Last updated on January 22nd, 2023 at 06:07 pm
Budapest is one of the most exciting cities in Central Europe and this Budapest in 3 days itinerary is your ticket to an unforgettable trip to the Hungarian capital.
From its vibrant nightlife and diverse food scene to its extraordinary blend of several architectural styles to its unparalleled thermal baths that are among the best in Europe, Budapest has something for everyone. Whether it’s your first time in Budapest or you’re about to revisit the Hungarian capital, this 3-day Budapest itinerary is the only guide you need to the best things to do in Budapest.
Without further ado, here’s how to enjoy Budapest in 3 days!
Some of the links in this article are affiliate ones.
This means that if you click through them to make a purchase, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.
Also, this article contains sponsored content.
For more information, visit our Disclosure page.
Watch our Budapest YouTube video!
Budapest Travel Tips
Before we go into more detail about how to spend 3 days in Budapest, here’s a very brief Budapest travel guide to help you plan your trip to the Hungarian capital. Alternatively, click here to read our complete Budapest travel guide.
- Where is Budapest: Budapest is the capital city of Hungary. Situated in the northern part of the country, Budapest is near Hungary’s border with Slovakia. The city of Budapest is divided into two parts. Buda on the western side and Pest on the eastern side of the Danube River.
- Best time to visit Budapest: Spring and autumn.
- How many days in Budapest: At least three nights in Budapest or four full days. Although many would opt for a weekend trip to Budapest, we believe that 2 days in Budapest aren’t enough.
- How to get to Budapest: You can get to Budapest by plane. Budapest Airport lies 16 kilometres from the city centre. Alternatively, you can travel to Budapest by train or bus from other Central European cities.
- Where to stay in Budapest: The best area to stay in Budapest is Pest. Have a look at some of the best accommodation options in Budapest here.
- How to get around Budapest: Budapest is a walkable city and you can get anywhere in the city centre on foot. However, there are some places to visit in Budapest that you need to reach via public transport.
Travel Resources To Help You Plan The Best 3-Day Itinerary For Budapest
Budapest in 3 Days: The Best Itinerary
Day 1: Explore The Buda Side of Budapest
On your first of three days in Budapest, explore Buda. This is the part of the city that’s situated on the western bank of the Danube River. Buda was the historic capital of the Kingdom of Hungary since 1000, when its first king, Stephen I, was coronated. In 1873, Buda, Obuda and Pest were unified and Budapest, the capital of Hungary, was born.
To learn everything about Buda, we recommend joining the free walking tour of Buda included in the Budapest Card.
Szechenyi Chain Bridge
The iconic Szechenyi Chain Bridge is one of the eight bridges that link Buda and Pest. Its unofficial name is Chain Bridge. Istvan Szechenyi, a prominent Hungarian politician often referred to as The Greatest Hungarian, commissioned the construction of the bridge.
Szechenyi Chain Bridge opened in 1849. Back then, it was the first permanent stone bridge in Budapest. During the Second World War, an explosion destroyed the bridge and only its pillars remained intact. The bridge was reconstructed in 1949.
Note: When we visited Budapest in 2022, Chain Bridge was temporarily closed for renovations. It’s expected to reopen in 2023.
Buda Castle Funicular
After crossing Chain Bridge, don’t miss the Zero Kilometre Stone of Budapest, which is located near the lower station of the Buda Castle Funicular.
Instead of climbing Castle Hill on foot, the best way to get to Buda Castle is to take the historic Buda Castle Funicular, which operates since 1870. The ride to the top of Castle Hill takes less than two minutes, offering amazing views of Chain Bridge and the Danube River along the way.
Located in the southern part of Castle Hill, Buda Castle is ideal for history lovers. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Buda Castle was the historic Palace Complex. Nowadays, it’s home to the Hungarian National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum.
Another thing to see in Buda Castle is the so-called Trevi Fountain of Budapest. The latter’s real name is Matthias Fountain and you can see it inside Hunyadi Court, a beautiful terrace in the heart of Buda Castle.
The huge historic baroque Palace was built between 1749 and 1769. As happened with Chain Bridge, the Palace was also ruined during the Second World War. Today, the Presidential Palace is housed in another building, right next to Buda Castle.
