Considered in the top 10 of the most beautiful cities to visit in Europe, Budapest is a destination that will leave you amazed. But surely your first question is what to see and do in Budapest during three days of travel. Here I tell you how to organize the travel itinerary to take advantage of every second and fully enjoy everything this beautiful enclave has to offer. Let's start!
Keep in mind that the itinerary I present below includes three full days starting the morning after your arrival.
Day 1: Explore the BUDA side of Budapest
The first day will be dedicated to get to know the oldest and most historical part of the city: Buda. If you are really interested in its history and curiosities, I recommend you to take a guided tour of Budapest in which you will be accompanied by a tour guide.
Also, this first day I recommend you to get the Budapest Card, which you can use throughout your stay in the city and includes discounts of up to 50% in tourist attractions, free entrance to the Lukács Spa and unlimited public transport.
Explore Buda Castle
One of the quintessential symbols of the city is theRoyal Palaceor Buda Castle. It was for centuries the official residence of the royal family in Hungary and today is a majestic complex used to house the History Museum, the Hungarian National Gallery and the National Library. You can spend the morning walking around, and if you like art take a tour of at least one of the museums.
The castle is located on what is known as Castle Hill, a limestone plateau that rises some 2.3 kilometers above the city.
Making the hike up to the castle will take about 30 minutes on foot, but you also have the option of the Buda Castle funicular. This wonderful means of transport travels 95 meters high in a few minutes ride aboard a vehicle that offers a panoramic view of the city. The stop is located right next to the Chain Bridge.
- Hours: the interiors of the Castle are open to the public from 10 am to 6 pm.
- Entrance fee: exploring the gardens and areas around the Budapest Castle complex is free of charge, if you want to see any of the interiors the price to pay is approximately 9€ per person per stay.
- Duration of the visit: if you make the tour of the museum, gallery and library reserve at least 1 hour to see the highlights in each of them.
Take a lunch break
Leaving behind the Buda Castle complex do not take the Funicular back, I recommend you to spend the rest of the day exploring the historic Castle District of Budapest and find a good place for lunch. In this area you will find many alternatives, here are some recommendations just near the Castle:
Get to know the labyrinth of the Budapest Castle
Around the Buda Castle you will find several areas of historical interest; spend the afternoon exploring them to get the best of Budapest's Castle District.
A small attraction located below the Castle Hill and made available by the locals as a tourist attraction is the labyrinth. In former times the passages served different purposes, but today it is an intriguing and frightening tour.
- Hours: from 10 am to 7 pm. The last tour at 6.30 pm is done with gas lamp in hand.
- Entrance fee: approximately 3€.
- Duration of the visit: 30 minutes are enough.
Visit the Matthias Church of Our Lady
In the Castle District is the most famous Catholic temple in Budapest and one of the most beautiful; its beautifully ornamented facade in Gothic style and adorned with colorful ceilings is only a reflection of what you can find inside. This temple was for centuries the seat of the royal coronations in Budapest.
- Opening hours: Monday to Friday from 09h to 17h; Saturday only in the morning and Sunday only in the afternoon.
- Admission fee: approximately 3,5 Euro per adult ticket.
- Duration of the visit: 30 to 40 minutes are enough.
Climb the Fisherman's Bastion to watch the sunset
Next to the church of St. Matthias is the most important viewpoint of the city: the Fisherman 's Bastion. It is the best place to have a complete panoramic viewof Budapest. Of course, go up before sunset and be prepared to take beautiful pictures of the city.
- Opening hours: open all day and at all hours, even on public holidays.
- Admission fee: access to the observation deck is free, you will have to pay if you want to access the towers.
In the evening take a cruise on the Danube.
This is one of the best activities you can do during your stay in the city since it will allow you to see the beautiful monuments from another perspective, even illuminated if you opt for the night tour. During the relaxing walk you can rest and recharge your batteries for the next day.
