Last Updated January, 2020
I have been to Budapest on so many occasions. Mark and I went there on our one-year full-time travel, on the way from Montenegro to Ukraine, and just on a few getaways. Visiting it during each season surprised us how many things there are to do and see in this city. So, after all the visits, I decided to write my own version of Budapest itinerary for 2 days which, if you want, you can extend and turn into 4 days.
Visiting the capital of Hungary just once is never enough, but even one short trip can bring a lot of excitement and fantastic memories. So here is a detailed guide not only on how to spend 2 days in Budapest but also where to eat and where to stay, where to find free parking, how to get around and more.
See Table of Contents to jump to a section that interests you the most. And happy travels!
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Tips To Help You Plan Your Budapest Itinerary
GETTING AROUND BUDAPEST
The best way to move around Budapest is by metro, tram or on foot. If you enjoy walking, then better walk as much as you can. All major attractions are conveniently located not far from each other and there are quite a few interesting things to see and do between them. So it makes more sense to walk than use public transportation.
Tram number 2 is moving along the Danube River. If you are not very interested in touristy spots but still want to visit must-see places in Budapest, just hop on this tram and look at the city from a different perspective. You’ll be able to cover all the main attractions within a short period of time.
Also, make sure to check out the M1 metro line. This is the first subway in continental Europe with tiny carriages that makes stops every half a minute.
Four different water routes are also included in the public transport system. This is another way to get around Budapest or see it from the water without paying much for a tour.
There is also a possibility to rent a bike for a day. Rental shops are everywhere and charge between €10-15 for the entire day. However, I do not recommend renting city bikes Bubi. Not sure why but you need to check-in at the bicycle parking lot every 30 minutes. Otherwise, they charge a fine.
WHERE TO STAY IN BUDAPEST
Best neighborhoods in Budapest
You need to know that the city is divided into 23 districts and each of them is denoted by a Roman numeral.
Most neighborhoods in Budapest are safe and nice, except for a few that you’ll find below.
If you are a night person who loves to party, choose districts V and eastern parts of districts VI, VII, VIII. They have more bars and nightlife. If looking for peace and quiet then choose districts I, eastern parts of district II and XII. Being built on the hills they are perfect for a relaxing time (you may even expect some view) and at the same time are in close proximity to the center.
In District VIII, which lies to the east and closer to József Körút, begins the Gypsy ghetto. Hungarians do not live there and you shouldn’t be staying too. The accommodation options there are the cheapest, but the neighborhood is not safe.
Cheap accommodation in Budapest
In low season a double room in the hostel in the center will cost not more than €15-20 for a double bed. When the season is high, especially during the festivals, the price goes up 2-3 times more.
- One of the most stylish hostels in Budapest is Wombats City Hostel (Király utca, 20). It has a central location, good selection of buffet food and a pool table. A bed in a shared room for 4-8 people goes for €9-12 per night.
- Those who look for a quiet stay should look into Downtown Oasis (Károly körút, 24). Its owners created a hostel in a large apartment in a historic building just near the main Budapest synagogue.
- Shantee house is ideal for romantic souls and backpackers (Takács Menyhért utca, 33). For €10 per night, you will get not only a bed but also the opportunity to relax in a separate garden with hammocks, hookahs and a fountain. Tea, coffee, apples, and hugs (smile) are included too.
A romantic Lavender Circus Apartment – among all the places we stayed in Budapest, this apartment deserves a special mention. It is incredibly comfortable, with unusual and interesting interior, exceptionally clean and cozy. The location is just perfect for those who love walking to all the sights of the city.
It is an excellent option for complete relaxation and inspiration.
The only requirement is to book for a minimum of 2 nights that cost between $115-$150.
An owner of this apartment also owns the famous hostel of the same name which is among the five best hostels in the world.
Many people confuse the Lavender circus hostel with apartment and vice versa. These are two different places in different parts of the central part of the city.
New York Palace, Autograph Collection ($210-250 per night)
The New York Palace Hotel, The Dedica Anthology, Autograph Collection is an elegant 19th-century building in the heart of Budapest, close to the Opera House. It offers free Wi-Fi and a spa center where you can relax in the spa pool. Most of the bookings include breakfast.
