Budapest is gorgeous and budget friendly, no wonder it has become the most popular tourist destination in Europe in 2019. It’s the perfect city for the weekend, as two days are enough to see the top attractions in Budapest and get a good taste of the various activities the city has to offer. This two-day itinerary is created for those who are planning a weekend getaway in the Hungarian capital. But with a good program, even a one-day visit to Budapest can leave you with some great memories.
Dohány Street Synagogue (The Great Synagogue)
After breakfast, start your sightseeing in Budapest near Deák Square at the very heart of the city and get a glimpse into the Jewish culture by visiting the Dohány Street Synagogue in the old Jewish Quarter, the largest functioning Jewish temple in Europe and the second largest in the world. Built in Moorish style in the 19th century, its gigantic size demonstrates the high economic and cultural significance of the Budapest Jewry at the time.
St. Stephen’s Basilica
Next, walk to St. Stephen’s Basilica, Budapest’s largest and probably most beautiful roman catholic church. The Basilica is located in about a 10-minute walk from the Dohány Street Synagogue in the Saint Stephen Square, and is surrounded by many great restaurants, pubs and bars. Both the church and the square are named after St. Stephen, Hungary’s first king, who converted Hungary to the Christian religion. The area around the church as well as the breath-taking interior of the temple are well worth to explore. For a spectacular, panoramic view of Budapest, take the elevator or walk the stairs to the observation deck.
Andrássy Avenue & Opera House
Continue your walk on Andrássy Avenue towards Heroes’ Square. This elegant, broad street which leads from the city center to the City Park is known for its posh boutiques and neo-renaissance palaces. No wonder it has been nicknamed the Champs-Élysées of Budapest. You will walk past the stunning 19th century neo-renaissance building of the Hungarian State Opera House, one of the most beautiful opera houses in Europe. To fully appreciate the ornate interior of the Opera House, it’s recommended to book a one-hour guided tour. English language tours are also available. (The opera house in currently under renovation, November 2018).
TIP: For a detailed tour of the Andrássy Avenue full of exciting stories and insights into the top attractions in Budapest, download the free Have Fun Travel App and let its professional audio guide navigate you through this area!
Lunch near Oktogon Square
If you are ready for lunch, you’ll find many restaurants, cafés and pubs in this area. Nagymező Street which is also called “Budapest Broadway” because of its theaters, Jókai Square and Liszt Ferenc Square are all ideal locations to taste the Hungarian as well as international flavors.
House of Terror Museum
After lunch, continue your walk along Andrássy Avenue towards City Park and take a glimpse into the darkest days of 20th century Hungarian history by visiting the House of Terror. The former headquarters of both the communist and the fascist secret police, is one of the most visited museums in Budapest. Its chilling, but well-put together exhibition commemorates the innocent victims of the Nazi and communist regimes in Hungary.
Heroes’ Square, City Park & Széchenyi Bath
Next, continue your sightseeing in Budapest to Heroes’ Square while marveling at the stunning, 19th century palaces of the Andrássy Avenue, many of which are embassies of various countries. If you are tired of walking, you can also take the Millennium Underground (M1) to the Hősök tere station. Heroes Square is the largest and the most prominent square of the Hungarian capital, surrounded by two significant museums – the Hall of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts. The Museum of Fine Arts is one of the best museums in the city, so if you enjoy exhibitions, it’s worth to spend an hour exploring the gallery before you head to Budapest’s largest green park, the City Park.
Depending on the weather, you can take a walk around the park, stroll past its beautiful boating pond and the Budapest Zoo, check out the enchanting Vajdahunyad Castle, then have a relaxing soak at Budapest’s most popular thermal bath, the stunning, Neo-baroque style Széchenyi bath. Budapest baths are world famous, so make sure you don’t miss out on this activity. You can read more about the city park sightseeing highlights in our one-day itinerary of Budapest (link to Budapest in one day article).
For a more detailed exploration of Heroes’ Square & City Park and insightful guided sightseeing tours in Budapest, download the free Have Fun Travel app and choose the Heroes’ Square & City Park Tour.
Vörösmarty Square & Váci Street
After the relaxing bath, head back to the city center by taking M1 to Deák tér. From there, take Deák Ferenc Street with its many fashion shops and arrive at Vörösmarty tér, the heart of Budapest’s pedestrian zone. In this square you’ll find the historic Gerbeaud House, Budapest’s most well-known, traditional 19th century coffeehouse. Take a coffee break here and try one of its delicious pastries. If you happen to visit Budapest in December, it’s good to know that Vörösmarty Square also hosts Budapest’s largest Christmas fair with roasted chestnut, mulled wine and many handcrafted goods.
Continue walking in Váci Street, Budapest’s pedestrian shopping street, dive into the busy and lively atmosphere, pop into the upscale boutiques & souvenir shops and enjoy the buildings’ beautiful architecture.
After exploring the shopping heaven of the city, take a side street from Váci Street and head towards the river bank. You’ll arrive at the Danube Promenade, a walking street between Chain Bridge and Elizabeth Bridge. After dusk, it has a spectacular panorama of several top sights in Budapest: the Citadel on Gellért Hill, Buda Castle, Matthias Church, Fisherman’s Bastion as well as some of the bridges. The Danube promenade is also fringed with luxury hotels, restaurants, bars and casinos. Take a stroll down the promenade, have dinner here, or just sit down for a drink and enjoy the marvelous view.
