Budapest Weekend Itinerary – A Definitive Guide

Budapest is a must-visit Central European city. If you love history, local delicacies, gorgeous architecture, thermal baths, and a vibrant night life, this is the place for you!
Stroll across the Chain Bridge linking Buda and Pest. Photo: Bence-Balla Schottner | Unsplash

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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.

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.

Buda Castle

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.

Take in the history and architectural wonder as you stroll around Buda Castle. Photo: Tjaša Oblak | Unsplash.

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.

Visit the gorgeous architecture of the Matthias Church and explore the opulence inside. Photo: Charlotte Marais

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.

The Danube River separates Buda and Pest. Photo: Dan Freeman | Unsplash.

Day 1: Lunch and Late Afternoon:

Central Market

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.

Enjoy an array of fresh produce stalls and local crafts at the Central Market Hall. Photo: Catherine Zaidova | Unsplash

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. 

Explore this famous Roman Catholic Basilica. It houses one of the city’s most famous relics, the mummified right hand of king St. Stephen, the church’s patron. Photo: Florin Corbu : Unsplash

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:

Heroes Square:

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.

Meander around Heroes Square, remembering Hungary’s national heroes. Photo : Mario Esposito | Unsplash

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.

Catch up on some much need relaxation and enjoy the magical thermal waters. Photo: Aida | Wikimedia.

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.

Let your hair down a bit as you explore the city’s wacky ruin bars. Photo: Nick Night | Unsplash

Final Thoughts

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!


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