What To Do In Budapest In 2 days
So, you have some spare time and you’re coming to Budapest, but you have no idea what Budapest is, where Budapest is, and most importantly, what to do in Budapest in 2 days.
Worry no more, because WWB Writer and Budapest Expert,Dilyana, is here to present to you this magnificent city and all it has to offer.
With this elaborately crafted itinerary, full of detailed advice and guidance, yet leaving you space to choose and surprise yourself.
You won’t need to stress where and how you should go next, but relax, enjoy, and make the best of every precious moment of your 2 days in Budapest.
For a start, prepare to eat a lot, walk a lot, and don’t forget your bathing suit!
Quick Summary Of Your 2-day Budapest Itinerary
DAY 1 From The Top Of The Hill To The Thermal Bath’s Swimming Pool
9:00 a.m. Batthány Square for a legendary Parliament pic
12 p.m. Lunch
1 p.m. St. Stephen’s Basilica
6 p.m. Széchenyi Thermal Bath
8 p.m. Dinner
9 p.m. Margaret Island Musical Fountain Show (optional)
DAY 2 Aristocratic Heights And Popular Shopping
9 a.m. The Shoes on the Danube Bank
10:00 a.m. The Parliament
11 a.m. The Danube Promenade
12 p.m. Lunch at Parisi Udvar
3 p.m. Central Market Hall
5 p.m. Váci Street
5:30 p.m. Vörösmarty Square
8 p.m. Cruise or Cruise + Dinner
After 10 p.m. Cheers to Budapest: Ruin bars and more
Some of the links on here are affiliate links and I may earn if you click on them, AT NO EXTRA cost to you. Hope you find the information here useful! Thanks.
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Why Should I Visit Budapest?
I don’t know a single person who has visited Budapest and hasn’t fallen in love with the city, but I do know a lot of people that don’t know about Budapest or won’t even consider traveling there.
I’m glad you’re going to be from the first group and see the best of Budapest in 2 days.
But if you still have any doubts, or need to persuade someone to come with you, I got you covered with all the info below.
Reasons Why You Should Visit Budapest
- The Pearl Of The Danube
Budapest is often referred to as the Pearl of the Danube.
And indeed, the city is a rare gem. But I’d like to accentuate another quality of a pearl – it does take time to form one.
Budapest has formed its multifaceted nature through the years.
The city has undergone a lot – a Mongol invasion, an Ottoman conquest, World War II demolitions, Soviet communism, but it always returned better and stronger, proudly bearing the scars of time.
A magical blend of all that has happened to it, to say that Budapest is a city with a soul, would be an understatement.
So if you are asking- what to do in Budapest in 2 days? The answer is : PLENTY!
- A Little Bit Of Everything For Everyone Anytime
Whether you’re an ardent foodie, an Instagrammable spot hunter, art lover, history geek, party beast, spa enthusiast, music fan, travel adventurer, or simply someone looking for new experiences, you’ll find a thing for yourself in Budapest.
Any time of the year, 24/7.
The whole city, including the Danube embankments, the castle area, and Andrássy Avenue, is part of the UNESCO World Heritage sights.
There are ancient ruins, historical and artistic buildings, thermal baths, underground caves, delicious cuisine, did I say thermal baths, unique bars, regular and not so regular museums, and oh, yes, thermal baths.
- Follow The Steps Of Your (Teen) Idols
If all of the above wasn’t enough to persuade you and your travel companion/s, how does the prospect of turning into a spy like Selena Gomez in “Round and round”, or a dancing queen of the world like Katy Perry in “Firework” sound to you?
Both these music videos were shot in Budapest and feature the sights I’ve selected for you to visit.
Now, go check them to get a preview, but don’t forget to come back, cause we still have a lot to cover.
What To Do In Budapest In 2 Days
I know you’re already dying to know more about what to do in Budapest in 2 days, but before we start, I still need to share with you some more info.
Sorry, we cannot skip it! It is important for you to know!
Budapest is the capital of Hungary, which is situated in the heart of Europe. The city got its name from currently, its two most distinctive parts, formerly, two separate cities Buda and Pest.
The two united on November 17, 1873, together with a third smaller city Óbuda (literally, Old Buda).
The Danube river flows throughout the city with Buda lying on its Western bank and Pest on the Eastern one.
The two parts cannot be more different – think of them as two sisters – Buda is the quiet, historic, and aristocratic one, while Pest is the lively, modern, and popular one.
- Please, note that the article was written in January 2021 with numerous restrictions still in place. I have created the itinerary considering normal circumstances. Before your trip, please refer to the websites of the mentioned places (all included) for the most up-to-date information regarding opening hours and entrance fees.
- All available entrance fee prices were converted into US dollars according to the exchange rate at the time of writing the article. Fluctuation is possible.
Now we’re good to go! Budapest, here we come!
DAY 1 From The Top Of The Hill To The Thermal Bath’s Swimming Pool
9 a.m. Batthyány Square – Snap That Legendary Parliament Pic
If you’ve wondered what to do in Budapest in 2 days, the Parliament is definitely the most iconic building in the city.
And Batthyány tér (tér = square) is the only place that you can take a “close” picture of it in all its splendor and with you adding to it, of course.
After you’re done, take either tram 19 or 41 to Clark Ádám Square .
Breakfast tip: If you still haven’t had breakfast, consider trying some palacsinta (Hungarian for pancake).
There is a 24/7 open pancake place, Nagyi Palacsintázója, at Batthyány Square offering a wide variety of both sweet and savory pancakes.
