A historical focal-point of Central Europe, Budapest boasts intricate architecture, a fascinating history, and age-old thermal spas. You could spend days in days in this fast paced and dynamic city, but if you only have 24 hours, this Budapest travel guide will give you an itinerary of everything you need to see and do.
This Hungarian capital lies on the Danube river and was previously made up of three different cities: Buda, Óbuda, and Pest. Budapest has strong ties to communism, only officially separating from the Soviet Union in 1991. This still-transitioning city has a very youthful culture and dynamic mix of old and new.
To be frank, as beautiful as some of the architecture, some parts of Budapest can be a touch gritty and drab. However, if you can get past some bits of the exterior, you’ll find a hidden gem.
WHAT YOU HAVE TO SEE + DO
Take a Bus Tour
Start your day off with a cheap bus tour of Budapest. When you only have a limited time in the city, this will get you the most bang for your buck, so to speak. There are so many sights to see, like St. Stephen’s Basilica, the Buda Castle, the Hungarian Parliament building, etc., that you need an efficient way to get around the city. While you wont be able to visit these sights in depth, you will at least be able to see and experience them for a little while. You can find a hop-on hop-off bus tour four around 4,823 HUF ($16).
Széchenyi Chain Bridge
After you hop-off of your tour bus, take a walk over the Széchenyi Chain Bridge. The Chain Bridge crosses the Danube River and bridge takes about 15 minutes to cross and is known in the city to have the best view during the blue hour. There are many bridges that connect Buda and Pest, but this one is by far the most historical and stunning.
Pro tip: If it’s summer time, grab a nice Hungarian ice cream as you walk across.
Széchenyi Thermal Baths
After you hit the Chain Bridge, the next item on the itinerary is a MUST. The Széchenyi Thermal Baths were one of the biggest highlights of my time in Budapest. The water is naturally very warm from two thermal hot springs, making this the largest thermal baths in Europe. In addition to that, inside the building there is an additional thermal spa, centuries old sculptures, etc. You can book a spa appointment and hang out in a sauna while you’re there. Day passes run for about 6,632 HUF ($22).
Eat at the Great Market Hall
Next, grab a bite at the Great Market Hall. The Great Market Hall is central to the city and is the largest of market hall in Budapest. The hall has all sorts of foods, like vegetables and fruits, spices, meats, pickles, etc. This is a good way to stick to your budget, as you still get to experience Hungarian food, but at a much cheaper price than a sit-down restaurant.
River Cruise on the Danube
After you grab a bite to eat for you hungary self (had to give that dad joke at least once in this post), take a sunset river cruise along the Danube. You’ll see the skyline at the most attractive hour, and this is the perfect way to wind down your day. You’ll get to see the Hungarian Parliament building and the Buda Castle in a whole new way- and I may be partial, but Budapest at night is a sight to see. Plus, a glass of champagne is provided on Legenda City Cruise, which runs for 6,970 HUF ($23). If you book through Viator, you can also get 10% off for new users.
Hit a Ruin Pub
The day doesn’t end with the Danube river cruise, there’s still the Ruin Pubs left. The Ruin Pubs came about in the Jewish Quarter, when over 10,000 Jews were deported following WWII. These spaces were recycled into bars, full of crumbling walls and graffiti. Nowadays, the gritty exterior of these are chic and sought-out. Ruin pubs are the go-to place to drink…and the best part? You can get a beer for less than $2.
Best ruin pubs in Budapest:
Akácfa u. 49-51, +36 70 638 5040. Open everyday from 10pm-6am.
Kazinczy u. 14, +36 20 261 8669. Weekdays: Open 12pm-4am, Saturday/Sunday: 9am-4am.
Paulay Ede u. 33, +36 30 360 3389. Open Monday-Wednesday: 2pm-12am, Thursday: 2pm-1am, Friday/Saturday: 2pm-4am, Sunday: 2pm-12am.
Akácfa u. 47, +36 70 626 4280. Open Monday/Tuesday: 12pm-1am, Wednesday-Friday: 12pm-2am, Saturday/Sunday: 10am-2am.
Here are some other great things to do in Budapest: The Great Synagogue, House of Terror, Memento Park, City Park, Heroes Square, Ecseri Flea Market
- Best Food in Budapest: What to Eat & Experience
- 5 Reasons to Love Budapest, According to People that Live There
- Common Phrases in Hungarian