Budapest is one of those cities that has a lot to offer but doesn’t require a great deal of time to enjoy. That makes it the perfect destination for a brief visit – two days to be exact! At first I was concerned that my 48 hours weren’t going to be enough for this excursion to truly count. However, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that once you have a good pair of walking shoes, a sense of adventure, and conditioned to rise with the sun and rest long after it has set, there’s a whole lot you can do with just two days in “the city that unites”. So, here are 9 fun things you must do in Budapest if two days is all you have to spare.
1. Visit the Hungarian Parliament
I’m a bit of a fast-talking chatterbox and I’m rarely rendered speechless. However, upon exiting the dreary metro station and spotting the magnificent sight of Hungary’s Parliament building, I lost all my words. At 268m in length, 123m in width and reaching 96m at its highest point, this massive gothic building is a detailed work of art. It’s also the third largest parliament in the world. Approximately 100,000 people were involved in its construction, using around 40 million bricks, half a million precious stones and 40kg of gold, to deliver the impressive final product. Tours of the interior are available and tickets can be purchased online. If however you’re not inclined to venture inside, just walking around the perimeter and soaking in the details is enough of an undertaking to occupy at least an hour of your time!
- Location: 1055 Budapest, Kossuth tér 1-3
- Hours: 8:00 am – 6:00 pm (Mon to Sun, April 1 – October 31) | 8:00 am – 4 pm (Mon to Sun, November 1 – March 31)
- Cost: HUF $6,000 or $6,500 | US $22 or 23 | TT $147 or $160 (rate depends on the season)
2. Cruise Along the Danube
Lunch, dinner or just drinks. Daylight, sunset or by the light of the moon. Whichever way you do it, you absolutely must take a cruise along the Danube River. Options abound when it comes to sailing along the second longest river in the Europe. We opted for a lunch cruise because we wanted to take in the views from the river by day. While our eyes feasted on gorgeous uninterrupted views of the beautiful architecture that lines the Pest riverbank and soaked up the grandness of Buda Castle on the opposite side, we enjoyed a lovely all-you-eat buffet. When it comes to fun things you must do in Budapest, you can’t be lunch with changing views!
- Location: You can purchase tickets from various vendors along the Danube
- Hours: 2:00 pm (Lunch)
- Cost: HUF $12,600 | US $46 | TT $310 (Lunch)
3. Visit a Bath House
When it comes to thermal baths in Budapest, there’s no shortage of options from which you can choose. Some, like the Széchenyi Thermal Baths, still possess their old world architecture and charm. While others like the Rudas Baths have undergone a few upgrades, including a very chic rooftop hot tub that delivers sweeping views of the Pest skyline. A popular destination for most visitors to the Rudas Baths, the pool is usually crowded and it takes great patience to secure yourself a spot with a view. But, whether your wait is 15 minutes or 50, it’s definitely worth it to capture the perfect shot. Of course there are other pools with various treatments that are certainly worth your time so purchase a package that allows you to indulge in several of them. After a few hours of their warm and healing properties, you’ll be fully recovered from your day of walking.
- Location: Döbrentei tér 9., Buda, Erzsébet Bridge, District I
- Hours: 6:00 am – 8:00 pm (Fri to Sat) NB: Hours for specific areas/treatments vary
- Cost: HUF $2,600 – $4,800 | US $10 – $18 | TT $64 – $118 (depending on time of day and treatments)
4. Take a Turn on the Budapest Eye
Who doesn’t enjoy a good bird’s eye view? And from a large ferris wheel no less! The Budapest Eye is a far cry from the London Eye in terms of size but, at 65 m, it’s the largest mobile ferris wheel in the world! The Eye offers a nice leisurely break in the middle of a day full of walking. Hop into one of the gently rocking cabins and make a few revolutions as you take in uninterrupted views of the Danube River, some of the larger monuments in Buda and of course the hustle and bustle of the activity taking place on the ground in Pest.