For a different perspective on Buda Castle, join this tour of its network of underground tunnels and caves. Alternatively, you can delve into Budapest’s history during a tour of Buda Castle in the company of a historian.
After visiting Buda Castle, it’s time to head north to the most popular attraction in Budapest. Undoubtedly the most photogenic spot in the city, Fisherman’s Bastion offers splendid uninterrupted views of the Danube River, Pest and, of course, the iconic Hungarian Parliament building from its terraces.
The bastion’s seven towers represent the seven tribes that founded Hungary in 895. Its name comes from Fishtown, a settlement along the Danube River, where the fishermen’s guilt used to live in the Middle Ages. The Neo-Romanesque fortification that we see today was built between 1895 and 1902 as an extension to the original walls built in 1700.
Most of the terraces are free to visit. That said, you have to pay a small fee to access the top terraces. Expect crowds as Fisherman’s Bastion is the most visited attraction in Budapest.
A few steps from Fisherman’s Bastion, in the heart of Castle Hill, Matthias Church instantly captures visitors’ attention. Colourful tiles and intricate details adorn its imposing Gothic-style exterior. In its elaborate interior, you can marvel at gorgeous frescoes and eye-catching stained-glass windows.
Two of Hungary’s kings were crowned in Matthias Church. Nowadays, it’s a magnificent venue for concerts and celebrations. You can check out the events calendar on the official website if you want to enjoy a unique experience like this.
Pit Stop at The Historic Pastry Ruszwurm
Before exploring the northern part of the Castle district, stop by Ruszwurm, a historic pastry shop, a few steps from Holy Trinity Square. Founded in 1827, the oldest pastry shop in Budapest still features its original cherrywood counter. Empress Elisabeth of Austria was one of its most notable customers and you can try her favourite cake in the pastry shop’s old-fashioned interior.
By the way, one of the most interesting things we learnt during our latest trip to Budapest was that Empress Elisabeth adored the city and the Hungarian people. The feeling was mutual. Hungarians absolutely loved their Empress, whom they affectionately called Sissi.
Buda Tower is the only original medieval monument in Budapest. It used to be the bell tower of Mary Magdalene Church, which was built between the 13th and 15th centuries. Nowadays, the 130-meter-high Buda Tower is the only surviving part of the church. It offers panoramic views of the Castle District, the Hungarian Parliament and Matthias Church.
Hospital in The Rock
Wander around the quaint streets of Castle Hill, admiring the gorgeous architecture as you go. In this part of the city, there are several marble plaques on the walls with the word Müemlek on them. When you see one of those, it means that the building bearing the plaque is one of historical significance and part of the city’s cultural heritage.
Your next stop is the Hospital in The Rock. On your way there, make sure you walk along the gorgeous Toth Arpad promenade. In the spring, this street feels like a painting coming to life with its enchanting cherry blossoms. To reach the Hospital in The Rock, go down the nostalgic wooden staircase, similar to the Scholars’ Stairs in Sighisoara.
The Hospital in the Rock is a bunker constructed below the Buda Castle district. Initially, the existing tunnel network was converted into an emergency hospital for treating civilians and soldiers during the Second World War and the Siege of Budapest between 1944 and 1945.
During the Hungarian Revolution in 1956, it was used as a bomb shelter and a prison. Later, it served as a bunker in the event of a nuclear attack during the Cold War.
You can visit the Hospital in the Rock only with a tour guide and photos are not allowed. Like the 10-Z Bunker in Brno and the Refugi 307, a bomb shelter in Barcelona, the Hospital in the Rock is an exciting place to visit and we can’t recommend it enough.
For information about opening hours and tickets click here.
There is a discount with the Budapest Card. Alternatively, you can book a guided tour of the Hospital in The Rock in advance.
Gellert Hill: Cave Church, Citadella & Gellert Baths
It’s time to leave the Buda Castle district behind and take a tram to Gellert Hill. Situated next to the impressive Liberty Bridge, Gellert Hill is home to a network of caves and hot springs.
One of the caves you can visit for a small fee is the Gellert Hill Cave, which is now a Catholic Church. In the past, it was used as a home by a hermit, a hospital for Nazis during WW2 and a monastery.
After visiting the Gellert Hill Cave, you can climb to the top of Gellert Hill to reach Citadella, Budapest’s hilltop fortress. Built in 1851 by the Austrian Empire, the Citadella was occupied by the Austrian troops until 1897.
