Best Things To Do On Budapest

What To Do In Budapest In Two Days

Walking along the UNESCO listed Danube River in Budapest, with its elegant buildings lining it, and striking bridges spanning it, is wonderful. Especially in early summer, when the sweet scent of the flowers on the Linden trees lingers in the air. Budapest offers stylish architecture, spectacular postcard views, a lively nightlife, delicious food, splendid street art, and lovely people. There’s a lot to see in Budapest, but even if you only have a short time here, you can enjoy its highlights as most sites are close together. This post covers what to in Budapest in two days.

About Budapest

Budapest is Hungary’s capital, and is split by the Danube River running through it. There’s affluent, quiet, Buda, on the west side, and buzzing Pest, its administrative and commercial center, full of bars, cafes, and malls, on the east side.

Surprisingly, Buda and Pest were actually two different cities until 1873 when they combined, along with Obuda, to become Budapest. A perfect marriage.

What To Do In Budapest In Two Days

My list of what to do in Budapest in two days includes 13 places, although as noted above, many are close so can be seen together.

Budapest Parliament Building

The Parliament building is one of the top highlights of Budapest, so should not be missed. Perched on the edge of the Danube, its Neo-Gothic design is beautiful by day, and breathtaking at night.

This is the Seat of the National Assembly of Parliament, an important landmark and one of Budapest’s greatest treasures.

It’s equally stunning from the inside, which can only be visited by a tour as this is a functioning parliament building. You can visit the session room, see its spectacular central staircase, a vaulted hallway, and the cupola room, which houses the Hungarian Crown Jewels.

Visiting the Parliament building tops the list of what to do in Budapest in two days.
Parliament Building

The tour takes about 45 minutes, which means it’s feasible to accomplish on your list of what to do in Budapest in two days.

It’s best to book the tour about two weeks in advance, as this is one of the most popular sites in Budapest. Also remember to bring your national ID card or passport, as you will need it to enter.

You can try to buy tickets at the Visitor Center, on the north end of the square, but queues can be long, taking over a hour, with no promises of actually getting a ticket.

Visiting the Parliament building tops the list of what to do in Budapest in two days.
Parliament Building by Night

Even if you don’t take the formal tour, this building is still worth visiting just from the outside. I recommend visiting once by day and once by night.

How To Get To The Parliament Building: The Parliament Building sits on the Pest side of the Danube, at Kossuth Lajos Square. It’s about a 10- to 15-minute walk north of the Szechenyi Chain Bridge.

Buda Castle

Buda Castle was historically the royal palace for the Hungarian Kings. Perched on historic Caslte Hill, this fortress-turned-castle-turned-museum offers a beautiful mix of Medieval, Baroque, and Art Nouveau architecture and panoramic views of the city.

Visiting the Buda Castle tops the list of what to do in Budapest in two days.
Buda Castle

It’s free to walk the elegant courtyards and labyrinth of corridors around castle. The inside of the palace, however, has two museums and the National Library, which have fees. The museums include the Hungarian National Museum, which showcases the masters of Hungarian fine art, and the Budapest History Museum.

If you only have two days in Budapest, I suggest skipping the museums (unless you are an avid museum lover).

I do recommend, however, visiting Buda Castle when there is a changing of the guard, as this really helps to bring the castle’s history to life. The changing of the guard is every hour, on the hour, from 9-5 at Sandor Palace (where the President lives), which is across from the castle. The midday guard changing (at noon) is the best as it’s accompanied by drummers.

There is also a special changing of the guard, with a band and larger military presence that takes place at noon on the last Saturday of the month.

How To Get To Buda Castle

Buda Castle is located at the top of Castle Hill, on the Buda side of the Danube. You can get to Buda Castle funicular, or by foot, bus, or taxi.

The funicular is the most fun way to visit, but there is often a line. If this is your preference make sure to arrive early. It’s located near the tunnel at Clark Adams Square.

If you chose to walk, there’s a shorter, steeper walk that starts by the funicular, or a longer, gentler walk, that starts from Szell Kalman Square. The latter also takes you past Vienna Gate, Matthias Church, Fisherman’s Bastion, and the Presidential Palace, so is a great way to combine several sites. Or use one to walk up to the castle and the other to walk down.

To arrive by bus, take bus #16 from Deak Ferenk Square, on the Pest side, or (#16 or #116) from Szell Kalman Square on the Buda side.

Fisherman’s Bastion

Also part of Buda Castle is whimsical Fisherman’s Bastion. This fairytale-esque building has 7 turrets that represent the 7 Hungarian tribes that founded this area in 895.

It gets its unusual name from the fisherman’s guild that that lived nearby, and protected it in the Middle Ages.

