6 Hours In Budapest: The Must-Dos

In November, during our trip to Slovakia, we also wanted to visit Hungary. We have written about our fascination with this country before. It turned out to be a short stop, but an effective one. In fact, we only had 6 hours in Budapest this time. Here’s our list of the top six things to do in the Hungarian capital if you only have a few hours to spare.

Budapest Keleti Railway station, EuroCity Train, HungaryHungarian Parliament Building, Budapest, Hungary, Országház Hungarian Parliament Building, Budapest, Hungary, OrszágházBudapest Keleti Railway station, Hungary

6 Hours In Budapest – Stop #1: the Great Market Hall

We arrived by train at the Budapest Keleti Railway station at around 11 am. From there we took line 4 (or the green line) of the metro to Fővám tér. The station is situated next to the Great Market Hall on the Pest side of the Danube and the Szabadság Bridge (or Liberty Bridge).

The Great Market Hall (in Hungarian Nagyvásárcsarnok) is a must place for anyone who loves food.  It is the largest and oldest indoor market in the capital. Apart from all types of food there are also lots of stalls selling souvenirs. This is the perfect place to try something typically Hungarian.

Great Market Hall, Nagyvásárcsarnok, Budapest, Hungary Great Market Hall, Nagyvásárcsarnok, Budapest, Hungary, Garlic, Chilli

6 Hours In Budapest – Stop #2: the Buda Castle Hill

After a short stroll in the Great Market Hall, our trip continued to the Buda Castle Hill on the other side of the river. The Castle Hill is actually a district of its own and it’s a lot bigger than one might think. There are plenty of attractions to explore, including the castle, Trinity Square, Matthias Church (Mátyás templom) and Fishermen’s Bastion (Halászbástya). I personally enjoyed the eighteenth-century Baroque houses and cobblestone streets that can be found in the district.

The castle and its surroundings have a long and interesting history, stretching all the way back to the 13th century when the first settlers arrived.

Castle Hill, Budapest, Hungary Danube, Hungary, Budapest Castle Hill, Budapest, Hungary Castle Hill, Budapest, Hungary

6 Hours In Budapest – Stop #3: Any Restaurant

When in Hungary, you must try some local food. Goulash is one of our favorites, but there are plenty of other dishes to try. There are plenty of restaurants in Budapest, so you will definitely find something that tickles your fancy.

Hungarian Parliament Building, Budapest, Hungary, Országház

6 Hours In Budapest – Stop #4: St. Stephen’s Basilica

After a short stop at the Hungarian Parliament Building (yes, the one you will see on all the postcards), we made our way to St. Stephen’s Basilica. The funny thing is that we have been to Budapest I don’t know how many times, but it had never struck us before that there might be a viewing tower in the basilica. Of course there is one. Stephen (or István) was the first king of Hungary and this Roman Catholic basilica was completed in 1905. It has the biggest bell in Hungary. The Szent István-bell weighs 9250 kilograms and it normally rings twice a year: at 17 hours on the 20th of August (St. Stephen’s Day), and at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

And the viewing tower? If you don’t feel like walking the 364 (never-ending) steps, you can also take the elevator to the observation deck. Admission cost a couple of euros (500 forint per person, if we remember correctly). The view is – as you might expect – amazing. This is also where we realized that the Christmas market had already started…

St. Stephen's Basilica, Tower, View, Budapest, Hungary St. Stephen's Basilica, Tower, View, Budapest, Hungary Castle Hill, St. Stephen's Basilica, Tower, View, Budapest, Hungary Hungarian Parliament Building, St. Stephen's Basilica, Tower, View, Budapest, Hungary

Along the Way: the Bridges

Before writing a few words about the Christmas market in Budapest, I want to mention what else we saw while walking around Budapest. The city is famous for its bridges crossing the Danube. They are all impressive indeed. The first bridge we crossed was the Szabadság híd (or Liberty Bridge). This bridge was initially built between 1894 and 1896, it had to be re-constructed after the war in 1945.   Large bronze statues of the Turul, a falcon-like bird, prominent in ancient Hungarian mythology, guard the bridge.

Szabadság híd, Budapest, Hungary Szabadság híd, Budapest, Hungary

We just took some photos from Liberty Hill and decided to take the route over Elisabeth Bridge (Erzsébet híd) to get to Buda from Pest. Originally a suspension bridge stood on this spot but it was the only bridge in Budapest which could not be rebuilt in its original form after World War II. Hence the current Elisabeth Bridge is a more modern white cable bridge. The name of the bridge comes from Empress Elisabeth, a popular queen and empress of Austria-Hungary.

