By Chloe Mulliner, on September 30, 2015

Palaces and baths: 24 hours in Budapest

During a Budapest layover, you could spend your free time watching the clock from your seat in the terminal or romping around royal palaces and soaking in mineral spas. Go on, get in touch with your sense of adventure and roam around Hungary’s capital before your next flight.

Kick-starting your layover adventure

Before you can start exploring, you’ll need flights to Budapest. Your plane will land at Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport (BUD), roughly 10 miles southeast of the city center. Once you’ve arrived, determine a game plan for getting into the heart of all the action. In terms of public transportation, you can catch the bus from Terminal 2 to Kobanya-Kispest metro station, which offers train service into the city. There are also minibuses—which you can reserve in advance—and taxis booths available at the Terminal 2A and 2B’s exits. If you choose to rent a car in Budapest, cruise along the Ferihegy High Speed Road to arrive in the city within 20 minutes.

Exploring Budapest in a day

If you’re arriving at night, look for the magnificent glowing castle on the edge of the Danube. The unmissable Royal Palace, also known as Buda Castle, boasts a 1,000-foot façade. Inside, the National Gallery, Budapest History Museum, and National Library border the Lion Courtyard, which is guarded by four statues of lions. Take a royal rendezvous to Castle Hill and tour the grounds— stroll down the Habsburg Steps and visit Matthias Fountain, which is one of the city’s most famous attractions.


Next, head north on the banks of the Danube and you’ll come across the Hungarian Parliament Building. Perhaps just as stunning as Buda Castle, this building looks like it, too, could belong to royalty. Gargoyles, arches, turrets, and spires adorn what is known as Hungary’s largest building. However, unlike the palace that’s perched high above on Castle Hill, the Parliament Building—a symbol of democracy—sits flat on the same level as the city. Join a guided tour of the structure to get a glimpse of the Hungarian coronation jewels in the Dome Hall. Marvel at the Main Staircase and peer into the Old Upper House Hall to get a sense of this city’s history and government system.

OK, OK, enough of the history stuff. If you’re still good on time, do as the Hungarians do and take to the baths. Dip into the Szechenyi Thermal Bath—Europe’s largest medicinal bath—and discover why they call Budapest the “City of Spas.” The complex features more than 15 thermal baths, as well as outdoor pools, saunas, and massage services. Go on, rest up before your next flight—a little relaxation never hurt.

If you’ve scored a layover longer than 24 hours, book one of the Budapest hotels and start expanding your horizons. There are plenty of easy day trips from Budapest, such as the 12th-century ruins of the Castle of Diosgyor, and the fascinating Baradla Cave—one of Europe’s largest and most noteworthy stalactite caves.

So there you have it. You can spend your layover staring at the terminal walls or venturing around “The Pearl of the Danube.” Pick the adventurous route and see the sights before your next flight.

Have you ever taken day trips from Budapest?

Viewfinder Tip: In addition to Szechenyi Thermal Bath, soak in one of the many baths dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries.