Budapest is an ideal European weekend city break. The capital of Hungary has incredible spas, quirky nightlife and many historical sights. This 2 days Budapest itinerary takes in all the highlights like Buda Castle and Fisherman’s Bastion. We’ve also thrown in some hidden gems for you like Vintage Garden.
2 Days Budapest Itinerary
If you’re wondering what to do in Budapest in 2 days, look no further. There are several UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Budapest, including Andrassy Avenue, Buda Castle Quarter and the banks of the River Danube.
Did you know that the city has two distinct areas, Buda and Pest? They were actually two separate towns until they were unified as Budapest in 1873.
Buda is a hilly area that is home to Buda Castle and Matthias Church, while Pest is flat and known for its ruin bars. Start your visit to Budapest on the Buda side for panoramic views over the city.
Day 1 in Budapest
Any Budapest travel itinerary should include Buda Castle, one of the city’s highlights. There are several ways to reach Buda Castle Hill.
You can walk up if feeling energetic. Alternatively, take bus number 16 or the Buda Castle Funicular, Siklo. It dates from 1870 and gives you great views of the Szechenyi Chain Bridge on the way up.
The funicular runs from Clark Adam Square to Castle Hill and is open every day from 7:30 am to 10 pm. In the Buda Hills, there are some great attractions including the Children’s Railway. One of the most fun activities in Budapest, it’s run by schoolchildren, although the train driving is done by adults.
This huge Baroque castle was completed between 1749 to 1769. The Royal Palace has unparalleled views over the River Danube, and houses the Hungarian National Gallery – not to be confused with the Hungarian National Museum in Pest.
Also within the grounds of Buda Castle, you’ll find Budapest History Museum, the Pharmacy Museum, the Museum of Military History and the Music History Museum.
To make the most of your visit, consider taking a Buda Castle walking tour with an expert historian. During this 2 and a half hour walking tour, you’ll explore the castle, Royal Palace Gardens and the Savoy Terrace.
One of the highlights of any weekend in Budapest is a visit to Fisherman’s Bastion. This unique Budapest landmark is a few minutes walk from Buda Castle. Dating from 1902, it has unique neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque architecture.
Overlooking the Danube River, it is a lovely place to admire the sunset in Budapest. There are 7 magical turrets representing the tribes who founded Hungary in 895.
Next to Fisherman’s Bastion, you’ll find Matthias Church. Built in the 13th century, it is recognizable by its coloured Zsolnay roof tiles. Also known as the Church of Our Lady, it is where many Hungarian monarchs were crowned.
Have lunch at LANG Bistro & Grill, situated inside the stylish Hilton Budapest. The views of Fisherman’s Bastion are incredible and the modern Hungarian food is very tasty.
If you’re there on a Sunday, book in advance for the jazz brunch with live music. They also offer the Faust wine cellar tour where you can try some great Hungarian wines such as Tokaji in 13th century cloisters.
It’s a pleasant 30 minute walk from Matthias Church to Gellert Hill. At 235 metres high, it has incredible views of the Danube. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s named after Bishop Gellert. The St. Gellért Monument is an impressive bronze statue commemorating his life.
Also on Gellert Hill, you’ll see the Citadel, a fortress constructed by the Austrian Habsburgs. Close by, the Statue of Liberty is a statue by Zsigmond Kisfaludi Strobl which dates from 1947. The other Communist monuments in Budapest were moved to Memento Park, but the Liberty Statue was so beloved that she was allowed to stay in place.
Another interesting sight as you make your way back down towards Pest is Gellert Hill Cave Church. The church was founded in 1926 and these days it is part of the Hungarian Pauline monastery order.
At the bottom of Gellert Hill there’s the famous Gellert Thermal Bath. One of the most famous natural hot spring baths in Europe, it’s over 100 years old. Gellert Baths have a distinctive Art Nouveau interior and an exterior wave pool.
Make the most of your time there with a skip the line full day Gellert Spa pass. This includes access to all inside and outside pools, the saunas and steam rooms as well as a locker or private cabin where you can change and leave your belongings.
Szechenyi Chain Bridge
Probably the most famous bridge in Budapest, Szechenyi Chain Bridge links Buda to Pest. The suspension bridge opened in 1849 and features in many films as well as Katy Perry’s Fireworks video.
Day 2 in Budapest
Spend this day in Budapest on the Pest side of the river.
If you’re staying on the Buda side, walk down and across Liberty Bridge. Also called the Freedom Bridge, it is the shortest bridge in Budapest. Built for the Millennium World Exhibition, it opened in 1896. Trams 47 and 49 travel along it.
Great Market Hall
The oldest indoor market in Budapest, Central Market Hall or Great Market Hall as it’s also known is well worth a visit. The market opened in 1897 and is decorated with Zsolnay tiles.
There are food stalls on the ground floor and souvenirs on the upper level. Many locals come here to buy fresh fruit and vegetables. The top floor is quite touristy but has some pretty Hungarian embroidery.
In the basement, you’ll find an area called Hungarikum street. It’s a good place to pick up Hungarian paprika, Tokaj wine, Palinka brandy and local salami. There are also some Hungarian inventions such as the Rubik’s cube.
From Budapest market hall, take Tram 2 from Fovam ter to the Hungarian Parliament stop.
The Parliament of Hungary, or Országház in Hungarian, is another must see in Budapest. A fine example of Neo-Gothic architecture, it opened in 1904. This World Heritage Site is the second largest Parliament building in Europe.
The architect, Imre Steindl, sadly went blind before its completion. There are 691 rooms and a very impressive Grand Stairway in this beautiful building.
