Budapest is a very special city for me as I’m from Hungary, who living in New Zealand, but every time i go home love to go to visit this historical city. Let me talk about what to do in Budapest if you spend 5 days there!
You do know that Budapest is the capital city of Hungary, but do you know what the city has to offer? Taking a trip to this city is one of the best decisions you can ever make. You will be amazed at its beautiful architectural designs, captivated by the people’ culture and sated by their food, calmed by the lush gardens along the river and wowed by the out-of-this-world feeling a soak in one of the hot spring spas gives.
The only problem with visiting Budapest is that there are so many things to do! Unfortunately, you cannot do it all in one tour. You would need to live there for a while to understand this Hungarian city. However, you can use this 5-day itinerary to make the most of your trip. Do this on your day trip and you will have the best time of your life in this vibrant city.
Day 1: Understand the Rich History of the Budapest People
Start this day at the Buda Castle, a beautiful castle that once served as a palace for the kings of Hungary. The building was first constructed in 1452 but it has since undergone very many modifications. It is a true representation of what Hungary has been through. It has been previously bombed, besieged more than 30 times and was robbed clean during WW2.
The castle has been refurbished throughout all this time and it now has three parts. The royal palace has a library and two museums namely the Budapest History Museum and the Hungarian National Gallery. These showcase the history and art works of the people from different eras respectively. In the Szechenyi National Library, you will find intriguing antique books. To understand more about the castle, book a guided tour in this Neo-Baroque-Style building and by the time you are done you will appreciate the rich history of the people.
Located at the heart of the Buda Castle District is the Matthias Church. This ancient Roman Catholic Church has been serving the people of Budapest since 1015. This church is unlike any other with its unique neo-gothic interior and rich history. It was used as a mosque at one time and was used to coronate many Hungarian kings. This church is so named after King Matthias, a fair and just ruler who reconstructed the church in the 15th century. Take a walk inside this church and you will be intrigued. Everything here is captivating!
Near the Matthias church, you will find the Fishermen Bastion. Stand on this and take in all the breath-taking views of the Danube Riverfront and the best parts of the city. This tower is located on a hilly spot and from its top you can enjoy a view of most of Budapest. There are seven turrets each representing the seven tribes of Hungary in this tower that was built way back in 1852.
Be sure to take a look at the oldest building in this area, the Buda Tower, also known as the Mary Magdalene Tower. Unlike all the other buildings, this one has been maintained in its original form without major alterations. It acted as a lookout tower located above the Mary Magdalene Church that has its own share of rich history. On your tour, take the 172 steps to the top of the Buda Tower, look outside and you will see the tallest buildings of the city as well as nearby hilltops.
Did you know that Budapest came to be by joining two areas? These two are Buda and Pest which are connected by the Chain Bridge. This was the first ever permanent bridge to connect the two areas in 1849. Take a walk along this bridge and enjoy the soothing flow of the waters of River Danube as you take in the amazing views of both Buda and Pest.
Day 2: More about the Budapest People – Including Food
Hungary is known for having one of the best public transportation systems in the world. Popular among its transportation methods is the tram system. As a tourist, the tram offers you an affordable way to get around the city but it is only in Budapest where the tram ride offers more than the convenience of moving from one place to the other. Book a ride on the Tram 2 which goes along the river Danube. On this tram ride, you will see many iconic buildings including the National Theater, Parliament and the Elizabeth Bridge to name but a few. Book your ticket on this tram and you will get to see many sites in the city for a fraction of the price other means would cost.
The Hungarian parliament is the largest building in Hungary since its construction in 1902. It is a leading tourist destination site with people marvelling at its gothic revival architectural style and its unique décor. You can get to the parliament easily via tram 2.
All you need after a long day is great food, right? For this, head over to the Great Market Hall. This is one of the oldest markets in the country. On all the three floors, you will find stalls and food stands from which you can buy the best Hungarian dishes at very affordable prices. Be sure to try the Langos! Do not forget to get some souvenirs to carry home.
