The enchanting city of Budapest was the third stop on our epic trip to Central Europe after Vienna and Bratislava. The pictures of River Danube winding through the heart of Budapest, the stunning architecture of the Budapest buildings, the food, the market, and the history everything about Budapest is fascinating and we were more than excited to explore this wonderful city. Here is what to do in Budapest if you have 2 days in Budapest.
The Budapest city is divided into two prominent regions – Buda and Pest. Buda is the hilly region dominated by the prominent Budapest attractions the Buda castle and Mathias church on the castle hill. It offers amazing views of Pest and its significant historical landmarks the Hungarian Parliament on banks of Danube and the St. Stephen’s Basilica. The banks of Danube in Budapest are a part of Unesco World Heritage sites.
The city is also rich in thermal baths with around 80 geothermal springs, the Budapest synagogue is second largest in the world and the Parliament building, the third-largest in the world. So much to do and see packed in one city. You will definitely need to spend at least 2 days in Budapest to explore the key attractions.
Most of the city can be easily explored on foot. The city also has a very well connected public transport with metros, trams, and buses which makes city sightseeing even more convenient and easy.
2 Days in Budapest – Sightseeing Day 1
Our first stop on the Budapest sightseeing for day 1 was the Great Market Hall or Central Market Hall. It is the largest and the oldest indoor market in Budapest. The market is centrally located close to the city center at Pest end of the famous Liberty Bridge. From our apartment in the prominent Deak Ferenc square, the market is just a 10 minutes walk through Vaci Utca. The bustling cobblestone street is lined with restaurants and souvenir shops.
The first thing you will notice about the Neo-Gothic building is the colorful roof which is adorned with colorful Zsolnay tiles. The interior is pretty much simple three-story building with shops on all three floors. The ground floor was packed with tourists and locals, the stalls were selling fresh vegetables, fruits, meat, and spices. The first floor had eateries and shops selling garments, handicrafts, and souvenirs. The basement has a fish market and shops selling pickled vegetables. One of the top things to do in Budapest is to go shopping here for some beautiful embroidered garments, tablecloths, curtains, and laceworks.
The market is closed on Sunday and is open from 6 am to 6 pm except for Monday when it closes at 5 pm and 3 pm on Saturday.
Gellert Hill Cave
On the other end of the Liberty Bridge on the Buda side are the Gellert Hill Cave and the historic Art Nouveau Gellert famous for the Gellert bath. The Gellert Hill Cave also known as Saint Ivan’s Cave is a church built inside the natural rock caves of Gellert Hill. There is a small entrance fee to the church. The terrace at the church entrance offers wonderful views of the Danube and the Liberty bridge.
From the Gellert Hill Cave Church, we climbed up the Gellert Hill to the Citadella through lush forests. The leaves were painted in bright hues of fall. The Citadella is 15 min walk uphill. The fortification atop the Gellert Hill is dominated by a 14 m tall Liberty Statue or Freedom Statue. The monument was erected to commemorate those who sacrificed their lives for the independence and freedom of the country of Hungary. The bronze statue is seen holding a palm leaf and overlooks the city.
From here we descended onto the other side of Citadella. The tourist buses and hop on hop off buses had lined up to pick tourists. We were now deciding if we should walk all the way to Buda castle. We were already exhausted. And it is said that the walk to Buda Castle is some 45 minutes’ walk uphill. We saw a public transport bus waiting at the stop. We boarded the bus and collected information on buses to Buda Castle from the driver. The driver dropped us at tram line from where we took a tram to Szell Kalman Ter square which has plenty of buses (16 and 16A) to the Buda Castle. This actually saved us a lot of time and energy.
We got down at Trinity Square which is dominated by the magnificent gothic Matthias Church. The most striking feature of the church is its colorful roof similar to the Market hall adorned with the Zsolnay ceramic tiles. The church interior is accessible with a ticket that you can buy from the ticket counter opposite the church. The interior of the church is stunningly beautiful with frescoes and motifs all over the ceilings and the walls of the church.
You can climb its bell tower for wonderful views of the city but the Fishermen’s bastion surrounding the church has equally breathtaking views over the Danube banks and of the iconic Hungarian parliament building.
The Neo-Gothic style bastion with turrets looks like it has been taken straight out of a fairytale. The Fisherman’s Bastion surrounding the Matthias Church is said to be named after the fishermen who defended the castle walls in the Middle Ages. The bastion offers some of the best views of the pest and the parliament building along the Danube banks. There is a cafe located in one of the turrets. The cafe lets you enjoy majestic views of Budapest over a cup of coffee.
The Square between the Fishermen’s Bastion and the Matthias Church is dominated by an ornate equestrian statue of Hungary’s first king St Stephen. You can also visit St Michael’s Chapel which can be accessed through the Fisherman’s Bastion.
From Trinity Square, the castle is just a 10-minute walk and the street is lined with restaurants and cafes. The Buda Castle is a complex of historic buildings dating back to the 13th-century. It houses the National Gallery and the Budapest history museum. An ornate gate leads to the Danube terrace opposite the National Gallery also part of the Buda Castle. The terrace offers incredible views of the Danube banks and the Pest side of Budapest and is something not to miss.
If you are not a museum person you can just saunter the castle grounds and gardens which is free to enter. The ground is dotted with some of the gorgeous statues and fountains like the equestrian statue of Prince Eugene of Savoy and the Matthias Fountain.
You can also take a walk around the Castle Hill and explore the Castle District medieval baroque architecture most of which dates from the 19th-century.
The Buda Castle can be reached by the buses (no 16 and 16A) starting from the Deak Ferenc Ter or by the Funicular in Adam Clark Square near the Szechenyi Chain Bridge.
