Last Updated on January 9, 2023

Budapest, Hungary, among the most breathtaking cities in Europe, is actually made up of two twin parts: Buda and Pest. They are separated by the Danube River. What’s important to know when visiting is that Budapest is an easily walkable city with many of its most popular sights located in close proximity perfect for catching all the highlights during one day in Budapest.

Buda is the more quaint and hilly side of the city with narrow cobblestone streets and a historic funicular that can take passengers up and down its steep hills. It’s also the more residential section of the city. Pest on the other hand is flat with large open spaces and wide boulevards and home to many of the city’s sights, attractions, and museums.

It’s easy to get from one side of the city to the next thanks to the number of historic bridges crisscrossing the Danube. And while it is a big city, it’s possible with good planning ahead to see some of its most magnificent sights in a single day.

Budapest Which Side is Buda

Buda is the western, hillier side of Budapest.

Take the morning of your one day in Budapest to visit the Castle Hill District, a walled World Heritage Site; Castle Hill is packed with historic sites and attractions, charming, crooked streets, and some of the best panoramic views of the Danube and Pest you’ll find in the entire city.

Visitors can reach the iconic medieval Buda Castle by crossing the city’s Chain Bridge or taking the funicular up to the top. The historic castle once known as the Royal Palace was completed in the 13th century though destroyed and rebuilt multiple times throughout the years. Today Buda Castle includes a historic museum and gallery.

Fisherman’s Bastion is a large Gothic turreted-structure overlooking the Danube and Pest which is a must-see on your one day in Budapest. The fairytale-like edifice pays homage to the fishermen below who protected the area in medieval times. Visitors come today for the breathtaking views.

The Church of the Assumption of Buda Castle more commonly known as the Matthias Church, is located in Holy Trinity Square directly in front of the Fisherman’s Bastion. One of the finest churches in the city built in 1015, this Neo-Gothic structure is filled with mystery, surprises, and is a must-do on a visit to Budapest. It’s absolutely stunning.

Pest Side of the City

This is the part of the city where visitors spend the most time. The highlight of the Pest side of Budapest is the richly decorated Hungarian Parliament palace located right on the banks of the Danube. This massive awe-inspiring structure with its amazing 365 turrets was completed in 1904.

Shoes on the Danube- photo by Noreen Kompanik
Shoes on the Danube- photo by Noreen Kompanik

No visit to Budapest is complete without witnessing the 60 pairs of cast iron shoes lining the east bank of the Danube, just south of the Parliament. The ‘Shoes on the Danube’ is a poignant memorial to Budapest Jews massacred by Fascist Arrow Cross Militiamen in 1944 and 1945 on the bank of the river. Before they were shot, they were forced to remove their shoes. As such, each pair of the iron shoes is modeled after an original 1940s pair.

Even one day in Budapest can prove a powerful experience.

Budapest has been celebrated for its thermal curative baths since Roman times. The city sits on top of more than 100 thermal springs and it was the invading Turks who built incredibly beautiful bathhouses, raising bathing to a fine art during their occupation of Budapest. One of the city’s most popular is the Szechenyi Baths in City Park comprising 18 pools of varying temperatures housed in a grand neo-Baroque complex.

For those who visit Budapest during the winter, this is the place to fall in love with Northern Europe’s Christkindl markets. Budapest’s Christmas Markets are among the most beautiful in Europe. Markets are located all throughout the city, but our favorite is the Christmas Fair on Vorosmarty Square.

Hundreds of traditional wooden stalls fill the square each season, colorfully decorated with Christmas lights. The scent alone draws visitors like a moth to flame. This is the place to find some of the most traditional Hungarian foods like goulash, sausages, chimney cakes, gingerbread and apple strudel. On a wintery day, there’s nothing like browsing the market for beautiful Hungarian handicrafts while sipping a cup of hot glühwein.

Budapest at Night

Budapest and its Chain Bridge at Night- photo by Michael Kompanik
Budapest and its Chain Bridge at Night- photo by Michael Kompanik

If you think the city is lovely during the day, the evening brings its own special magic as many of Budapest’s buildings are illuminated in all their glory.

A night stroll along the Danube Promenade is a wonderful way to see many of these structures, and of course, their reflection off the water provides an even more stunning photo op, wrapping up a perfect one day in Budapest.

Because we were on an AMA Danube River cruise, we were able to sail the waters at night to witness the twinkling lights of its historic structures and bridges as we departed the city. Those not booked on a multi-port river cruise can still be mesmerized by the city after dark by taking a local river cruise.

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