The Hungarian Parliament is open to visitors for guided tours. Take a one hour Parliament tour which includes a hotel pick up, fast track entrance ticket and expert guide.
If you don’t have time to visit the interior, enjoy the changing of the guard held at 12.30 pm daily on Kossuth Lajos Square.
Grab lunch close to the Hungarian Parliament, at Hungarikum Bisztró on Steindl Imre u. 13 or Ficak Bisztró at Nádor u. 34.
Try traditional Hungarian dishes such as Wiener Schnitzel and Somlói sponge cake.
After refueling, it’s a pleasant 30 minute walk to the next Budapest highlight, Heroes’ Square. You can go via Podmaniczky utca or Andrassy Avenue, known for its elegant shops. Alternatively, take the M1 metro to Hosok tere station.
Also on Andrassy Avenue, there’s the Hungarian State Opera House, which dates from 1875. The beautiful neo-Renaissance building was designed by the Hungarian architect Miklos Ybl.
Known as Hősök tere in Hungarian, this huge square was built to commemorate the 1000th anniversary of the Magyar tribes in Hungary.
At the centre you’ll see the Millennium Monument, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Standing 36 metres high, it is topped by a statue of archangel Gabriel. The base of the statue is flanked by equestrian statues featuring seven Magyar chieftains.
There are two major Budapest museums on Heroes’ Square: the Museum of Fine Arts and The Budapest Palace of Art. Both are located within striking Neoclassical buildings and worth visiting if you have time.
Budapest City Park
Behind Heroes’ Square, you’ll come to Budapest City Park, spread over 302 acres. There are several fun attractions in the park, including Vajdahunyad Castle, home to the Museum of Hungarian Agriculture.
Children will enjoy Budapest zoo, while adults will love the thermal baths.
Szechenyi Thermal Baths
These Budapest thermal baths are the largest medicinal baths in Europe, with 18 pools. Széchenyi Baths are very popular so there can be queues at busy times. It’s a good idea to book a skip the line Szechenyi spa day entry pass.
Once inside Széchenyi Baths, admire the Neo-Baroque architecture and enjoy the thermal massages. There’s a floating chess table in the outdoor pool, popular with local chess players.
After your visit to the park, you might like to have some refreshments. Walk 30 minutes to District 7, the former Jewish quarter. If you prefer, take tram 70 or 74 from Dembinszky utca to Nyar utca.
The former Jewish ghetto is home to three synagogues including Dohány Street Synagogue. Also known as the Great Synagogue, it is the largest synagogue in Europe and second largest in the world.
Constructed in Moorish style, the synagogue was damaged in World War II and restored with assistance from the actor Tony Curtis and his daughter Jamie Lee Curtis.
This area of Budapest is known for its quirky street art and cool cafes. One of the most photogenic places in Budapest is Vintage Garden. Sip on a homemade lemonade while relaxing amidst the artificial blossom trees.
One of the coolest things to do in Budapest is to visit a ruin pub. The name describes a bar in a derelict or abandoned building, with eclectic decor and a relaxed atmosphere.
Budapest at night is a very vibrant city and ruin pubs are equally popular with locals and tourists. Most of the ruin bars can be found in the Jewish quarter, including Szimpla Kert, This was the first ruin bar to open in 2004 and has a Trabant car seat in the courtyard.
Another great place to eat in Budapest is Mazel Tov, a restaurant and cultural centre with DJ sets and an indoor-outdoor vibe.
Getting to Budapest
The city is extremely well connected and easy to reach from many other international cities. Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport is located 10 miles from Budapest city center. It has good connections with Europe, but also to Africa, to the Middle East, to North America and to the Far East.
You can either take a train or bus into Budapest or book a private car transfer. This includes instant confirmation and an English speaking driver.
When to Visit Budapest
You may be wondering when is the best time of year to visit Budapest. The city is very popular in November and December for the Budapest Christmas Markets.
June is another popular time to visit, for the Danube Carnival and Night of the Museums. If you visit Budapest in August, try to be there on 20 August. It’s St Stephen’s Day and a National Holiday. There’s the Festival of Crafts at Buda Castle during the day and a spectacular fireworks display in the evening.
Where to Stay in Budapest
If you prefer to stay in Buda, the Hilton Budapest is a great choice. This five star hotel is close to many Budapest points of interest.
There are fantastic views of Fisherman’s Bastion from LANG Bistro & Grill and many of the guest rooms. The medieval cloisters are a fun place for a wine tasting or special event.
Over in Pest, we like the Hilton Garden Inn Budapest City Centre for its central location and fitness centre.
We hope that you have enjoyed these Budapest highlights, there’s so much to see here. From Gothic buildings to quirky ruin bars, Budapest has it all!
If you only have one day in Budapest, we recommend seeing Fisherman’s Bastion and Buda Castle from the outside, then heading to Pest and walking along the Danube past the Hungarian Parliament.
If you have 3 days in Budapest or more, you could also visit:
- Day Trips from Budapest – the Danube Bend, Godollo Palace, the Baroque riverside town of Szentendre…
- Lukacs or Rudas Thermal Baths – both these historical baths tend to be less busy than the Gellert and Szechenyi baths.
- Memento Park – a fascinating open air museum with many Communist era statues.
- Margaret Island – in the Danube river, this island has thermal spas, a rose garden, a musical fountain and jogging tracks.
- New York Cafe – one of the most beautiful cafes in the world, and a popular meeting place for writers and musicians since opening in 1894.
- St. Stephen’s Basilica – the largest church in Hungary, it dates from 1905.
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