This post could alternatively be called 48 Hour Guide to Budapest.
But I seldom call my posts guides, because I don't think I have the ability to give travel advice when it comes to visiting a city - especially if I've only been there once. I don't even think I qualify to give advice when it comes to what and where to eat/sleep/do in Paris (and I lived there for 3 months!) Guess this doesn't really make my blog a travel blog now does it?
Regardless, I really do hope you still gain something from reading my posts!
Anyway, since I had only 2 full days, here's how I managed to make full use of my time to see as much as I can in Budapest.
Hopefully you get some tips from this post for when you find yourself in a situation where you don't have enough time in a city and you're suffering from severe fear of missing out!
Tip 1: Check out one full section (attractions etc in the same region) of the city on the first afternoon.
When you don't have enough time, every minute counts, so if I have a 3 hours before dinner time, I immediately bolt out of the hostel and explore the city.
For me, when I arrive mid-afternoon in a Budapest, I didn't sit around planning what to do. I picked an area, head over and spend my evening there. For Budapest, I spent my day exploring the Jewish quarter going around the various bars, peering into the different cafes - all with SPECTACULAR INTERIORS - admiring the architecture of synagogues and the walking down the various graffiti lined streets.
There are plenty of awesome restaurants and cafés in the Jewish quarter. Plus it's a lot more affordable there.
Remember to check out the Szimpla Ruin Bar, Mika Open Bar, the Book Cafés or even the Karaván street food market, they are worth the visit.
Be it the old town, or Jewish quarter, I'd choose an area where food is aplenty that way I dont have to get to somewhere else when the hunger sets in!
I don't think there is a point in sitting around planning when you don't have much time, just choose a decently sized region of the city, grab your camera and go! You can plan for the next day in the night.
Tip 2: Join a free morning walking city tour
I went on a free walking tour in order to visit the major sites in Budapest and learn a bit more about their history, the buildings and the city istelf.
With walking tours, it generally takes about 3 hours depending on how big the city is, and more often than not, you don't get to go in to the specific attractions.
When I have time to explore a city, I'd skip the free walking tours, pick and choose a few attractions I'm interested in and spend more time there. But Budapest is a huge city, so for this trip, I signed up for an free walking tour in the morning (I usually take the morning tours so I have afternoons free).
The tour was average, I've been on better ones, but it did give a good overview and background of the city!
Tip 3: Visit the places not covered in the tour in the afternoon
Another benefit of going for a free walking tour in the morning is you have the whole afternoon to cover other places that aren't considered major tourist attractions.
I wanted to be able to walk down the Danube River, walk to the other bridges (not just the chain bridge) and visit the Great Market Hall.
The walking tour already introduced me to the major sights of city, and explained them in sufficient detail, I didn't feel the need to revisit any of the places again, so after having some awesome beef goulash at Kisharang, I headed for the Parliament House, River and Great Market Hall (places that weren't covered in the Tour).
It's normal to go back to the same places you see in the walking tour to actually enter and spend more time at the attractions. But as you can tell, I always have FOMO and I wanted to visit other places as well! So I didn't see a point in revisiting those attractions.
And if you're anything like me, going on a walking tour = no need for navigating around the city on your own = more time saved on reading maps and figuring out where you are (which BTW looking at the Hungarian language is SO NOT EASY)!
The 2nd day I found myself having dinner and a cup of beer alone AGAIN (happened a number of times considering I was traveling alone and staying in a really really small hostel) at Karaván. I kept going back to the Jewish Quarter for food. This seldom happens when I'm traveling as I really like exploring new places and having different types food, but somehow, I kept gravitating back to the Jewish quarter in Budapest. I'm pretty sure it's one of my favorite jewish quarters. It has a different vibe in the day (party atmosphere at night) but I'm pretty sure one would enjoy it anyway.
Yes, I went back to another restaurant in the area for breakfast the next day! Thankfully I didn't stay too far from the Jewish quarter!
If you happen to plan more time in Budapest (please do!!) they have a lot of independent boutique stalls, selling lovely jewelry and clothes, I wish I had the time to explore - there is even a map and route to these boutique stalls!! My hostel reception gave one to me because he thought I'd be interested. I was, but time was sadly, not on my side.
I definitely have to visit Budapest again some day. If I've to choose the cities i'd visit again in Europe, Budapest will no doubt be on the list!