Last Updated on September 23, 2022 by Jim Ferri
Looking for a 2 days in Budapest itinerary? You’ll find plenty to do since it’s an amazing and charming Old World city. In fact, the most stunning on the Danube. It’s a beautiful place shaped by history that offers travelers a multitude of great experiences. Here are 10 best to enjoy…
Estimated reading time: 12 minutes
By Jim Ferri
If you have only 2 days in Budapest, you can still see plenty of things in the city if you plan your itinerary carefully.
First, a bit of history: Budapest, Vienna, and Prague are magnificent cities, all shaped by the Habsburg Empire. But it’s the Hungarian capital that many consider the most stunning of the troika, thanks to its grand scale and picturesque location.
You only need to stand high atop a hill on the Buda side and take in that beautiful view of the Danube to see why.
In any case, you’ll discover that Budapest is a beautiful Old World city that oozes charm. Walk along its avenues and you’re surrounded by turn-of-the-century architecture, cozy cafés tucked away on cobbled streets, and wonderful music and art.
It’s also a layer cake of history, stretching back through the Soviet-era oppression, to the Habsburgs, the Turks, the Romans and the Celts. Above all, they’ve all left their imprint on the city, making it the fascinating place it is today.
There are a lot of things to do and enjoy on a 2-day Budapest itinerary, more than one could ever cram into a two- or three-day visit. But even though many will find a short stay inevitable, there is still time to see the best of Budapest, even though you’ll likely wish you could linger much longer. If you’re really pressed for time, you can also make a day trip by train to Budapest from Vienna.
Regardless of the duration of your stay, here are the top-10 places to enjoy in this beautiful city during 2 days in Budapest.
On Your 2 Days in Budapest Itinerary: Include Mátyás Church
Certainly visit the beautiful and historic Mátyás Church, know locally as the Church of Our Lady. It’s one of my personal best things to do in Budapest, even if only on a 2-day itinerary. Mátyás is a redesigned Neo-Baroque Church with a multi-colored tile roof. The church sits on a Gothic foundation.
It’s one of the most important churches in the city and the place where many of Hungary’s kings were crowned, and where royal weddings and christenings were held. It’s located near the Fishermen’s Bastion on the Buda side of the city.
If You Go:
Szentháromság tér 2
Open: daily 9am – 5pm; Sunday 1pm – 5pm
Admission: see current ticket prices
See the Spectacular City From Fishermen’s Bastion
Although the Mátyás Church is historically more important, a majority of tourists bypass it and head instead to the adjacent Neo-Romanesque Fishermen’s Bastion, one of the most popular places in the city.
The reason is that the Bastion – a fortification on the old city walls named for the fishermen who defended the castle from that position – offers the best, and most spectacular, views of the city. Of course, it’s an especially nice place to have drinks in the evening.
It’s a good place to start a 2-day tour of Budapest since it provides a great panorama of the city, giving you the opportunity to get a good sense of where you’ll be heading. But come back for drinks in the evening – the views are spectacular at sunset.
If You Go:
Open: daily, 24 hours a day.
Admission: Free, except for a small fee for the towers
Note: The easiest way to get to Fisherman’s Bastion is from the Matthias Church, which is very close. Just walk towards the river.
Visit the Castle District / North Buda on Your 2 Days in Budapest Itinerary
On the western, hilly side of the Danube, the Castle District undoubtedly provides the best views of Budapest and the river.
Like Mátyás Church, most people bypass it completely to see Fishermen’s Bastion, not realizing that it’s a lovely area with a unique ambiance. You’ll also find it has some of the best restaurants in the city.
In any case, Leave time to wander about the neighborhood, perhaps stopping in one of the little cafés for coffee or a glass of wine.
Don’t Miss the Hungarian Parliament
The defining landmark of the city, the Hungarian Parliament building, was the largest in the world when completed in 1902. While it’s most often viewed from the Buda side of the Danube, you should take the time to visit it and see it up close.
In addition to the expected government faculties, including the National Assembly Hall and the Prime Minister’s Office, the building also contains beautiful works of art and the Crown Jewels of Hungary – the Crown of St. Stephen and the Royal Scepter.
The only way to see all of these things (and others), however, is by a guided tour when the parliament isn’t in session.
There are several tours in English daily. On the other hand, they may take quite a bit of time so during a 2-day-tour of Budapest you may just want to admire the city from afar.
If You Go:
Another Addition to Your 2 Days in Budapest Itinerary: a Walk Down Andrássy Street
Spending 2 days days in the city, I found this to be the best overall thing to do in Budapest. Take a taxi to Heroes’ Square, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home of the Museum of Fine Arts, and walk back down Andrassy Street towards the Danube.
It’s a beautiful and elegant street peppered with embassies, old mansions and upscale stores that will bring you past or close to many places of interest. The first of two of specific interest to many, is the Opera House. The other the House of Terror, a museum that originally was the headquarters of Hungary’s Nazis in WWII, and the Communist terror organization until 1956.
Also, be sure to visit the famous art-nouveau bookstore cafe on the second floor of the Paris Department Store, which specializes in books, many in English.
