If you’ve got 3 days in Budapest – congratulations! You’ve booked the perfect trip!
Okay, okay. Obviously there’s a heck of a lot to do in one of Europe’s most charming and vivacious cities, and three days barely scratches the surface. But although trips to Budapest are an increasingly common vacation choice, with Budapest prices being an attractive incentive to spend more than enough time there, you can certainly see the highlights within three days. If you’re backpacking through Europe, or having a trip to Budapest as a single stop in an extended tour, it’s a perfect amount of time to see the sights, whilst still having time for other locations.
So, I’ve prepared the perfect 3 days in Budapest itinerary for you – what to do in Budapest, how to get there, where to stay, and where to eat. I’ve spent a total of nine days in the city over multiple trips, so I’ve taken my experience, distilled it down like an expert craftswoman, and presented it in a rather attractively-decorated cocktail glass for your consumption. There’s a little umbrella and a crazy straw and everything!
But if you’re ready to dive head-first into the world of Budapest holidays, and spend a bit more time in the city, then I’ve still got plenty for you! I’ll be giving you details on some awesome Budapest day trips, letting you explore the rest of Hungary (and even some neighbouring countries!).
If you’re still not sure how many days in Budapest are right for you, then stay tuned. I’ve got something for you too!
- 1 How to get to Budapest
- 2 What to do in Budapest – a 3 days in Budapest itinerary!
- 3 3 day Budapest itinerary
- 3.1 DAY ONE
- 3.2 DAY TWO
- 3.3 DAY THREE
- 4 Two days in Budapest
- 5 Budapest in a day
- 6 Day trips from Budapest
- 7 Budapest accommodation, and the best hotels in Budapest
- 7.1 Budapest accommodation
- 7.2 Budget Hotels
- 7.3 Mid-range hotels
- 7.4 Luxury Hotels
- 8 Budapest holidays
- 9 Budapest nightlife
- 10 Budapest shopping
- 11 Share this Budapest 3 day itinerary and guide!
How to get to Budapest
As you’d expect from a large city in Central Europe, Budapest has a whole ton of transport options! The city’s airport is the largest in Hungary, and a major hub, meaning that you should find a flight route from any airline that knows its shizz. Alternatively, if you’re on an extended trip through Europe, it’s incredibly easy to reach by train
Arriving at Budapest Airport
Most people will kick off their Budapest vacation by arriving at the out-of-town Liszt Ferenc International Airport – but luckily for you, it’s super easy to get into the heart of the city.
Getting from Budapest Airport to Budapest by bus is so simple that even a particularly dim-witted koala could do it (let’s face it, they’re cute but stupid).
When you touch down, whisk yourself through passport control and baggage reclaim, and emerge outside the airport’s Arrivals exit. Take an immediate left turn, and you’ll soon come to some buses parked up, with a purple machine just in front of them on the sidewalk.
The easiest bus to catch is the 100E, which will take you straight into the heart of the city. Queue up to use one of those purple machines (don’t worry; they translate into multiple languages, and the use of them is pretty straightforward). You want to select an Airport Shuttlebus Single – it’s located in the first column on the left, right down at the bottom, and will cost you 900 HUF. Simply have it checked by a man waiting outside the bus, or validate it in a machine once you’re onboard, then sit back as the bus takes you directly to Deák Ferenc tér Metro station in the city centre.
The 100E runs from 0500 to 0120, and departs every 20 minutes. If you’re arriving too late for this, you can catch the night bus (number 900), which takes you to Bajcsy-Zsilinszky Ut – from here, you can hop on the number 950 bus, which will again take you to Deák Ferenc tér Metro station.
If the thought of taking the bus doesn’t appeal for some reason, then you can grab one of the multitude of taxis waiting outside the airport for your custom. Be prepared to pay considerably more, though – it’ll set you back roughly 8000 HUF, which is equivalent to €25.
Getting to Budapest by train
There are a mighty four train stations in Budapest, making it an easy destination to reach by train, and giving rise to the popularity of doing the Prague – Vienna – Budapest route through Europe (though if you’re travelling on a budget and want to save on costs, you might want to consider doing Prague to Budapest, or Budapest to Prague. Vienna be pricey).
As a result, you should find frequent services to Budapest no matter which direction you’re coming from – you’ll find trains going there in places as diverse as Berlin, Lviv, Zagreb, and Cluj-Napoca. Depending on which direction you’re coming from, you’ll arrive at one of Nyugati, Keleti, Kelenfold or Deli stations, but honestly – it doesn’t really matter which one it is. All of them are connected to Budapest’s excellent Metro system, which is beyond simple to use and navigate, and you’ll find your way to your Budapest accommodation in no time.
What to do in Budapest – a 3 days in Budapest itinerary!
Yes, now that you’ve gotten tiresome chores like hurtling 38,000 feet above the ground in a metal tube out of the way, you can start to enjoy the many fun things to do in Budapest! (unless you like being 38,000 feet above the ground, in which case Budapest may not have the entertainment options / large circus cannon you seek).