Day 3: Hike and Explore Some More
For panoramic views of Budapest, take a hike on the 140 m high Gellert Hill. This is made up of a dolomite rock that rises from the banks of Danube on the Buda side of the city. You will take the most amazing pictures on the Gellert Hill while getting to appreciate the history of Hungary some more. This was among the first places to be inhabited. The hill is named after the first missionary who introduced Christianity in the country. There is a monument with his sculpture created in his honor. Also on the Gellert Hill is the statue of liberty that has to be known as the icon of Budapest. At the very top of Gellert sits the Citadella, another historical monument that serves as a major tourist attraction.
Later in the day, head over to the Hero’s Square on the Pest side and feel the thrill of the millennial celebrations held in 1896 at this UNESCO world heritage site. The largest monument in the square is the Millenary Monument which features a golden archangel Gabriel who holds a cross and the Hungarian crown. You may find a concert or public event going on in the square. Enjoy it!
Another building built in 1896 to commemorate the attaining of a millennium by Hungary was the Vajdahunyad castle. This began as a wood and cardboard building but soon it was transformed into a stone building due to its popularity. It is an architectural masterpiece that showcases the evolving of this industry in the country. It perfectly combines Romanesque, renaissance, baroque and gothic architecture. Are you into agriculture? This castle houses the Museum of Hungarian Agriculture.
Day 4: Be One with the Locals
Start this nice and early at Margaret Island. This serene island is a nature haven away from all the busy town life in Budapest. You can picnic, stroll and even jog on this island. Also, make some time to visit the zoo and find out why this island was called the Rabbit’s Island in the past. Nature lovers will enjoy the beautiful flora here as well as the beautiful sights of trees reflecting their images on the river water. You will even get to see a waterfall!
By the time you will be done with Margaret Island you will be hungry. Try the street food at the Nyugati train station. This station was built by the Eiffel Tower between 1874 and 1876. Currently, it is one of the main train stations serving the people of Budapest.
It is a vibrant part of the city with people moving in and out all day long. You can grab a bite at the nearby MacDonald’s restaurant that is large and filled with many delicacies on offer. Better yet, try the local eateries around for a taste of Budapest. Get the Chimney cake (kurtoskalacs) from the food shops along the underground intersection and you will be in for a treat.
Just next to the Nyugati railway station is a shopping center known as the West End City Center. With over four hundred shops to choose from, you will be spoilt for choice. There is something for everyone at West End from cinemas to medication to food to clothes. For all you who love shopping, this shopping centre is paradise! Be sure to get a plázacicák.
Day 5: Relax and Forget All Your Worries
It is your final day in Budapest and the best decision you can make is to spend it enjoying yourself and relaxing. Start with a nice soak at the Szechenyi bath. This is the largest medicinal bath in the whole of Europe. It has three grand pools, a total of 15 outdoor baths and 10 saunas. With varying temperatures in these baths, you only need to choose that one you want to soak in. It is affordable, fun and healing! The palace adjacent to the bath is a great place for relaxing and perfect for romantic getaways.
After soaking in the goodness of Hungarian baths all day, enjoy traditional Hungarian dishes served at the New York Café for dinner. This elegant café not only has great looks but also tantalizing meals. The coffee and drinks served here are perfectly made. Try the Hungarian Coffee with paprika and chilli. What does that taste like? Find out at what has come to be known as the world’s most beautiful café.
Budapest has very many iconic buildings situated by the river Danube that cuts across the city. The best way to see all these is through a river cruise and nights are the best times. Why? The city of Budapest is well-lit and the lights sparkle at night giving unexplainable beauty to the buildings. The Hungarian Parliament lights up ever so magnificently, the various church steeples look more prominent and the castle affirms its eminence. The statue of liberty, towers high above the sky overlooking the city while the boat slowly cruises along the Danube River leaving you with fond memories of Budapest. Surely, with such a beautiful recap you can never forget the capital of Hungary.