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How to Spend Two Days in Budapest (from a PM)

The PM Said: I consider myself a seasoned traveler, having traveled around the world for 15 years now, mostly on my own. I am trying to get a good idea of how to spend my 2 full days in Budapest, what is a must-see and what can be skipped. I already know that I will visit the Central Market, Matyas Church & St. Stephen's (European churches draw me like a moth to flame : ) ). I am staying in a small B&B in the Castle District, so I will take a walk & see the sights in that area on the afternoon of my arrival. I am most interested in the history, architecture and culture of the cities I visit. Should I hire a guide or can I make the journey around the city with just my bus pass & a guidebook? Is the Great Synagogue worth the visit? Is the Parliament Building worth seeing inside or will the exterior suffice? What restaurants are suitable for a woman on her own in the evening? What is Budapest like in the fall? I'll be traveling late September. Any advice/tips would be most appreciated! Thank you for your time.

Posted by
12560 posts

Budapest has more good food per square foot than any place we have ever been. Finding good food: from solid well priced Hungarian, to dinner with music to Michelain Star eateries it is all there.

All restaurants are suitable for a woman on her own. One of the most remarkable observations in Budapest is the confidence that women in Budapest have in their safety and place. We stay in a small ground floor street facing apartment on a side street that connects to popular zones in the center of Budapest. We see single girls and women walking past at all times of the day and night. The crime rate in Budapest is somewhat similar to that in a very good U.S. suburban neighborhood.

If I had to define the best time to be in Budapest I would say 21 September through 21 of October. Beautiful weather and the theaters are open. You can’t do better.

You’ve traveled so you know every place has it calling. Rome and Greece it’s the ancient more than anything else; Vienna it’s the museums, Istanbul the markets and the mosques. The closest comparison to Budapest is Paris. Both have great individual attractions but it’s the environment and the whole that makes both towns special. I say this because spending two full days in Budapest is a little like spending 2 full days in Paris. Still, if it’s what you have let’s see if we can’t help you make the best of it.

Again, this may be a done deal, but let’s begin with the B&B in Buda. I bet it’s charming. Buda is beautiful. Buda is also a world away from what you want to see in Budapest and with only two days it is a shame to spend so much time finding your way back and forth to Pest. If it isn’t a done deal you might want to think about getting a room in Pest. But, if it’s a done deal then we work with that.

Castle Hill and Mattahias Church will make a good first afternoon. A decent guide book is about all you need. Naturally Rick’s book is great, but so is the Eyewitness Travel Guide for Budapest.

You can hire a guide, but I would suggest you do it the first morning you have and that you hire for some particular interest. Maybe Jewish Budapest, or Art Nouveau and Deco Architecture or ……. The guy I like is Andrew ILLES

Posted by
12560 posts

With no guide I would suggest that one day consist of:

Since I don’t know where you are staying the best I can do is say to take the metro from Buda to Deák Ferenc tér and then walk to the end of Andrassy ut (Avenue). You want to leave Buda about 8:30 if you can. Now start walking up Andrassy ut to:
1. il Bacio di Stile just to see the opulance (make sure you go to the roof)
2. Opera House
3. House of Terror. Well worth a couple of hours.
4. After the house of Terror get on the M1 metro (oldest underground on the continent and sort of fun to ride, there is a museum too)
5. Get off the M1 at the next stop and walk in the same direction
6. Get on the M1 at the next stop
7. Get off at Hero’s square. It’s a long avenue and this allows you to see some of it without walking the whole length. Well worth seeing for the architecture which ranges from commercial, to spectacular old apartment complexes to Embassy Mansions.
8. Hungry? Eat at Paparikas If it’s still too early then go after you see the bath house.
9. Walk up to the Széchenyi bath house and partake if interested. The Zoo and the Circus are also there.
10. Now take the M1 back to the Oktogon stop.
11. Get on the 4/6 Tram. With your back to Hero’s Square you want to travel to the LEFT. Get off at Blaha Lujza tér and walk back to the New York Palace Coffee House. Read the history before you go. Enjoy the over the top opulence and take a short break.

Trams are like Hop On / Hop Off busses. They are convenient, sort of fun to ride and provide great views of the city.

  1. Continue walking back towards the Oktogon until you see another tram stop. Get on the 4/6 Tram heading back towards the Oktogon but don’t get off until you reach the Nyugati Train station (Eiffel design). Take a look if you are interested.
  2. That same 4/6 Tram will take you across the Danube and back to Buda. Getting to your room from that point ….
  3. If it is still early then two suggestions: a. Get off the Tram at mid river and see Margaret Island b. Get off the Tram at the first stop in Buda. There is a nice Antique shop on the left and the neighborhood on the left is interesting.
  4. Evening maybe a dinner cruise on the Danube? The lights are special.
Posted by
12560 posts

Day Two
16. This time walk across the Chain Bridge from Buda and then look for the 2 Tram. Facing the River (and Buda) you want the tram moving from right to left. Take it to the Market (3 stops). You will know you are there when the tram stops in a sort of tunnel. The Market is on the road above.

