Carved up by the river Danube, the city of Budapest is undoubtedly a jewel in the Hungarian crown and, selfishly, one of our favourite cities in the world. Why, you ask? It’s where we got engaged! Unsurprisingly for a city so close to our hearts, it’s one we’ve been to numerous times. That’s helped to create this tried-and-tested formula for the perfect Budapest itinerary! Yup, we’ve curated all our know-how for this captivating city into the ideal 2 days in Budapest guide.
So, what if you only have a weekend or even 2 days in Budapest? Read on to find out what makes it onto our list of best things to do in Budapest to fill up your Budapest itinerary.
Why go to Budapest?
So we imagine that if you’re looking into the perfect 2 days in Budapest itinerary, you’ve got your heart set on visiting one of the best cities in Hungary, but just in case you need a touch more persuasion, here are a few of the reasons that Budapest is a must visit destination.
- Budapest itself is jam-packed with interesting sights, cheap hotels and even cheaper eats. Whereas a weekend in Paris or even a few days in London will set you back a few hundred pounds (or dollars), the same in Budapest can easily be done for less than half of that. If you’re looking for affordable luxury this is the place for you.
- If you’re wanting to spend your weekend spoiling yourself and relaxing, then the world famous Szechenyi Baths is an incredible place to visit. Then again, if you’re looking for somewhere to party to the early hours of the morning, then Budapest has great options for that in spades too.
- Alongside the above mentioned Szechenyi Baths, which are housed in an incredibly beautiful building, Budapest is littered with stunning buildings and architectural features, making it a very visually appealing city to stumble around.
- And, for those looking for a ‘medical holiday’, it even boasts some of the best dentistry in the world. Yes, you heard it here: Europeans with more questionable health care plans are making the pilgrimage to Hungary to keep their choppers clean and healthy.
The ideal 2 days in Budapest itinerary
- Day 1 – Walking Tour (from Parliament Square to the Castle District) and the Hungarian National Museum
- Day 2 – Heroes Square, Vajdahunyad Castle and Széchenyi Thermal Baths
Is a weekend in Budapest enough?
It’s a wonderful city and somewhere that you’ll want to return to, so with a weekend holiday in mind, 2 days in Budapest is definitely enough to get a really good feel for the place.
But, let’s be honest, like any capital city in Europe you’re not going to be able to see everything with a 2 day itinerary, so, we’ve curated the best possible experiences for your time there.
However, if you’re able to extend your 2 days in Budapest to slightly longer, then excellent! But it’s worth noting that many of the museums and attractions are actually closed on Mondays, so if you do extend, then think about adding a Friday rather than Monday.
And, to help with potentially extending your Budapest itinerary, we’ve also added a bonus section below, with lots of other attractions to add to your list. Can’t extend the weekend city break to 3 days in Budapest? No worries, as these ideas can just be saved for your next visit.
From most places in Europe Budapest is a very accessible destination (with all the low cost airlines), and with our 2 days Budapest itinerary, it’ll definitely leave you wanting to return and explore more.
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Day 1 in Budapest
Walking Tour of Budapest
As with many of our city guides, we love to kick things off with a walking tour of the old town. We find that it not only helps to orientate yourself and check off some of the bigger attractions in one hit, but at the same time really provides a feel to the city. The great news is that there are some excellent walking tours on offer – we’ll explore some of those later, but whichever you choose, here are some of the must-see attractions on your walking tour:
Our first suggested stop on the tour is one of the most impressive political buildings: the Hungarian Parliament (it’s actually the third biggest parliament in the world!). While it might look old, it was only built in the 1880’s yet it is well worth the visit, since it’s filled with history.
If you’re keen to do a guided tour of the Budapest Parliament, we’d recommend looking at this option.
Alongside the stunning Hungarian Parliament Building, head into Kossuth Lajos Square, to take some photos of the really impressive Museum of Ethnography (if you have time, it’s worth a stop to understand more about the life and time of 19th and 20th century Hungary), and the equally imposing Ministry of Agriculture building.