Visiting the Fisherman’s Bastion tops the list of what to do in Budapest in two days.
Fisherman’s Bastion

This is a very popular stop as the building is charming, but it also offers stunning views from its Neo-Romanesque terraces. There’s a cafe with a view upstairs, and a chapel, St Michael Chapel, located under the ramparts.

Plan to spend about 30 minutes here. It’s ideal to visit after Buda Castle and eat at the cafe.

How To Get To Fisherman’s Bastion: Located on Castle Hill, this tower sits just north of Buda Castle. It’s about a 10-minute walk from the Castle, or short bus ride via the Buda Castle bus.

Matthias Church

Also known as The Church Of Our Lady, or Nagyboldogasszony-templon, this stunning church was named after King Matthias, who was married here twice. He also hosted the coronation of the last two Hungarian Hapsburg Kings here, Franz Joseph and Charles IV.

Later, when this area was under Ottoman occupation, it was turned into a mosque. Legend is that in a siege to regain the city in the 17th century, a mortar blast opened an interior wall, uncovering a Madonna. When the sculpture appeared before the praying muslims, their morale supposedly weakened, and the city was won back the same day.

Visiting Matthias Church tops the list of what to do in Budapest in two days.
Matthias Church

The church was restored in Neo-Gothic style in the 19th century. It’s also used for concerts by the Hungarian Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra. See Matthias Church for schedules and more details.

How To Get To Matthias Church: This church is located in Holy Trinity Square, about a 10 to 15-minute walk from the funicular. It’s also just west of the Szechenyi Bridge below.

Szechenyi Chain Bridge

There are eight bridges crossing the Danube in Budapest, but the Szechenyi, the Margaret, and the Liberty are the three most iconic. Plus, if you only have 2 days in Budapest you will likely need to cross them, or at least pass them.

The Szechenyi Chain Bridge was the first bridge to connect Buda and Pest, opening in 1849. It’s also the most beautiful (at least in my humble opinion).

Commissioned by one of Hungary’s best statesmen, Szechenyi, it was once the longest chain bridge in Europe. He vowed to build this bridge after missing his father’s death one winter, as getting there without a bridge took too long. It took him 50 years to complete the bridge, fulfilling his vow.

Szechenyi Bridge is a must on the list of what to do in Budapest in two days.
Szechenyi Chain Bridge

In WWII it was destroyed when Germany blew up Budapest’s bridges. It was reconstructed and opened in 1949, 100 years after its initial inauguration.

Such a beautiful bridge, it was recently renovated and definitely worth a visit, both to admire the colossal lions guarding either end and the bridge itself. And, as it’s located near the foot of Castle Hill, it’s hard to miss.

As with many places in Budapest, don’t forget to look for this bridge at night as well…

Szechenyi Bridge is a must on the list of what to do in Budapest in two days.
Szechenyi Chain Bridge

Margaret Bridge

Margaret Bridge is the 2nd that was built in Budapest. It’s a 3-way bridge, connecting Buda, Pest, and Margaret Island (more on that below).

Liberty Bridge

Topped with mythical Turul birds, Liberty Bridge, is another must-see bridge here. It’s a popular place to watch the city lights turn on, so is a good bridge to visit near sunset.

Liberty Birdge connects Central Market and Gellert Square and Hill, so it’s best to pair these three together.

Central Hall Market

Central Hall Market is a lively marketplace. A great place for fresh produce, Hungarian specialties foods (like spices, jams, and salamis), and souvenirs. On the top floor, you can also find traditional Hungarian foods, like paprikash, goulash, langos, and more. Yum!

Trying foods at the Central Hall Market is a must on the list of what to do in Budapest in two days.
Central Hall Market

One word of warning, there are rumors of extra fees for tourists on food. Particularly for things like extra toppings, take-away boxes, utensils, and such. Ask about extra fees before buying.

How To Get To Central Hall Market: This market is located on the Pest side of Liberty Bridge.

Climb Gellert Hill For Spectacular Views

Gellert Hill, on the opposite side of Liberty bridge, is a popular place to hike up to for panoramic views of the city. At the top, there is a Cittadella, with a small entrance fee. In my opinion, however, the free views view on the hill are much more impressive and a better use of your time. Especially if you only have two days in Budapest.

Note that about halfway up the hill, you’ll come across a monument that also offers a great place to sit and watch the city as well. It’s an ideal spot for a mini picnic (image right), so if you have time, bring some snacks and beverages.

Gallery Hill

If you do head all the way to the top of Gellert Hill, you’ll find vendors selling snacks and beverages (as well as better views). The spot mid-way is just a little bit more intimate.

How To Get To The Top Of Gellert Hill: Although there is a path winding up the hill, a 15-20 minute hike, the bus is faster. Both line #7 and #86 reach the top in about 2 minutes.

