48 hours in Budapest – 2 Day Itinerary
Budapest is a popular destination for tourists, thanks to its beautiful architecture and rich culture. It also contains many historical landmarks within its walls, including the Buda Castle, Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church. The city is also well-known for its thermal baths, which were built in Roman times and are still in use today. Budapest also has a thriving nightlife scene that attracts locals and tourists alike. This makes it one of the best cities in Europe for those who love partying.
This European city offers many attractions for tourists, but with so much to see and do here, it can be hard to decide where (and what) to visit first. To help you plan your trip, whether you are interested in history or culture, here is a 48 hours in Budapest itinerary. It lists many of the attractions to see in Budapest as well as hotspots for bars and restaurants.
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Where to stay for your 48 hrs in Budapest
Budapest is one of the most popular cities in Europe for tourists, so there are plenty of accommodation options. There are also many hostels in Budapest, which tend to be more affordable than hotels.
If you are looking for a central location, then a hotel near the Danube is ideal. This will allow you to walk around the city and easily visit all of the attractions on this list. There are many hotels in Budapest with a wide range of prices, so be sure to shop around if you want to find something that fits within your budget.
You must also decide which side of the river you wish to stay on. The Buda side is more upmarket and near the historical buildings such as the Fishermans Bastion and therefore holds a slightly higher price tag.
Or you could choose to stay on the Pest side of the river, where it has more of a bohemian vibe. There are plenty more bars and restaurants over this side and a bustling nightlife thanks to the Jewish Quarter and the quirky ruin bars.
Some recommendations for Budapest hotels are Gozsdu Court Budapest, which is right next to a main street full of bars and restaurants, an excellent location for exploring the Jewish Quarter. If you are wanting to stay on the Buda side and be amongst the architecture, try the Hilton Budapest.
Day 1 in Budapest
The first day of your 48 hours in Budapest tour will include lots of sightseeing, history and architecture. For your short time in the city, you want to make sure that you tick all the main tourist attractions off your bucket list.
You will start on the Buda side of the city to visit historical landmarks such as the Buda Castle and then finish your day on the Pest side to visit the Parliament Building. You will also have time to explore some of the smaller streets in between and eat food at traditional Hungarian restaurants.
Széchenyi Chain Bridge
To start the day grab a croissant and coffee from the Blue Bird Cafe, this local coffee shop is cosy, sweet and full of charm. The café is in the middle of the city, so it is easy to find.
You can then head over to Széchenyi Chain Bridge which is Budapest’s most famous landmark and one of its most photographed. From here you will have a great view across the Danube River and a perfect opportunity to capture some amazing photos.
This bridge is a symbol of Budapest’s freedom and today it connects Buda and Pest over the Danube River and offers an excellent view of both sides of the city. Built in 1840, it has four iconic stone lions carved by the sculptor János Marschalkó.
Once over the chain bridge, head on over to Buda Castle for a truly wonderful experience. The Buda Castle is located on the Buda side of the city.
It is surrounded by a series of walls that were built to protect the castle from invaders—in particular during the 13th century when it was first constructed.
Buda Castle has a long and colourful history. Built on the ruins of a Roman fortification, it later became home to Hungarian nobility.
In addition, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and contains many cultural treasures including the Hungarian National Gallery and the National Széchenyi Library.
A little further up you will find the Fisherman’s Bastion. The Fisherman’s Bastion is a Budapest landmark located near Buda Castle in the 1st district.
It is one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions. Visiting Fishermen’s Bastion today will reward you with breathtaking views of the Pest side of Budapest. The bastion was named after the fishermen who built it and defended it during times of war.
The bastion was built in 1844 to protect the Royal Palace from attacks on the Pest side of Budapest. It is a must-see for any visitor to Hungary and contains many historical treasures including statues, fountains, and a lookout tower.
During your time here, head up to the Panoramia Cafe and Bar. Here you can have a quick bite to eat and a glass of wine as you marvel at the spectacular views surrounding you.
You can also take the stairs up to the Citadella Tower, which offers even more breathtaking views of Budapest. Be sure to bring your camera along with you as this will be one of those once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunities that you will want to capture forever.
Hungarian Parliament Building
From your time on the Buda side of the river, you will have witnessed views of the Hungarian Parliament Building already. Make sure you go and take a closer look! Walk along the waterfront of the River Daube from West to East until you find Kossuth Square.
In 1873, the cities of Buda and Óbuda and Pest all united to form Budapest. Seven years later, the Diet voted unanimously to build a new parliament building as an expression of national sovereignty.
The Hungarian Parliament Building is one of the most interesting attractions in Budapest. Its Italian Renaissance style can be seen in both its interior and exterior design, which has made it a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987.
The Jewish Quarter
To finish your afternoon, head over to the Jewish Quarter. Erzsébetváros’s 7th District, or the Jewish Quarter, is located in the heart of Budapest and is one of the most interesting parts of the city.
It is also home to many of Budapest’s best attractions, including the Great Synagogue and the Jewish Museum. This district was originally home to the largest Jewish community in Europe prior to World War II.
This area is full of culture but also has great nightlife. Firstly start by exploring the streets, the history and the landmarks. If you plan to visit the Old Jewish Quarter during peak season, be prepared for crowds and long lines.
