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I really enjoyed my time in Budapest and appreciated the history, architecture and quirky sites. I also loved just about everything I ate in Budapest and am a new fan of Hungarian food. If you have a couple of days to spend in Budapest, here is a detailed 2-day itinerary for you to enjoy this city to the fullest!
7AM // PRINCESS STATUE & CHAIN BRIDGE
I always recommend getting your day started early because it’s the best time to see the beauty of any location before all the tourists begin their sightseeing. Things are definitely more peaceful and you get to take your time enjoying the sites without all the chaos.
Head over to the Princess Statue first and get great views of the Buda Castle. You can also watch the trams pass by. I always enjoy watching trains or trams since we don’t have much public transportation where I come from (in Florida).
Take a stroll next to the tram tracks and head to the chain bridge. It’s the famous suspension bridge that spans the River Danube between Buda and Pest. It was the first permanent bridge across the Danube in Hungary and it finished construction in 1849. It’s also featured in a lot of movies and music videos like Katy Perry’s “Firework”. The walk across the bridge is actually pretty short and only takes about 5-10 minutes to get from one side to the other.
8AM // BUDA HILL FUNICULAR
Walk across the Chain Bridge to the Buda side and take the funicular up Buda Hill. It’s a quick and easy way to get up top and only costs $4 for a one-way ticket ($6 for a roundtrip ticket). This is the best time to ride the funicular before the lines start to form. Once it’s around 11am, there’s a long wait to get on the funicular because there are only two operating with limited amount of seats.
8:30AM // FISHERMAN’S BASTION & MATHIAS CHURCH
I love this area because you get glorious views of Budapest in a beautiful setting. There are so many different angles and spots where you can get fantastic photos of the cities. The Matthias Church is also located here.
9AM // BUDA CASTLE
Buda Castle is a magnificent castle and palace that was originally built in 1265, but most of the site was built between 1749 and 1769. It used to be the home for the Hungarian kings. Now, it houses the Hungarian National Gallery and The Budapest History Museum. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
If you are getting hungry, you can try one of their many restaurants.
1PM // GRESHAM PALACE
Gresham Palace is actually a hotel owned by the Four Seasons and our tour guide recommended checking it out since it is beautifully decorated inside. The palace was built in 1906 and it was originally an office building but after the Soviet regime, it turned into a luxury hotel and retained its original Art Nouveau architecture.
They also offer Afternoon Tea from 3-6pm in the Bar and Lobby Lounge if you want to relax and enjoy the beauty of the hotel a little more.
2PM // KARAVAN STREET FOOD
Head back to the Pest side and stop by Karavan Street Food, an awesome outdoor area with loads of food trucks. You can try all the Hungarian street food in one place at great prices. They have everything from langos to goulash to desserts and more.
3:30PM // SZIMPLA KERT (RUIN BAR)
Right next to Karavan is Budapest’s most popular ruin bar, Szimpla Kert. Ruin bars started after the Soviet regime ended and the government sold these old buildings they didn’t take care of at a cheap price. There are lots of ruin bars in Budapest now but the most famous one is Szimpla Kert and once I visited, I understood why. This place is humungous and there is so much eye candy to look at in every corner. Szimpla Kert is so huge that they provide a map detailing what is in each section from the Farmer’s Market to Garden Stairs to Recordings Studio and more.
7PM // REZKAKAS BISTRO
Enjoy dinner at an excellent restaurant in Budapest with traditional Hungarian dishes. The setting is really nice and there is usually a band playing some Hungarian music which is lovely. Try some plink if you dare (Hungary’s traditional fruit brandy with strong alcohol content), Stuffed Chicken and Angus Steak.
9AM // GERBEAUD
If you’re looking for a cafe that serves excellent breakfast or desserts, you must go to Gerbeaud. This cafe was started in 1858 and has been internationally acclaimed over the years. The interior is gorgeous with chandeliers, exotic woods and marble all around. They serve light meals and tons of delicious desserts.
10:30AM // ST. STEPHEN’S BASILICA
St. Stephen’s Basilica is a Roman Catholic basilica and is named in honor of Stephen, the first King of Hungary. It’s a relatively young church compared to other European churches, completed in 1901. The inside of the church is lavishly decorated with red marble and gold everywhere. For an extra 500 HUF (less than $2), you can climb up the stairs to the rooftop to get a great view of Budapest.
12PM // MEMENTO PARK
Take the bus to Memento Park, the final resting place for the fallen Communist statues and memorial plaques that were removed after the downfall of the Communist regime. Statues include Lenin, Marx and Engles and more. You get a glimpse of what communism and propaganda looked like.
2PM // HEROES’ SQUARE AND MUSEUMS NEARBY
Heroes’ Square (Hosok tere) is a huge square that was built in 1896 to commemorate the 1000th anniversary of the Magyar tribes in Hungary. Make sure to get up close to the statues to see all the details that were put in to these magnificent sculptures.
There are also two museums right next to the square, the Fine Arts Museum and the Mucsarnok Art Gallery, which are worth checking out if you have the time.
5PM // THERMAL BATH
Budapest is known for thermal baths and the most popular one is Széchenyi thermal bath. It is Budapest's largest thermal bath complex built in 1913 and has 15 indoor pools and three huge outdoor pools. The medicinal baths include sulphate, calcium, magnesium, bicarbonate and a significant amount of fluoride acid and metaboric acid. It is said that these waters help ease joint pain and arthritis and improve blood circulation.
8PM // HALASZBASTYA RESTAURANT
Have dinner at the most fabulous restaurant in Budapest. You’ll feel like a princess (or prince) walking into a palace with it’s high ceilings and stone walls. The service was beyond outstanding and it was one of the best fine dining experiences I’ve had. Even though it’s a fine dining restaurant, the prices are very reasonable for everything you get in this magical experience.
Budapest has an excellent transit system that is easy to understand. We walked most of the time except when we went to Memento Park, which was easily reached by metro and bus. At the time we went, Budapest did not use Uber but they use a taxi app called Taxify that is very similar to Uber and easy to use.