Wondering if 1 day in Budapest can get you to the best places in the city? Don’t panic! My Budapest one day itinerary will keep you moving on both sides of the Danube River, from morning till night!

Budapest’s got it all – impressive castles, palaces, towering churches, huge thermal baths, indoor markets, and exciting ruin bars. 

Budapest is one of the most beautiful capitals in Europe and I’ve been back to visit more than a few times. As I’ve been before, I’ve included some extra options towards the end of this post, just in case you want to switch up your 24 hours in Budapest, as well as some day trips from the nearby European capitals of Vienna and Bratislava.

Keep reading to find out what you can see and do in the city of Budapest in one day!

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How to save money on your day trip to Budapest 

Want to save money on your visit to Budapest for a day (of course you do!)? I highly recommend buying a 24-hour Budapest Card.

The card costs around US$35 for 24 hours and can be used in all subways, buses, trams, and trolleys in Budapest, as well as 30 of the top tourist attractions

Budapest is already a very affordable city, but if you plan to pack as much as you can into your 1 day in Budapest, this card is definitely the answer to saving some pennies.


What to do in Budapest in one day

One Day in Budapest: The Morning

First up on your Budapest one day itinerary, I’m taking you to enjoy brunch like a local down at the Central Market Hall. Then, you’ll follow it up with a stroll around Buda Castle District, where you can learn the history of each beautiful building within the complex.

Stop for brunch at Central Market Hall

There’s nothing like starting your day than eating your way through Hungarian food at the Central Market Hall, the largest and oldest indoor market in Budapest city. It’s an old building, but a stunning Neo-Gothic-styled structure.

You can find a ton of fresh produce – butcher shops, sausages, local spirits, candies, spices and pickles (including pickled cauliflower, garlic, and beets!) on the lower floors.

You’ll also find souvenir shops selling the likes of textiles, bags, and intricately designed handmade products on the second floor. If you fancy bringing back some souvenirs with you, I recommend some Hungarian Paprika to spice up your cooking back home!

After you’ve got your fill of shopping, stop for a taste of authentic Hungarian cuisine at any of the restaurants or food stalls on the upper floor. 

You’ll have to try the famous ‘langos’, a classic Hungarian deep-fried doughy flatbread topped with sour cream, garlic, and cheese. Oh, and local favourites like goulash, chicken paprika, and stuffed cabbages. And be a daredevil and say yes to some special Foie Gras!

Explore Buda Castle District

A picturesque street scene in Budapest's Castle District, featuring narrow cobblestone streets and historic buildings. The view focuses on a white church with a tall, ornate steeple under a bright blue sky with scattered clouds. The surrounding architecture includes both stone and stucco facades, adding to the old-world charm of the area.

Next, head onto the Buda Castle District, where Budapest hides its most popular attractions. If you’re up for some walking, you can actually climb up the steps, but if not, you can also take a short bus ride. However, for the absolute best views on the way up to the Buda Castle District, you’ve got to ride the funicular.

The Buda Castle District is located on top of Castle Hill on the Buda side of Budapest. It’s a massive historical complex consisting of castles and palaces and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.

You can explore the grandiose Royal Palace, built in the 13th century, which was the first home of the Hungarian kings. It now houses the Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest History Museum, and the National Library.

I recommend taking a stroll around to enjoy the Gothic architecture of Buda Castle. The palace grounds, colourful gardens and dancing fountains are free to visit but you’ll have to pay an entry fee for any of the museums.

If you want a more in-depth tour of the Castle District, check out this tour you can book with a historian (you get to skip the line with this tour too!).

If you happen to feel peckish at this stage, grab yourself a pastry at Ruszwurm, an old pastry shop where locals have been getting their favourite sweet treats since 1827. A Ruszwurm Torte (or two) will give you more energy for the day.


Budapest One Day Itinerary: The Afternoon 

Wonder how Budapest looks from either bank of the Danube River during the day?

You’ll be spending this afternoon at Fisherman’s Bastion enjoying fantastic, uninterrupted city views. From there, you’ll see it all from the Pest side, where you’ll head up to the tower of the impressive St. Stephen’s Basilica. Then it’s on to the Jewish Quarter, where history, culture, and art seamlessly come together. 