17. Make sure you see the basement of the market where the fish and the pickle are sold.

18. Now get on the 47/49 Tram that stops directly in front of the Market. You will ride this for two stops away from the river. Then walk another 300 feet or so in the same direction until you get to the Great (Dohany) Synagogue on your right. Yes, very much worth the time and the visit. Take the tour.

19. Look straight ahead and you should be able to see the dome of the basilica. That’s your next destination. Walk. Climb to the top of the dome. See the view.
20. Some of the best souvenir shops in town are, when facing the front of the basilica, on your right.
21. Behind the Basilica and across the street is a place called Lugas. Excellent place for a Hungarian lunch.
22. Walk down the pedestrian plaza towards the river. On the right is a nice little music themed gift shop.

23. At the end of the pedestrian zone work your way to the right and you will find a tram stop for the 2 Tram. When facing the river you want the tram going from left to right. Get off at the Parliament Building. No time for the tour but look around. Just renovated park is beautiful.
24. Options
a. Walk past the Parliament to a street called Falk Miska utca. This is the antique street. If that interests you, enjoy. When Falk Miska utca ends walk one block towards the river and look for end stop of the 2 Tram that you took to the Parliament. Ride it back to the stop just beyond the Chain Bridge and you will be in the heart of the tourist zone. One block inland is the famous (?) Vaci utca where all the tourist traps are. Still, sort of worth a few minutes.

b. However if you really want to spend “quality time” on Vaci utca skip the antique shops and head straight there on the tram.
25. Now the intent is to get back to the market. You can either walk the length of Vaci utca or you can get back on the 2 Tram and ride that to the Market. Or a bit of both.

26. At the market you can get on the 47/49 Tram across the river to the famous Gellert Hotel and make connections to your room in Buda

Posted by
91 posts

Hey James, as I was trolling the site to make sure I have all the info I need :D I ran across this post. I figured bump it up cause it is so helpful!!

Posted by
2081 posts

Guides and such are subjective.
I was there this past late September and i felt that hoofing it was fine without a guide. Public transportation was good. I didnt take any buses other than out of town. If you want/like guides i say go for it. Its your time & $$. What i like to do when things are closed, usually in the evening is to walk around town and wonder. you never know whats around the corner.
The things you have questions about i have no idea and those were not on my list when i was there. My likes are similar to yours, but my priorities were not and my list of to do/see wasnt. Maybe when i go back i will see some on your list.
I did by accident go up to the Castle Hill. I was in the area for the "hospital in the rock" museum and decided to see what was up top. There was also a military museum that was open and i decided to walk back into town and came across the "Matthais Church?" and also the National Gallery. The view of Pest side was cool near the Matthais Church. Lots of tourist when i was there, but after 20 or so minutes they had to leave. Since my internal compass is broke, i thought i would see the west side of Buda.
On that trip, Buda was the only place on my trip it didnt rain at all. The days were warmish for me and what I'm acclimated too, but tolerable. The evenings were fine and better for me, but chilly for the locals. Also, i didnt feel unsafe at all walking around at night. Note that I'm a male so you may feel different about that. Since i fly solo, i eat when and where i want and dont pay attention if they cater to singles or not. That is their problem, not mine but i didnt have any issues there or anywhere else - so far.
I would do some homework up front and get an idea on what Budapest has to offer in terms of your likes and go from there. Im a former art/architecture student and love it, but i dont have all the time in the world to see everything, so i make decisions and choices based on my homework using guide books, google and sometimes travel boards like this.
I would say that if you're mobil challenged, a guide maybe worth your time to save time & travel distances or to minimize your travel and to maximize your to do/see list.
what i noticed most in Budapest was that the small pavers they used all over the place. they look great, but i noticed a lot of buckled pavers causing potholes in the sidewalks. So if you love 4" heels, think twice and watch where you walk since you never know where those potholes would be located. one other thing was that the transit police were around a lot checking people for valid passes. So keep what you use handy since i had to dig mine out of my pocket or wallet a lot and had to stop before entering the system.
one last comment. Have lots of fun. I loved the ambiance of Budapest. It reminded me of PDX for some reason and even with its grungy feel, i really enjoyed the place.
happy trails.

Posted by
12560 posts

Ray, I agree 100% with everything you said. Why? Because it worked for you and you had a good time.

Posted by
12400 posts

For two full days in Budapest, (better than a day trip), I would suggest prior to arrival drawing up a list of practical things to do and see: Mathias Church, Heroes Square, the Parliament building, the German Catholic and Protestant churches, Central market Square, Operette House, Andrassy street, the Military History Museum, and more esoteric places, etc. Use public transportation, esp the subway lines, to track these places down. Just pace yourself in terms of time allotted for a certain place. From my experience a guide isn't necessary under normal circumstances. Restaurants offer menus in various languages, German, Hungarian, English to be sure, among the different languages.