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One Day in Budapest Itinerary: See Budapest in a day

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One of the stunning European cities, Budapest has been attracting travelers for decades. The capital city of Hungary is laced with tons of history, UNESCO heritage sites, and ruin bars; it is also gastronomic heaven! Here’s the perfect one day in Budapest itinerary and how to make the most of your time!

One Day in Budapest Itinerary – Top Things to do in Budapest in a day

One day in Budapest
One day in Budapest Itinerary

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Our experience + using this travel guide

On our first trip to Budapest, we spent a few days exploring the iconic highlights and relishing their amazing cuisine. We spent a lot of time indoors due to the rainy weather in the spring, but we also enjoyed the walking tours under an umbrella. 

Explore the Hungarian Capital city of Budapest in 2 days - this is your perfect Budapest Itinerary covering historical sites, city life and a dinner cruise
Heroes Square

Then, we returned to Budapest a few years later as part of our Eurail pass adventure, experienced some of our favorite places, and added new ones to our itinerary. Spending about 4 days in Budapest is perfect for covering main tourist attractions, enjoying a relaxed river cruise, food tours, and more. 

We have crafted this guide based on our trips and have covered the essential planning tips followed by the itinerary stops and alternate sightseeing ideas. You can customize the itinerary by swapping the activities or skipping guided tours. We have also included a Google Maps link below that you can download on your phone and use as you go. 

Here is a snapshot of one day in Budapest itinerary

  • Arrive in Budapest (or kick start with breakfast in the city)
  • Hungarian Parliament tour
  • Danube River and Shoes on the Danube
  • Dohany Street Synagogue 
  • Buda Castle District 
  • Heroes Square and City Park
  • Széchenyi Thermal Bath Spa (or dinner cruise)

Sightseeing Map: Budapest one day itinerary 

Map of 1 day in Budapest itinerary
Click to view the full map to download

Budapest City Card – Get unlimited transit rides and entry to the Lukács Thermal Bath with this 24-hour Budapest card.

Arriving in Budapest 

We arrived in Budapest from Prague by road. It is quite easy to explore all the central European countries via road. Read about our 2-week itinerary to Central Europe.

If you fly to Budapest, you will arrive at the Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport (previously called the Budapest Ferihegy International Airport or Ferihegy).

Budapest at Night

You can get from Budapest Airport to the city center in several ways. The Budapest Airport shuttle will take you to the city in 30 minutes, costing around EUR 30-35 ($38-40 USD approx.). 

The train will get you in 35- 45 minutes, and you must pay EUR 3 (less than 4 USD) for a one-way trip. If you prefer an airport transfer, you can book one here

If you are in the city the night before, head to the prettiest New York Budapest Cafe for breakfast!

New York Cafe Explore the Hungarian Capital city of Budapest in 2 days - this is your perfect Budapest Itinerary covering historical sites, city life and a dinner cruise
New York Cafe

Hungarian Parliament (1 to 2 hours)

Start your day at Hungary’s finest and the most iconic monument – the Hungarian Parliament building. The Hungarian Parliament is a beautiful Gothic revival architecture building. As the name suggests, this is the seat of the Hungarian government.

Inside the Hungarian Parliament building, you will find two identical halls – one for governance (office) and the other for visitors. 

Explore the Hungarian Capital city of Budapest in 2 days - this is your perfect Budapest Itinerary covering historical sites, city life and a dinner cruise
Hungarian Parliament

If you take the guided tour, you will take the stairway to the visitor hall. The stairway is decorated with ornamental designs and is covered with frescoes on the ceiling. The Parliament building has 691 rooms.

The dome is 96 metres, making it one of the tallest buildings in Budapest, along with the St Stephens Basilica. The number 96 is important in Hungary as it marks the nation’s millennium in 1896, as well as the conquest of the Kingdom in 896. 

Interior of Stephen's Basilica in Budapest, Hungary
Interior of Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest, Hungary

Inside the building, you will see statues of Hungarian rulers, Transylvanian leaders, and other famous military figures.

