Budapest is a magical city in eastern Europe. The Hungarian capital amazes us every time we visit it, it’s so beautiful! Budapest is easily one of our favourite cities in Europe. The architecture is stunning, the thermal baths are the best and the ruin bars are really unique and fun. It’s easy to stay in Budapest for a longer time, but in 2 days in Budapest, you are able to cover a lot of the city! We created an ultimate Budapest itinerary so you can fully enjoy this city. This guide includes our best Budapest travel tips.
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Want to know how friendly Budapest is for gay travellers? And are you looking for all the gay hotspots in the city? Make sure to head to our Gay Budapest blog post.
What to Do in Budapest in 2 Days
Good to know before you travel to Budapest, Budapest consists of two parts: Buda and Pest. The two parts are separated by the river Danube. In 1873, the two cities Buda and Pest merged together into the city it is today: Budapest. Buda is located on the West side of the city and Pest on the eastern side. Buda and Pest are very different from each other. While Pest is the buzzing side with lots of nightlife opportunities, restaurants and bars etc, Buda is the more quiet and more residential area. Buda is also the more hilly area, therefore it offers stunning views of the city. But at night, you definitely want to be in Pest – that’s where the fun is!
Good to know: the official currency of Hungary is the Hungarian Forint (HUF). Though at some places you can also pay with Euros. Budapest is cheaper than most European capitals and prices in Pest are usually cheaper than in Buda!
City Sightseeing Budapest Map
Visit the Fisherman’s Bastion
The Fisherman’s Bastion is a must-see in Budapest. We highly recommend visiting the bastion as early as possible in the morning, as it gets crowded during the day. For the most magical experience and most beautiful pictures, you should visit during sunrise! We experienced sunrise at the Fisherman’s Bastion a few times already and we can’t recommend it enough.
The Fisherman’s Bastion is located on the castle hill in Buda and offers beautiful views of the Danube river and Pest. It’s called the Fisherman’s Bastion because the guild of the fisherman used to be responsible for defending this part of Buda. Most parts of the Fisherman’s Bastion are free to visit, though for the upper towers there’s a fee. Make sure to also visit the Matthias Church. If you don’t want to go inside, be amazed by the outside (like we usually do)!
How to get there? To get to the Fisherman’s Bastion you can either walk (from the foot of the hill it’s only a 10-minute walk up), take public transport or a cab, one of the touristic official Budapest Castle bus or take Budapest’s funicular.
Make your way to Gellért Hill
Walk along Castle Hill to Gellért Hill. On your way make sure to look at the beautiful Széchenyi Chain Bridge, the first bridge connecting Buda and Pest, and stop at Buda Castle aka the Royal Palace. Kings used to live in Buda Castle but it is now home to the Hungarian National Gallery, the Budapest History Museum and the Hungarian National Library. There’s an entrance fee to visit the museums, but the gardens of the complex are free to enter.
Gellért Hill is a 235 meter (771 FT) high hill that offers fantastic views over both Buda and Pest and the Danube river. We know the Fisherman’s Bastion also offers beautiful views over the city, but Gellért Hill provides a whole new perspective. On top of the hill, you can find the Liberty Statue. The citadel and the cave church are also worth a short visit!
Cross the river on the Liberty Bridge
At the foot of Gellért Hill, there’s the Liberty Bridge. People like to come to this bridge to sit on it, have a picnic, take cool pictures, and enjoy the cars, trams and boats passing by. The bridge was built between 1894 and 1896 and connects Pest and Buda, 8 bridges in total connect the two. During World War II the bridge was destroyed by the Germans. After reconstruction, the Liberty Bridge got its name.
If you go to Budapest in July, you should definitely go to the Liberty Bridge on the weekends as they close it for traffic. The bridge turns into the best hangout of the city. People play music, bring their hammocks, do performances and much more!
Wander around Budapest’s Central Market
The Central Market aka Great Market Hall Budapest is the largest market in Budapest. It’s a beautiful building (we especially love the outside) and great to go to for some shopping, buying fresh goods and trying Hungarian Palinka and Lagos for example. Both locals and tourists like to visit the market hall.
