Wondering if 1 day in Budapest can get you to the best places in the city? Don’t panic! My Budapest one day itinerary will keep you moving on both sides of the Danube River, from morning til night.
This guide will have you exploring impressive castles, palaces, towering churches, huge thermal baths, indoor markets, and exciting ruin bars.
Budapest is one of the most beautiful capitals in Europe and I’ve been back to visit more than a few times. From my previous trips, I’ve included some extra options, in case you want to switch up your 24 hours in Budapest, as well as some day trips from the nearby European capitals of Vienna and Bratislava.
Let’s have a look at what you can see and do in this enthralling city of Budapest in one day!
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How to save money on your day trip to Budapest
Want to save money on your visit to Budapest for a day (of course you do!)? I highly recommend buying a 24-hour Budapest Card.
The card costs around US$35 for 24 hours and can be used in all subways, buses, trams, and trolleys in Budapest, as well as 30 of the top tourist attractions in Budapest.
While Budapest is a very affordable city, if you plan to pack as much as you can into your 1 day in Budapest, this card is definitely the answer to saving some pennies.
What to do in Budapest in one day
One Day in Budapest: The Morning
To get started with your Budapest one day itinerary, I’ll take you to enjoy a brunch like a local down at the Central Market Hall. Then, you’ll follow it up with a stroll around the Buda Castle District, where you’ll learn the history of each beautiful building within the complex.
Stop for brunch at Central Market Hall
Eat your way through Hungarian food at the Central Market Hall, the largest and oldest indoor market in Budapest city. This is an old building, yet a stunning Neo-Gothic-styled structure designed to rival that of other European cities such as Paris and London.
You can find a ton of fresh produce, butcher shops, sausages, local spirits, candies, spices and pickles (including pickled cauliflower, garlic, and beets!) on the lower floors.
You’ll also find some souvenir shops selling the likes of textiles, bags, and intricately designed handmade products to buy on the second floor. If you fancy bringing back some souvenirs with you, I recommend some Hungarian Paprika to spice up your cooking back home.
Stop for brunch at any of the restaurants or food stalls on the upper floor for a taste of authentic Hungarian cuisine.
You’ll have to try the famous ‘langos’, a classic Hungarian deep-fried doughy flatbread topped with sour cream, garlic, and cheese. And don’t forget to taste local favourites too like goulash, chicken paprika, and stuffed cabbages. Oh, and be a daredevil and say yes to some special Foie Gras!
Explore Buda Castle District
Next, head onto the Buda Castle District, where Budapest hides its most popular attractions. If you’re up for some walking, you can actually climb up the steps (or take a short bus ride if you’re not up for the walk). But for the best views going up to the Buda Castle District is to ride the funicular.
The Buda Castle District is located on top of Castle Hill on the Buda side of Budapest. It’s a massive historical complex consisting of castles and palaces and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
You can explore the grandiose Royal Palace, which was built in the 13th century, and was the first home of the Hungarian kings. It now houses the Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest History Museum, and the National Library.
Take your time to stroll outside to marvel at the Gothic architecture of the remarkable Buda Castle. The palace grounds with colourful gardens and dancing fountains are free to visit but you’ll have to pay an entry fee for any of the museums.
If you want a more in-depth tour of the Castle District, check out this tour you can book with a historian (you get to skip the line with this tour too!).
If you happen to feel peckish at this stage, head over to Ruszwurm, an old pastry shop where locals have been getting their favourite confections since 1827. A Ruszwurm Torte (or two) will give you more energy for the day.
Budapest One Day Itinerary: The Afternoon
Wonder how Budapest looks from either bank of the Danube River during the day?
You’ll be spending this afternoon at Fisherman’s Bastion enjoying fantastic, uninterrupted city views. From there, you’ll see it from the Pest side, where you’ll venture up to the tower of the impressive St. Stephen’s Basilica. Then it’s on to the fascinating Jewish Quarter, where tumultuous history, culture, and art seamlessly come together.
Enjoy Panoramic Views at Fisherman’s Bastion
Within walking distance of Buda Castle is Fisherman’s Bastion, which (in my opinion) is hands-down the best place to take in the breathtaking views of the city and the Pest side of the Danube River.
It was originally built as a lookout to protect the castle and is named after the Fisherman’s town lying beneath the walls. It’s got 7 stone towers representing the 7 Magyar tribes who came to establish Hungary, and these towers now serve as a viewing deck for tourists and locals.
