Perhaps you are on a day trip to Budapest or maybe you are just passing through to another city. If you have one day in Budapest, then you could visit the Buda Castle, take a free walking tour, and perhaps end the day with a boat ride down the Danube.
Or, you could spend a day in Budapest trying restaurants, stopping at bars, and relaxing at a thermal bath. This is what I decided to do. This was my one-day itinerary in Budapest.
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Start the Day With a Coffee and Pastry at Budapest's Most Popular Market
Central Market Hall
Budapest is known for great market halls, which are large indoor markets that sell things like fresh produce, meat, spices, souvenirs, and typically have food stands. The oldest and largest of these is Central market Hall (also known as Great Market Hall). You can find traditional Hungarian cuisine at these food stands, but it has developed a reputation for now being overpriced and a tourist trap. But I still recommend stopping in. I prefer to go for breakfast pastries and coffee.
Take an Afternoon Dip in a Thermal Bath
The most famous attractions in Budapest are likely the thermal baths. The warm, mineral rich water lies beneath the surface, and bath houses have been built around them. One of the most stunning is Gellért Baths. There are several indoor thermal pools and a swimming pool. And there is also an outdoor wave pool and thermal pools ~36°C/97°F). There are also two cold plunge pools if you can handle them.
Snack on Hungarian Street Food
After relaxing at the thermal bath all afternoon, I suggest walking back over the Danube and heading to the popular Kazinczy Street. Here you will find KARAVÁN, which is an outdoor street food market. This is also conveniently nearby my next two recommendations for dinner and drinks, as this street comes alive at night.
There is a variety of street foods here, including chimney cakes, burgers, and a stand that sells craft beer. Definitely grab a beer. But what you really want to come here for is the Langos.
Lángos is a popular Hungarian street food that is shaped round and deep-fried in oil until it reaches a golden-brown color. This makes it crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside. It’s then typically served with a generous amount of garlic sauce, sour cream, and grated cheese on top. But here you will also find a variety of toppings like salami, peppers, and even greens. It resembles a small pizza.
Try the National Dishes of Hungary for Dinner
Goulash is one of the national dishes of Hungary and is a traditional meat stew first made by cattle herders. In fact, the word goulash actually means “herdsman.” In medieval times, the stew was made using every part of the animal, but now use the more common cuts of beef, lamb, or pork. The red color comes from paprika.
Another favorite is chicken paprikash (chicken with paprika). Both these dishes can be found at seemingly every restaurant in Budapest, but one great spot is Gettó Gulyás. And don’t forget to try some Hungarian wine!
End the Night at the Most Famous Ruin Bar
Budapest is famous for its ruin bars, which are bars established in abandoned and run-down buildings that were left in the wake of the fall of the Soviet Union and the departure of its soldiers. A pioneer and the most iconic of these ruin bars is Simple Kert, located on the renowned Kazinczy Street. In addition to being a bar and restaurant, they host a farmers market, live music, and provide non-profit organizations a space to engage with the community. If you only had one night in Budapest, I’d recommend making this your destination.