Budapest, Hungary, is one of those cities that you have to see to believe. With countless historical sites and a million things to do for every age level, I can’t see how someone can get tired in a city so diverse. If interested, I would highly suggest the free walking tours. There are many companies that offer various versions, so find the one that suites your schedule the best. The guides keep the crowd interested with wild stories and take you through most of the city. During my holiday in Budapest, my friends and I decided that Budapest was one of our favorite cities and that coming back would be a no-brainer. The culture is so different from the rest of Europe and the history is some of the oldest in the world being in Eastern Europe. If you are an adventurous traveler and like to step out of your comfort zone, I would highly suggest spending a long weekend in Budapest. The following passages is a condensed schedule of the perfect day in Budapest, Hungary completed with notes and facts of each activity. Note: this list will be formatted as completing in 24 hours, but Budapest should really be seen in at least a few days.
- Where the Sun Don’t Shine. The first adventure on the list is Budapest’s natural limestone caves. They are 100 meters deep and expands below most of the mountains below the Buda side of the river, but new passages are still being found today. The caving tours are very popular because it is always a perfect temperature of around 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, the caves are the prime spot to start your day during the summer or winter months. Tour guides will take you through tiny challenging passage ways or easy wide walk ways from each opening in the cave. They’ll explain the history of the caves, for example, during wars and hard times the caves were turned into a sanctuary for many. Relax and take advantage of the completely black and quiet caves; they truly give you a sense of being grounded.
- Fountain of Youth. The Thermal Baths in Budapest are some of the most famous in the world. For centuries people have believed in their healing powers and most of the people you see at the thermal baths are elderly men and women trying to soak up their youth again. Despite this fact, many millennials will hangout pool side or take a dip and treat it more like a pool for the day. There are many thermal baths around Budapest, but the one pictured above, Szechenyi Thermal Baths, is the most famous and transforms into a party under the stars at night. Unfortunately, they are a little pricey, so bring a towel and flip flops and you should be fine.
- I want marble everything. The next activity on the list for the day is a walking tour through the city. St. Stephen’s Basilica is the most famous basilica in the city and lets you walk throughout the entire facility: the catacombs, the basement, most of the private chapels, and the steeples on either side of the main entrance for a fantastic view of the city and the Danube River. Inside St. Stephen’s Basilica, every inch of the basilica is covered in beautiful red, blue, green or white marble. Where there isn’t marble, religious scenes are painted or plastered along the walls and ceilings in bright colors such as reds, blues, and gold flakes. It is a breath-taking sight and different from any other basilica or church I have been in. It embodies a much darker feeling due to the darker colored marble rather than the classic white. Entrance is free and is a must see when walking around the city.
- Hosok Tere. Can you use it in a sentence? The Hosok Tere stands erect at the north east end of the city as the main structure in the Heroes’ Square. This picturesque square holds many historical landmarks in remembrance of the 7 tribe leaders that founded Hungary. There is not too much to see at the square besides taking artistic pictures, but beyond the square is a large park for relaxing and the Budapest Pedal Pubs start at this location. It is an absolutely beautiful landmark to see, but I wouldn’t spend too much time there and instead find other activities around the area as well.
- Home Base. The Hungarian Parliament Building is probably one of the most beautifully constructed buildings of Gothic architecture in Budapest. Opened in 1904, it lies in between Lajos Kossuth Square and the bank of the Danube and is the largest building in Hungary and the tallest building in Budapest. I have not personally been inside the Hungarian Parliament Building, but it is open to the public through daily guided tours only that you can reserve online at Hungarianparliament.com. Around the Parliament stand many unique government buildings and a gorgeous view of the Danube, as well as easy access to Margaret Island that encompasses a giant park that will host concerts and couples out for a stroll.
- One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Budapest’s architecture is immaculate, but when walking down the streets, if you look up while walking, you’ll notice that most of the buildings have not been restored in many years. Most major cities keep their buildings up to date, but Budapest’s residential buildings are more run down and show their wear. This feature of the city is beautiful and illustrates the skeletons of the buildings. It is different and odd, but it gives the buildings an older, worn feel that you do not get with cities like Rome or Paris.
- Connect the dots. The Szechenyi Chain Bridge is the next stop on the day tour and is the most famous bridge in Budapest. The Chain Bridge is a suspension bridge and was the first bridge in the Hungary capital to connect Buda and Pest, the east and west sides of the Danube River in 1849 after the Hungarian Revolution in 1848. The figures and design of the bridge radiate calm dignity and balance with lions placed robustly at either end of the bridge. Walking from one side to the other is a bit of a windy walk, but the views from the bridge are amazing and therefore is one of the most photographed spots in Budapest.
- There are no actual Budas at Buda Castle. If you can only go to one location in Budapest, I would suggest Buda Castle. Located at the top of a Castle Hill on the Buda side of the Danube, this gigantic castle has held many kings and royalties since 1265. Known as the Royal Palace or the Royal Castle, a cathedral, 19th century houses, and public buildings were also constructed over the centuries. Today, the castle district houses various museums and many tourists. It is free to climb the short hike up the stairs and walk around the area, but seeing inside the museums or taking a tour of the palace costs a little bit of money. However, just seeing the views the top of Castle Hill and the convenient souvenir shops and restaurants make for a perfect day when the sun is shining.
- As far as the eyes can see. While at the summit of Buda Castle, the views are spectacular and really give you an idea of how each of the sides of river differ. Buda is more residential and does not have a lot of shopping and historical landmarks. Whereas, Pest, the industrial half, has all the famous must see landmarks and is the home to the government. The major shopping district and night scene is also located on the Pest side. Staying in a hostel or Airbnb on the Pest side of the city would be your best option for walking to every location and going out at nights.
- Run don’t walk. Margaret Island is located in the center of the Danube River and is accessible by walking or public transportation from the Arpad and Margaret Bridge near the Hungarian Parliament Building. The island is gorgeously decorated with great trees, vibrant flowers, and wide walking paths. There is no doubt that you will see many people jogging, stretching, or practicing tai chi on the walking paths or grass areas. Throngs of couples dancing to local live music near the fountain is not uncommon either. Plan an evening stroll or pack workout attire, it’s a stunning park that is free and will always have multiple activities going on. Just keep walking.
- I’M ON A BOAT. Once the sun has fallen and your legs have become incredibly weak, do not even think about crawling into bed early. The most beautiful sights of the city come out at night and are most easily seen from the middle of the river. Night boat tours are very popular in Budapest along the Danube and should be booked online ahead of time. Many options exist to see the spectacular sights, but I would suggest a party boat that includes 100 other millennials on holiday in Budapest for the same reason you are. Other than perfectly lit picturesque buildings along the river side, seeing how the city comes to life after dark is magic on its own. It is a perfect wrap up of a long day adventuring across Budapest with your friends by relaxing on a boat.
The world awaits…discover it.