Budapest is a city made up of two cities, namely Buda and Pest which merged in 1873 to form present-day Budapest. The city is steeped in rich history and will delight travelers as they traverse the ancient streets, explore the myriad of historical sites, and revel in the vibey nightlife. George Ezra sang a song about it, Wes Anderson made a film about a fictional hotel here, and time and time again it has been voted as one of the most beautiful cities on Earth.
Table of Contents
- Day 1: Morning and early afternoon:
- Day 1: Lunch and Late Afternoon:
- Day 2 Morning:
- Day 2 Afternoon:
- Final Thoughts
Day 1: Morning and early afternoon:
Start your morning bright and early. After fuelling up at a local eatery (or your hotel), head to Castle Hill. You can walk up the hill (in about 20 minutes) or catch the Castle Hill Funicular and rise 1200 feet above the city.
This magnificent 1-kilometer limestone plateau towers above the Danube river and houses many important medieval monuments. Explore the Neo-Baroque Buda Castle, which is home to several museums and galleries, including the Hungarian National Gallery and the Széchenyi National Library.
Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church
Then it’s off to Fisherman’s Bastion (Halaszbastya) to appreciate incredible city views. Check out St Stephen’s Cathedral and the Parliament building from your lookout point. Once you’ve taken in the enchanting views, explore the Roman Catholic Matthias Church with its colourful roof tiles and Gothic-style architecture.
Széchenyi Chain Bridge and Vaci Street
Once you’ve taken in the historical majesty of Castle Hill, walk to Széchenyi Chain Bridge – the oldest suspension bridge in the city. You’ll walk across to the ‘Pest’ side of the city here and eventually get to tourist-laden Vaci Street, filled with an abundance of stores and cafes. Stop for a quick coffee or souvenir hunt before heading to Central Market for lunch.
Day 1: Lunch and Late Afternoon:
Built in 1897, this neo-gothic hall houses the city’s most famous marketplace, popular amongst locals and tourists alike. Browse an array of fresh produce stalls on the bottom level where you can purchase fresh fruit and veg, dairy products, and locally sourced meats (including sensational salamis if you are so inclined.) The upper floors house some fantastic artisanal stalls where you can pick up famous Budapest lace, leather goods, and other souvenirs. Delight in some local cuisine on the top floor and be sure to try the lángos fried bread (which is pretty much a fried pizza and totally delicious!) Try and save some room for dessert, though. It’s Hungarian strudel!
If you need to aid your digestion, you might even enjoy a shot of traditional, herbal Hungarian liquor known as ‘Unicum’ after lunch. But be warned, it’s bitter and was once revered for its medicinal properties.
Note: The market is open from 6 am – 3 pm on Saturdays and closed on Sundays, so be sure to visit it on your first day!
Dohany Street Great Synagogue
After lunch, stroll to the Dohany Street Great Synagogue and marvel at the poignant tree of life memorial, which commemorates those who lost their lives in the Holocaust. You can do a walking tour of the Jewish area, and if you’re a total foodie, you might enjoy a Hungarian-Jewish food tour where you can try local delicacies.
Finally, conclude the afternoon by wandering to one of the city’s most famed sites, St Stephen’s Basilica.
Evening: A Dinner Cruise on the Danube
The perfect way to end your first day in Budapest is with an evening river cruise and dinner. There are so many options available depending on your preference and budget.
Day 2 Morning:
Start your morning on a historical note and visit Heroes Square. This is one of the city’s biggest squares, commemorating the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars (who are said to have led the Hungarians from Asia to Central Europe), and other national heroes.
Museum of Fine Arts
Once you’ve checked out the monument, visit the Museum of Fine Arts with its huge collection of European Art.
House of Terror
Next up, it’s time to visit the House of Terror. The interactive museum houses several exhibitions relating to fascist and communist rule in Hungary and commemorates those who fell victim to these regimes. While this might feel pretty heavy, it is an important part of the city’s history. Once you’ve completed, stop for a spot of lunch at a nearby restaurant, and then get ready to spa.
Day 2 Afternoon:
Széchenyi Thermal Spa and Relax
You can’t visit Budapest without a visit to one of the spas. Chill out in the rejuvenating waters and enjoy one of the city’s 123 thermal water springs. Széchenyi is perhaps the most popular of baths and comprises 18 separate pools. Relax in the magical waters with the backdrop of historical columns. On Saturday summer nights, check out the pop-up bars at the baths and relish in a so-called Spa-tie.
Evening: Dinner and Ruin Bars in the Jewish District’s Kalinczy Street.
What is a trip to Budapest without a visit to one of the ruin bars? These bars were once derelict buildings, now injected with a new lease of life thanks to creative folk who wanted to find cheap (and interesting) watering holes. The bars welcome artists and are known for their ramshackle décor and quirky interiors.
If you want to explore all that the ruin bars have to offer, check out Kazinczy Street, also known as ‘the street of culture.’ Here you’ll find the first and arguably most famous ruin bar, Szimpla Kert and an array of other culinary establishments, including fine dining spots and local, budget-friendly spots like Kazimír Bisztró.
A weekend in Budapest offers travelers the perfect amount of time to get a feel for the city and explore some local wonders. If you’re traveling to Budapest over a weekend, and have 48 hours in the city, follow this guide!