Voted as one of the most beautiful cities in all of Europe, Budapest in Hungary is a hub of fashion, culture, history, education, and entertainment. Layered culturally from early Celtic settlers to the Ottoman Empire, the architecture, food, and activities in Budapest reflect this land’s rich past. Split into two sections, with Buda being on the Western side of the Danube, and Pest on the Eastern side, both have a unique personality worth looking into. With 36 hours in Budapest, you will have just enough time to experience some of the highlights of the city such as the Vajdahunyad Castle (which inspired Dracula’s castle), the thermal baths at Szechenyi Baths, old Buda, and the Royal Palace. Set alongside the Danube, one must also appreciate the natural element of Budapest, even escaping to Margaret Island for a stroll. Beauty, entertainment, and culture are all at your fingertips when you travel to Budapest. Read below to plan out your perfect 36-hour itinerary in Budapest, Hungary!
Welcome to beautiful Budapest! Begin your adventure by visiting the Vajdahunyad Castle exemplifying the architectural evolution of Hungary. Located in the City Park, this castle is said to have inspired Dracula’s castle in Bram Stroker’s famous novel. Vajadhunyad Castle was actually built on the 1000th birthday of the Hungarian State in 1896 for the Millennial Exhibition and includes roman, gothic, and baroque architectural styles. Additionally, the Hungarian Agricultural Museum is housed within the castle. The castle is open every day except Monday, and entrance is free. Also, be sure to check out the boat rentals and ice skating that happen seasonally on the lake of City Park, which surrounds Vajdahunyad Castle.
Budapest 3-Hour City Tour
Duration 3 hours
Budapest is home to a plethora of thermal baths, some dating back to the Ottoman era. The Hungarian culture includes frequent trips to the baths. Because of the warm natural springs under the city, Budapest has the nickname the “City of Spas.” It’s one of the top reasons visitors come to Budapest, and each thermal bath varies a little in personality. However, Szechenyi Baths is an iconic Budapest bath and a great place to start your evening. Szechenyi Baths are one of the largest and most popular baths in Budapest, with 18 pools open every day of the year. It is also set within City Park, one of the largest green spaces of the city, infusing your spa experience with nature. Szechenyi Baths are for mixed gender, so swimsuits are mandatory. Fast-track entry (recommended) to the spa is 21 EUR (23.9 USD) and includes a full day stay as well as a private cabin to change in. If visiting during the weekday, prices can be found to be cheaper. Watch the sunset from the pools (nightly closing is 10 pm). Relaxation is at its finest at Szechenyi Baths.
Skip the Line Széchenyi Spa in Budapest with Massage Upgrade
Duration 9 hours
Set on an island in Varosliget’s Lake, Robinson Etterem serves classic European fare, in a unique ambiance. With terraces to take in views of the City Park lake, this ultra-chic spot is known for an excellent wine list and knowledgeable staff. The lower part of the restaurant is a French-inspired eatery, while the top half of the restaurant is a high-quality steakhouse. If you have a romantic occasion to celebrate, this is the perfect place to be. Prices do run on the higher end, but for a reason; location is everything along with an award-winning chef.
Budapest: Hungarian Cooking Class and Market Tour
Small but historic, Ruszurm Cafe is the oldest cafe in Budapest, on the Buda-side of the river. Also, a confectionery, famous Hungarian cakes like Dobos torta (sponge layer-cake) are also prepared here. The pastry shop opened in 1827, and the word “ruszwurm” means tradition and delight. Given its historic status and the delicious cakes available, lines do form and the cafe can become quite crowded. However, it is worth wiggling your way in! The cafe is in the Buda Castle district, so be sure to follow up your sweet experience with a walk to Castle Hill. Operating hours are 10am-7pm, Monday through Sunday.
Budapest Sweet & Coffeehouse Walk
Duration 3 hours
The Royal Palace, also called the Buda Castle, is a historic structure spanning back to the 13th century. Though destroyed when the Turks were pushed from power, a small baroque castle was rebuilt in its place. Again, in WWII the building was damaged and rebuilt using the neo-baroque style, still with much of the original structure intact. The Royal Palace additionally houses the Hungarian National Gallery, the Budapest History Museum, and the National Library. Outside, the Lion Courtyard and Matthias Fountain are beautiful attractions to explore. The Matthias Fountain is one of the most breathtaking statues in Budapest, paying tribute to King Matthias, including a torrid backstory of a love affair. The Royal Palace courtyards are open at all times, and the castle itself and museums are open most days except Monday, until 6 pm or 8 pm. Prices for the different sections of the building vary, so check online at http://budacastlebudapest.com/ for specifics.
Buda Castle District Small-Group Walking Tour in Budapest
Duration 3 hours
“Ruined bars” are the trendy and cheap way to grab a drink in Budapest in an old ruined lot or building. Started in the early 2000’s, ruined bars are bars on the affordable end of life, meant for a good time. The first ruined bar was Szimpla Kert, set in the old Jewish quarter of Budapest. Essentially an underground bar scene springing from the wreckage of WWII, these hip and artsy bars are all the rage now. Generally decorated like a falling-apart thrift store, ruined bars are unique to Budapest. A few bars to check out are Fogasház, Instant, Doboz, and Grandio.
Best of Budapest's Ruin Bars Private Tour
Duration 2 hours 30 minutes
Day 3: Morning, see the city from the Danube with a short cruise and disembark at Margaret Island for a stroll (from USD 15)
After a great night out enjoying the nightlife of Budapest, spending the morning taking in fresh air is a great way to start the day. Head to the waterfront alongside the Danube and hop on a riverboat cruise (available May-September). The cruises are a panorama boat, so every view is a winning one, and for 13.2 EUR (15 USD), this 70-minute tour includes one drink. Margaret Island is in the middle of the Danube and is a charming island that includes a music fountain in the summer months, a Japanese garden, summer nightlife, and a petting zoo. It’s about a 15-20 minute ride once you get on the boat, and although taking the stop at Margaret Island is optional, it is highly recommended.
Budapest Daytime Sightseeing Cruise
Charmed by Budapest in 36 hours
Budapest in 36 hours is just enough time to enjoy the personality of this historic city. Seeing sights that are both historic, and yet also pulsing with the buzz of modern life such as the Ruszwurm Cafe and the ruined bars, is a great way to soak in the culture of Budapest. There is no shortage of breathtaking architecture or activities to take in both in Buda and Pest. With this fast-track itinerary to one of Europe’s most loved cities, you are on your way to an adventure of a lifetime.
Buzzing with coffee and sugar, it is time to hit the streets of Buda to go exploring! What could be more romantic than taking a funicular carriage around Castle Hill? First opened in 1870, the funicular carriage was destroyed by bombs in WWII and then rebuilt. The line runs from river-level Adam Clark Square to the Buda Castle above. It only takes a few minutes to take this ride, but the charm of the old carriages, as well as the view of the Danube from above, makes it a memorable ride. The carriage runs Monday through Sunday, 7:30 am to 10 pm and is 3.7 EUR (4.2 USD) one way or 5.5 EUR (6.25 USD) for a round-trip ticket.
Budapest City Tour with Castle Hill Funicular and Boat Ride
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