Packed with iconic sights, an incredible history and a lively nightlife, Budapest, Hungary certainly knows how to entertain its guests! Whether you’re a nature lover or admirer of architecture, there to marvel at monuments or partying the night away, on a low budget or seeking a luxury escape, you can find what suits your style in Budapest. We think the city is worthy of more than just three days, but our Budapest 3-Day Itinerary is designed for the visitor who is short on time, but wants to maximize Budapest sightseeing and experiences.
Budapest 3-Day Itinerary
Day 1: Iconic Budapest
Parliament Building, Liberty Square, St. Istvan’s Basilica, Chain Bridge, Castle Hill, City Lights, Ruins Bars
Start the day at Kossuth Square and gawk at the colossal Hungarian Parliament Building. Admire it from the outside or go inside and take a tour, which includes viewing the Coronation Jewels. Walk through Liberty Square, stopping to look at the monuments or at the Hutte Café for a cup of coffee, and then continue to St. Istvan’s Basilica. Step inside the church to see magnificent details, the decaying right hand of St. Istvan and take a trip to the top of the bell tower.
From the church, head west along the pedestrian promenade, perhaps stopping for lunch along the way. Leave the Pest side of Budapest and cross the Danube River using the pedestrian path on the north side of Chain Bridge (to take in the views of Parliament). Once in Buda, either take the funicular to Castle Hill or climb the stairs.
Head north to the typical Hungarian-style Matthias Church and take in the views across the river from Fisherman’s Bastion. If time permits, continue to the north to see a smattering of historic remains and then loop around to the south toward the Royal Palace, also known as the Buda Castle. Inside are two museums, National Gallery and Budapest History Museum, as well the Hungarian National Library. Outside the palace are statues and monuments – and sweeping views of the river and the Pest side of Budapest.
Find a place to eat dinner on top of the hill or riverside. Wait for the sun to set and city lights to illuminate – and then take a stroll along both banks of the Danube River, crossing at Chain Bridge and Margaret Bridge, to witness the iconic sights of Budapest lit up against the dark sky. Continue an exploration of Budapest at night with a visit to one (or more!) of the shabby chic Ruins Bars, starting at the original, Szimpla Kert. Taste the potent Hungarian liquor, palinka, before calling it a night.
Read more about our experiences sightseeing in Budapest:
Day 2: Budapest Landmarks
Central Market, The Great Synagogue, Opera House, Heroes’ Square, City Park, Szechenyi Thermal Baths
Arrive at the Central Market in the morning to peruse the vendors’ wares and fare, letting the tempting scents guide the way. Make breakfast a taste-testing experience and purchase additional items for a picnic lunch to be consumed later in the day. Leave the market and work your way into the Jewish Quarter. Wander the neighborhood and contemplate the many memorials that pay tribute to Holocaust victims. Visit The Great Synagogue and Hungarian Jewish Museum and consider taking a Jewish Heritage guided tour.
Continue north through the Jewish Quarter, passing ramshackle Ruins Bars that are practically unrecognizable in the light of day, to the opulent Opera House. Take a peek inside the grand lobby and either take a tour or purchase tickets for the evening show (incredibly affordable, tickets in the upper level are as little as $2 USD). From the Opera House continue on Andrassy Ut away from the city to Oktogon, a vast, café-strewn intersection. Go underground and catch the M1 metro to Heroes’ Square.
The massive Heroes’ Square encompasses the Millennium Monument, Hungarian War Memorial, the Museum of Fine Arts and the Hall of Art. Pass through the square and enter City Park, following the trails through the green space. Find a spot to enjoy the picnic lunch picked up earlier at the market. Walk to the center of the park to Vajdahunyad Castle and the Benedictine chapel, then north to Szechenyi Thermal Baths. Spend the afternoon splashing in one of the 15 indoor baths or three outdoor pools – or, with no other plans for the day, stay through the evening.
Read more about our visit to the Opera House and City Park:
Day 3: Nature in Budapest
Lukacs Thermal Baths, Margaret Island Park, Danube River Ferry, Gellert Hill, Tram #2
Begin your last day in Budapest with a more therapeutic thermal bath experience and join the locals for a naturally healing soak at Lukacs Thermal Bath. Relaxed and refreshed, occupy the rest of the day with time outdoors. Take to the trails on Margaret Island – a green refuge located in the middle of the Danube River. Explore the 1.5-mile-long park and then hop on a river ferry heading south.
