What to see and do if you only have a day in Budapest? The city has a lot to offer, so it can be difficult to decide how best to spend your time. Here are four distinct ways to spend a day in Budapest along with suggestions on the best local tours and places to stay. Feel free to mix and match and build your own Budapest guide.
Best of Budapest
Some of the city's best features tucked into a day, ideal for first time visitors
Morning: Get up early and start your day in Castle Hill, a district filled with history. Go for a short tour around the cobblestone streets and take in the amazing views of the city, probably best enjoyed from Fishermen's Bastion. Have a coffee break at Ruszwurm, one of Budapest's oldest patisseries. Try their mouthwatering krémes. Take the funicular down to Chain Bridge. Walk across Chain Bridge and along Váci utca, the famous pedestrian precinct, to Central Market Hall for an informal lunch. Grab a lángos, some fried sausage with pickles and some homemade strudels to get a taste of Hungary.
Evening: Take an evening cruise on the Danube for some of the best views of Budapest.
Architecture Lovers' Day in Budapest
Famous landmarks, beautiful late 19th and early 20th century buildings and the unique Hungarian Art Nouveau style
Morning: Begin your day at the Parliament building, a beautiful Budapest landmark. Take a guided tour of this Neo-Gothic masterpiece, check out its gilded interior along with the Hungarian Crown Jewels. From here, take a short walk to the House of Hungarian Art Nouveau, a charming museum and café. Next visit St. Stephen's Basilica and be sure to go up to the observation deck for a great view of the city. For lunch try one of the nearby restaurants serving great Hungarian food (Café Kör, Borkonyha, First Strudel House of Pest). For coffee, head over to Gresham Palace, one of the best preserved Art Nouveau landmarks in Budapest.
Afternoon: Stroll along Andrássy Avenue, which runs from Deák tér to Hősök tere, to see a string of Eclectic-style showpieces, including the famous Opera house. Take a break at Alexandra bookshop's Bookcafé. Finish your afternoon at Gellért Baths, another iconic Art Nouveau building.
Evening: Take a stroll in the Castle District. The cobblestone streets are lined by Baroque buildings and Medieval structures, like the 700-years-old Matthias Church. Dine at Vár a Speiz, one of the best restaurants in Castle Hill.
Food & Wine Lovers' Day in Budapest
Foodie adventures, local favorites, markets, ruin pubs and wine bars
Morning: Coffee Houses have a long tradition in Budapest, so you may want to start your day at one of the legendary grand cafés. Try Café Gerbeaud in Vörösmarty tér or the New York Café on the Grand Boulevard. Next, take an inner city walking tour and be sure to visit the Central Market Hall, a 100-year-old Budapest landmark, where vendors sell the freshest local produce, including fruits, vegetables, meat and typical Hungarian delicacies. (If you visit Budapest on a Sunday, check out the Farmer's Market at Szimpla Kert for a unique experience.) Other recommended foodie stops along the route are Szamos, famous for its marzipan bonbons, Cserpes Tejivó, popular for its freshly baked breakfast pastries, and Café Central, one of the old Viennese-style coffee houses, ideal for lunch.
Afternoon: Take a walk through the former Jewish Quarter. This rapidly changing neighborhood is not only full of history and home to Budapest's Design Street but it also has a number of trendy hotspots. Take your pick from ruin pubs (Szimpla, Kuplung, Doboz), retro gardens (Kőleves Kert, Ellátó Kert) and wine bars (Doblo, Kadarka). If you need a coffee to keep you going, be sure to stop at Printa or check out Fröhlich, where the flódni is delicious.
Where to stay: The 5-star Corinthia Grand Hotel Royal is one of the best properties in the city, and it comes with a unique flavor: Bock Bistro.
Local tours: The following local tours will give you an insight into Hungarian wine and cuisine: Culinary Walking Tour, Chefparade Cooking Class, Wine Tasting in Budapest and Sweet Budapest Walking Tour
Art & History Buffs' Day in Budapest
Attractions, museums and galleries showcasing the city's vibrant art scene and rich history
Morning: Start your day at Hősök tere (Heroes' Square) and visit the Museum of Fine Arts. Then take a walk along Andrássy Avenue, the cultural avenue of Budapest. Recommended stops are: the Kogart Gallery, showcasing the latest in Hungarian contemporary art and design, the Liszt Ferenc Memorial Museum, the former Budapest residence of the celebrated composer, the House of Terror Museum, with exhibits related to the communist dictatorship, the Mai Manó House, the House of Hungarian Photography and the famous Opera House. You can tour the Opera House during the day and enjoy a world-class performance in the evening. For lunch stop at Liszt Ferenc tér, lined with restaurants and cafés. My recommendation would be Menza or Café Vian.
Afternoon: Spend your afternoon in the Castle District by taking a walking tour. Art lovers should visit the Hungarian National Gallery (located in the former Royal Palace), which is home to the largest collection of works by Hungarian painters. History buffs should head to the Budapest History Museum (also located within the former Royal Palace), offering exhibits on how the city developed along with the remains of the medieval palace.
Evening: Catch a performance at the Opera house or attend a concert by the Hungarian National Philharmonics at the Palace of Arts.
Where to stay: Decorated with artworks from different Hungarian artists, the 4-star Bohem Art is an art lover's dream. Another great choice is the award-winning 4-star Lánchíd Design Hotel. Its contemporary design incorporates the ruins of a medieval water tower.
Local tours: The following local tours will give you in-depth knowledge about Budapest's art and history: Contemporary Art Pulse, In the Footsteps of Franz Liszt Tour, Mysteries of Castle District Tour and Retro Budapest Tour