Last November I spent a magical couple of days in fairytale-like Budapest – and I can’t recommend it enough! Easy to get around, friendly, cheap and home to a handful of breath-taking buildings, there’s lots to recommend Budapest as the perfect short break destination.
Here with a few ideas of how to spend your weekend away, read our guide to Two Days in Budapest…
Day 1 – Central Budapest
9.00am – Walk into central Budapest and find your way to St Stephen’s Basilica – gawp up at the gorgeous detail of the dome before braving the many (many, many) steps up to the Dome level. It’s worth the nominal entry fee and the effort it takes for the stunning views across the city – particularly in the early morning light. Spot the distinctive spires of the Hungarian Parliament building to orient yourself (you’ll be heading there next) and be sure to take the lift down to avoid using all those stairs for a second time!
10.15am – Take a gentle stroll toward the distinctive Chain bridge (an easy find, since it’s Budapest’s most iconic landmark) and walk along the embankment of the Danube, admiring the splendour of Europe’s most famous river. Spend a moment or two paying your respects at famous memorial Shoes on the Danube Bank – a tribute to Jews shot by Militia there during World War Two, it’s one of Budapest’s most touching monuments.
11.00am – Spend a couple of hours taking in the utterly breath-taking Hungarian Parliament Building. The largest building in Hungary, it’s one of Europe’s oldest parliament buildings. The design was inspired by the British Parliament building in London and its Gothic Revival exterior is absolutely identical. Beautiful inside and out, take a tour if you can before walking right around the building to see it from every beautiful aspect. Stroll back towards town via the city’s Soviet War Memorial.
1.30pm – Stop in town for lunch – for something tasty, cheap and traditional, why not try Lángos? This flat bread can be found near enough everywhere, and is often covered in grated cheese, sour cream or potatoes. A must-eat.
2.30pm – Enjoy Budapest’s best shopping at your leisure as you stroll around the Inner City – stop at will at the popular cafés and bars along Vaci Utca. End up at the city’s famous Great Market Hall – THE place for souvenir shopping and perusing hundreds of stalls. If you’re not quite full from lunch, downstairs is full of kiosks selling local specialities worth trying. Leave time to head back to your hotel, freshen up and put on your glad-rags ready for the evening’s entertainment.
6.00pm – Grab a pre-Opera dinner close to the Opera House itself. Feast on a traditional Goulash – with a light, crisp Hungarian beer in hand – at the inviting and friendly eatery Kiado Kocsma; such great value for money, this restaurant is truly a hidden gem.
7.30pm – Without doubt my favourite way to spend an evening on a European city break, be sure to book tickets to a performance at the city’s striking Opera House. An inexpensive way to embrace culture on your Budapest break, you can expect a quality production from Hungary’s renowned National Opera Company. And don’t worry if your Italian/German/French skills aren’t up to scratch – the whole thing’s subtitled in English too!
Day 2 – Around Budapest
9.00am – Wake early and head towards Budapest’s city park. There you’ll find Heroes Square; a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you’ll see the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and statues of the seven chieftains that founded Hungary. Head into the park from there. During the winter, go ice skating outside the terribly pretty Vajdahunyad Castle, whilst in the summer the Széchenyi thermal baths are a must-visit. In fact, the warm waters are a welcome treat at any time of year – it’s the walk to the pools that’s no fun in winter! For family-friendly fun, the City Park is also home to the Budapest Zoo and Botanical Gardens.
1.30pm – Budapest is split in two (Buda and Pest, on either side of the Danube) and now you know the Pest side intimately, it’s time to see Buda. Use the city’s efficient tram system to head back toward the centre and walk across the Chain Bridge toward Buda Castle – first built on the site in the 13th century, this is one of the city’s most singularly impressive buildings (and by now you’ve seen many). Save time and ride the funicular up Castle Hill, though the walk is easy if the line is long!
3.30pm – Famous for having the best views in the city, you’d be silly not to make the short walk up to Fisherman’s Bastion. With grand staircases and dreaming spires, this is the fairytale city at its best. Built at the turn of the 20th century, this neo-gothic site is sure to make you snap-happy – plan on taking lots of pictures here!
5.30pm – Luckily, the Fisherman’s Bastion is surrounded by some of the highest-rated restaurants in the city. For a really special treat (because it is quite expensive) head to the Halaszbastya Restaurant and keep enjoying those stunning views – you do get what you pay for, the service is impeccable and the food is world-class. On a tighter budget? The Hunyadi Etterem Restaurant nearby is a great alternative.
7.00pm – Walk off dinner and spend the evening taking in Budapest by night. By now you know the city well, and can probably navigate around its streets with ease, but you haven’t seen the best of Budapest until you see it all lit up. Stroll back over the stunning Chain Bridge, see the domineering façade of St Stephen’s in lights, and then walk down the Danube’s embankment one last time to be overawed by the magnificent Parliament – there’s no better way to say goodbye to Budapest!
Planning a short break in Budapest? Have some tips of your own? Let us know in the comments section below…