Guided tours of 45 minutes to an hour are available to explore the parliament building interiors and learn about their history. Book your guided tour of the Hungarian Parliament here.

Danube River and Shoes On The Danube Memorial (1 hour)

After a tour and exploration of the Hungarian Parliament, head down to the river Danube banks. 

Hungarian Parliament View over the Danube

Not only the city of Budapest, but three other capital cities – Vienna, Bratislava, and Belgrade share the same historic river. It is the second-largest river in the European continent and flows through 10 countries!

Since immemorial, the River Danube has witnessed many demonstrations, trials, tribulations, and memorable stories.

Walking down the river banks, you will come across a memorial known as the Danube Shoe memorial or the Shoes on the Danube promenade. The history of this memorial site can be traced back to 1944-45 when the Arrow Cross military shot Budapest Jews.

Shoes on the Danube
Shoes on the Danube Bank is a memorial to honor the Jews who were massacred in Budapest during the Second World War

In this mayhem, many people jumped into the river Danube to escape the atrocities, leaving behind their shoes. Some survived, and some never made it to the other side.

The memorial consists of 60 pairs of shoes created in exact size, shape/style and installed by film director Can Togay and the sculptor Gyula Pauer. The shoes are made out of iron.

Budapest and its neighboring cities speak volumes of the amazing tenacity of the people and sometimes untold miseries of the communist regime.

The River Danube is one of the picturesque sights in Budapest. This capital city is split into 2 parts – Buda and Pest. Buda is more central and expensive than the outer city of Pest. Over the river, you will see stunning bridges that add a prized garland to the city.

View of Chain Bridge in Budapest, capital city of Hungary
View of Chain Bridge in Budapest, capital city of Hungary

There are about fourteen bridges built over the river Danube in Budapest, connecting Buda with Pest. Seven are the most notable – Széchenyi Chain Bridge, Elizabeth Bridge, Margaret Bridge, Arpad Bridge, Liberty Bridge, Petofi Bridge, and Racokzi Bridge.

Széchenyi Chain Bridge is the oldest of them all. You can walk across the bridges or admire them from the Buda Castle district when we visit that in the afternoon.

 Walking tour: Book a walking tour of Buda and Pest

Dohány Street Synagogue and ruin bars (2 hours)

Keeping the history theme, after the river Danube, let’s head to the Dohány Street Synagogue. The Dohány Street Synagogue is also known as the Great Synagogue and is a historical site. The synagogue was built between 1854 and 1859 and is a site of Neolog Judaism learning.

Dohány Street Synagogue from the outside

The synagogue was built in the Moorish Revival style, with the decoration inspired by Islamic and medieval Spanish art styles. The Dohány Street Synagogue complex consists of the Great Synagogue, the Heroes’ Temple, the graveyard, the Memorial, and the Jewish Museum.

The synagogue complex carries Holocaust scars as the Jews were sheltered near the Budapest ghetto located near the synagogue. Many died in the ghetto from hunger and cold during the winter of 1945 (Second World War) and were buried in the courtyard of the synagogue (the cemetery).

Dohany Street Synagogue
Budapest, Hungary low angle interior view of illuminated Dohany Street Synagogue, Dohany utcai Zsinagoga.

The Dohany Street Synagogue is the largest synagogue in Europe. We highly recommend taking a guided tour of the synagogue to understand Hungary’s history. Book a guided tour here.

Located very close to the Dohany Synagogue are the ruin bars of Budapest. It is quite a tourist hot spot as you can get cheap beer/coffee or any drink and an amazing ambiance at these local bars in ruined buildings.

Szimpla Kert was the first ruin bar established here. It was set up in a dilapidated building with an attempt to serve clients with affordable alcohol. After that, many more ruin bars sprung up and are quite popular. 

Szimple-Ruin-Bar
Szimpla Kert Ruin Bar

You can wander through the maze of ruin bars or stop for a drink and lunch. Here is a guided tour that includes the Great Synagogue tour and a drink (or coffee) at a ruin bar.