We waited until the sunset to watch the city washed in the golden lights and the views were breathtaking. The bridges, the parliament, and the other buildings along the Danube bank looked stunning.
We did not want to go back the way we came so we headed further to the other end of the terrace which has a lift which takes you the foot of the castle. From here a 5-minute walk will bring you to the Chain Bridge. From here we took the bus no 16 to Deak Ferenc Ter to our apartment.
2 Days in Budapest – Sightseeing Day 2
Danube River Promenade and the Hungarian Parliament
We started the next day at the Vigado Square which was at a walkable distance from our apartment. This square is also served by the Tram no 2. The Square has two famous Budapest statues ‘Little Princess’ is a statue of a little girl sitting on the railings of the Danube promenade and another a girl playing with her dog. There is also a statue of William Shakespeare infront of the Starbucks in the same square.
From here we boarded a tram to one of the most beautiful buildings in Budapest the Hungarian parliament. There is a statue of the famous Hungarian poet Attila József in the square next to the parliament. The 45 minute guided tour of the Parliament building walks through the ornate rooms and halls of the parliament.
Close to the parliament building on the Danube promenade is the most important and significant landmark ‘Shoes on the Danube’.
Shoes on the Danube
The ‘Shoes on the Danube’ Bank is a memorial to the people who were killed during World War II. The people were ordered to take off their shoes and were shot on the promenade. Their bodies fell into the river to be carried away by the river. It was such a touching moment walking along the promenade watching those shoes laying there speaking the heartwrenching history of the city of Budapest.
We next boarded took the metro from the Kossuth Lajos (M2) square to the Heroes Square (M1) change at Deak Ference Square. The square is dominated by a 36m-tall pillar topped with Gabriel the angel holding the Hungarian crown and cross. The two colonnades behind the pillar have 14 statues of rulers and statesmen who were Hungarian heroes. On one side of the square is the Museum of Fine Arts and on the other is the Contemporary Art Museum in a beautiful historical building.
Behind the Heroes Square is the wide expanse of lush green City Park. If you are visiting with kids the park is a great place to spend some time exploring the botanical garden. There is also a small zoo with animal petting area in the park. Also worth visiting in the park is the Vajdahunyad Castle. The castle was built for the Millennial Exhibition to commemorated the 1000th birthday of the Hungarian State. The building features numerous architectural styles of the different historical Budapest buildings.
Our next stop was St. Stephen’s Basilica. On the way, we stopped by for lunch at Haveli Indian Restaurant which serves Indian delicacies. The hotel is 2 minutes walk from the Kodaly Korond metro stop which was on the way for us from the Heroes Square on Metro Line 1.
St. Stephen’s Basilica
The Roman Catholic church is one of the largest buildings in Budapest and is named after Saint Stephen I, the first King of Hungary. The church facade is flanked by two bell towers, one of which houses Hungary’s biggest bell. One can climb to the top of the Dome by an elevator or by the 364 steps for wonderful views of the city.
The spectacular interior of the church large enough to hold 8500 people at a time. It is ornamented with rich frescoes, mosaics, stained glass windows, and gilded decorations.
If you walk some 5 minutes in the opposite direction of the church you will stumble upon one of the popular Budapest statues – A fat policeman with a round belly representing Hungarian’s love for food.
From the St. Stephen’s Basilica we decided to walk to the last attraction of the day – the Ruin Bars. On the way, we came across this Art Nouveau style building with an impressive facade and decided to pay a visit to the interior. Sasz-Chevra Synagogue has a stunning interior beautifully painted and adorned with chandeliers and rose windows. There is a small entrance fee for the synagogue which you pay and get a postcard of the synagogue in return.
Another stop before the ruin bar was this street food court called Karavan Budapest. There were a dozen stalls packed in a small area with ample benches and a free toilet facility. The stalls were selling icecreams, burgers, pasta, wraps and much more. It is located very close to Szimpla Kert the popular ruin bar.
Ruin Bars and the Dohany Street Synagogue
The Ruin Bars are the abandoned buildings turned into bars and pubs by the locals. The pubs are decorated with antique and quirky furniture and paintings and add to the vibe of the Budapest nightlife.
On the way, we could also make a stop at the Dohany Street Synagogue which is the largest synagogue in Europe, and the second-largest one in the world. The Synagogue complex also houses a Jewish Museum and several memorials to the people who lost their lives during the WWI.
Yes, we did not visit the thermals bath so if you are planning to visit one then you will need one more day in Budapest. If you have more time in Budapest or if you are looking for a quick getaway from Budapest we suggest you plan a day trip to the historical city of Eger. There of loads of things to do in Eger for history buffs, foodies or anyone looking for a nontouristy getaway.
One more great way to explore the fascinating sights of the city of Budapest is to hop on to a river cruise. There are several options for river cruises from normal city sightseeing to lunch or dinner cruise and even cruises hosting live shows.
Places to stay in Budapest
During our stay in Budapest, we stayed in two apartments both of which are close to the center and are well connected by public transport.
Corvin Apartment Budapest
Spacious apartment with attached bathroom, kitchenette, and wifi. A lot of options for eating around the hotel and close to the Corvin Plaza shopping mall.
Nearest Metro: Corvin Negyed
Spacious apartment with attached bathroom and wifi. Lot of options for eating around the hotel centrally located in the prominent square of Deak Ferenc Ter. The Great Market Hall and the Liberty Bridge is just a 10 minutes walk.
Nearest Metro: Deak Ferenc Ter
If you are looking for options read our post on the best places to stay in Budapest with hotel recommendations by our fellow travel bloggers.
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