COST OF FOOD IN BUDAPEST
Cost of food in Budapest, as in any touristy city, will differ depending on the location. Therefore, keep in mind that the closer a restaurant is to a major attraction, the more expensive your meal will be.
To give you an idea, here is a breakdown of prices:
- The average cost of a traditional Hungarian meal for breakfast in a cafe is about 3-5 euro per person.
- A full meal with drinks will cost you 6-8 euros per person.
- A large portion of the salad will cost about 5 euros.
- For lunch at a fast food place like McDonalds or Subway expect to pay about 5 euros.
- Coffee and cake in the center of Budapest will cost about 5 euros.
If you want to save money, look for fast food restaurants where you can eat for 4-5 euros.
They are not necessarily low-quality places. Some of the eateries are small pizzerias where you can buy a slice of pizza with a drink for 5 euros or Turkish Doner Kebab (for which you pay about 3-4 euros.) Also, Wok is a great choice too. There, you can get a bowl of very delish noodles or rice with a variety of veggies or meats for about 6-7 euros.
If you are renting accommodation with your own kitchen and plan to cook, there are lots of supermarkets around the city.
Budapest’s popular and inexpensive store chains include Lidl, Spar, Prima, Coop. You can buy everything you need there at very reasonable prices. And you can easily find the last three in the city center.
WHERE TO EAT IN BUDAPEST
- The main street food in Budapest is Turkish kebabs. And you can find them around each corner. Prices start from €2 for a small vegetarian kebab.
- Almost on every street, you can easily find a bakery (Pekseg), which usually works from 7 am to 9 pm. The best chains that sell its goodies are Lipóti and Pavlovic Pekseg.
- For fans of Vietnamese cuisine, I recommend Dang Muoi Pho Bistro (3 different locations) and Funky Pho at (Mozsár utca, 7).
- Hummus Bar – Jewish chain, where besides sandwiches and rolls with hummus they make fantastic falafel, baklava, and shakshouka. When the weather is cold, everyone at the entrance immediately gets a mint tea free of charge.
- If you are craving something sweet, look for the kiosk Kürt Skalács that sells Transylvanian pie, cooked on an open fire and sprinkled with crushed nuts, poppy seeds or just sugar. The cheapest options (€1) are at the Deak Ferenc metro station and also in front of the main entrance to the West Railway Station.
CAFES AND RESTAURANTS
- For budget travelers, the cheapest place to eat in Budapest would be in one of the canteens (called önkiszolgáló étterem.) They still remain in Budapest from the Soviet era and can be found all over the city. The best one though is just near the Cathedral of St. Matthias in the area of the Buda Castle (Fortuna utca, 4). Soviet-style interior, large portions and a three-course meal will cost between €3-4. It opens at 11.30 am.
- Bors Gasztrobár (Kazincy utca, 10) – the best soups in Budapest, as well as super tasty sandwiches. It is perfectly located in the center.
- Drum Café (Dob utca, 2) – a cafe that serves traditional Hungarian food. It is famous for a long menu with pictures, super-democratic prices, large portions, and beer with different flavors.
- For sale pub (Vámház krt, 2) – a cafeteria right across the street from the Central Market. The portions are huge (you can easily take one goulash to share with someone else,) and on each table, there is a free basket of nuts.
- Vegan Love (Bartok Bela ut, 9) – you don’t need to be a vegan to stop at this cozy cafe. All food options taste great for everyone, including non-vegans! At this cafe, you’ll find burgers, Gyros Platter, various sandwiches, dips, fries, and hot dogs.
- Trofea Grill Restaurant – a chain of “All You Can Eat and Drink” restaurants in Budapest. One of them is located 200 meters from the Opera Theater. For one fixed price you can eat as much as you want and there are a lot of choices of food to choose from. The price of dinner during the weekend is about 20 euros per person, on weekdays it is cheaper – 15 euros.
