Budapest is becoming the go to place in Europe, not only because it doesn’t break the bank but because there’s so much to see. As the historic city is split into two halves, Buda and Pest, you will find breathtaking views across the Danube, historical architecture, including Budapest’s magnificent bridges (eight in total), and a fabulous culinary scene there. Remarkably, all of this and more can be explored on foot.
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What’s the best time to visit Budapest?
Budapest’s average temperature in the summer months (June-August) is a bearable 20-26°C, and even in September they have what we call an Indian summer. When visiting during summer, you will experience Budapest at its busiest. During these months there are so many exciting things going on – the Hungarian Formula 1 Grand Prix, Budapest’s many thermal baths or pools are open, and there are lots of local events to come across: the Sziget Festival, the Festival of Folk Arts in Buda Castle and Hungary’s most important national celebration, that of St. Stephen’s Day where you will witness huge fireworks over the Danube.
On the other hand, if you want a cold and festive experience, the best month to visit is December when the Vörösmarty Square hosts the Christmas markets.
A few facts about Budapest
Budapest has tons of World Heritage Sites, such as the Danube, Heroes Square and Buda Castle to name just a few. After a busy day of exploring, you will want to sit down with a nice glass of wine. The country has 22 wine regions which also benefits the cost-conscious traveler, since Hungarian wines are much cheaper than their imported counterparts.
One Day in Budapest Itinerary
Follow this guide and make the most of your trip even if you’re short on time. These are the top sights and things to do during your one day in Budapest.
Visit the Most Beautiful Café In The World for Brunch
For a truly decadent dining experience, look no further than the New York cafe in Budapest. Originally opened in 1894, it was given the title of the “Most Beautiful Café In The World” in 2011. You can see why – chandeliers and marble everywhere. It’s a must visit to take photographs and try their incredible food.
Wander the streets of the city centre
Budapest city centre is quite big, which means it can’t be fully explored if you’re only staying one day in Budapest. However, there are some streets that simply should not be missed. In case you’ve missed the breakfast in New York cafe, Király street offers a wide range of cafe bars, pubs, restaurants or simply nice spots to relax and enjoy some snacks. If you’re into some serious shopping, you’ll find plenty of luxury fashion brands along Andrássy street. Another great place for shopping therapy is the area around Váci street. The street is pedestrian only, lined with souvenir shops and fashion retail stores. Finally, don’t miss the Deák Ferenc square, the busiest place perfect for people watching and soaking up the city’s vibrant atmosphere.
Take in the sights by the Danube River
Budapest is full of breathtaking architecture all equally impressive during the day or by night. On the “Pest” side of the river, you have the Hungarian parliament building – built in 1885, it is a permanent seat of the National Assembly and sits bathed in atmospheric lights in the evening.
Take a walk along the Chain Bridge and you will arrive in Buda. The 375-meter-long suspension chain bridge was the first bridge to permanently connect Buda and Pest and was completed in 1849. This also looks spectacular at night, when fully illuminated.
As you leave the chain bridge, you will come across another building that dominates the Buda skyline, Buda Castle. The castle, also known to some as the Royal Palace, is home to the Hungarian National Gallery, the Budapest History Museum and the National Library.
If you want to go to the top of castle hill quickly, you can ride on the the funicular which also offers panoramic views of Budapest. Another piece of stunning architecture from a fairy-tale is the Fisherman’s Bastion, also on the castle hill and thanks to its lookout towers photo opportunities will continue.
Visit Margaret Island
All great European destinations have a city park so that you can get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. You can get to Budapest’s Margaret Island via Margaret Bridge, and with so much space (2.5 km long and 500 m wide) it is easy to experience a wide variety of activities. These can include: riding around the island in a golf buggy, watching the musical fountain, walking around the Japanese garden or just relaxing on the lawns and enjoying the sunshine.
Try Budapest National Dish Goulash
There are so many restaurants serving Goulash it’s hard to know which one is going to serve the most authentic one. Traditionally, it’s a beef dish cooked with onions, paprika, tomatoes and green peppers (but some add potatoes, too). Restaurants serving this dish with positive reviews include Hungarikum Bisztro, Chef Cafe, Rosenstein and the aptly named “Paprika” to name a few.
