See Budapest in One Day: The Perfect Itinerary

Table of contents

Budapest is a city that can manage to be both historical and hipster all at the same time. The Danube River divides the two, offering an impressive backdrop that is bookended with the historic Buda Castle on one side and the happening nightlife and eateries on the other, in Pest. Travelers come to Budapest for history, for food, and to submerge themselves in the thermal baths, and one day in Budapest will certainly not disappoint.

See Budapest in One Day: The Perfect Itinerary

Why Budapest for One Day?

Budapest has historically been dubbed the "Paris of the East," and one can see why. Old-era grandness and magnificence within a dramatically picturesque setting along the river, textured by a cultural vibrancy and carefully balanced with the new. It seems every traveler to Europe either has Budapest at the top of their list or a favorite destination they'll return to again and again.

How to Get to Budapest

The majority of international travelers arrive via the Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport. The airport is easily connected to the city center via public transport and rental cars and taxis. Another popular way to access Budapest is by train; many international cross-Europe routes will have a route that includes a stop in Budapest. Of course, one is free to get to the city by automobile, the city being well connected with other countries through high-quality highways.

Best Time to Visit Budapest

The best times to visit Budapest are during the spring (April to June) and autumn (September to November) when the weather is mild and the city less crowded. Yet, each season has its own charm, and really, any time is a fine time to visit Budapest. The city is experiencing a huge summer scene, with festivals taking place and thus bringing life to the streets, while a magical winter atmosphere is being provided with Christmas markets and thermal baths to provide a warm retreat from the cold.

See Budapest in One Day: The Perfect Itinerary

Morning: Historical Landmarks and Culture

Begin Your Day with Breakfast in Central Pest

Begin your day right with breakfast in one of the many charming cafes in central Pest. This area is known for its vibrant café culture and delicious pastries. Pass a relaxed morning sipping on hot coffee and sampling local pastries.

See Budapest in One Day: The Perfect Itinerary

Visit St. Stephen's Basilica

Afterward, proceed to St. Stephen's Basilica, a magnificent neoclassical church named after the first king of Hungary. This religious building offers panoramic views of the city from the dome, and you cannot but climb up and see the view! The basilica also offers the mummified hand of St. Stephen himself, a very mysterious historical piece to see. When considering what to do in Budapest in one day, this should definitely be one of them.

See Budapest in One Day: The Perfect Itinerary

Explore Váci Street

Take a walk down Váci Street, the city's main shopping street filled with boutiques, cafes, and souvenir shops. It's the perfect place to grab a coffee and people-watch. Along the way, admire the beautiful architecture and maybe pick up some local crafts or souvenirs. Váci Street is definitely among the best things to do in Budapest for a day.

Midday: Visit the Market and Have Lunch

Visit the Great Market Hall

Head to the Great Market Hall, Budapest’s largest and oldest indoor market. Here, you can sample local delicacies like langos, a deep-fried dough topped with sour cream and cheese. It’s a food lover’s paradise! In addition to food, the market offers a variety of goods from fresh produce to handmade crafts, making it a great spot for both dining and shopping.

Have Your Lunch at the Market

The Great Market Hall has several restaurants and food stalls within its complex. You can grab most of the traditional Hungarian dishes from here. This is a perfect way to try the local cuisine and atmosphere. People who are thinking about what to do in one day in Budapest will have to have lunch at the Great Market Hall.

See Budapest in One Day: The Perfect Itinerary

Afternoon: Cultural and Historical Experiences

Visit the Hungarian National Gallery

The Hungarian National Gallery, located in Buda Castle, is the perfect place to spend your afternoon. There, you will find an immense collection of Hungarian art divided into specific centuries, a real in-depth journey through the country's artistic legacy. For all those thinking of what to see in Budapest in one day, the Hungarian National Gallery has to be one of the best options to start with.

Visit the Hungarian State Opera House Guided Tour

A guided tour of the Hungarian State Opera House is capable of taking your breath away—from being dubbed one of the most beautiful opera houses in the world. These are included on most Budapest must-see lists. The opera house, as grand as it is, with its rich history, often hosts performances that you can experience when you book in advance.

See Budapest in One Day: The Perfect Itinerary

Danube Promenade + Dinner

Danube Promenade Walk

You will be well advised to end your day with a nice, leisurely walk on the Danube Promenade. Do not miss the view of the Chain Bridge, especially when it is lit at night. The promenade is ideal if you just want to enjoy an evening walk, and from here you can get very nice views of both Buda and Pest. There is no question this is one of the best things to do in Budapest in one day.