9:30 a.m. Fisherman’s Bastion, Matthias Church, Buda Castle, Castle Garden Bazaar
When you get off the tram, look for the tunnel, and either walk for about 7 minutes on Hunyadi János út (út = road) or take Bus 16 for one stop to go to the Fisherman’s Bastion (Halászbástya).
These picturesque 19th-century lookout towers were named after the fisherman guild that used to protect the hill in the Middle Ages.
There are seven towers, one for each of the seven founding tribes of Hungary.
Nowadays, the Fisherman’s Bastion provides visitors with some of the best panoramic views of Budapest and is a hotspot for Instagram perfectionists.
The lower parts and balconies are open all year long, 24/7, and are free of charge, while you’ll need a ticket for the top turrets.
Unless you truly want to walk on the steps of Ms. Gomez, I wouldn’t say it’s a necessary purchase.
Opening hours: for the upper part 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. (March 16 to April 30) and 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. (May 1 to October 15)
Entrance fee: for the upper part HUF 1000 ($3.4)
Right next to the towers is a statue of Hungary’s first king – Stephen I. More about this fair gentleman later today.
Follow his gaze to see the splendid Matthias Church (Mátyás-templom) – a Roman Catholic church in the neo-Gothic style that got its popular name from a beloved Hungarian ruler, Matthias Corvinus aka Matthias the Fair.
The official name of the church is The Church of the Assumption of the Buda Castle, just FYKI.
Colorful tiles by one of the Hungarian top porcelain manufacturers Zsolnay embellish its distinctive roof.
Matthias Church has undergone numerous transformations due to invasions and demolitions.
Its current look dates from the late 19th century.
It has also served as a venue for royal weddings and ceremonies, including the coronation of the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I and his wife Queen Elisabeth (“Sisi”) as Hungarian king and queen in 1867.
There is an entrance fee, so if you’re on a tight budget, you might consider checking the virtual tour on the church’s website. It’s pretty good, I must say.
Opening hours: Mon to Fri 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Sat 9 a.m. – 1 p.m., Sun 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Entrance fee: Church HUF 2000 ($7), Tower HUF 2200 ($7.50)
From here, head on the cobbled streets and walk straight to the Buda Castle (Budavári Palota). Say “Hi!” to the turul perched on the gates – a mythological bird of prey and one of the national symbols of the Hungarians.
There’s also the stop of the Budapest Castle Hill Funicular (Budavári Sikló) and you may witness the changing of the guards in front of the Sándor Palace – the official residence and workspace of the President of Hungary.
Not as grand as the one in front of the Buckingham Palace, but still quite ceremonial. It changes hourly starting from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Enter through the gates and simply explore the castle area and take more panoramic pics, of course.
Dance like Katy Perry, if you want to, but make sure you check the King Matthias (yes, the same one from above) hunting scene fountain. It operates from March to October.
The royal quarters are not open to visitors, instead and if highly interested, you can check the:
These are located in the castle.
Once done, you may go down on foot, with the funicular, or go back to Disz Square and take Bus 16.
I encourage you to continue to the farther end of the castle and take the escalator to the Castle Garden Bazaar (Várkert Bazár).
This is a relatively newly-renovated part of the castle with lavish colorful decoration and beautiful rose alleys.
Go down from there and either walk back to Clark Ádám Square or take the aforementioned trams for one stop back.
11 a.m. The Széchenyi Chain Bridge, Gresham Palace
Cross the Széchenyi Chain Bridge (Széchenyi lánchíd), which is another iconic Budapest sight. It was the first permanent bridge to connect Buda and Pest.
Count Széchenyi initiated its building after he couldn’t attend the funeral of his father exactly because of the lack of steady connection between the two banks.
On the other side of the bridge, on the Pest side, you’ll see the Art-Nouveau Gresham Palace (Gresham-palota).
Its façade literally shines when bathed in sunlight. Originally an office and apartment building, currently, it operates as the luxury Four Seasons Hotel.
You can pop in quickly in the lobby and who knows, you might spot some Hollywood star filming in the city. I still regret not going to wait in front of the hotel when Hugh Jackman was there (sigh).
12 p.m. Lunch
You journey on figuring out what to do in Budapest in 2 days is not complete without good food!
It’s time to recharge the batteries after all this climbing and walking.
On your way to our next stop, the Basilica, there are plenty of opportunities to do so. Head over Zrínyi utca (utca = street) and don’t forget to take a snap with the sturdy gentleman that resides there (you’ll understand when you see him).
My advice is to follow the classic unwritten rules of every traveler – check the little streets that cross the main one and choose a place where you see many people (locals included) eat.
To facilitate your choice, however, here are a few possibilities:
Langosh – a quick and cheaper choice to try Hungarian emblematic street food lángos (more about it in the sections to come).
You can also check Retró Lángos. It’s a bit farther – a 6-minute walk from the Basilica via Hercegprímás utca, but also a bit cheaper and offers an even greater variety of toppings.
Zeller bistro – a mid-range homey bistro that serves dishes made with ingredients from local producers in a cheerful and friendly atmosphere.
Urban Betyár – a higher-price range restaurant that combines exquisite cuisine with ethnographic experience. Reservation is advisable.
1 p.m. St. Stephen’s Basilica
Your 2-day Budapest itinerary continues with St. Stephen’s Basilica (Szent István Bazilika).
A Roman Catholic basilica in Neo-Renaissance style that stands out on the Budapest skyline with its staggering 96-meter height.
