Budapest is a city that you should visit at least once in your lifetime, but since there are so many things to see, like the Parliament, the Chain Bridge, museums and historic cafés, if you have a tight schedule, it might seem hard to cram everything into just two days – unless you follow this handy guide.
US travel magazine Earth Trekkers has put together a schedule for spending two days in Budapest that could come useful even if you do not follow it rigorously.
Day 1 – exploring the Castle Hill, Gellért Hill and Pest
9:00: Fisherman’s Bastion
Climbing up to the Castle District is already a great way to kick off your day, but wait until you see the view of Pest from the Fisherman’s Bastion.
9:45: Matthias Church
The Matthias Church is right next to the Fisherman’s Bastion and King Matthias’s statue, so after you have taken in the morning view of the city thoroughly, check out Budapest’s best church from top to bottom: both the colourful tiled-roof and the adorned interior will leave you awe-struck.
10:30: Exploring the Castle Hill
Your next destination from Matthias Church is the Royal Palace, where you can check out the National Gallery as well. When you arrive at the funicular, give yourself time to enjoy the view of the Széchenyi Chain Bridge, the Gresham Palace and St. Stephen’s Basilica.
11:00: Széchenyi Chain Bridge
This bridge was the first to unite Buda and Pest, and even though it was destroyed in the 1940s, the city took no time to rebuild it – the lions guarding both entrances are the original statues, though.
11:30: Gresham Palace
Staying at the Four Seasons Hotel located inside Gresham Palace might seem costly, but you can take a quick look at the interior of this Art Nouveau wonder even if you have not booked a room.
Head in the direction of St. Stephen’s Basilica from the hotel by taking Zrínyi Street. There are numerous restaurants in the area; Earth Trekkers suggests these three: KOLLÁZS – Brasserie & Bar (right around the corner from the Gresham Palace), 0,75 Bistro (with a view of the Basilica) and Meatology Budapest (behind St. Stephen’s Basilica).
13:00: St. Stephen’s Basilica
Although it feels much older, Hungary’s largest Roman Catholic Church was built only 100 years ago. St. Stephen’s 1000-year-old mummified right hand is kept here in a jewelled glass case. Another great view of Budapest is provided here by the Bell Tower on top of the Basilica.
14:00: Exploring Pest
Walk from St. Stephen’s Basilica to Vörösmarty Square, which is the town centre of Pest. Have a late dessert accompanying your lunch at Gerbeaud’s – you can try some of the best Hungarian cakes here.
Now, walk back to the Danube bank, where the view of Buda is magnificent, and you can recap your day that started at the Castle Hill.
15:00: The Great Market Hall
You might think this is a train station (especially if you have seen those in Budapest), but it is actually Budapest’s largest market. You can get the best Hungarian souvenirs here, like paprika, painted eggs, Tokaj wines, pálinka, Unicum and lángos.
16:30: Citadel, Gellért Hill
Take the tram from the Great Market Hall to the base of the Gellért Hill (the Gellért Baths are right here) on the Buda side, and start your hike up to the top of the hill, to the Citadel. The view is similar to the one you have seen at Castle Hill, but the altitude is much higher.
Day 2 – Parliament, New York Palace, Széchenyi Baths
9:00: Danube Promenade
If you have not seen it the day before, pay a visit to the Shoes on the bank of the Danube – a memorial to the Jews who were murdered during WWII in Budapest.
Even Freddie Mercury wanted to buy it, so is there a reason not to see it? However, you have to book a tour, which sells out in advance, so book it way before you board your plane to Budapest.
11:00: Andrássy Road
Earth Trekkers compares Andrássy to the Champs-Elysees in Paris; you will find the Opera House here(currently closed for renovation), which was built to compete with the State Opera House of Vienna, but the interior décor of the latter has nothing on this gem in Budapest.
12:00: Lunch at the New York Café
The New York Café was chosen as the most beautiful café in the world several times, and if you head inside, you will see why.
13:30: House of Terror
This is the best place to learn about WWII-Soviet occupation in Hungary. Be prepared, though, as this sobering look can actually be overwhelming. A museum visit here takes around 2 to 3 hours.
“this really is an eye-opening look into this important piece of Budapest history and Tim and I think a visit to Budapest would not be complete without a visit here”
16:30: Heroes’ Square and City Park
The Heroes’ Square is guided by the 14 most important Hungarian leaders, and beyond their statues stretches the City Park, a lovely place to walk around. Make sure to walk over to the Vajdahunyad Castle.
17:00: Széchenyi Baths
Széchenyi is the most iconic thermal bath in Hungary (possibly in Central Europe, too). The warm waters will heal your body and soul alike, and you can even play a bit of chess on the floating chess boards.
19:00: Dinner at Gundel
One of Budapest’s most famous restaurants, Gundel, is located within the vicinity of the Széchenyi Baths, where you can close your Budapest trip with a gourmet dinner to really top off the experience.