If you are planning a trip to Budapest you probably wonder how many days would be enough to visit the Hungarian capital. As someone who has visited Budapest dozens of of times, I can tell you that you’ll need a minimum of 3 days to do justice to this city. So whether you are planning a long weekend getaway, or just want to include Budapest into a greater European itinerary, three days are just about right for your first visit.
You’ll be able to see most of the city’s major attractions, try some Hungarian dishes and even get a taste of Budapest’s nightlife. Chances are that after three days you’ll fall in love with Budapest, like I did, and want to return for more.
You could easily spend a few weeks in Budapest roaming the streets of the Old Town, visiting the city’s great museums, soaking in the famous thermal baths, or sampling some of the famous Hungarian wines. But even if you only have 3 days it’s possible to see many of the city’s famous sites and top attractions, whether you visit Budapest in winter, spring, fall or summer.
Table of Contents
- 3 DAYS IN BUDAPEST ITINERARY
- Day 1 in Budapest
- Day 2 in Budapest
- Day 3 in Budapest
- More Than Time in Budapest?
- How to Get Around in Budapest in 3 Days
- Where to Stay When You Visit Budapest for 3 Days
3 DAYS IN BUDAPEST ITINERARY
There is so much to see and do in Budapest that it’s hard to know where to begin. This 3 day itinerary will take you through Budapest’s most important sites and landmarks, so follow it with confidence and you’ll have great memories to take home.
1st Day: Explore the Castle District
2nd Day: Visit Downtown Budapest
3rd Day: Visit the Upper Part of Budapest
Buda is the old part of the city where you will find most of Budapest Old Town attractions: the Buda Castle, the Fishermen’s Bastion, and Matthias Church. Being perched up on a hill, the Castle District also offers you some of the best views of the entire city and the Danube River.
Day 1 in Budapest
• Buda Castle
Buda Castle (Budavári Palota) is the most popular attraction on Castle Hill. The castle was completed by King Bela IV in 1265 and served as the royal seat of power for centuries. Over time, the Royal Castle was rebuilt, extended, burned down and rebuilt again, which explains its current eclectic appearance.
Today the castle is home to the Hungarian National Gallery, the Budapest History Museum, and the National Széchényi Library. If you don’t have time to visit all three, you should at least visit the National Gallery which displays some amazing artworks.
At Christmas time, the square next to the Royal Palace hosts one of the most popular Christmas markets in Budapest.
• Fishermen’s Bastion
The Fishermen’s Bastion (Halaszbastya, in Hungarian) is right next to the Buda Castle, in Trinity Square. The easily recognizable terrace of the bastion is one of Budapest most iconic sites.
It’s hard not to stand in awe and enchantment with views of the city stretching before you! There is not much to do at the Fisherman’s Bastion, other than take pictures of the city from atop its terrace.
If you want to take a coffee break, here is the best place to do it. You won’t find a better view than the one at the Fisherman’s Bastion.
• Matthias Church
Mátyás Templom (Matthias Church) is located in Trinity Square, right next to the bastion. Matthias Church holds a special place in Hungarian history as it was was the coronation church for the Hungarian kings.
This church is stunning! From the outside spires and gorgeous roof tiles, to the gorgeously painted interior, you can’t stop admiring the minute details. You need to pay to get inside, but it’s definitely worth it.
Make sure you go up to the balcony for a closer look at the stained glass windows and more information about the design of the walls and tiles.
• Budavari Labyrinth
The Budavari Labirintus is another interesting attraction in this area. The Labyrinth is a complex of caves and cellars that were created a long time ago as an effect of the hot water springs.
Throughout the centuries, Budavari Labyrinths had many functions. It served as a shelter for the prehistoric men, a prison during medieval times and a hospital during World War II.
In 2011 the Labyrinth was suddenly closed. The police reportedly stormed the caves and evacuated large numbers of tourists without any explanation. They reopened the Labyrinth a few years later, but not as it was before.
Most of the case are not accessible to the public anymore. Today visitors have access only to two of the caves.