The Basilica is named after its patron, the first king and founder of the Hungarian Christian state, Stephen I.
Don’t be startled, but his mummified right hand is preserved to this day and kept in an elaborately decorated reliquary.
Besides the beautiful interior (and the hand), you can also have a 360-degree view of Budapest at an additional fee and by either climbing the 364 stairs or taking the elevator to the top of the dome.
Opening hours: Basilica Mon to Sat 9 a.m. – 7 p.m., Sun 7.45 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Circular lookout 10 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. in the Summer, reduced other times of the year
Entrance fee: Basilica free; Circular lookout HUF 1000 ($3.40)
2 p.m. Andrássy Avenue, Hungarian State Opera, And More
Once back on the ground, head on Andrássy Avenue (Andrássy út), or as it’s commonly dubbed the Hungarian Champs-Élysées.
If you want to know what to do in Budapest in 2 days and if you’re into shopping, this is your place!
You’ll find luxurious boutiques like Burberry, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, Rolex, to name a few.
There are also restaurants, cultural centers, and embassies, but undoubtedly, the most prominent building on the avenue is that of the Hungarian State Opera (Magyar Állami Operaház).
Sadly, this architectural beauty is currently having a thorough facelift and is due to reopen sometime in 2021.
Erkel Theater hosts all performances at the moment.
Dear traveler, the time has come for you to pick the next stop from your Budapest two-day itinerary.
- Have A Sweet And/ Or A Selfie
Fancy a sweet and a selfie?
No problem. Right opposite SUGAR! is the Museum of Sweets and Selfies.
- “The Most Beautiful Café In The World”
Continue walking on Andrássy Avenue and once you reach Oktogon (you’ll recognize it – it’s a big octagonal circus), take tram 4 or 6 to Wesselényi utca/ Erzsébet körút stop.
In a two-minute walk, you’ll see what is famously known as “the most beautiful café in the world”, or New York Café (New York Kávéház). It’s pricey, but the interior and the experience are worth it.
- House of Terror (Terror Háza)
Past Oktogon, in about two minutes, you’ll reach a building with “terror” written on its roof and multiple pictures on its walls.
This is the actual building, in which the fascist and communist regimes in the country detained, tortured, and/ or killed dissidents.
In 2002, it was turned into a unique museum to commemorate those victims, offering an eye-opening experience for the monstrosities they had suffered. An audio guide is available and highly recommended to rent.
Opening hours: Tue to Sun 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., CLOSED on Mondays
Entrance fee: HUF 3000 ($10), Audio guide HUF 1500 ($5)
4 p.m. Heroes’ Square, City Park, Vajdahunyad Castle
Some of Budapest’s means of transportation are worth taking for the sheer experience and Metro 1 (Yellow) Line is one of them.
This is the first metro in continental Europe (the very first one was in London).
Its small lego-like yellow cars and the beautiful mosaic and tile names of the stops are above charming.
Take it in the direction of Heroes’ Square (Hősök tere), which you’ll see immediately upon coming out of the metro station.
The highlight of the square is an iconic statue complex featuring the Seven Chieftains of the Hungarians (remember the seven turrets of the Fisherman’s bastion?
These are their leaders), accompanied by 14 other notable Hungarian heroic figures.
The square serves as an entrance to the City Park (Városliget).
A vast park complex and the main venue for the Millennium celebrations of the Hungarian state in 1896.
It houses some of the most notable Budapest sights, including but not limited to the aforementioned museums, the Budapest zoo, Gundel restaurant, and Széchenyi Thermal Bath.
Cross the square and behind it, you’ll see a fairytailish castle looking like it has come straight from a Disney film.
This is the Vajdahunyad Castle (Vajdahunyad vára).
What I most love about it, besides that I can imagine I am a princess in it, and maybe my prince awaits me there, is that the different parts of the castle are built in different architectural styles.
Try guessing them!
Clue: Gothic, Romanesque, Baroque, and Renaissance.
The castle’s yard is worth taking a stroll, but no need to enter the building itself, unless you’re a fervent fan of agriculture, because currently, it functions as the Museum of Hungarian Agriculture.
Depending on the time of the year you visit and whether you have any energy left, you can opt for renting a boat or a sea bike and row/ pedal in the lake in front of the castle in the Summer, or ice-skate in the Winter.
With its 150 years of age, the City Park Ice Rink is one of the oldest in Europe.
6 p.m. Széchenyi Thermal Bath
Among the top things to do in Budapest in 2 days, without which your visit cannot be complete, is taking a dip, or rather soaking yourself in one of the thermal baths in the city.
Széchenyi Thermal Bath (Széchenyi fürdő) is by far the most popular one and also the largest thermal medicinal bath in Europe.
This will be one of the highlights if you are wondering what to do in Budapest in 2 days.
It’s just a five-minute walk from the castle and you’ll immediately recognize its majestic Neo-Baroque yellow building.
Few things to have in mind:
- Equipment: You can buy and/ or rent everything there: cosmetics (HUF 180 ($0.7) for an 8ml-shower gel and HUF 860 ($3) for a 100ml-shampoo), towels, bathrobe (HUF 9900, $34), flip-flops (HUF 1990, $7), bathing suits (for women and men alike HUF 2990, $10), but naturally, it considerably raises the price. So, you better bring your own.
- No cap, no swim: If you want to swim in the swimming pool (there is a special one with colder water), you must have a swimming cap (HUF 2000, $7).
