One advantage to living in Europe is being able to enjoy affordable weekend getaways to other countries. Budapest was on our list of places we wanted to visit, so when flights popped up for $45 RT, it was a no brainer. (If you haven’t read our tips on finding cheap flights throughout Europe, check it out).
Guide to 48 hours in Budapest
Our cheaply scored tickets meant landing in Budapest on Friday and flying home on Sunday. 48-hours was all we had to pack in as much sight-seeing we could. I quickly got busy researching and some friends from Budapest (love local sources) gave us a list of the must-see sights. We came up with an itinerary we thought would be reasonable within our allotted time period.
1. Szechenyi Thermal Baths
First on our list was a visit to the Thermal Baths. Budapest is well known for their many thermal baths, but Szechenyi Bath is one of the largest in Europe. It consists of over 21 outdoor and indoor pools with average temperatures of 171 °F.
Since this is the most popular Thermal bath we decided we needed to show up early and, thankfully, early paid off as the pools were mostly empty.
Opening Hours: Daily 6:00 am – 10:00 pm
2. Hungarian Parliament Building
Even if you do not have time for an insider tour of the Hungarian Parliament, a stroll (or bike ride) around the neo Gothic structure is lovely. The Parliament Building is on the banks of the Danube. If you would like to tour the Parliament you must book ahead, as you can only see it with a pre-booked tour. The tours are 45 minutes and offered in many languages.
Opening Hours: Sunday- Monday 8:00 am – 6:00 pm (Summer) and 8:00 am – 4:00 pm (Winter)
3. Fisherman’s Bastion Budapest (Halaszbastya)
Perched on the hill in Buda is this almost fairy-tale like building with whimsical architecture. The entrance to the grounds is free but a ticket is required for the Upper Towers. From the towers you can enjoy the views of both Bupa and Pest.
Opening Hours: The grounds are free to walk around and open 24 hours. The Upper towers (ticket needed) have set hours from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm (Winter) and 9:00 am to 8:00 pm (Summer).
4. St. Stephen’s Basilica (Szent Istvan Bazilika)
The neo-Renaissance dome in St. Stephen’s Basilica is pretty impressive as it spans over 300-feet. The church is in the center of Budapest and is surrounded by great shopping and restaurants.
Opening Hours: Monday – Saturday: 9.00 am – 7:00 pm Admission is free, but they do ask for a small donation.
5. Buda Castle
At first glance you may not think it is a Castle, but yet, the Buda Castle is indeed a massive Palace. Today the Castle is mostly government buildings and Museums. Both The Budapest History Museum and the Hungarian National Gallery are inside .
Opening Hours: The grounds are open 24 hours to walk around. Different hours are offered for Booked Tours.
There is a Castle Hill Funicular you can take up to the grounds, or you can enjoy the walk up to Castle Hill.
Opening Hours for The Funicular: Sunday – Monday: 7.30 am to 10 pm
6. Changing of the Guards
You can see the changing of the Guards on the Castle grounds daily. Once a month, on Saturday, they do the Gaurd changing ceremony set to music.
Openign Hours: Everyday form 8:30 am – 5 pm, every hour by the hour.
7. Matthias Church
The gothic style looking Matthais Church is in the Castle District next to Fisherman’s Bastion and near Buda Castle. The church was one of the largest churches in Hungary during the medieval Hungairan times.
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm; Sat: 9:00 am – 1:00 pm and Sun: 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm. You need to pay 1400 HUF to enter (roughly 6 USD)
We were lucky enough to find an Airbnb apartment with a view of Matthias Church. When we were looking for hotels our friends suggested to stay in the Castle District. The area is quiet in the evening but surrounded by some great restaurants.
8. Szechenyi Chain Bridge
This iconic bridge crosses over the River Danube connecting Buda and Pest. There is a pedestrian sidewalk on the bridge and room to bike across the bridge.
9. Holocaust Memorial Center
The Holocaust Memorial Center is housed in a former synagogue and is a museum commerating the Hungarian Jews that were killed during the Holocaust. There are many artifacts from this time, along with stories from survivors.
Opening hours: Tuesday-Sunday: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
10. Shoes on the Danube Bank
The Shoes on the Danube Bank is a memorial in honor of the Jews who were murdered on the edge of the River Danube. The victims were ordered to take off their shoes and executed on the river wall. It is a moving memorial in honor of those who were murdered during World War II.
11. Margaret Island (Margitsziget)
Biking around a city is an enjoyable way to see the city. Budapest offers many drop off Bike locations through-out the city. Most of the bike you can rent with an App.
We rented bikes and biked to Margaret Island. The Island is popular with the locals and filled with family and friends picnicking on the Island.
The island is connected to the mainland by a little bridge. You can drive on the bridge or walk across. The park is filled with bike rentals and little kiosk cafes, really a great place to spend a relaxing afternoon.
12. The Local Food
Take the time to enjoy the city and discover their specialty Hungairan dishes. One of the specialties is called Kürtőskalács. This sweet dessert is made by wrapping dough around a stick, sprinkling it with sugar and roasting it over coals. Doesn’t it sound delicious?
The city of Budapest is a beautiful and it’s easy to see why it is quickly becoming one of the top cities to visit in Europe. Even though we had only 48 hours to spend in this charming city, we felt like we were able to see many of the top sights. Hopefully this can be a helpful guide to those who may be visiting Budapest for a short amount of time.