Budapest is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. And trust me I’m not just saying that because I’m a local! I’ve been living in Budapest for more than 5 years now and it still amazes me to this day. If you’re looking for gorgeous architecture, romantic castles, world famous thermal baths, cool ruin bars and delicious cuisine – and all of that for a reasonable price – you need to visit Budapest! This 2 day Budapest itinerary will be perfect for you if you only have a weekend in Budapest but you still want to see the best of the city.
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Is it enough to spend 2 days in Budapest?
There are so many amazing things to do in Budapest that you can easily spend weeks there without getting bored. The optimal amount of time for a first visit would be around 4-5 days. However if you only have limited time it’s still better to spend 2 days in Budapest than not going at all!
A weekend in Budapest is enough to visit the main attractions, try some of the best cafes and restaurants, get a drink in a ruin bar and experience the vibe of the city. Since two days are not a long amount of time get ready for a jam-packed itinerary! If you prefer a more relaxed pace and you have an extra day you can do the same itinerary in 3 days as well.
Day 1 of your Budapest Itinerary
1. Watch the sunrise at the Fisherman's Bastion
I know, I know, waking up early is always a struggle, especially if you are on a holiday. But trust me, you’re gonna love this! Watching the sunrise at the Fisherman’s Bastion is one of the best experiences you can have in Budapest. Since it gets really crowded during the day this is the only way to avoid the crowds.
The Fisherman’s Bastion is a panoramic lookout tower located on the Buda side of the city. It’s definitely one of the most breathtaking buildings in Budapest! Once you enter the area you will feel like you just stepped into a real-life fairytale.
You can see the Danube river and the whole Pest side from the towers including the Hungarian Parliament and the St. Stephen Basilica. Therefore it’s also one of the best photography locations in Budapest so don’t forget your camera at home!
Most part of the Fisherman’s Bastion is free to visit but for the upper towers you have to pay a small entrance fee of 1000 HUF (3.3 USD). However if you’re going early in the morning you don’t need to pay an entrance fee until 9am – another advantage of getting up early! The upper towers are also free to visit in the winter period (between October 16 and March 15) and on August 20 (Hungarian national holiday).
2. See the beautiful Matthias Church
The Matthias Church is practically part of the Fisherman’s Bastion so it’s easy to visit them all at once. It was used as a coronation church by Hungarian kings for centuries and it’s still one of the most unique churches in Europe by this day.
The church is free to visit from the outside but you need to pay 1,800 HUF (5.9 USD) if you want to visit the inside as well. Since it only opens at 9am (and at 1pm on Sunday) I recommend not to wait for it to save some time.
3. Have a breakfast at Home of Franziska
If you didn’t have breakfast at your hotel you must be starving by now. Time to have a delicious breakfast! (If you already ate at your hotel you can skip this point and go straight to the next one.)
Budapest is full of amazing breakfast and brunch places but unfortunately there are not many around the Fisherman’s Bastion. However Home of Franziska is only an 8 minute walk from there and they have a delicious breakfast selection! You can find basically everything from various type of eggs, pastries, waffles to yoghurts, oatmeals and smoothie bowls. You can check their menu here.
They are open from 7.30am on the weekdays and 9am on the weekends so it’s the perfect place after seeing the sunrise at the Fisherman’s bastion. It’s a really popular place so if you’re not planning to go for opening time it’s best to reserve a table in advance.
4. Admire the Hungarian Parliament across the Danube river
If you’re finished with your breakfast it’s time to take a stroll along the Danube river! The Danube river divides Budapest into two main part: Buda and Pest. Walking along the riverside grants you amazing views no matter which side are you walking on.
One of the biggest highlight of walking on the Buda side is that you can to admire the Hungarian Parliament across the river. From the Home of Franziska walk in the direction of the Batthányi square and when you reach the river walk a little bit more to the left side.
The best spot is somewhere around the Novotel Budapest Danube Hotel where you can directly face the Hungarian Parliament. Needless to say, it’s also one of the best photography spots in Budapest so don’t forget to take some photos as well!
5. Visit the Buda Castle
The Buda Castle is one of the most important historical buildings in Hungary and in my opinion it’s one of the most beautiful castles in Europe as well. It was home for the Hungarian kings for centuries but today it’s no longer functioning as a castle. The former castle building is now housing two museums: the Hungarian National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum.
For going up to the castle you have basically two options: walking or using the funicular. Although the funicular looks very cute and it’s a unique experience I would still recommend walking. The funicular ride takes around 1-2 minutes and it costs 1,200 HUF (4 USD) for one way and 1,800 HUF (6 USD) for a round trip. In comparison walking up is totally free and it takes only like 10 minutes in a normal pace. And you can get a pretty amazing view during the walk too!
If you’re not a museum person (trust me, I feel you!) it’s still worth going up to the Buda Castle. And if you have only 2 days in Budapest I would recommend skipping the museums anyway. But the Castle and the surrounding area looks absolutely incredible and the view is just breathtaking! You can see basically the whole Pest side from up there.
