3 Days in Budapest Itinerary - TravelingMel
turrets of Fisherman's Bastion poking out of trees

3 Days in Budapest Itinerary

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Budapest is a beautiful city, rich with history. From Castle Hill and Buda’s Old Town to thermal baths, the Jewish Quarter, and stunning architecture, the city calls to those with a sense for the aesthetic.

Budapest has had a long and tumultuous history. From Roman times onward, various groups have lived through peace and war in Budapest. In fact, Budapest only became the city we know today in 1873 when the towns of Buda, Pest, and Óbuda merged.

Hungary’s capital is bisected by the River Danube. On one side of the 19th-century Chain Bridge is the rolling Buda district, and the other side sits Pest.

While Budapest is a large city, the part that most tourists visit is very walkable. What to see in Budapest in 3 days includes the best of the city: it’s beautiful side and it’s complicated history.

cathedral as seen during 3 days in Budapest

Is 3 Days Enough in Budapest?

Let’s face it, three days in Budapest isn’t enough time to see everything. A month isn’t enough time to see everything. So let go of that idea and do what you can. Feel better?

The good news is that you can see a lot of the Budapest main attractions in that time and really get a feel for the city. My blogging buddies and I will show you what to do in Budapest in 3 days to make the most of your visit without running around like a crazy person.

You’ll see the sites, learn about the history of Budapest and the region, and try some tasty food and drink.

Bronze statue of monk in City Park in Budapest Hungary

How Do You Spend 3 Days in Budapest?

To visit Budapest in three days, you need to have a plan. I’ve created an itinerary that should give you a real Budapest experience, without feeling like you have to rush all over the place.

At the end of the article, find information on getting around Budapest, the Budapest Card, where to stay in Budapest, and Budapest weather.

Shoe Danube Memorial- metal shoe sculptures
Photo: Ruhls of the Road

Things To Do in Budapest in Three Days — Quick Itinerary

Day One

  • Free Walking Tour or Bus Tour and River Cruise
  • Thermal Bath
  • Elegant/Trendy Dinner

Day Two

  • City Park and the Vajdahunyad Castle 
  • Fiume Road Graveyard
  • New York Palace Cafe
  • Ruin Bars

Day 3

  • Central Market Hall
  • Stroll Along the Danube
  • Zwack Unicom Museum
  • Gellért Hill Cave Church
  • Gellért Hill and the Citadel
  • Traditional Hungarian Restaurant


Budapest Day One Itinerary

  • Free Walking Tour or Bus Tour and River Cruise
  • Thermal Bath
  • Elegant/Trendy Dinner

Budapest Tours

Chain Bridge in the fog, Budapest Hungary

Free Walking Tours

Whenever we visit a new city, we like to start with a free walking tour. We did it on our day and a half in Munich, on our first visit to Edinburgh, as a way to get oriented in London, in Tallinn, Estonia, and in other cities, as well.

A Budapest city tour is a great way to see the best of Budapest and have someone explain it all to you. It’s one thing to look at a pretty building, and another thing to understand the history that took place there.

There are several free walking tour options in Budapest. While the tours are free, the guides work for tips, so don’t be stingy.

All the free walking tours will take you to the best places to go in Budapest including St. Stephen’s Basilica, Buda Castle, Matthias Church, the Chain Bridge, Fisherman’s Bastion, Vörösmarty square, the Shoes on the Danube, and other Budapest top sights.

  • Original Budapest Tours : This is the Original Free Budapest Walking Tour. They also offer a free Alternative Tour (), and a free Jewish Quarter Tour, in addition to paid pub tours. You need to book these tours.
  • Free Tour Budapest : In addition to their overview of Budapest tour, Generation Tours has a free Red Budapest Tour (communist legacy), Free Jewish Legacy Tour, and a couple for-pay pub tours. Booking is recommended, especially in the high season.

Budapest Bus Tour and River Tour

Ornate building and river, Parliament Building in Budapest from the Danube River

If three hours of walking isn’t your thing, you can take a bus or river tour when you visit Budapest in 3 days. Or do both! You’ll see most of the same Budapest things to see as you would on foot.

The bus tours of Budapest are hop-on, hop-off, so you’ll can look a little closer and take photos of the places you are most interested in. The buses have interpretive recordings to help you learn about the sights you are seeing.

Travel Expert Advice: “If you’re planning a trip to Budapest, one of the top things to do is a river cruise on the Danube. 

