How to Best Spend 48 Hours in Budapest

There’s a lot to see and do in the beautiful city of Budapest, but with only 48 hours to explore, it can feel overwhelming.

Here you will find the ultimate Budapest itinerary to help you get a well-rounded taste of this spectacular city. With just two days, covering all that Budapest offers may seem difficult. Once you’ve checked into your cozy vacation rental home in Gellért Hill, it’s time to check out this fantastic city.

Fortunately, we’ve created this travel guide on how to make the most out of 48 hours in this majestic city!

Day 1 in Budapest

Begin your journey in Budapest by exploring some of the city's iconic and vibrant historical sites. Visit the UNESCO-accredited district and marvel at some of Hungary's best attractions, which are sure to make for an unforgettable morning!


Castle Hill

Photo Credit: V_E

Explore the wonders of Castle Hill in Budapest, a beloved UNESCO World Heritage Site 550 feet above the Danube River.

Take a walking tour along its car-free cobblestone roads, marvel at its medieval architecture and 19th-century buildings, and spots with breathtaking city views. Then, step into the mysterious labyrinths beneath it all and discover the beauties of Buda Castle and Matthias Church, a 700-year-old gem.

For more to do in the area, consider visiting the Hospital in the Rock--an immersive museum documenting heroic efforts through Hungary's recent history, or even spelunking in the caves underneath the hill!

Buda Castle

Photo Credit: Yasonya

Buda Castle is a must-see for any Budapest explorer. Its centuries of history have left behind a vast and majestic complex that merges Gothic, Renaissance, and Basque styles.

A sprawling palace on the river Danube banks, this historic grandeur now houses the Hungarian National library and collections of artifacts at the galleries and museums. If you only have 48 hours in Budapest, take advantage of the architectural marvel that is Buda Castle!

Fisherman's Bastion

Photo Credit: ZGPhotography

Greeting the city of Budapest with its seven majestic turrets, Fisherman's Bastion was crafted in 1902 to honor the fishermen who saved the city from invaders. It was constructed as part of the celebrations to celebrate Hungary's 1000th birthday!

An unofficial gateway to Budapest's Castle Hill area, this neo-Gothic terrace provides dazzling panorama views – perfect for capturing breathtaking pictures. So take a tour through Fisherman's Bastion and climb to its highest point for an unforgettable view of both the city and the Danube River.

Pro Tip: If you want a picture in this truly spectacular location, get there early. The site gets crowded quickly.

Take a Coffee Break at Ruzswurm Cafe

Photo Credit: Stephen via Flickr CC2.0

If you need to stop and catch your breath, why not indulge your sweet tooth at one of Budapest’s best cafes?

Ruszwurm Cafe is famous for being the oldest confectionery in Budapest. Its interior may not be as grandiose as Budapest's other Old World cafes, but the cakes and coffee are simply irresistible.


Gellért Hill and the Citadel

Photo Credit: Brenda Kean

Towering above the city, Gellért Hill is one of Budapest's most iconic landmarks, offering magnificent views of Hungary's capital from its peak.

Atop the hill sits the Citadel--once a military bunker and now a favored lookout location, which offers sweeping views of both sides of the river. From here, you can take in the city skyline, the breathtaking bridges connecting Buda and Pest, and even catch a glimpse of the Hungarian Parliament Building.

Lunch at Hadik Cafe

As you make your way back down the hill, stroll down Bartok Béla Road--the wide inviting avenue of Buda that often gets overlooked by tourists who only focus on the Pest side of the city.

On this avenue, you'll find one of Budapest's famous cafes and restaurants, Hadik Cafe, a favorite of Hungarian authors in the early 20th century. Sit down to a delicious meal and dine in the presence of greats!


Thermal Baths

Photo Credit: Ungvari Attila

Budapest is a city where “taking the waters” – at one of many natural hot springs dotted across the Hungarian capital – is simply part of everyday life.

From traditional Turkish-style bath houses to much more luxurious options, visitors to Budapest can enjoy its well-earned nickname of “The City of Spas.

We suggest fitting in a visit to the Budapest baths into your trip anytime you can, but did you know that some of the locations offer night bathing for an even more unique experience?

Soak at Rudás

Photo Credit: WeLoveBudapest via Flickr CC2.0

Just a short walk from Gellért Hill, Rudás Baths offers the special experience of night bathing. From 22:00 to 03:00 on Friday and Saturday, watch the city light up beneath you as you soak in the rooftop hot tub.

Can you think of anything more romantic? Keep in mind that spots for this fill up quickly, so be sure to reserve tickets in advance to avoid disappointment.

