3 days in Budapest: the Ideal Itinerary

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Budapest is the ideal trip for city break lovers. I recently spent 3 days in Budapest, and so am sharing what I saw and did so that you might get some inspiration if you are visiting the city!

It is the perfect city for a three night break, there isn’t so much to do that you will be rushing around, but there is also a lot to see so you definitely won’t get bored! It is also a fairly inexpensive city, the food and drink is not going to break the bank. Plus, it is incredibly delicious!

Budapest also has a lot of interesting history. Not unsurprising, given where it is located in Europe, a lot of it is harrowing – but it is important to find out more during your 3 days in Budapest. It is not an old city; it was built in 1896. Predominately to celebrate 1000 years of the country.

Image of streets of Budapest on 3 days in Budapest

Did you know?

Budapest is split into two sides – Buda and Pest. Buda occupies the west side of the city and Pest occupies the east. If you are on a hill, you are in Buda and if it is flat – you are in Pest.

Tips for spending 3 days in Budapest

How long to spend in the city?

At least 2 nights, but I’d definitely recommend a third – that way you can take your time and wander around the city at a leisurely pace.

Where to stay? Best Neighbourhoods to stay for 3 days in Budapest

I would recommend choosing a hotel in the Jewish quarter. This means you are ideally placed for bars and restaurants in the evening. And the nightlife in Budapest is something you do not want to miss! There are so many options, from AirBnB’s to hostels to fancy hotels in this area, so there is something for all budgets

You are close to the bars and restaurants and not far from the main sights for sightseeing during the day.

Getting around Budapest

If you want to get your steps up, you can walk around the main sights of the city fairly easily. However, public transport is easy to navigate, and will allow you to cover more distance. The city has a metro, buses and trams. And you can buy tickets for all three at machines which take cash or card. If you are planning on a few stops, the best option is a 24 hour ticket, which allows you unlimited rides in that time.

image of yellow tram in Budapest

Budapest Itinerary – 3 days in Budapest Overview

Day 1 – Pest Side: Walking tour, Parliament building, Shoes on the Danube, Central Market Hall, St Stephens Basilica, Jewish Quarter

Day 2 – Buda Side: Funicular, Buda Castle, Gellert Hill, Liberty Statue, Hospital in the Rock, Fisherman’s Bastion

Day 3 – Relax! Szechenyi Baths, New York Cafe, tick off the rest from the above!

3 days in Budapest itinerary – day 1

Free walking tour

How to start your 3 days in Budapest? The best way to start any city break, with a free walking tour! Free Tour offer various free walking tours, including an introduction to the city. This covers the Pest side of the river. But there are plenty of other options including a Buda tour and a Jewish Quarter. The tour also highlights some really important history of the city, which is fantastic context for when you are walking around.

Hungarian Parliament buildings

This iconic and stunning building was built because it won a competition of designs. When they were building the city, designs were submitted and this one won! Second and third place buildings can be seen opposite. If you want to visit inside tickets need to be booked quite a few days in advance. Alternatively, take some photos from the outside. It is the second biggest parliament building in Europe and absolutely stunning. There are also fantastic views of the building from the Buda side of the Danube, for when you are over there!

Shoes on the Danube

Very near the parliament building, you will find this memorial on the banks of the Danube river. This collection of metal shoes are a memorial for those who where shot during WWII. Thousands and thousands of Jews were forced to remove their shoes at gunpoint, as these were a commodity during the war, and then shot. Before falling into the river and being washed away.

St Stephen’s Basilica

This incredibly impressive church is the largest in the city but was only built in 1905. If city views are your thing then you can can go up to the top of the tower. There is a lift, if you don’t want to tackle the stairs!

Central Market Hall

Central Market Hall is an incredibly impressive building! The sheer size of it will blow your mind. This is the perfect place to hunt out some local food and drink. Downstairs has much more of a local market feel. With stalls selling fruit, vegetables and meat. So much meat – I have never seen so many cured meat options in my life before!

Upstairs is home to stalls selling homeware, but also any kind of souvenir you could possible want to take home to remember the trip. Around the edge are the food stalls where you can find local dishes such as goulash or langos.

Mini Statues

A little fun, cute thing to do while you are wandering around the city on your 3 days in Budapest! All over the city, little minature statues have popped up, from Kermit the frog to a dead squirrel to a tiny tank. They are the work of guerilla artist Mihály Kolodko. There are currently 16 located around the city, but some pop up unexpectedly so you never know if there might be more.

A tiny Mr Bean’s Bear is on the side of the former British Embassy, a diver located outside a hotel and an axe on a fence post. This replaced a Soviet hat, which was removed as there was to be no more Soviet reminders in the city. The axe represents the destruction.

They are adorable to find, and a great way to explore the city!

Jewish Quarter

No 3 days in Budapest can be complete without wandering the Jewish Quarter of the city. It is home to the largest synagogue in Europe, which is definitely worth a visit.

Afterwards, take your time to wander the streets. There is a lot of street art to be found, as well as plenty of cafes, bars and restaurants.

