3 Days in Budapest, Hungary

hungarian parliament

Are you heading to Hungary and wondering how to spend 3 days in Budapest? Perfect! I have an itinerary for your first time so you can get a taste of what the city has to offer through its most famous sights to delicious food.

Budapest was the first stop on a trip that I took a few years back that also included Vienna and Prague. I used trains to navigate between the three cities and had a great experience. Since then, many people that I know have taken my itinerary to plan this exact trip with success.

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Arriving in Budapest

Budapest airport is incredibly well connected to the entire city. Located at the arrivals level between the two terminals you will find the bus stops. Check the airport’s official site for complete information about which routes to take and where to buy tickets.

With nearly 100 trains running each day you can also opt for taking the train into Budapest.

I suggest purchasing a 72-hour Budapest Travel Card, with this you can travel unlimited times with select routes within Budapest. The ticket can be purchased in advance and costs HUF 4150 (approximately 12 EUR).

Travel Tips for Budapest

Here are some great tips to help with planning your Budapest adventure.

  • Hungarian Forint (HUF) is the official currency of Hungary.
  • Many places, such as museums, are closed on Mondays
  • Leaving a tip at the table is rude, tell the server how much you want to pay – including the 10% tip
  • Learn a few phrases in Hungarian before going

Budapest is much more spread out than you anticipate. I have done a lot of traveling and to this day I still remember how badly my feet ached after my first day in the city. Other travelers have expressed a similar sentiment so take things slow and don’t be afraid of public transportation.

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3 Day Itinerary for Budapest

Before 1873, Budapest was actually three cities; Buda, Pest, and Óbuda. While today it is still Budapest, the western side of the Danube river is called Buda and the eastern side, Pest. With nearly 2 million people in this capital city, it is the perfect size for a weekend break.

This itinerary breaks down the city into three sections, one for each day. The first day for sightseeing Buda, the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Hungary, the second day in Pest exploring the Jewish District and ruin pubs, and the final day at the city park, Városliget.

budapest fishermans bastion

Day 1: Sightseeing in Buda

Clearly, there are many ways to spend your day and this itinerary is meant as a guide for those wandering on their own. Another option, which I would also recommend is to begin your first day with a free walking tour. I suggest this because it will give you a primer of the history and culture and you can get some great recommendations (especially for food) from the guides.

If you are skipping the tour and following this guide then you can start your day off with a healthy breakfast in a beautiful space at Franziska (29 Iskola utca). Then head over to Fisherman’s Bastion.

Fisherman’s Bastion was built between 1844 and 1851 to commemorate the seven chieftains of the Hungarians. These are seven tribes of Hungarians who founded the country in 895. There are seven towers, one for each.

Some parts of the Fisherman’s Bastion are free to enter, but to climb the highest towers for incredible views you must buy a ticket. The entrance costs HUF 1000 (~3.40 EUR).

budapest fishermans bastion

Matthias Church was first built in the 11th century and has since been extensively restored after the destruction at the hands of the Ottomans and during WWII.  The church has a timeline of kings’ coronations, weddings, wartime strategizing, and other political events.

What is most interesting is the vibrantly colored roof made of 149,500 individual ceramic pieces. Locally produced by a Hungarian company, Zsolnay.

mt matthias church

This section of Buda, also containing Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church is part of the Castle District. About a 15-minute walk from here you will find Buda Castle. It is here that you will find the Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest History Museum, and National Széchényi Library. The perfect combination to immerse yourself in Hungarian art and history.

buda castle

Now that you have spent the morning learning about Hungary now it is time to eat! Check out this great article about what to eat in Budapest from the 2foodtrippers.

After a nice meal now is the perfect time (unless it is the middle of summer), to take a walk up to the Citadella. Built in 1851, the Citadella is a fortress that was initially used against the Hungarians by the Austrian Empire. The fortress is closed to the public indefinitely as of 2019, but what remains is a great viewpoint of Budapest.

budapest citadella

After all of the walking and exploring the best way to unwind is to do as the Hungarians and enjoy a soak in some thermal baths. Just at the bottom of the Citadella, there are two choices; Gellért Thermal Bath or Rudas Baths. The prices are subject to change throughout the year but a typical entrance ticket is around 17 EUR.

A great option because it includes dinner is this 3-course meal with wine, views of the Danube, and access to the sauna and pools at Rudas Baths.