- Location: Erzsebet ter, Budapest 1051, Hungary
- Hours: 10:00 am – midnight (Sun to Thurs) | 10 am – 2 am (Fri and Sat)
- Cost: HUF $2,400 | US $9 | TT $59
5. Pay your Respects at Shoes on the Danube Bank
The Shoes on the Danube Bank is a powerful memorial to honour the memory of the 3,500 people killed by Arrow Cross militiamen during World War II. A collaborative effort between director, Can Togay, and sculptor, Gyula Pauer, these 60 pairs of iron shoes represent the shoes the victims were ordered to remove before being shot on the bank of the river. Please note, if you do opt to visit this tribute, please be genuine and respectful. This should not be used as a photo opportunity. While there I saw too many people pausing mid “tribute” and posing for photos as they placed coins and other tokens in the shoes. It wasn’t very tasteful and definitely not an action I can condone.
- Location: Between Szechenyi ter and Kossuth ter, Budapest 1054, Hungary
- Hours: 24/7
- Cost: Free
6. Visit Buda Castle
Go for the history, stay for the views! Buda Castle is located on, you guessed it, the Buda side of the Danube. Which means it delivers gorgeous views of the stunning Pest skyline. A World Heritage Site that dates back to the 13th century, the castle grounds stretch on for miles. It includes a host of places of interest, from the Presidential Palace to the Fisherman’s Bastion to the Matthias Church. There’s so much to grab your attention, you could easily spend an entire day there. But, with only 48 hours to play with you’ll need to prioritise your stops. My advice? Do your research in advance and prepare a plan of action that allows to cover as much ground as possible.
- Location: Szent György tér 2, 1014, Budapest
- Hours: Buda Castle district is open 24/7 however hours for various most of the castle’s attractions close by 6 or 8 pm
- Cost: Free (but fees apply to access certain areas)
7. Get Souvenirs at Budavári Sokadalom Craft Market
I’m not one for souvenir shopping but if you’re looking to bring back a piece of Budapest with you, you need to make a stop at the Budavári Sokadalom craft market. A stone’s throw away from the entrance to Buda Castle, this cozy little market is filled with vendors selling traditional Hungarian wares. They offer everything from elaborate Christmas ornaments to colorful matyó embroidery – an element of Hungarian folklore that is catalogued on the World UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list. It’s the perfect one-stop-shop with friendly vendors who know how to be attentive without being a nuisance.
- Location: Dísz tér 3, 1014, Budapest
- Hours: 10 am – 6 pm (Sun to Sat)
- Cost: Free
8. Walk along the Széchenyi Chain Bridge
The Széchenyi Chain Bridge is to Budapest what the Brooklyn Bridge is to New York City. A beautiful icon that commands your attention and demands your admiration, you can’t visit the city and not walk along this engineering marvel. Flanked on both sides by two domineering lions, crossing the bridge from east to west (or vice versa) is an easy walk that treats you to great views on either side. An early morning stroll will greet you with gorgeous sunrise skies and uncluttered pathways. Making this walk at nighttime means taking in the magic of Budapest lit up in all its glory. No matter what time of day you choose to do this, it will be an amazing experience with incredible scenes to take in!
- Location: Budapest, Széchenyi Lánchíd, 1051 Hungary
- Hours: 24/7
- Cost: Free
9. Go Ruin Bar-Hopping
Forget the historical castles and healing baths, ruin bars are quite possibly one of the Budapest’s most popular attractions. Eclectic watering holes established in previously abandoned buildings in the once crumbling, historical Jewish Quarter, ruin bars are now the heart of soul of the Budapest’s nightlife experience. Artfully mismatched furniture, kitschy decor, psychedelic lighting, pulsating music and an expansive range of cheap drinks attract thousands to the cavernous interiors of these ultra hip spots on a daily basis. Szimpla Kert, with its multiple levels and rooms, pioneered the movement and should be top of your ruin bar hop list. However there are several others worth checking out, which you will find on this list by Offbeat Budapest.
- Location: Kazinczy u. 14, 1075, Budapest
- Hours: 12:00 am – 4 am (Mon to Thurs, Sat) | 10 am – 4 am (Fri) | 9:00 am – 5 am (Sun)
- Cost: Free entry
Budapest has a lot to offer everyone so this list barely scrapes the surface. However, if two days is all you’ve got these are my top pics for 9 cool things you must do in Budapest. Have you been to Budapest? What fun experiences did you have that didn’t make my list? Feel free to share in the comments!