I’ve designed this itinerary to give you the best tips on what to see in Budapest in three days. But, I’m also going to pare it down to what to do in Budapest in 2 days, and even how to see Budapest in a day. That way, you’ve got maximum flexibility and adaptability for your trip, especially if you arrive and decide that you’d actually like to do some day trips out of the city. You can spend your trip exactly as you’d like to, and still see the Budapest highlights!
First off, we’re going to cover the top things to do in Budapest in 3 days. Think of this as your personal Budapest walking tour; taking you around the highlights in a logical order, minimising the need for public transport.
Is three full days in Budapest enough?
Although you can easily spend more time in Hungary’s enchanting capital – I’ve spent a total of nine days there, and not gotten bored yet – you can certainly keep to the highlights, and make a three day trip to Budapest thoroughly worthwhile. It’s more than enough time to see the city’s main sights: if you’re staying longer, you’ll most likely supplement it with day trips out of the city. So if you purely want to see the best that Budapest’s city center has to offer, three full days is definitely enough!
I’m also going to let you in on an awesome way to navigate your way around – the completely free what3words app, which has divided the world into 57 trillion squares, each with their own three-word reference. Download the what3words app on to the smartphone of your choice, activate the microphone setting, and speak the three word reference I’m going to give you for each entry. You can then ask the app to navigate you directly there using apps such as Google Maps, Citymapper, or maps.me. It’s incredibly simple and clever!
Okay, enough preparation. Let’s do this!
3 day Budapest itinerary
Kick off the first of your 3 days in Budapest with a trip to the city’s historic region of Buda, before popping back over the Danube to take in one of Budapest’s more recent, and most touching, monuments. Plus, photobomb some Instagrammers.
The magnificent pile of Buda Castle appears to be a vast, historic building which has expertly weathered the ages, but spoiler! it hasn’t, actually. Although there’s been a castle on this site since 1267, the building itself has been repeatedly wrecked by invaders. Everyone from the Turks to the Christians, from the Russian communists to the Hungarians themselves has attacked the royal palace, with the result of it being comprehensively flattened, burnt, and generally mangled on numerous occasions. But fear not! It’s been rebuilt (again), and is one of the most elegant buildings on the Budapest skyline.
Aside from the inside, which holds a permanent art exhibition, the castle is well worth visiting for the stunning views of the Danube and Parliament building, and for enjoying the glorious outdoor spaces. In particular, you should visit the incredibly impressive fountain of King Matthias Corvinus’ hunting party, the sculpture of the mythological Turul bird, and the inner courtyard, where you too can pretend to be Katy Perry and shoot pyrotechnics from your chest area!
Buda Castle What3words reference: ambient.mulls.smoothly
Check out the feed of any Instagrammer who’s visited Budapest (including me!), and there’ll be a photo of Fisherman’s Bastion. Look at all the Budapest tours, and it’ll be a stop on the itinerary. Check out any blog post on places to see in Budapest, and it’ll be there at number one. Except this blog, where we defy convention and list it at number two!
That’s because Fisherman’s Bastion is freaking gorgeous – a Disney-esqe series of turreted towers and scenic staircases, made out of stone which practically glows at sunrise and sunset. Add to that the fact that it frames stunning views across the Danube, and you have a photographic, photogenic paradise. It’s one of the top things to see in Budapest for a good reason.
However, this does mean that it’s incredibly popular. You’ll either have to be slightly tactical in getting that perfect Instagram shot, or if taking photos of yourself gazing into the middle distance isn’t your thing, you can have immense fun watching those who do. Check out my guide to Fisherman’s Bastion, which gives you all the nifty secrets to getting a good photo, as well as entrance fees and opening times!
Whatever your motive, Fisherman’s Bastion is a must-see!
Fisherman’s Bastion What3words reference: decency.purses.hidden
See that big, awesome building next to Fisherman’s Bastion, with a cool af tiled roof? That, my friends, is the Matthias Church!
Originally built in 1015, the Mongols decided that they’d have a pop at Budapest like everyone else, and promptly flattened it. Presumably weary of their buildings getting trashed by uppity tourists, the Hungarians rebuilt it in the 14th century, and it’s been on this site ever since. The inside isn’t quite as old as it looks (it was extensively redecorated in the 19th century in order to look “more medieval”), but is visually stunning regardless. Flags and heraldry hang from the walls; paintings of crows – the symbol of King Matthias Corvinus – dance rather hypnotically across the walls. Every square inch of the interior has something beautiful on it.
Tragically overlooked by the hordes of tourists who throng Fisherman’s Bastion, the Matthias Church is quite possibly the more picturesque of the two sites, and certainly the more peaceful. Ladies wearing dresses or strappy tops will need to cover their shoulders with a jacket or scarf.
