably the prettiest spot for taking photos of Budapest as the majority of the capital’s most prominent landmarks can be seen from here.
Stop 17: Várkert Bazár
Situated at the feet of the iconic building of Buda Castle, Várkert Bazár (lit. Castle park bazaar) is an old-new attraction of the city. Built over a century ago but just recently reopened in 2014, Várkert Bazár is a fancy addition to the Castle, packed with cafés, restaurants, and plenty of greens spots.
Stop 18: Clark Ádám tér
Located at a busy junction, this square is the alpha and omega of every road in Hungary: a large Zero Kilometer statue serves as the reference point for all road distance calculated within the country’s limits.
This is also the stop where you can take the Buda Castle shuttle. You can catch one of the tiny buses every 15 minutes, departing from the same stop where you get off the Hop on-hop off bus.
Stop 19: Batthyány tér
As the tour continues along the west bank of the Danube, the Parliament Building reveals its best-known side right across the river. Batthány tér itself has two iconic buildings: the Church of Stigmatisation of Saint Francis and the Saint Anne Parish.
Stop 20: Margaret Bridge, Buda side
This is the last stop of the Hop on-hop off tour on the Buda side: from here you can reach the most popular getaway spot of the city, Margaret Island. The island offers vast open spaces, a beach and a swimming pool, running paths, bars and much more.
Stop 21: Nyugati tér
Nyugati tér (lit. Western square) is home to a modern and a classic attraction as well. While West End Mall provides a perfect spot for shopping, Nyugati railway station is a busy hub for tourists as many trains depart from here to countries like Austria, Germany, Slovakia or the Czech Republic.
This is the last stop of the tour (merely 10 minutes from the last stop on foot), so even though you can get off for only a 5-minute break for taking photos, you might want to stay a bit longer to enjoy the sight of this landmark to its fullest.
Stop 22: Parliament
You can’t really spell a Hop on-hop off sightseeing tour in Budapest without the Hungarian Parliament Building. Stretching across Kossuth Lajos tér and located just a few steps from the Danube, the Parliament is not only the most iconic but also the largest building in the entire country.
If you think you’ve seen it all at daylight, hop on another bus tour at night. It’s often said that Budapest’s true beauty is revealed after dusk, and night tours do its best to live up to this standard. Hop on at Deák tér at 8:30 PM and enjoy an almost 2-hour trip through a city illuminated by a myriad of lights.
Your Hop on-hop off sightseeing experience can’t be complete in Budapest without taking a boat trip on the Danube. With a two- or three-day ticket, you get to spend a 1-hour guide tour (either in English or German) on a Danube boat cruise. Get on board to marvel at some of the best-known landmarks of the city – in fact, 8 of the stops from the Hop on-hop off tour can be seen from the boat cruise as well. And to get a little more than a sneak peek, check out our complete guide on all the landmarks along the river.
Should you visit between April and the end of September, the Hop on-Hop off tour includes a free voucher for renting a bike for one hour. Just get in the saddle and pedal to the Buda Castle and back – the rental can be found right at Stop 17, Várkert Bazár. Want to do some more exploring on two wheels? Check out what else we’ve got in store for you.
After all that vehicle-based sightseeing, how about stretching your legs a bit? Enjoy an hour-long guided tour between St. Stephen’s Basilica and the Chain Bridge as our expert tour guides take you through the posh 5th district. Visit iconic landmarks, learn about their history – all at a comfortable pace. And if you’re looking for more routes, make sure to check our article on the top walks in Budapest.
Another global sightseeing bus giant, Big Bus offers unforgettable hop-on hop-off bus tours in Budapest, too. Seasoned travelers know that this company doesn’t miss when it comes to quality sightseeing, and they sure live up to the expectations in Hungary’s capital as well. Their main tour (the red route) consists of 20 stops and lasts a bit over 1.5 hours, during which time passengers pass the main attractions and landmarks of this beautiful Central European city. During the tour, audio guide is available in a staggering 23 languages (Hungarian, English, German, French, Italian, Russian, Spanish, Polish, Swedish, Danish, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, Greek, Turkish, Arabic, Hebrew, Brazilian Portuguese, Czech, Romanian, Croatian, Dutch and Norwegian).
Similarly to City Sightseeing Budapest, you can start your journey on a Big Bus tour from any of the 20 stops. Just use their app or website to locate the stop closest to you. Generally, buses run every 20-25 minutes, so whichever stop you choose, you shouldn’t wait long for your ride.
The first Big Bus Budapest tour starts at 9 AM from the first stop and the last one departs at 4 PM. Big Bus also operates a night tour (more on it a bit further down), which starts at 6 PM from the Basilica.
