Budapest is the capital city of Hungary. It is the most populous city of 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 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.
Budapest 2 day Itinerary: Places to see in Budapest in 2 days
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.
First day Budapest Itinerary – Heroes Square, Hungarian Parliament, Museum of Fine Arts, New York Cafe
On our first day of arrival in Budapest, we explored some of their iconic landmarks. We started at the Heroes Square in the heart of Budapest. Heroes Square or Hősök tere is one of the major squares in Budapest and also an 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. Visit to 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 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, 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.
One of the beautiful buildings in Budapest is their Parliament building – the Hungarian Parliament. It is an iconic landmark and one of the most photographed building in Budapest. The Parliament also attracts millions of tourists to its complex, especially during spring time and late evenings.
The Hungarian Parliament is built in Gothic style. You can tour the Parliament building and learn about their history and enjoy the interiors. The adult tickets start at 8 Euros. There are tons of options for tours, with a guide, pick up and drop off services included. Book your tour to the Hungarian Parliament here. You can easily spend 2-3 hours at the Parliament building.
If you do not want to spend at the Hungarian Parliament, book yourself spa treat at one of their royal thermal baths. You can spend a whole day, few hours or a entire weekend at the thermal baths. Here are some options
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 far away land. That faraway land is the Gellert Hill. Gellert Hill is 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 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). 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 Cafe is considered as one of the world’s beautiful cafes. Check out the interiors to know why.
New York Cafe 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). This cafe 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 in the menu were expensive. (Cappuccino was about 8 Euros). We went in there for the cafe experience, not for the food. Cappuccino was good, nevertheless.
Next Day Budapest Itinerary – Buda Castle, Fisherman Bastion, Central Market, Bridges of Budapest
Our second day in Budapest was filled with some more exploration (and some more rain). We started our day at the historic 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.
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 available to reach the top of the Buda Castle.
Other than the historical UNESCO structures, there are souvenirs shops and restaurants in the Castle District.
From the 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 lustre. 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.
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 start 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!
Read about our Danube Dinner Cruise Experience
Other Sights and Activities to do in Budapest
- Great Synagogue: Great Synagogue is the largest Jewish house of worship in the world (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.
- 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.
- Thermal Bath: There are tons of options for Baths in Budapest. The Széchenyi Medicinal Bath is the largest medicinal bath in Europe. Other notable baths include – Gellért Baths , Király Baths, Lukacs Baths, Rudas Baths. This is one of the must-do items in Budapest. (I am not a hot spring, bath type of person, but if you do like thermal baths – make sure you experience this in a royal way in Budapest). These baths have medicinal properties, other than being of relaxation and entertainment value.
Places to eat in Budapest
Food to Try: 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
Find out why you should visit Cafe Gerbeaud, Budapest 5 Reasons to Visit Cafe Gerbeaud
Best Places to Stay in Budapest
Budapest is a beautiful city. The river Danube divides the city to Buda and Pest. Hotels in the Pest area are slightly cheaper then 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 hotels that we recommend –
- 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, 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
- Other Budget hotels – Atlantic Hotel, Kings Hotel
- 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 complementary 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 savour Hungarian cuisines, whilst enjoying breathtaking views
- Book your stay here Hilton Budapest
- Corinthia Hotel Budapest – Corinthia Hotel is a 5 star rated hotel in hotel. 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
Search for more Budapest Hotels and Book here
Budapest Travel Tips
- Nearest Airport: Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport (BUD)
- Road Trip: Get into a car and reach Budapest from Vienna, Austria in 2+ hours
- Currency: 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 to Visit: I was in Budapest in Spring (mid March). Spring is a great time to visit. It does rain though, but tourists places are less crowded (and tourist-y things a little less expensive). Summer is festival season and busy. Autumn is beautiful, just like Spring. Winter is okay, but certain tourist attractions are closed during that season.
- 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
- Tips on planning your first trip to Europe
- If you require a Visa for flying to Europe, read my tips on Schengen visa application
- Get more Itinerary Inspiration – 2 days in Prague Czech Republic
- Get more Itinerary Inspiration – 2 days in Vienna Austria
- Get more Itinerary Inspiration – 5 days in Munich Germany
Last Update: December 02 2018
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