- Locker vs Cabin: if you’re shy and/ or not comfortable getting undressed in front of other people of the same gender, make sure you buy a ticket with a cabin. The cabin ticket costs HUF1000 ($3).
- Save that hard-earned money: Usually, baths offer cheaper tickets very early in the morning (6 a.m. – 9 a.m.), or after 7 p.m. till closing time. Also, if you’re more than one person of the same gender, buy only one ticket with a cabin that you can all use one after another.
Currently, only 2020 prices for a daily ticket with locker usage are available as follows: HUF 3500 ($12) on weekdays and HUF3900 ($13) on weekends and holidays.
Once in the bath, start with the outside pools and then enter the ones inside the building where you’ll also find steam rooms and saunas.
Adventure tip: If bathing in beer is your dream, at an additional cost, you can make it real with Thermal Beer Spa.
8 p.m. Dinner
That bath felt great, right?
But you also got pretty hungry. No worries.
Take Metro 1 (there’s a stop in about a two-minute walk from the bath) back to Oktogon and choose from the wide variety of possibilities that both Liszt Ferenc Square and Andrássy Avenue offer you.
My personal favorite and recommendation on the first location is Café Vian.
Its rich menu comprises both local and international cuisine specialties at mid-range to slightly higher prices. The service and atmosphere are also superb. To tell you how much I love this place: I’ve celebrated my birthday there.
Spoil your palate with the following culinary gems (all tried by me and some more than once (blush)):
- Salmon Benedict (HUF 3210, $11)
- Nizza Salad (HUF 2730, $9)
- Mozzarella chicken breast (HUF 3590, $12)
- Chocolate fondant (HUF 1580, $5.5) or Mille-feuille (HUF 1420, $5)
On Andrássy Avenue, you can try the following:
The Bigfish Seafood Bistro – naturally, as a place of this kind, it’s expensive, but the great choice of both fish and seafood and the experience to pick what you want and be cooked for you is worth it.
Pizza EATaliano – do I really need to persuade you regarding pizza and pasta?
Lángos Papa – if you didn’t try it at lunch, now you can. They even offer lángos topped with other traditional Hungarian dishes such as csirkepaprikás and marha pörkölt (both detailed below).
Optional Summer program:
9 p.m. Margaret Island Musical Fountain Show
From Oktogon take Tram 4 or 6 into the direction of Széll Kálmán Square and get off at Margit sziget/ Margit híd stop.
Cross the street and walk straight ahead, you can’t miss the fountain with its magical lights and music.
It’s a one-hour show that ends with a hologram presentation of famous Hungarians and Budapest sights.
After the show, head back to Margaret Bridge (Margit-híd). Margaret Island (Margit-sziget) is truly amazing, but I wouldn’t recommend exploring it by night.
Besides some of the music clubs at the beginning of the island that you may visit, walking around it by night would equal walking by night in a dark forest.
On the bridge, make sure you snap a photo of Budapest by night – this is the perfect spot to capture both Buda and Pest with all their sights lit up.
Sleep tight and see you tomorrow – there are many more places to see in Budapest in 2 days!
DAY 2 Aristocratic Heights And Popular Shopping
9 a.m. The Shoes On The Danube Bank
The second of your 2 days in Budapest starts next to the Parliament, on the bank of the river, where you’ll find the holocaust memorial the Shoes on the Danube Bank (Cipők a Duna-parton).
It’s in honor of the Jewish people who during World War II were ordered to take off their shoes and were then shot; their bodies falling in the river and carried away by the water.
Please, be respectful, as this is not an entertainment monument.
You may see oblivious tourists who pose for pictures, or even try to put their feet into the shoes – don’t be one of them!
10 a.m. The Parliament
Have you ever had a place, or a building that you saw in some encyclopedia, or a magazine that you always wanted to see/ visit?
This was the Hungarian Parliament building for me.
With its stunning architecture and measures perched on the bank of the Danube, it looks more like a castle than a political building.
I’ve had the honor to visit it inside twice and it’s something you should experience too.
Now, I won’t lie to you, that’s not an easy thing to do, and it requires some planning.
This is the actual parliament of Hungary, that is, the Hungarian government has sessions there. Many people want to visit it, the number of tours is limited, and you definitely, definitely must purchase a ticket in advance.
But if you indeed make the effort to organize yourself, then you’ll be rewarded with an even more lavish and staggering beauty on the inside than on the outside, including the coronation jewels; among them, the Holy Crown of Hungary aka Crown of Saint Stephen (yep, that same guy).
Prices differ for European Union citizens and for non-European Union citizens – HUF 3500 ($12) and HUF 6700 ($23), respectively.
11 a.m. The Danube Promenade
From the Parliament start walking in the direction of the Chain Bridge and continue straight on the Danube Promenade (Dunakorzó).
Dive in its lively atmosphere with all the restaurants, their guests chatting, glasses clinking, here and there live music, drowned by the cling-clang of the passing tram 2, and the view.
Ah, the view – the river and Buda with its hilly landscape and its sights – some you’ll recognize from yesterday, and others we’ll visit today.
The most notable building on the Danube promenade is the Vigadó concert hall. Also, there are several interesting statues, but I leave it to you to discover them and surprise yourself.
12 p.m. Lunch At Párisi Udvar
After your stroll on the promenade like a real Budapest aristocrat, I find it only fair to have lunch in a matching place, namely Párisi Udvar.
Originally, the building served as the headquarters of the Downtown bank and its ground floor used to be the main shopping center in the city.
Nowadays, it operates as a luxury hotel and there are also a café and brasserie for both hotel guests and outside visitors.
It’s pricey, but there is a lunch menu between 12-3 p.m. with two- and three-course variations for HUF 3590 ($12) and HUF 4590 ($16), respectively.
1:30 p.m. Gellért Statue And Hill
Outside Párisi udvar, start walking towards the river and you’ll see Elisabeth Bridge (Erzsébet híd). You guessed right; it’s named after Queen Elisabeth (“Sisi”).
On the Buda side, Saint Gellért will meet you with open arms – a Christian martyr who allegedly was killed after he was put in a wine barrel and the latter was rolled down the hill.
If you’re in Budapest between March and October, you’ll also see the waterfall that flows under the statue.
Take the stairs and start climbing the hill, making sure the Buda Castle is always behind you. The higher you go, the better the view. Do pause not only to rest, but also to admire it, and capture it for future generations, or the gram.
2:00 p.m. The Citadella And The Liberty Statue
It’s quite a climb, I know, but it’s all worth it! There’s no other view like the one from the top – whole Budapest, the Danube, and its eight bridges are plain to see.
Make sure you do a full circle around it.
If you need to rest a bit more, there is a very nice park right next to where all the tourist buses stop.
The easiest way to go down is through that park. Simply take the stairs downwards until you see the green bridge, or Liberty Bridge (Szabadság híd).
Before it, you’ll see Hotel Gellért, which houses one more of Budapest’s famous thermal baths.
Interesting fact: Previously, the bridge was called Franz Joseph I – I find it truly romantic that the two neighboring bridges were named after the husband and the wife.
On the Pest side, you’ll see a grand building with the same colorful tiles like the ones on the roof of the Matthias Church. This is the…
3:00 p.m. Central Market Hall (Nagyvásárcsarnok)
The building is massive both inside and out and you can get a glimpse of the every-day life of Hungarians doing their groceries shopping.
Follow their example but with souvenirs – things to consider buying are:
- paprika in whatever form you prefer,
- a Rubik’s cube (after all we’re in its homeland),
- the world-famous Tokaj wine, and
- not so famous, but truly Hungarian Unicum – a bitters, blend of more than 40 herbs and spices, prepared according to a secret recipe.
5 p.m. Váci Street
Out of the Central Market Hall, cross the street and walk straight forward – this is Váci Street – the most famous touristic street.
It might get overcrowded at times, but you can cross it faster, just for the sheer experience.
And by no means, don’t, I repeat, DON’T take any sample soaps sticks from the people that would offer them to you – they’ll only waste your time and make you buy some unnecessary expensive cosmetics.
If you’re too tired to walk, go down the subway where you’ll find the stop of Tram 2, and take it to Vigadó Square.
5:30 p.m. Vörösmarty Square
Váci Street ends at Vörösmarty Square (Vörösmarty tér), or you can simply walk to it from the tram stop passing by the Vigadó building.
In the latter, make sure you buy some of their exquisitely delicious sweets and marzipan treats (cheaper than the airport).
If you’re a fan, there is a Hard Rock cafe too.
Also, shops of more popular brands like Bershka, H&M, C&A. Take the street that runs towards Deák Ferenc Square and you’ll find even more shops.
This is the Fashion Street or Andrássy Avenue’s little sister.
If you’re there in November-December, this might be your central point of interest, as this is the square where the oldest Christmas fair in the city takes place.
In recent years, the Christmas market in front of the Basilica got quite popular too.
8 p.m. Cruise Or Cruise + Dinner
Time for dinner or why not combine it with a cruise on the Danube river.
I highly recommend taking the cruise with or without dinner. And I insist on an evening one – this is truly one of the best things to see in Budapest in 2 days.
There is something magical gliding with the ship on the Danube among all Budapest’s beauties showered with lights.
Hours: evening cruises April to December with various starting hours, depending on the month; dinner cruises May to December from 7 p.m. or 7.45 p.m.
Cost: evening cruise HUF 6300 ($21); Exclusive dinner package HUF 23 900 ($81)
After 10 p.m. Cheers To Budapest
What better way to say goodbye to this amazing city and celebrate your trip than immersing yourself in the vibrant Budapest nightlife.
Here’s where you can say “Egészségedre!” (what does it mean? Find below!)
Eclectic, eccentric, absurd – words are not enough to describe them, you must see them.
You may sit in a bathtub or a Soviet Union car Trabant and a half mannequin could be hanging from the wall.
If you prefer more normal-looking surroundings, try 360 Bar at Andrássy Avenue.
It’s open all year long and in Winter, there are igloos, in which you can stay warm and enjoy Budapest from the top.
It might get crowded, so make sure you have a reservation.
Fancy a drink and live music at the foot of the Chain Bridge? You can find all this and more at Pontoon. Open from the end of March till the beginning of October.
If you don’t like something from the itinerary, the weather doesn’t allow it, or in case you decide to turn your Budapest itinerary 2 days into 3, or more days, here are some more ideas:
- Dohány Street Synagogue (Dohány utcai Zsinagóga) – the biggest synagogue in Europe.
The entrance fee of HUF 5000 ($17) covers a guided tour in different languages (English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Hebrew, Hungarian) and a visit to the Heroes’ Temple, the Jewish Cemetery, Memorial, and Museum, which are also part of the synagogue complex.
- Margaret Island – you can easily spend a whole day at what could be considered the Central Park of Budapest.
