Budapest is an enchanting city that is packed with unique and fascinating attractions. Tourists most often visit Budapest as a part of the trip to Central Europe which includes Vienna, Bratislava, Croatia, and Prague. So if you decide to explore Budapest in a day then here are the top Budapest attractions which you should push to the top of your list. Though we highly recommend you spend at least 2 days in Budapest to enjoy the best of what this wonderful city has to offer.
There are plenty of things to do in Budapest from historical monuments, museums, the beautiful Danube, the stunning architecture of the Budapest buildings, the food, the market, ruin bars and of course the thermal baths. You will not fall short of things to do here.
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. If you had to explore Budapest in a day we suggest you start early in that way you will be able to cover most of the Budapest attractions.
Places to Stay in Budapest
If you have only one day in Budapest then it would be best to base yourself close to the center. We stayed in two apartments in Budapest both of which were very close to the Great Market Hall and the Danube and 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.
Budapest in a Day – Top Budapest Attractions
Danube River Promenade and the Hungarian Parliament
The Hungarian Parliament is located on the Danube promenade which is well connected by public transport. If you are based around Deak Ferenc Ter we suggest you walk to the Vigado Ter which will take you about 5 minutes.
The Vigado Square has two famous Budapest statues one is of the ‘Little Princess’ which 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 in front of Starbucks in the same square.
The Vigado Square has a stop for Tram 2, board a tram to one of the most beautiful buildings in Budapest the Hungarian parliament. Here you will find a statue of the famous Hungarian poet Attila József.
Visitors can take 45 minutes guided tour of the Parliament building that walks through the ornate rooms and halls of the parliament which you will need to skip owing to short of time. Some 5 minutes walk from the parliament is prominent 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.
You can take the Tram 2 to Fovam Ter which is 5 minutes walk from the Liberty Bridge. At one end of the Liberty Bridge is the Great Market Hall and on the other end on the Buda side are the Gellert Hill Cave and the historic Gellert bath.
Great Market Hall
Great Market Hall or Central Market Hall is the largest and the oldest indoor market in Budapest. The Neo-Gothic building is adorned with the colorful roof decorated with Zsolnay tiles. The interior is simple with shops on 3 floors -fresh vegetables, fruits, meat, and spices on the ground floor, eateries and souvenir shops on first floor and a fish market in the basement.
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.
When you start climbing the Gelert Hill you will find a small church here, the Gellert Hill Cave Church. You can quickly visit it and enjoy an amazing view of the Danube and the Pest from its terrace. The Citadella is 15 min walk uphill. Atop the Gellert Hill is a 14 m tall Liberty Statue holding a palm leaf also called the Freedom Statue. The monument was erected to commemorate those who sacrificed their lives for the freedom of the country of Hungary.
When you descend on the other side of Citadella you will buses which will take you to the tram line from where you can take a tram to Szell Kalman Ter square. From the square regular buses (16 and 16A) run to the Buda Castle.
The buses have two stops one is at Trinity Square which has the Matthias Church and the other stop at the Buda Castle. Start with the Trinity Square which is dominated by an ornate equestrian statue of Hungary’s first king St Stephen. Explore the magnificent gothic Matthias Church. On the exterior, the church roof is decorated with the colorful Zsolnay ceramic tiles and the interior is stunningly amazing decorated with frescoes and motifs all over the ceilings and the walls of the church. To get inside the church one has to buy a ticket.
A climb up the bell tower offers wonderful views of the city, the Danube banks and of the Hungarian parliament building.
Next to the Matthias Church is the Neo-Gothic style bastion with turrets – the Fisherman’s Bastion. It is said to be named after the fishermen who defended the castle walls in the Middle Ages. A walk along the bastion offers some of the great views of the Danube and the Hungarian parliament building.
You can also enjoy the views over a cup of coffee in the cafe located in one of the turrets of the Fisherman’s Bastion.
You can easily walk to the Buda Castle from Trinity Square which would take you just around 10-minutes. The Buda Castle is a complex of historic buildings dating back to the 13th-century. Its major points of interest here are the National Gallery, Budapest history museum and numerous monuments.
We asked you to start with Trinity Square first so that you can end your day at the Buda Castle. The terrace of the castle complex offers incredible views of the Danube banks and the Pest side of Budapest.
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.
The view of the Pest painted in gold with the iconic Hungarian Parliament in the background is the postcard-perfect picture of the beautiful city of Budapest.
To get back you can walk down through a lift at another end of the terrace. The lift takes you the foot of the castle which is a 5-minute walk from the Chain Bridge. There are plenty of buses running from here to parts of Budapest. Bus no 16 will take to Deak Ferenc Ter in the city center.
We hope this itinerary will help you explore the best of Budapest and at the same time will exhaust you as we have tried to squeeze in as much as possible. There are many other important attractions which you would miss if you had only one day in Budapest – You can read our post on how to spend 2 days in Budapest.
For one day in Budapest, we recommend you go for the Budapest card. (Buy here) The card would cost you 22 Euros for 24 hours (2019) and offers unlimited travel on public transport and discounted admission to museums and baths. This would help you save time on buying the tickets. More information here.
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