Location: Budapest, Kossuth Lajos tér 1-3
Open: Mon – Friday 8.00am to 6.00pm, weekends 8.00am to 4.00pm
Cipők a Duna-parton
Next on your itinerary, take a walk along the Danube river to view the sombre monument, ‘Shoes on the Danube Bank’. The memorial, created by sculpture Gyula Pauer and film director Can Togay, is a stark reminder of the horrors that happened in the city during the Second world war.
Location: Budapest, Id. Antall József rkp., 1054
St Stephen’s Basilica
Named after the first King of Hungary, Stephen I, this stunning church took over 50 years to build and was only completed in the early 1900s. And interestingly St Stephen’s Basilica is the same height as the Hungarian Parliament Building, and at 96m tall they are the two tallest buildings in Budapest.
Definitely have a look at skip the line and tower tickets. The views from the dome are well worth it…
Location: Budapest, Szent István tér 1, 1051
Note: If you are interested in church music, the concerts at St Stephen’s are meant to be very good!
Szechenyi Chain Bridge
Next take a stroll to the Szechenyi Chain Bridge crossing from the Pest side of the river to the Buda side (hence the city’s name Budapest). This is the most picturesque bridge in the city and definitely one of the most instagrammable spots in Budapest, if not in Europe and provides many a good photo opportunity.
Location: Budapest, Széchenyi Lánchíd, 1051
Castle Garden Bazaar
As you get over to the Buda side of the city, hang a left and make your way to the Castle Gardens Bazaar, also known as the Varkert Bazar.
Now an exhibition space, surrounded by beautiful gardens and a park, the Castle Garden Bazaar was originally built in the late 1800s. Suffering huge damage in World War II, the arcade was due to be demolished until it was renovated in 2014.
Interestingly the Bazaar and Royal Gardens, along with the Royal Palace and Danube riverbanks, are a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s also the best way to reach your next location, the Royal Palace, as it’s accessible by escalator from the Castle Garden Bazaar.
Location: Budapest, Ybl Miklós tér 2-6, 1013
Open: 10.00am to midnight daily
Top Tip: If you’re not the keenest on walking and want to skip something out, then maybe look to take the Funicular from Adam Clark Square up to Buda Castle Hill. This old-style funicular is a unique way of getting up the hill – something we have taken and enjoyed.
Buda Castle (Royal Palace)
Known as both the Royal Palace and the Royal Castle, Buda Castle is one the city’s most famous landmarks and an absolute must visit on a trip to Budapest.
The castle has been home to the Hungarian Kings since the 13th century, but it wasn’t until the mid-1750s that the huge palace complex was built.
Location: Budapest, Szent György tér 2, 1014
Open: Courtyards open 24/7
Note: Buda Castle is home to both the Budapesti Történeti Múzeum (Budapest History Museum) and the Hungarian National Gallery. If you are able to make the time and are as quick as us to go through galleries and museums then you may be able to add these into your 2 days in Budapest, otherwise maybe good to include these on your next visit to the city.
These museums are open from 10.00am to 6.00pm most of the year but closed on Mondays!
Following your visit to explore the delights of Buda Castle, continue your walk to the Castle Quarter or Castle District, where there are some other beautiful buildings to discover.
Some of the places to add to your list include Holy Trinity Square, Matthias Church, the Labyrinth, Vienna Gate and Fisherman’s Bastion.
Holy Trinity Square
Location: Budapest, Szentháromság u., 1014
Location: Budapest, Szentháromság tér 2, 1014
Open: Mon – Fri 9.00am to 5.00pm, Sun 1.00pm to 5.00pm
Location: Budapest, Úri u. 9, 1014
Open: Daily from 10.00am to 7.00pm
Location: Budapest, Bécsikapu tér, 1014
So-called because it looks out over a city suburb that used to house its fishermen, the Fisherman’s Bastion is a beautiful lookout point, offering a panoramic view over Budapest. The balconies are actually entirely free to visit and only a trip up the turrets attract a fee, so definitely a stop for the more budget-conscious!