Matthias Church What3words reference: rescuer.offline.painter
Hospital in the Rock
Let’s hop in our time machine / DeLorean and go baaaack in tiiiiiiime…
The Hospital in the Rock is, surprisingly, a hospital embedded in a large amount of rock. The tunnels were built in 1939, thanks to Budapest’s mayor looking at the political situation of the time and thinking “this all looks a bit dodgy”, and were fully equipped to deal with the wounded of the Second World War. Indeed, it was a state-of-the-art facility despite being built into the cliff beneath Buda Castle, and the thick layers of rock protected both the hospital and its patients from shelling.
During the 1950s and 60’s, it was re-purposed as a nuclear bunker, thanks to tensions between the USA and the Soviet Union, although never used. So it’s the perfect site for a museum, having been essentially mothballed for decades – the tunnels have been faithfully redecorated to look exactly as they did during the war, with possibly the most realistic wax dummies I’ve ever seen. Every single item inside is original, including the air pumping system (it works fine, you’ll be relieved to hear!).
The guided tours depart every hour, and are incredibly atmospheric and informative. This is a great place to see a genuine slice of Budapest’s past!
Hospital in the Rock What3words reference: swatted.these.guitars
Hungarian Parliament Building
The Parliament building in Budapest is not only the largest building in the city. but definitely one of the most spectacular!
Located on the opposite side of the Danube river from the other items on today’s itinerary, meaning that you can skip across the famous Széchenyi Chain Bridge and aww at the stone lions, this building is the cherry on the Budapest architecture cake. Aside from being a Gothic Revival piece of badassery, it’s also the home of the Holy Crown of Hungary. It’s impossible to state how important this particular piece of bling is to the Hungarians – its been used to crown the kings of the country since the 12th century, and has even been held at Fort Knox during the occupation by the Soviet Union.
You’ll need to book a tour (which you can do here with the reputable Get Your Guide) in order to see the glorious interior of the Parliament Building, but there’s still things to see if you miss out. Check out the guards at the front of the building, who’ll often be wearing some rather snazzy sunglasses in the summer, or cross the road to see the bullet hole markers in the frontage of the Ministry of Agriculture.
These were caused by Soviet troops opening fire on peaceful protesters on October 25th 1956 – a day now known as Bloody Thursday. People took refuge behind the columns, which soon became riddled with bullets – it’s a subtle, yet powerful, memorial.
Hungarian Parliament Building What3words reference: workshop.casual.cold
Shoes on the Danube Bank
These sculptures of shoes, abandoned on the Parliament side of the Danube, have become famous as one of the city’s most touching tributes to the Jewish population who were killed by fascists during the Second World War.
An estimated 3500 people were executed by the Arrow Cross group between 1944 and 1945. They were taken to the river’s bank, ordered to take off their shoes, and then shot before being dumped into the river. The shoes were created to represent the garments left behind by the victims – the fact that they look so realistic only adds to the sombreness. You’ll also probably see a lot of small stones placed around the shoes – a Jewish tradition which symbolises the physical embodiment of a prayer – as well as memorial candles and flowers.
Reflect on this sad aspect of Budapest history as the sun sets, then make your way back through the city for some dinner. There’s a full day of Budapest sightseeing ahead of you tomorrow!
Shoes on the Danube Bank What3words reference: trains.polo.stone
Liberty Statue on Gellért Hill
Yes, you can visit the Statue of Liberty in Budapest! Grab your stars, stripes, and other assorted geometric shapes and flag components!
Wait, no – it’s not that Statue of Liberty. And unlike its similarly-named cousin in New York, this one isn’t located on an island: it’s located right up the top of Gellért Hill, the highest point in central Budapest (outdoing its rival of the Budapest Eye).
There’s a few different ways to get there, depending on how mobile you are, or how much you fancy a bracing walk. The less direct, yet gentler, way to get up there is to follow the main road of Hegyalja ut, before turning off on to Sánc u. Follow the road up (basically, go in the direction that the red City Sightseeing Budapest buses travel in, towards the Citadella), before taking Szirtes ut. This road will take you all the way there!
Alternatively, you can take the stairs at the foot of the hill, just opposite the Elisabeth Bridge for a bit of a hike – it’ll save you time, but be aware that there’s a fair few steps involved. As in, a lot.
Either way, you’ll eventually emerge at the Liberty Statue – Budapest’s memorial to those who died defending the city’s freedom, and one of the symbols of the city. If you’re walking along the Danube, you’ll have already seen the vast pillar topped with a statue of a woman holding a palm leaf, and this is an ideal opportunity to take it in at close quarters, and enjoy some of the best views of Budapest!
Liberty Statue What3words reference: outdone.pancakes.coached
Gellért Hill Cave Church (Sziklatemplom)
You’ve been on top of Gellert Hill – how about going underneath it?
