Kick things off with breakfast at one of Budapest’s local bakeries or coffee shops, before beginning a day of sightseeing. To fit in a number of Budapest’s iconic sights, while learning about the city’s history at the same time, head to Vörösmarty Square and join in on a free walking tour of the city. The Original Walk (starting at 10:30 am), from Budapest Free Walking Tours, takes in a number of landmarks and interesting sites: St. Stephen’s Basilica, Gresham Palace, the Chain Bridge, and the Castle District are all covered. No booking is needed, so simply show up a few minutes early, and enjoy learning about the city from an experienced, informative guide.
Tip: wear comfortable shoes, as the tour is around 2.5 – 3 hours long.
After all that walking, it’s time to refuel. The tour ends around the Fisherman’s Bastion, so take a walk through the castle district and choose somewhere to eat. Then it’s time to head back into the city centre, either on foot or by Bus 16. Having been dropped off at Déak Ferenc Square, head to the Hungarian Parliament Building, stopping along the way to visit the Shoes On The Danube Bank – a memorial dedicated to those who lost their lives during the Holocaust in Budapest. Either admire the Parliament from the outside, or book a guided tour around its interior.
Still craving some cultural exploration? The Museum of Ethnography stands just opposite, with collections showcasing Hungarian folk art, crafts and more.
Hungarian Parliament Building, Kossuth Lajos tér 1-3, Budapest, Hungary, +36 (1) 441 4000
Budapest is increasingly becoming known for its culinary scene, and there are plenty of restaurants to choose from to suit all tastes. Whether it’s fine dining or casual cuisine, there are plenty of options. For a relaxed meal in a welcoming setting, try VakVarjú, Kőleves, Kazimir Bistro or Ket Szerecsen (all centrally located, with a mixture of local and international dishes).
Tip: On weekends, book ahead as tables can fill up fast.
End the day and start the night at one of Budapest’s iconic ruin pubs: simply head to the Jewish District and take your pick from the many that line the streets. Szimpla Kert is a great option to begin, with drinks in a unique setting. Nearby, the outdoor gardens of Mika and Kőleves are the perfect places to while away a summer night; in winter, Ellátó Kert is a better option.
For a leisurely start to Day 2, take a stroll along the UNESCO World Heritage listed Andrássy Avenue before heading off to enjoy brunch in Budapest. On weekends in particular, brunch is incredibly popular, so to get a table it’s best to go a little earlier to beat the crowds. Stika and Cirkusz are two of the best spots in the city, serving up classic dishes such as Eggs Benedict alongside house specials.
Budapest is often called the ‘city of spas’ – and for good reason! There are plenty of thermal baths in the city in which to relax and enjoy the healing waters. Széchenyi and Gellért are the two largest and boast stunning architecture as well as indoor and outdoor pools. Their thermal waters are said to help with a number of ailments, from arthritis to post-injury rehabilitation.
After soaking in the thermal baths, take a trip to the Great Market Hall for a late lunch of lángos and some souvenir shopping. As Budapest’s largest – and, it’s often said, most beautiful – market hall, it’s an architectural treat (check out the neo-Gothic-style entrance) and sells a wide range of food and craft items. From here, stroll along the pedestrianised Váci Street, lined with shops, before reaching Vörösmarty Square and the Gerbeaud Coffee House. Founded in 1858, it’s a luxurious and historic location in which to chill out with a coffee and macaron from the in-house bakery.
For a truly magical way to end 48 hours in Budapest, take a cruise of the Danube as the sun goes down and the city lights up. Budapest River Cruise offers a range of evening and nighttime trips, accompanied by drinks and live music, depending on the option chosen. Admire the Hungarian Parliament Building and the Chain Bridge lit up, while relaxing to a spectacular backdrop.