See Budapest in One Day: The Perfect Itinerary

Hungarian Parliament Building

You can appreciate the sight of the Hungarian Parliament Building from the riverside. For dinner, you might want to hop onto a dinner cruise on the Danube: it's a mesmerizing experience to see the city's monuments from this perspective while enjoying a great meal. Many cruises have live music as well, which adds to the magical atmosphere. The best answer to the question of what to do in Budapest in one day is to take a dinner cruise on the Danube.

More Evening Activities (Optional)

Ruin Bars

If you still have the energy to do so, dive into the world of Budapest's ruin bars. These alternative bars in ruined buildings are an integral part of the city's nightlife. Each bar has its unique decoration and features, usually including live music and art installations. Definitely one of the things to let yourself do in Budapest in a day.

Getting to Know More About Transport in Budapest

The public transportation network in Budapest is excellent and consists of the metro, trams, and buses. You can purchase a travel card for unlimited use in the city the length of your stay. In addition, the Budapest Card offers good discounts on many of the sights and restaurants.

See Budapest in One Day: The Perfect Itinerary

Accommodation Hotel/Neighborhood Tips

Many hotels reside in various price classes. Avoid individual hotel recommendations and try to place hotels centrally in districts V, VI, or VII. All are well connected with the sights by public means.

See Budapest in One Day: The Perfect Itinerary

Safety and Behavior Advice

Public transportation is very safe in Budapest, but, like in all big cities, at night, it is wise to keep an eye on your surroundings. Use your common sense and enjoy your trip. Stay in well-lit and busy areas. Take good care of your belongings in crowded places.

Handy Hungarian Phrases

You will surely enjoy your trip to Hungary much more if you try to master some basic expressions in Hungarian. And the locals will like it, too. Voila, here are a few for starters: Hello (Szia), Thank you (Köszönöm), Please (Kérem)

Wrap Up

Save More General Tips

We trust that with the help of this one-day guide, you will make the most of your one day in Budapest. Try to see, walk and eat as much as you can in the city.

More Time to Kill for More Treks? Day Trips

If you have more time than only a couple of days, then certainly go for some day trips. For example, to the Danube Bend, or to the cute little town of Szentendre, even to Vienna, it is only a few hours by train.

Popular excursions in Budapest
Nighttime or Daytime Sightseeing Cruise: Discover Budapest in a New Light
Nighttime or Daytime Sightseeing Cruise: Discover Budapest in a New Light
Discover the dazzling beauty of Budapest at night with our enchanting sightseeing cruise along the River Danube, featuring panoramic views of the city
from €10
per person
2416 reviews
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With Drink: 70-Minute Sightseeing Cruise on Danube (Daytime & Nighttime)
With Drink: 70-Minute Sightseeing Cruise on Danube (Daytime & Nighttime)
70-minute 30-language audio-guide river cruise on the Danube with 1 drink of your choice included
from €15
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Evening Cruise with Optional Drinks and Live Music
Evening Cruise with Optional Drinks and Live Music
Join a night cruise and discover the lovely Hungarian capital with your favorite drinks. Starting from the center, admire the UNESCO-listed banks of the Danube aboard the elegant Gróf Széchényi ship.
from €21
per person
3360 reviews
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Danube cruise Budapest with dinner and Piano Battle Show - Weekdays
Danube cruise Budapest with dinner and Piano Battle Show - Weekdays
Enjoy a captivating Danube River cruise featuring exceptional piano performances, delicious international and Hungarian cuisine, and stunning views.
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1033 reviews
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Hungarian Dinner Cruise on the Danube
Hungarian Dinner Cruise on the Danube
Combine a cruise on the Danube River with a Hungarian dinner and live music to get the most out of your time in Budapest.
€69
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Cocktail Cruise Downtown Budapest
Cocktail Cruise Downtown Budapest
The cruise takes place during sunset, providing our guests with the most fabulous views of the illuminated Budapest. While enjoying the gorgeous panorama, guests can indulge in 3, freshly prepared cocktails on board. (3 cocktails included in the price)
€40
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Budapest Unlimited Prosecco Cruise
Budapest Unlimited Prosecco Cruise
A boat ride along the nighttime Danube...the unrivaled view of Budapest. Enjoy sipping on an unlimited supply of premium prosecco during your journey.
from €25
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3208 reviews
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Budapest City Discovery Tour
Budapest City Discovery Tour
Visit the famous Opera House, known as one of the most beautiful in the world, Heroes Square, the St. Stephen's Basilica, and more.
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