View over Budapest from Fisherman’s Bastion white castle at sunset

How to Spend the Perfect Day in Budapest

Budapest is one of the most popular cities in Eastern and Central Europe, and for good reason. It offers a huge range of sights and activities, and has a long (and bloody) history.

While we recommend spending at least three days in the city to fully appreciate its offerings, sometimes that just isn’t possible. If you’re in the Hungarian capital as a stopover while exploring the European continent, or if you have other engagements, then here’s the perfect itinerary for one day in Budapest, covering all the major attractions.

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Morning

Start your day at City Park, a large green area with many attractions, such as the Vajdahunyad Castle, the Budapest Zoo, and the Museum of Fine Arts. City Park is located on the Pest side of the Danube, and is a great place to begin your day of exploration.

One of the main attractions of the park, and one of the most famous in Budapest, is the Széchenyi Thermal Bath. It’s renowned for being one of the largest and most beautiful spa complexes in Europe. As well as enjoying the warm, mineral-rich water in the indoor and outdoor pools, you can also use the saunas and massage services.

Lunch

For lunch, you should opt for street food. It’s a great way to get to know a destination by trying local flavours; you’ll be eating the same things that the locals do, instead of being tempted by ‘safe’ options like the pasta and pizza offered in tourist-friendly hot spots.

Seeing as you only have one day in Budapest, buying street food means you won’t spend unnecessary time waiting in a busy café or restaurant. You can enjoy your food on the go while seeing the sights, or sit on a bench and soak up the atmosphere.

Here are some of the most popular street food options, which can be found around City Park and at stalls around the city:

  • Lángos: A deep-fried dough topped with cheese, sour cream, garlic, or other ingredients. It’s a classic Hungarian snack that can be found at many markets and festivals.
  • Kürtőskalács: A spit cake (also known and advertised as Chimney Cake) baked over charcoal and coated with sugar, cinnamon, nuts, or other toppings such as chocolate sauce.
  • Kolbice: A Hungarian take on hot dogs, where sausages are served in a freshly baked pastry cone with various sauces and toppings. This modern and innovative street food combines traditional flavours with a more convenient form. 
  • Vegan burgers: A plant-based alternative to burgers, made with various ingredients such as beans, tofu, seitan, or mushrooms. They’re a healthy and delicious option for vegans and vegetarians, especially since many of the region’s specialties are made with meat.

Street food is usually reasonably priced, even in central Budapest. This means you can save money for dinner; the location we’ve chosen offers plenty of options to indulge in.

Heroes' Square monument against a cloudy blue sky
Heroes’ Square

Afternoon

After lunch (or while walking and eating) you should head to Andrássy Avenue. The avenue, also known as Andrássy út, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Budapest’s cultural hubs. It will take you from City Park almost to the Danube, at which point you’ll be ready for dinner.

The walk from City Park up Andrássy begins at Hero’s Square, a grand monument commemorating the 1000th anniversary of the Hungarian state and honouring its national heroes. See the statues of the seven chieftains who founded Hungary, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and the Millennium Monument.

Following Heroes’ Square, you’ll come across numerous elegant neo-Renaissance and neo-Baroque buildings, such as the Hungarian State Opera House, the Liszt Ferenc Music Academy, and the Ballet Institute. You can also visit some of the department stores and boutiques that call Andrássy home.

One of the most most notable attractions on Andrássy Avenue is the House of Terror Museum. The museum is dedicated to the victims of the fascist and communist regimes in Hungary, and offers a sobering experience.

Other worthwhile attractions that provide insight into Hungary’s history include the Miniversum, a miniature model of Hungary and its neighbouring countries, and the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, a gallery showcasing the works of the famous Hungarian-born photojournalist and his peers.

A few minutes walk from the end of Andrássy Avenue, you’ll arrive at St Stephen’s Basilica, the largest church in Budapest and a masterpiece of neoclassical architecture. The basilica is famous for its richly decorated interior, the stained glass windows, and the mummified right hand of St Stephen, the first king of Hungary. For a panoramic view of the city, you can climb up to the dome.

Dinner

While you’re sure to have come across many restaurants on Andrássy, for dinner you should head to Central Market Hall. It’s the largest and oldest indoor market in Budapest, hosting various food stalls, and is also great for souvenirs.

The walk from St Stephen’s Basilica to the market is around 2km, taking 20-30 minutes depending on your pace. You can also get there by public transport in under fifteen minutes by taking Tram Line 47, the number 9 bus or Metro Line 3 (blue). You can find more information about public transport in our article How to Use Budapest Public Transport Like a Pro.

Once you arrive you can take a tour of the market and sample it’s best offerings, or explore independently. Traditional Hungarian dishes on offer include goulash (meat and vegetable stew), paprikash (chicken in paprika sauce), and strudel (pastry with fruit or cheese filling). There are also international options available, and you can also buy fresh produce, meats, cheeses, spices, sweets and handicrafts.

Evening

Finally, you should end your day by crossing the Danube and having a night time tour of the Castle District. Tours include the illuminated Buda Castle, the former royal palace and now a museum complex, Fisherman’s Bastion, a fairy-tale-like lookout terrace that offers incredible views of the Hungarian Parliament Building lit up at night, and the Matthias Church, a Gothic church with a colourful tiled roof. 

Different types of tours provide the opportunity to learn about the dark history, legends, and myths of the area, as well as the wider region. Get Your Guide is a good place to explore tour options and book in advance. We recommend the Buda Castle District Vampires & Myths Walking Tour, which delves into the history of Elizabeth Bathory and Dracula.

Final thoughts on spending the perfect day in Budapest

Budapest is an incredible city, and there’s more than enough to keep you busy for a day. In fact, even the loose itinerary we’ve provided almost gives you more than you can cram in. You’ll have to plan in advance which attractions you’d most like to see, and prioritise them on the day.

You can use the Tiqets platform to book tickets to many attractions in advance, including some on Andrássy. It also shows which attractions have same day availability, which is particularly useful in peak season.

You can find plenty more information about Budapest in the articles Best of Budapest: A Comprehensive Guide to the Top Things to Do and Best ways to explore Budapest, so definitely check them out if planning a longer trip.

CTA: If you’ve already been to Budapest, let us know in the comments how you’d spend a perfect day in the Hungarian Capital!

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