Budapest is definitely not one of the cities that you can fully explore in one day. However, if you’re staying only for one or two days, you still have an opportunity to discover the most important sights, some local entertainment spots and perhaps some hidden treasures too.

Let’s see what Budapest has to offer to serious city-hoppers who have no time to waste!

Although Budapest is a big city sprawling over more than 500 km2 and with a population of 1.7 million, most of the sights are located in the city centre and all of them are within an easy reach.

If you only spend one day in our beloved capital, we suggest that you  start your tour from Deák Ferenc tér. When you’re finished taking photos of the stunning buildings, you may enter Deák Ferenc utca, aka Fashion Street where you are more than likely to do some shopping. This street takes you almost directly to the Danube and the River Promenade which was a favourite spot for socialites in the 20thcentury.

After enjoying the view from the riverbank, you can cross the Danube on the Chain Bridge, which takes you directly to the station of the Castle Hill funicular (Budavári Sikló) which is the easiest way to get to the top of the hill while you can also enjoy the view.

Inside Buda Castle, you can find the beautiful Matthias Fountain, statues of the mythical Turul bird and the lions of the courtyard; the National Széchényi Library, the National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum. Don’t miss the Matthias Church (Mátyás-templom) and the Fisherman’s Bastion (Halászbástya) which are next to the castle. The former has a magnificent white façade paired with an ornately coloured tiled roof, while the latter offers panoramic views of the entire city from one of the highest points in Buda. Budatower, aka Mária Magdolna Torony also gives you a unique view of the city, particularly of the Pest side of Budapest.

After that, you can go back to Pest side on the Chain Bridge and head north towards the magnificent building of the Parliament. If you are not so keen on actually taking a guided tour to visit the building, you may indulge in something sweet in the Szamos Chocolate Museum on the corner of Kossuth tér, which is owned by of one of the oldest and most famous chocolate manufacture of Hungary.

History buffs will be more than happy to take a walk past the statue of Ronald Reagan on the nearby Szabadság tér (Freedom Square) where you can still find a Soviet war memorial. From there, through the quieter streets of the financial district, you can reach Saint Stephen’s basilica (named in honor of Stephen I, the first king of Hungary). The dome of the basilica offers one of the most spectacular views of the buzzing city below. You can reach the top by walking up 364 steps or by taking the elevators.

Continuing your way behind the Basilica, you will find a road full of luxury shops, a nod to Paris’s avenues, called Andrássy út. If you feel your legs giving out, the metro M1 (the first subway line ever built in continental Europe) runs directly underneath this avenue and takes you all the way to Hősök tere (Heroes’ Square) and Városliget (City Park). Metro line M1 takes you back to Deák Ferenc tér, but you can decide to get off earlier and take a look at the State Opera and the theatres of the ‘Broadway of Pest’ on the way back. In recent years, the areas of Gozsdu Courtyard (Gozsdu Udvar) and Király utca towards the city centre have cropped up as very trendy, fashionable places to eat, drink and party.

Churches may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but missing the Great Synagogue in Dohány utca would be quite sad, so your next stop should really be this amazing house of worship – the largest synagogue in Europe and the second largest in the world. The historical streets of the surrounding Jewish Quarter are full of popular cafés, bars and ruin pubs, including Szimpla Bar, an absolute favourite for tourists and locals alike. Besides the never-ending parties, they also host a farmer’s market every Sunday morning.

Talking about farmer’s markets, Budapest has quite a few 19thcentury market halls. The largest and most prominent of them is the one on Fővám tér. If you feel like tasting some local specialties or just want to buy some fresh ingredients, this is the place to go. Continuing from our one-day tour, you can walk or take the tram to the Great Market Hall from Astoria station on Károly körút. Just a few steps from Fővám tér, you can find a lovely gay-friendly café called Why Not? overlooking the Danube. If you haven’t found any food items to your liking in the Market Hall, you can always try local specialties in the neighbouring Why Not? Bistro.

Although the Chain Bridge is the oldest and most well-known bridge of Budapest, the intricate ironwork of Szabadság híd (Liberty Bridge) may be an even more astonishing sight. This bridge connects Fővám tér and Szent Gellért tér, the latter being the home to the beautiful Gellért Hotel and Spa at the base of Gellért Hill, named after a Christian martyr whose statue stands on the hill. With a little hike, you can reach the top of Gellért Hill where the Hungarian Statue of Liberty welcomes you.

If you want to gain some more experiences in greener environments, visiting Margit-sziget (Margaret Island) is a must. The island’s rich flora will surely amaze you, no matter which season you choose to visit it. Besides a music fountain, a couple of medieval ruins and a mini zoo, the island also boasts a running track around its perimeters.

If you have more time on your hands, you can always revisit the already mentioned sites for some more discoveries. For example, after taking the obligatory photos in Heroes’ Square, take a long and relaxing walk in the City Park, or recharge your batteries at the nearby Széchenyi Bath – we can guarantee that you won’t regret it, especially in winter. Another attraction of the City Park is the stunning architecture: discover Vajdahunyad Castle (Vajdahunyad vára) which was built in 1896 to celebrate the 1000thanniversary of the conquest of the area by the Hungarians.

Similarly, if you are into the arts, take time to visit the National Gallery inside Buda Castle besides walking around outside the buildings: the permanent exhibition shows a concise history of Hungarian fine arts from the Middle Ages to the 20th century.