Last Updated on 27th June 2023 by Sophie Nadeau
While you won’t be able to experience everything in 24 hours in Budapest, you can still get a sense of how epic a city it is! This one day in Budapest itinerary will detail everything you need to know.
Beautiful Budapest is one of the most fascinating and historic European capitals that you can visit. Sitting at the crossroads of Europe, the city is a fascinating blend of cultures from east and west.
Whether you’re sipping on Turkish style coffee, admiring 18th century architecture or dining on some of Central Europe’s best food, there’s so much to enjoy in Hungary’s capital.
Just be sure to wear comfortable shoes to walk in as you’ll be wandering around the city a lot! Be sure to also pack a camera as Budapest is truly one of the most stunning cities in Europe.
Why visit Budapest?
Budapest is best-known for its world-class spas and amazing foodie scene. As the capital city of Hungary, there is obviously no shortage of things to do from museums to parks and eateries. Budapest is also particularly known for its nightlife, including ruin bars and nightclubs.
Is Budapest a walkable city?
Yes, Budapest is an infinitely walkable city, especially if you select a centrally located place to stay. You can easily get to almost all of the major attractions on foot, though the metro system can come in pretty handy if you don’t want to walk any further or don’t have too much time to get between attractions.
Is one day enough time to visit Budapest?
As the capital of Hungary, Budapest is a large city with plenty of attractions and even more to see. As such, you won’t be able to cover everything that there is to do in Budapest over the course of 24 hours.
The ideal amount of time to explore Budapest is three to five days. You’ll need more than a day to see all of Budapest’s best attractions, but with this itinerary, you’ll definitely be able to scratch the surface and see why this capital is such a popular favourite, time and time again.
If you have more time to explore the wider region, be sure to check out our guide to the best day trips from Budapest.
Suggested one day in Budapest itinerary
While a lie in is always nice, if you’re visiting a new city then waking up for sunset is worth it, particularly if it’s to see the town illuminated by golden hour. The number one must see spot to go for sunrise in Budapest is Fisherman’s Bastion.
Located in the 1st district of Budapest, not far from Buda Castle, Fisherman’s Bastion was built between 1895 and 1902 and comprises of 7 towers andd Neo-Romanesque lookout terraces which offer breathtaking views of the city. The lower terraces and towers are free to visit.
Breakfast at Cirkusz
Cirkusz (address: Budapest, Dob u. 25, 1074 Hungary) is known as one of the best breakfast restaurants in the world, so it’s no surprise that your Budapest itinerary should include a stop here!
Whether you fancy eggs sunny side up or avocado toast, there’s plenty to enjoy on the menu. The quality of the food, as well as the presentation is simply beautiful. Unfortunately you can’t reserve a table in advance and so be prepared to queue in order to dine at Cirkusz.
Walking tour of Budapest
One of the best things to do in Budapest in a day is a free walking tour! Several companies run these tours, but SANDEMANs are well-loved and reliable. Please note that, while the tour is free, it is customary to give a tip at the end of your walk.
You’ll walk around the city, learning facts about its unique heritage (for example, did you know that the city is split into two parts, Buda and Pest?) and seeing the beautiful sights like the Széchenyi Chain Bridge, a structure that makes its way onto many Budapest postcards.
Walking tours usually end at Buda Castle, and it’s worth taking some time to walk around this complex. Most of the exterior dates back to the 18th century, although there’s been a castle on this site since the 13th century. You can also enter the building (entrance fee of 1,400 HUF) and look around its museum and art gallery.
Hospital in the Rock
Nestled in the rocks near Buda Castle, the small museum and former bunker was once a WWII hospital to treat wounded soldiers in the city. Today it stands as a museum, reminding visitors of the horrors of war and the value of peace.
It’s a fascinating place to learn about how the war affected Budapest, and there’s also information about the country’s 1956 revolution.
The museum also stands to remind visitors that, even in times of dictatorship and war, it is possible to choose the good. It costs 4,000 HUF to enter. Visiting the museum is also a great rainy day in Budapest activity.
The Parliamentary Building
The Budapest Parliamentary building is a must-do experience in Budapest and it is probably also the most photographed building in the city. On a visit, you’ll learn all about the history of Hungary’s parliament, the significance of the building and more!
Guided tours take place hourly, and they last for about 45 minutes. You can do the guided tour in English or various other languages. It’s recommended to book online before your trip as tickets can sell out.
Lunch at The Magic Budapest
This is a must-visit for all Harry Potter fans! Serving wizarding world inspired burgers and other main plates with juice or cocktails in steaming cauldrons, you’ll have a truly magical lunch at this Hogwarts-esque cafe.
Alternatively, there are lots of local restaurants along the river where you can grab some more traditional Hungarian food. Try the bread soup bowls, which are quite literally a hollowed-out loaf of bread with goulash or meat soup inside!
