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Our Perfect One Day In Budapest Itinerary For All Interests!

So, you’re in Budapest – hooray! You might be asking yourself what there is to do for a day in Budapest? The answer is: too much! Whether you are doing a day trip from Vienna or it’s your last day in Budapest, we have a few ideas for how you can pack it full of awesome sights, food, drinks, and more.

We have been to Budapest a bunch of times now and love the city more with each visit. Honestly. Eric discovered it on his classic Europe trip. Years later, we travelled there together as part of a larger Eastern Europe trip and loved exploring the city together. We even met a traveller friend there while on the road. The thing with Budapest is that there never seems to be a shortage of new places to check out!

So, for this post, we created our version of the perfect itinerary to explore Budapest for one day. If you do end up staying a night, you can check here for accommodations in Budapest. Check out Hotel Parlament for a hotel and Maverick Lodge for a great hostel (both in the city centre) close to all the best attractions.

Also, we really love Budapest (spoiler: Eric is half Hungarian)- so here are a few other posts to help you plan your Budapest experience!

Wake Up Activity: Catch the Sunrise on Gellért Hill

river with monument on hill in background one day in budapest
The hill to the far right – that’s your vantage point for sunrise!

Good morning! If you are already in the city, you might want to make the absolute most of your day. For this, you should try and experience the sunrise in Budapest. If it’s too cold, cloudy, or you are arriving later in the morning – don’t worry about this step.

The sun rises up over the Pest side of the city from behind St. Stephen’s Basilica – meaning that you’ll want to head up to somewhere across the river on the Buda side. So, cross the famous Chain Bridge (seen in the photo below) and head up the hilly side. From the Buda Castle area, we’d suggest walking over to Gellért Hill. The hill is famous for the Budapest Citadella – an old militarized fortress and the Liberty Statue (seen in the photo above).

It’s a bit of a hike but the air is fresh, the paths are nice, and the reward would be a stunning view of Budapest waking up for the day! Check it out – but don’t stress if you can’t because you can always walk over later in the morning after breakfast.

Location: Gellért Hill, Buda

Breakfast: Cirkusz

pulled pork eggs benedict on white plate one day in budapest
The pulled pork eggs Benedict at Cirkusz. – Credit: Jess at Pinchables!

Now it’s breakfast and you need food to start off the day right! While we had a few nice breakfasts in Budapest, our guest foodie blogger Jess at Pinchables has suggested an amazing place for breakfast – Cirkusz! Apparently, they have great coffee and the pulled pork eggs Benedict was really, really good. You can read her whole guest post on our blog about the best places to eat in Budapest if you want.

Cirkusz is located in the heart of Pest so you can walk down from Gellért Hill and cross any bridge into Pest. It’s just a short walk into the 7th District. In fact, take note because this is also where you will go out this evening for drinks.

Address: Dob u. 23, Budapest

Morning Activity: Explore Buda

large bridge over river with boat castle behind one day in budapest
The famous Chain Bridge with Buda Castle looking on from behind!

In the morning, we think you should explore the “Buda” side of the city. It’s the more steep and hilly one – the one with the giant Castle on top. Walk down to the river – you can’t miss it. Just so you know, the afternoon will have you explore the other side of the Danube – which is called “Pest”. So, don’t think we have missed half the city with this one-day itinerary!

Basically, there is SO much to see on the Buda side that you will need a whole morning to check it out. We think the best way to see it all is to walk. Budapest is a pretty walkable city but some things are more spread out than in for example Prague.

To be honest, we took the subway loads of times in Budapest and the street trams are also really good for getting around. The machines are easy to buy from and the system is easy to use. Budapest is also a pretty driver-friendly city meaning that you CAN get to places via driving or buses, but finding parking could be a hassle.

As for things to see on the Buda side, we’d recommend the following:

  • Buda Castle Complex – Palace with other museums and galleries inside (some paid admission)
  • The Funicular Ride
  • Fisherman’s Bastion
  • Gellért Hill 
  • Rudas Baths – built during Ottoman rule in Budapest
  • Gellért Baths  – The famous Art Nouveau baths were built in 1918 and overlook the Danube from Buda

Getting Around Budapest Options:

If you want to use public transportation, you should look at either a 24-hour transit pass which is a travel pass only without discounts on attractions.