The third bridge we crossed during our 6 hours in Budapest was the Széchenyi Chain Bridge (Széchenyi lánchíd)It is also known as the Chain Bridge. The bridge, opened in 1849, was the first permanent bridge across the Danube in Hungary. Also this bridge was blown up at the end of World War II, it was re-opened in 1949. In my opinion the most impressive aspect of the bridge is its lions. They are the work of sculptor János Marschalkó

Széchenyi Chain Bridge, Széchenyi lánchíd, Lion, Budapest, Hungary

Széchenyi is a name that you come across a lot in Budapest. So, who was the guy? István Széchenyi also goes by the epithet “the Greatest Hungarian”. He was a politician, theorist, writer and reformer. Among other things he founded the Hungarian Academy of Science.

And Almost By Mistake: the Christmas Market

And now. The Christmas market we almost missed as we were trying to avoid the Vörösmarty Square. Actually there are two main Christmas markets in Budapest. There’s the one by the Basilica that had not yet opened during our visit. And then there’s the one at Vörösmarty Square. Here you can enjoy traditional food, shop handicrafts and listen to concerts. We noticed that it is quite pricey, at least compared to Bratislava. However, it is very cozy.

Here we jumped at the chance of having some Kürtőskalács (known as trdelník in Slovakia) or chimney cake with sugar and cinnamon. This was the perfect end to our 6 hours in Budapest before rushing back to the Keleti train station and our train back to Slovakia.

Kürtőskalács, trdelník, Christmas market, Budapest, Hungary Christmas market, Budapest, Hungary Christmas market, Tea, Mulled Wine, Budapest, Hungary, 2016

Going to Budapest From Bratislava

Traveling between Budapest and Bratislava is both inexpensive and convenient. There are regular EuroCity trains and buses (for instance Student Agency) connecting the two capitals and you can expect the trip to take 2,5 – 3 hours. Tickets can be bought at the train station or online. In the case of trains, return tickets are usually cheaper than one way tickets.

The train also comes with one more bonus. There is usually a restaurant on board the EuroCity trains. We took advantage of this both on our way to Budapest and on the way back to Bratislava. In the morning we enjoyed a small breakfast and in the evening a nice dinner. Eating on board was both convenient and time saving, not to mention that there is no need to try to find any seats on the train if the whole journey is spent in the restaurant.

Restaurant, EuroCity Train, Budapest to Bratislava, Hungary, Slovakia

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Christmas market, Budapest, Hungary

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20 Comments

  1. Joe

    I love Budapest! Definitely agree with you on pretty much all of these as being must see places, particularly Castle Hill and the Great Market, which is one of the most fun places to shop in all of Europe (I don’t even like shopping!). My favourite place of all is probably Memento Park. A bit out of the city centre, but worth the trip – a very surreal Communist theme park 🙂

  2. What about dealing with locals there? I know the Hungarian language is closer to an Alien language than else, is it difficult to find someone speaking at least English? Anyway, it seems really a great city, I’ve never been there so for the first time I hope to have more than 6 hours to spend there, when the time will come!

    1. Getting around only knowing English is quite easy, most people you will meet in restaurants etc in Budapest will be able to communicate with you. Smaller towns in Hungary could be harder, but all you usually need is to get to know a few words in Hungarian. 🙂

      We had visited Budapest multiple times in the past, so for a first visit more than six hours is of course recommended. It is one of our favorite cities, so I can really recommend a visit. 🙂

  3. It’s incredible how you were able to see all those things in just 6 hours! I never thought about putting Budapest in my travel list but I can see that is full of history and definitely a place to visit. You’ve done a wonderful job by sharing some of those stories as you introduced each one of the stops. Congratulations for the post!

  4. Ami

    6 hours and I would just head to the Buda castle. It has always fascinated me. And I know that 6 hours might just not be enough for it. St. Stephen’s also, seems interesting. Glad you made the most of your 6 hours.

  5. You have spent the 6 hours very well. Just walking along the streets you get lot of sights. A walk along the Danube river side there is a memorial for Jews. Shoes left on the banks. Makes an incredible sad sight!

  6. You have covered quite a few sights in just 6 hours. I like that you started your journey with a trip to the food hall, I was there too when I visited Budapest and I remember all the yummy treats I had. Lucky you bumped into the Christmas market as well, it looks very pretty.

  7. That’s quite a detailed write up abut how to make the best of limited time in Budapest. I loved the bridges and the great shots of the city that you got. Also lucky you that you had time to visit the Christmas markets as well. And the chimney cakes sounds absolutely yummy.

  8. Is it true that Budapest is made of Buda and Pest? As a student, I used to see a lot of pictures of Budapest in the National Geographic magazine. I also remember seeing pictures of people playing chess while relaxing in the river. And tell me the story of the lion that is there in one of your images.

  9. Sia

    You’ve managed to do so much for these 6 hours! St. Stephan basilica was gorgeous both on the inside and the outside, absolutely spectacular architecture. I didn’t know about the market! Such a pity as I love visiting food markets! I also missed the tour in the parliament but sadly all spots were booked on a rainy day that I was there. The views over the river are amazing, aren’t they?

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