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I already know what you’re thinking: “36 hours in Budapest? Is she crazy? You can’t see Budapest in only 36 hours! There’s no way!”
You’re right. Majorly right.
You need far more than 36 hours to truly immerse yourself into Hungary’s capital city. I already want to return to Budapest because I missed out on so much. For example, I want to visit the House of Terror and wander throughout Memento Park. I want to eat more Hungarian food, do more walking tours to learn more of the city’s rich history, and spend time actually soaking up the culture rather than running around like a chicken with its head cut off.
Ultimately I’m a slow traveler at heart. I don’t truly feel “content” until I’ve spent four or five days in a large city.
Nonetheless, if you only have a short time to spare, follow my photo essay to make the most of your limited time in Budapest.
We arrived in Budapest around 5:00 pm. So what do you do when you stumble upon Hungry’s capital in the early evening? Go on a Danube River Cruise, of course!
In particular we had great views of Budapest’s stunning Parliament Building. Apparently Freddie Mercury wanted to purchase this building (can you blame him?), but the Hungarian government refused for obvious reasons.
Here’s me chilling on the deck of our boat. Because I know you clicked on this post to see my beautiful face, nightmarish tan lines, and orange dress. Let’s move on.
Overlooking the Danube River as the sun gracefully lowered in the sky made my inner photographer squeal for joy! I took soooooo many pictures.
We must’ve sailed up and down the same stretch of river five times, but I never grew bored of Budapest’s scenery. My only regret is not seeing all the city lights aglow at night time.
The next morning, my travel buddies and I decided to follow a 24 Hours In Budapest Walking Tour kindly provided by Wombats Hostel. The first stop was St. Stephen’s Basilica, a grand Roman Catholic basilica dedicated to the first king of Hungary. It’s free to enter the Basilica, but donations are encouraged.
Inside St. Stephen’s. Talk about ornate, huh?
Believe it or not, Budapest reminded me a lot of Paris. There are many grand sweeping boulevards yet equally as many green spaces. We accidentally wandered into this gem of a park and admired the trees and fountains.
The Danube River slices Budapest into two parts. We wanted to experience Castle Hill, the next stop on our self-guided tour, and to get there, you need to cross the iconic Chain Bridge. Check out that lion! Pretty cool, huh?
Once we made it across the Danube, we decided to scale to the top of Castle Hill to experience fantastic views of Hungary’s capital. There’s a funicular if you’re not in the mood to walk, but to honest, I had no issues climbing even under the heat of the summer sun. Trust me, if my lazy behind can do it, you can do it.
Once on top of Castle Hill, you can also explore Fisherman’s Bastion on this side of the river. Neo-gothic and neo-baroque architectural goodness everywhere!
Honestly, the only part I disliked about this area of the city was the fact that gigantic groups from river cruises packed the streets to the gills. Trust me, at any given moment, you were surrounded by fifteen million tourists wearing name tags and carrying yellow umbrellas. I suppose crowds are to be expected, though; if you want the best pictures, arrive early.
After wandering the city’s streets all morning, we were famished and thirsty, and so we decided to check out Budapest’s Central Market Hall (Nagy Vasarcsarnok). This massive market was great for its diversity of food selections and souvenir shopping. I ate a hearty goulash lunch and purchased an adorable Christmas ornament for my tree.
However, we needed a break from the tourist crowds. As I’ve already said, Budapest is a gorgeous city so everyone and their mom understandably wants to visit.
Our tour guide told us about a funky little coffee shop that was located slightly below street level and missed most tourists’ eyes. We decided to divert from our self-guided walking tour to find it.
What a gem! I wish I could remember the cafe’s name!
We ordered lemonades, and I felt like I was part of Alice in Wonderland.
This coffee shop isn’t recommended if you’re not a fan of clowns, though! Haha.
After gulping my refreshing lemonade, I returned to Wombats and competed with a bunch of Contiki Kids for a washing machine. (Protip: If you’re an extra large hostel, have more than four washing and drying machines available for guests, I beg you). Then I immediately packed a small bag to take to the … Széchenyi thermal bath!
I had an AMAZING time here! If I was a teacher in Budapest, I’d soak in these bathes every single day to melt away the day’s stresses. At the baths, there are chess boards available as well as a fun whirlpool located in the center the main bath.
Warning about the whirlpool: it moves FAST. I’m serious. I stubbed my toe trying to escape from it.
Inside the luxurious yellow buildings, there are additional baths and spas, which are quieter than the baths outside, but these perks come at an extra cost.
Sadly, our time staying in Budapest came to an end too soon. Prior to driving into the Hungarian countryside, we made a pit stop at Memento Park and viewed the statues located on the outside of the gates.
I want to return here to go inside the park itself. For those who don’t know, Memento Park is where the locals dumped all the monuments from Hungary’s Communist period.
But I won’t lie to you: the main I want to revisit this park is because it reminds me of Goldeneye 64’s Statue Park. What a nerd.
Have you ever visited Budapest? If not, is Budapest currently on your bucket list? If so, what are you favorite sights? Share away!