In recent history, when the Soviets liberated Budapest from the Nazi occupation, they constructed the Liberty Statue on the top of the Citadella. After the fall of communism, the statue remained in the same spot, as a symbol of freedom and independence.
Note: During our trip to Budapest in 2022, the Citadella was closed for restoration works. It’s expected to reopen in 2023.
The perfect way to end your first of 3 days in Budapest is to unwind at the stunning Gellert Baths. Built in Art Nouveau style, the Gellert Baths complex is the ideal place to spend your evening in the most relaxing way.
Book your tickets to the Gellert Baths here.
Day 2: Explore The Pest Side of Budapest (Part I)
Continue your Budapest in 3 days itinerary by exploring Pest, the part of Budapest that lies east of the Danube River. Pest was an independent city until the unification of Buda, Obuda and Pest in 1873. Nowadays, it’s home to many Budapest tourist attractions. The most popular among them is the Hungarian Parliament building.
To learn everything about Pest, we recommend joining the free walking tour of Pest included in the Budapest Card.
Hungarian Parliament Building
After Budapest became the capital of Hungary in 1873, it was time for the country to acquire a new Parliament building. Completed in 1904 in Neo-Gothic style by the architect Imre Steindl, the Hungarian Parliament building is the third largest Parliament building in the world.
The building’s intricate exterior is absolutely impressive. Yet, nothing can prepare you for the lavish interior with its golden details.
You can visit the interior only on a guided tour. We recommend booking a tour via the official website way in advance to make sure you find a free slot in English at your preferred time and date. Alternatively, you can book a tour that combines a visit to the Hungarian Parliament building with a walking tour of the city’s highlights.
Shoes on The Danube Bank
Close to the Hungarian Parliament building, the Shoes on The Danube Bank, a unique bronze memorial, awaits. This monument commemorates the mass murder of Jewish people by Hungarian Fascists, who were members of the infamous Arrow Cross Party.
The victims were ordered to stand on the edge of the riverbank and take their shoes off before the fascists would execute them. You see, shoes at that time were extremely valuable. The fascists preferred to resell them rather than waste them as easily as they took the lives of so many innocent people.
From the Shoes on The Danube Bank monument, continue your stroll along the Danube Promenade for splendid views of the Danube River and Castle Hill. Along your way, you will come across several bronze statues such as the Little Princess Statue and the Statue of Painter Ignac Roskovics. If you don’t feel like walking, you can take tram number 2 for a scenic ride along the Danube River.
Great Market Hall
Situated a stone’s throw from Liberty Bridge on the Pest side of Budapest, the Great Market Hall is a 10,000-square metre covered market. It was built in 1897 during a flourishing period for Budapest. Sadly, the market was seriously damaged during the Second World War. It re-opened in 1997, after a full renovation.
The Great Market Hall is the best place to buy local products, like paprika and palinka, a strong traditional spirit made of fruit, and souvenirs such as Hungarian Secret Boxes, Rubik’s Cubes, handmade lace and embroidery. It’s also one of the best places in Budapest to grab a quick lunch at one of the upper floor’s food stalls and restaurants.
Check out the market’s opening days and hours here or join a tour of the Central Market Hall with food and wine tastings.
Jewish Quarter: Dohany Street Synagogue & Ruin Pubs
Spend your evening at the vibrant Jewish Quarter, home to three synagogues and the famous ruin pubs. After the Buda Jewish Quarter was destroyed, Jews started to settle in Pest in the late 18th century. They built a thriving community there that was almost 25% of Budapest’s population by the early 20th century.
Similar to what happened to other Jewish communities in Europe, the Budapest Jewish Quarter was converted into a ghetto in November 1944 by the Hungarian Fascists. The Soviets liberated the Jewish ghetto two months later. Yet, thousands of Jews had already died of diseases or had been sent to concentration camps.
The three synagogues in the Jewish Quarter are a testament to the grandeur of the Jewish community. Among them, the Dohany Street Synagogue is the largest in Europe. Opened in 1859, the Dohany Street Synagogue was built in Moorish style. It’s the only synagogue that has organ pipes and a cemetery. The other two synagogues are the Kazinczy Street Orthodox Synagogue and the Rumbach Street Synagogue.