Spend an evening exploring the Jewsih Quarter
Abundance of great pubs and bars makes evenings in Budapest the most exciting time of the day. Not to mention that the drinks in bars are reasonably priced, so you can have a great night out and still not spend a fortune. In the evening, make your way to the Jewish Quarter – the most prominent area where you’ll find these famous spots: Gozsdu Udvar – a beautiful alley lined with restaurants and bars where you can basically spend the whole night without getting bored, and Szimpla Kert – a quirky ruin bar and an international meeting point with fascinating artwork and illumination.
Experience the nightlife at ruin bar Instant
For a very unique nightlife experience you have to visit the biggest ruin pub in Budapest – Instant. Positioned in the Jewish Quarter and transformed from abandoned buildings, it has twenty three rooms, six bars and four dance floors, so there’s music to suit everyone’s tastes. Known as an enchanted forest and with lots of little passageways, there’s so much to explore. Just see that you don’t get lost!
Where to stay in Budapest?
Maison Bistro & Hotel
1014 Budapest, Országház utca 17.
The Maison Budapest offers a unique experience in the heart of the Buda Castle district, only a short walk to Matthias church. This prestigious boutique hotel combines historical appearance with modern design. The hotel features a bistro restaurant, an indoor garden and 17 individually designed rooms.
Casati Budapest Hotel Superior
1061 Budapest, Paulay Ede utca 31
Casati Budapest Hotel Superior is a boutique hotel, housed in an 18th-century building, only a short walk from the famous Andrássy street. The hotel features a landscaped courtyard and interiors decorated with original artwork. The rooms and suites are designed in 4 different themes: Classic, Cool, Natural and Heaven.
Maverick City Lodge
1075 Budapest, Kazinczy utca 24-26.
Maverick City Lodge is a boutique hostel set in the heart of the historical Jewish Quarter on the popular Kazinczy Street. The hostel provides private rooms and dormitories, all nicely furnished. Being one of the best value accommodations in the city, the hostel is very popular among young travelers and backpackers.
Day trips from budapest
Hungary is a beautiful country, with a lot of interesting things to see. Therefore, if you have the time, arrange a day trip from Budapest to one of the location. You will have plenty of excellent choices.
The Danube Bend
Budapest is famous for its connection to Danube, but the Danube Bend is about an hour away from the city. This fairy-tale stretch of land has two main towns in it – Esztergom and Visegrad – which boast amazing architecture and excellent food. You should come here by bus or by train because you can conclude your day trip with a ride on a boat back to Budapest. Mind you, this is only possible from May to September.
Coming to Hungary and not trying their wines would be a real shame, so do consider visiting Etyek, the country’s wine region. Here, you will visit wineries which have been managed by families for decades and, of course, get a taste of their products. The fertile Pannonian Basin is a great place for wine making, and combined with the food you are offered, this trip is pure hedonism.
No matter if you’re visiting it in winter or in summer, Lake Balaton is an excellent destination for a day trip from Budapest. Picturesque villages on its coast will welcome every visitor, and the numerous beaches make for a great way to spend the day out. Oh, and if you have the time, go to the town of Herend and check out the largest porcelain factory in the world. The things you see there WILL amaze you.
If you want to enter a world of baroque, head to Eger. Its churches and impressive castle will leave you breathless, all while you explore an old town few places can truly match. Stop by the Eger minaret, the northernmost minaret of the former Ottoman Empire. You can also pay a visit to the town’s famous thermal baths and enjoy every little detail of this beautiful and very calm place. The culture, the architecture, the sounds and the smells… they all blend into an unforgettable whole.
To escape all the stress of the modern world, head to Holloko. A day there will rejuvenate you in the most profound sense. See how life used to go on in the past of this part of the world, enjoy the beautiful houses and try some excellent food, of course. You will want to visit an open-air museum here to get a better understanding of this way of life.
Extra tips for visiting Budapest
– A great way to learn more of the history and view all the sights is to purchase a ticket for a hop on, hop off bus or walk! If you’re staying quite central, don’t bother paying for the metro. It’s so easy to get around to see all the sights, and you can get from Buda to Pest via one of the eight bridges.
– Would you like some help from a local? Welcome will help you with that and so much more, from tickets to transportation. All you have to do is contact them.
– Take less money than you think! Alcohol and food is extremely cheap even in the nightclubs.
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Make sure you have everything you need
What to pack for your next trip?
Make your next trip as simple and as enjoyable as possible by packing smart. It’s amazing how much stress top travel items can save you, so choose carefully.
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Liz works full time as a digital content editor in beautiful Warwickshire. When she’s not writing about fashion on her blog she loves talking about places she’s travelled to. With four holidays planned for 2017 already, she’s eager to see the world one place at a time.