Location: Budapest, Szentháromság tér, 1014
Open: Daily from 9.00am to 11.00pm
We were quite happy to wander around the city and do this walk ourselves. We use the brilliant Map.Me app, with it’s handy offline maps. It’s one of the must-have apps for travel in Europe.
However, if you’re keen to look into a guided tour, why not check out this Budapest city walking tour, which has great reviews?
Another tour that we’d recommend is the Jewish Quarter guided tour or if you’re looking for something really unique, why not try out the Trabant Budapest city tour.
Hungarian National Museum
So, depending on how quickly you do the walking tour around all those major Budapest landmarks, and are looking for something else to do in the afternoon of your itinerary, then we’d highly recommend that you head to the Hungarian National Museum for a couple of hours.
The museum, founded in the early 1800s, is home to a wonderful collection that takes you through a journey on the history, art and archaeology of Hungary. There are 7 permanent exhibitions that will give you a great understanding of how Hungary has been shaped, so an ideal way to learn more about the history of the region.
You’ll probably want to allow yourself at least a couple of hours at the museum to saunter the halls.
Location: Budapest, Múzeum krt. 14-16, 1088
Open: Mon – closed! Tues – Sun, 10.00am to 6.00pm
Day 2 in Budapest
After quite the busy walking day on Day 1 of your Budapest itinerary, we’ve looked to keep the second day a little lighter – with some time for wonderful relaxation thrown into the mix. Of course, a few of the activities that we have suggested are outdoors, so if the weather isn’t on your side, check out some of the bonus activities mentioned below that can be substituted into your Budapest itinerary.
First up, head to the most visited landmark in Budapest: Heroes Square. We’d recommend that you get there by at least walking along the beautiful Andrassy Avenue. The road, with its wonderful townhouses, are another UNESCO World Heritage site.
The public square was laid out in 1896 to mark the thousandth anniversary of Hungary. The most important aspects of the square are the iconic statue the Seven chieftains of the Magyars and the Memorial Stone of Heroes, which is often called the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Hősök Tere, as it’s known in Hungary, is best visited first thing in the morning, if you’re trying to get a shot with few people – but as one of the most visited attractions – the space can become pretty busy.
It’s easily located next to the City Park and is flanked by the Museum of Fine Arts and the Hall of Art, if you’re keen for a bit of culture.
Top tip: We’d suggest visiting twice – once during the day, but also during the evening to see it lit up at night as it’s a beautiful spot come night-time.
Location: Budapest, Hősök tere, 1146
Set behind Heroes Square, the city park is another must-visit spot in Budapest. This 302 acre public parks is one of the oldest in the world (if not the oldest). And the park is a really relaxing space to wander around at a leisurely pace.
Location: Budapest, Kós Károly stny., 1146
Set within the city park are two of our favourite buildings. Firstly, Vajdahunyad Castle which was constructed in 1896 as part of Hungary’s Millennial Exhibition to mark the 1,000 years of the country.
This fascinating building was designed to replicate a number of iconic buildings from across Hungary, creating a really unique building.
It’s currently home to the Museum of Hungarian Agriculture, so not something we’ve actually been to before. If you have been, let us know in the comments below whether you think it’s worth being part of this Budapest itinerary?
However, what we would recommend is visiting the lake by the castle, where you can row boats in the warmer months, or even more fun, try out some ice skating in winter on the City Park Ice Rink.
Location: Budapest, Vajdahunyad stny., 1146
Open: 10.00am to 5.00pm daily
Széchenyi Thermal Baths
And now onto the other of our beloved buildings in Budapest, and actually our number one must do activity when in the city: the Szechenyi Thermal Baths. You’ve probably seen the photos on Instagram and they are true to life: these are the perfect place to unwind and soak in the Budapest sun (rain or snow!).
