How To Spend 24 Hrs. In Budapest
Updated: Feb 26
I wish I had more time. If I've learned anything on this trip it is that Budapest requires as much time as you can spare. There is so much to see and experience here that you could easily spend five days and still not have seen all the sights. Here is the list of all the things I was able to see and do - and highly recommend - with 24hrs in Budapest:
Explore The Streets Of Buda
When I went, I stayed on the Buda side of Budapest (the west side of the river). Budapest is a city divided yet united. In 1873 Buda and Pest were officially merged with Óbuda (Old Buda), and as a result created the new metropolis of Budapest. The first thing I did was explore the streets of Buda. So much history and architecture - an photographer's dream!
Buda is quieter, more relaxed, than it's partner Pest, and it's easier to find quiet streets and shops.
See Fisherman’s Bastion and the Castle Hill
This is one of the most impressive places in Central Europe, the area is steeped in history, and the architecture is fantastic - the views are pretty good too! While nobody is quite sure why it is called Fisherman's Bastion, some theorize it is because this stretch of the city was protected by the Fisherman's Guild during the middle ages.
The Castle Hill district includes Fisherman's Bastion, Matthias Church, Buda Castle, multiple museums, and many other sights to numerous to count.
Tour A Church or Synagogue
Matthias church is imposing and beautiful. It's hard to miss when visiting Fisherman's Bastion. It is quite inexpensive to go inside the church, but you also have an option of purchasing a ticket to go to the top spire. I think next time I travel here, I will take a trip to the top. I also saw several other churches in particular St. Stephen's Basilica on the Pest side, though I didn't have the opportunity to go inside.
Visit A Bathhouse
In the late afternoon I went to Gellert Spa. I was getting quite tired at this point, and relaxed in the hot tub outside. Unfortunately, they were closing quite early so I didn't get to experience the entire complex. If you are planning on going here, I highly recommend going to one of the baths (there are multiple), but make sure you allow yourself at least three hours to fully enjoy it. It is the perfect way to recover from jetlag.
See the Parliament buildings at night
After enjoying the baths, I returned to my hotel. I was staying on the Buda side at the OnRiver Hotel MSMaribelle (which unfortunately is under renovations right now). It has a patio on the top deck, which overlooked the river and provide the most gorgeous view of the city. Seeing the lights turn on and dusk settle is the perfect way to end a fantastic day in the city.
Visit Margaret Island Park
Margaret Island Park is a beautiful hideaway from the city. Located on the river, it is easy to get to from both sides of the city (depending on where you are staying). Walking around this park is a great way to start your morning. There are a surprising amount of facilities and features in and around the island, such as a hostel, medieval ruins, a small zoo, a rose garden, two musical fountains, a historic water tower, swimming pools, a water park, playgrounds, open air theater and cinema, and
some great clubs. Bike rentals are situated around the park, so if you don't want to walk it you can certainly rent one of those to explore.
Visit a Museum
There are many, many Museums in Budapest, and while I didn't tour any during my time here, I do highly recommend going to a museum if it piques your interest. With only 24 hrs in Budapest, I had other things I wanted to see. Pictured below is the Hospital In The Rock museum, which was a serving hospital built in the caverns of Buda Hill, during WWII.
Eat Goulash at the Great Market Hall (Central Market Hall)
I would consider this a must do for ever traveler! The Great Market Hall is the largest market in Budapest and certainly the most beautiful. Built in 1897, this building looks like it should be a train station, but it's original purpose was to be a market hall. There are many different vendors on multiple different levels, where they sell anything from fruit and veggies, to clothes, to toys, to souvenirs. Killing two birds with one stone, be sure to visit Fakanal restaurant on the upper level and order the most quintessential of Hungarian dishes - Goulash! While the interior seats are lovely, and they often have a musician playing, I opted for a seat outside - allowing a great view of the market from above - the perfect place to people watch.
I loved every moment I had in Budapest, but I realized shortly after arriving, that I wouldn't even be able to scratch the surface of all there is to do and see here. When I return, here are several things new things I can't miss:
Visit The New York Cafe
Considered the most beautiful cafe in the world, it was just a bit to far away from where I was to go - next time it will be top of my list.
Visit a Ruin Bar
Budapest is very well known for it's Ruin Bars. These are bars and clubs built in the cities old Jewish Quarter, in the ruins of abandoned buildings, stores, or lots.
Cruise Along The River
I never did get to cruise on the river in Budapest, but I would certainly make this a must-do on future visits. If you aren't on a dedicated river cruise, there are many smaller day or evening cruises, some that serve wine and food, that allow you see the sites of Budapest from the river, and watch the lights of the Parliament building come on.
The Promenade extends between Elizabeth Bridge and Chain Bridge in Pest, and is beautiful stroll along the river side. While it is very beautiful it can be haunting too with the sculpture of the Shoes On The Danube. This is a tribute to all of the people who executed on the banks of the river.
Climb Gellert Hill
If I had enough time, I would climb Gellert Hill in the morning - for the most amazing lookout of Budapest. Then after returning down to the bottom, visit Gellert Spa, to soak away the aches and pains of travel, and climbing!
Dohány Street Synagogue
While I visited Matthias Church this visit, on my next I would want to visit the Dohany Street Synagogue along with the Hungarian Jewish Museum (located onsite). This is the largest Synagogue in Europe, and was built in the Moorish Revival Style between 1854 and 1859. An absolutely beautiful building, with an important yet haunting history.
I know I feel like I am a broken record - but I really wish I had more time here. Budapest is a beautiful and fascinating city, and I would encourage anytime visiting Europe to include this place on your trip (with as much time as you can spare).
If you are interested in learning more about Budapest, or would like to start planning your own European Adventure, contact me through email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling 587 772 2525. I am located in Sherwood Park, Alberta (a suburb of Edmonton), and am the owner operator of Evening Star Travel. I book travel for clients all across Canada.