As you’ll have discovered yesterday, the people of Budapest are extremely good at building things in caves, and this one has holy backing – yes, there’s an entire church carved into a cave!
The cave’s official name is Saint Ivan’s Cave, after a hermit who used to hang out in there and cure people of their illnesses by submerging them in muddy water. Alas, there’s no submerging these days, but instead you have one of the most extraordinary churches you’ll ever set foot in. You’ll need to cover up if you’ve got bare shoulders, but that’s not a bad thing – it gets a bit chilly in there.
Have a look around the chapel, which is still very much in use, with its rough walls hewn out of solid rock – it’s remarkably impressive, and strangely cosy. There’s also some good artwork dotted about, from a wrought iron Hungarian eagle, to a whole room which has been carved from wood.
Sziklatemplom What3words reference: fight.sushi.revisit
Remember our good friend the hermit, who used to cure people by plopping them (presumably with their consent) into warm muddy water?
Well, the spring he used is the same one which now serves the Gellért Baths, located in the fabulously swanky Gellért Hotel. This is one of the most historic hotels in the city (with prices which aren’t unreasonable), and staying there even for a single night is worth it just to be able to go straight from your room into one of the best spas in Budapest. But you’re equally welcome as a non-guest!
Enter the wrought-iron elevator (manned, of course, dahling) and descend down to the warm and steamy depths of the spa. You can soak in one of the gloriously decorated pools. You can swim to your heart’s content in the central indoor pool, with its beautiful pillars and art nouveau architecture. Get a soothing massage – or even a romantic massage for two, which probably isn’t as kinky as it sounds!
Most excitingly, you can visit the outdoor pool, which has a wave machine installed in 1927 – and it still works perfectly! You too can be harmlessly thrown around in some surprisingly big waves!
Click here, and you can make life easier for yourself by skipping the line at Gellert Baths!
Gellert Baths What3words reference: brighter.lived.kings
Liberty Bridge and Elisabeth Bridge
You can take either bridge back to the Pest side of the Danube – and they’re both named after the city’s most famous royal couple. Move over, Harry and Meghan.
The Liberty Bridge (originally called the Franz Joseph Bridge) and the Elisabeth Bridge are named after the Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph I, and his bride Elisabeth of Bavaria – nicknamed Sisi. If you’ve already visited Vienna, then you’ll be very familiar with Sisi, whose portrait appears just about everywhere. She was born in Germany, but married Franz Joseph I in 1854. However, she was famously both beautiful, and independently-minded (you go, girl!).
She hated the confines of court in Vienna, and instead preferred to come and chill out in Budapest, which was equally beautiful but far less stuffy. She also endeared herself to the locals by learning Hungarian, a notoriously difficult language, and by making it perfectly clear that she preferred being there. Budapest – and the rest of the empire – was thrown into shock when she was assassinated in Geneva. Her body was returned to Vienna, which she probably would’ve hated.
However, her name lives on in many a public monument in Budapest, most notably the flippin’ huge white bridge which crosses the Danube. Even though she was the beauty, the bridge which was previously named after her husband is the particularly striking one – you’ll see many an Instagrammer posing at the base.
Liberty Bridge What3words reference: thrones,caps.brighter
Elisabeth Bridge What3words reference: rust.historic.ideal
Budapest Great Market Hall
The Budapest Great Market Hall should be high on everyone’s list of things to see in Budapest. Partly because it’s a grand old building and a magnificent sight, and partly because you can drop your Budapest sightseeing responsibilities like a sack of hot shizzle, and go shopping!
The market opened in 1897, and is a huge indoor market, topped with a particularly pretty tiled roof (you’ll see the building from a good distance away thanks to the distinctive green and yellow tiles). But let’s forget the history for once, and focus on the shopping possibilities, which are pretty darn epic. The entirety of the vast ground floor is given over to food stalls, selling more varieties of sausage than you knew existed, as well as general meats, cheeses, and fruit. You could spend the whole of your three days in Budapest just checking out the stalls; there’s that flippin’ many.
If this vegan’s nightmare isn’t your bag, then head upstairs for some of the finest Budapest souvenir shopping options available in the city. You’ll find a huge range of stalls offering everything from dolls in traditional dress to adorable, brightly-painted homewares carved out of wood. The stallholders generally aren’t adverse to a haggle, so it’s definitely a place where you can find some bargains!
Check out my guide to Budapest shopping and Budapest souvenirs for more info!
Great Market Hall What3words reference: thrones.motion.shelter
It’s the last day of your 3 days in Budapest! Awww! Let’s make sure that you finish your trip in style, with the glories of Hungary’s past, some more bathing (seriously: you can’t go to Budapest without experiencing the baths), and one of the poshest shopping streets in Europe. But let’s also take a moment to reflect on Budapest’s more recent, and terrible, past, in order to fully appreciate the present.
It’s time to visit Budapest’s most celebrated public space! And take some awesome photos while we’re at it, because let’s face it: we’re all about the Insta-envy.
