So, you have one chance, one opportunity, one day. To seize everything you’ve ever wanted from Budapest. How are you going to set up your day? Here are my suggestions for what to do with just one day in this beautiful city!
Start your day marveling at Hero’s Square – an open space at the top of the cities main street, Andrassy Ut. It is bookended by the museum of fine arts and the palace of art it is a commanding space and features an impressive array of statues of the seven chieftains of the Magyars and other important national leaders.
A metro (line 1, or bus 105) down Andrassy Ut will drop you right outside the House of Terror (Open 10:00-18:00 except Mondays, 2000 HUF). A few hours are needed here. This is one state of the art museum, carefully curated rooms with arresting visuals and disconcerting noises tell you about Hungary during its fascist and dictatorial regimes of the 20th century. The building itself was used as a headquarters during these regimes and is a memorial to those executed, tortured and detained in its basement. You can still visit the prison cells.
A walk to 3 Karoly Korut (but also other locations) will find you in front of a beautiful gelato store, Fragola, selling the kinds of flavors you have never heard of before. Chianti? Ginger? How will you pick?
Hop on bus #5 up to the Fisherman’s Bastion where you can get great views of the city, including the beautiful parliament building. Find a cafe, any cafe, that serves Langos, deep fried dough covered with sour cream, raw garlic and grated cheese. This traditional street food is not good for your health but it’s good for your soul and taste buds!
On the far side of the hill you will find the hospital in the rock (4000 HUF Open 10:00-20:00 every day) sort of hidden down the cliff face. This is an especially great place to come if it is a hot day, the hospital built in to the naturally occurring caves of the hill is a constant 14 degrees, and if that sounds cold to you, it is ok. They provide large capes for all visitors included in the ticket price. The hospital was built in WW2 and operated through some of the most adverse conditions until 1956. Inside it is still set up with original hospital equipment and beds and a few spooky things like air raid sirens which you might be allowed to sound. The guided tour will take you through everything, from the wards to the administrative offices to the service rooms where you will see original and still working system that provides the underground hospital with fresh air.
Budapest is dotted with about 125 thermal springs and bathing in them for therapy has been the norm since before times of roman occupation! It would be rude not to take part in the tradition at either the Gellert Baths (Open 06:00 – 20:00 daily ticket – 4900 HUF) or Szechenyi (Open 06:00 – 22:00 daily ticket – 4500 HUF). Gellert is older, flashier with stained glass windows and columns but Szechenyi is also flush with columns and statues and cheaper! You pick.
Dump your wet clothes back at your accommodation, I hope you are hungry because Fatal on Vaci Utca is a backpackers dream, huge, traditional meals for very very little. The vaulted ceilings, wooden benches and meals served on clay dishes all add to the experience.
You’ve all heard about Budapest’s Ruin Bar’s, now to find them! It isn’t so hard. If you head down Kazinczy Utca you will run into many. Notable because of the their hammocks, bonfires, shady lights and shady types hanging outside. I like Szimpla Kert, although since its inclusion in many guide books you will find it hard to find any locals here it is still a great place to share a hooka, have a drink and mingle amongst the many stuffed animals, pot plants and freaky decor. Perfect for those who have ever wanted to have a party in a charity shop.
Preferred method of transport – Bus/Metro– single ticket = 350 HUF