Relax at one of the thermal baths in Budapest
During your 2 days in Budapest (or during a shorter/longer stay), you should definitely visit one of the thermal baths in Budapest. The baths are a part of Hungarian history and culture. Budapest is often called the city of baths as there are many thermal baths in the city. The natural waters of the baths come from the 120 hot springs of the city. It’s great to visit one of the thermal baths after some exploring to regain energy! But which one should you go to?
Don’t forget to bring your swimsuit, flip flops (not mandatory) and a towel (you can also rent one). At some baths, it’s obliged to wear a swim cap, you can also rent a cap.
- Széchenyi Thermal Baths: this is the largest medicinal bath complex in Europe. It has 15 indoor baths and 3 outdoor baths. There are also saunas, steam rooms and whirlpools. The complex itself is beautiful to see. It’s a popular bathhouse so it can get crowded here. From February to December there’s something special at the Széchenyi thermal baths, as on Saturday nights it turns into a club. SPArty is a unique party to go to!
- Gellért Thermal Baths: the Gellért Thermal Baths are located on the foot of Gellért Hill. Especially the interior of the Gellért bath complex is stunning. There are mosaic walls and floors and beautiful windows everywhere. For the indoor swimming pool, you need to wear a swim cap. Don’t forget to go to the balcony for a nice view of the indoor swimming pool. Many people like to take pictures here.
- Rudas Thermal Baths: the Rudas thermal bath complex is a Turkish style bathhouse. Tuesdays are for women only and the rest of the week is for men. During the weekend both men and women are allowed at the baths. The rooftop pool offers great views over the city and over the Danube river.
Explore Pest and its history
You can easily explore Pest by foot, combined with the metro or bus. Another fun way of exploring this part of the city is by bike! As Pest isn’t hilly like Buda, it’s very convenient to bike here. Must-see spots in Pest are the Hungarian Parliament building, the St. Stephen’s Basilica, the opera house, Heroes Square, the shoes on the Danube bank memorial and the Jewish quarter.
Hungarian Parliament building
This is Budapest’s largest building. The exterior of the building is stunning to see (also from across the water) and it’s also possible to go inside. But make sure to book tickets in advance, as they sell out quickly. It’s possible to buy same-day tickets, but there are limited tickets available and it can take quite some time to get them.
St. Stephen’s Basilica
This Basilica offers the best views of the city, from the Pest side. Climb to the top of the bell tower to see it for yourself. The basilica is the largest Roman Catholic church in Hungary. And it’s only built a hundred years ago!
The largest square in Budapest! On the square, you can find many statues of Hungarian kings and heroes, as well as the Hungarian war memorial. The square is a tribute to Hungary’s National identity. On both sides of the square, there are museums: the Museum of Fine Arts and the Budapest Hall of Art.
Strolling along the Danube river is definitely a good idea. Especially to visit the shoes on the Danube river memorial. This memorial is dedicated to all the Jews who were murdered during World War II. Jews were asked to take off their shoes before being shot on the bank of the river. Their bodies fell into the water afterwards…
The Jewish quarter of Budapest is home to the largest synagogue of Europe. The Dohány Street Synagogue, also known as the Tabakgasse Synagogue or Great Synagogue, was built between 1854 and 1859. With nearly 3000 seats, it is the largest Synagogue in Europe and the 4th largest in the world. Besides the Synagogue it’s nice to just wander around the area and something you can’t miss are the famous ruin bars in the quarter.
Do you like shopping? Visit Váci Utca
Váci Utca is the street to go to for shopping. It’s one of the main streets for pedestrians in Budapest. Here you can find many shops, restaurants and cafes. Hungry while shopping? Make sure to stop at Szamos Cafe for the most delicious sweets and cakes.
More time? Go to Margaret island and/or see Budapest from the water!
Margaret island is an island in the middle of the Danube river. The island is a public park and a popular spot for locals. The Margaret bridge connects the city with the island, so it’s easy to go here! People go here to relax, play sports, picnic and much more! There are multiple activities you can do on the island: ride a golf cart and funny looking bicycles, visit the water tower or dip in the waters of the Palatinus baths. As the island is very green, many people enjoy the gardens here. It’s a getaway just around the corner of the busy city.
