48 hours in Budapest

City Guide: 48 Hours in Budapest

With its many World Heritage-listed architectural masterpieces, wonderfully relaxing thermal baths and stunning views of the Danube, there are infinite activities you can add to the Budapest ‘things to do’ list. It could take days to fully explore this magnificent city. However, if 48 hours is all you have, this itinerary will help you cover all the top Budapest sites. 
Morning: To have a really great day, you must start with a great breakfast. For the morning of your first day in this beautiful capital city, we recommend the quaint and delightful Café Gerbeaud. Built in 1858, this historic café is a tourist favourite and serves a wonderful variety of Hungarian cakes and desserts and deliciously wholesome breakfast. Enjoy a wonderful konyakmeggy – a brandied chocolate cherry, or a traditional dobos cake – a Hungarian sponge cake layered with chocolate buttercream, while you enjoy the elegant décor of the renaissance revival building. A short walk from the café is St. Stephen’s Basilica. Located on the Pest side of the city, this awe-inspiring 19th century cathedral boasts a mix of neo-classical and neo-renaissance style architecture, a glorious interior, and splendid stained-glass windows. However, the crowning glory of the basilica is the mummified right hand of patron Saint Stephen I, the first King of Hungary. Preserved in a reliquary and adorned with precious jewels, the hand is a curious and highly venerated attraction.
Afternoon: St. Stephen’s Basilica is 96 metres tall. There’s only one other building in Budapest of the same height, the Hungarian Parliament Building. The equal heights of the two structures is meant to symbolise the balance between the church and the state. Walk over to admire its splendid neo-gothic architecture and its beautiful main staircase, and admire the coronation jewels, including the Holy Crown of Hungary. One of the activities on most Budapest things to do list is the Great Market Hall, or the Central Market Hall. Originally constructed in 1897 and restored over the years, this fine indoor market is a great place to experiment with a variety of local delicacies like pogácsa, lángos and strudels, as well as shop for local souvenirs to take home. Take your lunch break at this top Budapest site before exploring further.
Evening: A 10-minute walk along the Danube will take you to the site of Shoes on the Danube Bank. Here, you will find 60 pairs of shoes of varying sizes and styles, fashioned out of cast iron and affixed to the promenade, and a plaque that reads ‘To the memory of the victims shot into the Danube by Arrow Cross Militiamen in 1944-45’. This is the spot where the fascist men of the Arrow Cross party shot nearly 3,500 people into the Danube, after having them take off their shoes at the bank.

Night: End your day with dinner at InterContinental’s Corso Restaurant & Terrace. Located on the banks of the Danube, this is not only a great spot for a delicious Hungarian meal, but also for people watching and fantastic river views. 

Morning: Start your day at the quaint French style Déryné Bistro. Established in 1914, the café is hidden away from the tourist crowds and welcomes you with the most intoxicating smell of freshly baked breads, served hot from the oven. Pick from a delectable English breakfast or a French one for a robust start to your day. After breakfast, make your way to Adam Clarke Square to take the Sikló, a funicular railway. A short and fun ride, the funicular was built in 1870 and is the easiest way to get to the top of Castle Hill. Visit the abode of the Hungarian kings at the Buda Castle, also known as the Royal Palace and explore the Budapest History Museum and Hungarian National Gallery.
Afternoon: Head towards another famous castle that remarkably resembles the castle on Disney’s logo, the Fisherman’s Bastion. If there is one place to capture the beauty of Budapest in one frame, it is this. With its stunning turrets and spires, the bastion is not only one of the most photogenic structures of the city but also provides magnificent panoramic views of Budapest. Take a break from exploring the beautiful UNESCO World Heritage structures of Castle Hill for lunch at Pierrot Café & Restaurant. Set inside a 13th century bakery house, the restaurant has been a celebrity favourite for decades, playing host to Hollywood stars like Robert De Niro, Antonio Banderas, Eva Mendez and Ryan Gosling.
Evening: After an eventful day, it is time to ease your tired muscles at the soothing thermal waters of Gellert Baths and Spa Budapest. This 100-year old thermal spa boasts several pools of varying temperatures, massage rooms, sauna and an outdoor wave pool. Soak in the elegant art nouveau architecture of the historical structure and let the healing waters work their magic.
Night: Conclude your memorable journey with a delightful dinner on board Spoon The Boat restaurant. A plush floating restaurant anchored to the eastern bank of Danube, it serves up a mouth-watering variety of world cuisine along with spectacular views of the Buda Castle and the Chain Bridge. After dinner, take a walk along the Széchenyi Chain Bridge to take in the night-time views of the Danube and as you prepare to bid farewell to Europe’s most beautiful city.