With 24 hours on the clock, how do you squeeze in the best of Budapest? The Hungarian capital is the country’s grand dame, with an abundance of art nouveau architecture, relaxing bathhouses and hipster hangouts to experience.
The mighty Danube snakes through the heart of the city, helping you get your bearings no matter what neighbourhood you’re exploring. Plus the time-saving Metro can help you hop from one attraction to another.
Discover the best things to do in Budapest in just one day with our 24-hour guide.
Sights fit for kings and queens
Start your day off at the astounding Royal Palace, home to two fascinating museums and a whole lot of history. It’s hard to miss this dazzling piece of architecture, with its imposing green dome, as it’s said to be visible from just about every part of the city.
Catch a funicular train from Adam Clark Square up to the grounds on the peak of Castle Hill and admire the amazing views on your way. Once inside you’ll find the Hungarian National Gallery and the Castle Museum, both of which would need weeks to explore if you were to see all the artistic and historic wonders on show.
A towering achievement
Head out to wander the streets of beautiful Old Buda. Stroll the cobbles of this historic district until you reach breathtaking Matthias Church.
Dating back at least to 1015, it was once the site of royal coronations and burials, as its ornate frescoes and grand, multi-coloured ceilings indicate. Marvel the intricate Gothic façade before ducking inside to climb the steps to the top of the Panoramic Tower, where sweeping views of the city await.
Budapest was once known all throughout Europe for its unique café culture and at one time had more than 500 cafés dotted all over the city. Dip into this culinary heritage by wandering back over the river to the Pest side of town and stop off at one of them for lunch.
Central Cafe and Restaurant is a popular spot, having been used as a meeting place for all manner of arty folk since the 19th century. It’s a real elegant, old-fashioned place and will give you an insight into what life was like in the city back in the day. Tuck into a bowl of goulash and wash it down with a creamy café latte.
You’re now just a short walk away from St Stephen's Basilica, Hungary’s most important – and perhaps most outstanding – religious building.
As you make your way around the grand neo-classical interior, keep an eye out for what is supposed to be the mummified hand of the cathedral’s namesake, which is displayed in the Holy Right Chapel behind the altar. Don’t miss the chance to head up to the basilica’s dome for unforgettable views of the surrounding area.
Take to the waters
After all that sightseeing, spend some time unwinding at one of Budapest’s many spas and thermal baths. The city’s almost unique position on a geological fault line means that gallons of bubbling mineral water flow up to the surface every day from the springs below.
Visit a ruin pub
Finish off with a trip to a ruin pub. Once derelict buildings, these bars have been transformed by the city’s movers and shakers into quirky little watering holes that offer the perfect place to have a drink in unusual surroundings.
Szimpla Kert in the trendy Jewish Quarter was one of the first of its kind. With its ramshackle collection of furniture, paintings by local artists and laid-back atmosphere, it’s got all the hallmarks of a classic ruin pub. You’ll find young and old, locals and tourists alike lining up to sample the excellent craft beers – join them and pick from the wide-ranging menu.
Posted: 13th Jul 2021. Updated: 27th Jun 2023.