Hungary’s capital is one of the most popular inclusions on a grand tour of Europe and it’s easy to see why. This metropolis of art nouveau architecture, beautiful old bathhouses and cool ruin bars wins the hearts of travelers from around the world year after year. But like any city, it’s tempting to visit the same-old tourist attractions just to take photos and say you’ve “been there, done that” – especially when you only have 48 hours in Budapest.
While you’d be silly to skip classic destinations like Fisherman’s Bastion and Chain Bridge – a trip to Budapest is actually best handled by balancing these iconic places with alternative sightseeing spots that reveal the true soul of the city. Places like District VIII are examples of this. So, in order to make the most of your time, we have put together a unique two-day itinerary that focuses on some of the Queen of the Danube’s hidden gems!
How to Spend 48 Hours in Budapest
8:00 am – Start your Day with a Hearty Hungarian Breakfast
Hungarian cuisine is hearty in nature with lots of meat, bread and paprika finding their way into dishes. Breakfast provides an opportunity to kick start your day in a wholesome way by trying staples like Hungarian Sausages, Bubos Rantotta (scrambled eggs) or Bundas Kenyer (French Toast). Of course, before you have filled up on food, the first stop might be for coffee and luckily Budapest is blessed with great coffee shops.
9:30 am – Take the Tram to the Hungarian Parliament Building
As long as you are staying somewhere central, you should be able to purchase a Budapest Card and jump on the tram to Kossuth Lajos Square where the Hungarian Parliament Building awaits. This neo-Gothic structure is a landmark of Budapest set on the banks of the Danube. Your time here can be spent exploring on your own or joining a tour to learn about its facts – one of which is that it’s the third largest parliament building in the world!
11:00 am – Head to Fisherman’s Bastion for Amazing Photo Ops
From the Hungarian Parliament Building, it’s an easy journey to Fisherman’s Bastion. All you need to do is stroll along the Danube to the boat pier where you can hop on a ferry to Buda. The ride across also gives you an incredible view of the parliament building you have just visited. Once at Fisherman’s Bastion, the photo ops are endless. The fairytale towers can be shot in interesting ways, with views overlooking the city.
12:30 pm – Munch on Delicious Street Food at Great Market Hall
Now that you’ve built up an appetite following your sightseeing around Budapest’s Castle District, it’s time for lunch. You can pretty much venture anywhere in the city to taste street food but one consistently fantastic area for fresh produce is Great Market Hall. Use public transport to navigate your way to this impressive hall where all sorts of goodies can be tried: Langos deep-fried flatbread, Hungarian strudel with cottage cheese and more!
2:00 pm – Get Lost in the Colorful Jewish Quarter of Budapest
Just a 15-minute walk from Great Market Hall lands you in Budapest’s Jewish Quarter, which is without doubt one of the funkiest neighborhoods in town. There are so many things to do here – from admiring the Dohány Street Synagogue, to whiling away an afternoon at a ruin bar, to taking a street art tour with Budapest Flow (highly recommended). On this tour you can explore contemporary Budapest urban life, and discover the meaning behind the district’s street art and cultural context. And if you’re still feeling peckish, the Karavan Street Food Court has you covered!
5:00 pm – Enjoy a Moment of Relaxation at a Thermal Bath
No trip to Budapest is complete without soaking in a thermal bath. There are close to a dozen bathhouses to choose from in the city, each with their own character. The most popular is Szechenyi Thermal Bath – and no wonder due to its gorgeous architecture and size – but an alternative for those looking for something a little more off-the-beaten-path and intimate is the art nouveau masterpiece called Gellert Thermal Bath.
8:00 pm – Have Dinner at a Traditional Hungarian Restaurant
After an action-packed 12 hours, you will be ready for a quiet meal in a cozy environment and this is where Budapest’s traditional restaurants come into play. District VII has a couple of superb options: Kadar Etkezde and Getto Gulyas. The former is like dining at grandma’s house with family portraits on the wall, checkered tablecloths and simple yet tasty food. While the latter serves up Porkolt stew made with meat, vegetables and paprika.
8:00 am – Find a Local Bakery that Sells Pastries and Coffee
Budapest is home to many bakeries that serve scrumptious pastries alongside quality coffee. Start your second day at one of these establishments, and try a couple of traditional pastries such as Kurtoskalacs (chimney cake) or Pogacsa (baked bread) with ham and cheese. Be sure to order an extra coffee because you will be needing that caffeine hit to get you through the fast-paced second half of your 48 hours in Budapest.
9:30 am – Hunt Down Kolodko’s Mini Statues of Budapest
Kolodko is the sculptor behind a series of mini statues that are hidden across Budapest. These statues continue to pop up all over the place and locals get excited when they find new installations. Tourists can also join in on the fun by trying to locate them on their own or by booking the Hidden Mini Statues Tour with Budapest Flow. On the tour, guests walk from statue to statue and learn about Budapest’s culture through each artwork.
12:30 pm – Order a Bowl of Hungarian Goulash for Lunch
No other dish in Hungary is more famous than Goulash. If you are coming to Budapest and have never tried it before then you are in for a treat. Goulash is crimson colored and includes beef, vegetables and paprika. It originates from the herdsmen in Hungary (the Gulyas) who would make this soup in cast-iron kettles. You will have no trouble finding the national dish in the restaurants of Budapest and it can sell for as low as €4!
2:00 pm – Pick a Peaceful City Garden and Soak in the Nature
This activity beckons you any time of the year, but autumn and spring are especially lovely seasons to wander around the exotic gardens of Budapest. Whether you like smelling roses, checking out lush herb gardens or finding yourself in secret jewels like the Garden of Philosophers – there is no shortage of gardens at your disposal in the Hungarian capital. Stay for a few hours before you do an underground culture tour with Budapest Flow.
4:00 pm – Explore District VIII on the Underground Cultural Vibes Tour
The Underground Cultural Vibes Tour transports you to District VIII, which is an authentic neighborhood untouched by mass tourism and bursting with quirky cultural spots. This tour showcases the creative side of District VIII with its up-and-coming art galleries, local shops, and underrated cafes and bars. Your guide will inform you on the district’s socialist housing and Romani ghetto, as well as telling stories of the 1956 revolution.
7:00pm – Party Hard on your Last Night Out in Budapest
Finishing your 48 hours in Budapest with a night out partying is only appropriate and what better European capital to be in! If you haven’t already, swing by Szimpla Kert in the Jewish Quarter for your pick of over 400 drinks served across two floors and a courtyard. It’s not uncommon to see live music at Szimpla Kert too. Other nightlife destinations in Budapest include rooftop bars, cocktail bars and clubs – the choice is yours!
Final Tips on Spending 48 Hours in Budapest
As you can see from the experiences above, there are ample ways to spend 48 hours in Budapest incorporating alternative sights as you go. Hopefully this itinerary will be so inspirational that you copy it exactly or tweak it to include activities that resonate with you the most. However you spend your two days in the Hungarian capital, it’s an absolute no-brainer to book a tour with Budapest Flow. They really do know this city inside and out.
Have a read of their Budapest Guide here which details the city’s best kept secrets in info-rich blogs. Some other important tips to know before you go are to utilize public transport as much as possible, wear decent footwear for when you need to walk from place to place and arrive early at the attractions so you can avoid the crowds. Budapest is an extraordinarily beautiful city that will leave its mark on you in surprising ways. Safe travels!