1 Perfect One Day in Budapest Itinerary

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Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to a One Day in Budapest Itinerary. I’m quaking in my vintage knee-highs a little bit about sharing this One Day in Budapest Itinerary. Every once in a while I get comments from people saying that it’s a mug’s game to only spend 24 hours in a big city like Paris or London.

It doesn’t matter how many times I say that I plan my itineraries 24 hours at a time, and I agree you shouldn’t spend only 24 hours in a big city. Some people don’t read the disclaimers.

one day in budapest itinerary

Well, Budapest is definitely a city you shouldn’t spend only 24 hours in. From the Castle District to the Danube River, to the House of Terror, it is simply too full of must visit destinations to limit yourself to a One Day in Budapest Itinerary.

But for this One Day in Budapest Itinerary, we’re going to party on down, Magyar-styles, hitting the highlights of Hungary’s capital. We’ll start with a guided tour of the Castle District and pastry with a local. Then we’ll go out and explore this gorgeous city on our own! Finally, we’ll sup on some of the best fine dining in Budapest! Ready or not, here we go!

1 Perfect One Day in Budapest Itinerary 2

One Day in Budapest Itinerary

Where to Stay?

Because Budapest has become such a popular tourist destination, hotels in the city can be very expensive. Remember that Budapest is really a combination of two cities. If you’re looking at Google Maps, Buda will be on the left hand side of the Danube, and Pest is on the right. When I was looking at hotels, the ones in Pest were cheaper, though I suppose that could always change.

I recommend staying at the Diana Club Hotel in Pest. The rooms are adorable and the staff couldn’t be more helpful. It’s not within walking distance of attractions like the Castle District but there’s public transportation nearby that will get you there quickly, so you won’t waste your One Day in Budapest Itinerary.

If you want a great deal on this hotel, click here. And if you’d rather explore great deals on thousands of other great hotels in Budapest, click here. This search engine will help you find the perfect room for your budget and taste.

one day in budapest itinerary

One Day in Budapest Itinerary

Shopping List

  • A cell charger so that you’ll be able to keep taking photos of your one day in Budapest itinerary
  • The best international travel adapter because if you’re American like I am, or British like I am not, you’ll need one to be able to plug in electronics during your one day in Budapest itinerary
  • My book Get Lost, that I wrote myself with all my best travel tips. This book will show you exactly how solo travel can take your life from BLAH to amazing!
  • Want to learn how I saved enough money to travel 16 weeks a year? Check out my top secret How to Afford Travel digital system.
  • My favorite travel guide to Hungary, including Budapest
  • I always travel with travel insurance from World Nomads. You never know when something might go wrong, especially in this day and age. But with travel insurance, you’re protected even if you’re attacked by some paprikash during your one day in Budapest itinerary
One Day in Budapest Itinerary

One Day in Budapest Itinerary

Morning: Buda Castle Tour

Usually the first thing I do when I arrive in an unfamiliar city is take a walking tour with a local guide. It’s the best way to get your bearings and also some expert advice on what to do. That way when you go wandering on your own, you won’t be 100 percent clueless.

So it’s a great idea to kick off your One Day in Budapest Itinerary with a tour of the Buda Castle District. You’ll get to see the most famous sights in Buda, but you’ll also find a few hidden gems.

You can book this tour easily by clicking here. I don’t want to spoil all the tour’s secrets. So I’m going to limit myself to…

approximately top 5: budapest castle district

one day in Budapest itinerary
1) church of saint mary magdalene

One of the first stops on the one day in Budapest itinerary was at one of the oldest places in the Castle District. It was built in the medieval times, but now only parts of the church, like the tower, remain standing. The history of this church basically takes you through the entire history of Budapest.

After Hungary was invaded by the Ottoman Turks, it was turned into a mosque. Then, after the Ottomans left Hungary, it was turned back into a church. It was damaged during WWII, and then finally destroyed during the Communist period. Now it is left standing as a monument to basically everything that has ever happened in Hungary.

one day in Budapest itinerary

This church seemed like a good place for my guide to explain who the Hungarians are. I will call him Alfred in honor of Jimmy Stewart’s character in Shop Around the Corner, which is set in Hungary. Unlike many of their neighbors, Hungarians aren’t Slavs. Their language is not related to Slavic languages at all, and Hungarians call themselves Magyars. But there’s a lot of debate about who Hungarians really are, where they come from, and how they got to Hungary.

There’s also a lot of debate in Hungary today about the amount of immigrants that Hungary should admit. Hungary currently has a very right-wing, anti-immigration government. Because I am American, Alfred joked that Viktor Orban ran on the slogan “Make Hungary Great Again”.

