Just to put all our cards on the table, over nine days in Budapest we averaged 14 miles of walking a day. This is the walkable city as far as we’re concerned. Yes, it’s sprawling. Yes, rivers and hills divide Budapest into geographic regions as distinct as Brooklyn and the Upper East Side. But who cares? When there’s this much to do in a city — and trust us, Budapest never runs out of attractions — you just have to walk it and discover them all on your own.
And if you’re lucky, you’ll find some pretty surprising sites. Epreskert Garden and the Garden of Philosophy are two places we wouldn’t have found without gritting our teeth and moving our feet along. If you’re up to the challenge, we’ve got a whole itinerary ready to go for a day full of walking — hitting Budapest’s 7 must-see attractions including cafes, parks, and one of the most iconic cathedrals in Budapest, St Stephen’s Basilica.
We’re starting strong. This 130 year old Café claims to be “one of Europe’s grandest and most traditional” cafés… and honestly, as far as we can tell this isn’t hyperbole. The ornate, old-world setting compliments the otherworldly coffee, breakfast, and desert so well that we couldn’t think of a better way to start the day. And before you ask yourself, yes it’s okay to splurge on a large assortment of cake for breakfast so go ahead, we won’t tell anyone.
Central Market Hall
And while we’re on the subject of foot, let’s make an early stop at Budapest’s most unabashed contribution to capitalism: the Central Market Hall. Basically an irresistible mixture of farmer’s market and food court, walking through the Central Market Hall’s corridors is wonderful all on its own. When you’re done marveling at the different types of cuisine and smells in the air, go ahead and cross the Szabadság Bridge just to the west.
Gellert Hill and the Citadella
Perhaps you’re getting a little warm? Well, Gellert Thermal Bath is right at the base of Gellert Hill, and the Hill is sure to get your blood pumping. This is Budapest at its most athletic: a giant makeshift labyrinth grafted on top of a 45-minute hike up one of Budapest’s two main hills. And at the top: the monument and shop-center The Citadella, the perfect place to kick back and relax before setting off on the next leg of the journey.
The Garden of Philosophy and Castle Hill
Hold on to your britches, this is a long one. However, the walk down Gellert Hill and up Castle Hill is one of the most rewarding walks we took in Budapest. Not only will you become familiar with the more residential Buda side of the city, but you’ll pass through The Garden of Philosophy and end up at some of the most famous sites in the city, like Matthias Church and the Hungarian National Gallery. And while you’re at it, maybe stop and grab lunch on this stretch at Buda restaurant and bakery Czakó Pék. Next stop is one of Budapest’s most iconic: St Stephen’s Basilica.
St Stephen’s Basilica
Descend Castle Hill via the Buda Funicular and cross the Chain Bridge, then head directly north of Gresham Palace and turn east. Take a slow, easy walk down Zrínyi út and approach the St Stephen’s Basilica with reverence and awe. Named after the first King of Hungary, St Stephen’s Basilica is the third largest church in Hungary. If you happen to be in Budapest on August 20th at 4pm, or for New Year’s Eve, make sure to stop by the Basilica since these are the only two times the bells atop the cathedral are rung. This is the best way to slow down the pace of your day. Enter the cathedral, climb to the top of the tower, and look proudly upon the hills you climbed to get there.
This is the end of today’s walking tour. You’ve made it. And what a fitting ending — Liberty Square is one of the most relaxing places to sit beside locals, dogwatch, or track down some grub in the city. If you want just a little bit more walking, then give the walkable city its due and travel 10 minutes northwest from Liberty Square to visit the magnificent Hungarian Parliament Building. If you make it before 5:00 p.m., you may be able to get tickets for a tour.
Bonus round: City Park and Epreskert Garden
For those of you who just can’t get enough of Budapest, here’s one last challenge: Walk from Liberty Square to City Park. Not only is City Park a great place to spend your night exploring — from the Saturday nightlife of Széchenyi Thermal Bath to the Park’s own late-night beer garden and grill Kertem, but on the way you’ll get to experience the real-life Medusa’s garden at night: Epreskert Garden. This abandoned 19th century Budapesti artists’ haunt turned college campus is one of the most stunning sights Budapest has to offer, and it’s only fitting that the grand tour of the walkable city ends with this unforgettable, utterly surprising sight.