Explore Buda Castle District (2 to 3 hours)

After a quick break, get ready to explore the Buda Castle district. It will take 30 minutes to walk to reach the Buda Castle from the Jewish Synagogue or a 13-minute drive.

The Buda Castle district is a listed UNESCO world heritage site alongside other popular attractions like the Hungarian Parliament, Heroes Square, St. Mathias Church, and the Szechenyi Chain Bridge.

Budapest Matthias Church

The Buda Castle district –  site complex consists of a few of the sightseeing attractions of Budapest. If you are pressed for time, head to the Buda Castle and explore the St Matthias Church, Buda Castle, Budapest History Museum, and the Fisherman’s Bastion. 

There are options for food (restaurants and cafes) and souvenir shopping in the Buda Castle district. Book a guided walking tour of the Buda Castle District

The main complex of the Buda Castle district starts at St Matthias Church. The church was built in 1015 in Romanesque style. Beautiful red and orange diamond-patterned tiles characterize the Roman Catholic Church. Entry to the church for mass is free.

Matthias Church Explore the Hungarian Capital city of Budapest in 2 days - this is your perfect Budapest Itinerary covering historical sites, city life and a dinner cruise
Matthias Church

In and around the St Matthias Church, you will see a neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque terrace in white. That is the Fisherman’s Bastion. 

The Fisherman’s Bastion is marked by seven towers. You can view the river Danube, the bridges, Gellert Hill, and the beautiful Hungarian Parliament from any of these towers. The seven pillars signify the seven Magyar tribes that settled here in 895.

In the centre of the complex between the Church and the Fisherman’s Bastion is a bronze statue of Stephen I of Hungary.

Fisherman's Bastion, Budapest - Explore the Hungarian Capital city of Budapest in 2 days - this is your perfect Budapest Itinerary covering historical sites, city life and a dinner cruise
Fisherman’s Bastion

Next, head to the center of the Castle district – the Buda Castle. The Buda Castle is located on a hilltop and has been the seat of Hungarian monarchs since the 13th century. This castle is also known as the Royal Palace or the Royal Castle.

Since its inception, it has undergone many renovations and changes. At one point, when Hungary was part of the Austrian Hapsburg dynasty, Maria Theresia gave the castle to nuns during the Second World War.

Views from the Buda Castle - Explore the Hungarian Capital city of Budapest in 2 days - this is your perfect Budapest Itinerary covering historical sites, city life and a dinner cruise
View from the Buda Castle

As the castle is on a hilltop, you can hike up or take a funicular. 

The Hungarian National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum are in Buda Castle. Pay a visit to the Budapest History Museum, where you will see exhibitions and displays portraying the life and stories of Hungarians over the years.

Entry to the Budapest History Museum is free with the Budapest card. Without the card, there is an entry fee of HUF 3800 (they are closed on Mondays.

National Gallery Budapest

The Hungarian National Gallery, located here, is an art gallery.

Exploring the whole district should take 2-3+ hours, with the museum visit. Fisherman’s Bastion and the St Matthias Church will be quick (you can skip the church interiors if you don’t have enough time), but save the majority of time for the castle and museums for sure.

Heroes Square and Budapest City Park

Our second last stop for the day is Heroes Square or the Hosok Tere. Heroes Square is an important landmark square located in the centre of Budapest. The memorial square has played an important role in shaping the Hungarian history.

Heroes Square in Budapest, Hungary

It has been the site of many rallies, demonstrations, and gatherings, including the reburial of Imre Nagy, the leader of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution (who fought against the Soviet-backed government). 

At the square, you will find a stunning pedestal display of Seven chieftains of the Magyars and other heroes who dedicated their lives, work, and sacrifices for the Hungarians.

Heroes Ssquare Explore the Hungarian Capital city of Budapest in 2 days - this is your perfect Budapest Itinerary covering historical sites, city life and a dinner cruise
Heroes Square

Heroes Square is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Entry to the square is completely free, and it is open 24/7. 