Big Bus Budapest takes you on a wonderful journey on both sides of the Danube, through a route fairly similar to that of City Sightseeing Budapest. Since we’ve covered most of the stops above, we’ll only list the stops of the company’s main route (the red one) and the main attractions and landmarks visible or accessible from the stops:
1. Heroes’ Square
- Zelnik Gold Museum
- Széchenyi Baths
- Budapest Hall of Art
- Budapest Zoo & Botanical Garden
- Museum of Fine Arts
- Vajdahunyad Castle
- Transport Museum
2. Keleti Railway Station
3. New York Café
- Great Synagogue
- Astoria Hotel
5. Váci Street
6. Castle Garden
- History Museum
7. Castle / Funicular
- Buda Castle
- History Museum
- Funicular: this restored 19th century antique will bring out your nostalgic side. As the toy-like cars climb the hill, you’re presented with breath-taking panoramic views of Budapest. Don’t miss out!
8. Batthyány Square
- Eternal Flame
- Church of St. Anne
- Parliament Building
- River cruise
9. Margaret Bridge
- Statue of József Bem
- Margaret Island
- Lukács Baths
10. Nyugati Railway Station
- Statue of Imre Nagy
- Soviet Memorial
- Statue of Ronald Reagan
- Liberty Square
- Museum of Ethnography
13. Chain Bridge
- Academy of Science
- Gresham Palace
14. River Cruise / Dock 11
- Greek Orthodox Cathedral
- Vigadó Concert Hall
- St. Gellért Monument
15. Great Market Hall
- Gellért Baths
- Cave Church
- Liberty Bridge
16. National Museum
17. Király Street
18. Andrássy Avenue
20. Octogon / Liszt Ferenc Square
Soak in the sights of the illuminated city aboard a Big Bus. There’s a nighttime sightseeing tour starting from the Basilica at 6 PM every day, during which passengers get to experience the impeccable beauty that is Budapest after sundown. Please note: seating is on a first-come first-served basis.
Big Bus also offers boat rides with its Premium and Deluxe tickets (and with Premium being only a few euros more, it’s definitely worth it!), so you can get the most out of your sightseeing days in Budapest. Beautiful bridges over the Danube, and magnificent landmarks on the riverbanks wherever you look – a must-try in the Hungarian capital.
If you feel like exploring the city on foot, Big Bus also offers guided walk tours with all its ticket types. Although checking out Budapest from the comfort of a bus seat is arguably the most convenient way of sightseeing, there are some places you can only reach by walking. And since it’s covered in the price of the ticket anyway, why would you miss it? Slip in a pair of comfy shoes and get some feet-on experience of the city.
Although RiverRide is technically not a hop-on hop-off bus tour (you can’t get on or off whenever and wherever you want), we just couldn’t write an article on sightseeing bus tours in Budapest and not say a word about it. Having begun its journey in 2009, RiverRide was the first amphibious bus on the European continent and became popular very fast. Let’s face it: it’s not everyday you splash into a major river and rock on the waves on a bus you just rode in the center of a city. Well, not every day outside of Budapest anyway. While some might be averse to trying this unique sightseeing experience, we can assure you: RiverRide is completely safe and, as a matter of fact, a real hit among tourists and families with kids who come to visit the Hungarian capital.
A ride on this curious bus takes approximately 1.5 hours depending on the traffic and water level, and audio guide is available in 12 languages (English, German, Hungarian, Russian, Italian, Spanish, French, Hebrew, Danish, Swedish, Romanian, Ukrainian).
Unlike City Sightseeing and Big Bus, RiverRide isn’t a hop-on hop-off bus tour, as you can only board and leave the bus at its departure and arrival point at Széchenyi István Square. The bus stop is in front of an office building at Széchenyi István tér 7-8., Budapest 1051.
RiverRide operates all year round, with 3-4 departures per day depending on the season. For the most up-to-date schedule, visit their website. Please note that unexpected events such as heavy traffic and a rise in water level may alter the schedule and route of the bus tours, so it’s best to check with the company before you book a ride.
The bus starts its journey at Széchenyi István Square and spends approximately half of the trip on land before it splashes into the Danube.
The stops of the ride are as follows:
1. Hungarian Academy of Sciences
2. St. Stephen’s Basilica
4. Opera House
5. Heroes’ Square
This is when the bus descends into the Danube from a ramp. Don’t get startled if you see a number of curious onlookers – despite having operated in Budapest since 2009, RiverRide continues to amaze most of the locals, too. Fun fact: the company goes out of its way to inform people they do not have to call emergency services, as their bus is perfectly capable of and was designed for floating in water.
7. Chain Bridge
10. Buda Castle
After the bus/boat turns back near the Chain Bridge, it goes back to where it descended into the river, gets back on land and rides along the Danube back to Széchenyi István Square to finish its journey.
The landmarks and attractions you’ll see during your bus tours are so worth sharing! Snap up a handy gadget that gives you loads of Internet while you’re out and about. Click here for more info.
- Are there hop on-hop off buses in Budapest?
- There are several hop-on hop-off bus companies operating in the city, including City Sightseeing and Big Bus Budapest.
- What attractions do hop on-hop off buses visit?
- Most lines visit the most prominent attractions, such as the Parliament, Heroes’ Square, Citadel, Opera, and St. Stephen’s Basilica.
- How long does a hop on-hop off tour last?
- Depending on the company and time of day, they last between 1-2 hours.