Skip to content
Home » Europe » Hungary

One Day in Budapest: How to Spend the Perfect 24 Hours in Budapest

Budapest is one of my all-time favorite destinations. With its famous thermal baths, rustic ruin pubs, excellent museums, fragrant Magyar cuisine, fantastic classical architecture, and quaint neighborhoods, there’s a lot to love about this city. It’s a city that captivates both by day and night, making it a must-visit destination. Here’s our lowdown on how best to spend one day in Budapest and the best things to do 🙂.

Please note that this article contains affiliate links. Learn more about it on our Disclosure page. We use ads to support our small business – we hope you don’t mind them too much.

Is One Day Enough For Budapest?

While you can certainly get a taste of Budapest in one day, the city’s rich history, beautiful architecture, and vibrant cultural scene can’t be fully experienced in such a short time. However, if you only have one day in Budapest, you can still visit some of the most iconic sights.

Getting To Budapest

Assuming you’re traveling to Budapest by air, you’ll be flying into Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport (BUD), which is located about 16 km (9.9 miles) southeast of the city center.

The most reliable way to get from Budapest Airport to the city center with public transport is by taking the 100E Airport Express shuttle bus from the airport to Deák Ferenc tér in the city center. The journey between Arlanda Airport and Deák Ferenc tér takes about 35 minutes.

Buses operate around the clock, every 7-12 minutes during the day, every 15-20 minutes in the evening, and every 30-40 minutes late in the night and early morning. Keep in mind that you need to buy a special ticket for this bus (it’s not covered by regular tickets or travel cards). 

A single ticket for the 100E Airport Express shuttle bus costs 2,200 HUF. You can conveniently purchase your ticket with your bank card, smartphone, or smartwatch using the onboard Budapest Pay&GO device. 

A maximum of five tickets can be purchased on your card. The Pay&GO device can be found by each door on the 100E Airport Express bus.

Alternatively, to get from Budapest Airport to the city center, you can take bus 200E to the Kőbánya-Kispest metro station, and then take the M3 metro line towards Újpest Központ, getting off at the appropriate stop for your destination. On this bus, you can use BKK tickets (scroll down for more info).

There’s no direct train connection from the airport to the city center, but you could take a bus to Ferihegy train station and then a train into the city. This is a bit more complicated and may not save much time or money compared to the other options.

Official airport taxis are available from the airport. The journey from Budapest Airport to the city center takes about 30-40 minutes, depending on traffic. The official taxi company for the airport is Főtaxi, and you can find their kiosks just outside the terminals.

Private/shared transfers are the most comfortable and convenient way to get from Budapest Airport to your destination in the city. They are especially useful if you are traveling in a group, have a lot of luggage, or want to ensure a smooth and hassle-free journey.

Private transfer services typically offer door-to-door service, meaning they will pick you up at the airport and drop you off directly at your hotel or other specified location.

How to Get Around During Your One Day in Budapest

Walking is one of the best ways to explore Budapest, particularly the city center and historical districts, where many of the key attractions are located. The city has a rich history, beautiful architecture, and vibrant street life, which is best appreciated on foot.

Walking tours, either guided or self-guided, are another great way to explore Budapest on foot. These often focus on specific themes or areas of the city, such as history, architecture, or food and drink.

Pro Tip

As you stroll across Budapest, be sure to look up at the buildings even if you have to stop for a minute. There is a wealth of missed treasures above normal views that go unnoticed by many. Take time to seek out the gargoyles and decorative motifs that adorn the multitude of impressive late 19th and early 20th-century buildings.

However, the best way to get around Budapest is by using the well-functioning public transportation system, especially if you have only 24 hours in the city. Budapest has a well-developed and diverse public transportation system, which includes buses, trams, trolleybuses, the metro, and boats along the Danube River.

Tickets for public transportation are valid for all modes of transport in the city and can be purchased from ticket machines, newsagents, or online. Budapest also offers travel cards (for 24 hours, 72 hours, 7 days, etc.), which allow for unlimited travel within the specified time period.

A single ticket (350 HUF) is valid for 80 minutes and the ticket is valid for a single ride without transfers. You can also purchase time-based tickets (30 min/530 HUF or 90 min/750 HUF) which allow you to make multiple journeys within their time period. A 24-hour Budapest public transport ticket costs 2500 HUF.

