Budapest is a year-round city break destination. Spending 3 days in Budapest is just about enough to visit its most interesting sights, fall in love with the food and get to taste some local drinks and specialities.
We spend a year in Budapest to learn everything there is to know about Hungary's capital city. In this article, we put together the sights, experiences, and foods you have to try if you have only three days to spend in Budapest.
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Getting to Budapest city centre from the Liszt Ferenc Airport
Getting from Liszt Ferenc Airport to Budapest city centre can be a bit confusing. It most certainly seemed confusing for us when we first arrived in Budapest. You need to get to the ticket machine located just outside the terminal and get an Airport shuttle bus single ticket. You will want to get bus 100E which takes only 35-45 minutes or so to the centre. For the centre, you want to get off at the Deák Ferenc tér. Tickets cannot be purchased from the driver. For more information, take a look at our Budapest Airport to city centre guide.
Day 1 in Budapest (Pest Side)
Deák Ferenc tér
Start the morning at the Deák Ferenc tér. Sometimes there are market stalls with local produce from Hungarian vendors. Mornings are quiet in the square as well. In the afternoon, the place gets packed with locals and tourists who drink and eat pizza. So if you want to meet like-minded individuals, remember to come back in the evening. There is a Tourist Information Centre where you can pick up more info about the city and there is also a Starbucks if you want your morning coffee. From Deák Ferenc tér make your way towards the St. Stephen's Basilica.
St. Stephen's Basilica
St. Stephen's Basilica is a Roman Catholic place of worship, built from 1851 to 1905, with regular concerts. You can book a ticket for a concert and you can wait in a queue to go to the top in order to admire the city from above. The views are pretty lovely. The entrance to the Basilica is free although there is a suggested donation of 200 HUF at the entrance. Spend some time around the St. Stephen's square where you can find a variety of shops, restaurants and cafes. It's a great place to take a break and eat a Hungarian cake with a cup of coffee.
From the St. Stephen's Basilica make your way towards the Parliament. Don't take the main road by the Danube, but take the smaller streets. It will be much quieter with barely any tourists around, and you can admire the Hungarian architecture. Tall buildings with high ceilings and beautiful decorations all around. Visit the Szabadság tér (Liberty Square) which is a nice little park surrounded by gorgeous buildings, including the US Embassy and the National Bank.
If you want to pick up a snack, stop by the Hold utcai Vásárcsarnok és Belvárosi Piac (Hold Street Market and Downtown Market) a small but authentic little market with a few places which sell food. Once you reach the Parliament, spend as long as you wish to take pictures from all angles. Enjoy the Gothic Revival–style building and take a break on one of the benches located right behind the Parliament. You can visit the House of Parliament Visitor Centre, photograph the Kossuth Monument and enter the Museum of Ethnography. Just behind the Parliament, there is also the Memorial Park (Véres csütörtök emlékhely).
Lunch at Hungarikum Bistro
Once you are ready, head to Hungarikum Bistro, a family run small restaurant which sells truly authentic Hungarian food. Furthermore, the service is wonderful, and the dishes are delicious. Order a goulash soup followed by a Hungarian main dish. Don't forget to order some Unicum, a traditional bitter made with a secret recipe. You can read more about Hungarian dishes you should try during your trip to Budapest.
Walk on the Danube
Have an afternoon walk by the Danube from the Parliament towards the Elizabeth Bridge. Walk towards Astoria and enjoy the gorgeous architecture all around Budapest. Take your time, take pictures and soak up the atmosphere. When you reached Astoria, walk towards the Liberty Bridge by the Muzeum Road.
If you still fancy a bite, we recommend a stop at Vega City, one of the best vegan restaurants in Budapest. You can then walk back on the other side of the street and head towards District 7, the Old Jewish Quarters. You can either book a ruin pub tour or just venture from pub to pub on your own.
Szimpla Kert is perhaps the most famous ruin pub in Budapest. Not many locals go there any more as the place became a little too commercial. However, we still recommend it, as Szimpla Kert is atmospheric and unique. Next to Szimpla Kert there is the Street Food Karavan Budapest where you can order food and drinks whilst enjoying a lovely evening outdoors.
District 7 is the party district in Budapest. Depending on what you expect from your Budapest trip, you can either opt for a quiet night in a bar or have an explosive night in a club. You will find various places where you can meet locals and expats, so don't be shy and explore the quarters.
Day 2 in Budapest (Buda Side)
Start the day by crossing the beautiful chain bridge in Budapest. It's a 19th-century suspension bridge, designed by William Tierney Clark. We believe it's one of the most beautiful landmarks in Budapest. Note that the bridge gets pretty crowded, so we recommend visiting as early as possible in the morning. Cross to Buda side and start walking towards the Fisherman's Bastion.
Important note: The Széchenyi Lánchíd bridge is currently under renovation and will reopen to the public sometimes in 2023.
To cross to the other side of the Danube, please use the Elisabeth Bridge (Erzsébet híd).
Fisherman's Bastion is a beautiful terrace located on the Buda side. It has seven towers, and you can take some of the most incredible pictures of Budapest and the Parliament from here. The seven towers represent the seven Magyar tribes that settled in the Carpathian Basin back in 895 AD. There are several cafes and restaurants in the area if you wish to enjoy a late brunch.
Matthias Church is a Roman Catholic Church in a florid late Gothic style. The first church on the site was founded by Saint Stephen, King of Hungary in 1015. This building was destroyed in 1241 by the Mongols, and the current building was constructed in the 13th century.