In front of the square, you will see a beautiful red-roofed/tiled building. This is the Museum of Fine Arts and the Palace of Art. We suggest skipping the museum because you only have a day in Budapest. 

Explore the Hungarian Capital city of Budapest in 2 days - this is your perfect Budapest Itinerary covering historical sites, city life and a dinner cruise
Budapest City Park Attractions

Also located very close to Heroes Square is the beautiful green urban space called the Budapest City Park. The city park is a sprawling 302 acres of green space and historical buildings. This park houses some of Hungary’s tourist attractions, like the Szechenyi thermal bath spa. 

The Heroes Square, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Palace of Art are also a part of the City Park. 

Budapest City Park can be traced back to the 13th century when it was a green meadow and forested area. It had undergone many changes and added structures to form and exist as it does today.

The millennium of Hungary occurred in 1896 here at the Budapest City Park, and the Vajdahunyad Castle was set up to commemorate the historic event. Take some time to wander through the park in the evening.

Relax in the evening at Szechenyi Thermal Bath Spa

As mentioned, the Széchenyi Thermal Bath Spa is in the same complex. You can take a thermal water dip at the oldest spa in town. 

Szechenyi Thermal Bath Spa was built in 1913, and the Neo-baroque palace was specifically built to host Széchenyi Thermal Baths as Hungary has been the country of baths (and Budapest the City of Baths) for many centuries.

Themral Baths

The thermal baths have medicinal natural hot spring waters in the 18 pools. It receives mineral and medicinal properties from the 2 thermal plants nearby. 

They also have 10 saunas/steam cabins, several massage therapies, facial treatments, etc. Charges are additional for services. It is open from 06:00 am to 10:00 pm.

Book your entry to the Szechenyi Thermal Bath Spa here

Other notable baths include – the Gellért Baths, Király Baths, Lukacs Baths, and Rudas Baths. This is one of the must-do items in Budapest. These baths have medicinal properties other than being of relaxation and entertainment value.

If you are not keen on the Thermal Baths, we suggest heading to Andrássy Avenue (the boulevard that connects the City Park with the center) or an evening dinner cruise.

Other Fun Things to do in Budapest in a day

Here is a list of other FUN things to do in Budapest in one day. You can swap them out for the listed itinerary items.

1. Danube Dinner Cruise

Switch Szechenyi Thermal Spa for a dinner cruise on the Danube River. We highly recommend a dinner cruise by the Danube if you have additional time or prefer a romantic cruise instead. This topped my list of must-dos when I visited Budapest, and was not disappointed.

Dinner cruises are widely available and can fit any budget and style. But you will have to experience it – don’t pass this cruise as cliche or as being too touristy! 

You will be happy with the stunning night views of the city, which only a cruise or a ride on the Danube can provide. Read about our Danube Dinner Cruise Experience

Book your Danube Dinner Cruise here.

2. Enjoy a food tour (morning or evening)

Budapest food is amazing! And the best way to try Hungarian cuisine is by booking a food tour. Most tours leave in the morning, such as this one, including 4 to 5 restaurant stops with a knowledgeable local guide. 

Evening food tours range from ruin bar hopping to traditional dinner with a live show.

3. Drink Coffee from an Offbeat Place (old or history-related)

Budapest is such a historical place that you can enter any cafe or hotel and be in a living history space. We went in to have coffee at the New York Hotel Cafe. This space has been through world wars, and the interior of the cafe is mind-blowing

Best food in Budapest: View of Hungarian Parliament building
Cup of coffee with a view of the parliament building in Budapest

New York Cafe is just one option. But there are many other awesome breakfast and brunch places in Budapest, like – Ruszwurm – the Oldest Cafe in Budapest, Café Gerbeaud, and Central Cafe. 