Make use of the very useful intermodal Journey Planner for getting around Budapest with public transport.

N.B. Just make sure to validate your ticket at the start of your journey in one of the validation machines. Periodic checks are carried out by plain-clothes ticket inspectors and you’ll incur a hefty fine if you don’t.

Budapest has been steadily improving its cycling infrastructure and cycling is also an alternate option for getting around Budapest. If you’re keen on cycling in Budapest, you can check out the MOL Bubi bike-sharing system.

In case you’re interested in seeing the highlights of Budapest on bike, check out this excellent Budapest Bicycle Tour.

Electric scooters have become quite popular in Budapest and are a fun way of sightseeing in the city. In case you’re interested in seeing the top-rated attractions of Budapest on an e-scooter, check out this popular Budapest MonsteRoller E-Scooter Tour.

Segways provide an exciting and quick way to get around Budapest. In case you’re interested in seeing the key sights of Budapest on a segway, check out this highly-rated Budapest Segway Tour.

For those craving an audio guide and extra comfort, you can also get around the city with Budapest Hop-On Hop-Off Tour.

I wouldn’t recommend using taxis unless it’s absolutely necessary. It’s very difficult not to get fleeced unless you speak Hungarian or know the terrain. Taxis can be hailed off the street but to avoid problems it is often better to book from your hotel or by phone.

Is the Budapest Card Worth It For One Day?

For sightseeing in Budapest, the most common travel pass that allows you to access over 30 of the most important attractions/museums/tours for free or at a discounted rate is the Budapest Card.

The Budapest Card offers several benefits, including unlimited travel on public transportation, discounts at certain restaurants and shops, and a free walking tour. 

If you intend to visit several paid attractions and use public transportation frequently within that day, the Budapest Card could offer significant savings. Another thing to consider is the convenience factor. The Budapest Card can save you the hassle of buying individual tickets for public transportation and attractions, making it a time-saver as well.

Ultimately, whether the Budapest Card is worth buying and truly cost-effective depends on your needs and interests and the range of sightseeing activities you have planned for the day.

Your One Day in Budapest Itinerary

For this one-day Budapest itinerary, I have tried to give you a taste of some of the must-see attractions in the city. It, of course, isn’t possible to explore all the major attractions in Budapest one day, and you’ll barely scrape the barrel of what Budapest has to offer. 

For your convenience, this post includes a free map of the top sights in Budapest. You can find the addresses of the attractions by clicking on the icons in the map. 

I understand that everyone travels at a different pace so feel free to choose the destinations according to your own pace. The earlier you start your day the more time you’ll have to see the attractions. 

Below I have compiled a list of the best things to see (or eat) in Budapest over the course of one day:

  1. Széchenyi Thermal Baths
  2. City Park
  3. Heroes’ Square
  4. Museum of Fine Arts
  5. Andrássy Avenue
  6. Eat a Traditional Hungarian Lángos
  7. St. Stephen’s Basilica
  8. Shoes on the Danube Bank
  9. Hungarian Parliament Building
  10. Széchenyi Chain Bridge
  11. Castle Hill Funicular
  12. Buda Castle
  13. Sample Hungarian Cakes & Pastries
  14. Matthias Church
  15. Fisherman’s Bastion
  16. Traditional Hungarian Dinner
  17. Visit a Ruin Bar

1. Széchenyi Thermal Baths

The Szechenyi Baths are beautiful from the outside, but even more fabulous from the inside.

If you’re wondering what to do in Budapest in one day, start by heading to the famous Széchenyi Thermal Baths (Széchenyi Gyógyfürdő).

With more than a hundred springs offering an endless supply of hot water at temperatures of up to 76°C (169°F), Budapest is deservedly known as a spa city, and visiting one of the city’s many baths is a quintessential experience when in the city. 

Fun Fact

Along with Reykjavik, Budapest is one of only two capitals in the world to be blessed with thermal springs.

The tradition of bathing in thermal waters in Hungary dates back to the Romans and later the Turks in the 16th century. Today, thermal baths in Budapest offer a unique blend of relaxation, wellness, and social interaction, making them an integral part of the Budapest experience.

Of all the thermal baths in Budapest, the Széchenyi Baths are undoubtedly the most popular and are an iconic part of the city’s identity. It is the largest such complex in Europe, the complex has 18 pools (both indoor and outdoor) and provides a full range of thermal water treatments.