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Day 2: Wandering Pest

On the eastern side of the Danube, is the largest part of Budapest, Pest. In the past, Pest was an independent city dating back to 1148! It wasn’t until 1873 when Buda, Pest, and Óbuda to form the current day Budapest.

Here you will find the Jewish Quarter, ruin pubs, Hero’s Square, and the Hungarian Parliament building.

The Hungarian Parliament building is also a great place to start the day. It first opened in 1904 and is still the largest building in Hungary. The construction of it took 100,000 people.

hungarian parliament hungarian parliament

After you finish staring at this incredible building with awe you can make your way south along the riverbank where you will see 60 pairs of iron shoe sculptures along the edge. This is a memorial called Shoes on the Danube created to commemorate victims who were murdered by Arrow Cross Militiamen (see: fascists) along the riverbank between 1944-45.

For breakfast, I recommend considering Börze (Nádor u. 23). A beautiful space with affordable traditional Hungarian dishes it is a great combination. According to Offbeat Budapest (which I highly recommend) they offer a 5 EUR 2-course meal for lunches during the week.

St. Stephen's Basilica budapest

Continue south along the river until you see the famous Széchenyi Chain Bridge. After taking in the sights the next stop is St Stephens Basilica (pictured above). This church is named for the first King of Hungary, Stephen I, who ruled from 997-1001AD. During the spring and autumn, you can pay to visit the dome, otherwise, visits to the church are free every day.

St. Stephen's Basilica budapest
Interior of the cupola

Just a few streets over you will find the Jewish Quarter of Budapest. Here is where you will find Dohány Street Synagogue, ruin pubs, and a lot of interesting street art. The Jewish Quarter has a very complex history and fascinating culture. I suggest checking out this Jewish Heritage Walking Tour to get acquainted with your surroundings.

Dohány Street Synagogue is the largest synagogue in Europe. It was built in the 1800s inspired by Islamic architecture in Northern Africa and medieval Spain. If you are interested in arranging a tour or reading more in-depth this is a great guide.

If you are anything like me, then you are ready to eat again. There is a wide range of Jewish-Hungarian restaurants and bakeries to check out. Once you’ve had your fill, wander the streets of Pest!

There are independent shops, markets, and museums to spend the afternoon browsing and indulging in Hungarian culture. Here are a few places of interest:

  • Hungarian National Museum
  • House of Terror
  • Ludwig Museum
  • Hungarian Natural History Museum
  • Central Market
JoshuaCrawford / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

Ruin pubs (or ruin bars) are a fairly recent phenomenon as the first one, Szimpla opened in 2002.  Condemned or abandoned buildings from the Jewish Quarter were repurposed into alternative bars and cultural places. You will find mixed matched chairs and tables, next-level repurposing, and cheap drinks.

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After you have had enough to drink while wandering the mazes of Szimpla Kert and Ellátó Kert, don’t forget to check out Karaván for local street food. All of this can be found on Kazinczy utca. It was here that I had a delicious cone made of bread stuffed with hot dogs and fried onions.

Day 3: Városliget

The final day in Budapest can be spent in the city park, called Városliget. Here you will find museums, Heroes’ Square, zoo, botanical gardens, and Castle Vajdahunyad. Városliget became one of the first public parks in the world in 1751.

The park is connected to Budapest via Andrássy út, a boulevard dating back to 1872 lined with beautiful mansions and townhouses. At the end of the boulevard is Heroes’ Square (Hősök tere), which is also the main entrance to the park.

Heroes’ Square is, you guessed it, a large square with statues. The tall middle structure (see picture below) is called the Millennium Monument. It shows archangel Gabriel holding the Hungarian crown. The structures on each side are part of Heroes’ Square monument. Depicted are 14 statues for various important individuals for Hungary.

These structures were first built during the Habsburg dynasty and previously depicted members of the ruling party. The sculptures were damaged during WWII so they were replaced with other figures.

Hero's Square Budapest, Hungary
Heroes’ Square Budapest, Hungary

To the right side of Heroes’ Square is the Hall of Arts and to the left, the Museum of Fine Arts. Behind the square is a pond and walking paths that weave across the park lined with benches.

On the other side of the pond there is Vajdahunyad Castle, built in 1896, and currently houses the Hungarian Agricultural Museum. I completely understand that it might not be your cup of tea, I passed on it, too, but here is where you can purchase tickets to go up into the towers of the castle.