4. Central Market – Shop-Hop

Shop with locals or buy some traditional Hungarian souvenirs at Central Market Hall. Top souvenirs to buy include – crystals, embroidered items, paprika, Lace Items, Rubik cubes, Painted Wood Souvenirs (pencils, toys), hair accessories, etc

Central Market

5. See an Opera

The Opera House in Budapest is one of Europe’s most beautiful Neo-Renaissance buildings. Enjoy an incredible performance at one of the opera houses; you won’t be disappointed. Some opera houses also have day tours of the building, showcasing its historical importance.

Have an extra day? Here is our 2 days in Budapest itinerary

Where to stay in Budapest for a day?

If you arrive a day early or planning to spend the night in Budapest, here are our recommendations, 

Hungarian Parliament
Hungarian Parliament

Budget to Mid-Range Hotels in Budapest

  • Ibis Styles Budapest Hotel – This hotel is located in the Pest area. We had an amazing stay in this hotel.
    • Hotel rooms are clean and pretty 
    • Located very close to the New York Cafe
    • They have a restaurant, a souvenir store, and a bar
    • Budget-friendly!
    • 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
    • It is located very close to most of the tourist areas like – the 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
    • Stay here for amazing views. The hotel also offers spa and sauna services
    • Book your stay at the Boutique Hotel Victoria.
  • Hilton Budapest – This Hilton hotel is located in an amazing area – in the heart of the 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 cuisine while enjoying breathtaking views
    • Book your stay here at Hilton Budapest
  • Corinthia Hotel Budapest – Corinthia Hotel is a 5-star rated hotel.
    • 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 Hungary Travel Tips

Here are some important things to know before your trip to Budapest, Hungary

Travel Documents for Visiting Budapest, Hungary

Budapest is the capital city of Hungary, and it belongs to the Schengen zone of countries. If you belong to one of the non-visa-exempt countries, you will have to apply for a Schengen visa before arriving in Budapest.

Learn all about the Schengen visa and how to apply for one successfully.

Visitors with US and Canadian passports do not require a visa to enter the country and stay for 90 days; however, from 2025, an online authorization – ETIAS – is required prior to travel. 

No visa or online authorization is required for citizens with a European Union passport.

Travel Insurance

Don’t forget to apply and insure your trip to Budapest with travel insurance. We always insure our trip against flight cancellations and delays, including medical emergencies. You can insure your trip for less than $4 a day. Get insurance quotes below


Budapest Sightseeing Card – one day in Budapest

The Budapest City Card is a good way to save money for public transportation in Budapest. It includes free rides in their public transport buses as well as an entry to the Lukács Thermal Bath (one of the popular thermal baths and spas in Budapest).

You can also save up to 50% in local bars and restaurants. Book your 24-hour Budapest card here.

Official Currency of Hungary

The official currency is the Hungarian Forint (HUF). Euros are widely accepted. (1 EURO = 300 HUF approx). Please keep cash with you at all times. 

Most shops and restaurants don’t have card machines.

Best time to visit Budapest

Budapest is lovely all year round for different reasons. Summer is from June to August, and the weather is warm and beautiful. Expect showers or rains occasionally. During this time, Budapest is busy, and most sightseeing areas will be crowded.

Chain bridge in Budapest
One day in Budapest

Winter in Budapest is from December to February. The temperature drops down to – 3 degrees Celsius with snow. It is not as COLD as some places in North America. But it is a good time to visit as there are fewer crowds and hotels are cheaper.

Christmas festivities are in full swing around this time. However, certain tourist attractions might be closed in winter.

We visited Budapest in March, which is considered a shoulder season. So from March to May and then September to November are offseasons in Budapest, and you can easily score a good flight and hotel deal.

Remember, rains are normal during this time of year and in Budapest. So pack accordingly.

Things to pack for one day in Budapest

Here are some packing items you MUST take to Budapest for a great trip.

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

Best food to try in Budapest

Hungarian delicacies are spicy and full of flavor. Goulash is a popular item in most of Central Europe. It is a stew of meat and vegetables seasoned with paprika and spices. You can make goulash at home, too; many recipes are available online. But do give it a try when in Hungary.

