Edited by Elodi Troskie
The beautiful and charming city of Budapest offers so much to do and to see. I’ve been living here my entire life and I still can’t get enough! With so many different things to do in Budapest, it can be quite overwhelming to plan a trip here. Although two days in Budapest is definitely not enough to take in all of its splendour, you can make the most of your time and fit in as much sightseeing as you can. This is my itinerary for the best things to do in Budapest in two days.
Day 1 Morning: A historic stroll through the city
The best way to start your first day in Budapest is with a walk through the city to orientate yourself. Most of the places of interest in Budapest aren’t too far from each other, so unless want to save time by taking a bus or car, you can easily explore the city on foot. A good place to start is at St. Stephen’s Basilica, the largest Catholic church in Budapest. From here you can walk down to the Parliament of Budapest, an impressive Neo-Gothic style building that is more than 100 years old – a site design and architecture lovers will marvel at! When I show visitors around the city, I usually find a stop at the Parliament a good time to tell them more about the history about Hungary. You can go inside the building, but you’ll need to plan ahead for this since you’ll need to book tickets for a guided tour. But if you only have two days in Budapest, I’d advise you to save this for another time – there’s still much to see!
Day 1 Lunch: Refueling before a busy afternoon
Since you’d have had a relatively slow morning so far, opt for a quick lunch because the itinerary is packed for the rest of the afternoon! A few popular places to eat in the area surrounding the Parliament are Lucky 7 Burgers & More, Smart Kitchen, and Mazi. Out of these, Smart Kitchen, a Chinese restaurant, is probably the most affordable. If you’re looking for Hungarian cuisine on the higher end, Hungarikum Bisztro is a good option. You need to make a reservation beforehand, so if you prefer a more spontaneous and unplanned day, this might not be the best fit for lunch. Don’t worry – you’ll have plenty of time at dinner to try out more Hungarian dishes!
Day 1 Afternoon: Understanding the history of Budapest
After lunch, head to the Széchenyi Chain Bridge, the suspension bridge that connects Buda and Pest, the western and eastern sides of the city. The Chain Bridge was the second bridge to span all across the River Danube. It is the best known bridge in Hungary and is a historical landmark of Budapest. Cross the bridge to the Buda Castle on Buda Castle Hill – you can walk up to the castle, but you can take Bus Number 16 if you don’t want to walk that far. The castle, also known as the Royal Palace, is part of the UNESCO World Heritage and is home to numerous museums and governmental institutions. There is so much to see on Buda Castle Hill – the medieval interior and architecture of the castle, the Hungarian National Gallery located inside the castle, the Royal Gardens and Matthias Church (you need an entrance ticket for this). There is a cafe inside the castle where you can take a break with a cup of coffee and a slice of cake.
Day 1 Dinner: Taking in the beautiful city views
Before heading back to the city for dinner, stay on Buda Castle Hill to enjoy the sunset from up there. You’ll have the most magnificent view of the city and the River Danube from the castle grounds. You can either walk back to the city center or take the bus. I’d recommend you head to the Jewish district for dinner. This is one of the most energetic and bustling areas of Budapest with restaurants, ruin pubs, and nightclubs in the masses. One of my favorite restaurants is Frici Papa, a local diner in the charming Király Street. This is a very affordable place with good food and a warm, laid-back atmosphere. Another option is Karaván, a trendy street food courtyard where you can try Hungarian dishes at bargain prices.
Day 1 Nightlife: Experiencing Budapest’s ruin pubs
There are many things to do in Budapest at night, but ruin pubs are the go-to places. These bars, housed in old abandoned buildings that date back to World War ll, are quite unique to Budapest. One of the most popular ruin pubs in Budapest is is Szimpla Kert, an old factory revamped into a pub that hosts regular concerts and theatre shows. Szimpla Kert is close by Frici Papa, the diner I mentioned before. A few other bars I really like are Kisüzem, Lámpás and Fekete Kutya – all located within about 100 meters from each other on Dob Street in the Jewish district. These bars are a few of Budapest’s hidden gems since it’s not as well-known among tourists.
Day 2 Morning: A slow morning in the City Park
The historical tour of Budapest continues on day two. Stroll down the beautiful Andrássy Street, a UNESCO World Heritage site along with the Millennium Underground that runs underneath it. This metro line is the oldest in continental Europe and the second oldest in the world. The metro station, established for the millennium celebrations of Hungary in 1896, is an architectural beauty and a must-see when you’re in Budapest. You can take the metro to Városliget, the City Park, located close to the city centre. Established in 1751, Városliget is one of the oldest public parks in the world. You can spend an entire day relaxing under the trees! Surrounding the park is the Museum of Hungarian Agriculture, the Budapest Zoo & Botanical Garden, the Municipal Grand Circus, and a massive ice skating rink during winter. The Városliget Cafe is a lovely spot for breakfast!
Day 2 Lunch: Exploring Heroes’ Square
While you’re in the area, you can’t miss out on the beautiful Heroes’ Square, a Hungarian historical landmark. Also built in the 1890’s for the Hungarian millennial celebrations, the square is home to the Museum of Fine Arts and the Kunsthalle. For lunch, you can either head back to the City Park and grab something to eat from the Városliget Cafe. If you want to stay in Heroes’ Square, a few restaurant recommendations are Robinson Restaurant, Kara Cafe and Toterasz. Most of the restaurants in this area is on the higher end, so if you’re looking for cheaper places to eat, you can always take the metro back to the Jewish district.
Day 2 Afternoon: Visiting the thermal baths
A visit to Budapest won’t be complete without some proper down time at the Szechenyi Baths, the largest medicinal baths in all of Europe. This is one of the most relaxing things to do in Budapest! Built in 1913, the baths remain one of the most visited attractions in Budapest. Since it is located within the City Park grounds, a visit to the spa is perfect after a morning of exploring the surrounding area. You can bathe in one of the 18 geothermal pools, sweat it out in the saunas, workout at the gym, get a massage or have drinks at one of the poolside bars. Entrance to the baths start around 6000 forints, giving you access to all the pools until 22:00. You can stay for a few hours or make a whole day of it by staying for dinner and a night swim.
Day 2 Dinner: Returning to the Jewish district
Unless you’re staying at the baths or dining in Heroes’ Square, I’d recommend you head back to the Jewish district. There are so many places to eat around here that one night simply isn’t enough. For dinner, you’ll be spoilt for choice! If you’re traveling on a budget, eating at one of the many ruin pubs is a good idea since food is usually very affordable. This is also a great place to meet new people and socialize with locals. The Jewish district is historically rich and very interesting – definitely worth exploring in more detail. If you have time, you can visit the Holocaust Memorial Centre, a synagogue dating back to the 1920’s that has been renovated as a memorial and museum, commemorating Hungarian Jews who were killed during the war.
Day 2 Nightlife: Dancing until the morning hours
The ruin pubs are perfect for those who want to sit back with a drink while talking to friends and enjoying background music. But if you’re looking for Budapest’s party scene, Fogas Ház in Akácfa Street is the place for you. A party complex with multiple bars and dance clubs inside, the name interestingly means “House of Teeth”. This refers back to the age-old dental advertisement sign that was found in the building during renovation. Fogas Ház is best known for its incredible dance clubs that stay open until 06:00 every morning. Lärm is an electronic music club with live DJs, located on the first floor. Just an arm stretch away is Instant, an upbeat pop music club. A night at Fogas Ház will be quite an interesting end to your time in Budapest!
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