A Japanese garden, a small zoo, a swimming pool, vast green and flowery garden areas, a historic water tower with an open-air concert hall, and medieval ruins are just some of its amenities.
While there are numerous ways to explore the island, renting one of the big four-wheeled bikes aka quadricycles is, without doubt, the most joyful one.
You can rent them directly on the island, or you can book in advance with Go Mobility, which provides also e-scooters, regular bikes, and monsterrolers.
One hour with quadricycle costs HUF 4490 ($15).
- Escape room – some claim that escape rooms originated in Hungary; true, or not, there are plenty of them in its capital, including such dedicated to famous and beloved TV series and franchises, such as Game of Thrones, Star Wars, Hunger Games, and Marvel.
Prices vary per room and per number of participants, but to give you a clue, you can sit on the Iron Throne or become one of the Avengers from HUF 4950 ($17) per player for two people to HUF 2750 ($10) per player for six people.
- Budapest Zoo situated in the City Park is one of the oldest zoos in the world (154 years old) and boasts a wide variety of both flora and fauna.
For HUF 3300 ($11) you can see carnivorous plants, kangaroos, red panda, wombat, and a Komodo dragon, to mention a few of the most special ones.
- Caving – yes, you read correctly.
Apparently, there is a vast network of caves under the city where you can walk, tour, or engage in more adventurous activities, so put on your headlamp, and let’s go!
Tours last from 2.5 to 4 hours and should be booked two-three days in advance. Prices start at HUF 7000 ($24) for a walking tour.
How To Get To Budapest
Before your 2 days in Budapest start, first, you must get there, here’s all you need to know.
Being situated in the heart of Europe and on the Danube, Budapest is accessible by all means of transportation, and you can make great connections with other European capitals such as Vienna, Prague, Bratislava, and Ljubljana.
You can even consider an international cruise on the Danube river.
If you’re coming by train, you’ll be arriving at either Keleti or Nyugati railway stations, by bus at Népliget bus terminal. Please, refer to the next section for how to get around Budapest.
I’d like to elaborate more on how to reach the city if you’re coming by plane.
You’ll arrive at Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport (BUD) and from there you have three options:
1. By Taxi
Fő Taxi is the only authorized taxi company at the airport, so avoid using any other offering its services on the spot.
It’ll cost you approximately HUF 8000 ($27), depending on the traffic.
2. By Airport Transfer
This is a pre-booked service and the price will vary depending on the number of passengers.
Below are three companies with good reviews that you can choose from:
- miniBud – the official shuttle service provider of the airport; prices start at EUR 6 ($7.30) (per person for eight or more passengers in one vehicle)
- ATB Airport Transfer Budapest
- Welcome Pickups
3. By Public Transport
This is the cheapest option and there are two variations.
The first one is by taking bus 100E – a special route bus that will take you directly to the city center and thus, it requires a special ticket, which can be purchased from the ticket vending machines in front of the airport; one-way ticket costs HUF 900 ($3).
The second one is by bus 200E, but you’ll have to transfer to Metro 3 (Blue) line at the last stop of the bus Kőbánya-Kispest M.
You’ll need two regular single tickets, a total of HUF 700 ($2.5), also purchasable from the ticket vending machines.
Important note: make sure you get off at the very last stop of bus 200E; don’t be misled by an earlier stop with the similar name Kőbánya-Kispest P + R.
How To Get Around
The ways to explore the city during your two-day Budapest itinerary are as diverse as the city itself.
Budapest is a very walkable city and I do recommend mostly using your beautiful feet to move around, but as we’re pressed by the time and sometimes for the sheer experience, you can and should use the next option too.
The city has a well-developed and highly-effective transport system operated by the Budapest Transport Center (Budapest Közlekedési Központ, or BKK).
There are buses, trams, trolleys, metro, and even ferries.
There are also night buses and tram 6 runs 24/7, so practically, you can travel at any hour. A single ticket costs HUF 350 ($1.20) and can be used for all means of transportation, except ferries.
IMPORTANT: Make sure you validate your single ticket before getting on the metro and once on the board of buses, trams, and trolleys.
You’ll see yellow or orange machines for that purpose; insert the ticket and wait for it to be stamped with a date and/ or punched.
Failing to do so, you run the risk of being heftily (HUF 16 000 ($55)) fined on the spot by the inspectors.
No kidding! They aren’t either!
Travel cards do not need to be validated, but only shown when getting in/ on and if required.
You can purchase tickets and cards from the ticket vending machines at the entrances of every metro station and wherever else you see them.
Some cards (24 and 72 hours) are also purchasable in digital form via the BKK mobile app.
Options to consider: a compound of 10 single tickets for HUF 3000 ($10), or a daily card for HUF 1650 ($6).
Other possibilities include a 72-hour card for HUF 4150 ($14) and a 24-hour group travel card to be used by a maximum of 5 people traveling together on the same vehicle HUF 3300 ($11).
Check the BKK website for more details and options.
If you’re an ardent biker or want to save some time, there are bike rental networks with stations at key locations all around the city. The most well-developed ones are MOL BuBi and the Donkey Republic. The first one is said to be currently under renovation and due to restart in the Spring of 2021.
In case you prefer a more organized and less physically strenuous way to explore the city, you can do so by trying some of the Segway tours – they vary per duration and price, so pick per your preference.
Another alternative is the Hop-on Hop-off tours.
Where To Stay
You got your Budapest two-day itinerary and you know how to get around, but you’ll also need a place to stay at.
As a first-time visitor and to maximize your time, the best option is to stay on the Pest side.