Goulash is also eaten in other parts of Europe and is customized to their region based on the availability of spices and taste.

Goulash soup with beef, potato, and meat sausage, served in a bread bowl at a traditional Budapest food market

Tokaji wine is the name of the sweet/white wine from the Tokaj wine region in Hungary and Slovakia. Different versions of tokaji wine are available, and not all wines are sweet or white. Historically, Tokaji was a white wine from the region of Tokaj in the Kingdom of Hungary. 

Here are some of the food items/dishes to try in Budapest: Chicken paprikash (Chicken Paprika), Töltött káposzta (Stuffed cabbage), Lángos (fried bread dough), Chimney cake (Transylvanian specialty, famous as Hungary’s oldest pastry), Winter salami. 

Is one day in Budapest enough?

While it’s possible to experience some of Budapest’s charm in a day, the city boasts an abundance of historical, culinary, and cultural attractions that would be hard to appreciate in such a short timeframe. 

One day would allow you to visit key landmarks such as the Buda Castle and Fisherman’s Bastion and take a leisurely walk along the Danube promenade. However, you’d need to catch up on the city’s fantastic range of thermal baths, the vibrant food scene, and the intricate beauty of the Hungarian architecture up close.

Are you planning a trip to Budapest, Hungary? Add the Danube river cruise to your itinerary. Enjoy stunning views of the bridges and the Parliament building in Budapest, all in nights glory whilst enjoying a 3 course meal. Read this more for more information #budapest #danuberiver #cruise
Danube River Cruises Budapest

Consider spending at least three to four days in Budapest if your schedule allows it. This would give you a more rounded experience, enabling you to soak up the city’s atmosphere, venture into less tourist-frequented neighborhoods, and even take a cruise on the Danube for a different perspective on the city. 

We had an amazing stay in Budapest, Hungary. We are sure you will, too! 

Additional Resources for planning your trip to Budapest and Europe in general

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One day in Budapest Itinerary
One day in Budapest Itinerary

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17 Comments

  1. Hah! I just got back from Budapest 2 weeks ago and I did most of the things you had on the list. I absolutely loved Szechenyi Baths, the New York City Café and loved walking on the Chain bridge to get from one side to the other. I was very disappointed with the dinner cruise on the Danube in the sense that the food was terrible and we had to sit with strangers. didn’t realise that was going to happen. Did you like the 7th District?

    1. Thats amazing. I hope you had a wonderful time. It rained most of the days we were there. Yea the food at the cruise was not that spectacular, but I did try the tokaji wine and liked it. We did walk on the 7th district and stopped there for brunch. What is your favorite memory from Budapest?

  2. I’ve been in Budapest 2 times, but unfortunately I didn’t do funny things like you. I’m planning to visit Budapest in September. Thank you for sharing this things! For sure I’ll visit New York Caffee!

  3. This is a great post for me as I’ve not yet been to Budapest. I love goulash though, and would like to try an authentic one in Hungary. I hope I get to visit one day soon!

    1. I hope you get to explore Budapest soon!
      Happy Travels! and I am sure you will get to try their authentic goulash. Have an extra one on my behalf! “delicious”

  4. these are really fun things to do in Budapest. Budapest skyscape is stunning and I would definitely go for Danube Dinner cruise. Hopefully I get vegetarian version of Goulash.

  5. Hey! Sometimes it’s good to go somewhere without searching the destinations before, especially when there are too many posts about it and we became overwhelmed. And turned out your 36 hours in Budapest brought you a great time exploring around the city, from architecture to foods to arts and nature.

  6. Great post! I’ve wanted to go to Budapest for a long time but have always just missed it while in Europe. I appreciate you talking about how the upcoming changes to the visa process for Canadians. I’m hoping to make it back to Europe in 2021, so I’ll keep it in mind when I make it to Budapest!

  7. Loved the detail in your post! It’s been so long since I’ve been to Budapest and you’re making me want to go back! A Danube Dinner Cruise sounds amazing!

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