Heroes Square is not only Budapest prettiest outdoor space, despite being surrounded by roads on all sides, but is extremely well-named. The centre of the square is taken up by some hella impressive statuary, with the Archangel Gabriel standing atop a very large column holding the holy crown of the Hungarians in his hands. At the bottom of the column are the chieftains of the seven Magyar tribes who founded Budapest, looking super fly on their beautifully carved horses.
In front of the column is a slab dedicated to those who gave their lives for Hungarian independence, whilst the whole square is finished off by two arcs with statues of the nation’s most illustrious peeps. These are generally kings who kicked the backsides of various other nations, securing peace and prosperity for Hungary.
Travel to Heroes Square on Budapest’s Metro system (which is ridiculously easy to navigate, despite being the oldest Metro on mainland Europe), emerge from the ground, and prepare to be impressed.
Heroes Square What3words reference: helpful.tuned.free
Széchenyi Thermal Spa
Going to a thermal bath is a way of life in Budapest, as is failing to pronounce the name of these baths if you’re a tourist! (we all accidentally mangle it; don’t worry.)
The Szechenyi Baths are rather different from yesterday’s Gellért Baths – they’re bigger and more popular, thanks to the lower price. This does mean that it gets a little busier, so consider a skip the line ticket if you can’t be bothered to queue up (let’s face it, who can?). They’re also a little more accessible than the rather posh Gellért Baths – but you should definitely visit both in order to experience the contrast! The Szechenyi Baths have a beer spa, and host the notorious Sparty events on Saturday nights.
But if you’re visiting on a normal day, you can expect 21 deliciously heated pools or varying temperatures – everything from 27 to 38 centrigrade, which should get even the stiffest muscles working again. There’s also a vast list of massage treatments and other services, just in case you need a thorough pamper before returning home, or going to the next stop on your Europe trip.
Go to the outside pools for the full photogenic glory of the place (a photo, preferably taken on dry land, is a must), as well as the novelty of being able to play chess in a swimming pool! It’s a must for your time in Budapest.
Szechenyi Thermal Baths What3words reference: secret.uproot.seating
The House of Terror
If you walk back through Heroes Square and down Andrássy Avenue, you’ll eventually come to a building located on a quiet street corner, which at one point looked completely innocuous. However, appearances were deceiving, as the building was used by the Arrow Cross Party, and saw multiple cases of imprisonment, torture, and murder. This is number 60 Andrássy Avenue, now known as the House of Terror.
The building is now a comprehensive museum, chronicling the terror which operated from it. Audioguides are available, or you can take the free printed explanations which draw parallels between the Arrow Cross and Nazi parties, and how their reign affected the lives of normal Hungarians. If you can make it through some of the exhibitions without getting teary, then you’re doing well – even as you queue to buy your tickets, there’s a video of a Hungarian man who is desolate at what happened to his countrymen.
The most harrowing exhibition is located in the basement. You descend in a glass lift, whilst a video plays of a man describing the methods of execution which were carried out in the basement itself. You then wander around a space filled with tiny cells, photos of notable occupants up on the walls. One cell simply holds a gallows.
The House of Terror isn’t an easy visit, but it’s definitely an important component for understanding Budapest’s darkest hour.
House of Terror What3words reference: eggs.passion.fell
Andrássy Avenue and the Hungarian State Opera House
Okay, on to lighter things! Andrassy Avenue is one of Budapest’s nicest streets for walking along, having a distinct similarity to the Champs Elysees in Paris – it’s wide, tree-lined, and full of shops which will do some severe damage to your credit card. It might not be an obvious contender on the list of what to do in Budapest in 3 days, but it’s actually a highly pleasant, memorable experience!
The reason for the width may be puzzling, but it’s actually quite simple – the road itself was designed to by used by horse and carriages, next to a boulevard which was for the use of pedestrians going on a grand old stroll. The other side of the pedestrians was reserved for riders on horses, meaning that this avenue was essentially three lanes wide. But that means that for us modern walkers, it’s a nice, breezy road to walk along without feeling like you’re right on top of the traffic. Perfect!
Roughly halfway along Andrassy Avenue is the neo-Renaissance pile of the Hungarian State Opera House, which has been longing around on this spot and looking pretty since 1884 (which is the same year that the soccer team I support was founded. I leave it to you to decide which is the more cultural institution). When I visited, it was sadly coated in scaffolding, as a building as attractive as this one requires a lot of upkeep. But the Opera reopens in 2020, so the chances are that you’ll have uninterrupted views of it; hurrah!
If you fancy a look inside the Opera, you’re in luck – you can take a tour. Find out more here!
Hungarian State Opera What3words reference: donation.avid.wicket
St. Stephen’s Basilica
Where better to finish your 3 days in Budapest than the magnificent cathedral devoted to the country’s patron saint?
