Budapest is the capital city of Hungary. It is the most populous city in Hungary and one of the largest cities in the European Union. Budapest is a beautiful city with amazing architecture and delicious cuisine. Budapest has a city vibe, with an old-world charm that is hard to resist. Continue reading to find out how we explored the Hungarian Capital city of Budapest in 2 days – this is your perfect 2 day Budapest Itinerary covering historical sites, city life, and the amazing dinner cruise.
When I think of Budapest, the picturesque River Danube comes to mind. And rightly so, the entire city gets its character and personality from this River, dividing the city to Buda and Pest.
2 Day Budapest Itinerary: What to do in Budapest in 2 days
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When we arrived in the city of Budapest, it was raining. On our first day of arrival, we checked into our hotel in the Pest area – Ibis Style Hotel. Prices for accommodation and food are cheaper in Pest area as compared to Buda.
How to get to Budapest Hungary? Arriving in Budapest
Budapest is served by Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport (BUD). Budapest airport is about 16 kilometers away from the city centre. There are many ways to reach the city centre from Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport.
- Airport Taxi – Airport taxis (Fö Taxi) will cost around 30-35 euros and it takes 35 minutes to arrive at the city centre
- Or book a minivan shuttle for almost half the price. Book your airport transfer here
- Public Transport – Buses also operate from the airport to the city centre, every 30 minutes and takes about 35- 45 minutes. You will be taking the bus and exchange to a metro station to arrive at the city centre (Bus 100E, get down at Kobanya-Kispest railway station, then take the Metro line 3 to reach the city center)
If you are not flying to Budapest, and are driving instead, you can get into a car and reach Budapest from Vienna, Austria in 2+ hours!
Things to pack for 2 days in Budapest
Here are some of the packing items that you MUST take to Budapest for a great trip.
- Rain Jacket – Rains are common in Budapest. Carry a waterproof jacket. > Buy a lightweight jacket for HER and HIM here.
- Comfortable Walking shoes – Carry comfortable walking shoes as you explore the city’s highlights. > Buy cute walking shoe
- Universal adapter– Buy your adapter here to charge electronics overseas
- Converter – If you are carrying hairdryers and shavers, you might need a voltage converter. > Buy yours here
- Anti-theft day pack or handbag – A cut-proof day-pack or purse to carry your essentials.> Buy here click for the backpack AND here for the handbag.
SHOP TRAVEL GEAR FOR EUROPE
MIRROR-LESS CAMERA // CLEAR POUCH // ANTI THEFT BACKPACK // SUN-GLASS // UNIVERSAL ADAPTER // EYE MASK // PASSPORT HOLDER // WALKING SHOE // HEADPHONES // WATERPROOF JACKET (TRENCH COAT) // CHARGING CABLES // PACKING CUBES // ANTI THEFT PURSE // NECK PILLOW
Quick tip for sightseeing in Budapest: If you are planning to use public transit extensively during your stay in Budapest, then consider purchasing the Budapest Card, which offers FREE transit rides including free access to 17 museums and discounts to many sightseeing attractions. Definitely a cost saver. Get your Budapest Pass here
Day 1 of 2 days in Budapest Itinerary – Hungarian Parliament, Dohány Street Synagogue, Ruin Bars, Heroes Square, Museum of Fine Arts, Széchenyi Thermal Bath, New York Café
On our first day of arrival in Budapest, we explored some of their famous landmarks. We started with the best – the stunning Hungarian Parliament.
The Hungarian Parliament is not only an iconic landmark but it is also one of the most photographed buildings in Budapest. It is built in classic Gothic style. The Parliament attracts millions of tourists to its complex, especially during springtime and late evenings.
You can tour the Hungarian Parliament building and learn about their history and enjoy the interiors. The adult entry tickets start at 8 Euros.
There are tons of options for tours, with a guide, pick up and drop off services included. You can easily spend 2-3 hours at the Parliament building.