The Budapest Card is a transit pass valid for 24 hours which offers discounts on certain top attractions. (But it’s more expensive than the above option.. you’d have to see if it would be worth it for you).

You could also buy a 24-hour hop-on hop-off red bus ticket and use it as a way to get between top attractions in Budapest. Just an idea!

Lunch: Belvárosi Disznótoros

schnitzel and fries on plate on tray one day in budapest
Schnitzel, fried potatoes, red cabbage – just like Mama used to make.

Lunchtime is upon us and after all that hill work you are going to be hungry. We have you covered! For a traditional Eastern European lunch, this is the place to check out! Eric noticed it walking by one day so we came back. Great decision!

You should know that this is more of a “standing room only” kind of place that seems to be very popular for lunch among locals. The menu above the counter was in Hungarian only which made it a bit intimidating originally. However, we were able to order in English just fine.

Eric got a wiener schnitzel with rice which he really enjoyed while Lisa got a HUGE plate of pasta. Another time we got fried potatoes and red cabbage. All meals were absolutely delicious. Overall, we paid approximately 7.00 Euro for both plates of food which makes those huge portions for 3.50 Euro a plate a really good deal.

We’ve been to both locations below. The logo is a pig with a chef’s hat and a meat fork so you might see it as you walk through the city. For more information, check out the TripAdvisor page.

Address: Karolyi Utca 17 or  

Afternoon Activity: Explore Pest

old cathedral with domes one day in budapest
St. Stephen’s Basilica is beautiful and hard to miss!

Alright, so it’s the afternoon. You’ve had a hearty lunch in Pest, and now it’s time to explore more of this side (the flat side). The east side of the river is also loaded with things to do and see. Here’s a rundown of a few of the highlights:

  • St. Stephen’s Basilica
  • Hungarian Parliament
  • The Budapest Eye
  • “Shoes on the Danube Bank” Memorial 
  • Heroes’ Square (Hősök tere
  • The House of Terror Museum
  • Széchenyi Medicinal Baths – This massive complex of indoor and outdoor pools was built in 1913 –  largest thermal bath in Europe.
  • The Great Synagogue
  • Váci Street (shops/touristy) and Andrássy Street (high fashion/shops)

Now, if that sounds like a lot, that’s because it is! The best thing to do is to grab a map and go exploring. If you want to make sure you see the best attractions and learn about the rich history, then you might consider a Budapest walking tour that takes you around this side. This is what Eric did years ago and it really helped him understand the area as well as the history! Here’s a walking tour of Budapest (Pest Side)  – so that would check off the afternoon!

Afternoon Break: My Little Melbourne or Café Gerbeaud

So you’ve explored more of Budapest  – seen the Basilica, the Parliament, and more – time for another break. For this, we suggest you stay in Pest and grab a hot beverage and a snack if you want. From here you can head to the next activity perfectly.  We suggest two different food/coffee spots: Little Melbourne Cafe or Café Gerbeaud

two coffees with latte heart art on wood table one day in budapest
Two nicely done coffees – perfect for a little relaxation session.

Little Melbourne Cafe is a small trendy cafe tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the large streets. Inside, you’ll find a tiny barista counter with staff working their magic. Upstairs, there’s tables, bar stools and cozy seating for a few people. In the summer months, they have a patio/outdoor seating on the sidewalk area in front! We popped in for a flat white and a cappuccino and both were great!

Address: Budapest, Madách Imre út 3, 1075 Hungary

coffee in mug with slice of cake on table one day in budapest
The Dobos Torte and coffee was really, really nice.

For a different choice than above, you’ll head into a busy public square (Vörösmarty tér) for a fancier experience at Café Gerbeaud. Here, you can get an authentic Hungarian experience through the food and desserts.

The large patio area has plenty of tables and service is fast and efficient. You might feel like it’s a little more touristy – but the dessert was spot on. We went for the Dobos Torte – the traditional Hungarian layered cake. Eric is pretty picky with his dobos (having had it growing up in Canada) so we wanted to go to where it was apparently the best.