Boasting 18 different pools, all with the softest, almost medicinal hot spring water, the complex also has 10 saunas and heaps of options for massages or facials. We even love it in winter, keeping toasty warm in the water and then racing across the icy tiles in your towel!
A must-visit on your 2 days in Budapest itinerary, and between the baths and the ice rink we believe that the city is one of the best winter destinations in Europe.
The cost to enter the baths is 6,800 Hungarian Florints (HUF) a little more at the weekend (20.80 USD/17.00 GBP).
Location: Budapest, Állatkerti krt. 9-11, 1146
Opening hours: Daily from 6.00am to 10.00pm
Budapest 2 day itinerary map
How to get around Budapest
You might have been able to tell by our Budapest itinerary that stomping the city streets is our favourite way to get around the city. You’ll find great little cafes, magnificent buildings and cute little stores that you won’t find stuck inside another mode of transport.
And surprisingly, Budapest is actually relatively walkable for a major European city, so if the weather is on your side, then don’t shy away from dusting off those comfy shoes!
Probably the most interesting way to get around the city, is to jump on the vast tram network that Budapest offers. Slightly more difficult to use than the metro, but let’ be honest, not by a lot, pick up a map and you’ll easily make your way around the city.
Alternatively, the Budapest Metro (underground) is a great way to get around the city. It has four main lines that connect most of the city’s key areas and attractions.
If you’ve used any metro or subway in other cities, then this will be an easy way for you to navigate Budapest.
The last resort for us as we’re not really huge fans of using taxis unless we have to, you could always hail one of the taxis to take you around town.
Although make sure that you ask for the meter to be used. We have heard stories of people getting ripped off in Budapest taxis.
Note: As of writing this article there is no Uber, but an alternative is to look at using Bolt (previously named Taxify) as a solution.
We love it when you find absolute gems that are useful and save you money, and the Budapest Card is one of those!
You can purchase a 1 day through to 5 day pass, so over a weekend the 48 hour pass option is perfect. And for that you’ll get unlimited travel on public transport, free entry to many of the top museums, discounts at baths, other museums etc… so really is well worth it.
Getting to Budapest
If you’re travelling from most places in Europe, then there are really great low-cost airline options. Check out the latest options and prices here.
If you’re already in Vienna, Austria or Bratislava, Slovakia then you can easily take the train to Budapest (or drive if you want), the journey on train from these cities is only around 3 hours.
Which actually makes them both great places to explore as day trips or as part of a longer holiday from Budapest.
Getting from Budapest Airport into town
The Budapest Airport, Liszt Ferenc International Airport, is about 24 km east of the city and will take you around 40 minutes to reach the city centre. Below are a couple of the easiest ways to get into the city once you’ve landed:
As above, in getting around the city, we have heard stories of people getting ripped off on taxi rides, and unsurprisingly the airport, with tourists waiting to be their next victim, is one spot you can guarantee they’ll be waiting.
Our advice? Get the Bolt app downloaded on your phone – and it’ll be similar to booking an Uber.
Or if you’re against that, make sure you go to the official taxi ranks in front of the terminals. The journey should cost around 9,000 – 10,000 HUF (27.50 – 30.50 USD/22.50 – 25.00 GBP).
Alternatively, if you want to save a bit of money, take the 100E bus line that goes into the city centre (dropping you at Deak Square), where you can jump onto the city’s metro. The cost of the ticket into town is 900 HUF (2.75 USD/2.25 GBP).
Bonus things to add to your Budapest itinerary
State Opera House
We had to put this right at the top of the bonus things to do in Budapest list, as it’s a phenomenal building to visit on its own.
If you’re looking to do something a bit different, why not check out what is on at the Budapest Opera House while you are in town and try and get tickets? It’s surprisingly affordable and although opera isn’t our thing, a brilliant experience. Plus, it’s located next to one of our favourite restaurants in the city, Callas Café.
If you’re interested in tickets or seeing what’s on, here is the Hungarian State Opera website.
