Q: In May, my wife will be in Budapest for a week of meetings.  After the end of the meetings she will have one full day to tour the beautiful city. So my question to the Magyar Five is this: If you had one day to spend in Budapest, what would be the best things to see and do?

One (Profi): Find Jutka. Do whatever she's doing. Seriously.

If that doesn't work out, my Absolute Faves include:
  • Strolling on Castle Hill (var)
  • Buying embroidered tablecloths, paprika and five pound bags of poppy seeds at the big market (nagy vasar csarnok)
  • Window shopping on Vaci Utca, with a quick stop for fagyi (Hungarian gelato) at the Szamos Marcipán shop
  • Getting a haircut from Tamás Zsidro (I honestly miss him every (bad hair) day.)
  • Saying howdy to the statues at Hero's Square (hosok tere)
  • Eating cold sour cherry soup (hideg meggy leves)
  • Taking in the evening vistas from Battany Ter and the Duna Corszo
  • Getting a nightcap at the Gresham Palace Four Seasons

Two (Expert): Oh, the pain of this question.  There are SO many options!  I suppose this is what I would say: Start off with breakfast at The Palacsinta Place.  They make some of the best (and some of the cheapest) Hungarian style pancakes in the city. Continue towards the Halasz Basztya (Fisherman's Bastion) and walk up the marble steps there.  Once atop the steps, you will see Mattyas Templom (St. Matthew's Church), a superb example of Hungarian architecture.  Continue through the castle district til you get to the castle.  You don't really need to go inside but DO take pictures! Oh, and try the Kremes at Ruszwurm. Take the Siklo (funicular) down the hill.  You'll end up right by the Lanc Hid (Chain Bridge), admire the tongueless Lions guarding the bridge.  Once you walk to the other side, you will see The Four Seasons Hotel in front of you.  The hotel rooms aren't that exciting, but the lobby is and it's worth walking inside.  Continue to Voros Marti Square.  Pick up a pastry, hot chocolate or jeges kave at Gerbaud Cukrazda.  Walk down Voros Marti Utca  til you reach the Nagy Csarnok (Big Market).  This is without a doubt, one of the most fantastic markets in all of Europe.  Don't be afraid to bargain.  The sellers like to extort as much as possible off unsuspecting tourists.  But you will find the best Hungarian sausages, paprika and embroidery for the best prices.  Take the tram across the river.  It will deposit you near The Gellert Bath House.  It's a little expensive, but they are without a doubt, some of the most exquisite baths in the world.  I will let my sisters suggest some of the other sites, but if I had one day to bum around the city, I think this would be what I would do! 

Three (The last one to write her post): If you are looking for advice on things to do, and places to go, don't read this part. I simply offer advice on how to approach your day. 

Go with all things open. Mind. Heart. And most importantly, Belly. You might think langos (fried dough) covered with garlic oil, sour cream and cheese is too heavy for a mid-afternoon snack. You would be wrong. Also, you probably wouldn't consider fried mushrooms and cauliflower a suitable side vegetable for your meal-- especially if the main dish consists of deep-fried cheese and blueberry jam--but again, you would be wrong. Pogacsa (Biscuits) speckled with goose-fat definitely don't SOUND vegetarian, but in Hungary, schmaltz is considered a fruit.And a madar tej (chilled bird's milk soup) that's basically eggnog with marshmallows is the real breakfast of champions. 

You have one day in this city that is magical, so don't put things off. You'll be full. You'll gain weight. But will it be worth it? YES. And I can say this with authority, as one who gained 15 pounds over two short weeks in the country in 2003. 

Four (Excited): Oh! To be in Budapest. Now that Spring is here. There are few things more delightful. Really. I'm jealous. But, despite my jealousy, I'll tell you how I would spend my time if I only had ONE day in one of my most favorite places. Ever.  

