Budapest: the spectacular Hungarian capital, popular for its grandeur and prime location on the Danube River. Budapest is full of historical landmarks, regal architecture, compelling history, and interesting places, such as its geothermal springs dating back to the 12th century.
During your Budapest one-day trip, you’re bound to hear different sections of the city called by their past names: Ó-Buda, Buda and Pest. Wondering why? In 1873, the twin cities of Pest, east side of Danube, and Buda, west side, merged with the market town of Ó-Buda which literally means “Old Buda”; as a result, that combined settlement was given the official name “Budapest”.
One Day in Budapest: How to See Budapest in a Day
Now, you’re probably asking yourself: is 1 day in Budapest enough to really see the city and squeeze in as many things as possible? Yes, it is!
Budapest is super easy to walk through. Plus, it provides an extremely fast transportation system to help you navigate among monuments, attractions, beautiful scenery, and much more.
#1 Feel Rejuvenated at the Thermal Baths
Budapest is synonymous with the concept of hot springs and thermal baths. Depending on what kind of spa experience you want and how much time you want to spend on relaxation, there are at least 80 geothermal baths (e.g. Gellért Spa, an art nouveau landmark from 1918) throughout the city from which you can choose the best fit for you.
The well-known Széchenyi Baths are the largest ones, though: with more than 1 million annual visitors, 15 indoor pools and almost 3,000 sqm of water surface, visiting this place is an unforgettable experience. You can enjoy a “Sparty” which is organized every week there and you can even have “Cinespa” days (in the summer) during which you can watch a film while being in the thermal water. Wow.
#2 Visit St. Stephen’s Basilica
Hungry for some history and great views? The most important church building in Hungary and the 3rd tallest church in the country, St. Stephen’s Basilica is one of the 2 tallest buildings in Budapest, at 96 m, along with the Parliament Building. Built between 1851 and 1905, this neoclassical church with numerous statues and frescos and the oldest human hand of the world (1038): the mummified right hand of the first Hungarian king Saint Stephen. When visiting St. Stephen’s Basilica, don’t be surprised to find yourself gazing at the gorgeous panoramic views of the whole city via the lookout terrace on its dome.
#3 Discover Castle Hill & Buda Castle
In the mood for wandering and observing magnificent architecture while spending 1 day in Budapest? Don’t miss Castle Hill: a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site consisting of the Royal Palace and the Castle District. Walk through its many cobblestone streets and get carried away by medieval, Baroque and neoclassical churches, houses and public buildings.
Want to immerse yourself in culture and history? Visit the Hungarian National Gallery or the Budapest History Museum.
And, of course, go straight to the south end of the district where you’ll find Buda Castle. Climb up the steep steps in front of the castle, reach its top, and admire the impressive city right at your feet.
Address: Budapest, Szent György tér 2, 1014 Hungary
#4 Explore Fisherman’s Bastion
Not far from Buda Castle, in the 1st district of Budapest, Fisherman’s Bastion is located, built between 1895 and 1902. It consists of 7 towers as well as neo-Romanesque terraces that offer magical views of the city. We promise that you’ll want to take countless photogenic shots while you’re there, so, make sure to visit it during your 24 hours in Budapest.
MEININGER tip: The lower terraces and towers are free of charge.
#5 Find the Hospital in the Rock
Another place in our bucket-list near Buda Castle is the small museum and former bunker called “Hospital in the Rock”. On a family, a friends’ or a solo trip? Put it on your list. Once a WWII hospital for wounded soldiers but now a fascinating museum, Hospital in the Rock contains all there is to know on how the war really affected Budapest, and it also offers information regarding Hungary’s 1956 revolution.
#6 See the Most Photographed Building in Budapest
The Budapest Parliamentary building is a must during your 1 day in Budapest: you’ll learn about the history of Hungary’s parliament, the significance of the building itself, you’ll admire its architecture and more. There are, also, guided tours which take place every hour in English or other languages.
From the Parliament Building, take a stroll along the banks of the Danube until you reach the very important memorial “Shoes on the Danube”. The iron shoe-sculptures commemorate the tragic murder of Hungarians during WWII who left only their shoes behind.
#7 Shed Light on the Dark Past
Even if you’re in Budapest for one day, it’s really worth visiting the House of Terror (“Terror Haza” in Hungarian). An interactive museum which focuses upon the 2 regimes of terror that shaped 20th century Hungarian history: the Nazi regime and the Communist regime. It also serves as a memorial to all the victims of these regimes, including those detained, interrogated, tortured and/or killed in the building. The latter is a monument in itself, too: the decoration entablature, the blade walls and the granite sidewalk make it stand out by its sharp contrast to the other buildings on Andrássy street, where it’s located, while highlighting its historical significance.
#8 Become a Karaván & Ruin Bar Wanderer
You cannot leave Budapest without eating at Karaván. Located on Kazinczy Street, it’s a famous street-food market containing food trucks and booths and serving mouth-watering delicacies from all over the globe as well as local Hungarian food. Enjoy as many dishes as you can by standing up, or sitting on the benches at the back.
Fee like a true wanderer among the Ruin Bars; a typical Budapest experience. Ruin bars are basically bars situated in formerly abandoned buildings. This concept has been established since more than 20 years ago with the bars being located primarily in Budapest’s Jewish District. Prost!
Street Food Karaván Budapest Address: Kazinczy u. 18, 1075 Hungary
Ruin Bars Address: Budapest, Kazinczy u., 1075 Hungary