It’s interesting that so many countries have this notion of a mythic past in which their country was great, and they need a strong man to help them get back there. In practice, this idea usually doesn’t work out that well.

music museum budapest
2) museum of music history

We didn’t actually get to go inside the Museum of Music History on this one day in Budapest itinerary. But it sounds like a fascinating place, and sometimes there are concerts in the building which are included with the price of admission. But we were here to discuss the fascinating history of this building.

If the Museum of Music History looks especially impressive on the outside, that’s because it’s in a former palace. As I mentioned earlier, Hungary went through a Communist period from the end of World War II to the 1990s.

one day in Budapest itinerary

Under Communism, property was confiscated from wealthy families, like the family that owned this palace. After the fall of Communism, it was often difficult to determine who had owned which confiscated building or how to give it back to them.

In the case of the family that owned this building, the palace was not returned to them. Instead it was turned into a Museum of Hungarian Music History, honoring such luminaries as Lizst and Bartok. But the members of the family get to visit the museum for free, as long as they give advance notice. I feel like I’d rather have a palace than free museum admission, but maybe this is why I’m not Hungarian nobility.

one day in Budapest itinerary
3) koller gallery

The Koller Gallery isn’t open every day, so it’s possible you’ll have to skip it on this one day in Budapest itinerary. But if you do, please come back another day! It’s such a beautiful spot for peace and quiet in the Castle District. The Koller exhibits contemporary fine art, which is available for purchase if you are rolling in the stuff.

If like me, you are not like Scrooge McDuck and swimming in a pile of gold coins every night, enjoy the charming sculpture garden. You don’t have to buy any art to appreciate them. Imagine getting these beauties all to yourself.

one day in Budapest itinerary

And ignore this creepy girl standing in the corner. She’s probably harmless. The Koller Gallery has a fascinating history, just like everything else in Budapest. It was founded by György Koller under the Communist period.

Free artistic expression was discouraged by the government, so his business was temporarily banned, but he kept going anyway. Imagine being so brave! I practically break down and cry if a lunatic looks at me cross-eyed on the subway.

one day in Budapest itinerary

This building was once the studio of the late Hungarian-Italian artist Amerigo Tot. You’ll get to see some of his pieces on the tour, but I’m not going to publish photos of it for copyright reasons. But there’s no copyright on the sick views of the Danube and the Castle District from Tot’s window. Enjoy!

Tot lived an amazing life. Among other things, he played one of Al Pacino’s security guard’s in The Godfather. Te salut, Amerigo Tot!

one day in Budapest itinerary
4) cloisters?

So what exactly are we looking at here? Would you believe me if I said a Hilton? Hilton wanted to build a posh hotel in the Castle District, but the ruins of a Dominican Cloister were already in the spot on which they wanted to build. So they had to incorporate the ruins into the design for their building.

one day in Budapest itinerary

In this photo, it’s a little more clear that the cloisters are part of a more modern building. Alfred said that some people like the building, some don’t. I personally think it looks awesome. And now that I said that, I think I deserve a free room. Are you listening, Hilton Budapest?

one day in Budapest itinerary
5) matthias Church

You really can’t visit the Castle District without stopping at the stunning Matthias Church. Alfred gave me a very thorough tour of the interior, so I learned many of its hidden secrets and ways. I don’t want to spoil them all, but I will mention that Alfred said it was a very nationalist church.

It is full of scenes from Hungarian history. The two most famous Hungarian kings, Stephen and Matthias, get a lot of face time in these paintings.

one day in Budapest itinerary

I got a special bonus when I visited Saint Matthias because they were displaying beautiful replicas of the crown and regalia of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. I can’t guarantee they’ll be there when you visit, but if they are, don’t miss them.

These once belonged to the ruler of Austria-Hungary, and my favorite mustache, Franz Josef. I had learned all about FJ in Vienna, but I was surprised to see so much about him in Budapest, even though of course you can’t have Austria-Hungary without Hungary.

one day in Budapest itinerary

Alfred explained that Franz Josef had worked very hard to get Hungarians to love him. He had even “proved” that he was descended from Hungarian kings. The King List is on the walls of Matthias Church.

I use the word “proved” in quotation marks because who knows if Frank Josef and his mustache were really Hungarian. But now I know the secret to becoming popular in Hungary! Just tell everyone you are descended from Hungarian kings, and they’ll love you too!

one day in Budapest itinerary
6) hungarian cream cake

Do you know what I’m sure is descended from Hungarian kings? This scrumptious cream cake. For our last stop on the tour, I got a pastry for my very own, and this is what I chose. Alfred said that pastries are so popular in Hungary, every year the country votes on a “Cake of the Year”.