7:30am: Wake up.
8:00am: Walk to the Halasz Basztya (Fisherman's Bastion). 
8:30am: Look around. Explore the rest of the Var. Including the Royal Palace with its museums and views, Ruszworm, a tiny little pastry shop with famous Kremes (pronounced Kraymesh), The Matyas Templom and maybe the Hilton Hotel which was built inside an old monastery or nunnery.  Take some pictures. 
9:00am: Eat some kremes (also known as the breakfast of champions). 
9:30: Meander over to the siklo and ride it down to the circle in front of the Lanc Hid (chain bridge).
10:00am: Walk over the bridge. Take some pictures.
10:30am: Continue walking straight into the Bazilika. Climb to the top. (Note: you can only do this after 10am, but that's cool because it's already 10:30am! See how I planned everything so beautifully?!).
10:45am: Look around. Swoon. Take some pictures.
11:00am: Stop by Gelartorosa for some flower ice cream (I like the dark chocolate, pistachio and lavender, but I don't think you can go wrong there).
11:20am: Grab a cab and head over to the Hungarian market or "Nagy Csarnok".
11:45: Once inside, buy some felted pillow cases and wallets, paprika, pogacsa, eros pista, secret boxes, beigli, and maybe even an embroidered tablecloth or two (they're the most beautiful tablecloths you've ever seen. For the realz)!
1:30pm: Cab over to the Bagolyvár (Owl's Castle) for lunch. 
1:45pm: Order cold cherry soup and fried cheese (with blueberry jelly) AND madártej. (Ok. These don't actually all have to be consumed at the same place or time, but they must all be consumed. Trust me.) 
2:45pm: Ask someone to point you towards Heroes' Square.
2:50pm: Admire the statues. Take pictures.
3:15pm: Go to the Szecsenyi Baths which aare nearby or the Gellert Baths which are on the Pest side of the Duna (Danube).
3:30pm: Go inside. You don't even need to swim (bathe?), but it's definitely worth taking a peek!
4:30pm: Go back across the river and walk down Vaci Utca. Admire some mad Hungarian flower arranging skills, shops, and--at times--questionable male fashion. Become generally distracted by everything around you. Drink some fresh lemonade. Go to a grocery store; stock up on chocolate.
6:00pm: Eat dinner at Cyrano, Remiz, or the Gundel
8:00pm: Walk down the Danube. Digest. Take pictures.
9:00pm: Stop by Gerbeaud for some hot cocoa. 
11:00pm: Collapse--exhausted, but ridiculously happy. 

That's what I would do.

Five (Full): Yah-eey ray-mesh (<-- sorry attempt to phonetically reproduce a common Hungarian exclamation)! So much to do in so little time! Well, I would wake up early -- something that I only suggest in the most desperate circumstances. Start your day at the Fisherman's Bastion, or Halászbástya. Wander around there for a little bit admiring the statues and architecture. Eventually, you should find a kürtős kalács (chimney cake) stand at which to get your breakfast. Once you have accomplished this, cross the Lánchíd into downtown Pest, mozy past Szent István-bazilika (duck inside if you want to see St. Stephen's shriveled hand. It's pretty neat.) to get some flower fagyi,  which is delicious. Head over to Vaci Utca -- the main shopping street -- for some people watching, flower purchasing, and lunch at Cyrano (I'd suggest their lentils). Also, at some point, take a picture with this dude, because everyone takes a picture with that dude. Then, follow Vaci Utca down to the Nagy Csarnok and haggle your way into some awesome Hungarian doodads, like matyo and paprika. Pick up a pogasca for the metro ride to Hero's Square, admire this seriously monumental monument and then wander over to the Vajda Hunyad Castle to appreciate the statue of Anonymous, the writer of much Hungarian history. Next go to dinner at the Bogolvar (Owl's Castle). At the Bogolvar, order körözött, fried cheese, and madártej. Then head back to your hotel (where I assume you'll be staying). Before tucking in for the night, stop at Gerbeaud and end your day with some first-rate ice cream and hot chocolate.

In short, I gain a lot of weight whenever I go to Hungary.*

*I remand myself of any responsibility should exponential weight gain and/or stomach rupturing occur as a result of following my advice. And anyway, if it does, it will have been worth it.