Budapest is a romantic, historic city with a timeless allure that’s sure to entice visitors to stay on much longer than originally planned. But for those with a little less time to spare, it’s still possible to experience some of the city’s top draws in just a day. From views down the Danube on the Széchenyi Chain Bridge to a trip to Buda Castle, Michelin-star dining to world-class art in Budapest at the Museum of Fine Arts, and even a few hints on where to experience the best of Budapest at night, here’s our guide to 24 hours in Budapest. Perfect for the time-pushed.
It’s going to be a busy day, so make sure to start off with a bountiful breakfast at the Brasserie and Atrium at Corinthia Budapest. After attacking the buffet, set off for a morning stroll over to the Széchenyi Chain Bridge. This was the first bridge to connect Buda and Pest and offers spectacular views down the Danube; the embankments of the river and the district surrounding Buda Castle are World Heritage-listed sites.
Hop on the Funicular for an effortless ride to the top of Castle Hill – you can walk if you feel energetic, but the Funicular only takes three minutes (and offers great views). Spend an hour or two exploring the cobbled streets and beautiful Budapest architecture; many of the buildings in this historic district date back to the 13th and 14th Centuries.
If you visit only one historic site during your 24 hours in Budapest, make it Buda Castle. Highlights of the castle complex include the Hungarian National Gallery, the Budapest Historical Museum and the Szechenyi Library – something to suit every cultural whim. But if the sun’s shining and you fancy spending some time outdoors, take a walk over to Trinity Square and the impressive Matthias Church. The 19th Century Fisherman’s Bastion is also atop Castle Hill, which, in addition to being incredibly photogenic, also offers panoramic views of the city.
If you find yourself flagging after all that cultural exertion, stop off for a sugar boost at the venerable Ruszwurm. Order a coffee and a slice of their famous Doboschtorte, but make sure to leave some room for lunch.
Speaking of, take a quick 15-minute taxi ride to either Café Kor (Pest) or Csalogány 26 (Buda) to settle in for a delicious and decadent lunch. Café Kor serves a fantastic menu of pan-European dishes, while Csalogány 26 has sumptuous, nigh-on Michelin-quality food, and one of the best prix fixe menus in the city.
Walk off your lunch with a stroll around the shops on Vaci Street, ending up at the Central Market Hall. At its best at around 2pm, this is the ideal time to browse the artisanal stalls here and perhaps pick up a few presents to take home.
Spend the rest of the afternoon exploring some of the best art in Budapest at the Museum of Fine Arts, before unwinding in the sumptuous surrounds of the nearby Széchenyi Thermal Baths– the biggest of Budapest’s thermal baths. A massage would not go amiss after a day on your feet.
Since you only have 24 hours in Budapest, make sure to explore the best of Budapest at night. When it comes to dinner, make a reservation at one of the city’s Michelin-starred restaurants. And, as luck would have it, Onyx, Borkonyha, and Costes are all within easy reach of the Széchenyi Baths.
But if you get the opportunity to watch a performance at the Hungarian State Opera, don’t miss out; the Opera House itself is a wonder of neo-Renaissance architecture, and the ballets and operas it hosts are world-class.
Round off the evening with a visit to Anker’t, or one of the other nearby ruin bars in the seventh district, for drinks under the stars. The Corinthia Budapest is just a short walk away once you’re in the area, so head back whenever you’re ready and enjoy a well-earned night’s rest back in your luxurious room.
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