While often referred to as the “Paris of the East,” Budapest is truly a city in a league of its own. Hungary’s folk heritage, communist past and location in the Carpathian Basin fuse together to create Budapest’s unique identity. It’s the reason people keep coming back – discover it for yourself in just 24 hours.
24-hour public transportation pass: HUF 1650
From the airport, take the 200E bus to Köbánya-Kispest metro station. From there, you will be able to access the metro network to get anywhere you need to in the city.
8:00 Off to the Market
Good morning, or jó reggelt! To make the most of your day in Budapest, get an early start. The summer morning weather will be lovely and you will get to wake up alongside the city. For breakfast and coffee, check out Bite Bakery Café for take-away or Két Szerecsen for a lovely sit-down breakfast.
If you want a taste of fresh and local produce, Central Market Hall will have everything you crave. From colorful fruits and veggies to fresh-baked pastries, Central Market Hall has it all. Take a sandwich and some fruit to-go for your next adventure up to Gellért Hill, the highest point in the city with the best views of Budapest.
9:30 Morning Hike
Exit Central Market using the main entrance and you will find yourself in Fovam Ter. (You will see Liberty Bridge to your left.) Follow the bridge to the base of Gellért Hill. If you prefer to take the metro, hop on the green M4 line toward Üjbuda-Központ and get off at Szent Gellért Tér.
From there, you will continue straight uphill for a few meters until you meet a few stairs to your right. Climb the stairs all the way to the top of the hill. While it is a bit of a hike, it’s completely worth it. There are plenty of rest stops along the way with incredible views. Take your time and enjoy the scenery!
11:30 Buda Heritage
Since you’re already on the Buda side of the city, use this opportunity to check out Fisherman’s Bastion and St. Matthias Church. These sights are in an incredibly charming part of the city that will leave you feeling like you entered another time.
From Gellért Hill, walk back down to Szent Gellért Tér where you will catch the No. 41 tram going towards Bécsi út/Vörösvári út. Ride three stops and get off at Clark Ádám Tér. From here, ride the No. 16 bus for three stops and get off Szentháromság Tér.
Fisherman’s Bastion: HUF 800 // HUF 400 for students and children
St. Matthias Church: HUF 1500 // HUF 1000 for students with valid identification
13:00 Exploring Pest
For your next adventure, I recommend going back to the Pest side to St. Stephen’s Basilica. If you are ready for lunch, this will put you in a central location with a wide variety of options within walking distance. To get to St. Stephen’s, take the No. 16 bus towards Deák Ferenc tér. The basilica will be a five-minute walk away.
The largest church in Budapest, St. Stephen’s Basilica truly is beautiful. Admission to the Baroque basilica is free, but if you would like something more exciting, pay the person in the booth HUF 500 to climb up to the dome’s observation deck. The panoramic views are breathtaking!
15:00 Classic Budapest
From St. Stephen’s Basilica, walk to Andrassy Avenue. This beautiful boulevard was listed as a World Heritage Site in 2002. It is lined with Neo-Renaissance town homes, beautiful cafes and luxury boutiques. Follow the avenue all the way to Hero’s Square and stop at the Hungarian State Opera House along the way. If you are interested in going inside the opera house, tours are available at 3 and 4 p.m. for HUF 2900 for adults or HUF 1900 for students.
17:00 Like a Local
Margaret Island is the perfect way to begin winding down your day of sight-seeing. If you fancy a walk or run, the island’s circumference is approximately a 5K or 3.1 miles. I recommend renting a bike from the bike share. It costs approximately HUF 500 for a one-day pass and is a great way to explore this lovely oasis in the middle of the Danube.
18:30 Good Eats
Budapest is home to a variety of cuisines but the three restaurants I can recommend are: Trofea Grill Restaurant, Café Intenzo and Rosenstein’s. Trofea Grill is a nice buffet style restaurant. It is much nicer than most buffets in the United States, so don’t be fooled. Café Intenzo has good food in a more casual atmosphere. Rosenstein’s, while a bit pricey, is an excellent venue for Hungarian cuisine.
Riding the No. 2 tram line after dinner is a lovely way to finish out the evening. National Geographic rated this specific line as the most scenic tram ride in Europe and it’s no wonder why. Time of day isn’t a concern – during the day over the glistening Danube or under the glow of twinkling lights, you are in for a treat.
Wherever your 24-hour journey takes you, don’t forget to cherish each moment and breathe in the rich history of Budapest, there’s simply no place like it.