In case you prefer the guided walking tours you can choose one from the recommended tours below. They all have amazing ratings and you can get a personal guide during the tour who can tell you more about the history of Budapest.
6. Cross the Széchenyi Chain Bridge
There are 8 bridges in Budapest in total but the Széchenyi Chain Bridge is undoubtedly the most famous of all of them. It was actually the first permanent bridge that was built on the Danube river in Budapest! The bridge is 375 metres long and two giant lions guard both of the bridgeheads. Crossing the bridge is definitely one of the best things to do in Budapest as it offers amazing views both of the Buda and Pest side.
7. Have a coffee or a light lunch at the High Note SkyBar
The bar offers a wide selection of cocktails and barfood and they have a separate lunch menu between 12pm and 3pm. The food is absolutely amazing although it’s quite pricy. Therefore I wouldn’t recommend having a feast there but it’s a perfect place for having a coffee and a cake.
And let’s talk about the views! As the terrace is pretty big you can have almost a 360 view over Budapest. They have two separate private boxes: one of them offers an up-close view of the St. Stephen’s Basilica and the other one of the Budapest Eye. You can reserve these boxes in advance or if the bar is not so busy you are free to go up there for a photo.
8. Visit the St. Stephen's Basilica
I hope you managed to get some rest at the High Note SkyBar because here comes the other part of your walking trip around Budapest! After you admired the St. Stephen’s Basilica from the rooftop bar it’s time to have a closer view.
The St. Stephen’s Basilica is the largest church in Budapest and it’s an absolute must visit on every Budapest itinerary. It’s open every day from 9am to 7pm and going inside is absolutely free. Even if you’re not that into churches I would still recommend going in because the interior is just breathtaking!
But the most amazing part of the Basilica is that you can go up to the Panorama lookout for 1,000 HUF (3 USD) which grants a 360 view over Budapest! The opening time of the Panorama lookout is different in every season so be sure to check it out on their website in advance.
Tips for visiting in winter:
Winter is the only season when you can see the sunset from the Panorama lookout as the sun sets before the closing time. So it might be worth to shape your itinerary according to this!
If you are visiting Budapest in November or December be sure to check out the Christmas market in front of the St. Stephen’s Basilica! It’s definitely one of the best Christmas markets in Budapest and there is even a light show projected on the Basilica. A pretty magical experience! If you are planning a family travel in winter, be sure to check out the best things to do in Budapest with kids!
9. Pay your respect at the Shoes on the Danube Bank
After you finished visiting the Basilica make your way down to the Danube river once again. But this time you will be walking on the Pest side which offers a whole different view! Make sure to stop at the Shoes on the Danube Bank on your way.
The shoes are a haunting tribute dedicated to all the Jews who lost their lives during the World War II in Budapest. Nearly 20,000 of them were killed along the Danube Bank and they were all forced to remove their shoes before the gunfire. Therefore the monument consist 60 iron-made shoes along the Danube river in memory of those who tragically lost their lives.
10. Admire the Hungarian Parliament from up close (and go inside if you want)
Continue walking along the Danube river and in about 5 minutes you will reach the Hungarian Parliament building. You’ve seen it already across the Danube river from the Buda side but this time you can have a closer look!
The Hungarian Parliament is currently the largest building in Hungary. With its 96 metres height it’s also the third largest parliament building in the world! No matter how many times I’m walking past this building it never ceases to amaze me. There are no words how gorgeous it is!
If you want to see the Hungarian Parliament from the inside as well you need to book your ticket in advance. The guided tours are available in many different languages and the duration is usually around 45-50 minutes. Ticket price for EEA citizens is 3,200 HUF (10.5 USD) and 6,400 HUF (21 USD) for non-EEA citizens.
Day 2 of your Budapest Itinerary
1. Start your day with a breakfast at New York Café Budapest
It’s already the second day of your weekend in Budapest, can you believe it? Yesterday was kinda busy so it’s time to pamper yourself a bit! And what would be a better start of the day than having a fancy breakfast?
The New York Café is the most beautiful coffeehouse in Budapest. And I’m not exaggerating, not even a bit! Even if breakfast is included in your hotel it’s still worth to make some space for the New York Café on your Budapest itinerary. Trust me, it will blow your mind!
The coffeehouse is inside the New York Palace building which is one of the most beautiful buildings in Budapest. There is a hotel in the building as well and if you’re staying there you can eat your breakfast in this place every morning! (There is a separate room for hotel guests, just to be correct.) Can you imagine that?
There is a wide selection of food and drinks on their menu including many famous dishes from the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy like Wiener Schnitzel, beef goulash, Somlói sponge cake or strudels. Although be prepared for the prices because this place is rather expensive. But given the location and that you’re basically dining in a 5-star hotel it’s not surprising. (Ps: You don’t need any fancy clothing for this place, I’m only wearing a gown because we did a photoshoot there!)