Have a look at the city center, or District V., as well as Districts VI. and VII. The latter is the so-called party district, but don’t be intimidated, there are quiet places at reasonable prices.
I’ve selected for you several options with excellent location, great reviews, and different price ranges.
I, myself, am not a hostel person, but if that’s your jam, consider:
This 3-star hotel, used by my sister when she visited me, is great for couples and solo travelers alike easyHotel Budapest Oktogon.
Rooms are small but equipped with everything you need.
Or you can opt for the slightly higher-priced and more spacious ibis Budapest city.
If the sky is your limit, treat yourself to the:
Accommodation tip: If you’re a fan, or open to new experiences, do not exclude AirBnB either.
You can find entire apartments in the heart of the city for about or slightly above $100 for three nights.
How Much Money Do I Need For 2 Days In Budapest?
If you are wondering what to do in Budapest in 2 days and you are on a tight budget, the good news is, Budapest can be considered a cheap city.
Judging from my travel and living experience, it’s far cheaper than Western, Northern, and Southern Europe, and just a bit more expensive than Eastern Europe.
How much money you’ll need will depend highly on your decision regarding what to do in Budapest in two days.
On an extreme budget, meaning close to no public transport, no entrance fees, and excluding accommodation and outside of Budapest travel expenses, one can easily get by with HUF 15 000 (USD 51).
A rough calculation of what the above Budapest two-day itinerary might cost you in a rather mid-range direction, without accommodation and outside of Budapest travel expenses, amounts to about HUF 65 000 (USD 221).
How about the Budapest card?
Budapest card offers free Budapest public transport, free access to some of the Budapest museums and/ or discounts on the entrance fee to other sights, as well as tours and programs.
A 48-hour card costs EUR 33 ($40).
Sadly, the offered discount on the main Budapest sights such as St. Stephen’s Basilica lookout, the Széchenyi Thermal Bath, the Synagogue is low (10-20%).
Thus, I wouldn’t recommend the Budapest card (or any other city card for that matter), especially for short trips.
But again, it all depends on you and what you want to see and do.
If you want to spend your 2 days in Budapest in museums and galleries, the card might be of use.
The only advice I could give is to check your points of interest, your time, and compare them with what the card offers and its overall value; if there is a predominant match, then go for it.
What Should I Know Before Going To Budapest?
During your 2 days in Budapest, “What to do?” shouldn’t be a question anymore, but here are few more clues for before you get there.
Wondering what to do in Budapest in 2 days is important but thinking about your safety is important too!
Budapest is a safe city and I would recommend it to even solo female travelers.
I’ve always felt there even safer than in my hometown in Bulgaria. Still, be aware of pickpockets in the highly touristy areas.
Also, use your common sense and gut feeling; do not walk alone in dark, secluded places; take actions when something doesn’t feel right.
If in need, do not hesitate to call the emergency numbers:
112 – common emergency number (like 911 in the USA)
104 – ambulance and emergency medical services
105 – fire-brigade
107 – police
- The most common scams I’ve heard about are overcharging, or double prices at restaurants or in taxis, meaning they show you one price, but then charge you a completely different and much higher price.
Again, use your gut feeling and if something doesn’t sound/ look right, do not accept it.
- Avoid entering places after you are called in by someone in the street, as well as hailing taxis on the street.
At The Restaurant
- Have in mind though that in many restaurants the prices, especially, for wine and other beverages are provided for the amount of 100 ml.
That is, at first you may think that a glass of wine/ juice is very cheap, but when served, it’ll be double or triple the listed price.
Make sure that the latter is per glass and not per 100 ml.
- Tipping is not compulsory yet recommendable in Hungary. You should leave about 10-15% of the bill. Check, however, cause sometimes the service fee is included (it should be written on the receipt).
You can, of course, still leave more money.
- Make sure if you want a change, not to say “Thank you!” when paying, as the waiter will understand that the amount is OK, and you won’t get any change.
Thank after the final transaction.
- Always have cash with you, cause some small shops/ restaurants, or the craftspeople at Christmas markets, might not have card terminals.
- Do not use the blue-yellow ATMs in the streets, cause they take excessive transaction fees. If you need to withdraw money, use those of respected banks.
Hungarian Forints vs Euro
Avoid paying in Euros. Hungary is in the European Union, but the Euro is not its official currency.
Many places accept payments in Euros; however, each has a different and in most cases not favorable exchange rate. So, pay in Hungarian forints.
Students, bring your valid international student ID card as there are plenty of discounts, including entrance fees for the main sights in this itinerary (and not only).
For reference, the entrance fee to the Parliament for students who are European Union citizens is HUF 1900 ($7) as opposed to HUF 3500 ($12), the regular fee for European Union citizens.
Hungarian, or as it’s called Magyar, is one of the most difficult languages in the world and you’ll see that even some otherwise common words like “police” sound crazy.
But don’t worry, you’ll be all fine with English.
Furthermore, if you ask for directions, you may find Hungarians very helpful as they want to practice their English.
For the sake of courtesy to the locals and also, to show off once you get back home, I’ve listed some vital (in certain cases, literally) words and phrases in Hungarian and their approximate pronunciation.
