24 hours in: Budapest

October 10, 2017
Urban Adventures

One day in the gorgeous Hungarian capital will no doubt leave you wanting more, but if 24 hours is all you have (this time!), then we can help you cram in the best the city has to offer. Our itinerary below will give you the perfect 24 hours in Budapest — but you could also hop on one of our Budapest city tours for a true local experience with our friendly guides.

Early morning: 7 – 9am

Start your day refreshed with a visit to one of the big bath houses in the city, where open-air pools make for a great way to greet the morning. Széchenyi and Gellért are very popular picks, but we suggest you check out Lukács Spa. This late-19th-century bath house has a long history of hosting local cultural figures and other famous Hungarians as regular visitors. It’s likely the spas will be much less crowded in the early hours, and by waking up for an early swim, you’ll get true local insight into the real spa culture of the city.

Morning: 9am – 12pm

Stay in the Buda side of the city and discover the area around Lukács Spa. Gül Baba Street, considered by some to be the loveliest street in the city, is just five minutes away. This short but steep cobblestone street leads up to Rózsavölgy (Rosehill), the residential area that was once home to some of the wealthiest families of the city.

You can either get lost among the beautiful villas or just head toward Víziváros (Watertown) along the Danube, which is a 20-minute walk from Lukács Spa. This area offers a different side to Buda, which tends to be most known for the Castle and Gellért hill. The closer you get to Castle Hill, the more romantic the area becomes, with cobblestone streets and staircases leading your way. Along the river, you can find a few nice coffeehouses to grab a drink or bite to eat. Sweets lovers should check out Dolcissima, those who are interested in the retro vibe of Communist times will like Bambi Eszpresszó, and bohemian travellers will appreciate Móka Café — no matter your personal taste, you’ll find a place that suits you here.

plate of pastries

Satisfy your sweet tooth with some Hungarian pastries at a local café | Photo by Budapest Urban Adventures

Midday: 12 – 2pm

Wander from the Batthyány Square in Víziváros over to Jászai Mari Square (it’ll take you about 20 minutes), to see a truly unique side of Budapest. Újlipótváros (New Leopold Town), or Újlipócia as the residents have nicknamed it, was a neighbourhood built between the two World Wars — which makes it quite different from the rest of the inner city, which was born during the golden age of the monarchy before WWI. Among the stunning pre-modern apartment buildings you can catch a glimpse of the everyday life of the middle class and upper middle class of Budapest.

Great restaurants await you here, so you’ve got plenty of options for a lunch stop. Depending on your preferences, you can try classic Hungarian dishes at Pozsonyi Kisvendéglő, or a more high-scale meal with modern touch, visit Laci!, Konyha or Babka. Not to mention the numerous charming cafés and confectioneries that fill the streets parallel to the Danube. If you feel like just having a rest instead, Szent István Park is there for you to kick back and relax in a bit of nature.

Or, if you’d rather spend your entire afternoon in Budapest eating, just skip lunch and book onto our food-packed Bites & Sights tour! Check out a sneak peek of the tour here:

Afternoon: 2 – 6pm

For a nice afternoon, the 5th district is perfect to explore and do some classic sightseeing. There are way too many places to see in one day, so you’ll have to pick your must-see sites. From the dazzling Parlament to St. Stephen’s Basilica to the Great Market Hall, this part of the city includes some of the most famous sites of Budapest. If you don’t mind walking through the whole district, you can go from Újlipótváros to the very heart of the district, Vörösmarty Square, in about half an hour; or take tram line 2 for a quicker trip.

The area that once was the medieval city (Belváros, Inner City) still resembles some of the romance of those old times. So don’t be afraid to let the small streets and alleys lead your way while you wander around the neighbourhood. If you are lucky, you may find a few gates open so you can peek inside the hidden courtyards.

Note: Since this is a highly visited area, the city’s most famous shopping street and pedestrian area is also here. Váci Street has amazing architecture, but be warned, there’s some low quality goods and the tendency to rip people off in the restaurants and small souvenir shops here. Instead, while you are in the neighbourhood, be sure to discover the lovely small design shops and showrooms that serve some of the highest quality souvenirs and clothes you can ask for. For those shops, check the Stylewalker website.

Evening: 6pm until late!

Head towards the Jewish district! You can walk to Astoria from Váci Street, and then you’re practically there, or from the Great Market Hall you can take trams 47 or 49. Here, you’ll find countless eateries but we suggest you should have some gulyás (goulash) or pörkölt (meat stew) at Gettó Gulyás, close to the Great Synagogue. This fairly new place is run by an enthusiastic young crew, so the interior is more trendy than authentic, but the dishes will still give you the real Hungarian gastronomic experience. If you don’t feel like sitting in a restaurant and would rather have something fast, just go to Kazinczy Street, where you can find several great and non-expensive fast food options.

After dinner, walk around the neighbourhood, which has become extremely famous for its nightlife over the past few years. There are approximately 500 bars, pubs and restaurants in this one square kilometre area (!!!), so there are plenty of places for the thousands of people who come here every night. From the most famous ones (the original ruin pub Szimpla Garden or the party complex Fogas) to the more bohemian bars (Kőleves Garden, Kisüzem and Fekete Kutya) to the trendy corner (Telep and Központ), you can easily spend your whole night here.

travellers cheers-ing drinks in a bar in Budapest

You simply can’t go to Budapest and not check out the nightlife! | Photo by Budapest Urban Adventures

Shorter stays

If you want to spend some quality time in the city, you’ll need at least six hours’ layover time between flights. There is a direct bus connection (the 100E) that takes only half an hour to reach the city centre. But be aware, it only runs twice per hour. By taxi, it is approximately half an hour as well, but of course costs more (about EUR 25).

If you’re in Budapest on a morning or afternoon layover, take the 100E (or taxi) to Kálvin tér. If you’re feeling jetlagged and in need of an energy boost, get a takeaway coffee from one of the cafés at Baross utca, just a minute away from the bus stop, then head towards the Danube. You could take a look inside the Great Market Hall, but we think a better option would be to walk onto the Liberty Bridge and take in the view of the UNESCO-protected city centre — one look and you’ll understand why Budapest is considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world. If you have time, continue your walk on the Pest side along the Danube, heading north to the Elizabeth Bridge, or just check out the small parallel streets. You’ll need about one hour to 90 minutes for Market Hall and the Liberty Bridge, plus another one hour if you want to walk further.

The view from the Liberty Bridge is just as stunning during the night as in daylight — if not more. So this is a great option for an evening or nighttime layover as well. But, with Budapest’s famous nightlife, you really should see what caused the craze among backpackers and city-breakers. To get a quick taste of the famous nightlife of the Jewish district, take the 100E bus to the last stop, Deák Ferenc tér. Here you can just follow the crowd into the small streets and have a drink at any place. We’d recommend about two hours to enjoy the district before you head back to the airport.