A stunning view of Fisherman's Bastion in Budapest, showcasing its neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque architecture. The image captures the intricate towers, spires, and colorful tiled roof of the structure, with grand staircases leading up to the bastion. The sky is bright blue with a few clouds, enhancing the picturesque quality of this historic landmark.

Enjoy Panoramic Views at Fisherman’s Bastion

Within walking distance of Buda Castle is Fisherman’s Bastion, which (in my opinion) is hands-down the best place to take in the best views of the city and the Pest side of the Danube River.

It was originally built as a lookout to protect the castle and is named after the Fisherman’s town lying beneath the walls. It’s got 7 stone towers representing the 7 Magyar tribes who came to establish Hungary, and these towers now serve as a viewing deck.

Fisherman’s Bastion is free to enter but you’ll just need to pay a small fee of around HUF1000 ($2.60) to go up the towers for slightly better views than the lower sections (totally worth it!). 

Venture to the top of St. Stephen’s Basilica

St. Stephen’s Basilica is located on the Pest side of Budapest and is considered one of the most important buildings in the entire country.

Dedicated to Hungary’s first king, St. Stephen, this also houses the king’s mummified right hand (yes, hand), also known as the Holy Right Hand. He was greatly respected by the Hungarians and many believed that numerous miracles happened during his canonisation.

This basilica has a magnificent cupola, which is a beautifully decorated dome with stained glass windows lighting the sanctuary below. The church interior is adorned by fine art such as marble statues, frescoes, paintings, and mosaics.

An evening view of St. Stephen's Basilica in Budapest, adorned with festive Christmas decorations. The grand facade of the basilica features two tall towers and a large central dome. A decorated Christmas tree with lights and ornaments stands prominently in the foreground, adding to the holiday atmosphere in the square.

You’ll also find art here that includes an interestingly peculiar mix of dragons, birds, and animals.

St. Stephen’s Church is highly regarded in the musical community for its world-class Basilica Choir, classical music concerts, and even contemporary music performances. If you like music, you might even get to see some performances while you’re there. You can find tickets here.

To top off your visit to St. Stephen’s Basilica, brave the 364 steps (or pay a little fee to take the lift) for the best views from the Pest side of Budapest. You can see the basilica square below, the Parliament building, Citadella, and even the Buda hills from afar on a clear day. 

Wander around the Jewish Quarter

The Jewish Quarter, also known as the 7th District, is home to the world’s second-largest synagogue – the Dohány Street Synagogue – and the Holocaust Museum.

Alongside these historical sights, you’ll find trendy restaurants and incredible street art that turned this district into an intoxicating mix of energies that makes it one of my favourite areas in the city.

Home to most Jewish families, this district also welcomes avant-garde galleries, artsy boutiques, and gastronomic gems offering the best coffee or a farm-to-table brunch. The once dilapidated district with old buildings was converted to the eclectic ruin bars of Budapest (more about these later!) and consequently hosted notorious parties and night indulgences. 

Take yourself on a self-guided tour of the Jewish Quarter or join a group and explore with a local historian.

24 Hours in Budapest: The Evening

As you head into the evening, you’ll spend the rest of the day relaxing in thermal springs, exploring Budapest by night and partying in the famous ruin bars! There’s no shortage of things to do at night in Budapest!

A vibrant interior of a ruin bar in Budapest, featuring a rustic wooden bar counter adorned with glasses and eclectic decorations. The walls are covered in graffiti and memorabilia, with various signs, bottles, and artwork creating a unique, artistic atmosphere. Warm lighting from vintage lamps adds to the cozy, bohemian vibe of the space.

Relax in the Széchenyi Thermal baths

Have you even been to Budapest if you haven’t bathed in their thermal baths? It might be a ‘standard’ thing to do in Budapest, but that’s usually during the day.

But there’s nothing quite like a fun night dip at the Széchenyi Thermal baths, the biggest natural hot springs bath in Europe.

The baths have outdoor pools with water jets, whirlpools, underwater aqua massage, and an impressive labyrinth of 18 pools, all supported by the 123 natural hot springs of Budapest! It is open all year round even in the dead of winter (December and January) and they open until 10:00 PM during the weekends (but make sure to come at least an hour before closing to enter).

The spa culture in Budapest is huge and soaking in a thermal baths is believed to have medicinal and therapeutic benefits, perfect to ease muscle pains (especially after a long day of exploring), detox the skin, and increase blood circulation. 

