Budapest is one of the best European capitals to discover in two or three days. We have created a 2-day itinerary for those of you that land in Hungary’s capital on Friday afternoon and leave on Sunday afternoon. It includes all the city’s top attractions, museums, spas and parks to get a real sense of one of the most romantic cities in the world.
If you plan your stay on any other day of the week, we suggest checking out the various landmarks and museum’s opening hours, as these could vary.
We have not included the visit to the Hungarian Parliament building in this itinerary, since visitors must get there very early and often the tours are restricted during certain times when the National Assembly holds its plenary sittings. If you are only in Budapest for a weekend, we recommend just seeing the building from the outside as not to lose a whole morning.
Nevertheless, if it is one of your “must-sees”, we recommend booking the guided tour of the city that includes a visit to the Hungarian Parliament. By booking this tour you will get priority access to the Parliament and will also visit all the attractions mentioned in our Saturday morning itinerary.
Once you get to your hotel and leave your luggage, you will probably have little time to do any ‘serious sightseeing’, so we propose you go for a stroll around the city center, especially down Andrássy Avenue and Váci utca, two of Budapest’s most famous thoroughfares. These streets are packed with bars, restaurants and stores. Next, head to the largest church in Budapest, St. Stephen’s Basilica, which is beautifully lit up at night.
The Hungarian State Opera House and it neighboring areas are full of trendy bars, pubs and clubs if you want to discover the city’s nightlife after you’ve had a tasty traditional Hungarian meal.
After breakfast, take the public transport to Buda, Budapest’s most elegant neighborhood located on the western bank of the city. To get to the top of Castle Hill, you can either take the Castle Hill Funicular (Budavári Sikló), although it is slightly expensive, or you can take the bus 16, 16A or 116 and get off at Dísz tér.
Once you get to the top, we suggest discovering Buda Castle and its surroundings. It offers an impressive panorama over Pest and the Danube river. Don’t forget to walk into the Castle’s patio which houses the Budapest History Museum.
From the Royal Palace, take Támok utca (street) until you get to Matthias Church, which costs 1,500Ft to visit and the Fisherman’s Bastion, from which you’ll get the best views across the city and the Hungarian Parliament.
Take Úri utca (street), also known as Lords Street, to walk back to the Castle. This boulevard has beautiful Baroque mansions and the entrance to the Labyrinth of Buda Castle is located on number 9 of the same street. This is one of the most-visited and unique attractions in Budapest. It is especially fun for children. Unfortunately, the Labyrinth was permanently closed a few years ago.
Walk back to Pest down one of Buda’s many paths and cross the Chain Bridge, the oldest bridge in Budapest. Keep walking straight, taking Zrínyi utca (street) until you arrive at St.Stephen’s Basilica. This visit is extremely worthwhile and is free to visit.
Once you leave the church, head south towards one of the main squares in Budapest, Vörösmarty tér. This square houses the world-known Gerbaud Bakery, a good place to sit and have one of its delicious pastries.
From Vörösmarty square, take Váci utca, the most famous shopping street in Budapest, until you see the Central Market Hall (also called Great Market Hall). If you are a bit peckish, the market’s first floor is packed with small food stands that sell all types of dishes. If you prefer to find somewhere to rest and have a proper meal, Váci utca and its adjacent streets have many restaurants.
After exploring the Market, take the tram 47 or 49 to Deák Ferenc tér. During the ride, you will pass (to your right) the Hungarian National Museum and the Great Synagogue, which is open every day except Saturdays.
From Deák Ferenc tér walk down Andrássy Avenue until you come across the Hungarian State Opera House. If you get to the Opera at 3 pm you can do the English-speaking guided tour, which we found curious and definitely worthwhile.
In the evening, we recommend booking a Budapest Dinner Cruise. One of the most memorable experiences is floating down the Danube river at nighttime watching the various UNESCO World Heritage sights lit up. Another perk is that the cruises in Budapest are relatively inexpensive, compared to other European capital cities.
Our favorite options are: the Budapest dinner cruise with live music which leaves every day at 7pm or, even better, going to a Hungarian Folklore performance and then taking a cruise. Even if you aren’t a folk music fan, we recommend attending one of these performances, as you will be pleasantly surprised.
After dinner, we suggest going back to Váci utca and the streets around St. Stephen’s Basilica. If you want to stay out a little later, the liveliest area in Budapest is around the Opera House.
Head to Heroes’ Square bright and early on the metro (line M1 – Hősök tere stop). This is one of the city’s main squares, decorated with impressive statues that commemorate the seven Magyar tribes that founded Hungary.
The square houses the Museum of Fine Arts. In our opinion it is one of the best museums in Budapest. We recommend spending about an hour exploring this gallery and the entrance fee is relatively cheap.
Once you have left the museum, stroll towards the City Park. If you go on a Sunday, you will see many Hungarian families and group of friends having a picnic or relaxing in the sun. The park is also bustling on Saturdays.
Once you walk into the Park, head towards Vajdahunyad Castle and then explore the greenspace anti clockwise until you get to Széchenyi Thermal Bath. If you have enough time we recommend relaxing in one of Budapest’s best spas for a few hours.
After the spa, you will probably be hungry. There are a few food-stands in front of the Budapest Zoo if you want a quick bite to eat, or you can wait to get back to the city center for a more relaxing lunch.
Our weekend itinerary finishes here, since you will probably have to head to your hotel to pick up your luggage and go to the airport. If you still have some time left, why not head back to Andrássy Avenue to admire its beautiful mansions or buy a few souvenirs in Váci utca.
If you are in Budapest for over two days and have followed our 48-hour itinerary, why not organize an excursion to any nearby town or city?