The Buda Castle is a historical castle where the kings in Hungary used to reside. The Castle is located on the Buda Hill and it is part of the Budapest World Heritage Site since 1987. The Buda Hill is linked to the Széchenyi Lánchíd and the Castle Hill Funicular. You can walk down from the castle towards the Garden Bazaar or take the Funicular down. You can enter the castle, which now houses the History Museum and the Art Gallery.
Castle Garden Bazaar
The Castle Garden Bazaar is a beautiful complex with exhibition halls, gardens, restaurants, and theatres. It's a 19th-century Neo-Renaissance complex. It offers free entry, and it is a gorgeous place for those interested in beautiful Instagrammable places in Budapest.
Whether you decided to take the Funicular or walk down via the Garden Bazaar, it's now time to continue your journey towards Elizabeth Bridge and Gellért Hill. Once you reach the bridge, start making your way up towards the Citadella. See the Gerard of Csanád Monument on your way up.
The Citadella is a Hapsburg fortress with postcard-perfect views of the city. At the top, you will find some stalls selling traditional Hungarian crafts. You can also photograph Budapest in all its splendour. At the top, you will find the Liberty Statue which you can see from the bottom of the hill as well as Pest side.
Descent on the Gellért side and finish the afternoon with a swim in the Gellért. Gellért Thermal Baths and Swimming Pool is a bath complex in Budapest with a unique interior. You can use the swimming pool as well as the thermal baths, known for their great properties. The spa closes at 8 PM.
Cross back to Pest side via Liberty Bridge, a green metallic bridge which has tram tracks on it. Stop at the end of the bridge and wait for the yellow trams to take a really great picture of Budapest, with a great green-yellow contrast. Liberty bridge is my favourite in Budapest and one of the best Instagrammable spots in the city.
Wine tasting in Budapest
Hungary has an array of amazing wines and no better way to try them than by going to a wine tasting. We went to two different wine tasting since we moved to Budapest and really enjoyed our time. We didn't know that much about different types of wine produced in Hungary, except for the famous Tokaji wines, of course. There is a really nice half-day excursion to Etyek wine country from Budapest that we recommend. They will show you family-run cellars, give you different varieties of wine to try and dinner.
Day 3 in Budapest (Pest Side)
No better way to start the day than by enjoying Hungarian local specialities in the Central Market. Downstairs, you can find a variety of fruit and veg stalls, but if you make your way upstairs, you can find several traditional dishes. You should try langos here or if you have time, head over to the best langos in Budapest.
Cross the main road from the Central Market and onto Vaci Street. Vaci street is long and dotted with boutiques and restaurants, as well as souvenir shops. The street stretches all the way to Vörösmarty tér. It's a good time to shop and find cute items to buy for your loved items.
Deák Ferenc Street
From Vaci street take the Deák Ferenc Street and make your way back to the Deák Ferenc tér. From there, cross to District 7 and make your way to the Synagogue.
The Dohány Street Synagogue, also known as the Great Synagogue or Tabakgasse Synagogue, is a historical building in Budapest, located in the 7th district. It is the largest synagogue in Europe and the second largest in the world.
Andrássy Street is a large boulevard in Budapest, dating back to 1872. It became a World Heritage Site in 2002. We love walking on Andrássy Street and we do so almost every day. There are several notable points of interest along the avenue, including the gorgeous Hungarian Opera House, Pest Broadway, Terror House Museum and Heroes' Square. Don't forget to stop for coffee along the avenue.
Heroes' Square is one of the major squares in the city known for its iconic statues which represent the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars and other important Hungarian national leaders. You can visit the Museum of Fine Arts on the left and Palace of Art on the right.
Vajdahunyad Castle was completed in 1896. It now houses the Museum of Agriculture. The castle is surrounded by a beautiful green park, with benches where you can have a relaxing walk or enjoy a late afternoon picnic. On the other side, you can visit the Budapest Zoo & Botanical Garden.
Széchenyi Thermal Bath
If you wish to finish the afternoon with a lovely bath, head over to the Széchenyi Thermal Bath, located just minuted from the Vajdahunyad Castle. Széchenyi also offers an outdoors complex of pools. Skip the queues and enjoy the spa's 18 pools, saunas, and steams rooms for the whole day.
Dinner at New York Coffee House
Head back towards the city and make your way to the New York Coffee House. We recommend booking a table in advance to avoid queuing outside for several hours. New York Coffee House is a cafe/restaurant since 1894 with frescoes and chandeliers. The interior is absolutely stunning, so expect royal prices to match the beauty of the interior. It is by far one of the most beautiful buildings in the city.
Cruise in the evening
Finish off your 3 days in Budapest with a cruise on the Danube. If you decided to skip dinner at the New York Coffee House, enjoy a candlelit dinner cruise on the Danube.
What do you think of our 3 days in Budapest itinerary? Did we miss something? Do you have any further recommendations? Leave a comment below and tell us all about it.
Where to stay in Budapest
One of the main things you want to do before you start planning your itinerary is finding the right accommodation for your needs and budget. There are plenty of options here in Budapest including cheap hostels, mid-range and luxury hotels. If you want to be in the heart of Budapest, we recommend staying in a hotel on Pest side of the city. For those looking for quiet options, we recommend Buda side. Budget accommodation can be found primarily on Pest side with some incredible luxury hotels in district 5. We have a dedicated guide on where to stay in Budapest.