If You Go:
Hungarian State Opera
Andrássy út 22
Tel: +36 1 814 7100
Open: Guided tours at 3pm and 4pm daily
Admission: see tour prices here
Paris Department Store
Andrássy út 39
Open: daily 10am – 8pm
Visit St. Stephen’s Basilica, A Wonderful Place to See in Budapest
St. Stephen Basilica is a beautiful late-19th-century basilica named after the first Hungarian Christian king. It’s especially interesting to many since it’s a large church whose Neo-Renaissance dome is equal in height to that of the Parliament building, and which can be seen from all over the city. In the back chapel you can view the mummified forearm of the saint, which is carried outside by priests every year on St. Stephen’s Day (August 20).
If you visit midday, you may want to have lunch in one of the cafés in the plaza in front of the church.
If You Go:
St. Stephen’s Basilica
Szent István tér 1
Tel. +36 1 311 0839
open: Monday-Saturday 9am – 7pm / Sunday 7:45am – 7pm
Admission: ticket prices of guided tours vary
Walk Down Váci utca
Another street to stick on your 2 days in Budapest itinerary is Váci utca, which runs parallel to the Danube on the Pest side of the river. It’s a long street, and the name changes along its length, but it’s easy enough to follow. It’s the city’s main shopping street and always filled with shoppers and tourists. (Obviously, watch out for pickpockets).
Don’t miss the Gerbeaud Cukraszda (Gerbeaud Café), the most famous coffee house in the city, built in 1858, with an elegant interior and has, as might be expected, excellent service.
Further on is the Great Market Hall, an imposing wrought-iron building near the river that’s a favorite place for locals to buy foodstuffs. It’s impeccably clean with aisles wide enough to drive two cars through. On the second level, you’ll also find a variety of restaurants and cafes popular with travelers.
If You Go:
Vörösmarty tér 7-8
Open: Monday – Thursday 9:00am – 7pm daily / Friday and Saturday 9am – 8pm / closed Sunday
Great Market Hall
Vámház krt. 1-3
Open: 6am – 6pm daily (except Monday when it closes at 5pm). Closed Sunday
Another Stop During Your 2 Days in Budapest: The Turkish Baths
Undoubtedly, sone of the Ottoman’s major contributions to modern Budapest are the beautiful baths they built during their occupation of the city. There are several public baths throughout the city, including the Széchenyi Baths near Heroes’ Square (the city’s most popular), and the Rudas Baths, along the Danube near the Elizabeth Bridge. The Rudas were built in 1550 by the Ottomans.
The most famous and extravagant are found in the Hotel Gellért Baths, as well as the baths complex near Liberty Bridge. Its main indoor pool is one of the finest examples of Neo-Classical architecture in the country.
If You Go:
Hotel Gellért and Baths
Kelenhegyi út 4
Tel: +36 1 466 6166
Open: 9am – 7pm daily. Closed Thursday
Admission: from 5300Ft (approximately $18)
Állatkerti krt. 9-11
Tel: (+36-20) 435 0051
Open: daily 9am – 7pm (indoor) / 7am – 7pm (outdoor)
Admission: from 5900FT (approximately $20)
Döbrentei tér 9
Tel: +36 20 321 4568
Open: daily 6am – 8pm
Admission: from 3800FT (approximately $13)
Another Note on Your 2 Days in Budapest Itinerary: See the Hungarian National Gallery
If you enjoy art and can squeeze it in during your 2 days in the city, you may want to visit to the Royal Palace on the Buda side of the river. It’s home to the Budapest History Museum and the Hungarian National Gallery, the latter well known for its collection of Hungarian art from medieval times to the 20th century. T
here are more than 40,000 pieces on display, including a wonderful collection of Gothic altarpieces as well as Renaissance and Baroque pieces.
Outside the building, in addition to the spectacular views of the city from the terrace, you’ll find other treasures including the Mátyás Fountain. Adjacent to the building is the office of the President of Hungary.
If You Go:
Hungarian National Gallery:
Szent György tér 2 (in Buda Castle)
Tel: +36 1 201 9082
Open: 10am – 6pm daily (closed Monday)
Admission: from 1600FT (approximately $5) although prices vary
Have Your Heart Broken at the Shoes on the Danube Bank Memorial
All things considered, make certain to include this simple and somber memorial on your 2 days in Budapest itinerary. You’ll often be near it since it’s on the right bank (Pest side) of the Danube just a few blocks upstream from the Széchenyi Chain Bridge.
Created in 2005, the Shoes on the Danube Bank is a tribute to the Jews murdered on that spot in 1944-45 by the pro-German, anti-Semitic, Arrow Cross militiamen. Jews were brought there, ordered to take their shoes off and then shot by the militiamen, who let the river carry their bodies away.
The monument is 60 pairs of rusted period-shoes in different sizes and styles cast out of iron. Undoubtedly, it is one of the most moving memorials you’ll see anywhere in Europe, its utter simplicity making it all the more somber.
Whether you’re a Jew or not, this place in Budapest will likely break your heart.
I’m not Jewish and it did mine. Don’t miss it.