• Gellert Baths
Gellért Baths are one of the most popular attractions in Budapest Old Town – a favorite for locals and visitors alike. This is an equally beautiful bath that rivals with Szechenyi Baths, located in Downtown Budapest.
The baths are fed by natural springs which are rich in calcium, magnesium, chloride, sulfate and fluoride. As a result, they have great healing and cleansing properties.
The baths feature pools with various water temperatures, two kinds of saunas, massage, and spa treatments at reasonable prices.
Day 2 in Budapest
Today you’ll visit the attractions in the Budapest City Centre (Belváros). Budapest Downtown is where the business life of the city takes place. This is where you will find the banks and official institutions, the theaters and concert halls, and most restaurants. Also many of the important churches and historical sights are located in this area.
• Hungarian Parliament
You should start your day with a visit of the Hungarian Parliament, which is Budapest’s most beloved landmark.
The Neo-Gothic style building was completed in 1902 and it is currently the largest and tallest building in Budapest. The main façade faces the Danube River, while the entrance is from the Kossuth Lajos square.
The interior of the building is as impressive as the exterior. Everywhere you look, you see carved wood work, stained glass, and grandiose marble staircases. The Parliament is home to the crown jewels and the Holy Crown of Hungary, which is on display in the central domed hall since January, 2000.
There are guided tours in several languages when the National Assembly is not in session. Unfortunately, the lines for visiting the Parliament are extremely long, especially during the summer months.
Tours fill up very quickly, so you may have the surprise of not being able to get in after standing in line for over an hour. Therefore I strongly encourage you to book a tour in advance.
To reach the Parliament from Vaci Street, take Metro Line M2 (from Deák Ferenc station to the Kossuth Lajos Square station.)
• St. Stephen Cathedral
Just a short walk away from the Parliament you’ll find Szent István Bazilika, one of the most beautiful cultural venues in Budapest. The church was erected in 1905 and was named in honor of King Stephen I, the first king of Hungary.
This the city’s largest and most impressive church (it can hold 8,500 people). It is absolutely HUGE and really beautiful! The church gates are equally magnificent.
Below the cupola there is a rich collection of late-19th-century Hungarian art: mosaics, altarpieces, and statues. The marble used in the construction is all from Hungary, except for Kins Stephen’s white statue in the sanctuary.
There is an elevator leading to the bell tower from where you have panoramic view of Budapest. The bell tower is open from April to October. There are guided tours of the chapel and the treasury, but during the worship services the entrance is free.
The basilica is also very famous for its wonderful classical music concerts. If you are a classical music lover, you should try to attend one while in Budapest.
• Great Jewish Synagogue
Hidden behind the tall buildings on Dohany Street is the largest and most famous synagogue in all of Europe. The Great Synagogue in Budapest is not your typical Jewish temple. The onion shaped domes with gilded ornaments make it look like an oriental, Moorish building.
If you ever visited a synagogue you probably remember they are generally quite simple and austere places of worship. But not this one.
To get there from St. Stephen Basilica you can simply walk for 10-15 minutes. To reach the Synagogue from anywhere else in Budapest take Metro Line M2 and get off at Astoria station.
• Jewish Museum
Adjacent to the synagogue is the Jewish Museum which you can visit together with the synagogue. The museum features Jewish traditions, costumes, as well as a detailed history of the Hungarian Jews.
Guided tours of the synagogue and the museum are available in several languages and I encourage you to book one. They are very informative and even entertaining. You’ll hear amusing stories and get some insight into Judaism.
• Great Market Hall
Whether you have 1, 2, or 3 days in Budapest, visiting Nagy Vásárcsarnok (the Great Market Hall) is a must. The market is famous for its great variety of local foods. From fresh produce, to fish, smoked sausages, cold cuts and home-made baked goods, you can find everything your heart desires here!
From the moment you step in, the smell of freshly baked strudels and cakes starts tickling your nose. Just the sight of all the fresh produce and meats in the stalls will make your stomach growl.