Fisherman’s Bastion is free to enter but you’ll have to pay a small fee of around HUF1000 ($2.60) to go up the towers for slightly better views than the other parts (totally worth it!).
Venture to the top of St. Stephen’s Basilica
St. Stephen’s Basilica is located on the Pest side of Budapest and is considered one of the most important buildings in the country.
Dedicated to Hungary’s first king St. Stephen, this also houses the king’s mummified right hand (also known as the Holy Right Hand). He was greatly revered by the Hungarians and many believed that numerous miracles happened during his canonisation.
This basilica has a magnificent cupola which is an ornately decorated dome with stained glass windows lighting the sanctuary below. The church interior is richly adorned by fine art such as marble statues, frescoes, paintings, and mosaics.
You’ll find art here that includes an interestingly peculiar mix of dragons, birds, and animals. For the past century,
St. Stephen’s Church has been highly regarded in the musical community for its world-class Basilica Choir, classical music concerts, and even contemporary music performances. If you like music, you might even get to see some performances while you’re there. Click here to check out tickets.
To top off your visit to St. Stephen’s Basilica, brave the 364 steps (or pay a little fee to take the lift) and experience 360-views of Budapest. You can see the basilica square below, the Parliament building, Citadella, and even the Buda hills from afar on a clear day.
Wander around the Jewish Quarter
In this enchanting part of Budapest, you’ll find that Jewish history is heavily intertwined with the art and culture of the city.
The Jewish Quarter, also known as the 7th District, is home to the world’s second-largest synagogue – the Dohány Street Synagogue – and the Holocaust Museum. Alongside these historical sights lie trendy restaurants and incredible street art that made this district into an intoxicating mix of energies that attracts both locals and newcomers to the district.
Home to most Jewish families, this district’s thriving community also welcomes avant-garde galleries, artsy boutiques, and gastronomic gems offering the best coffee or a farm-to-table brunch. The once dilapidated district with old buildings was converted to the eclectic ruin bars of Budapest (more about these later!) and consequently hosted notorious parties and night indulgences.
24 Hours in Budapest: The Evening
As you head into the evening, you’ll spend the rest of the day relaxing in thermal springs, exploring Budapest by night and partying in the famous ruin bars. There’s no shortage of things to do at night in Budapest!
Relax in the Széchenyi Thermal baths
Have you even been to Budapest if you haven’t bathed in their thermal baths? It might be a ‘standard’ thing to do in Budapest, but there’s nothing like a relaxing night dip at the Széchenyi Thermal baths, the most popular thermal bath in Budapest and the biggest natural hot springs bath in Europe.
The baths have outdoor pools with water jets, whirlpools, underwater aqua massage, and an impressive labyrinth of 18 pools, all supported by the 123 natural hot springs of Budapest! It is open all year round even in the dead of winter (December and January) and they open until 10:00 PM during the weekends (but make sure to come at least an hour before closing to enter).
The spa culture in Budapest is huge and soaking in a thermal bath is believed to have medicinal and therapeutic benefits, perfect to ease muscle pains (especially after a long day of exploring), detox the skin, and increase blood circulation. You’ll be super relaxed for the rest of the evening’s activities!
Budapest night walking tour
Curious about what went on back in the day in Budapest? If yes, join this night’s sojourn of the Buda Castle with a Gothic-styled tour guide. This 2-hour historical Budapest walking tour will spice up the Castle with stories of war, medieval Budapest battles, folk stories of Hungary, and even vampires!
It’s full of stories about the darker, magical side of Hungary. Did you know that the Romanian prince Vlad Dracula was once a prisoner of this Castle? You’ll also find out who Elizabeth Báthory was and how she become known as the Bloody Countess.
Read more about this tour here.
Drink at a Ruin bar
A ruin bar is an actual bar selling alcoholic beverages built inside derelict buildings from World War 2 and the Cold War.
Since the start of the 2000s, ruin bars have become wildly popular watering holes, mostly located in the old Jewish Quarter. The outside might intimidate you but I swear you won’t regret going in. Every turn is a surprise as you’ll find yourself sitting on a quirky bar stool surrounded by funky art, weird antiques, and incredibly fun crowds.
If you want to find the hip and the artsy side of Budapest, ruin bars are the place to be.