St. Stephen is a big deal in these parts. He was the first king of Hungary, ascending to the throne in 997AD. His feast day on August 20th is celebrated as State Foundation Day. And at his cathedral, you can go and see him in person!
No, really, you can! Sort of.
You see, the star attraction in the basilica is the preserved, severed hand of the saint, which sits in its own reliquary. It’s not the easiest to make out, but you can go and bask in its general presence, before exploring the rest of the building! And a glorious construction it is too.
It’s not nearly as old as it looks – it was only completed in 1905, on a site which formerly held a theatre – but it’s in a classical style. The decoration inside is a sight to behold, particularly the cupolas, which are breathtaking when the lights hits them. It’s the most important church in Hungary, and one of the tallest buildings in Budapest. If you’d like to see the view from the top, then it’s possible to ascend the dome for a small fee.
St. Stephen’s Basilica What3words reference: swanky.slug.limbs (I particularly love the thought of saying this reference out loud!)
And that’s it! The conclusion to your three days in the city; sob! But how about seeing some of the countryside outside of the city? Or what about doing some eating, shopping, and partying in-between the sightseeing? Well, read on!
Two days in Budapest
Travelling to Budapest, but only have a couple of days? Need a weekend itinerary?
If you want to see the best of the city, yet still have time to explore beyond the city limits, then this might be an ideal solution for you! Even better, now that I’ve given you details on what to see in three days, it’s easy to whittle it down to what to do in Budapest in 2 days.
For details on the stops, see the 3 day itinerary, but your highlights list for 2 days in Budapest should look something like this:
Either Gellért or Széchenyi Baths
House of Terror
St. Stephen’s Basilica
Budapest in a day
If you’re really in a rush, and you want to check out Budapest in a single day, then don’t fret. Although you’ll barely scratch the surface of this wonderful place, it’s possible to see the very cream of the sightseeing crop in one day, thanks to their proximity to each other. And it gives you an excuse to come back some day, right?
The very minimum of Budapest places to visit is as follows:
St. Stephen’s Basilica
Day trips from Budapest
If you’ve got a bit of extra time in the city, or if you’re using a one or two day Budapest itinerary, how about taking a day trip and seeing some of the lovely places located just a mere hop, skip, and jump away? (btw, if you literally hop, skip, and jump, you will most likely still be in Budapest, unless you have very long legs.)
Hungary is a criminally underrated country, with so many sites and sights which are either historic, stunningly beautiful, or both. Fortunately, Hungary is also a pretty small country, making it easy to see many places within a day, and get back to your Budapest hotel in time for dinner. There’ll be more on where to eat in Budapest later, by the way!
Not only that, but Hungary is in spitting distance of some other European capitals and towns, making them ideal day trip fodder and allowing you to check some country boxes (if that floats your boat).
Let’s have a look at some of the easiest and best day trips from Budapest!
If you want more bang for your sightseeing buck, then the Danube Bend area is the place for you. You get to see not one, not two, but three awesome places!
You’ll start your day off by visiting Esztergom, and its highly impressive church, which is the biggest in Hungary. It can’t be emphasised just how magnificent it is; it’s absolutely mahoosive, and sits in a prime position overlooking the river valley which forms the border with Slovakia. It’s seriously photogenic, y’all, both inside and out.
Excited by all that history, but still wanting a bit more? No probs! Your next stop is the scenic castle at Visegrád, with its aura of medieval badassery. If that isn’t enough excitement, your day finishes at the extremely pretty village of Szentendre, which is also an arts and crafts centre. It’s an excellent choice for picking up those unique Hungarian souvenirs!
The Danube Bend was the first day trip I ever took from Budapest, and it gets my official stamp of approval as a good place to start your Hungarian exploration!
Are you super cultured? Are you the kind of person who knows their claret from their Beaujolais? If not, would you like to be?
Hungary produces some of the best wines in Europe, and their home is at the gorgeous town of Eger. Don’t believe me? Ask my boyfriend, who was on the bus to Eger saying “I don’t like red wines”, and who came back with three bottles of it. Yeah, it’s that good.
You’ll start off in the town of Eger itself, which is heartbreakingly pretty, and have a good look at the historic churches. In addition, there’s the most northern minaret in the world (a leftover from when the town was under the control of the Turks), which gives some fabulous views from the top!
But don’t get too cosy, because you’ll be spending the afternoon at the evocatively-named Valley of Beautiful Women, which is famous for its wine making and tasting. You’ll tour around the interesting cavern-like wine cellars, which are built into solid rock, and taste as much Hungarian wine as you can handle. This really is top-quality: if you examine the number plates of cars parked nearby, you’ll see that they’ve come from all of Hungary’s neighbouring countries. People appreciate the wine produced here enough to drive from the Ukraine to get it!
Fun fact! Hungary has no coastline. Second fun fact! Hungary says “eff you” to coastlines, because they have Lake Balaton, and don’t need no stinkin’ sea.