That’s not a joke! It’s very real. Very well, Hungarian nationalists, you’ve convinced me. Any country that has a Cake of the Year is the greatest country of the world.

Anyway, my tip for you here is to eat as many of these cream cakes as the laws of Hungary will allow. You can find similar cakes in Slovenia too, which was also part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Eat them too.

There’s tons more Hungarian fun facts and treats to have on the tour, but you’ll have to go here and book the tour yourself to find out what they are!

one day in Budapest itinerary

One Day in Budapest Itinerary

Afternoon: Explore!

I did something a little daring after the tour was over. After I enjoy an excellent walking tour, I always have an urge to go explore on my own. So I took the Number 16 bus for a short while and got off on a random stop.

Then I wandered around Budapest for a while on my own, meandering back towards my dinner reservation in the Castle District, without a strict plan, just bopping into anything that struck my fancy. It was very fun. Always give yourself some unstructured exploring time in any city.

But of course you’re reading this blog because you want some structure! I won’t leave you hanging! Instead I’ll give you some tips for exploring Budapest with…

three fun facts: One Day in Budapest Itinerary

one day in Budapest itinerary
24 hour treat: bamba Marha burger

According to their website, Bamba Marha has the best burger in Budapest. Well, I have not even eaten most of the burgers in Budapest, but I can tell you that the burgers at Bamba Marha are very delicious. In fact, I think they have delicious hipster burgers in every city in Eastern Europe at this point. Stalin must be turning over in his grave.

I recommend the cheeseburger and the yummy spiced fries for our one day in Budapest Itinerary. You could tell the ingredients were all fresh and organic; this is no fast food chain. Also the staff seemed very excited to speak English, which was adorable. I felt it would be the polite thing to not mangle the poor Hungarian language, so I stuck to English.

one day in Budapest itinerary

1) what’s the most famous sight in budapest?

It’s not any of the castles or monuments, Internet Stranger! The most can’t miss sight is the blue Danube River that divides Buda and Pest. Fortunately I think it’s physically impossible to visit Budapest without seeing the Danube. But if you do spend at least 24 hours in Budapest and you don’t see the Danube, you are doing it all wrong.

If the weather is nice, and for me it was nice every day in Budapest, really take your time and walk up and down the river. This is the Danube! The river that has inspired countless musicians, artists, and writers!

one day in Budapest itinerary

Do you know how many artists have been inspired by the East River in my hometown of New York? No one except this weird guy Arthur who lived on my street and thought the CIA was trying to poison his dog.

There are obviously many bridges across the Danube, but my favorite is the green art nouveau Liberty Bridge. This is the shortest bridge across the Danube. It used to be named after Franz Josef, so in my head, it is the Mustache Bridge. (Please Google Franz Josef if you don’t understand why I keep talking about his mustache. You’re welcome!)

one day in Budapest itinerary

2) what’s your favorite museum in budapest?

I say it’s the Hospital in the Rock! You might be a little confused because hospitals are not museums. Ordinarily you are correct, Internet Stranger! But the Hospital in the Rock was a combination secret military hospital/bunker, and now it has been turned into a Castle District museum about Hungary during World War II and the Communist period.

How often do you get to visit Hungarian Secret Military Hospitals? If the answer is every day, then please email me so we can be friends because you obviously have a cooler life than I do.

Photo taking is strictly forbidden in the Hospital in the Rock. But they couldn’t stop me from photographing the exterior! You can only go through the hospital on a timed, guided tour, but I wouldn’t really want to tour a secret, underground Hungarian military hospital on my own anyway. Especially since there are bloody dolls dressed as mortally wounded people undergoing operation. (Not a joke.)

one day in budapest itinerary

I would have thought Hungary would be starting secret military hospitals under Communism, but this hospital started in World War II. During WWII, Hungary was kind of a mess. They were a member of the Axis Powers, but they tried signing a deal with the Allies towards the end of the war. The Nazis got mad and rather predictably occupied the country.

Then the Soviets besieged the city, which lasted for several months. As we all know, you should never try to outsiege the Russians, and the Hungarians surrendered. But the Hospital in the Rock got most of its use as a hospital during the siege. It was closed for a while and then turned to a nuclear bunker. (Please don’t ask me if it was ever used. I hope you know that there was never a nuclear attack on Hungary.)

one day in Budapest itinerary

3) where’s the best place to watch the sunset?

That’s clearly the top of Fisherman’s Bastion! How clever to have a historic viewing terrace set up so nicely in the Castle District. This is the second best idea in Budapest, after those cream cakes.