Disembark the ferry at the Petofi Ter dock and walk across the Erzsebet Bridge to Gellert Hill. Follow the path to the top to see the Citadel and Liberty Statue and then descend to the south to the Cave Church. Cross the green Liberty Bridge and walk south to the Balna Cultural Center – more specifically, to Jonas Craft Beer House and sip on a locally produced microbrew at one of the outdoor tables overlooking the river. To get back to the city center, take the historic yellow Tram #2.
Read more about our time at Lukacs Bath and hiking Gellert Hill:
Budapest 3-Day Itinerary Tips
Sightseeing (and money-saving!) Tips
- A trip to a spa is an essential Budapest activity! There are many Budapest spa packages available, which range from basic to luxury. Szechenyi and Gellert are the two most popular tourist spas, both of which also offer massages.
- A cruise on the Danube River is a popular way to see the city – which include everything from public passenger ferries to dinner cruises. Find a Budapest River Cruise that fits your style and budget!
- Guides lead visitors through the city on a variety of walking tours – everything from neighborhood specific to food tours to Ruin Bars (which can also be seen on a Pub Crawl!).
- Our Budapest 3-Day Itinerary covers some ground, most of which is on foot. The public transportation keeps the city well-connected. Click here for information on methods of transport and cost or catch a ride on the Big Bus Budapest, which makes stops at all the top tourist sights!
- If you are planning on visiting the top Budapest sights and using public transportation, a Budapest Card can save you money.
- Budapest is an affordable city, but many of the sights charge exorbitant entry fees. Click here for our recommendations for Budapest on a Budget.
We, once again, relied on our go-to option of Airbnb.com to secure accommodations – and we weren’t disappointed. Located in District Six, we were well within walking distance to the sights. Our high-ceilinged, bright apartment had one large room with a separate kitchen and bath – and only cost $34 a night. (Use this link to join Airbnb and save money on your first stay!) We have found that staying in apartments is often less expensive than hotel rooms – with the added benefit of a kitchen and, usually, more space. Budapest holiday apartments can also be searched on FlipKey (which is part of TripAdvisor) or on VRBO – Vacation Rentals By Owner.
However, for those who prefer staying in traditional accommodations, there are many Budapest hotels to choose from in – or close to – the city center. Check out these top-rated hotels (based on guest reviews!) for your upcoming trip: Hotel Moments Budapest, Callas House and Aria Hotel Budapest. Or, find a deal on a hotel room by bidding on Priceline.
Budget travelers can search for Budapest Hostels – like Georges, Metropolis Hostel and Flow Hostel. For a true bargain – and a unique experience – search for hosts on Couchsurfing, where travelers stay with locals for free.
Budapest can be reached by plane, train, bus or car. We arrived by train (Ljubljana to Budapest) and departed via plane.
Our preferred method of getting anywhere is by flying (we are JetSetting Fools, after all!). However, due to our unique circumstances (flight benefits earned from years of service with a major airline), we rarely buy airline tickets. That being said, when we do need to purchase plane tickets, we start our search for the best deals on airline tickets on Skyscanner or Flight Hub.
To get from city to city when flights are not possible, we usually rely on public transportation and take trains or buses. In Europe, we use Rail Europe to find train tickets and our preferred bus company is FlixBus – as it is economical, clean and comfortable with on-board wifi, seat-back entertainment, refreshments and a toilet. We aren’t keen on driving abroad, but renting a car can often save time and money (especially when traveling with more than two people) – and it allows for greater discovery.
Before You Go
- Budapest is a walkable city…but only if you have the right shoes! Don’t forget to pack a pair of lightweight and comfortable walking shoes for your trip. I (Sarah) have traveled with these shoes by Columbia, Skechers and Reef. Kris prefers wearing these shoes by Merrell and Sanuk.
- We’re certain you’ll be snapping tons of photos during your trip. Rather than relying on your mobile phone to capture the sights, upgrade to an actual camera for higher quality photos (that can later be beautifully compiled into a travel photo book). We travel with a Canon Rebel (which takes amazing photos, but can be a bit clunky) and a Canon PowerShot ELPH (which takes beautiful pictures, is slim and lightweight – and the new models are wifi enabled so you can share your trip pics to social media in real time!).
- It’s easy to get turned around in any foreign city! Make sure to have a good city map and/or guidebook before arriving.
- We think travel insurance is essential! If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your trip, travel protected with World Nomads.
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