We highly recommend this tour to the Hungarian Parliament that includes a hotel pick up so that you can start exploring right away. Book the tour here
Located close to the Parliament building, is the Dohány Street Synagogue. Also called the Great Synagogue (or Tabakgasse Synagogue) is the largest Jewish house of worship in the world (the other one is in New York City). Built in the mid 19th century (1859), the synagogue has both Romantic and Moorish architectural elements.
There is a Holocaust Tree of Life Memorial on the north side of the Synagogue, built over the mass graves of those murdered by the Nazis. The synagogue also has a Jewish museum inside.
The Jewish quarter houses the quirkiest side of Budapest. Have you heard about ruin bars? A few years ago, a group opened up a bar in one of the dilapidated buildings in the 7th district in Budapest and started selling cheap drinks. Slowly more and more ruin bars started to crop up everywhere.
Eventually, some of them were closed due to safety concerns and stayed lived on. Szimpla Kert was the first ruin bar in Budapest and it continues its legacy even today.
If you are looking for a walking tour to explore the Jewish synagogues and taste some coffee or a drink at the ruin bars, then check out this tour.
This 3 hour guided tour covers the Jewish quarters with a historian, a drink at the ruin bars, and an awesome street art exploration. Book your walking tour here
Next, we explored the Heroes Square in the heart of Budapest. Heroes Square or Hősök tere is one of the major squares in Budapest and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is known for its iconic statue complex featuring the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars and other important leaders.
The color of the columns and the green statues shine even brighter with the raindrops, adding a melancholic charm to the square’s history. This complex also hosts the Museum of Fine Arts and the Műcsarnok. Visiting the Square is absolutely free.
This square has witnessed many political rallies and movements in Hungary. The location of this monument is also unique – it is a mix of a Communist neighborhood and a new edgy city. Take a walk around the square, look at the beautiful sculptures and figures.
If you have some more time, you can surely visit the Museum of Fine Arts and Palace of Arts located by the Heroes Square. The buildings are beautiful to look at.
From the Heroes Square, head to the Széchenyi Medicinal Bath, which is the largest medicinal bath in Europe (and located just a few minutes away).
Enjoying a relaxing time at the Széchenyi Thermal Bath is one of the must-do items in Budapest. These baths have medicinal properties, other than being of relaxation and entertainment value. They promote health and wellness.
The price of the entrance fee to the thermal bath is so affordable as compared to the Blue Lagoon in Iceland (shhh). Get your 1 day pass to the Széchenyi thermal bath here
Budapest has tons of options for thermal baths. Other notable baths include – Gellért Baths, Király Baths, Lukacs Baths, Rudas Baths.
From here, we drove over the river Danube. As you drive across the river, you will notice that Budapest has beautiful bridges. Each bridge has their long history and legacy.
There are about fourteen bridges built over the river Danube in Budapest, connecting Buda with Pest. Of them, seven are the most notable – Szechenyi Chain Bridge, Elizabeth Bridge, Margaret Bridge, Arpad Bridge, Liberty Bridge, Petofi Bridge, Racokzi Bridge. Széchenyi Chain Bridge is the oldest of them all.
On Danube banks, there is a shoe memorial called the Shoes on the Danube. The history of this memorial site can be traced back to 1944-45 when the Arrow Cross military shot Budapest Jews.
Years later, film director Can Togay and the sculptor, Gyula Pauer built this memorial consisting of 60 pairs of shoes, in exact size and shape/style, and made out of iron. If you have additional time on your hands it is worth taking a stroll at the Danube banks. The memorial is free to see.
As mentioned Budapest is made up of Buda and Pest. All of the major historical sites are located in Buda, across the Danube. Pest, on the other hand, is cheaper in terms of living expenses. It has a lot of residential buildings.
From Pest, you can see wonderful buildings in the faraway land. That faraway land is the Gellert Hill. Gellert Hill is a high hill overlooking the Danube in Budapest. It is named after Saint Gerard who was thrown to death from the hill.
From the Pest area, you can see the Liberty Monument – this monument was built to honor the lives and sacrifices of the people for fought for Hungary’s freedom. Hungarians were the prime revolutionaries who wanted to break away from the Socialist umbrella.