Below you will find all the variety of cruises that you can find in the city:
- Simple Danube Cruise: this option is the most basic and includes a tour of about 70 minutes on the Danube with audio guide and drinks.
- Night cruise on the Danube: in this case it is the same experience as the previous one, but by moonlight, which as we have already said has the special touch that you can see the monuments of Budapest illuminated.
- Cruise with dinner and live music: if, in addition to enjoying Budapest at night and its illuminated monuments, you want to enjoy a dinner and a musical atmosphere, this is your best option, a little more special than the previous ones.
- Cruise with pizza and open bar: if the previous one was a great option to enjoy as a couple, this can be the ideal one to do with friends. You can choose if you prefer to start at 16:00, 18:00 or 20:00, you decide.
Day 2: Explore the PEST area of Budapest
On the second day you will get to know the area known as Pest, located on the west side of the Danube. Compared to the east bank, whose ancient buildings date back to the Middle Ages, Pest is more modern yet full of fabulous architecture, historical monuments and heritage treasures.
Meet Margaret Island
In the middle of the Danube in Budapest is a beautiful island used as a park and space that is one of the most beautiful green areas to visit in the city. In the morning of your second day try to wake up early and get ready to visit Margaret Island.
You have different alternatives: you can tour it on foot, on the tourist train that costs about 2€, in an electric car that costs about 13€ per hour or by bicycle that costs 3€ for 2 hours.
Take a tour of the Parliament building
Leave Margaret Island behind and head to one of the most beautiful buildings in the Hungarian capital. The majestic Parliament building, located about a 12-minute walk from the Margaret Island Bridge, and its impressive exterior facade is one of the crowning works of neo-Gothic architecture. The best way to get to know the building is definitely through a guided tour of the Budapest Parliament.
- Opening hours: from 10 am to 4 pm.
- Price of the visit: from 52€.
- Duration of the visit: 4 hours approximately.
Shoes Monument in Budapest
A few minutes from the Parliament building and on the banks of the Danube you will find a small historical monument known as the Shoe Monument, which honors the Jewish victims who between 1944 and 1945 were murdered by the Nazis on the banks of the Danube and their bodies thrown into the water.
Take a lunch break
In the surroundings of the Parliament you will find the most varied gastronomic offer in Budapest. Here is a selection of some places of interest:
- Salaam Bombay: Indian food restaurant characterized by its beautiful wooden tables and dim lighting.
- Élelem Étterem: international and very healthy food with gluten-free options on the menu.
- Budapest Bistro: rated as one of the best Hungarian food restaurants in the area. Its garden and terrace are really beautiful.
- Szamos Café: offers the most fabulous views of the Parliament you could hope for.
Admire St. Stephen's Basilica
Continue your exploration of Pest by heading a bit away from the Danube riverbank to take in the best of the Jewish Quarter and a bit more of the southern part of the city.
The largest religious building in the city and the country is a 10-minute walk from the Shoe Monument on the banks of the Danube. You can get up close and look at the splendorous neoclassical facade or marvel at the 96-meter-high interior dome. St. Stephen's, together with the Parliament, are the largest buildings in the center of Budapest.
Admission is free although donations can be made, but access to the tower costs about € 1.5. And if you want to enjoy the Basilica in all its splendor, I recommend attending an organ concert, a unique experience especially if you like classical music.
Walk along Vaci Utca
From the exit of St. Stephen's, a walking tour of less than 10 minutes will take you to Vaci Utca, the most important shopping street in the city. It's time to stroll along the street, admire the beautiful architecture of the center and the luxurious stores in the area.
Visit the Budapest Jewish Synagogue
The second largest synagogue in the world can be found in the Jewish Quarter of Budapest. From Vaci Utca, another 10 minutes walk leaves you right at the entrance of the temple and in the middle of the Jewish area. It is an architectural building of Moorish style where Gothic influences can be evidenced.
To know all its history and curiosities I really liked to take a guided tour of the Jewish Synagogue of Budapest, I could enjoy the tour much more and I learned a lot. It is really worth it.
