Budapest Parliament Hungary

Backpackers’ Guide to Budapest

The Ultimate Itinerary for the Hungarian Capital

It’s getting more and more popular to travel around Europe and people forget about Hungary too many times. I know, you can’t have everything… But why not putting Budapest on the list? Here’s a few reason why you should reconsider visiting the Hungarian capital:

  • Fascinating Architecture – the whole city!
  • History everywhere
  • Unique Hungarian Cuisine
  • Vibrant Nightlife
  • Great Public Transport – easy to travel around the capital

Still not convinced? Let me provide a list what you can include in a day-trip in Budapest, and – hopefully – you’ll be glad to choose Hungary at least for a day (and regret not staying for more 😛 ).

So let’s kick off your European backpacking adventure with a 1 day itinerary for Budapest:
However, this itinerary is also suitable for 2 or 3 days too. In that case you will have more time to spend in each location.

8:00 Castle District, Buda

The most historical part of the city. If you start your trip here early in the morning you’ll avoid the tourist crowd. Even at 8 am it’s quite busy, but you can still find some clear spots for taking photos. The medieval, Baroque and neoclassical architecture deserves “some” shots.

Main sights around the Buda Castle:

  • Matthias Church (Mátyás templom)
    From the 13th century until now. You can even climb to the tower for a stunning view of the whole city. Online tickets and more info available HERE!
  • Fisherman’s Bastion (Halászbástya)
    You may reconsider buying an entrance ticket, as the view is amazing on the public areas as well.
    Among others you will see the Chain Bridge, the Parliament, the St. Stephen Basilica and the Margaret Island.
  • Royal Palace
    You can enter the museum in case you have more than a day in Budapest.
  • Hospital in the Rock – Nuclear Bunker Museum (Sziklakórház)
    It is part of the 10 km long tunnel system under the Castle of Buda. The hospital was built in the II. World War as an emergency shelter. Unique location with a staggering history from the II. World War. Opens only at 10 am. Click for more info!

After finishing wandering around you can easily walk down on foot or get a lift with the Funicular to Clark Adam Square.

10:30 Walk Over the Danube

Cross the Chain Bridge to Pest from Clark Adam Square on foot. By walking over the Danube you will be thrilled by its mightiness. Stop for a moment in the middle to see Buda and Pest from the same perspective.

After crossing the river it will take 10 minutes to reach the Hungarian Parliament. Along the way, you may notice the heartbreaking sculpture “Shoes on the Bank of the Danube” just at the riverside. This holocaust memorial is “To the memory of the victims shot into the Danube by arrow cross militiamen in 1944-1945” during the II. World War.

Shoes on the Bank of the Danube
Shoes on the Bank of the Danube

Here you’re only one more block away from the world’s 3rd biggest parliament.

11:15 Hungarian Parliament

This renown architecture of Hungary was built at the end of the 19th century. Both the facade and the interior contributes to it’s highness. You can enter the Parliament with a guided tour and see the Holy Crown of Hungary together with the crown jewels. I highly recommend booking a tour in advance (at least 2 days earlier) so you skip the line and don’t waste your time with waiting. Guided tours are available in many languages ( English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Russian and of course Hungarian) Buy the tickets here for the Parliament!

12:30 Time for Lunch

It’s time to taste some local Hungarian food!

Where to find good restaurants in Budapest?

  • Small Boulevard (Kiskörút) – it’s basically the line of tram 4 and 6
    Try some tasty local food in the Lecsó restaurant
  • West End – around and inside the shopping center
  • Deák Ference Square – Deák Ferenc tér

Well actually, all around the city center of Budapest!

Also, here’s a quick list of the most important Hungarian dishes:

  • Mains
    • Goulash / Gulyás – hearty soup with meat, potato, carrot
    • Layered Potatoes / Rakott krumpli – simple but tasty, my husband’s favourite 😛 Mainly potato, sausage, eggs, cream.
    • Fried Sausage / Sült kolbász – with bread and mustard
    • Chicken paprika with nokedli / Csirkepaprikás – chicken stew with paprika and cream, served with plain Hungarian dumplings = nodekli
    • Főzelék – a thick vegetable soup
    • Stuffed Cabbage Leaves / Töltött Paprika – pickled cabbage leaves stuffed with a mix of minced meat and rice
  • Seconds after an abundant soup:
    • Curd cheese Dumplings / Túrógombóc
    • Plum Dumplings / Szilvás gombóc
    • Lángos – deep fried dough with your taste of sour cream, cheese… Can be a street food and be bought such as here!
  • Desserts and other sweeties:
    • Chimney cake / Kűrtős kalács – you really shouldn’t miss this Hungarian street food! Soft sweet dough inside and crispy outside tossed with your choice of flavoring (cinnamon, chocolate, vanilla, coconut etc.). Yummi!
    • Chestnut puree / Gesztenyepüré – served with whipped cream and -sometimes – cherries
    • Sponge Cake / Somlói Galuska – contains walnut, chocolate, vanilla, raisin, apricot jam. Delicious combo!

I have to stop with this list because I’ll never finish it then… Any questions, recommendations please comment!