Enjoy Budapest’s architecture from a different perspective: from the water! Both during the day and night Budapest is amazing to see from the water. There are short tours that take you on the Danube river for about an hour. A unique experience is a Budapest dinner cruise. Enjoy good food during a romantic cruise on the river. Another unique experience is the riverside floating bus tour. A bus that rides into the water, how cool and unique is that? This way you can see the city from the water and from the road!
Best Time to Visit Budapest
Every season has its advantages and disadvantages. Budapest has warm and sunny summers and cold winters. Spring is a great time to visit Budapest, from March to May the city isn’t packed with tourists yet. Therefore it’s quieter in the city and the prices are cheaper. The temperatures are rising but the amount of rainfall as well. During the warmer months, there’s a higher chance of rain in Budapest. May often is a rainy month and June is the wettest month of the year. If you have 2 days in Budapest, you probably don’t want to spend it under an umbrella the whole time. July and August are busiest months in the city though. Expect warm temperatures and possible rainfall. Besides the Spring months, September, October and November are great months to visit Budapest. Tourists leave the city again and the temperatures are dropping down, as it gets colder. Winter starts in December and ends in February. Conclusion: We highly recommend visiting Budapest during Spring and Fall.
How to Get Around Budapest
If you want to travel conveniently around Budapest, get a Budapest card! With this card you can travel around the city for free, using public transport, and it gives you free access (or discounts) to certain attractions and top sights. Public transport in Budapest is very convenient. It’s easy to travel around the city by tram, bus, or metro. The app Bolt is handy to use if you want to order a cap, it’s similar to Uber.
As mentioned earlier in the article, we loved exploring Budapest by bicycle. So if you love to bike, we highly recommend renting one! Some rental agencies also offer bike tours around the city. Another super fun way to see the city is by tuk-tuk. We only expected to see tuk-tuks in Asia, but in Budapest, you have them too. They offer different tours, so check it out if you are interested!
Planning a little Europe trip? Stockholm is a great city in Europe to visit!
Where to Stay in Budapest
Budapest offers many different types of accommodation, from very cheap hostels to very luxurious hotels. Pick an area where you want to stay, according to your liking! Staying in Pest means being close to many restaurants and the nightlife hot spots, so all the buzz of the city. Buda means it’s more peaceful!
Looking for a hostel in Budapest? Please always read the reviews of the hostel! We learned it the hard way on our first visit to Budapest. Bedbugs was the result, so don’t stay at the Opera Hostel Budapest! We heard good stories about the Flow Hostel and the Maverick Hostel & Ensuites.
- Baltazár Budapest: Baltazár Budapest is a beautiful boutique hotel located in Buda. And its restaurant downstairs offers delicious foods and drinks!
- Casati Budapest Hotel: located in Pest, close to the famous ruin bars, but the hotel is really peaceful. Well designed, with friendly staff.
- Looking for a luxurious hotel to stay? Prestige Hotel Budapest is a beautiful hotel in Budapest. Located next to the one Michelin star restaurant Costes Downtown, perfect if you are looking for a wonderful place to stay and good food closeby!
- Párisi Udvar Hotel Budapest is one of Budapest’s newest hotels. The hotel belongs to the Unbound Collection brand by Hyatt. The hotel offers the largest suite of Budapest and it’s located in a beautiful historical building.
Best Places to Eat in Budapest
Food is always important, right? Or well that’s what we think. We always love trying local food but also love eating foods we already know. We will tell you where and what to eat in Budapest! The restaurants we recommend are a good mix of local food and international cuisines.
Food you should try when in Budapest:
- Goulash: Goulash is the most famous Hungarian dish. It’s a soup/stew with meat, vegetables and flavoured with paprika.
- Chicken paprikash: a paprika sour cream dish, often served with Hungarian dumplings.
- Lángos: Lángos is a deep-fried dough. It’s more a little street food snack. Often served with cheese and sour cream on top but sometimes you see lángos also with sweet toppings.
- Kürtoskalács (chimney cake): this sweet snack is so delicious! It’s made from sweet dough with a caramelized crust (different flavours are often possible, as well as ice-cream on the inside for the tourists). Everywhere around Budapest, you see little shops selling Kürtoskalács. Traditionally, Hungarians eat it as is!
- Dobos Torte: Dobos Torte is a sponge cake with multiple layers of chocolate buttercream and caramel on top.