Constructed between 1909 and 1913 in a Neo-Baroque style, the complex encompasses a vast outdoor and indoor area and is fed by two thermal springs which provide water with temperatures up to 38°C (100 °F).

If you have only one day in Budapest you should visit Szechenyi baths early in the morning.

I had dreamed of coming to the Széchenyi Baths ever since I first saw them on television and they didn’t disappoint. It was so refreshing to soak up the steaming hot water and bubbling with the currents, whirlpools, and underground jets.

The warm outdoor pool of the Széchenyi Baths is a favorite among locals and tourists. It is here that you’ll often get to witness locals enjoying a game of chess while soaking in the thermal waters, even in winter.

Practical Information For Visiting the Széchenyi Thermal Baths

The Széchenyi Baths are open daily from 07:00–20:00 (Monday-Friday) and 07:00-20:00 (Saturday-Sunday). The prices for visiting the baths depend on the day of your visit and if you’re including cabin usage (a private changing area) or just a locker. 

Additional services such as massages or wellness treatments cost extra and can vary significantly depending on the service. You can check prices here.

Lockers are included in the basic entrance fee and are large enough to store a medium-sized bag and additional small items. Personally, I’d recommend getting a cabin as you get more privacy while changing. Plus, cabins are better if you have larger items to store.

As for equipment rental, towels, bathing suits, swim caps, and bathrobes can be rented for a fee, although availability might be limited during peak times. You’ll also have to pay a deposit for these items, which will be refunded when you return them.

Pro Tip

Only do the Széchenyi Thermal Baths with the rest of this itinerary if you go early in the morning. Also, try to keep your visit to the baths short as you have a whole day of sightseeing ahead.

2. City Park

After exiting the Széchenyi Baths, take a stroll through the famous City Park (Városliget), one of the significant points of interest in Budapest. This enchanting park was laid out in the English style when it was chosen as the focus of the Millennium Celebrations in 1896, celebrating Hungary’s 1,000th anniversary. 

This large expanse of green is home to tranquil tree-lined walking paths, picnic hideaways, restaurants, monuments, and is popular with both locals and tourists alike. 

One of the most well-known spots in City Park is the artificial lake, used for boating in the summer and which morphs into a huge outdoor skating rink in the winter when it freezes over.

The other must-see attraction in City Park is the Vajdahunyad Castle which looks like it’s straight out of a fairytale. Similar to the park, the castle was designed for the 1896 Millennium Celebrations and was actually made out of cardboard and wood since it was only intended to be a temporary exhibit.

However, it proved so popular with the locals that they insisted it stay, so it was rebuilt in brick and stone. The castle’s eye-catching architecture is an eclectic jumble of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles, each representing a different era in the history of Hungary. 

Vajdahunyad Castle is one of the best things to see in Budapest and its moat, draw bridge, and soaring front castle walls are absolutely mesmerizing. The only part of the castle open to the public is the intriguing Museum of Agriculture.

Pro Tip

If you want to see the Vajdahunyad Castle at its best, return at night, when it is beautifully illuminated.

Directly opposite the castle lies the wildly popular Anonymous Statue, a tribute to the unknown chronicler of Hungarian King Béla III in the 12th century, often referred to simply as “Anonymous,” The bronze statue shows depicts the enigmatic writer cloaked in a hooded robe, his face concealed, symbolizing his unknown identity

The sculpture, created by Hungarian sculptor Miklós Ligeti in 1903, is imbued with folklore. It’s said that touching the stylus brings good luck and inspires creativity.

The City Park in Budapest is open 24/7 and is free to visit.

Fun Fact

The city of Budapest came into being in 1873, making it relatively young in its present form. It is the result of a union of three separate cities: Buda, Pest, and Óbuda. Buda and Óbuda lie on the western bank of the Danube while Pest occupies the eastern side. Each has its own distinct personality. Buda is built on a series of hills and feels more suburban. It is full of narrow winding streets and has a detached, imperial air of settled wealth. Pest, on the other hand, is flat as a pancake and is the buzzing economic and urban center of the city. With a thriving nightlife and a wide variety of tourist attractions, Pest is the most dynamic part of Budapest. Óbuda (literally meaning Old Buda) is mostly residential and is home to well-preserved remains from the Roman period to Baroque bourgeois mansions.