Fisherman’s Bastion looks like a place where Daenerys would stand in Game of Thrones and throw dragon fire at people. But in fact it was never used as fortification. It has always just been a charming viewing terrace.

one day in Budapest itinerary

You can pay different amounts for Fisherman’s Bastion depending on your amount of time/budget. There are free viewing points, but those are very crowded. If you want to see the top turrets, you have to pay. I think it’s worth it, but your mileage may vary.

One last tip! Don’t just look at the gorgeous views of the Danube! There are many fascinating details on the walls of Fisherman’s Bastion. I especially like this cutie-pie dragon pictured above. Remember, this isn’t a real medieval wall. It’s more like an ironic Hungarian medieval wall, and how often do you get to see those?

one day in Budapest itinerary

One Day in Budapest Itinerary

Evening: Dinner at Arany Kaviar

If I get to enjoy at least two dinners in a city, and I usually do, I like to make one evening fancy-pants and the other evening casual-pants. Tomorrow we’ll go low-key, but for our One Day in Budapest Itinerary we do it up, Russian-styles, staying in the Castle District at Arany Kaviar.

It’s a Russian-Hungarian restaurant, which I did not know was a thing. It’s also recommended by the Michelin guide, which is proof enough that it is VFD. (Very Fancy Definitely.)

I regret that you might not have my adorable waiter, who was training for his sommelier exam. This meant that he was shadowed by a sober, older Hungarian gentleman who hung on his every word about my Hungarian wines. (Hungarian wines are delicious, PS. Please drink all of them.) But you can try their delectable tasting menu and feast on all of the following treats:

approximately top 5: arany kaviar

one day in Budapest itinerary
1) caviar

You have to start with caviar. It’s in the name of the restaurant! This caviar came on top of an oyster, so double the decadence!

one day in Budapest itinerary
2) stroganoff salad

The theme of this tasting menu seemed to be Russian Classics with a Twist. You’ve had heavy beef Stroganoff before. But have you ever had it in a salad form? Or with smoked duck breast? I like this idea of taking a heavy dish and making it lighter and more healthy. Next time someone should make chicken pot pie salad.

one day in Budapest itinerary
3) pelmeni

My quest to eat every dumpling in Eastern Europe continues with these pelmenis! They were truly light as my heart will be when Hilton Budapest gives me that free room. The twist here is that the pelmenis were stuffed with rich boar meat. But my favorite part of the dish was actually the tomatoes. They tasted like summer exploded in my mouth.

one day in Budapest itinerary
4) instant borscht?

This was my favorite twist of the night. The borscht was brought to my table, but it just looked like ruby-red gelatin. Then the waiter poured hot liquid over it, and voila! It was borscht. But it tasted just as delicious as regular borscht.

I think making instant food at a fine dining table should catch on world wide. Next, they should just prepare instant mac and cheese at your table. I’m sure everyone will love that.

one day in Budapest itinerary
5) piroshki

Yay! It’s a two for one Eastern European dumpling night! Although this is really a piroshki, which is a bun filled with things. This one has been filled with venison, so it’s as fancy as a piroshki can be. Apparently eating game is popular in Hungary. That makes sense. I bet Franz Josef and his mustache loved game.

one day in Budapest itinerary
6) syrniki

The twist here is that the dessert, Russian pancakes called syrniki, were served with dill ice cream. Of course dill is often used in Baltic cuisine, but not normally in ice cream.

But I was most excited to eat a type of pancake I’d never tried. I was told they were like blini, but fluffier. I don’t believe anyone in this world has ever said no to a fluffier pancake! It was the perfect end to our One Day in Budapest Itinerary.

one day in budapest itinerary

One Day in Budapest Itinerary

How to Get There

By Plane: If you are coming to your one day in Budapest itinerary from most other countries in the world it’s best to take a plane. Budapest, of course, does have an airport that’s just a bus ride away from the center of town.

Most of my readers come from the United States or the UK, so you’ll definitely need a flight. I also recommend using a search engine like Expedia to search for the best prices on flights.

By Car: I do not recommend having a car in Budapest. The streets are so cute and walkable and it’s much healthier to explore on your feet. Leave the car at home!

one day in budapest itinerary

Train or Bus: You can easily take the bus or train to your one day in Budapest itinerary if you are coming from elsewhere in Central Europe. I used the bus myself to get from Bratislava to Budapest.

I recommend Flixbus, which is what I used for buses. Hungary has excellent trains, and you can check those schedules here.

one day in Budapest itinerary

That’s a Perfect One Day in Budapest Itinerary!

What would you on a One Day in Budapest Itinerary? What is better, the Hospital in the Rock or a cream cake? And when is Hilton sending me that free room? Please leave your thoughts below!

Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY have a One Day in Budapest Itinerary. If you have time for another One Day in Budapest Itinerary, try this one!

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