“During our visit to Budapest, we chose to do the Big Bus Tour which comes with a free river cruise. Make sure to purchase the Premium or Deluxe tickets, which come with the free cruise tickets.

“A cruise on the Danube is one of the best ways to see Budapest from a different perspective. The views of the city were just amazing, especially the Hungarian Parliament, which was so breathtaking. 

“The river cruises are 75 minutes long and highlight most of Budapest’s main attractions. There are refreshments available for you to purchase and toilet facilities on board.” — Shel from Skylar Arias Adventures

As I said, you will see the best places to visit in Budapest on these tours, but if you don’t take one, make sure you stop at the Fisherman’s Bastion, Széchenyi Chain Bridge, and the Shoes on the Danube Bank Memorial.

Fisherman’s Bastion

turret seen through stone arch at Fisherman's Bastion in Budapest

Travel Expert Advice: “Fisherman’s Bastion is a real masterpiece of architecture and the city’s main tourist attraction you can’t miss when you visit Budapest.

“The construction was finished in the middle of the 19th century in the place where former castle walls were located.

“The bastion got its name after the medieval fisherman’s guild that used to defend this part of the wall. Today you can admire an impressive structure with towers and corridors. Right in front of the Bastion, you can see the monument of Stephen I of Hungary – the first king of the country and its most important Saint.

“From the Bastion, you can admire the stunning view of the Pest part of the city, with the beautiful Parliament right in front of you. The best time to visit is early in the morning before all the crowds arrive.” — Kami from My Wanderlust

Széchenyi Chain Bridge

lamp post and Szechenyi chain bridge

Travel Expert Advice: “I visited Budapest after a day in Bratislava and one of the first sights I noticed was the commanding Széchenyi Chain Bridge. The bridge starts at Széchenyi Square and ends at the Clark Adam Ter where you can catch the funicular up to Castle Hill to get great photos.

“It is busy no matter the time of the day. A prominent feature and an icon of the city, the bridge spanning the Danube was the first to connect Buda and Pest. Since then it has made an impressive addition to the city’s skyline and walking across the bridge is one of the most popular things to do.” — Rai from A Rai of Light

(The Széchenyi Chain Bridge is expected to be closed for construction until autumn 2021.)

Shoes on the Danube Bank Memorial

Shoe Danube Memorial- metal shoe sculptures

Travel Expert Advice: “The Shoes on the Danube Bank Memorial is located directly in front of the Budapest Parliament building and it is a Budapest landmark you won’t want to miss. The monument is dedicated to victims from a tragic event that took place during World War II.

“Innocent Jews were ordered to take off their shoes and were shot into the waters edge for their bodies to be carried away. This monument represents their shoes that were left behind on the bank. The beautiful memorial shows sixty pairs of shoes in all different shapes and sizes to represent the people that fell victim at this time.

“It’s located on the Pest side of the Danube river and won’t be missed while walking in front of the Hungarian Parliament. This is a very subtle yet extremely powerful memorial that will leave you speechless. Don’t miss a stop at the Shoes on the Danube during a visit to Budapest.” — Julie from Ruhls of the Road

Thermal Baths

ornately tiled thermal bath in Budapest Budapest is known for its thermal baths. Mineral hot springs seep up from the earth and are collected in pools. The most famous one is Szechenyi (you’ve seen the pictures with the yellow buildings in the background.) It’s also the most crowded.

Since there are a lot of things to see in Budapest in 3 days, the conveniently located and beautiful Gellért made the cut.

Travel Expert Advice:My favorite thing to do in Budapest is to soak away my sightseeing-sore muscles in hot spring waters at one of the two top thermal baths in Budapest

“Gellért is right on the Danube River and the Art Nouveau tile work is incredibly beautiful.The indoor pool is the centerpiece between several baths of different temperatures, where you can relax and soak in the beauty of your surroundings. 

“There is also a large outdoor area with a wave pool. However, for an outdoor bathing experience, head to Széchenyi where the yellow Neo-Baroque building forms a stunning backdrop for a heated outdoor swimming and soaking playground with fountains, showers, swirling water, and more.

“There are also multiple indoor thermal baths, fed by underground hot springs, though there is a slightly more institutional feel than Gellért to the indoor pools. It’s worth trying them both to compare and decide for yourself which you prefer.” —James Ian from Travel Collecting

Dinner at Gellért Sorozo & Brasserie

An itinerary of places to see in Budapest has to include restaurants, right? Budapest’s oldest brasserie serves contemporary and seasonal Hungarian food and handcrafted beer, wine, and spirits. There are vegetarian-friendly options and a lovely view of the Danube from the Terrace. It’s steps from the Gellért Thermal Baths, so you can keep that relaxed vibe going. (Get a discount with your Budapest Card.) Gellert Sorozo & Brasserie


Resources

If you are looking for more details on planning a trip to Budapest, or want to include other cities in your tour, we recommend these guidebooks for Budapest.