The Liberty monument was first erected in 1947 in remembrance of the Soviet liberation of Hungary from Nazis. This monument has undergone many changes, including its inscription, which has been altered to reflect the freedom from Communism. And currently, this is what it says, “To the memory of those all who sacrificed their lives for the independence, freedom, and prosperity of Hungary”.
Its location upon Gellért Hill makes it a prominent feature of Budapest’s cityscape (and also gives great photography options). The entrance to the monument is free.
As we explored Pest, we decided to spend some time in the world’s best cafe – New York Cafe. We decided to spend the evening there as it started to rain outside. Rain makes this city even more beautiful and serene. New York Palace Cafe is considered one of the world’s beautiful cafes. Check out the interiors to know why.
New York Café was built in the late 19th century. It was built in Renaissance style and has a hotel included in its vicinity (the hotel is called Boscolo Budapest Hotel). The New York Café was very popular among writers and influential people of the early 20th century.
The cafe was ignored during the 2nd World War. Once the war ended, the cafe was used as a sporting goods store and later was renovated and restored to its original splendor. Since 1954, the cafe has remained open.
We spent a few hours in this beautiful cafe, with cappuccino and cookies. We ordered SacherTorte (sweet) and it tasted okay. The menu has multicultural cuisines, including Hungarian classics like Beef Goulash, Chicken- Paprikash, Wiener Schnitzel. The items on the menu were expensive. (Cappuccino was about 8 Euros). We went in there for the cafe experience, not for the food. The cappuccino was good, nevertheless.
Day 2 of 2 Days in Budapest Itinerary – St Stephen’s Basilica, Buda Castle, Budapest History Museum, Fisherman Bastion, Central Market, Bridges of Budapest
Our second day in Budapest was filled with some more exploration (and some more rain). We did a quick stop at the St Stephen’s Basilica before making our way to the historic Buda Castle District.
St. Stephen’s Basilica is a Roman Catholic basilica, which is named in honor of Stephen who was the first King of Hungary. The basilica was once one of the largest churches in Hungary. At one point, it was also a theatre. Today, it’s still the third-largest church in Hungary and often hosts music recitals. The basilica is a MUST visit during Christmas.
From the St Stephen’s Basilica, lets head to the Buda Castle district.
The central area, in Budapest, along the Danube River is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and includes important sites like the Buda Castle, Fisherman’s Bastion, Gresham Palace, Széchenyi Chain Bridge, Matthias Church, Liberty Statue and the Hungarian Parliament.
When we reached the Buda Castle complex, St Matthias Church welcomed us. Built in Romanesque style in 1015, St Matthias Church is a roman catholic church. With the rain, fog, and “peek-a-boo” sun-rays, the diamond pattern roof tiles and the gargoyles laden spires sparkled beautifully.
A few steps away and we were at the Fisherman’s Bastion. The towers in the Fisherman’s Bastion refer to the seven Magyar tribes of Hungary. From these towers and the terrace you can get a spectacular view of Danube, Margaret Island, Pest to the east and the Gellért Hill, and of course the stunning Hungarian Parliament.
Many of the balconies and 7 towers are free to enter, while the upper towers have a small entry fee.
The easiest way to get to the free parts of the Fisherman’s Bastion is from the Matthias Church. Just walk to the balconies of the Halaszbastya to enjoy a superb view.
(Tip: You can enter all the areas and towers of the Fisherman’s Bastion for FREE between October 15 and March 15)
At last the Buda Castle. It is the historical castle and palace complex of the Hungarian kings. A massive Baroque palace, this site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are funicular options (Castle Hill funicular) available to reach the top of the Buda Castle.
The Buda Castle is often referred to as the Royal Palace or the Royal Castle, as it was the main seat of administration for Hungarian kings. The first castle was built in the 13th century and since then it had undergone many changes, uncertainties, and renovations. In the 18th century, Maria Theresia landed the castle to nuns and during World War II, the castle was almost lost, only to be recovered later.
The castle now houses 2 important museums, which speaks volumes of the Hungarian history of over 2000 years and they are located within the Buda Castle. They are – the Hungarian National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum.