Undoubtedly one of the country’s loveliest area, Lake Balaton is known as the “Hungarian Sea”, and you can do everything here that you could on the Mediterranean. Paddle boarding, sunset cruises, sailing experiences are more are at your fingertips – but the lake also has a little secret something, which you won’t get by the seaside.
Like so much of Hungary, there’s a thermal spa in the town of Balatonfured, meaning that you have double the bathing options! The town is the most popular spot for going for a swim in the lake, and it’s well worth taking a quick dip.
Lake Balaton is a great spot for having a total change of pace away from the city!
Outside of Hungary
In many ways, the capital of Slovakia is the ideal Budapest day trip.
It’s a small city, which probably isn’t going to distract you for much longer than a day and a half if you were actually staying there, so it’s ideal to do a day trip from Budapest to Bratislava instead! You’ll have plenty of time to see the highlights, before getting the train back.
While you’re there, check out sights such as Bratislava castle, or have a wander around the scenic old town. It’s a great place for an amble and a poke around the souvenir shops (Slovakia hockey shirts seem to be a particularly popular choice), or stop in one of the pubs. The beer in Slovakia is definitely a cut above the Hungarian product (in fact, you’ll generally find that the Hungarians will take a sneaky trip across the border to stock up), and whiling away some time in a bar definitely isn’t a bad option.
You can also seek out the famous statue of Cumil. Rub the top of his head for good luck!
The Austrian capital is a mere couple of hours away by train (departing from the quieter station of Budapest Kelenfold), and will give you a whistlestop tour of the city.
There’s so much to choose from in Vienna – you can visit the lavish Schonbrunn Palace, surrounded by acre upon acre of landscaped gardens, which is worth a day’s exploration by itself. You can check out the many museums and art galleries, including the Belvedere, which holds Klimt’s The Kiss. Or you can visit St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and wander around the old town.
Vienna has so much going on that unless there’s something specific that you want to visit, a good option is to pick up a tour and get an in-depth knowledge of the highlights. Alternatively, the city has an excellent public transport system, and you can buy a day pass for €8.
You can’t go wrong with whatever you choose to do in Vienna – be sure to pick up a weiner or schnitzel for lunch; it’s practically mandatory.
Budapest accommodation, and the best hotels in Budapest
Deciding where to stay in Budapest can be tricky – after all, the best place to stay in Budapest for one person might be entirely, completely different for another. Do you want five-star luxury, or to be a canny traveller and stick to a tight budget? Do you want hotels in Budapest city centre, or to be hosted by a local in an authentic neighbourhood?
Don’t worry. I got ya, boo.
I’ve tracked down some awesome options that’ll cover all the bases, from different budgets to different locations. You’re bound to find your perfect city hotel here!
Not keen on the idea of a hotel? Fancy something a little more authentic, or simply the cheapest way to stay? Look no further!
Want something that’s cheap, clean, centrally-located, and possessing of outstanding reviews? You can’t go wrong with the Central Market Hall Zen Hostel! This is an excellent choice for anyone wanting budget accommodation in Budapest – there are mixed and female-only dorms, and its location near to the Central Market Hall means that you can buy ingredients on the cheap, and cook yourself dinner! It’s also located right by one of the stops for the express bus from the airport. It’s a perfect choice!
Want the glamour of nearby Andrássy Avenue, but a fraction of the accommodation cost? Then Activity Hostel is for you! Further proving that Budapest really knows how to do a good hostel, this little gem has mixed and female-only dorms, free wifi, and beautiful surroundings to make you feel at home. It’s even decorated with wall art made by the owner! Add a location near St. Stephen’s Basilica and all the facilities you’ll ever need, and the Activity Hostel is hard to beat.
How about a little taste of the high life? With this apartment, which you’ll be the only resident in, you can live the Budapest dream and stay right next to Buda Castle. Want to see the city’s main sites before they’re coated in tourists? No problem: a stay here means that you’ll be at Fisherman’s Bastion waaay before the bus loads of tourists. Once you’re done gliding through Budapest’s most desirable locations, you can return to an apartment which offers peace, space to do some yoga, and even a hot tub. All for a bargain price!
Why oh why don’t more people know about this place?! Let’s put it this way: if I told you that you could have a clean, lovely hotel, slap bang in the centre of Budapest and within minutes of Buda Castle, and that the hotel has free sauna facilities, how much would you expect it to cost? Quite a bit, right? Well, go and click on that link above, and see if you can believe what your eyes are telling you. This place is a steal.
This place definitely has the wow factor! It’s a sumptuously decorated loft suite (don’t worry, comfort-fans; your 24-hour service is downstairs at the fully manned reception desk), with amazing facilities – private entrance, anyone? Its central location means that you’ll never have to walk far to see all of Budapest’s top sights, and the shopping street of Váci utca is a stone’s throw away. Give it a look!