Best places to eat in Budapest:
- Kiosk Budapest: this is a great restaurant in a beautiful building. We love the vibes here and the food is delicious. They have different types of foods on the menu, from Hungarian goulash to German schnitzel. The portions are big here! It was the biggest schnitzel I had ever seen in my life.
- Hungarikum Bisztro: Hungarikum Bisztro is a homely Hungarian restaurant with delicious Hungarian foods. As it often gets very crowded at the restaurant, we recommend making a reservation in advance.
- Baltazár Budapest Restaurant: sit outside and enjoy the beautiful Buda scenery. Try Hungarian goulash or chicken paprikash here or the international burgers. Their drinks are also very delicious.
- 10 sixty-six bar & breakfast: This is the spot to go to for breakfast or brunch. You can get a local breakfast, a full English or even an Australian one at 10 sixty-six bar & breakfast. Once a month they organise a rainbow brunch here – every second Sunday of the month.
- Costes Downtown: Costes Downtown is a one Michelin star restaurant. The food is delicious here (obviously) and the presentation of the food even better. It’s possible to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at the restaurant.
- Spíler Bistro Pub: If you aren’t looking for anything too fancy, but a place with great food and drinks plus good vibes, Spíler is the place to be. They mostly serve international food and their cocktails are the best. Also, the street is located in a popular street where lots of things are going on. Therefore it’s a perfect spot to sit and do some people-watching.
- Antré Restaurant: Antré restaurant Budapest is a well-designed restaurant. The presentation of the food is stunning. Here you go for Hungarian food or other foods, but all with a Hungarian twist!
- Restaurant Hilda: Restaurant Hilda makes sure to gets its ingredients from the best local organic farm. They are specialised in free-range chicken, steaks and organic duck. But they also have vegetarian, gluten-free and lactose-free dishes. The restaurant is located in a beautiful historical building.
- Mazel Tov: Mazel Tov is a super popular Israeli restaurant in the Jewish Quarter. It’s an informal ruin bar-restaurant with a fantastic green courtyard and magical views.
- Ankli’s Apartment restaurant: if you want to meet locals and are you looking for a unique night in Budapest this is the place to go. This apartment restaurant is a new start-up and the place to be for open-minded people. Head to Ankli’s facebook-page for more information. Don’t hesitate to send them a message! Ooh, and the view from the apartment is the best.
- New York Cafe: this is probably the most beautiful cafe in Budapest. Therefore it’s always crowded at the cafe, people often wait in line to get in. The cafe is located under the luxurious New York Palace Budapest hotel. Expect expensive prices here, even for a cup of coffee. But then again, there is a stunning ceiling to drink it under.
- Szamos Cafe: if you are craving chocolate and cakes, Szamos is the place to be. It’s a family-owned business who have been making chocolate and cakes for a long time. There’s even a chocolate museum above the cafe!
Where to Go for the Best Budapest Nightlife
When you visit Budapest you definitely should check out a ruin bar. Budapest is famous for its ruin bars. In 2002, the first ruin bar opened its doors in the Jewish Quarter in Budapest. It all started when some young men were looking for a cheap place to drink. They probably didn’t know back then they created the new hotspot of the city when they went drinking in an abandoned building. Still, ruin bars are cheap places to drink, though these days, you will find some ruin bars are more touristic. We love the art, randomness and furniture of the ruin bars and we highly recommend to check at least one out yourself:
- Szimpla Kert: Szimpla Kert is the first ruin bar in Budapest! Therefore it’s the most famous/touristic one.
- Anker’t: one of the biggest ruin bars in Budapest. Anker’t organizes big themed parties too.
- Instant Fogas: the clubbing kind of ruin bar.
- Köleves Kert: a very cosy place! It’s a garden so perfect to go to when the weather is good.
Looking for LGBT hotspots in the city?! Check out our Gay Budapest guide!
Another really awesome spot to go to for drinks is the rooftop bar Leo Budapest. The rooftop terrace is located on top of Hotel Clark, close to the Széchenyi Chain Bridge. It offers great views and the best cocktails!
Have fun exploring this magical city! Let us know if you have any questions, and don’t forget to spread the love. Follow us around on Instagram to not miss anything of our travels.
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