The Hungarian National Gallery is a national art museum.
The Budapest History Museum, on the other hand, highlights the stories, exhibitions, and life in Hungary over the centuries.
Entry to the Budapest history museum is free with a Budapest Card. Without the card, you pay HUF 2400 (adult entrance fee). They are open Tuesday-Sunday, from 10 am to 6 pm. During the winter season (Nov 1 – Feb 28), they operate on a limited schedule from Tuesday-Sunday – 10 am to 4 pm.
To learn more about the Buda Castle District, take a guided tour with a historian. Book your tour here.
Other than the historical UNESCO structures, there are souvenirs shops and restaurants in the Castle District.
From Buda Castle, we started for the centrum for souvenir shopping. Vasarcsarnok: Central Market Hall is a vibrant shopping area. Shop for paprika, embroidered knickknacks, crystals. You can shop for souvenirs for 1-10 Euros.
After some shopping, we took a quick stroll around the central area. Rains had colored the city with a refreshing luster. We were mesmerized at the stunning bridges on one hand and on the other, were the lovely road-side cafe and historical market-places.
For lunch, we stepped into a restaurant called – Casablanca and tried their lunch specials. We tried the Goulash soup. It was good and the menu prices were decently priced.
If you prefer to take a food tour in Budapest, consider doing that at the Great Market Place to savor and try tons of delicacies. Here is a culinary tour.
An Evening to Remember – Danube River Cruise Budapest
Our evening in Budapest was going to be spectacular. We had booked a dinner cruise on the Danube River, isn‘t it amazing and romantic?
There are lots of options to choose from when selecting a cruise on the Danube. Dinner cruises are for 2.50 hours. The cost of dinner cruises starts at 55 Euros or about 70 USD.
We enjoyed a 3-course meal including a few glasses of Hungarian Tokaji wine. We stepped outside to the dock and it was amazing. The city of Budapest was lit beautifully. All the bridges were sparkling with lights. Our eyes were fixed on the Budapest Parliament – it was gorgeous!
Other Sights and Activities to do in Budapest
- Opera House: The Hungarian State Opera House is one of the most beautiful buildings in Budapest. Its facade is decorated with statues of muses and great opera artists like Puccini, Mozart, and Verdi. The Opera House conducts three tours daily.
Best Places to Stay in 2 day Budapest Itinerary
Budapest is a beautiful city. The river Danube divides the city to Buda and Pest. Hotels in the Pest area are slightly cheaper than the ones in the Buda area. Room prices range from 52 Euros and above. Most Downtown hotels start at 127 Euros+. Here is a list of hotels that we recommend for your Budapest 2 day itinerary –
Budget to Mid Range Hotels in Budapest
- Ibis Styles Budapest Hotel – This hotel is located in the Pest area. We stayed in this hotel and had an amazing stay.
- New hotel rooms, clean and pretty (like Mario images)
- Located very close to the New York Cafe
- They have a restaurant, a souvenir store, and a bar
- Very pocket friendly!
- Book your stay here
- Casati Budapest Hotel Superior – Located in an 18th-century building, this adults-only hotel is a stunning hotel.
- This hotel has won, the “Hotel of the year award” in a three-star hotel category
- Landmarks like the State Opera, Saint Stephens Basilica are located nearby
- Book your stay here
Mid to Luxury Range Hotels in Budapest
- Boutique Hotel Victoria Budapest – Located in the old historic town of Budapest (Buda area), this hotel offers great views of the Buda Castle and the Danube River
- Stay here for amazing views. The hotel also offers spa and sauna services
- Located very close to most of the tourists’ areas like – Hungarian Parliament, Chain Bridge, Danube River, Matthias Church
- The hotel is rated as one of the best in Budapest. The hotel also offers complimentary tea in their lovely restaurant
- Book your stay at the Boutique Hotel Victoria
- Hilton Budapest – This Hilton hotel is located in an amazing area – in the heart of UNESCO world heritage site
- Located 15 minutes from the centre of Pest, with easy access to most tourist areas including Buda Castle
- In their ICON restaurant, you can savor Hungarian cuisines, whilst enjoying breathtaking views
- Book your stay here Hilton Budapest
- Corinthia Hotel Budapest – Corinthia Hotel is a 5 star rated hotel in Budapest. The hotel building is very stunning.