3. Heroes’ Square

Heroes' Square is one of the best things to do during one day in Budapest.

Heroes’ Square (Hõsök tere) is one of Budapest’s grandest landmarks and the largest public square in the city. It stands in honor and memory of the great leaders in Hungary’s history. Like so many other notable sights in Budapest, the square was planned and built to celebrate the arrival and settling of the Magyars in 896.

Since its inception, Heroes’ Square has played host to many public demonstrations, concerts, and fairs.

The imposing Millennium Monument dominates the square and is reminiscent of the Nelson Column in London. It comprises a Corinthian column in the center and a semi-circular twin colonnade.

The construction of the memorial started in 1896 to commemorate the 1000th anniversary of Hungary’s existence. It was only completed in 1929 and three years later the area was given the name of Heroes’ Square. 

Statues of renowned Hungarian leaders and politicians feature on the colonnade, and the 36-meter (118-ft) grand central column is crowned by a figure of the Archangel Gabriel. At the base of the pillar, rounding its form, are the fiercely obdurate seven mounted Magyar chieftains, considered to be the founders of the Hungarian nation.

Heroes’ Square is open 24/7 and is free to visit.

4. Museum of Fine Arts

If you’re wondering what is the best museum in Budapest, the Museum of Fine Arts (Szépművészeti Múzeum) is the easy answer. This excellent museum provides a cultural feast for art lovers and a fascinating insight into the world of art history.

The museum boasts an extensive and diverse collection, spanning seven thousand years of art history. It houses more than a hundred thousand pieces of art, including numerous European masterpieces from artists such as El Greco, Goya, Rembrandt, Raphael, Rubens, and Velázquez.

The museum also has a distinguished collection of Egyptian art and classical antiquities, one of the most comprehensive in Central Europe. This includes a wide array of artifacts from ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt.

Besides the rich collection, the building itself, designed by Albert Schickedanz and Fülöp Herzog and completed in 1906, is a work of art. The Neo-Renaissance style architecture, grand columns, and spectacularly decorated Romanesque and Renaissance Halls make it worth the visit alone.

Practical Information About Visiting the Museum of Fine Arts

The Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest is open from 10:00-18:00 (Tuesday-Sunday). The entrance costs 4800 HUF. Tickets can also be purchased online through the museum’s website.

The ticket office closes 1 hour before the closing time. 

Though it might be tempting to check out the museum in detail, try and keep your visit short to get the most out of your one day in Budapest.

5. Andrássy Avenue

Take a stroll down Andrassy Avenue during your one day in Budapest and enjoy the architecture.

Andrássy Avenue (Andrássy út), a UNESCO World Heritage site, is the most iconic boulevard in Budapest. It spans about 2.5 kilometers (1.55 miles), connecting the city center at Erzsébet Square with the City Park.

Andrássy Avenue was built in 1872 to divert the heavy traffic of the parallel Király Street. It’s often referred to as the ‘Champs-Élysées’ of Budapest due to its luxury boutiques, cafés, and restaurants, 

Andrassy Avenue is the perfect place for a relaxed walk if you only have 24 hours in Budapest.

The boulevard is renowned for its architectural grandeur. Lined with neo-Renaissance mansions and townhouses featuring intricate facades and ornate balconies, it’s a real treat for architecture lovers.

It is also home to several cultural institutions and landmarks, including the Hungarian State Opera House, Walking down Andrássy Avenue gives you a glimpse of the history, culture, and grandeur of Budapest.

6. Eat a Traditional Hungarian Lángos

Traditional Hungarian food: Man eating a langos on a winter day in Budapest.

One of the quintessential things to do in Budapest is tasting traditional Hungarian food and lángos is one of Hungary’s best-known culinary exports.

So, what is lángos? Lángos is a deep-fried flatbread made of flour and yeast, and sometimes added mashed potatoes. The dough is crispy on the outside, and soft and fluffy on the inside, forming a perfect base for the creamy, tangy toppings. It’s a rich and satisfying comfort food.

It is often smeared with garlic-infused oil or butter, sour cream, grated gruyère, and a favorable sprinkling of salt. Other toppings such as mayonnaise or Nutella are also available.