- Synagogue opening hours: from 10 am to 7.30 pm; closed on Saturdays.
- Entrance fee: 8,5€ approximately (included in the guided tour).
- Duration of the guided tour: 2 hours and 20 minutes.
In the evening, visit the best Ruin Bars of Budapest.
The best way to end your second day of exploring Budapest is, without a doubt, getting to know its famous Ruin Bars.
Almost two decades ago, merchants and visionaries took on the task of rescuing old buildings or abandoned factories in the center. Over the years they have reinvented themselves with a fresh and fun nightlife concept. A guided tour will take you through the best of Budapest.
Day 3: Explore Andrássy and enjoy the Spas
Continue your exciting tour of Budapest by exploring the rest of the western part of the Danube. This is the day to visit the spas and the favorite markets of the locals.
Head to the Central Market at sunrise
On the morning of your last day in Budapest, get up early to explore the city's Central Market, which opens daily at 6 a.m. Famous as one of the locals' favorite entertainment areas, the market's busiest day is Saturday, when many people head out to do their important shopping.
During your visit you can buy your travel souvenirs and, if you didn't have time for breakfast, there is a food court on the second floor.
- Hours: from 6 am to 6 pm, except Mondays when they close at 5 pm and Saturdays at 3 pm.
- Admission fee: free.
- Duration of visit: as long as you want.
Walk along Andrássy Avenue
Andrássy Avenue is considered the most beautiful street in Budapest and the most historically charged. To walk through the store windows at Christmas time in Budapest is a tourist attraction in itself.
To get there from Budapest Market Hall take Tram 49 from Central Market Hall station. Get off at Deák Ferenc tér M and you are only a 3-minute walk from the Andrássy- Bajcsy-Zsilinszky intersection. Follow the course of the avenue in a northwesterly direction to find one of the most beautiful spots in the city.
Walk to the Heroes' Square
Walking along the avenue from the vicinity of St. Stephen's Basilica to Heroes' Square will take you about 30 minutes on foot. It is one of the most important historical points and the most emblematic square of the city.
In the square you will find one of the *best museums of the city: the Museum of Fine Arts. Its neoclassical façade magnificently complements the Plaza as a whole and the night views of the entire complex illuminated at night is something not to be missed.
Take a lunch break
in the vicinity of the Plaza
Before continuing with the adventure, take a lunch break at one of the many food places you will find around the Plaza. Below I offer you a list of some of the most interesting ones, however feel free to explore the area and decide for yourself.
- Paprika Vendéglő: among the best Hungarian food restaurants you can try in this area of the city.
- Városliget Café: specialists in local food, the restaurant is located inside the Városliget park with wonderful views of the Castles and the lake.
- Robinson Étterem: located inside the park with nice views of the lake, it is a Mediterranean food restaurant.
- Café Kara: if you feel like having something else to drink, Café Kara is the option for you. It is located on Andrássy Avenue with wonderful views of the Heroes' Square.
After lunch visit the Széchenyi Spa
No matter what time of the year you go to the capital, visiting the Széchenyi Spa is a unique tourist attraction that you should not miss under any circumstances. Spend the afternoon of your last day in the city relaxing in the waters as a way to experience one of the most wonderful parts of Budapest has to offer.
The enclave is located right next to Heroes' Square in Városliget Park. Inside you will find 15 pools: 3 of them are large outdoor pools ideal for enjoying a summer in Budapest and the rest small pools that during the winter are transformed into heated pools. The experience is complemented by sauna rooms and massage areas.
- Opening hours: from 06h to 22h.
- Entrance fee: from 37€ per person.
- Duration of the visit: as long as you want.
Tour Városliget at sunset
On your way out of the Spa take a moment to walk through Városliget, Budapest's city park. Lose yourself in its paths to find other emblematic buildings of the area such as the local zoo and the beautiful Vajdahunyad Castle. Leaving the park at dusk don't forget to take nice pictures of the Heroes' Square illuminated with artificial light.