Location: Budapest, Andrássy út 22, 1061
Hungarian National Gallery
Depending on whether you have the time, you could add in a stop on Day 1 of your Budapest itinerary at the Hungarian National Gallery, while visiting the Buda Castle.
The national art museum comprises the best collection of Hungarian artists, so if you’re into our art, this is definitely something to add to your trip plans. We love the sculptures in the gallery.
Location: (in Buda Castle) Budapest, Szent György tér 2, 1014
Open: Tues – Sun, 10.00am to 6.00pm – closed on Mondays.
Budapest Sightseeing Bus
A bit of an alternative to the walking tour on the morning of the first day of our Budapest itinerary, if the weather isn’t so great, or you’re not so keen on walking, then taking the sightseeing bus is a great alternative.
Central Market Hall
One of the most vibrant places in the city, and a real way of life is the Grand Central Market Hall since it opened in the late 1800s.
If you’re into your shopping, you’ll find everything from local wines, food and souvenirs to tickle your fancy over the three floors of this super impressive building. It’s surprisingly also a great thing to do in Budapest with kids!
If you have the time, it’s well worth a quick visit as part of your Budapest walking tour, and also a great place to pick up some snacks to give you some energy!
Location: Budapest, Vámház krt. 1-3, 1093
Open: Mon – Fri 6.00am to 6.00pm, Sat 6.00am to 3.00pm, Sun closed.
Museum of Fine Arts
Located in Heroes Square and so a natural addition to your day 2 itinerary, is the Budapest Museum of Fine Arts.
Another potential gallery to add in if you’re a massive art fan or if there’s not the greatest weather. This museum concentrates on artworks by international artists rather than Hungarian. Although we haven’t been to this one, we’ve heard that the Ancient Egyptian collection is worth a visit. Meaning we’ve added it to our list for the next time we’re in the city.
Location: Budapest, Dózsa György út 41, 1146
Open: Tues – Sun 10.00am to 6.00pm, Mondays – closed.
On the Buda side of the city, Gellert Hill offers some great views over the Danube and back into the capital city.
What’s more, if you want to explore some of the other famous baths in the city, the Gellert Thermals Baths are also a great alternative to Szechenyi Thermal Baths.
Location: Gellért-hegy, Budapest, 1016
As the name suggests, the Children’s Railway is a train staffed by kids! Of course, there are some adults actually driving the train itself, but the youngsters do everything from selling tickets to guarding the boundaries. It’s a novel outing and showcases the gorgeous Buda hills. While you’re there, you could also take the ‘Libegő’ (chairlift) from Jano Hill.
Danube River Cruise
The Danube is one of the most impressive rivers in Europe, and the perfect way to get acquainted with the city of Budapest, and surprisingly great for family river cruises.
So, if you’re not that keen on walking, or trying out the sightseeing bus, then another alternative could be to head off on a River Cruise, to take in all the city sights from the water.
Dohány Street Synagogue
If you’re interested in religion, make a turn at the Dohány Street Synagogue, also known as the Great Synagogue. Beyond a breath taking building it’s got a huge claim to fame: it’s the second largest synagogue in the world!
Built back in 1854 this synagogue seats over 3,000 people and has a lot of Jewish history within it’s halls. A tour guide is included with your admission, so you’ll definitely learn a lot on this visit.
Location: Dohány u. 2, Budapest, 1074
Where to Stay in Budapest
The great news is that when it comes to great accommodation options in Budapest you are really spoilt for choice… you’ll get luxury hotels at amazing rates. Here are a few of our favourite places:
Corinthia – Previously the Royal Hotel, this hotel is honestly fit for royalty! A beautifully renovated hotel in the city centre, we would go so far as to say this is our favourite place to stay in Budapest.
New York Residence – we like these 5 star apartments for their styling, location and ease, since they offer full kitchens but you still get breakfast included and can visit the New York Palace Hotel for meals. At the upper end of ‘mid range’, but still affordable.
Magazine Hotel – a really minimalist, yet cool boutique hotel. The rooms are spacious for the price, plus the residence is well-located near St Stephen’s Basilica.