Being a devout glutton, lángos is easily one of my all-time favorite street foods! One of the best places in the capital to eat lángos is at Retró Lángos Büfé. 

Pro Tip

Though there are a variety of toppings available, I strongly suggest getting the classic lángos which is served with garlic oil, sour cream, and grated cheese. The combination of the rich, tangy toppings with the crispy-soft fried bread is simply irresistible!

7. St. Stephen’s Basilica

St. Stephen's Cathedral is a beautiful stop for your one day in Budapest.

No day of sightseeing in Budapest would be complete without seeing St. Stephen’s Basilica (Szent István Bazilika), one of the city’s must-visit attractions.

Completed in 1905 after over 50 years of construction, St. Stephen’s Basilica showcases a harmonious blend of Neoclassical and Neo-Renaissance architectural styles. Its grand façade, the intricate detailing, and the stunning interior, particularly the ornate dome and beautiful stained-glass windows, all contribute to its architectural allure.

The church is the largest one in Budapest and can hold up to a whopping 8,500 people. Another notable feature of St. Stephen’s Basilica is its 96-meter-high dome, visible from all over the city.

Fun Fact

The number 96 is very important in Hungary. The crowning of Arpád as the first king of the Magyars (Hungarians) heralded the creation of the Hungarian state in 896. Budapest’s metro was inaugurated on the country’s millennial anniversary in 1896. By law, buildings in Budapest must not exceed 96 meters, and the Hungarian national anthem should be sung in 96 seconds (if sung at a proper tempo)!

Though rather dark, the interior of St. Stephen’s Basilica is as magnificent as its exterior. The vast dome, adorned with celestial mosaics, and stunning stained-glass windows contribute to its grandeur. 

What to see in Budapest: The opulent interior of the St. Stephen's Basilica is beautifully adorned with frescoes, stained glass windows. PC: Luciano Mortula - LGM/

The interior walls and altars of the basilica are embellished with lavish marble and gold leaf. Statues and paintings of saints and biblical figures, created by some of the most prominent Hungarian artists of the time, also adorn the walls. 

The basilica is a popular venue for organ concerts, thanks to its magnificent interior, great acoustics, and large organ. 

However, the main reason why St. Stephen’s Basilica is so famous is that it contains Hungary’s most revered relic – the mummified right hand of St. Stephen. The Holy Right, as it’s commonly known, is kept in an ornate golden box.

Every year on St Stephen’s Day (20 August) in Budapest, the Holy Right is carried by the basilica’s priests past large crowds of people who congregate in front of the basilica to witness the spectacle.

Visitors can ascend to the cupola (either by lift or stairs) for a 360-degree panoramic view of Budapest, offering stunning vistas over the cityscape. 

Practical Information For Visiting St. Stephen’s Basilica

St. Stephen’s Basilica is open from 09:00-16:30 (Monday);  09:00-17:45  (Tuesday-Saturday); 13:00-17:45 (Sunday). The basilica’s panoramic terrace and treasury are open daily from 09:00-19:00.

The entrance to the basilica costs 2000 HUF while the entrance to the panoramic terrace and treasury costs 3200 HUF. An all-inclusive ticket (basilica + panoramic terrace + treasury) costs 4500 HUF. The ticket office closes 30 minutes before closing time.

For a more meaningful and insightful experience, consider taking a guided tour of St. Stephen’s Basilica.

St. Stephen’s Basilica doesn’t have an official dress code but like many religious sites, requires visitors to dress respectfully. This generally means that clothing should be modest and cover the shoulders and knees. Hats should also be removed upon entering the basilica out of respect.

8. Shoes on the Danube Bank

Budapest attractions: The poignant Shoes on the Danube Bank Memorial

“Shoes on the Danube Bank” is a poignant memorial in Budapest, Hungary. Created by film director Can Togay and sculptor Gyula Pauer, it honors the Jewish victims who were killed by fascist Arrow Cross militiamen in Budapest during World War II.

The memorial is located on the bank of the Danube River where the victims were shot. It consists of 60 pairs of iron shoes, styled after the footwear of the 1940s. The shoes are of different types and sizes, representing the men, women, and children who were victims of this brutality.

In late 1944 and early 1945, more than 3500 Jewish men, women, and even children were ordered to take off their shoes and were shot at the edge of the water so that their bodies fell into the river and were carried away. 

