Budapest is an amazing city to visit for a European city break, however, it can be tricky deciding what to do because the city has so much to offer. We spent a weekend in the city and I felt we managed to fit in the perfect amount. Here is my guide for the perfect itinerary for two days in Budapest plus a few extras that were recommended but that we ran out of time for.
Two Day Itinerary for Budapest
If your staying in Pest then this itinerary is perfect for you, if not then you’ll need to get yourself over the river for most of today. For your first stop head to St Stephens Basilica, the church is gorgeous from the outside but the interior is even more breathtaking. We ended up visiting while a service was on so much of the church was closed off, however, this made for a lovely atmosphere with all the singing. Be sure to look up while inside because the ceiling is one of the main features. From the Basilica, head down the street in front and all the way to the river. You’ll be greeted with some gorgeous views of Buda and the Chain Bridge. Once you’ve taken the pictures you want head north along the river.
Before you reach the Parliament you’ll come across the ‘Shoes on the Danube’ tribute. These shoes are here to symbolise the Hungarian Jews who were killed and thrown in the river during the second world war. Each shoe is a pair and although made from iron look like they could be real shoes. From here continue to head north to the Parliament.
This building is probably the most notable building in the whole city and one that seems to be featured on every advert for the city. It is just as incredible as I imagined up close. Make sure you spend enough time wandering around the outside. If you time it right (at o’clock between 9am and 5pm) you’ll also be able to see the changing of the guards.
We actually ate too much hotel breakfast to stop for lunch but places we were recommended were the Opera House cafe or New York Cafe. Both look beautiful inside (according to the pictures I saw while researching) and the Opera House Cafe serves some typical Hungarian style food.
For the afternoon you’re going to wander slightly out of the city to Hero Square and the Széchenyi Baths. If you’re feeling like a stroll it will take just over 30 minutes if not you can take the super cheap metro the couple of stops needed. Spend some time exploring the square before wandering through to the park that is home to Budapest’s most famous baths.
You’ll want to spend a good few hours in the baths, personally I’d recommend staying until after sunset as the baths look just as gorgeous by night as by day. If you want to know more about visiting the baths then check out this post.
For the evening head to the Jewish Quarter, in particular the street called Gozsdu Udvar. Here you’ll find an abundance of restaurants and bars to dine in for the evening. Most seemed to serve typical Hungarian cuisine but some had more western meals so there should be something for everyone. From here you can head to the famous ruins bars the most iconic being Szimpla Kert. Unfortunately it was shut while we were in the city but I’ve heard great things about the interior especially.
Finally, end your night with a ride on the Budapest Eye. Located a short walk from the Jewish Quarter, the eye gives you fantastic views over the city and by night the city looks magical. If your visiting during Christmas there are also lots of food and drink markets to enjoy in this area with gorgeous fairy lights decorating them.
You’ll want to start today relatively early because this morning’s spot is one of Budapest’s most popular. The Fisherman’s Bastion is located in Buda on top of Castle Hill. To get there you can either walk or take the Funicular Railway, queues can get long for the railway so arrive early if you don’t want to queue for ages. Once on top Castle Hill there are a few places worth visiting: Buda Castle and Palace, Mattison Church and the afore mentioned Fisherman’s Bastion. They are all within walking distance of each other and will give you some of the best views of Budapest.
The whole of Castle Hill feels kind of like a model village with cobblestone paths and gorgeous buildings. You also have another chance to see the changing of the guards at Buda Castle and Palace. Once you’ve taken in enough views head back down the hill and over to Pest via the iconic Chain Bridge for a spot of lunch.
Head to Aurum Bistro on Zrínyi u street (near to the Basilica) for a spot of lunch. They serve up delicious goulash among other things and have a cute conservatory attached to the restaurant with heaters. Service was friendly here and there never seemed to be a free table for more than five minutes. Alternatively if you don’t fancy a sit down lunch and your visiting at Christmas time then pop up to the markets for a bite to eat and a wander around the stalls for any last minute buys.
Having had such an actioned packed two days, I’m not going to suggest any activities for the afternoon. You could use the afternoon to recover (something we had to do as the previous day was New Year’s Eve), head to a museum, visit another bath, explore Margret Island, visit the House of Terror (be prepared to queue) or get coffee and cake.
Once you’ve relaxed a little and got yourself a little dressed up, it is time for dinner.
My suggestion would be Halászbástya Étterem by Fisherman’s Bastion. This is a rather luxurious choice but the views and food are incredible. The inside of the restaurant follows similar decor to the Fisherman’s Bastion and even has chandeliers hanging inside. The service was first class and as I’ve already said the food was amazing.
Other places that were suggested to us for evening drinks and meal include the 360 bar and Klassz Étterem és Borbolt. Otherwise there are multiple options of cruise along the river which offer dinner and drinks.
Hopefully these suggestions help you to plan your time in Budapest. If you’ve visited the city, is there anything you’d add?
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