- Elso Pesti Reteshaz Kavenaz (October ut, 6) – a cafe where you can try incredibly delicious strudels that are cooked right in front of you. To eat strudels and drink tea will costs around 10 euro for two.
BARS IN BUDAPEST
- Doblo (Dob utca, 20) – wine lovers, this bar is for you. The first city wine bar where you can taste red and white wines from 22 regions of Hungary. Pay a visit in the evening while drinking a glass of Tokay and listening to live music.
- Szimpla kert (Kazinczy utca, 14) – the oldest pub in Budapest which operates since 2004. At first sight, it looks like an abandoned house but inside there are not only a few bars but also a wine cellar, an exhibition, a designer shop, and a bike rental. Come to watch a retro movie, sip a cocktail or watch a performance.
- 360 Bar (Andrassy utca, 39) – a summer bar on the roof of one of the houses on the most glamorous avenue is famous not only for its gorgeous views but also for a diverse cocktail menu. Make sure to come in before 19.00 because after that you have to pay €3 to get in.
- Kis Uzem (Kis Diófa utca, 2) – a cozy pub with a good selection of craft gin and whiskey, where mainly locals go. From time to time, there are also concerts in a homely atmosphere.
Those who truly enjoy taking some time to eat breakfast or brunch should check this post on incredible breakfast places in Budapest. All these cafes serve beautifully made food and have a charming setting.
FREE PARKING IN BUDAPEST
On weekends (on Saturdays and Sundays) all street parking in Budapest is free. There are even a few lots that are free too. On weekdays, most of the parking in Budapest is for the payment and costs about 1-2 euro per hour or 25 euro per day.
However, there is still available free parking in Budapest center. You just need to know where to find it. And here are a few tips to make it easier:
1. Near the Budapest-Keleti train station on Kerepesi Ut (street,) there is free parking right before you get to the gas station Agip (on google maps it shows as MOL.) The parking lot in front of the train station building is paid. But if you walk 300 meters towards the metro Keleti Palyaudvar, you’ll find a free one.
2. If you drive a little further along Kerepesi Ut (pass the same gas station I mentioned above), you’ll see the Arena Plaza shopping mall and entertainment center. It also has free parking.
3. I also suggest you look into this cheap parking lot at 47°29’27.6″N 19°03’51.1″E coordinates. Underground parking costs only 5 euros per day or around 0.80 euro cents per hour.
2 Days In Budapest Itinerary
The Danube River divides the city into two parts, Buda and Pest. The central part – Pest, with many attractions. Still, Buda has many interesting sights too and it is better to devote at least one day to it, including morning or evening view of the city, lunch and a visit to the Rudas or Gelert baths.
If you are renting accommodation in Buda, I recommend spending your first day there and then for the second day go to Pest. Do the opposite, if staying in Pest.
So the first thing I recommend doing upon your arrival is to go to Danube embankment in Buda. The entire area is protected by UNESCO. Not far from it you can find everything that is so dear to the Hungarian heart: the Parliament (across the river but you get a gorgeous view,) the Buda Castle with its quarter, the Adam Clark Square, the Fisherman’s Bastion and the St. Matthias Cathedral.
In Fisherman’s Bastion, there is a cafe (in the north tower, which is farthest from the entrance) where you can go up to the top for free. Another option to get there for free and with fewer people is in the evening after 8 pm. At that time there is simply no one at the entrance, so no need to buy tickets. The Fisherman’s Bastion itself is not a very interesting place, but it has the best view of the Parliament and the central part of Budapest.
Go to the Gellert Hill and One of The Viewing Platforms
After that, walk more south towards Gellert Hill. Getting to the top of the hill will take about 20-30 minutes. It is better to walk on foot from the Erzsebet bridge along one of the paths. Those who don’t feel like walking may take a bus #27, which departs from Moricz Zsigmond krt.
Before you get to the top, there are a few interesting statues to stop by and vistas from where you get an amazing view of both sides of Budapest. At the top, there is the Statue of Liberty, the Citadel, and the Philosophical Garden, a place that not many people know about.
Gellert Hill is really big and you could end up spending a few hours there. But if you have only two days in Budapest, I recommend following one of the paths to the top just for the view and a bit of history.