   Moon Guide to Prague, Vienna, & Budapest

Rick Steves Budapest   


Budapest Day Two Itinerary

colorful interior of ruin bar in Budapest

  • City Park and Vajdahunyad Castle 
  • Fiume Road Graveyard
  • New York Palace Cafe
  • Ruin Bars

Start Day Two of your of your Budapest three day itinerary with a quick breakfast at your hotel or one of the many cute cafés near your lodging.

A typical Hungarian breakfast may consist of an open sandwich with fresh bread or toast, butter, cheese or different cream cheeses, túró cheese or körözött (Liptauer cheese spread), cold cuts including liver pâté (májkrém or kenőmájas), salami, mortadella, Hungarian sausages or kolbász. Fresh tomatoes and green peppers are often served when they are in season. Eggs may also be part of breakfast.

Of course, many people start their day with tea or coffee, and a pastry or muesli. You should definitely try a kakaós csiga, a traditional Hungarian chocolate pastry.

Whatever you choose, prepare yourself for another day city sightseeing Budapest.

City Park and Vajdahunyad Castle

Vajdahunyad-Castle-City-Park Budapest

While not everyone agrees on what to visit in Budapest, many folks agree that City Park and Vajdahunyad Castle should make the list.

Travel Expert Advice: “City Park is the largest park in Budapest and has different things to do and see.

“Funny fact, before being an English-style park, the area was a swamp and used as a hunting grounds. Only in the 18th century was it established as a national garden.

“At the entrance to City Park you will find the Heroes Square, and beside the square, the ice skating rink. The park also has a zoo, a thermal bath, and a castle. 

“Close to the Heroes Square you will spot the fairytale Vajdahunyad Castle, one of the most romantic castles in Budapest. But don’t be fooled, the Vajdahunyad Castle looks old but it was built in 1896 as a showcase of the architectural evolution and the different construction styles that existed in Hungary. 

“Take your time to walk around and appreciate styles of Romanesque, Gothic Renaissance, and Baroque. The castle holds exhibitions, concerts, and festivals, and it houses the Hungarian Agricultural Museum.

“Despite its unusual story, the castle is a stunning place for photos, especially during Budapest winter when the park and castle are covered in snow.” —  Natalie from Love and Road

Fiume Road Graveyard/Kerepesi Cemetery

marble memorials in Kerepesi Cemetery Budapest

Keep that nature feeling going by strolling over to Fiume Road Graveyard. It’s not the first thing to jump to mind when planning places to visit in Budapest in 3 days, but you will be glad you did.

Expert Travel Advice:Kerepesi Cemetery, also known as Fiume Road Graveyard, is Budapest’s famous cemetery. If you’ve been to other famous cemeteries like Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris or the Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, you’ll want to add the Kerepesi Cemetery to your list.

“Though not the first place that comes to mind to visit for most people, famous cemeteries like this one offer a place of calm in the bustle of a big city. They are often filled not only with people paying respect, but also people walking in quiet contemplation while being surrounded with history and nature. The Kerepesi Cemetery is spread over 56 hectares and almost has the feeling of walking through an arboretum rather than a cemetery.

“The Kerepesi Cemetery welcomes tourists and free maps are handed out at the main gate so you can see the final resting place of the many famous Hungarians buried here.” — Celine from Family Can Travel

New York Palace Café

gold interior of New York Palace Cafe in Budapest

After a day walking around outside, it’s time to mix things up and try one of Budapest’s most iconic restaurants for an early dinner or drinks. The New York Palace Café repeatedly comes up as one of the top ten things to do in Budapest, so you’ll at least want to poke your head in and see it.

Expert Travel Advice: The New York Palace Café is one of the most romantic places to go in Budapest. An experience to remember, the elegant and majestic interior of the New York Café takes you back to the hotel’s bygone past when famous writers and editors would meet here while enjoying the traditional Austro-Hungarian dishes that this establishment serves.