Try a shot of Unicom, Hungary’s national drink or a Palinka, a local fruity brandy. In Hungary, they say “a little Palinka is a medicine”. Well, that’s for you to find out haha!
Day Trips to Budapest from Nearby Cities
If you’re travelling around Europe, I recommend visiting Budapest in one day from the nearby cities of Vienna and Bratislava. If you ever find yourself in either of these beautiful cities and have a spare day, book an organised day tour or plan a day in Budapest yourself.
Day Trip to Budapest from Vienna
If you’re in Vienna and want to do a worry-free day trip to Budapest, this guided tour to the Hungarian capital will set you up to see the key attractions, eat the best food and learn all about Hungary’s rich history, art, and culture.
Your tour guide will bring you (and your small group limited to just 8 people) to the Hungarian Parliament Building and to explore the crooked streets of the expansive historical complex of Buda Castle District.
The tour also includes Andrássy Avenue, Heroes’ Square, and St. Stephen’s Basilica (the view from the tower is absolutely breathtaking!).
Tick off your foodie bucket list and try the local food like Goulash and paprika-seasoned favourites before travelling back to Vienna. Sometimes, you just want to focus on sightseeing without thinking of where to go next, and this tour does everything so you don’t have to.
Find out more about this Budapest day trip here.
Day Trip from Bratislava to Budapest
Nearby Bratislava, the capital city of Slovakia, is just over 100 kms away from Budapest.
A bus or train ride would take about 2.5 hours, but the train is a lot cheaper than the bus. The train ride also offers a more enjoyable commute, seeing both countries’ scenery along the way.
The train from Bratislava brings you right into Budapest-Nyugati pu train station, I recommend pre-booking your train tickets in advance to get the best timings and online offers.
Check train schedules here.
Switch it up – more options for your Budapest one day trip
- Walk around Andrássy Avenue and Heroes Square: Andrássy Street is lined with museums, luxury shops, restaurants, cafes, embassies, mansions and schools. It’s a long walk but you’ll find a mix of ancient and contemporary structures. Heroes Square is the main and largest square in Budapest and the 7 statues symbolise the 7 founding chieftains of Hungary. It is also flanked by the Museum of Fine Arts and the Palace of Art.
- Explore the Citadel and Liberty Statue atop Gellert Hill: You can’t miss the enormous bronze Liberty Statue. It commemorates Hungary’s liberty from Nazi Rule and honours those who stand for the independence and prosperity of the country. The Citadella was built as a fortress and surveillance position at the highest point of the hill. It’s now enjoyed by tourists and locals because of its gorgeous views of the city.
- Wonder at the Parliament Building: This impressive structure is the world’s third-largest parliamentary building, and Budapest’s overall largest building, and it glows like a golden masterpiece at night. If you only want to tour just one museum in Budapest, I highly recommend the Országház which shows the rich art, long history, and incredible culture of Hungary.
- Stroll across Chain Bridge at night: Széchenyi Chain Bridge straddles both the Buda and Pest sides of the city and is an absolute beauty at night. I recommend strolling across the bridge in the evening time so see it all lit up. One of my favourite free things to do in Budapest!
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FAQs: 1 Day in Budapest
Is one day in Budapest enough?
One day in Budapest is enough to get a glimpse of what the city has to offer, especially if you plan your carefully. Public transportation is reliably regular and affordable and it will help you get from one place to another quickly.
Is Budapest a walkable city?
Budapest is certainly a walkable city and the best way to enjoy the city is by walking it. But if you need to cover a lot of exploring or can’t get around on foot, the extensive transportation links of the subway, buses, and trams are easily accessible from any point in the city.
What to do in Budapest in 1 day?
The best Budapest one day itinerary should include a visit to the famous Fisherman’s Bastion on Castle Hill, trying Hungarian cuisine at the Central Market Hall, soaking in Széchenyi Thermal Bath at night, and a nightcap at any of the city’s ruin bars.
One Day in Budapest: The Verdict
This 1 day Budapest Itinerary should keep you busy from morning until night. From gorgeous views of the city atop stunning buildings and stone towers to one-of-a-kind thermal baths and the hopping nightlife.
The beauty of the old and the excitement of the new come together in Budapest. This enchanting city will definitely charm you back again for a longer stay (I’ve been back a few times myself!).
Vourneen is a travel junkie and chronic illness warrior. Although she was late to game in terms of travelling, she has picked up numerous tips and tricks from the almost 30 countries she has visited in the past 5 years.