If you decide to come here in the evening, expect to see the best night view of Budapest.
When feeling hungry after being done with the Gellert Hill, go to Vegan Love cafe (the one I mentioned above) for a healthy fulfilling lunch.
Visit One Of The Best Hot Springs in Budapest
Among all the places to visit in Budapest in 2 days, soaking in hot springs should be on the top of your itinerary.
The capital of Hungary has an incredible number of hot mineral springs. So to wash off the tiredness after so much walking, go straight to the pool with healing waters.
1. One of the most famous spas in Budapest is the Szechenyi spa. Colorful interiors of 1909, 18 indoor and outdoor pools, 14 saunas, a jacuzzi and always lots of tourists. You have to check it out. But try to go as early as possible to avoid the crowds.
We went there at 6 am and were the only foreign visitors along with a few Hungarians. It felt amazing, especially on a cold autumn day.
Do not visit this spa in the evening. After 19.00 the thermal part with the majority of saunas is closed, although the complex itself is open until 22.00.
2. A less touristy place where only Hungarians go is the oldest Turkish bath of Budapest Veli Bej which was founded during the Ottoman times in 1575. Five thermal baths, massage for €5, as well as a coffee shop with really decent prices. Just keep in mind that staff probably won’t speak English.
3. Another authentic place is the Rudas bath (my favorite.) Weekends are mixed days when both men and women can visit. Tuesdays are only for women, the other days only for men. Rudas bath is actually going to be right on your way when walking towards Gellert Hill. And it is a perfect spa for the evening visit.
For your second day of Budapest itinerary, I recommend going to Pest. I am including more options than you can physically cover. So if you are spending 3 or 4 days in Budapest, these activities will keep you busy.
First of all, go to the famous pedestrian Váci street where you can find lots of cute restaurants and shops and see beautiful architecture. From there check out Deak Ferenc Square, the only place where all three branches of the Budapest subway cross.
Nearby, there is a Vorosmarty Square with the famous Gerbeaud pastry shop and Erzsebet Square with mini-park. Erzsebet Square is worth at least a look since there is a modern Ferris wheel among classic buildings.
Visit Central Market Hall
Getting to Central Market would take around 15 minutes of your time but bring you through Inner City where more cafes and business are located. It is an interesting walk towards an interesting attraction.
Central Market is a place that will appeal to both architecture lovers and foodies. On the first floor of the market, you can buy vegetables, fruits, sausages, and jars of foie gras.
On the second floor, there is some type of cafe or it’s better to say a canteen where you can taste Hungarian goulash and other local dishes. The place is popular among tourists, but the prices are the same as in urban cafes.
See St. Stephen’s Basilica
Your main task at this location is not only to look at the cathedral from all sides (it really deserves your attention,) but also to climb to the observation deck. This can be done either on foot or by elevator for about 3 euro. On a clear day, the view is magnificent.
But! The cathedral itself will not get into the photo from the observation deck. On the roof of the neighboring building, there is a High Note bar, from where you can get a very unusual view of the city, including a basilica.
And, since I am mentioning bars and restaurants, I can also recommend a Kisharang cafe, a few steps from the basilica. They have an excellent goulash and langos (Hungarian tortilla with mushrooms and cheese.) Or Elso Pesti Reteshaz Kavenaz which I mentioned above, where you can try some of the best strudels.
Walk Along Danube Embarkment On a Pest Side
In Budapest, be sure to find time for a walk along the embankment, at least from Parliament to the Széchenyi Bridge. On the one hand, this is a very pleasant walk, and on the other – very sad. Here, you can find a famous monument Shoes on the Danube Bank, dedicated to the victims of the Holocaust.
See the Parliament
Some people say that the best way to admire the grandeur of the Parliament of Budapest is from the opposite side of the river or from the water while walking on a boat.
But in my opinion, this magnificent building is definitely worth a close look. If you have an extra day left, you can sign up for an excursion and take a walk inside Parliament. Although it is extremely crowded. On all my trips, I personally love just walking around the building and looking at every detail.
