**Updated : October 2023**
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Can you See Budapest in A Day?
Although we truly don't think you can see the entirety of Budapest in a single day, there is a chance for you to see most of the top sights in the city within 48 hours. Of course, if you plan on heading out of the city, or planning to visit more than one of their famous thermal baths, then 48 hours just won't be enough. If you simply want to experience the city and some of the best things it has to offer, 48 hours should be plenty. Make sure to scroll to the bottom for our 48 hour sample itinerary! If you are planning to visit Budapest, there are a few basic things we think you should know...
Looking for a place to stay in Budapest? We used Prince Apartments and loved how central it was and it's proximity to public transport!
9 Best Things to Do in Budapest
1. Explore on Foot
Expected Time : N/A (as long as you like)
The architecture in Budapest is unlike any other city we've been to. With a range of styles (Google says - Neoclassical, Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque Revival) of buildings we truly believe the best way to see the city is on foot. Although it's not necessarily as walkable as Prague, no matter where you start near the city center you'll see some incredible buildings. Our best recommendation is to use your BudapestGo pass and hop around the city for a few hours while taking in the sights.
2. Cruise the Danube River
Expected Time : 1 hour
Although nowadays each major city seems to have some kind of river cruise for visitors, there is simply no river cruise like the one in Budapest. We truly had the best, most incredible views of the city from the Danube River, and even though 1 hour might sound short, in the end we thought it was the perfect length - and it's only $15 a person. With plenty of language options, this cruise really is for anyone and we promise you'll be amazed by the incredible buildings dotting Budapest's riverbanks. With an enclosed bottom floor entirely surrounded by glass it ensures the best views even in not so good weather, and they even include 2 free drinks during your experience - one of your choice including wine, and one lemonade. Our cruise with Legenda even gave us the option to get off on Madeline Island if we wanted to do a bit more exploring. There are other options to cruise the Danube River while in Budapest, like this dinner and folk dance show cruise.
3. Parliament Building
Expected Time : 1-2 hours
Located along the banks of the Danube, the Hungarian Parliament Building is hard to miss - and worth a stop. After construction started in 1885 the building took 17 years to complete, and is a mix of gothic and renaissance revival architectural style - and the craziest part? It has 365 turrets. Although we think the best view of the entire building is from the Danube River via River Cruise, you'll also want to see the building up close to really appreciate its' grand scale and intricate design. Exploring the building from the outside is free, but if you want to head inside it'll cost 5000 HUF for European residents (about $13 USD) and 10000 for non-European residents (about $37 USD).
4. Funicular Fun
Expected Time : 20 minutes
Funiculars are basically like a very steep, slanted tram ride - and if you're looking for an easy way to get up to the Castle District then this is for you. It'll cost you 4000 HUF for a round trip ticket (about $11 USD), but to be honest we would recommend taking it up and then taking the stairs down for a full experience. Plus, by taking the stairs down you'll go right through the gardens along the riverbank.
5. Walk the Szechenyi Chain Bridge to the Ruin Bars
Expected Time : 30 minutes
The ruin bars in Budapest are known around the world, with the most famous of these being Szimpla Kert, and most of them are located around the old Jewish Quarter. If you do plan to walk there from the Szechenyi Chain Bridge, it's about a 2 km walk and will take about 30 minutes. Ruin Bars got their name simply based on the fact that they used "ruins" - abandoned warehouses, old buildings, even parking lots - to begin serving drinks. Nowadays most of the well known Ruin Bars are mostly tourists only, but they're a unique feature to Budapest and a fun way to experience the city!
6. Buda Castle
Expected Time : 2-3 hours
The Castle District might be the most visited spot in Budapest, and for good reason. Spanning just around 5 square kilometers, you can easily spend half a day simply walking around the grounds. The main sight to see in this area is the Buda Castle, which was first completed in 1265. Certain areas of the castle are free to see and explore - like the gardens, courtyard, and surroundings - however other areas will require a ticket - like the wings and different exhibitions. If you're spending time exploring Buda Castle, we highly recommend you walk the few blocks over to Fisherman's Bastion!
7. Fisherman's Bastion
Expected Time : 1 -2 hours
Contrary to our initial thoughts - no, this has nothing to do with a fisherman or fish market. There are a few different stories if you look around online, some saying that the area was protected by local fishermen during war and the name pays homage to them, others saying the name is simply celebrating the local fishermen that lived in the area. Either way, this stop is one you won't want to miss. With incredible views of the Parliament Building across the river, Fisherman's Bastion itself is one of the coolest parts of the Castle District - mainly because it actually looks like a castle. With beautiful spires and towers overlooking the city and Danube River, it was actually built in celebration of the 1000th birthday of the Hungarian State - and it's sole mission was to provide a spot for incredible views of the city. Most of the area is free for you to explore , but if you want to go inside the St. Michael Chapel or up to the very tip top of some of the towers you'll need a ticket.
8. Try Local Foods
Expected Time : N/A (as much or as little as you like haha)
Before coming to Budapest we had no idea what the local food would be or if we would like it, turns out it's delicious. Between Goulash, Czech Chimneys, and Langos we definitely didn't go Hungary... ;). You'll be able to find most these dishes throughout the city, and we highly encourage you to try them out while you're exploring the city!
9. Thermal Baths
Expected Time : 3-4 hours per bath
Maybe the most famous draw to the city of Budapest are it's many thermal baths. Even though there are plenty to choose from, we decided to go with Szychenyi - the most popular thermal bath. Even though it wasn't quite what we imagined (we knew there would be a lot of people, we didn't know there would be this many people), the experience itself was so unique and people watching was a blast. We highly recommend to check each individual Thermal Baths schedule before you visit, Mondays are typically cheaper and some thermal baths aren't always coed - having a set schedule and certain days for women/men to visit. We also recommend that you pay at the gate, the online ticket price for Szychenyi was 14,400 HUF (about $39 USD) but we only paid 9,400 HUF (about $25 USD) in person - however we heard that sometimes on weekends this ticket line can get to be an hour wait. If you're looking for a thermal bath that's a little more quiet and not so popular, we recommend looking into Gellert Baths (the second most popular for visitors), Rudas Baths, Lukacs Bath, and Kiraly Baths. No matter what Thermal Bath you decide to visit, it's important to bring a towel, slippers, and a change of clothes for after.
Our 48 Hour Sample Itinerary
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We're Deborah & Tyler, a pretty average husband and wife duo from a pretty average state that didn't want to live so averagely. After our *Covid wedding we sold everything that didn't fit into the Jeep and moved to Alaska, then decided to take a gap year!
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