Soak In A Thermal Spring

Known for its natural mineral water springs, and sometimes called the “land of thermal spas”, there are more than 1,000 springs in Hungary, and over 100 in Budapest. The thermal waters here contain trace elements of zinc, calcium, magnesium, and more, all known for their healing properties.

There are over a dozen thermal spas here, all very popular with both locals and tourists. The spas are so popular, locals are known to do things like play chess on floating chessboards. You can also attend ‘sparties’ on Saturday nights with music and light shows, although these are mostly for tourists. The most popular, and centrally located spas are:

Szechenyi Baths

The Szechenyi Bath is the best, and the biggest spa, with 21 total pools, inside and out. There’s even a spiral section in the large outdoor pool with water that puhses you around. Because of its popularity, however, it can seem a bit touristy in peak season.

Gellert Baths

This Art Nouveau spa, at the base of Gellert Hill, is its most famous. Much quieter than Szechenyi, it has a more authentic, old world feel. Make sure to visit the outdoor wave pool if you want more adventure.

Rudas Baths

This recently renovated 400 year old Turkish bath has multiple pools at varying degrees to slowly increase or decrease your body temperature. There’s also a sundeck at the top where you can soak while gazing at a panoramic view of the city. The top also has a restaurant with stunning views.

Spas are a huge part of the culture here, so should be a definite on your list of what to do in Budapest, even if you only have two days.

Margaret Island Park

Margaret Island Park is an idyllic park, between the two banks if the Danube. It makes a fun afternoon with a variety of things to do. There’s an Olympic swimming pool, a musical fountain, a thermal spa, Palatinus Strand Baths, a Japanese Garden, a petting zoo, go-carts or bikes, snack and beer kiosks, and more. Also, in the summer, there are often open-air concerts here, so check the schedule around your visit.

How To Get To Margaret Island: To get here, take Margaret Bridge from either the Buda or Pest side. This bridge takes you to the south side of the island. If you don’t want to walk, take bus 26, or tram #4 or #6. There’s also a bridge at the north end, Arpad Bridge.

If you’re short on time, it’s best to take the bus here and just wander for an hour or so.

Andrassy Avenue

UNESCO listed Andrassy Avenue is a historic, tree-lined street with 19th century, Neo-Renaissance mansions and townhouses. Fun to just stroll to see the stunning architectural details, this street is also one of Budapest’s main shopping streets, with many cafes, and restaurants.

One notable building to stop at is the Hungarian State Opera House. This street is also where you will find the House of Terror, which commemorates victims of the fascist and communist regimes of the 20th century.

How To Get To Andrassy Avenue: The best way to get here is to take the Metro line 1 to Bajcsy- Zsilinszky and walk from Erzsébet Square (Elizabeth Square), towards Hero’s Square. Alternatively, start at Hero’s Square, Hősök tere, also on Metro line 1, and walk towards Elizabeth Square.

Budapest’s Jewish District

Last, but not least, a visit the Jewish district in Budapest is key to understanding Budapest and its history. This district, which sadly became a ghetto after WWII due to Nazis and Hungarian fascists, has been reinvigorated with a multitude of ‘ruins bars’, restaurants, and specialty shops. They are called ‘ruin bars’ as they are built among the ruins of this area.

It’s a popular place for locals and tourists to socialize over food and drink. Especially late at night, making it prefect for those who only have two days in Budapest. There is a ton of energy here, which attracts a young crowd for a lively nightlife.

Things to do on Budapest, street art marriage of Buda and Pest
Marriage of Buda and Pest

The Jewish District is also an open-air museum with commissioned street art, from a collective of street artists called Neopaint Works. To ensure seeing the best artwork, I highly recommend taking a tour of this area if you can. Expect a tour to take 2-3 hours.

Two of my favorite artworks here include the Marriage of Buda and Pest (above) and thr painting of the 1956 Time magazine cover honoring the Hungarian Freedom fighter (below).

Hungarian Freedom Fighter Art

How To Get To The Jewish District: The Jewish district is in district 7, which is on the east side of the Danube River.

Want To See More Of Hungary?

For more places to visit in Hungary, see my Hungary Travel Guide. It covers all the highlights of Hungary, as well as how to get around, information on safety, scams, logistics, and more to help you plan your trip.

Hello! I resigned from a corporate career in product development to explore the world. Although my goal was to travel for a year, 8 years later, I’ve been honored to have explored more than 60 gorgeous countries and met some unbelievably amazing people. Our world truly is a beautiful place! Follow me into the gorgeous unknown by subscribing below. You’ll receive details on fabulous destinations, comprehensive travel guides, travel tips and tidbits, and information on travel trends, like experiential, sustainable, and transformational travel. Where is your next gorgeous unknown? Julie

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