“Feast on a serving of Hungarian beef goulash and a slice of Eszterhazy cake as you allow your eyes to take in the intricately carved golden gilds, spiral marble columns, and brass statues that surround the lavish cafe interior. Soak in the interesting history of this newly restored hotel which has undergone a lot of changes throughout history.” — Karolina – Lazy Travel Blog

Ruin Bars

bathtubs and other paraphernalia in Szimpla Kert ruin bar in Budapest

The Budapest nightlife is famous, especially its nightclub scene and ruin bars. Even if bars aren’t normally on your agenda, make a point to add the Ruin Bars District to your list of what to visit in Budapest in 3 days. You don’t have to stay out all night partying, but this is where you will find the best bars in Budapest.

If you didn’t eat dinner at the New York Palace Cafe, take advantage of the food trucks around the ruin bars. After checking out the original and most well known ruin bar, Szimpla Kert, don’t forget to wander through some of the others in the area.

Travel Expert Advice: “One really cannot visit Budapest without making a stop at one of their unique ruins bars. These are bars that have been constructed amongst the ruins of buildings left destroyed and abandoned from the world wars. Where they’ve embraced the dilapidated building’s character instead of bulldozing them and starting over.

 “And there are none more famous amongst the ruins bars than Szimpla Kert. Famed as being the OG, it’s one of the biggest and most popular. Walking through Szimpla Kert is an adventure in and of itself! There are many rooms to explore, all with varying themes and décor. My personal favorite includes a master switchboard with light up buttons that cause different reactions within the room when pushed.

“So grab a drink in the courtyard, and explore every possible nook and cranny of this amazing historical place. It is a must visit for any Budapest itinerary!” — Kara from Destination Live Life


Budapest Day 3 Itinerary

stone building on Danube River, Buda Castle

  • Central Market Hall
  • Stroll Along the Danube
  • Zwack Unicom Museum
  • Gellért Hill Cave Church
  • Gellért Hill and the Citadel
  • Traditional Hungarian Restaurant

For where to visit in Budapest on your third day, start by heading to the Central Market Hall. If it makes sense, get there by walking down Vací Utca – a street lined with shops and restaurants. Pick up gifts and souvenirs here, but hold off on eating if you can, because that’s our next stop as you explore Budapest.

Central Market Hall

interior of Great Market Hall in Budapest
Photo: Dd-ang2s

The Central Market Hall is also called the Great Market Hall (Nagycsarnok or Vasarcsarnok) and was built in 1897. You can guess from the names that it is large, impressive, and centrally located just five minutes from the city center.

Whatever you call it, the beautiful hall is a restored neo-gothic building perfect for shopping, eating, people watching, photographing, and taking tasting tours.

The Central Market Hall is a good place for Budapest sightseeing on a rainy or too-cold day.

You’ll find all sorts of Hungarian specialties and items from around Europe: fruits, vegetables, dairy products, fantastic salamis, pickles, fresh fish, Hungarian paprika, Tokaj wines, various souvenirs, bags, clothes, pans and pots, and eateries.

We recommend trying langos (a traditional Hungarian fried dough, often seasoned with garlic, sour cream or cheese) or Hungarian goulash at one of the upper floor food stands. The market is open Monday- Saturday.

Stroll Along the Danube

Boat Tour on Danube River with clouds

From the Market Hall, walk along the river 20 minutes (1.6 kilometers), passing through Nehru Park to the Zwack Unicom Museum. You could also call a ride share but walking along the Danube is one of the fun things to do in Budapest.

Zwack Unicom Museum

three bottles labeled "unicom"

Expert Travel Advice: “Pronounced oo-nee-koom, Unicum is a distinctive, bitter herbal liqueur that might you of black licorice or cough syrup. There are two parts to the experience: the distillery and the museum (also called the ‘Heritage Visitor Centre’). Children are welcomed (kids under 12 get in free), but for obvious reasons no tastings are offered to anyone under 18.

“You’ll start with a 20-minute video that will have English audio or subtitles. Either way, you’ll learn the story of Dr. Zwack, King Joseph II’s royal physician, the bitter medicinal drink concocted with over 40 herbs, and how the business has stayed in the family for centuries even through the country’s turmoils. Next up is the distillery and the cellars, where you’ll give the original liqueur (and possibly the plum version as well) a try.

“From here you’re escorted to the museum side of things, where there’s plenty of personal exhibits relating to the Zwack family and how this beverage became Hungary’s national drink. Take an audio guide if you choose, or just head up to the 17,000 mini liquor bottles from around the world takes up a major portion of the museum. Once finished, you’ll naturally have the chance to purchase some liquor or other souvenirs.

