Budapest goes by many nicknames, such as the Pearl of the Danube or Paris of the East. The city is home to an abundance of historic landmarks and cultural delights, as well as its famous natural hot springs and spas. When you begin to take stock of the city’s attractions, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. How many days do you need to enjoy Budapest? What if you are there for only a day or two? Not to worry. We will outline here what recommended sightseeing spots and activities to pursue so that your visit to Budapest leaves you satisfied no matter how many days you have to spend there.
Remember that GoWithGuide has many guides native to the area who can help you get the most out of your trip. Going with the expertise of a private guide will certainly be a benefit for the enjoyment of your visit.
Having only a day to enjoy a major European city may seem like far too little time. However, in Budapest you have the advantage of having several interesting attractions close by. Highly recommended is Castle Hill, said to be the historic center of the city.
First, take the Castle Funicular Railway up the hill to Buda Castle and enjoy views back over the Danube and the flat Pest side of the city. Then at Buda Castle, take a tour of this magnificent structure. The castle has existed for over eight centuries in various styles and for various purposes. It has been renovated, expanded, nearly destroyed, and reconstructed many times. The current design largely reflects the Baroque period. Your guide can tell you about the story of the castle as well as some of the myths surrounding the place, including some vampire stories!
While on Castle Hill, you should also see Matthias Church, a stunningly beautiful classical church said to be one of the finest in Europe. The church is a Gothic style structure with a history going back a thousand years to the days of the Hungarian Kingdom. It was the site of the coronations of two Hungarian kings, Charles IV and Franz Josef I. The interior is exquisite with ornate details in the stone, patterned tile floors, and magnificent stained glass windows. Tickets can be purchased to visit the tower.
Immediately in front of Matthias Church is the Fisherman’s Bastion, a neo-Romanesque castle-like structure that looks like something from a fairytale. It offers a breathtaking panorama of the Danube and the city across the water. This is one of Budapest’s most popular tourist attractions. After a busy morning of touring, stop in at one of the local cafes on the hill and refresh yourself.
In the afternoon, head across the river to Andrassy Avenue. This is a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to more of Budapest’s popular attractions. On the avenue, you’ll find the Hungarian State Opera House and the Museum of Terror, which commemorates the facist and communist regimes of Hungary and their victims. There are also several name brand shops such as Gucci, Armani, Louis Vuitton, and a selection of restaurants. At the entrance to the city park is Heroes Square, the Palace of Art, and the Museum of Fine Art. Enjoy a stroll down the avenue and stop in wherever your fancy takes you. At the end of the road, you might want to take a ride back on Budapest’s underground metro, completed in 1896, and the first of its kind in continental Europe. Following UNESCO regulations, the stations are kept in their original design.
These two locations make for a pretty full day, but if you can make time for it, then enjoy an evening cruise down the Danube and sail past the impressive Parliament Buildings when they are lit up. Dinner cruises are available, so you won’t have to miss out if you are trying to calculate time for a meal.
Two Days (Weekend)
The suggestions above make for a really full day, and you will get to see many of Budapest’s most famous and popular sites. However, there’s still plenty more awaiting you if you have a second day to spend in the city.
The Grand Market Hall or Central Market Hall is the most popular of the markets in Budapest. It’s a cavernous indoor market where all sorts of produce, herbs and spices, pastries, and candies are sold. Simply walking around and looking is a treat for the eye; however, for something even more enjoyable, tasting tours are available too. Local guides often agree that this is the most popular tour among their clients.
There’s a second floor mezzanine that sells souvenirs and tourist goods, and also has eateries where you can relax and enjoy some of the delicious local foods.
After a busy day and a half of sightseeing, stop in at the Szechenyi Thermal Spa and enjoy Budapest’s largest and most popular spa. There are fifteen indoor pools and three outdoor pools as well as saunas, steam rooms, and massage services. There are also adventure pools that the children can enjoy. The largest such facility in Europe, Szechenyi can accommodate up to 1,000 visitors at once.
If you still have time in your day, stop over at Margaret Island for a relaxing stroll through the gardens or visit the wildlife park. The 2.5 km (1.55 mile) long island also has luxury hotels, bars, and the remains of a 13th century convent. One of the best loved features is the Dancing Fountain, where jets of water “dance” to a varied playlist of music.
Top off your tour with a dinner in town. Budapest has everything from fine-dining and wine bars to economy dining.
Travelers with a week to spend in Budapest have the luxury of time to enjoy all the places mentioned above at a more leisurely pace as well as exploring the city further.
St. Stephen’s Basilica is one of the top tourist attractions in Budapest. It’s located on the Pest side of town (the flat side), across the river from Buda Castle and a little north of Andrassy Avenue. It was built in the middle of the 19th century and was named after King Stephen, the first king of Hungary who reigned over a thousand years ago. His mummified right hand is stored in a reliquary within the church. It also has the distinction of being the third largest and third highest church in Hungary.
As mentioned above, enjoying the fabulous buildings and views of Castle Hill should be at the top of your travel itinerary in Budapest, but there’s still more to see under the hill. First, there’s the Hospital in the Rock Nuclear Bunker Museum. The hospital was established in tunnels excavated under castle hill in preparation for WWII, and the tunnels were later used as a nuclear bunker. There are also tours of the system of caves and tunnels that have served various purposes over the last eight centuries. You might want to take a crucifix and a silver stake with you if you visit the Castle Hill Labyrinth. It was once used to imprison Vlad Tepes, who is more commonly referred to as Count Dracula.
Known as the Thermal Spa Capital of the World, Budapest has several other spas worthy of visiting after you have been to the aforementioned Szechenyi Thermal Spa. The Gellert Thermal Spa is one of Budapest’s best, and it too offers an array of services. The spa is located near Gellert Hill, a forested dolomite protrusion with walking paths. At the top, you can enjoy views of the Danube while relaxing with some refreshments. The Liberty Statue is one of the famous landmarks on the hill.
The city park at the end of Andrassy Avenue is another highlight of Budapest. This was one of the first parks in the world that was established for public enjoyment and relaxation. It’s a place for the whole family, which is great if you’re traveling with children.
One other recommended stop is the so-called Ruin Bars of Budapest. These are bars and eateries that have been established in abandoned buildings. Szimpla Kert is the original and most famous of these. It’s located on a street that serves as a farmer’s market during the day, and a place for film screenings and eclectic live music performances at night. The Ruin Bars are unique to the experience of Budapest and one of the things that the city is famous for.
Budapest is a city where you can easily spend a fulfilling day or weekend of sightseeing, but it also offers a great variety of attractions for those with more time to spend there. The shortlist alone covers historic buildings, huge market halls, thermal spas, green parks, river cruises, and so much more. Budapest has everything to reward the visitor!
Planning your trip can get a little sticky with so many places to visit and tickets to reserve. Let our professional guides help you customize a trip that best suits your schedule, however long or short. Having a knowledgeable local guide to take you on an informative and stress-free tour will be your ticket to an outstanding trip to Budapest.
Image source: http://pixabay.com