When to go to Budapest
Funny enough this isn’t actually the easiest of questions to answer. Except, that we have been to Budapest in all seasons, and loved each visit. You can get rain in summer, and beautiful crisp blue skies in winter (although it is a little cold).
Of course Budapest, like most European cities, is buzzing in summer. So this would be the best time to visit, although we’d recommend against August, it does get pretty hot and with European summer school holidays, can be very busy.
Potentially the best time to go is during the ‘shoulder’ seasons from March to May (especially May) or late September to early November. You’ll find mild weather and the city won’t be thronged with other tourists.
We also love the feel of Budapest in winter, when it really comes to life with Christmas markets, ice skating in the City Park and there’s nothing like a Budapest Thermal Bath when it’s snowing!
Where to eat in Budapest
Budapest is bustling with delicious eateries, ‘ruin bars’ like Szimpla Kert perfect for a pub crawl and cafes ideal for a coffee. Here are a few of our favourite places to eat in the city:
A lovely homely restaurant in downtown Budapest, this is one of our most beloved spots to eat. It offers traditional Hungarian fare, and the must-have is the vegetable stew, főzelék. It’s a busy hotspot so make sure you book beforehand.
The perfect option if you’ve visited the Opera House (which you should!), for dinner. Think Hungarian food with an international twist. Callas Cafe is very upmarket (and a little pricey) but well worth it not just for the meal, but the impeccable service and the classical band playing in the salon.
New York Café
A feast for the eyes and the palate, the New York Café has many years of history, originally the most beautiful coffee house in the city and the site of numerous newspaper operations. This is one of the best breakfast and brunch places in all of Budapest!
Need a vegan option while gallivanting around Budapest? One of the best vegan restaurants in Budapest must be Great Bistro. Plus, it’s a great breakfast spot so the perfect place to kick off a day in the city!
Spoon on the Danube
Moored near the Chain Bridge, Spoon is a breath-taking floating restaurant. Well, actually it has three restaurants, five bars and two terraces! It has the best of everything – international fare, Asian fusion, Hungarian specialties – and has a huge wine selection to choose from.
Budapest Travel Tips
|Local Time||UTC +1 hour|
|Tipping Etiquette||Appreciated but not mandatory. For restaurants, tip between 10-15% (some restaurants already have a 12.5% service charge), for taxis about 5-10% of the fare|
|Simple phrases||Szia (see-yaw) means hello and goodbye; Egészségedre (Ag-esh-sheg-ad-reh) means cheers – clink your glass and enjoy!|
What to pack for Budapest
Well depending on what time of year you are visiting, it’s either spring, summer, autumn or winter wear! Definitely check the weather for whether you need to take an umbrella.
And don’t forget to pack your swimming costumes whenever you visit! A trip to the baths is essential.
Lastly, make sure that you have a decent travel adapter that has a two pin ‘European style’ plug.
If you have any other advice to add for our Budapest Itinerary that you could do in 2 days, drop us a note in the comments below or we’d love to hear from you so send us a mail.
Also, if you’re keen to stay in Budapest a little longer, we love this 4 day Budapest itinerary, to extend your trip.
What camera equipment and other gear do we use?
We’re living proof that you don’t need the most expensive gear to travel the world and take good photos. Here are some of our must have items that make it into the packing list for all our travels.
- Main Camera: Panasonic Lumix FZ1000
- Drone: DJI Mavic Air – Fly More Combo
- GoPro: Hero 7 Black
- GoPro Dive Case: Go Pro Housing
- GoPro Case: Smatree GoPro Carry Case – Small
- Packing Cubes: Eagle Creek Packing case
- Backpack: Osprey Farpoint 70
- Powerbank: Anker Powercore
- Phone: Xiaomi Mi 9
- Hard drive: Transcend Slim Storejet 2TB
- Laptop: Lenovo IdeaPad 720s
- Headphones: Bose Quiet Comfort 35
- Wifi Hotspot: GlocalMe G4
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