The Rudas Baths are quite similar to a traditional Turkish bathhouse. Established in 1566, they are located just off the Danube River on the Buda side of Budapest, making them an ideal option for anyone looking for such an experience within city limits.

Experience the opulent octagonal main soaking pool encircled by imposing columns and an impressive cupola. Those seeking to be active will appreciate the swimming pool, while spa services such as massages and mud baths promise a tranquil indulgence.

Enjoy your swim or soak for only $12 to $17 USD, and spoil yourself with therapeutic treatments from $25 to $125 USD (a fantastic price by European standards).

Try Traditional Hungarian Food

Photo Credit: fkafg

Now that you've worked up an appetite during such a big day, it's time to sit down for a well-deserved meal. First, venture over to Pest to Gettó Gulyás, a relatively new restaurant in Budapest's party district that serves up some of the most famous Hungarian cuisine.

Of course, you can start with the restaurant's namesake–and perhaps Hungary's best-known cultural export–gulyás. This thin soup, commonly called goulash around the world, is flavored with paprika and filled with tender vegetables and juicy beef cubes.

While Getto Gulyás' menu has plenty of Hungarian classics, we'd highly recommend ordering the chicken paprikash, which has tender chicken covered in a creamy paprika sauce, nestled on a bed of nokedli (Hungarian noodles). Don’t forget to pair it with a classic Hungarian wine!

If you still have room, top off your meal with somloi galuska (similar to a chocolate cream puff) or aranygaluska, a golden dumpling cake.

Day 2 in Budapest

The good news is that with 48 hours in Budapest, you’ll have a full day to explore each side of the city. So for day two of sightseeing in the Hungarian capital, get to know the Pest side of the city.


Danube River Walk

Photo Credit: ZGPhotography

Exploring one of the most iconic rivers in Europe is a must-do on day two! The Danube River is a stunningly blue highway that cuts through central Europe and meanders southward until it connects to the Black Sea.

With so much to see and do along the Danube, a self-guided tour along the river is just what this day calls for.

These are the can’t miss spots along the Danube River.

Margaret Island
Photo Credit: Alexey Oblov

A trip along the Danube River isn’t complete without exploring the magic of Margaret Island. The island is an oasis of calm and beauty that features hot thermal baths, lush Japanese gardens, and Palatinus Beach, where you can soak up some sun while sipping your morning coffee.

This beautiful island is worth lingering on for its 13th-century Dominican Convent, thermal spas, small zoo, and numerous pop-up bars and restaurants.

Budapest Central Market Hall
Photo Credit: RossHelen

Budapest Central Market Hall is the largest and oldest indoor market in Budapest. Situated on the banks of the Danube, it’s a must-do for anyone visiting Budapest.

The market offers a variety of delicious Hungarian dishes, fresh produce, and souvenirs. It's also an ideal spot to get a taste of the local culture and history.

The bustling atmosphere of the market is stimulating and exciting. You'll find locals eagerly bargaining over prices and vendors calling out their wares in various languages. From spices to fruits and vegetables to cured meats, the market is a great place to shop for local specialties or sample traditional Hungarian cuisine.

Shoes on the Danube
Photo Credit: Davor Flam

Filmmaker Can Togay's dramatic memorial for the Jews murdered in Budapest during WWII stands as a grim reminder.

The memorial depicts those whose shoes were forcibly removed before being thrown into the Danube river to be carried away by the tide. Today, it's a somber memorial that draws visitors from around the world to come and pay their respects.

The Hungarian Parliament Building

Top off the riverwalk with what is perhaps the most iconic structure in Budapest: the Hungarian Parliament Building.

This parliament building is not just any office. This monumental neo-Gothic and Baroque wonder, situated right by the Danube, looks more like a royal palace and has seen its fair share of history since its completion in 1902.

Plus, it's one of the tallest buildings in Budapest and one of the largest parliament buildings in the world!


Explore City Park

Photo Credit: Airpixel - Drone imagery

Enter City Park (Városliget) through Heroes Square to find an enchanting green space full of opportunities to explore. Take a dip in the waters of Széchenyi Thermal Baths and tour Vajdahunyad Castle, an architectural marvel made up of a mix of styles from different centuries straight out of a fairy tale.

No visit to the castle would be complete without exploring the lake, which is perfect for boating and picnicking. During the winter, visitors can take a spin on one of Europe’s largest outdoor ice skating rinks right next to it.

For more contemporary culture experiences, check out the House of Music Budapest nearby and be amazed by its contemporary architecture and regular performances.