Budapest night walking tour

Curious about what went on back in the day in Budapest? If yes, join this night’s sojourn of the Buda Castle with a Gothic-styled tour guide. This 2-hour historical Budapest walking tour will spice up the Castle with stories of war, medieval Budapest battles, folk stories of Hungary, and even vampires!

It’s full of stories about the darker side of Hungary – including the Romanian prince Vlad Dracula was once a prisoner of this Castle? You’ll also find out who Elizabeth Báthory was and how she become known as the Bloody Countess.


Drink at a Ruin bar

A ruin bar is an actual bar built inside derelict buildings from World War 2 and the Cold War.

Since the start of the 2000s, ruin bars have become incredibly popular watering holes, mostly located in the old Jewish Quarter. The outside might intimidate you but I swear you won’t regret going in. Every turn is a surprise as you’ll find yourself sitting on a quirky bar stool surrounded by funky art and weird antiques – it’s a hoot! 

If you want to find the hip and the artsy side of Budapest, ruin bars are the place to be.

Try a shot of Unicum, Hungary’s national drink or a Palinka, a local fruity brandy. In Hungary, they say “a little Palinka is a medicine”. Well, that’s for you to find out!

Switch it up – more options for your Budapest one day trip

If there’s something on the above list that you’re not keen on, feel free to switch it up with any of the following:

  • Walk around Andrássy Avenue and Heroes Square: Andrássy Street is lined with museums, luxury shops, restaurants, cafes, embassies, mansions and schools. It’s a long walk but you’ll find a mix of ancient and contemporary structures. Heroes Square is the main and largest square in Budapest and the 7 statues symbolise the 7 founding chieftains of Hungary. It is also flanked by the Museum of Fine Arts and the Palace of Art.
  • Explore the Citadel and Liberty Statue atop Gellert Hill: You can’t miss the enormous bronze Liberty Statue. It commemorates Hungary’s liberty from Nazi Rule and honours those who stand for the independence and prosperity of the country. The Citadella was built as a fortress and surveillance position at the highest point of the hill. It’s now enjoyed by tourists and locals because of its gorgeous views of the city.
  • Wonder at the Parliament Building: This impressive structure is the world’s third-largest parliamentary building, and Budapest’s overall largest building, and it glows like a golden masterpiece at night. If you only want to tour just one museum in Budapest, I highly recommend the Országház which shows the rich art, long history, and incredible culture of Hungary. 
  • Stroll across Chain Bridge at night: Széchenyi Chain Bridge straddles both the Buda and Pest sides of the city and is an absolute beauty at night. I recommend strolling across the bridge in the evening time so see it all lit up. One of my favourite free things to do in Budapest!

Day Trips to Budapest from Nearby Cities

If you’re coming from another European city, you can visit Budapest in one day from either Vienna and Bratislava.

  • Day trip to Budapest from Vienna: this guided tour to the Hungarian capital takes all the hassle out of your trip. It’s a small group tour, limited to just 8 people (not like those busses full of 40 people!). You’ll get to visit the Buda Castle District, Andrássy Avenue, Heroes’ Square, and St. Stephen’s Basilica
  • Day trip from Bratislava to Budapest: Nearby Bratislava, the capital city of Slovakia, is just over 100 kms away from Budapest. A bus or train ride would take about 2.5 hours, but the train is a lot cheaper than the bus. The train ride also offers a more enjoyable commute, seeing both countries’ scenery along the way.

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FAQs: 1 Day in Budapest 

Is one day in Budapest enough?

One day in Budapest is enough to get a glimpse of what the city has to offer, especially if you plan your carefully. Public transportation is reliably regular and affordable and it will help you get from one place to another quickly.

Is Budapest a walkable city?

Budapest is a walkable city and the best way to get around the city is by walking it. But if you need to cover a lot of exploring or can’t get around on foot, the extensive transportation links of the subway, buses, and trams are easily accessible from any point in the city.

What to do in Budapest in 1 day? 

The best Budapest one day itinerary should include a visit to the famous Fisherman’s Bastion on Castle Hill, trying Hungarian cuisine at the Central Market Hall, soaking in Széchenyi Thermal Bath at night, and a nightcap at any of the city’s ruin bars.