The shoes they left behind are a powerful symbol of the lives lost and the emptiness they left. Even now, thinking back on my visit as I write this post, I feel a lump in my throat.

9. Hungarian Parliament Building

The iconic Hungarian Parliament Building situated along the banks of the Danube River on a sunny day

You don’t want to miss the Hungarian Parliament Building (Országház), a magnificent example of Neo-Gothic architecture mixed with Renaissance and Baroque elements. It’s one of the most famous landmarks in Budapest and serves as both a vibrant governmental structure and a proud symbol of Hungary.

Designed by Hungarian architect Imre Steindl, the Hungarian Parliament Building was completed in 1902 after 17 years of construction. In my opinion, it is the most beautiful and sumptuous parliament building in the world.

The building’s façade is decorated with numerous gargoyles, thin-white Gothic pinnacles, and 88 statues of Hungarian rulers.  The interior of the building is equally impressive, with a richly decorated staircase, numerous frescoes, and a stunning amount of gilded ornamentation.

The Hungarian Parliament Building is the third-largest parliament building in the world, covering an area of 18,000 square meters. It has 691 rooms, including assembly halls for the two houses of parliament that existed at the time of its construction.

Unfortunately, one day in Budapest doesn’t give you enough time to tour the building’s interior. However, just seeing it from the outside is worth your time. You won’t be disappointed!

10. Széchenyi Chain Bridge

Budapest sightseeing: The famous Szechenyi Chain Bridge is one of the must-see attractions when spending 24 hours in Budapest.

The Széchenyi Chain Bridge (Széchenyi Lánchíd) or simply Chain Bridge is undoubtedly one of the top 10 Budapest attractions. Inaugurated in 1849, it is famous for being the first permanent bridge to span the Danube in the city, connecting Buda and Pest, which were separate cities at the time.

Until the mid-19th century, only pontoon barges spanned the Danube between Buda and Pest. In the winter, the pontoons had to be pulled in, leaving locals to rely on ferries or a frozen river.

The idea for the bridge was conceived and funded by 19th-century Hungarian reformer, Count István Széchenyi, a major promoter of modern infrastructure in Hungary. The bridge was designed by English engineer William Tierney Clark and the bridge’s construction was overseen by Scottish engineer Adam Clark (no relation to William Tierney Clark).

The suspension bridge with massive chain links spans a length of 375 meters. On either side of the bridge are two massive stone towers. Each tower is adorned with a lion sculpture at its base, and these lion statues have become symbols of the bridge and are often featured in countless Budapest photographs and postcards.

Like all of the city’s bridges, the Wehrmacht blew up the Chain Bridge in 1945, in a bid to hamper the progress of the Red Army. The bridge was subsequently rebuilt after the war and opened in 1949. 

If you can, try seeing the Chain Bridge at night since it looks absolutely amazing when it’s lit up.

11. Castle Hill Funicular

Next, take the Castle Hill Funicular (Budavári Sikló) to get to the top of Castle Hill right up to Buda Palace. The funicular, which dates back to 1870, is the second-oldest funicular in Europe.

During World War II, the funicular was destroyed by a shell in 1945. Fortunately, it was restored in the 1980s and reopened in 1986.

The Castle Hill Funicular spans a length of 95 meters along a steep incline. Its two lovely wooden carriages, which are replicas of the originals, are now lifted by an electric winch rather than a steam engine.

The funicular cars are step-shaped and ride up and down the hill offering stunning panoramic views of the Danube and the Pest side of the city. Riding on the vintage funicular is one of the best things to do in Budapest.

Practical Information About the Budapest Castle Hill Funicular

The Budapest Castle Hill Funicular is open daily from 08:00-22:00. The funicular is closed biweekly on Monday for maintenance during odd weeks. The cars run at an interval of every 5-10 minutes. 

Tickets for the Budapest Castle Hill Funicular are a bit pricey costing 4000 HUF for a return ride. If you don’t feel like paying that much for the funicular, you can walk up to the next attraction on our list.

12. Buda Castle

Though you won’t have time to check out its interiors, it’s still worth taking a short stroll around the grounds of Buda Castle – a majestic symbol of Hungarian history and culture and one of the most iconic landmarks of Budapest. 

The castle, also known as the Royal Palace, has been a focal point of Hungarian history since its initial construction in the 13th century. It has witnessed multiple sieges, reconstructions, and transformations that reflect Hungary’s tumultuous past.