14:00 St. Stephen Basilica

Named after the first Hungarian Catholic King whose “Holy Right” hand is enshrined within the walls of the Basilica in Budapest. The entrance is free, however you can ask for a guided tour or even go up to the panoramic look-out tower to have a spectacular view on Budapest.
More info on the official website of the St. Stephen Basilica.

Besides the Basilica, the neighborhood is pretty neat as well – therefore a bit more expensive. Grab an ice cream and walk to Deák Ferenc Square (Deák Ferenc tér) where you’ll find the Hungarian version of “London Eye” called “Budapest Eye” – ingenious, right?

15:40 The 1st Metroline of Europe in Budapest

The first metro line in the whole European continent was opened in Budapest! The yellow line (M1), also called “Little Underground” (Kisföldalatti) which crosses the city center started operating in 1896. As it is still an important line in the public transport of the capital, the stations were refurbished, however they kept the original antique style.

Take a ride back in time from the Deák Ferenc tér to reach the Heroes’ Square (Hősök tere).

16:00 Heroes’ Square

Heroes' Square Budapest

The largest square of Budapest in the heart of the Hungarian capital. The statues represent important Hungarian historical figures, however they were not always the same ones. The Heroes’ Square is surrounded by other significant spots such as the Műcsarnok (Kunsthalle) on it’s right, the Museum of Fine Arts (Szépművészeti múzeum) on it’s left. Also, the Budapest Zoo is in walking distance, as well as our next destination, the City Park (Városliget).

17:00 Budapest City Park

Although it’s just the second biggest park in Budapest, it’s ideal location – being in the city center – makes it the the most influential. Moreover, a few exciting sights are also waiting to be explored.

Boating Lake

Budapest Boating Lake

After the Heroes’ Square you’ll find yourself at the Boating Lake where you can rent a boat or go ice-skating in the winter!

Vajdahunyad Castle, Budapest

The small-scale version of Vajdahunyad Castle (Vajdahunyad vára) is based just on the other side of the lake. The original castle can be found in Transylvania which was an important institution in the Hungarian history. This small version is home for the Museum and Library of Hungarian Agriculture.

18:00 Széchenyi Thermal Bath

It’s bath time!

Budapest Széchenyi Bath
Széchenyi Bath in the heart of Budapest

After the long day you deserve a relaxing bath in a special place. The Széchenyi Bath is the most popular thermal place in Budapest. However, the thermal baths were extremely popular in the country centuries before. The complex offers a perfect relaxing atmosphere with a spectacular architecture from 9 am till 10 pm! Check out the official page here!

Nightlife

If you still have energy, don’t skip the Gellért-hill for a stunning night view to the city.

If you decide to go out into the Budapest night, you can find loads of ruin-bars and pubs along the Grand-Boulevard and from there to the Small-Boulevard. The Deák Square is also one of the busiest places during the night.

Useful info for Budapest

Public Transport

Public Transport Tickets can be bought from any purple BKK Ticket Vending Machine.

From the Liszt Ferenc International Airport take the 100E bus to the city center. Unlike the other bus it only stops in the center of Budapest so it takes only half an hour to get in – of course depending on the traffic. Be aware that you need a special ticket for this bus which costs 900 HUF (3 EUR). It can be purchased from the mentioned BKK Ticket Vending Machines as well.

More info on ticket types on the ➡ official website of BKK

Taxi

If you prefer using taxi from the airport choose the Főtaxi! That’s the official taxi company that takes you to the city center. You have to ask for a taxi in a kiosk just outside of the building. Do not go with other taxi companies! They may seem official drivers and they may are, sometimes… It even happened with me – as a Hungarian… -, they grabbed my stuff to be put quickly to the car and charged me at the end twice as much as the Főtaxi previously, and of course he only took cash…
The price to the city center should be around 9000 – 10000 HUF (~30 €).

2 Days or more in Budapest?

A quick list what else can be important to visit in the Hungarian capital

House of Terror Museum

Shows the shocking communist era in Hungary. Click here for more info.

Szentendre

A lovely traditional countryside town 50 minutes from Budapest. You can take a HÉV train there from the city center. Szentendre is also famous for it’s extensive Hungarian folk park.

Dohány Street Synagogue

The largest synagogue in Europe and one of the largest all around the world. It may doesn’t sound interesting at first but it’s definitely a unique place which worth a visit once you’re in Budapest. Be aware of the attire regulations on entering the synagogue.
More info and tickets: http://www.jewishtourhungary.com/en/

Margaret Island

An island in the middle of the city which is a park itself. Entering by car is strictly restricted, but the the public transport is going there. You can walk or rent a bringóhintó (surrey bike) and cycle around the island. It’s a real fun! There’s also a little free zoo in the middle.

Rudas Bath

Also one of the most known baths in the country. What makes this one unique is it’s pool on the top of the building with a 360° panoramic view on the whole city! Isn’t it charming?
Tickets and more info here!

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I could continue for a while with this list but my goal was to collect the most important sights in Budapest that you can cover in a day – or in a few days – in the Hungarian capital. If you have any questions or suggestions feel free to leave a comment below!
I’d be more than happy if you’d share your best experience after your journey in Budapest.

Enjoy your holiday! 😉

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