Budapest presents itself as an increasingly modern European city that embraces its rich history and culture. The entire city is filled with glorious architecture, boosts a café culture and has a variety of renewed, Turkish-era thermal baths. It has everything to make it one of the most interesting city breaks in Europe ; It’ has a buzzing night life, interesting culture and it’s CHEAP. After spending 2 days there, I am sharing with you how I spent 36 hours in Budapest.
How to get to Budapest
By plane: I used Wizzair, a Hungarian low cost airline which is based in Budapest. It cost me appoximately €50 return from Cyprus – amazing, right?
By bus: As we visited 2 cities at the same time (Vienna & Budapest) we used RegioJet to go to Vienna and come back which cost only €12 each way.
Where to stay in Budapest
Alternatively, you can use Booking, for last moment deals. We stayed in Thomas Hotel 3* for only €24 (it was decent and cheap at that time). If you are a backpacker there is a Wombats hostel right in the centre! I absolutely love Wombats Hostels. It’s the most popular hostel chain in Europe that most backpackers recommend. It’s modern, cheap and usually in central locations.
How to spend 36 hours in Budapest
Below, you can see a list of the things we did in only 36 hours. We also really wanted to go to the thermal baths but being short in time, we decided to give it a pass and enjoy the rest the city has to offer. If you are also planning to spend 36 hours in Budapest, you might consider checking out this list of things to do.
Admire the views from Fisherman’s Bastion
I absolutely loved the Fisherman’s Bastion since It has some stunning views over the city and is is a terrace in neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque style situated on Castle hill. What’s also incredibly cool about Fisherman’s Bastion, it’s that it was FREE to visit! From March to October there is an entrance fee which is no more than €3.
See Matthia’s Church up close
When you visit Fisherman’s Bastion, you can’t skip Matthia’s church which is right in front of the Fisherman’s Bastion at the heart of Buda’s Castle district. What is amazing about this church is not what’s inside but the setting. It has an amazing location on a hill and a distinctive roof of brown tile with some fun and varied designs.
Visit the Heroes Square
The larget square in Budapest is Heros Square. The square is iconic and features the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars and other important Hungarian national leaders. It’s also quite close to Széchenyi thermal baths If you consider visiting.
Wander around the Vajdahunyad Castle
So while you are around the Heroes Square, you should walk around the Vajdahunyad Castle. It was only built in 1896 but it showcases the architectural evolution through centuries and styles in Hungary. While this building is quite picturesque, the tower tours and the museum are worth skipping.
Shop like a local at Budapest’s Great Market Hall
If you are looking for something unique to bring back home, visit the Great Market Hall. Even If it might be considered a touristy stop, this market is commonly visited by locals as my local friend said to us. This place is a foody’s heaven as it haves everything you can wish for If you want to try every Hungarian delicacy. You can find locally produced fruit and vegetables, drinks, paprika and much more! I have came across this this useful guide about the market hall which was written by a local, enjoy!
Marvel at the architecture of the Hungarian Parliament
The Hungarian parliament is one of the most impressive parliaments I have seen in Europe! Its huge and boasts a remarkable architecture and some impressive surroundings. The best time to visit the parliament is during the night, when the entire building is lit up. The only way to see it inside is to book a guided tour which should be done a few days in advance as they sell out quite quickly.
See the shoes on the Danube
When you visit the parliament, it is almost certain that you will find yourself strolling along the edges of Danube. You will wonder what these shoes are doing at the edge of the river promenade. The truth is that these shoes tell a story, this place is a memorial to honor the victims who were shot were during WW II. About 3,500 people were killed by the Nazi party and were ordered to take off their shoes before they were shot. The shoes remained on the Danube as silent testimony to what had happened.
Walk across Chain Bridge
The Danube river separates the two sides of Budapest, Buda and Pest with a series of bridges connecting the two. The most impressive of these bridges is undoubtedly the Chain Bridge, which offers a fabulous walk from Buda to Pest and vice versa.
Fun Fact: Budapest was created when three cities joined together: Óbuda, Buda and Pest. Buda is relative calm and quiet and Pest is where the action is. The majority of cafés and restaurants are in the Pest side while in Buda you can find a variety of touristy sights.
Indulge in the food and try goulash
Budapest is a foodie’s dream and the food scene is incredible when it comes to international cuisine. I had one of the greatest Thai curry of my life ( Parázs Thai) in the same street I was staying at and the entire neighborhood was filled with cuisines from every corner in the world. My friend from Budapest who I met during my internship in Lisbon took us to an authentic Hungarian restaurant called Csarnok that she visits with her family and had some of the most delicious Hungarian dishes. (you can never go wrong with locals) If you are visiting Budapest, you should definitely try their national dish ; goulash which is a stew of meat and vegetables, seasoned with paprika and other spices- yummm!
[ Joanne wrote a lovely blog on 10 restaurants you have to try in Budapest]
Explore the ruin bars
Budapest’s ruin bars are a main feature of the city’s nightlife and you can’t miss them when visiting Budapest. They have been around since 2001 and are located in the jewish quarter. It’s very hard to describe the ruin bars in Budapest. The ruin bars are abandoned buildings since the World War II that have been transformed into a different world. Each ruin bar is different from the other and is full of character. The most popular and most crowded is Szimpla which is quite spacious and the oldest of them all.
Get a shot of pálinka
Just like Russians have vodka and the French have champagne, the Hungarians have palinka! And let me tell you one thing – it’s STRONG! Palinka is a traditional fruit brandy which is about 50-80% alcohol and made of locally grown fruits such as plums,apricots and apples. Hungarians usually drink palinka in one go, but be prepared to BURN your throat!
Fun Fact: Pálinka is considered the cure of all ails
While 36 hours in Budapest is definitely not enough time to explore the Hungarian capital, it is still enough time to do a lot of things – just like I did! I might have missed on some things I wish I had the time to do like the thermal baths, the Buda Castle and Margaret Island, but that’s just a good excuse to come back,right?
P.S If you are staying longer in Budapest, check out Ingrid’s informative 3 days guide to Budapest!
Fun Fact: Did you know that Vienna is only 2,5 hours away from Budapest by bus ? Take a look at my guide with local Vienna tips.
Are you planning to spend at least 36 hours in Budapest? Pin to read later!