Karvan

On a busy day of sightseeing, you are definitely going to be in need of some fuel! Karavan provides the perfect place for a spot of lunch. A little alleyway with food stalls and a bar, offering a great choice of local and street food bites. Try the langos bread – basically fried bread. Or go even further and have it as part of a burger!

Open during the day and evening.

Mazel Tov

And for dinner (or even lunch or brunch!) make sure to miss the Middle Eastern restaurant, Mazel Tov.It is set in a former warehouse, so technically a ruined bar in itself, but with a very different vibe. The hummus is absolutely amazing!

Ruin Bars – Szimpla Kert

No trip to Budapest would be complete without visiting the infamous ruin bars. Szimpla Kert was the first and is the most iconic. It came about as a way to spring new life into derelict post war buildings. The owners couldn’t afford to renovate, so they kept the ruined aesthetic, bought vintage furniture and even cut a car in half and stuck it in . It was such a success that soon other bars followed suit.

It is busiest in the evenings at weekends, but during the day it is easy to grab a seat. On a Sunday there is even a farmers market that starts early. If you are visiting in the colder months, wrap up warm as it has a very outside in vibe.

3 days in Budapest itinerary – day 2

Gellert Cave Church

Start day 2 by taking a wander over to the Buda side of the city. Walking over the 19th Century Liberty Bridge, and you will find yourself in front of Gellert Hill. In this hill, you will find a Thank catholic church built in the 1920’s by monks!

Liberty Statue

From the hill head up towards Liberty Statue. The area itself was under renovation when I was visiting, but there are some impressive views of the city from the viewpoints on the way up.

Buda Hill Funicular

For something a little novel, take the funicular up Castle Hill to visit the castle. The hill itself isn’t too big of a walk, but this little train is really cute. It is very picturesque, and the original .line was built in 1870. It has now been rebuilt back to the original design, so there is definitely the novelty factor. A one way ticket costs 1,200 HUF.

image of funicular in Budapest for 3 days in Budapest

Buda Castle

Buda Castle is the historical castle and palace complex of the Hungarian kings in Budapest. Originally built in 1265, although none of this remains. There are large old walls, but these are not original. The current baroque palace that occupies most of the space, was made between 1749 and 1769. It now houses the Hungarian National Gallery, the Budapest History Museum and the National Szechenyi Library. Although, you might need more than 3 days in Budapest!

Image of Buda Castle, for 3 days in Budapest

Hospital in the Rock

A little different, and perhaps not the most cheerful of spots. But if you are after something unusual, then wander down the other side of Castle Hill to find the Hospital in the Rock. Caves under the castle were converted into a hospital during WWII. However it was only used twice, towards the end of the war and then in the siege of Budapest afterwards. After this, it was then converted into a nuclear bunker – although was never used. If you want a different take on the history, this is the place for you.

image of hospital in the rock for 3 days in Budapest

Fishermans Bastion

As the day is drawing to a close, make sure to head up to the famous Fisherman’s Bastion for sunset. Probably the most photographed part of the city, but a stunning view point nonetheless.

It was built specifically for a view point in mind, and has some of the best views of the city. It really does look like something out of a fairytale, with it’s arches and beautiful white stone turrets. While at Fisherman’s Bastion, be sure to stop at Matthias Church, built in 1015.

Budapest itinerary – day 3

Szechenyi Baths

Budapest is famous for it’s thermal baths, and Szechenyi Baths is probably the most recognisable of them all. As well as being the largest. The beautiful yellow facade of the building looks stunning against the blue water of the outdoor pools. They are open all year round, but you might have to run between the pools in the freezing winter! If you want to avoid the crowds, make sure to get their first thing.

There are 16 pools in total, 3 are outdoors and the rest indoors. The indoors ones range in temperature, and you can also find saunas to relax in. The thermal baths are so important in the city, doctors often prescribe water treatments in the healing spa waters for Hungarian patients.

The ticket includes a locker to safely store your stuff, you can pay more if you want a private room to change. You do need to bring your own flip flops and towel.

There are other baths in the city, but these are definitely the most popular.

New York Cafe

Where better to indulge in afternoon tea than the most beautiful cafe in the world? New York cafe in Budapest has officially been named as such, and it’s easy to see why! This decandat café first opened its doors on October 29, 1894. Originally built It was built as the headquarters for the New York Life Insurance Company in Budapest, hence the name.

Now the perfect place to enjoy the afternoon, there is also often a live violinist playing any requests to perfectly round off the atmosphere.

Where next?

If you are looking for some further city break inspiration – check some of these awesome destinations:

3 days in Venice itinerary

14 things to do in Porto

9 Marvellous things to do in Helsinki, Finland

24 hours in Brussels

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Image of 3 days in Budapest

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1 comment

Nic | Nic's Adventures May 4, 2022 - 10:45 am

Thanks for sharing, I have not been to Budapest before it looks a great place to visit for a long weekend break, with plenty of attractions to see and do 🙂

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