Walk on Szechenyi Chain Bridge
Szechenyi Bridge is an iconic place in Budapest. Walk it, take pictures on it, and enjoy the view from this bridge of both banks of the city. This bridge is beautiful on all sides.
I saw the information that the architect who built it was inspired by the Tower Bridge on the River Thames in London. It does look similar indeed.
If you feel tired at this point, walk along the bridge to Buda side and there, find the bus stop called Clark Ádám tér. Get on bus number 16 and give your feet a little break while looking at the city from the window.
Visit Liberty Square
Liberty Square (or Szabadsag ter.) is famous for the monuments to Soviet soldiers and Ronald Reagan. It is a perfect place to relax after walking through the city.
On Sundays, there is a market here. You can get hot wine, palinka or beer, and eat at a low cost. The market is open until 3 pm, but it is better to come here in the morning.
Not far from all major attractions on the Pest side, there is a super nice restaurant Bor la Bor, located in the basement in the center on Vares Palne street. It is rather a wine bar and a place where you can taste local wines.
Unique Things To Do In Budapest
If you’ve been to the capital of Hungary before but plan to revisit soon, take a look at this list of unique things to do in Budapest. Even if this is your first visit, I highly recommend checking out at least one of these places for a truly unique experience.
Visit Mobile Sauna
This is a typically Budapest thing which you won’t experience anywhere else.
Mobil Sauna is a sauna in a minibus for 6 people. It has everything you need: a dressing room, a cold shower, a wooden sauna and a great view of the Danube River.
You can come by yourself, with a partner or a group of friends. The price (15,000 HUF or €47) is the same no matter how many people go. It fits no more than 6.
Visit Invisible Exhibition
The invisible exhibition is a project which aims at making visitors understand how a blind person feels on the street, in the forest, in the museum, in his own house. One German man, who was obsessed with the idea to tell the world how his blind wife lives, opened this exhibit.
There, you get into the darkroom and obtain information only through touch, scent, hearing, and sense of balance.
The tour lasts one hour and costs 2400 HUF (€7.5) per adult.
In the end, you can also dine in the restaurant in complete darkness.
It is a very interesting experience, although not for everyone.
Pay a Visit to Memento Park
If you are interested to see dozen of various sculptures of Lenin and Stalin, and also sit in a real “Trabant car,” then definitely visit a park of Soviet sculptures Memento Park.
After the end of the Soviet occupation, the Hungarians gathered and brought here all the monuments and busts of Soviet dictators. In Hungary, people hate communism, but they love this park.
Tickets cost 1500 HUF (€4.7) for adults. Get a 25% discount when ordering through the website in advance.
Go To a Classical Music Concert
Music lovers will enjoy the Franz Liszt Academy (Liszt Ferenc tér, 8).
Here, you can go to a cheap classical music concert (experts say that it’s on a really good level), see interiors with bronze statues and stucco, and learn about the composer’s biography.
The English-language tour starts every Sunday at 13:30 and costs around €10.
Budapest Travel Tips: What To Pay Attention To
1. Street names. Residents of Budapest have a very interesting approach when giving names to streets. Somehow, the same address can be found in several places around the city.
Every time you check the address, look at the zip code and the name of the neighborhood to make sure that’s the right place. Also, pay attention to the abbreviations. Ut means avenue or road while utca means street.
2. Money. You can exchange euros for Hungarian forints almost everywhere but always ask about the commission. Sometimes the commission percentage is higher than the amount you change. In many shops, you can pay euros, but the rate is always the worst.
3. People. There are a lot of homeless people in Budapest. However, most of them dress up in bright clothes and behave like they are owners of the city. They may be intrusive, so watch out. Also, there are gypsies, stay away from them.
Take all your valuables from the car and keep an eye on your pockets. Hungarians though are sweet, sociable and quite friendly.
4. Wine. Hungarian wine tastes really good and is very cheap. If you drink alcohol then try local wines, you may be surprised.
This is it for now. If you can add more places to visit in Budapest in 2 days, I would be happy to hear from you! And don’t forget to check another post on Budapest to get inspired!