House of Terror
The Hungarian museum of House of Terror (known in Hungarian as Terror Haza) isn’t an easy one to visit, but it’s very important. It focuses on the two regimes of terror that shaped 20th century Hungarian history: the Nazi regime and the Communist regime.
During the Nazi Occupation of Hungary during WWII, hundreds of thousands of Jewish Hungarians were transported to concentration camps, many to their deaths. After the war, the Communist regime caused more fear, poverty and isolation.
You can learn all about these dark eras of Hungary’s past at the museum. I recommend the audio guide, which details the exhibits thoroughly. Purchase a guided tour of the House of Terror here.
You can’t go to Budapest without having a bath! The city is synonymous with its thermal waters, and there are spas throughout the city. You can spend anything from 2-4 hours in the spa, depending on what kind of experiences you want to have.
Please note that the Baths are often priced cheaper to visit during the week than at the weekend and so you can save some money by visiting during the week. The crowds also tend to be less during the week, meaning that you’ll have more of the place to yourself!
Among the best are:
Syzenci: these are the main baths, consisting of a huge pool where they host a ” Sparty” every week. If you’re with a group of friends and want to have some drinks, this is the spa to visit! Purchase your Széchenyi Spa Full Day entrance here.
Luckas: This is a more local spa, with multiple pools of different temperatures. It’s ideal to chill out in!
Rudas: If you want to sit in a giant rooftop hot tub, Rudas is your place! It has spa facilities on multiple levels and from the top, you can enjoy gorgeous views of Budapest. Purchase your Rudas Spa Wellness and Dining Experience here.
Street food at KARAVAN
KARAVAN is a popular street food market serving food from all over the world, as well as local Hungarian dishes. Dine on vegan burgers at the all-vegan stall or try Mexican tacos and quesadillas!
Located next to Szimpla, Karaván is located on Kazinczy Street. There’s also a bar which serves Hungarian wine and beer at very cheap prices. You can also order cocktails!
Along with the bars, the Ruin Bars are another experience that just scream Budapest. Ruin bars are essentially bars which are located in formerly abandoned buildings. The concept has been around for two decades and the bars are located primarily in Budapest’s Jewish District.
The most popular is Szimpla Kert bar, which is right next to the food market. With a few different rooms, quirky decor, an outdoor area and affordable drinks, it’s one of the best places to have a drink in the city.
Another great place to have a drink is 360 Bar. This is ideal if it’s a bit chilly, as you can sip on cocktails in heated igloos! Alternatively, if you’re visiting in the summer months, it’s the ideal place to watch the sunset.
End the day with a cruise on the Danube
One of the best ways to get a unique view of Budapest is by going on a cruise on the Danube. Though it’s hard to fit a lot into just one day in Budapest, a cruise is a relaxing way to end the day, all the while discovering even more of the Hungarian capital. Book this 1-Hour Evening Sightseeing Cruise with Drink here in advance.
Where to stay in Budapest
There are so many great hotels in Budapest for all budgets and tastes. So whether you’re travelling Europe on a shoestring budget or you’re searching for an accommodation where you can splash out, here are some of the top places to stay in Budapest (based on prices and location).
Vajda Hostel is a great budget place to stay. Although it’s a hostel, there aren’t any dorms – just double rooms with shared facilities. There’s also a kitchen downstairs. Check prices and availability here.
NH Budapest City is conveniently located close to the Hungarian Parliament Building and is a contemporary hotel with comfortable beds and plush furnishings throughout. Check prices and availability here.
Stories Boutique Hotel is a gorgeous four-star property with elegant rooms and quirky furnishings. Check prices and availability here.
What to wear when exploring Europe
In the summer, you can’t go wrong by pairing a cute midi dress with classic white tennis shoes for a laid-back smart casual look that’s just as chic for walking around a city’s cobbled lanes as it is for wandering coastal paths. I love this dress and have it in several colour ways. In terms of tennis shoes, this is my go-to shoe.
When it comes to winter in Europe, most places (with the exception of a few islands) can get pretty cold and so warm layers is a must. I find that cute ankle boots like these ones are the perfect mix of practical meets cute.
Shoulder seasons (spring and summer) in Europe tend to come with a mix of rainy and sunny days and so, again, layers are a must. Trench coats and sneakers are the best uniform to explore the continent in.
Finally, a cross-body bag like these ones is a must. I personally use a crossbody bag by this brand and love its shape, size, and versatility. As well as being convenient and compact, it’s one of the safest ways to transport your valuables, all the while looking chic. I also recommend bringing along a travel adapter like this one so you can charge all of your electronics during your stay!
Enjoyed reading about how to spend one day in Budapest? Pin this article now, read it again later:
Claire Martin is a travel blogger and freelance writer who specialises in overland adventures. She’s drove around Australia, travelled from Bali to London without flying, lived in Mexico and has spent many months exploring Europe. You can follow her adventures on her blog, Claire’s Footsteps.