- The hotel has a spa and a multi-cuisine restaurant
- Best value for money – by staying in the heart of the city
- Book this hotel today
Budapest Travel Tips
Travel Documents and Visa for Budapest Hungary
Hungary belongs to the Schengen zone in Europe, which means that if you require a travel visa to Europe and it is a Schengen visa, the same visa is sufficient to enter the country. Typically citizens of India, Nepal, Russia, South Africa, etc require a Schengen Visa.
Schengen visa is not a visa on arrival and should be applied from your country of residence in advance. Allow up to 2 weeks of processing time for Schengen visas. Learn all about Schengen visa application
European Union citizens need not apply for any visa. Citizens of the USA and Canada can travel visa-free for up to 90 days in Hungary and other Schengen zone countries. After 2021, they will have to apply for ETIAS (which is a travel authorization) prior to arriving in a Schengen country.
Travel Insurance for Hungary
Always, always insure your trip against cancellations, lost or delayed baggage or any medical emergencies. This is a requirement for Schengen Visa applications (an insurance coverage via your credit card may not work for visa application). Get your insurance quotes below
Currency and credit cards
The official currency is the Hungarian Forint (HUF). Euros are widely accepted. (1 EURO = 300 HUF approx). Please keep cash with yourself at all times. Most shops and restaurants don’t have card machines.
When is the best time to visit Budapest?
We visited Budapest in Spring (mid-March). Spring is a great time to visit. It does rain though, but tourist places are less crowded (and touristy things a little less expensive).
Summer is festival season and busy. But May and June are notorious for heavy showers and downpours, often without warning.
Autumn is beautiful, just like Spring. Rains are less, unlike the summer months. And as its shoulder season, you will experience fewer crowds.
Winter is okay and not very severe, but certain tourist attractions may be closed during this time. Christmas in Budapest is beautiful though. There are Christmas markets set up on St Stephen’s square, light shows at the basilica and other decorations brighten up the city. River Danube gears up for winter/holiday season glow. The city park also gets ready for ice skates!
Souvenir Ideas: What to buy in Budapest?
Embroidered items (table cloth, mats, mittens, you name it), Crystals, Paprika, Lace Items, Rubiks Cube, Painted Wood Souvenirs (pencils, toys), Hair Accessories.
What to eat in Budapest Travel Guide
Budapest is gastronomic heaven. I was completely in LOVE with the traditional Hungarian soup – Goulash Soup (Beef Stew). I had tried it in different restaurants in Budapest and all tasted slightly different. The soup was not as thick (base) as the one I had in Prague. But the spices definitely had a good KICK to it.
Here are some foods to try in Budapest Budapest delicacies: Goulash Soup (Beef Stew), Chicken paprikash (Chicken Paprika), Töltött káposzta (Stuffed cabbage), Lángos (fried bread dough), Chimney cake (Transylvanian specialty, famous as Hungary’s oldest pastry), Winter salami.
We hope you found our post useful in planning your 2 days Budapest Itinerary! Safe Travels.
Additional Resources for Europe Travel
- Europe 101 – Our introductory guide to planning a trip to Europe.
- European Bucket list – Epic 101 Europe travel bucket list ideas
- Europe Itinerary Samples – 27 itinerary samples to plan your sightseeing in one or multiple destinations in Europe.
- Visiting Europe in winter – Here are some of the best traveler picks.
- Warm places in Europe? – Here are the warmest places to visit in Europe from December through March.
- Europe flight cancellation – Read about the process and steps for reimbursement for Europe flight delays and cancellations.
- Shoes for Europe (for her): Best walking shoes for women for Europe
- Boots for European winter (Female edition): Top boots to wear in European winters
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- Get more Itinerary Inspiration – 5 days in Munich Germany
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