2 Nights in Budapest: What to See, What to Do
One night, two nights, three nights or four, Budapest will leave visitors wanting much, much more.
Budapest, the capital of Hungary, is one of the most unique and interesting travel destinations in Eastern Europe. The Danube River divides the city into two parts, “Buda” and “Pest”, which were separate cities until their unification in 1873. Budapest has a complex history. In 1920, Hungary became an independent republic. During World War II, the republic was occupied by Germany, and much of Budapest was destroyed by airstrikes. All eight bridges in Budapest were destroyed by the Germans. After World War II, the Soviets established a communist government within Hungary. This government structure ended in 1991, and since then, the city has been rebuilt and a new metropolitan center has been born. Budapest is truly a vibrant place. The people are friendly and hospitable, the food is delicious, and the architecture is beyond impressive. Even seeing just a few highlights of Budapest will show any traveler why, when it comes to Eastern Europe, it is one of the best.
What to See & Do – Daytime:
• Thermal Baths: Budapest is built on top of over 100 hot springs, and thermal baths are scattered throughout the city. Though they are a popular tourist attraction, visiting the baths is a part of everyday Hungarian life. Depending on whether you want to relax, meet people, or both, there are several options of what types of baths to visit. The most popular baths are the Széchenyi Baths. Take the tram about 15 minutes out of the city and pay about 4700-4900 Hungarian Forint for admission (€15-17).
• Fisherman’s Bastion: On the “Buda” side of Budapest, this seven towered terrace has a beautiful view of the Danube River, Margaret Island, and the “Pest” side of the city. If you only have a short amount of time to spend in the “Buda” part of town, this is definitely the site to visit.
• Heroes’ Square: This dramatically designed square sits next to City Park, near the Széchenyi Baths. The statues represent various important figures in Hungarian history. While very interesting to see during the day, it also is lit up at night and is just as magnificent when it’s dark.
• Hungarian Parliament Building: Arguably one of the most famous buildings in Budapest, the Parliament Building is the tallest structure in the city and one of the oldest legislative buildings in all of Europe. The best way to see the outside of the Parliament building is from the river.
• Bridges of Budapest: There are 8 bridges throughout Budapest linking “Buda” to “Pest”. All of them are architecturally fascinating, but my favorites were the Liberty Bridge and the Chain Bridge. Walk along the river to see them all!
• Boscolo Budapest Hotel: Formerly known as the New York Palace, this hotel is famous for its intricate and stunning interior decorations. Take a break from sightseeing and stop in for a drink or snack.
What to See & Do – After Dark:
• Sightseeing at Night: I really recommend walking around the various districts of the city at night and sightseeing. Many of the buildings and architectural wonders of Budapest are just as stunning at night.
• Boat Cruises: A nighttime boat cruise is a great way to view many of the riverside sites and buildings and see the bridges of Budapest up close. Many hostels can help coordinate buying and picking up tickets for a boat cruise.
• Bars & Ruin Pubs: Budapest has a lively bar and club scene. There are bars scattered throughout the city that are visited by tourists and locals alike. Ruin pubs are another major component of Budapest nightlife. These packed clubs are built within abandoned buildings and are truly a unique characteristic of Budapest. Our favorites were Szimpla Kert and Instant.
• Late Night Parties at the Budapest Baths: Many of the thermal baths host nighttime parties with DJ’s. The baths transform from a relaxing spa into a full-on dance party.
Places to Eat:
• Great Market Hall: Also known as the Central Market Hall, this is a huge indoor market in the center of town full of Hungarian delicacies, fresh produce, souvenirs, and savory street food. Even if you don’t buy anything, it is fun to walk around and look at the stands.
• Mazel Tov: A beautifully decorated cafe in the Jewish Quarter, Mazel Tov has amazing Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food. Order one of their unique cocktails and a hummus plate to start, and you can’t go wrong with any of their entrées.
• Hummus Bar: Another restaurant in the Jewish Quarter, the Hummus Bar is a perfect place for a quick but filling meal.
• Liszt Ferenc tér: A popular square in Budapest filled with restaurants and bars. Though it is slightly touristy, it is beautiful to walk through and people watch.
• Food Trucks: Budapest has countless food trucks and stands throughout the city. Street food is cheap and if you are in the mood for a certain kind of cuisine, you can find almost every kind of international food.
• Goulash: A traditional meat stew with vegetables and noodles. This soup is on the menu at practically every restaurant and is a must try.
• Langos: Flat bread topped with various add ons. Some come with sour cream yogurt, cheese, meat, etc. There are great street food versions of this dish at the Great Market Hall.
When visiting Budapest, getting around on foot is the best way to see the city. By walking you get to admire the intricate architecture of the buildings, stumble upon new places to eat, and explore various neighborhoods. But if you are going farther distances, there are other options.
• Public Transit: Both trams and underground metro systems operate throughout the city. Tickets are cheap and you can buy them directly at the stops.
• Taxis: I would recommend taking a taxi to and from the airport. Only ride in verified taxis and be prepared to pay with cash.
You can easily do Budapest in one night, two nights, three or four, but at least two nights is ideal. If not, you might have to come back for a few more!