With some smart planning, one day in Budapest will give you a delicious taste of the Hungarian capital, its remarkable history, and its rich culture. From viewing architectural treasures to soaking in thermal baths to cruising the Danube, here are the essential Budapest experiences to incorporate into your daylong visit.
Budapest is stuffed to the brim with historic attractions and architectural eye candy, from the Moorish-influenced Dohány Street Synagogue to the neoclassical St. Stephen’s Basilica. Sightseeing tours, whether by coach, Segway, bike, or on foot, show off the city’s landmark structures as well as provide some historical context in the form of guide commentary. To sightsee at your own pace, choose a hop-on hop-off bus tour. Either way, you won’t want to miss the monument-lined Andrássy Avenue, the expansive Heroes’ Square, the hulking Citadella, and the neo-Gothic Budapest Parliament building.
Fuel up with lunch in the historic Central Market Hall, then grab your bathing suit for an afternoon of relaxation. No trip to Budapest—no matter how fleeting—would be complete without taking a dip in one of the city’s world-famous thermal baths. Though there are lots to choose from, Széchenyi is one of the biggest and most well-known. Booking skip-the-line entry ensures that you get in quickly, so you can maximize your time in the outdoor pools, indoor baths, steam rooms, and saunas. If you’re feeling indulgent, treat yourself to a short massage to help you shake off any residual stress.
Budapest offers both sophistication and grit, and it’s easy to experience both sides of the city in one evening. Start with a classical music concert held in the magnificent St. Stephen’s Basilica or an authentic folk performance showcasing Hungarian traditions. Follow up the show with a dinner cruise along the Danube River, during which you can admire the elegant riverside architecture. After, head to the Jewish Quarter to see the city’s so-called ruin bars—derelict and abandoned spaces that enterprising locals have transformed into drinking spots.