On the second floor of the market are the stand-up counters serving some of the traditional Hungarian dishes and wines. This is the best place to try the famous lángos freshly fried before your very eyes, or buy some Hungarian souvenirs.
TIP: Budapest markets are not open on Sundays.
• Vaci Utca
Right across from the Great Market Hall starts the famous Vaci Street. This long pedestrian street lined up with fancy boutiques, souvenir shops and mediocre restaurants is one of the most picturesque places in Budapest. So, after satisfying your cravings at the Great Market Hall, you can head down Vaci Utca for some shopping.
At the opposite end of Vaci Street you’ll end up in the elegant Vörösmarty Square, where you can stop for a cup of the delicious Sissy Cave at the famous Gerbeaud Café.
Day 3 in Budapest
For your last day in Budapest I suggest visiting the upper part of the city. Start your day in Heroes’ Square, which is situated between the Museum of Art, City Park and the Hall of Art.
Heroes’ Square is dominated by the Millennium Monument which features statues of the seven tribal leaders who founded Hungary in the 9th century.
• Vajdahunyad Castle
Just a few steps away from the Heroes’ Square you’ll find the Citi Park. The park is home to a collection of replicas of famous medieval structures from Hungary and the region of Transylvania, in Romania. The most beautiful one is the replica of the Vajdahunyad Castle in Romania.
In summer and fall there are music festivals and various gastronomic events on the castle grounds.
• Széchenyi Baths
In the afternoon, you can stop at Szechenyi Baths to experience Budapest’s oldest and most popular thermal bath. Its 18 pools are open every single day throughout the year.
The Bath features both outdoor and indoor geothermal pools, saunas, a gym and massage therapy. The admission fee as well as the treatments are very affordable, so indulge in a few hours of relaxation.
The ornate architecture and interiors of Szecheni Baths is worth a visit even if you don’t plan to swim. During summer and fall, every Saturday night the bath stays open till 3 a.m. for a pool party.
• Dine at Bagolyvar Restaurant
I can’t think of a better way to end your 3 days itinerary with a lavish dinner at the Bagolyvár (the Owl’s Castle), one of Budapest’s most beloved restaurants.
This is one of the best restaurants in Budapest if you want to try authentic, Hungarian food. The Owl’s Castle has the same owner and shares a kitchen with the famous Gundel Etterem. That is a guarantee of the quality of food, but the prices at Bagolyvár are way more reasonable.
More Than Time in Budapest?
Budapest is an amazing city which definitely deserves more than just 3 days. So if you have more than 3 days in Budapest, I recommend spending an evening at the Ruin Pubs, a chain of quirky bars and nightclubs opened in abandoned buildings.
You should also visit the new National Theatre building on the bank of the Danube. The building is located within the Millennium Quarter, a very nice park between Petőfi and Lágymányosi bridges.
You can also visit Margitsziget, a small island in the river Danube, right in the middle of the city. Margaret Island was a hunting reserve back in the Middle Ages, but today is a great place to relax and cool off in summer.
There are quite a few nice places around city, like Szentendre, Eger, or Lake Balaton. So if you have time, you could take some nice day trips from Budapest .
How to Get Around in Budapest in 3 Days
Getting around in Budapest if fairly easy. Walking is by far the best way to visit the city, but since distances between the attractions are big, you’ll also need to use public transportation. Choices of public transportation include buses, trams, and a very well organized metro system.
Taxis are not the most reliable mode of transportation in Budapest. There are several cab companies and each charge different tariffs, so you can get scammed very easily. Use cabs only if there is no other way to get to your destination.
Where to Stay When You Visit Budapest for 3 Days
Many people wonder what is the best area to stay in Budapest as a tourist: Buda or Pest? There are many nice places to rent on both parts of the Danube. From very reasonably priced apartments, to bed-and-breakfasts, hotel rooms, and hostels, there are accommodations for every taste and budget.
To find the best deal and compare prices you should check TripAdvisor, which is also a good source if you want to read what other travelers have to say about these places. Another good option to keep in mind is VRBO – Vacation Rentals By Owner, also a great resource for affordable accommodations.