An important thing to know is that in Hungarian “s” is pronounced like “sh” (yes, Budapest is actually, “BudapeSHt”, and “sz” is pronounced like normal “s” – told ya, it’s crazy) 🙂
|Hello!/ Good afternoon!||Jó napot (kívánok)!||Yoo napot (kiivaanok)!|
|Hi! (plural and singular)||Sziasztok!/ Szia!||Siastok!/ Sia!|
|Thank you! (long/ short)||Köszönöm!/ Köszi!||Kyosyonyom!/ Kyosi!|
|I’ll call the police!||Hívom a rendőrséget!||Hiivom a rendyoorsiiget!|
|Goodbye! (long/ short)||Viszontlátásra!/ Viszlát!||Visontlaataashra!/ Vislat!|
Funny note: You may hear a lot of Hungarians saying “pu**y” all the time.
Don’t worry, they aren’t that vulgar (although they have a wide array of swear words). “Puszi” in Hungarian, which sounds exactly like its English counterpart, actually, means “kiss” like in “hugs and kisses”.
Hungarian Weather/ Holidays
If you are wondering the best time to visit when you want to know what to do in Budapest in 2 days, its important to note that Budapest can be visited all year round.
However, the best months to visit are from March till October, and December, of course, for Christmas.
Summer can be too hot with daily temperatures sometimes exceeding 30°C (86°F) and winter too cold with daily temperatures varying between -5°C (23°F) and 0°C (32°F).
Being situated by a river means also wind. It might get pretty cold and windy when crossing a bridge, or on the top of the Buda hills, so if you’re visiting in rather cold months, pack a hat, gloves, and scarf.
Do not forget your sunscreen.
Hungary has three national holidays: March 15, August 20, and October 23.
The good thing is that all museums are free of charge to visit on these holidays. The bad thing is that naturally, it gets crowded and accommodation prices go up.
Especially, on August 20, or Saint Stephen’s Day, due to the annual fireworks above the Danube, which are truly spectacular.
Another thing you should take into account is the rich festival culture.
Particularly, the world-famous Sziget festival that usually takes place at the beginning of August and also results in crowds and higher accommodation prices.
The same goes for the Hungaroring, or the Formula One Hungarian Grand Prix, usually happening in July.
Best Things To Eat In Budapest
Remember when I told you to prepare to eat a lot at the beginning?
When you visit Budapest in 2 days, it’s inevitable to overeat and also to not be able to try everything – it’s a vicious circle, I’m telling you 😀
Hungarians love their meat, so the majority of their cuisine includes meat. Below are some emblematic dishes that you must try:
Goulash (in Hungarian gulyás “gooyash”) is the national dish of Hungary. It’s a spicy soup with beef pieces, potatoes, carrots, and naturally, paprika.
Marha pörkölt is another beef dish with paprika. It’s a beef stew served with a side dish that could be anything from rice through mashed potatoes to dumplings (the last one being rather the classic).
Csirkepaprikas is stewed in paprika sauce chicken also served with the aforementioned possible side dishes.
A vegetarian option would be a főzelék – a vegetable stew, or lángos – a big flat disk of fried dough garnished with garlic, sour cream, and grated cheese.
Hungarian sweets are widely influenced by Austria since the time of the Dual monarchy, but there are certain traditional Hungarian sweets that you cannot miss trying the you are trying to figure out what to do in Budapest in 2 days:
Somlói galuska – a trifle dessert with layers of sponge cake and custard cream, topped with whipped cream and chocolate sauce.
Dobos cake is probably what Sachertorte is for the Austrians. Named after its creator József C. Dobos, it consists of alternating layers of sponge cake and chocolate buttercream. Its signature topping is a triangular piece of hardened caramel.
Eszterházy cake is not as famous as the Dobos cake, but equally, or dare I say, more delicious. It has layers of cognac or vanilla-spiced buttercream and walnut meringue dough. You can recognize it by the fondant glaze and the spider-web-like chocolate pattern.
Kürtőskalács (Chimney cake) – a spit cake covered with sugar and a topping of your preference.
Cinnamon and chopped walnuts being the classic choice, but coconut shreds, dry fruits, and cocoa powder are also among the possibilities. Furthermore, there are variations when they fill “the chimney” with ice-cream, whipped cream, and other soul-nourishing temptations.
Besides the above-mentioned restaurants, consider the following places when it comes to filling your tummy:
Ráday Street – a gastronomic parade on which you can find everything from a Michelin-star restaurant to street food, as well as various international cuisines like Indian, Japanese, Italian, and naturally, Hungarian.
And also the best sandwiches in town – Marie Kristensen. A great bonus is that the street is close to office buildings and many of the restaurants offer lunch menus.
Király Street – restaurants, cafés, pubs – so you can party and eat; not to mention that from there you can access Gozsdu udvar – another iconic place for foodies and not only.
Also, there is the Frici Papa restaurant – by far, the best restaurant to try traditional and delicious Hungarian cuisine at a fraction of a forint.
So, there you have it, you know exactly what to do in Budapest in 2 days.
Feel free to adjust the itinerary per your heart’s desire and/ or depending on the time of the year you visit.
For example, if you go in December, you may want to switch Day 1 and Day 2 and spend more time at the Christmas markets.
Budapest is a city of many faces and experiences, but probably its biggest charm is in the small details.
A surprising statue on the street, a beautiful painting on the façade of the buildings, an elaborate architectural ornament.
Make sure you keep your eyes open and look up and around.
For the ten years I spent living there, it never got old to play the tourist and each and every time someone visited me, I rediscovered the city and fell in love with it again and again.
I’m sure you will too 🙂
Before I let you go packing and instead of a goodbye, I challenge you to find and take a picture of the building with the paintings of the four seasons.
Clue: it’s between Astoria and Deák Ferenc Square 😉