One Day in Budapest: Things to do on a Budapest Day Trip
While my partner, Arturo, was working in Vienna for two weeks, we got the opportunity over one weekend to do some day trips. One of the places we chose to visit was Budapest and we both loved it so much that we decided the next time we go, we would stay for more days. But, if you’ve just got a day to spare, here are some amazing things you can do with one day in Budapest.
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How to Get to Budapest
We visited Budapest as a day trip from Vienna and used a bus to get there. When you are booking your trip, you may find that trains are cheaper but we found busing to be the cheapest option on the day we went.
You can also get to Budapest from Vienna and other cities located along the Danube River by boat but this typically takes a lot longer than busing or taking trains so only do this if you have extra time and aren’t wanting to just do a day trip.
Interesting Facts about Budapest
- Budapest is the capital of Hungary.
- The city is home to Europe’s largest synagogue.
- Budapest is known for its underground caves, relaxing thermal baths, and magnificent architecture.
- Buda and Pest actually used to be two separate cities, but are now connected and thought of as one. Each side still has unique differences, though.
- Eight bridges connect Buda and Pest, with the Chain Bridge being the most famous.
- The city is also known as The Queen of the Danube, which is quite impressive since the Danube River flows through ten countries and four capital cities!
Things to Do & Sights to See in Budapest
Walk over the famous Chain Bridge
Unfortunately for us the famous Chain Bridge or Széchenyi Lánchíd was closed during our Budapest day trip but we still got to see it, and we ended up crossing over a different bridge via tramcar.
If you go to Budapest and the bridge is open make sure you walk across. It’s the most famous of the eight bridges connecting Buda and Pest due to it being the first bridge made to permanently connect the two parts of the city.
It’s also famous for its stunning gates and architecture. Construction for the bridge began in 1840 and ended in 1849.
Ride the funicular up to Buda Castle
We actually walked up to Buda Castle but the funicular looked really cool. If the lineup isn’t too long I’d recommend using the funicular instead to give your feet a break and to enjoy the view.
The funicular is open daily from 7:30am to 10pm, however there are biweekly closures every other Monday. Roundtrip funicular tickets cost 1800 HUF per adult, 1100 HUF for children, and are free for children ages 3 and under. One-way tickets can also be purchased at a slightly lower cost.
Wander through Buda Castle
Buda Castle is home to the Hungarian National Gallery, the National Széchényi Library, and the Budapest History Museum.
The first fort on Castle Hill was built by the Hungarian king in the 13th century. Later on, a Gothic-style palace was constructed by Anjou kings as a home for the royal court which marked Buda as an important and noteworthy place in medieval Hungary.
Related activity: Buda Castle Cave Walking Tour
King Matthias transformed Buda Castle into more of an Italian Renaissance-stle royal palace causing it to then become an intellectual hub filled with important European scientists and artists.
There are many different kinds of tours you can go on to see and experience different parts of the castle. We didn’t do a tour as there were so many things we wanted to pack into our day, but we enjoyed walking around the castle grounds and taking plenty of photos.
Related activity: Buda Castle History & Myths Evening Walking Tour
Visit the Dohány Street Synagogue
Also known as the Great Synagogue, or Tabakgasse Synagogue, this historic building is a center of Neolog Judaism. It’s actually the largest synagogue in Europe and seats 3000 people inside. We did not have time to wait in the lineup to walk inside but even just from the outside, the building is incredibly beautiful to behold.
Also located within the synagogue is the Hungarian Jewish Museum which is home to a permanent exhibition featuring objects relating to important aspects of Judaism such as holidays, culture, and life cycle events.
Wander Through Heroe’s Square
Heroe’s Square is located on Andrássy Avenue and is famous for the Millenium Monument depicting seven statues of the leaders of the seven tribes who founded Hungary along with other important figures. The statue on the tallest pillar is a depiction of the Archangel Gabriel holding St Stephen’s crown.
Enjoy Amazing Views from Fisherman’s Bastion
Fisherman’s Bastion was my favorite spot in Budapest. I just loved the mix of architecture and incredible views and felt like I was in a fairytale wandering through the lookout towers.