The New York Café Budapest opens at 8am every day. If you’re not going there for opening time it’s worth to reserve a table in advance to avoid queuing for hours! (Yes, it’s that popular!)
2. Check out the Heroes Square
Budapest is a totally walkable city and up until now you didn’t have to use any kind of public transportation. However your next stop will be the Heroes Square which is quite far away from the New York Café. If you like walking you can still do that – it’s like a 30 minutes walk from the New York Cafe to the Heroes Square. Plus you can walk though the Andrássy Avenue which is an amazing experience in itself!
But if you’re feeling lazy you can use the M1 metro line from the Oktogon metro station to the Heroes Square metro station. From the New York Cafe you can either walk to Oktogon (approx. 12 minutes) or you can walk back a little to Blaha Lujza Square (2 minutes) and take the tram nr. 4 or nr. 6 for one stop.
The Heroes Square is the largest and most important square in Budapest. You can find a statue of Archangel Gabriel in the middle surrounded by the statue of the seven chieftains of the Magyar tribes and other important Hungarian national leaders on both sides. The monument was built in 1896 to commemorate the 1000 year old history of Hungary.
3. Stroll around the City Park and visit the Vajdahunyad Castle
Right behind the Heroes Square you can find the biggest park in Budapest, the City Park (it’s called Városliget in Hungarian). It’s a nice place to escape from the busy city and take a stroll around in the nature. You can find many interesting places inside the park like the Budapest Zoo, the Gundel Restaurant, the Ice-skating rink (which is a normal lake during the summer), the Vajdahunyad Castle, the Széchenyi Thermal Bath and a couple of museums.
4. Relax at the Széchenyi Thermal Bath
Exploring a new city is always exhausting. There is just so much things to do in Budapest in 2 days! But you’ve almost seen everything so you totally deserve few hours of relaxing. Visiting the Széchenyi Thermal Bath is the perfect choice for that!
With its iconic yellow building the Széchenyi Thermal Bath is the most famous bath in Budapest and definitely one of the best ones too. Ticket prices are usually between 5,600-6,800 HUF (18-22 USD) and you can buy them online on their website in advance.
You can find different kind of pools inside and outside as well. It’s still worth visiting the outside pools in winter too because the thermal water is always warm. I love the thermal bath in the cold weather the most, it’s such a special feeling to sit outside in the warm water when the weather is crispy!
5. Go for a ride on the Budapest eye
Did you know that there is a big ferris wheel in Budapest too? It’s called Budapest Eye (how original) and it’s located on the Erzsébet Square (right behind Deák Ferenc Square). An adult ticket costs 3,000 HUF (10 USD) but it’s worth checking the other ticket options (like family ticket or children ticket) on their website in advance.
Getting to the Budapest Eye from the Széchenyi Thermal Bath is pretty easy. You just have to walk back to the Heroes Square metro station and take the M1 metro line to the Deák Ferenc Square metro station.
6. Explore the Jewish Quarter
One of the most interesting part of Budapest is the Jewish Quarter. It’s full of historical landmarks like the Dohány Street Synagoge or the Rumbach Street Synagoge and it’s also home to the coolest ruin bars and street food courts in Budapest. You can wander around for hours in this district but if you only have a limited time try to visit at least the Gozsdu Court and the Szimpla Kert.
7. Go up to the Citadel for sunset
I saved the best (okay, one of the best) for last: the Citadel! The Citadel is a fortification located on the top of the Gellért Hill and it offers an amazing view over Budapest. The views are spectacular during the day as well but if you want to see real magic go there for sunset! It’s the perfect place to end your 2 days in Budapest.
It’s possible to go up there with public transportation – you can take the bus nr. 27 and get off at the Búsuló Juhász (Citadella) stop. Although the bus only runs on the Buda side so first you need to get to Móricz Zsigmond körtér with the bus nr. 7 or tram nr. 47, 48 or 49 and then change to the bus nr. 27.
Honestly I think walking up is much easier. Although it’s a 15-20 minutes walk which is quite steep so I totally understand if you want to skip that. But in case you wanna do this: you need to cross either the Erzsébet bridge or the Liberty bridge to get to the Buda side (by foot or by public transport) and you can walk up from both points to the Citadel.
How to spend 2 days in Budapest - Map
I made a custom map for you that contains all the spots from the 2 day Budapest itinerary that I described above. You can easily open it up on your phone if you click on the bracket in the upper right corner! This way you can always check it during the day to ensure you’re not missing out on anything.
Find the best places to stay in Budapest
Budapest is definitely one of the best cities to visit in Europe. Not only it’s super beautiful but it’s quite affordable as well! Don’t believe me? Read this list about all the things you can get for 10 USD in Budapest!
There are so many places to see in Budapest that you can easily spend weeks exploring the city. However if you only have two days in Budapest you can still cover a lot! I hope this 2 day Budapest itinerary encouraged you to visit this amazing city even if you can only spend a weekend in Budapest.
If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment below or send me an email, I always love helping you out! Is Budapest on your travel bucket list or have you already visited? Let me know in the comments!