The architecture of Buda Castle combines various styles from different periods, including medieval, baroque, and neoclassical, making it a fascinating study of architectural evolution. 

The castle complex houses several cultural institutions, including the Hungarian National Gallery, the Budapest History Museum, and the Széchenyi National Library, which holds extensive collections of Hungarian art and historical artifacts.

Due to its historical importance and its mysterious, imposing presence on Castle Hill, it’s no surprise that there are various fascinating legends and myths associated with Buda Castle.

13. Sample Hungarian Cakes & Pastries

Hungarian pastries: A slice of the famous Esterhazy Cake in Budapest

Just like other European nations, Hungary has a wide variety of delectable cakes and pastries. Hungarian pastries are mouth-wateringly good, but the cakes are not as sweet or moist as cakes in other countries.

Hungarian pastries are definitely a force to be reckoned with and I strongly suggest not leaving Budapest without trying some. 

You can try classics like the Eszterházy Cake – a cream cake that consists of thin hazelnut meringue floors and vanilla buttercream or the  Dobos Cake – a sponge cake layered with chocolate cream and topped with chocolate icing.

The diminutive Ruszwurm Confectionery is a great place to sample some of these delights.

14. Matthias Church

The exterior of the famous Matthias Church in Budapest which is adorned with colorful Zsolnay tiles


Perched atop Castle Hill in the historic district of Buda, the Matthias Church (Mátyás-templom) is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Budapest. This stunning church can be recognized from afar due to its elaborate, colorful diamond-patterned roof and soaring Neo-Gothic spire. 

The church’s origins date back to the early-11th century and the current structure dates back to the mid-13th century. It has witnessed significant events in Hungarian history, including the coronations of several Hungarian kings, among them the famed King Matthias Corvinus, after whom the church was named.

The first thing about the church that catches your eye is the distinctive, diamond-patterned, multi-colored tiled roof. The tiles are made from the mineral-rich clay found in Hungary and their patterns depict a variety of geometric shapes and mythical creatures.

The ornate interior of the Matthias Church in Budapest. PC: Mikhail Markovskiy/

As beautiful as the church is from the outside, I was even more overwhelmed by its magnificent interior. As you enter the church, its colorful patterns, fine frescoes, ribbed vaulting, and alluring stained-glass windows all vie for your attention.

Don’t miss the Loreto Chapel, which contains a red marble statue of the Madonna and Child. 

Practical Information About Visiting the Matthias Church

Matthias Church is open from 09:00-17:00 (Monday-Friday); 09:00-13:45 (Saturday); and 13:00-17:00 (Sunday). The entrance to the church costs 2500 HUF. You can buy your tickets online here.

15. Fisherman’s Bastion

The iconic Fisherman's Bastion in Budapest.

Fisherman’s Bastion (Halászbástya) is a viewing terrace in Budapest that makes the cityscape truly enchanting. With its fairytale-like appearance, this unique architectural marvel looks like something out of a Disney film and is undoubtedly one of the best Instagram spots in Budapest.

The bastion was constructed between 1895 and 1902 and represents a blend of Neo-Gothic and Neo-Romanesque styles. It derives its name from the fishermen’s guild that was responsible for defending this part of the city walls in the Middle Ages. Despite its name, this photogenic structure never served the role of a defensive building.

The magnificent seven white stone towers represent the seven Magyar leaders and their tribes that conquered the Carpathian Basin and settled down here in 896, which led to the founding of modern-day Hungary.

The Danube River and the Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest as seen from the Fisherman's Bastion

Finally, Fisherman’s Bastion offers some of the most spectacular panoramic views in Budapest. From the bastion, you have an unobstructed view of the iconic Danube, the Hungarian Parliament Building, the Buda Hills, and the Pest cityscape.

The gorgeous architecture and the sublime views make the Fisherman’s Bastion a must-visit spot when in Budapest.

Practical Information About Visiting Fisherman’s Bastion

Fisherman’s Bastion is open 24/7 throughout the year except for the upper terraces which are open from 09:00-19:00 (November-April) or 09:00-21:00 (June-September)

It is free to walk around the ramparts and cloisters of the Fisherman’s Bastion. There is a small charge of 1200 HUF to enter the upper-level terraces but it’s not really worth it in my opinion.