Built between 1895 and 1902, Fisherman’s Bastion houses 7 turrets that represent the 7 Hungarian tribes that founded the country. During the Middle Ages it was protected by the guild of the fishermen which is how it got its name.
Fisherman’s Bastion is open day and night all year round. Entrance to most of the towers and lookout points is free although you can pay to access top turrets too.
See the Shoes on the Danube Promenade Memorial
The Shoes on the Danube Promenade Memorial is a very important and somber tribute in remembrance of the thousands of Jews who were murdered along the river bank during WWII. Approximately 20,000 Jews were shot and killed along the river bank and were first asked to remove their shoes since shoes were of high value then. People place candles and flowers by the shoes now to mourn and honor those who were killed. You can read more about the history and significance of this memorial here.
Visit and Tour the Hungarian Parliament Building
I really enjoyed marveling at the Gothic architecture of the Hungarian Parliament building. Inside the building, there is a Dome Hall where the Hungarian Holy Crown and the Coronation Insignia are kept along with statues of Hungarian rulers on golden pedestals. To save time we chose not to go inside the Parliament building but you can book a tour here, or in person at the Visitor Center.
Related activity: Budapest Grand City Tour with Parliament Visit
Check out St Stephen’s Basilica
St Stephen’s Basilica is a Roman Catholic basilica named after Hungary’s first king Stephen (c 975–1038), whose mummified right hand is housed inside! Along with the first Hungarian king’s mummified hand, the remains of Ferenc Puskás, Hungary’s most famous football player, are also kept inside.
The Basilica is the largest church in the city and every Monday visitors can attend organ concerts inside.
Visit Margaret Island
In the middle of the Danube river, right between Buda and Pest, lies Margaret Island. The island is now a lush public park. To get there, you can walk, take a tram or even take a scenic boat ride. Once on the island you can visit a variety of gardens, climb the Margaret island water tower, or even take a dip at the Palatinus Thermal Baths, which are also home to a wave pool and waterslide that are open in the summer.
Soak in the Szechenyi Thermal Baths
One of the reasons I want to go back to Budapest is so I can visit and soak in the famous Szechenyi Thermal Baths. While you can do this any time of year, I think it would be especially lovely to visit in winter as a way to warm up. While you may not want to spend the full day at the spa, you can opt for spending just a few hours there or even attending a late-night spa party.
Where & What to Eat in Budapest
Go for Brunch at Mindenem
We hungrily stumbled upon Mindenem right after arriving in Budapest and I’m so happy that we did. We didn’t know what to expect I swear I still think about their hummus sometimes. The hummus served with my brunch was seriously some of the best hummus I’ve ever had (and I eat it a lot)!
Eat Incredible Goulash at 21 Hungarian Kitchen
We originally meant to go for lunch at a place I had heard really good things about called Baltazár. Once we got there, however, there was a sign on the door saying they were closed. The sign also said to go check out 21 Hungarian Kitchen instead, which wasn’t too far away, so we walked there. We ordered the goulash and a salad and the goulash was absolutely amazing! Goulash is a Hungarian dish so make sure you try it when you visit.
Go for Drinks at Szimpla Kert
If you have time make sure you also go for drinks at the Szimpla Kert Ruin Bar. Bars like Szimpla Kert are called ‘ruin bars’ because they were opened in the remnants of derelict buildings. Szimpla Kert actually means ‘Simple Garden’ and is the oldest ruin bar in Budapest. Drinks are affordable and bakery items, as well as street food, are also served there. The bar is a fun place to visit and has a very eclectic and funky atmosphere.
Try Chimney Cakes from a Street Vendor
My biggest regret was not trying a chimney cake when we visited Budapest. We walked past three or four chimney cake stalls during our day trip (including one at Fisherman’s Bastion) but they were all right after we had already stuffed ourselves with brunch. When we were heading back to the bus station in the evening, we tried to make a stop at one of the chimney cake stalls we had seen earlier in the day but could no longer find it 🙁
Don’t make our mistake! When you go for a meal, save room for a dessert of chimney cakes.
Chimney cakes are made of dough coated in sugar and oil that’s soft on the inside and crispy on the outside. They have Transylvanian origins but are also the oldest pastry in Hungary!
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