Café Gerbeaud is definitely on the pricier side but it didn’t disappoint! Worth the price for the experience. You can check out their website to learn about the Cafe’s history and menu!

Address: Vörösmarty tér 7-8

Early Evening Activity: Sunset Boat Cruise

old castle on hill with boat in front on river one day in budapest
The boat cruises pass all the best sights on the Danube!

Well, your day is coming to a close – and the sun is coming down. You’ve had your coffee/beer/cake break – so you better plan out where you want to be to catch the sunset! For this, you should try a Danube River Boat Cruise. Eric did one back in the day and had a blast.

If you wanted to book ahead to get the time you wanted, you could check out this boat tour ticket that comes with multiple departure times and a welcome drink. It’s quite a time to see the massive structures along the river lit up at night. The water offers a different perspective as you glide by and it’s definitely worth it in our opinion.

Address: Tours leave from along the Danube – the one above leaves from “Dock 42” near Margaret Island

If you didn’t want to walk or metro up to where we suggest for dinner (see below) you COULD merge these two experiences of boat and dinner on a candlelit Danube dinner cruise. Live traditional music, dinner, drinks, smooth river – what’s not to like?!

Dinner: Paprika Vendéglő

plate of hungarian stew on wood table one day in budapest
Lisa’s goulash was excellent – as was the whole meal!

Dinner time is upon us in Budapest and WOW do we have a good option for you. One evening we wanted to go for a traditional Hungarian meal and found out about Paprika Vendéglő. This ended up being a great decision.

The place isn’t that small but it’s apparently advisable to have a reservation for evenings, weekends, or larger groups since it’s so popular. Inside, you find this traditional wooden interior that feels like the inside of a log cabin. It’s an “old style” that feels authentic and warm which adds to the experience.

The nice part is that it’s a mix of locals and tourist alike. The atmosphere is “a place where there’s good food and people don’t really care about who is there, as long as you’re enjoying”.

Eric had chicken paprikash while Lisa had goulash. Both were very good – and we were comparing to home-cooked food from a Hungarian Mama, here! For dessert, we shared this hazelnut mousse thing that was so big we had trouble finishing it. Let’s just say that the portions were very large and well worth the trip over there! Here’s the website if you want to learn more.

Address: Budapest, Dózsa György út 72, 1071 Hungary

Evening: Drinks at the Ruin Bars in Erzsébetváros

To end off your day, there is no better place to engage in the Budapest nightlife than in Erzsébetváros – or Elizabeth Town – the 7th District of Budapest. The home of the former Jewish Ghetto is known to be the liveliest area when the city goes dark.

You’ll want to head for the famed “ruin bars” of Budapest – which are just bars or clubs that are hosted in buildings that are.. well, falling apart! Don’t expect a modern or chic atmosphere – these places are trendy, hip, and full of character!

While there are loads of ruin bars you can check out in the area of only a few blocks, a few stand out. We’ve been for drinks at Mika Kert. It was an open-air beer garden filled with seating, tables, and lively people.

We ended up there after Ellato Kert & Taqueria (across the street) was too busy. We had a great time having a few drinks in the warm summer. If it’s the colder months, you will find plenty of places around the District for drinks.

You may have noticed we didn’t mention the most popular ruin bar in the city – Szimpla Kert. We did that intentionally. Eric has been and while it’s neat (there are many bars and areas inside), the line up down the street to get in is just too long given the return. We feel that it’s just a bit over-hyped. You can go and check it out – but there are plenty of other places a few steps away!

Address for Mika Kert: Budapest, Kazinczy u. 45, 1075 Hungary

And there you have it, our sample itinerary for one day in Budapest! Of course, with it being the capital there is just so much to do, see, and eat. This is one version of a day itinerary but we think we’ve covered a few big stops and a few hidden gems you may have missed! Let us know how your day goes when you explore Budapest!

As always, Happy Budapest Day Waddlin’,
– L&E

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How to spend one day in Budapest

Author

Eric is a Canadian & Hungarian content writer with over 45 countries under his belt. From volunteering in Australia to studying his Master's degree abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland, his travel experiences have taken him across the globe. Next to writing on Penguin and Pia, he has also contributed to companies in the travel space such as Matador, GoOverseas, and Spot.

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