My favourite hotel in Budapest. This is another hotel where you won’t be able to stop yourself from squeaking out a “wow!” as you enter: it’s decorated throughout in the style of a Parisian cafe, and it’s freakin’ gorgeous. Think red velvet curtains and crimson damask blankets, a bath with clawed feet, and a minibar which is absolutely free. Yeah, you read that correctly: it’s free, and they challenge you to help yourself before they restock in the morning. Have you ever heard of a hotel doing that?? Visit the cafe on the ground floor, and fall in love both with the cakes, and with this fantastic hotel!
I’m including this one under mid-range because its pricing can vary wildly – sometimes it’s a bit more dear, and sometimes it’s insanely affordable. Definitely one to check out! Either way, it’s a really underrated place to stay, with an ideal location right next to Ferenciek tere metro station – this is brilliantly central, and perfect for heading off early to the sightseeing spots! Rooms can be a little cosy, but you do get a balcony, an excellent shower, and fantastic soundproofing, not to mention the adorable ladies in the breakfast room!
What’s this? Why, it’s the best-rated luxury hotel in Budapest, that’s what! The Aria Hotel takes luxury to a new level – you can lounge in the rooftop bar with panoramic views of Budapest, including it’s near-neighbour of St. Stephen’s Basilica. There’s a free wine and cheese tasting session every afternoon. There’s a spa centre with pool, a sauna, and a hammam. Not sold yet? How about your own private terrace balcony, for relaxing and taking in the sights below? The Aria Hotel is classy luxury.
How about staying in possibly the most famous hotel in Budapest? How about staying at what’s most definitely the most beautiful hotel in Budapest? The Párisi Udvar Hotel is an institution, and the most Instagrammable hotel in Budapest by a country mile. It’s been extensively renovated and reopened, and is now one of the city’s top places to stay. The location is excellent, just at the foot of the shopping street of Vaci utca, and surrounded by top restaurants. Click the link above, fall in love, stay at the hotel, and make everyone you know sick with jealousy!
Don’t want to eat in the hotel, or cook your own? Fancy exploring Budapest cuisine such as goulash, or chicken paprikash with sour cream? Check out my guide to traditional Hungarian food, including my tips on where to eat, and where to find the best goulash in Budapest!
Want to coincide your trip with national holidays, in order to party on down with the Hungarians? Or do you want to avoid the days that the shops and services are shut? Get yer list of Budapest public holidays here!
January 1 – New Year’s Day
March 15 – commemoration of the 1848 revolution
Easter – Easter Sunday/Monday, whichever date they land on
May 1 – Labour Day
Whit Monday – a specific Monday in May or June
August 20 – St. Stephen’s Day / State Foundation Day
October 23 – commemorating the revolution in 1956
November 1 – All Saints Day
December 25-26 – Christmas
Budapest is becoming increasingly popular as a nightlife destination, thanks to those notoriously cheap Budapest prices, allowing you to get more for your money. Head along Váci utca at night, and you’ll see a steady stream of revellers on organised bar crawl tours, including some which take place on the Danube itself!
However, if you want to get a real taste of Budapest nightlife, you’ll want to visit a ruin pub. These are a uniquely Budapestian phenomenon: fully functional bars which are set up in abandoned or disused buildings, and usually have loud music and quirky decoration! You can either wander the city until you find one (ruin pubs are usually temporary in nature, making it kinda tricky to give you directions to one), but the original ruin pub is easy to find.
Szimpla Kert was the first ruin pub, and thanks to its popularity, it’s staying put in one place! It was a stove factory, once upon a time – now, it’s a pub and community centre, holding movie screenings and live music. It’s not the most authentic venue anymore – 80% of the clientele are tourists – but it’s certainly a great introduction to this Budapest institution!
Getting weed in Budapest
I’m including this purely because I see posts on Reddit almost daily, asking about the legalities of getting marijuana in Budapest, and where to get hold of some.
So I’m just going to leave this here: cannabis is illegal in Hungary, and is treated as seriously as heroin in terms of the law. If you’re smoking it in public, there’s a possibility that the police will turn a blind eye to it – but there’s an equal possibility that they won’t, and you can face jail time if arrested. Similarly, bars won’t appreciate you breaking the law on their premises, as it potentially gets them into trouble.
I don’t personally touch drugs, so that’s all that I can advise you. Be warned, and decide for yourself whether you want to take the risk.
Never mind Milan: Budapest can offer enviable shopping options too! Whether it’s the designer clobber on Andrássy Avenue, or the bargains to be found in the markets, there’s a lot on offer for very reasonable prices.
Check out my guide to Budapest shopping for more information and ideas!
There we have it! You are now completely clued-up when it comes to the best things to do in Budapest in three days. Or, you can be flexible, and combine a one or two day itinerary with a day trip or two. The choice really is yours, but one thing is certain: you are going to love Budapest, and its wonderful population. It’s definitely one of the friendliest places I’ve visited!
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