The Gatehouse Tower (Kaputorony) and Apostles’ Tower (Apostolok tornya) were first opened to the public in 2015. For a small fee, you can climb the stairs and get a view of Városliget and Budapest. Personally, I preferred the Apostles’ Tower a bit more and felt you could see the same thing from both.

Despite its looks, Vajdahunyad Castle was built in 1896 to celebrate 1000 years of Hungary. It was built as a tribute to structures and architectural styles across Hungary at that time. The castle was never meant to be permanent as it was first constructed of wooden planks and cardboard, but it was loved so much that between 1904 and 1908 the rebuilt it.

Vajdahunyad Castle (Budapest, Hungary)

I couldn’t simply write a post about Budapest and spending the day in Városliget without mentioning the Széchenyi Thermal Bath. Széchenyi is the largest medicinal bath in Europe. It was built in the early 1900s and has become a sight of attraction for locals and visitors. It is open every single day – including holidays.

If you are planning to visit check out the official site for opening hours and ticket prices. I also suggest checking out this great article sharing tips for first-timers.

With your entrance fee, you are allowed to access both inside and outside baths as well as a Turkish and Finnish sauna. There is the possibility to schedule massages and other treatments for an additional fee. Pro tip: bring your flip flops and towel to avoid additional charges.

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Plan according to the weather as the highlight of Széchenyi is the outside pools.

For beer lovers, there is a Beerspa that offers a one-hour session in their spa and a daily ticket to Széchenyi.

Széchenyi Thermal Bath

Food Experiences in Budapest

Budapest has no shortage of food experiences that can be paired with this itinerary. Here are a few that might be of interest:

langos budapest

Central Market
The market is about a 15-minute walk from the Jewish Quarter or just over the bridge from Gellert Thermal Baths. The ground floor is full of produce and meat products and the second floor has small food stands and souvenirs.

Private Budapest Food Tour
Take a 3-hour food tour with 6 food tastings through Budapest with a local guide. Explore the main sites or customize your itinerary to your interests.

Secret Food Tour in Budapest
This 3-hour food tour will take you off the beaten path to where only the locals eat. Try local specialties and learn about Hungarian cuisine and wine.

Hungarian Wine and Cheese
Experience a degustation in Budapest led by a sommelier guide. Sip local wines paired with bread, Hungarian cheese, and charcuterie.

Half-day Wine Tour
Spend a half-day in Etyek wine country for a tour of several family-run wine cellars and enjoy a 2-course Hungarian dinner. This wine region is known best for its white and sparkling varieties.

Christmas Market
When I visited Budapest the Christmas Market was taking place and it quickly became one of my favorite markets in Europe. Open every year between mid-November to the end of December.

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budapest christmas market

Save this map!

I created this map full of everything mentioned above and even more museums, restaurants, and bars. Maps are updated each year.

Central Europe Itinerary

Traveling to Hungary was part of a 10-day trip in which I flew to Budapest, took the train to Vienna, and then to Prague, and flew home.

If you are planning on using train travel between these cities I highly suggest using The Man in Seat 61 for the latest information about where to buy train tickets and local procedures.

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Thanks for reading!

Thank you for taking the time to read this post and I hope it was useful for planning your trip. If you have any questions or comments for me, feel free to leave them below. Thanks! -Helene

12 thoughts on “3 Days in Budapest, Hungary”

  1. Your pictures are amazing and I really wished I went there on Xmas period! The market and the local food area look so great! Even more so, because I remember Budapest is one of the cities where I ate better in travel, as I wrote in this post http://bit.ly/1ZSxl1e
    I was there in fall, not too cold, such a good time.
    Thank you for sharing!

    1. loveadventurehelene

      aw thank you for enjoying the article. Yes the market was so charming. I was so lucky being there in November it wasn’t very cold, just very windy (:

    1. loveadventurehelene

      Booo for the rain, but I am glad you still got to enjoy it (: it is a really charming city with so much to offer

  2. Beautiful photos and great post about Budapest! When I was younger, my family drove through Hungary on our way to Romania so I don’t remember too much of it – but this is such a lovely post! 🙂

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  4. Wow, it looks like you had a great time in Budapest. It’s not a city I’ve ever really looked in to visiting before, but it looks like a beautiful place – will have to bear it in mind next time I fancy a break!

  5. Pingback: My Most Memorable Travel Moments of 2015 - Love, Adventure

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