Dohány Street Synagogue
The Dohány Street Synagogue is Budapest’s ornate landmark of Jewish culture. Built in 1859, it is the second-largest synagogue in the world—an important part of Jewish history.
Today, the Great Synagogue of Budapest stands as a tribute to centuries of Jewish presence in Hungary. Tours are available but you can also simply walk around outside its doors and admire it from afar.
This lofty, ornate building stands 75 metres long and 27 meters wide. Above the main entrance is a rose stained-glass window; on either side of this imposing structure are black towers topped with gold domes.
To end your first day, stay in the Jewish Quarter for the ultimate Hungarian experience. The Jewish Quarter is full of restaurants, shops and bars. From here you can get a taste of Hungarian culture by visiting the famous ruin bars in Budapest.
These are old abandoned buildings that have been turned into bars and clubs. They are full of character, some have graffiti on the walls while others are decorated with antiques or furniture from decades ago.
A highly recommended ruin bar that is a fun evening entertainment spot is Szimpla Kert. Sit back and relax in this old abandoned building that is now decorated with recycled materials, has live music stages both indoors and out, and offers an eclectic furniture mix.
It is also graffitied from floor to ceiling on just about every wall! They have an extensive drinks menu including the popular shot of Unicum.
Day 2 in Budapest
After a first day full of sightseeing, the second day of your 48 hours in Budapest starts with a relaxing morning at the thermal baths.
The baths are a must-do activity in Budapest, and there are many to choose from. The Szechenyi Baths are the most famous and are situated in City Park. There are several delicious traditional dishes for you to try during your day.
Széchenyi Thermal Baths
The Szechenyi Baths are considered to be the most luxurious spa in the whole of Budapest, Hungary. The best time to visit is during off-peak hours—in the morning, for example. You will have more space and can enjoy the natural thermal water without as many people around you.
The water in these baths is typically around 40 degrees Celsius, and it is a great place to relax while unwinding from your travels. The hot springs are an integral part of Hungary’s culture and many locals enjoy frequenting these mineral-rich waters.
These decadently hot pools are a wonderful experience. Why not add on and take advantage of the many spa treatments that are also available such as a massage or a facial?
After your time in the thermal baths, head over to the nearby park outside the building. Stroll around the green space and enjoy the view of the lake where fountains glisten. The park is a great place to take some photos and enjoy the sunshine.
Central Market Hall
After a relaxing morning, grab some lunch at the Central Market Hall. The Central Market Hall, which was built in 1896, is one of the most famous sights in Budapest.
It offers shops and restaurants on its ground floor as well as an indoor market hall on the second floor with food stalls selling fresh produce, meat and fish. You will be spoilt for choice when searching for something to eat. You should try some Hungarian delicacies such as Lángos and Chimney Cakes.
Lángos is essentially a deep-fried bread with delicious toppings. Traditional toppings are savoury and include a mixture of sour cream and cheese. You can also get sweet varieties too!
Chimney Cakes are a popular sweet pastry in Hungary and should definitely be on your list of foods to try. It is a sweet baked, cylindrical loaf that is covered in sugar. There are many varieties of flavours such as chocolate, vanilla and strawberry.
Budapest Danube River Sightseeing Night Cruise
One of the best ways to see Budapest at night is on a river cruise. The Budapest Danube River Cruise will take you past many landmarks such as the Hungarian Parliament Building and the Chain Bridge.
Your tour guide will provide a commentary on the passing illuminated buildings and you will also get complimentary champagne, wine or beer. The cruise lasts for around 1 hour and is a great way to end your day, You will have plenty of time to admire the views while you enjoy a drink and some snacks.
After your cruise head back into the Jewish Quarter, to Gozsdu Udvar for dinner. Gozsdu Udvar is a bustling street with a courtyard that is a popular meeting point in downtown Budapest. The street is lined with restaurants and bars where you can enjoy some Hungarian food and drink.
In the evening it is not uncommon to see groups of locals enjoying beers in the courtyard while they chat with friends or family members. Budapest is a hotspot for stag and hen parties due to its affordable prices and vibrant nightlife, so do not be surprised if you find a lot in this area during your stay.
Budapest is a beautiful city with many cultural attractions. The city has a wide variety of museums, historical buildings and parks. As an added bonus there is also an abundance of delicious food to be found all over the city.
With so much to see and do in Budapest, it is a city that should definitely be on your list of places to visit. Enjoy a weekend in Budapest and you will not be disappointed.
Recommended tours in Budapest
- Half-day Wine Tasting Tour in Etyek Wine Country near Budapest
- Budapest All in One Walking Tour with Cafe Stop
- Candlelit Dinner Cruise by Legenda City Cruises, Budapest
- 1-Hour&30-min Budapest Evening or Night Sightseeing Cruise & Unlimited Prosecco
- Night-Time Dark History and Vampire Walking Tour in Buda Castle District
- Hungarian Wine Tasting (with Cheese and Charcuterie) in Budapest
- BeerSpa (45 minutes) + Szechenyi ticket (full day)
- Budapest Private Tuk Tuk Half-Day Tour