Gresham Palace & Shoes on the Danube
Continue your walk along the riverbank towards Margaret Bridge, walk across Széchenyi Square and take a look at the most beautiful 5-star hotel in Budapest, the Four Seasons located in Gresham Palace, a stunning example of Art Nouveau architecture.
If you walk towards the Parliament building, you’ll soon see 60 pairs of iron shoes on the Danube bank, pointing towards the river. A tragic story lies behind this memorial. During the Second World War, Jews in Budapest were rounded up on the banks of the Danube and forced to take off their shoes before they were shot into the water. The haunting memorial was erected in 2005 to commemorate those who lost their lives as a result of the inhuman atrocities committed by the Nazis and Budapest’s Arrow Cross militiamen.
Parliament Building & Liberty Square
Not far from the Shoes on the Danube memorial is the magnificent Neo-Gothic Hungarian Parliament Building, the third largest parliament building in the world. It’s not only a vibrant government center, but also a sightseeing highlight of Budapest. To book a 50-minute tour by trained guides who speak numerous languages, purchase your ticket at the visitor center, which is open until 6 p.m.
After visiting the Parliament, walk to Liberty Square (Szabadság tér), one of the most beautiful squares of Budapest. The Stock Exchange Palace, the Hungarian National Bank and the American Embassy are all located in this grand square which will impress you with its stunning architecture.
Dinner near the Basilica
From here, head back towards Deák tér walking along either Sas utca, or Hercegprímás utca, or Október 6. utca. All these streets around the St. Stephen’s Basilica are packed with pubs, high-quality restaurants and terrace diners, providing an ideal location for a delicious dinner.
The Ruin Bars of Budapest
The best places for nightlife endeavors are undoubtedly Budapest’s famous ruin bars which are located in Kazinczy Street and have become extremely popular over the last years. These iconic alternative pubs can be found in derelict buildings, and have a unique, artsy atmosphere. The most well-known ones include Szimpla Kert, Instant, Doboz, Grandio, Kuplung, and Mazel Tov. For more information on the ruin pubs, download the free Have Fun Travel app and let the Ruin Pub Tour navigate you though the hottest party district of Budapest.
Great Market Hall
Start your second sightseeing day in Budapest at the Great Market Hall, located at the end of Váci street and by the Pest foot of Liberty Bridge. In order to experience the city at its depth, you need to smell and taste the local flavors, and the best place to do this is at the largest indoor market in Budapest. Apart from fresh fruits, vegetables and all kinds of meat sold by local farmers, you can find various souvenirs and even try the famous Hungarian Lángos with garlic and sour cream at the market’s upper level. The market as equally favored by locals and tourists alike and is a definite must see in Budapest. To get to the market, take tram 47/49 or M4 to Fővám tér.
Gellért Bath & Spa
The thermal baths of Budapest are world famous for a reason. It would be a grave mistake to leave without visiting its gorgeous, 19th century Art Nouveau style Gellért bath. The thermal pools, swimming pool, wave pool and spa treatments at Gellért offer a unique relaxing experience in a historic setting at an affordable price. To get to Gellért bath, take M4 from Fővám tér to the next metro station called Szent Gellért tér.
Citadel & the Statue of Liberty
If you’re ready for a bit of hike after you’ve recharged your batteries, then walk up through the steep stairs to the top of Gellért Hill. After the 15-minute walk, you’ll get to enjoy some of the best panorama over the city. This massive UNESCO protected military fortress called the Citadel was built by the Habsburgs to intimidate the local population after the uprising of 1948. Today it serves as an emblematic landmark and an excellent lookout point to take photos of Budapest. You’ll also find the Statue of Liberty at the Citadel, a bronze sculpture of a proud lady standing atop a tall pedestal and holding a large palm leaf. If you’d rather skip the steep walk, there is also a longer, but more comfortable way to get to the fortress: take bus 27 from Móricz Zsigmond Körtér and get off at the Bujdosó Juhász stop. From there, the Citadel is a few hundred meters. Just follow the signs and you won’t miss it.
Buda Castle District
Believe it or not, you still haven’t seen it all. It’s time to explore some of the most notable sights of Budapest! For this, head to the historic Buda Castle District where the city’s most famous landmarks, the Buda Castle, the Matthias Church and the Fisherman’s Bastion are located. To get to the Castle District from the Citadel, walk back down to Gellért tér, then take the metro to Széll Kálmán tér. From here, take bus 16 A – also called the castle bus – to Szentháromság tér.
For a detailed and insightful tour of the Buda Castle District, download the free Have Fun Travel app and let its audio guide navigate you though to this beautiful, historic district.
Spend the rest of the afternoon discovering the Buda Castle District. Visit the magnificent Matthias Church, snaps some photos from the Fisherman’s Bastion, pop into some souvenir shops or take a coffee break at one of the many cafés and restaurants in the area. Don’t miss out on the changing of the guards in front of the Presidential Palace, then walk around the Royal Palace and have a look at its magnificent sculptures in the palace courtyard.
River cruise on the Danube
If you are looking for a truly memorable experience before you say good-bye to Budapest, we recommend that you book a cruise down the Danube. Have a delicious candle-lit dinner or just your after-dinner drinks on a boat while enjoying the spectacular evening view of Budapest’s sightseeing highlights from the water. Luckily, cruises in Budapest are relatively budget friendly compared to other European capital cities. Most docks are located along the Pest side of the city center near Vigadó tér, between Liberty Bridge and Margaret Bridge.