16. Traditional Hungarian Dinner

Traditional Hungarian Food: Juicy Chicken Paprikash

As Hungarian cuisine is an integral part of Budapest’s cultural identity, it would be a sin to leave without sampling some traditional Hungarian main dishes. Head to the Retek Bisztro to feast on classic dishes such as the famous goulash and chicken paprikash. YUM!

17. Visit a Ruin Bar

The funky interior of the popular Szimpla Kert ruin bar in Budapest.

If you still have any gas left in the tank, cap off your one day in Budapest by heading to a ruin bar. 

Ruin bars in Budapest are makeshift bars that are located in decaying old buildings, abandoned warehouses, and deserted parking lots. Their interior features mismatched furniture, funky lights, and an assortment of items for decor such as vintage computers dangling from ceilings.

The walls are usually covered with doodles and bizarre graffiti. Many ruin pubs offer cheap beer and live music. All of this creates a grungy and unique atmosphere.

Woman in the Szimpla Kert ruin bar in Budapest

Most of Budapest’s ruin bars are situated in Budapest’s trendy 7th district. Szimpla Kert is one of the oldest ones and arguably the best one. Other popular ruin bars are Kuplung, Anker’T, and Instant.

Most of Budapest’s ruin bars are situated in Budapest’s trendy 7th district. Szimpla Kert is one of the oldest ones and arguably the best one. Other popular ruin bars are Kuplung, Anker’T, and Instant.

More Than One Day in Budapest?

If you have more than one day in Budapest, there are still several great attractions/activities in the city that are worth doing.  Depending on your interest, other top-rated sights in Budapest we had to exclude from this itinerary are the Budapest Great Synagogue, Margit Island, Memento Park, the Great Market Hall, and the Terror Museum.

You could also participate in popular activities such as a Budapest Adventure Caving Tour, a Budapest Danube Sightseeing Cruise, a Hungarian Folklore Dance Performance, and a Hungarian Wine Tasting Experience. 

Budapest is also the ideal starting point for excursions to the magnificent Gödöllő Palace, the world’s second-largest Baroque chateau, and scenic Lake Balaton, the largest freshwater lake in Central Europe.

Also nearby is Szentendre, a charming riverside town known for its Baroque architecture, art galleries, and museums, and the renowned Etyek Wine Region.

You could also take a day trip from Budapest to Puszta, the vast rural plains of eastern Hungary, and watch traditional horse and ox shows while enjoying a local feast.

Where to Stay in Budapest

The selection of accommodation in Budapest is vast, and it’s possible to find something to suit all tastes and budgets. The greatest choice of hotels and hostels can be found in Pest where many hotels are literally only a few steps away from most of the major tourist attractions.

Even if you decide to stay in Buda or some of the other outer-lying suburbs, try and look for a place with good public transport connections.

Hostel: Wombats CITY Hostel, a great choice right in the heart of downtown

Budget: H2 Hotel Budapest, a solid option near St. Stephen’s Basilica

Mid-range: Hotel Zenit Budapest Palac, an excellent choice on the Danube riverbank, close to the Chain bridge

Splurge: Hilton Budapest, a sumptuous choice on Buda next to Fisherman’s Bastion

Now, what do you think? Is Budapest on your bucket list? Or is there anything else that shouldn’t be missed during one day in Budapest? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

About Mihir

Hello there, fellow globetrotters! I’m Mihir, a passionate travel blogger with an insatiable wanderlust. My journey across the world is fueled by curiosity and a hunger for unique experiences. As a travel writer, photographer, and adventurer, I’ve explored more than 35 countries, aiming to provide readers with a distinctive glimpse of our diverse world. Join me as I blend captivating storytelling with stunning visuals, guiding you through hidden gems and cultural treasures. Besides traveling, my other loves are my beloved cats, architecture, art, craft beer, classic movies, history, and Australian Rules Football (Go Dons!).

4 thoughts on “One Day in Budapest: How to Spend the Perfect 24 Hours in Budapest”

  1. Great info. Thank you
    If we have to choose due to lack of time between the Buda castle and the Fisherman’s bastion, which one would you recommend?

  2. Very well written informative article ! You certainly have laid out a colorful plan that I would like to follow as much as I can in my limited single day visit. Thank You !

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.