“Make your reservation online or send an email with your request. If you forgot or didn’t get a confirmation, it’s not the end of the world — show up anyway and see if there’s an opening.” — Chris Backe of Worthy Go

Gellért Hill Cave 

alter in Gallert Cave
Photo: Thaler Tamas

Make your way back to Gellért Hill (that’s where you were yesterday) to see the Gellért Hill Cave Church (Gellérthegyi-barlang). Because of the karst topography, the limestone hill is filled with caves, as is much of the landscape in the region.

The cave is known as “Saint Ivan’s Cave” after a hermit who lived there. He used the thermal waters from an adjacent muddy lake (the same waters that fill Gellért Thermal Baths) for healing the sick.

The cave was used as a home for a poor family, then monks turned it into a monastery and chapel. It also served as a hospital for Nazi Germans during WWII. It reverted to a chapel for six years before the Soviet Red Army, in a crackdown on the Catholic Church, sealed the cave and condemned the monastery’s superior to death.

In 1992 the monks returned, restored the chapel, and reopened it to believers and tourists doing some Budapest sightseeing. That’s you! The walls are made of rock, obviously — it’s a cave, and there are several ornamented rooms.

This unusual and historic spot is one of the places to visit in Budapest in 3 days that you won’t want to miss.

Gellért Hill and the Citadel

view of chain bridge and Pest side of Budapest at night from Gellert Hill

From the Cave Church wander up Gellért Hill toward the Citadel — the fortress at the top of the hill. The Citadel Overlook is the highest point in Budapest and has the best views in the city. If you time it right, you can catch a spectacular sunset from here.

As you walk around Gellért Hill you can see:

  • Momento Park — an open air museum filled with communist statues and propaganda
  • Buda Arboretum — a quiet spot with trees and plants from around the world
  • Liberty Monument — a tribute to the Soviet soldiers who died liberating the city
  • Philosopher’s Garden — sculptures of Lao-Tsu, Gandi, Jesus, and others
  • Hungarian Craft Stalls

Traditional Hungarian Dinner

All good trips to Budapest should end with a traditional Hungarian dinner. Cross the Elizabeth Bridge to Mátyás Pince Étterem. They have folk music every night and a folk dance performance on Wednesdays and Thursdays. There are prefix menus (“feasts”) or you can order a la carte. Make reservations online.


Budapest Card

Parliament building in Budapest lit up at night

The Budapest Travel Card offers free access to a bunch of museums, public transportation, and some tours — for a price. It also gets you a discount on several things. It can be purchased in 24-, 48-, and 72-hour increments. You could get a Budapest 3 day pass.

Should you get the Budapest Card? For this 3 day Budapest travel itinerary, the Budapest card is not really worth the cost. You would get a discount at some of the places, but you wouldn’t make up for the cost of the card.

The card offers free walking tours and free public transportation, but I showed you several free walking tours, which you don’t need the Budapest Card for, and this itinerary requires little, if any public transportation. See what it offers here.


Getting Around Budapest

One thing we always consider when traveling is, “how can we make this as sustainable or eco-groovy as possible?” One way is to get around with your own energy or via public transportation. Fortunately, Budapest has an extensive public transportation system.

Find other ways to travel sustainably.

Walking

My favorite way to get around the city is on foot. Most of the things you want to see in Budapest (and everything in this itinerary) is in a walkable distance. In many cases, walking is faster than public transportation or a car. Even the bridges, which seem to stretch out a long way, are pretty quick to cross.

Biking

Budapest has a bike sharing company called Bubi (I guess that’s short for Budapest Bike). You can sign up at one of the many docking stations or online, then pay with the app at the bike stand.

Budapest Public Transport

Yellow Trolly in Budapest Hungary

Budapest has a vast system of yellows streetcars/trams and trolley buses. Budapest also has a clean, fast, and efficient subway/metro system. To get to the outer suburbs use the HÉV trains. There are also buses, ferries, and river boats.

Budapest Metro Tickets

Buy tickets for the metro at counters in Budapest subway stations, in Budapest Tourism offices (found at the airport and in the city center), at some newsstands (the chain, Relay, sells tickets, for example) and also from vending machines located in metro and tram stations.

Look at or download the Budapest metro map here.

The same tickets work for all public transportation in Budapest.


Budapest Weather

Weather in Budapest is pretty mild, with highs in the low-80s F in summer and low-40s F in winter. Travelers can expect a mostly-pleasant Budapest temperature.

Budapest Average Weather 

Table of Budapest weather averages
From NOAA

bronze statue of a boy sitting on a rail in Budapest


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