Experience Cafe Culture

Photo redit: BalkansCat

The cafe culture in Budapest has roots that stretch far: visionaries, intellectuals, and poets would gather for hours in grand salons, sipping presszo and discussing revolutionary ideas.

Gerbaud Cafe Budapest is one of the city’s most beloved and iconic cafes. Located at Vörösmarty Square in the heart of the city, this cafe offers a classic Viennese atmosphere with a Hungarian twist. Párisi Udvar is a grandiose cafe and is a favorite for those wanting to immerse themselves in Old World splendor.

Taste Hungary's Finest Liqueurs

Perhaps you'd like to spend your afternoon sipping something a bit stronger than coffee. Lucky for you, you can go straight to the source for these two popular Hungarian liqueurs!

House of Unicum
Photo Credit: zwackunicum

If you’re looking for a unique experience while in Budapest, be sure to check out the House of Unicum (Zwack Unicum Distillery). This historic distillery has produced Hungary’s beloved herbal liqueur, Unicum, since 1790.

Visitors can take a guided tour of the facility and learn all about the distillation process and history behind this renowned drink. In addition, the tour includes tastings of the various liqueurs produced at the distillery.

Pálinka Experience Museum
Photo Credit: palinkaexperience

The Pálinka Experience Museum in Budapest is an ideal place to spend a couple of hours during your stay in Hungary. The museum is devoted to creating a unique experience of traditional distilling and tasting of pálinka, Hungary’s national spirit.

Visitors can learn about the history and craftsmanship behind the production and tradition and taste the famous product for themselves.

Pálinka is a fruit brandy that's well-known for its high alcohol content.

Popular flavors are

  • Alma (apple)
  • Körte (pear)
  • Meggyes (sour cherry)
  • Szilva (plum)

Explore the Jewish Quarter

Photo Credit: Zoltan Tarlacz

Budapest's Jewish District is a must-see for anyone visiting the city. Located in the heart of Budapest, this vibrant area is filled with history and culture. From centuries-old synagogues to lively cafes and restaurants, there is something for everyone to enjoy here.

Start your visit at the Dohány Street Synagogue. The synagogue is the largest in Europe and the second-largest in the world.

Located in District VII of Budapest, this impressive building dates back to 1859. It stands as a reminder of both Hungary's vibrant Jewish culture and its tragic losses during World War II.

Then, wander down the cobblestone streets and explore the many shops and restaurants that make up this lively district. Stop for a bite to eat at one of the traditional Jewish restaurants or visit one of the synagogues for a unique cultural experience.


Drink Like a Local at Budapest Ruin Bars

PHoto Credit: albertolpzphoto

If you want to experience the culture and nightlife of Budapest, then you should definitely check out the city's ruin bars! These bars are located in the city’s Jewish Quarter, and each has its own unique vibe.

Ruin bars are built inside formerly abandoned buildings and feature mismatched furniture, odd decorations, and graffiti art. Each one is unique and worth a visit!

These are a few of the coolest ruin bars in the city:

Szimpla Kert

Photo Credit: Arcady

You have to start at Budapest's oldest and most famous ruin bar, Szimpla Kert. Once an abandoned factory building in the 90s, students were looking for a cheap place to gather and started to set up shop. Little by little, they started bringing different furniture and decorations until Szimpla became the eclectic mishmash it is today.

Our favorite photo ops? The Trabant-turned-seating area under the main staircase or the bathtub chairs on the second floor.

Of course, since Szimpla is such a popular tourist attraction, the drinks are far from cheap. We'd suggest raising a glass here, taking a lap around the building, and then heading onwards to other ruin bars.

If you'd like to examine the bizarre decorations by the light of day, Szimpla also hosts a farmer's market and brunch every Sunday. Shop for souvenirs, support local artists, and fuel up with a delicious brunch!

Photo Credit: albertolpzphoto

Afterward, stop next door at Caravan, an outdoor food truck court for a lángos (a traditional fried bread disc topped with cheese and sour cream), or Bors Gastro Bar--a fun-loving, walk-in-only sandwich shop a favorite for a tipsy, post-Szimpla bite. Other notable ruin bars in the area are:

  • Lampás
  • Instant-Fogas
  • Doboz

Pro Tip: If you want to see Budapest from a unique angle, consider booking an evening river cruise. It’s a wonderful way to see the city lit up as you glide underneath Budapest’s iconic bridges.

Two Perfect Days in Budapest

Budapest is one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, offering an incredible variety of activities within a relatively small area. Use this guide to make the most of your 48 hours in the Hungarian capital.

For a comfortable place to relax in between taking in Budapest’s spectacular sites, book a Budahome vacation rental to refresh yourself and stay close to the action. Happy exploring!