Learn Budapest’s Jewish history by joining this Jewish Heritage walking tour that includes visits to the Hungarian Jewish Museum and the Dohany Street Synagogue.
Nowadays, apart from the treasures of the city’s Jewish heritage, the Jewish Quarter is popular for its quirky ruin pubs, too. Housed in abandoned pre-war buildings, ruin bars define Budapest’s nightlife scene over the last few decades. Szimpla Kert was the first ruin pub to open in the city of Budapest and it’s still one of the most popular bars in Budapest.
Day 3: Explore The Pest Side of Budapest (Part II)
Saint Stephen’s Basilica
Saint Stephen’s Basilica is one of the most important churches in Budapest. Opened in 1905, the church is dedicated to Saint Stephen in honour of King Stephen I, the first king of Hungary who founded the country in 1000.
The basilica’s interior is decorated with gorgeous mosaics, frescoes and statues. The highlight of the church, though, is the Holy Right, King Stephen’s right hand which is kept in the church’s reliquary.
Saint Stephen’s Basilica is built in Neo-Classical style. It stands at a height of 96 metres, following the country’s height restriction imposed on all constructions, according to which no building can be higher than 96 metres.
That is because 96 is a symbolic number in Hungary. It was in 896 when the first Hungarians – the Magyars – settled in Hungary’s territory. The Hungarian Parliament building stands at the same height, symbolising that religion and government are equally important to the country.
Saint Stephen’s Basilica is popular for the panoramic views of the city it offers from its dome. To reach the lookout at the top of the dome, you have to climb 364 steps. Thankfully, there’s a lift.
A few steps from Saint Stephen’s Basilica, don’t forget to rub the shiny belly of the Policeman Statue. Doing so is supposed to bring good luck. It may take a while for good luck to reach you. While you wait, why not taste the famous rose-shaped ice cream at Gelarto Rosa near Saint Stephen’s Basilica?
For more information about opening hours and tickets visit the official website. For a unique experience to remember, book your tickets for an organ concert at Saint Stephen’s Basilica.
Pit Stop at Budapest’s Cat Café
One of the best places to visit in Budapest is the city’s Cat Café. Home to several lovely kitties, this café can easily qualify as the most relaxing in the city because you can enjoy a cup of coffee or a hot beverage while playing with those furry little angels. Make sure you book a table as this place is insanely popular. How could it not be?
Oldest Metro Line in Mainland Europe
We don’t normally recommend using the metro while travelling. We believe that by taking the metro, you miss out on a city’s views. Yet, in Budapest’s case, we will make an exception. Riding Metro Line M1 is one of the best things to do in Budapest.
Opened in 1896, a thousand years after the Magyars arrived in Hungary, the Budapest Metro is the oldest in continental Europe. The Small Underground, as locals affectionately call it, runs only one metre below Andrassy Avenue, with numerous stops at significant landmarks. Its tiled stations and yellow carriages still retain an old-fashioned charm.
Take Metro Line M1 from the closest station and head to Heroes Square.
If you’re a railway lover, there is an underground museum where you can learn everything about the history of the Budapest Metro.
Situated at one end of Andrassy Avenue, Heroes’ Square is one of Budapest’s main squares and the entry point to the famed City Park. Heroes’ Square is home to the iconic Millennium Monument, one of Budapest’s most significant landmarks.
As implied before, 1896 was the year when important buildings and monuments were constructed to commemorate the millennium anniversary of the Magyars’ arrival in 896. One of these was the Millennium Monument. Completed in 1906, the monument features the seven leaders of the Magyars and other Hungarian heroes.
A column and two colonnades form part of the monument. The statues on top of the colonnades represent historic figures of Hungary. After the monument was destroyed in World War II, the statues on the left colonnade replaced the Hapsburg statues that were standing there before.
Heroes’ Square is where most political events take place. Among them, the reburial of Imre Nagy in 1989 stands out. Imre Nagy was the leader of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. He was then executed by the Soviets.
Right on Heroes’ Square, you can visit the Museum of Fine Arts and the Palace of Art. The nearby City Park is home to the lakeside Vajdahunyad Castle, a fairytale-like castle, which is a copy of Corvin Castle, one of the best castles in Transylvania, Romania.
In our humble opinion, one of the best reasons to visit Budapest is to immerse yourselves in the country’s spa culture. Budapest is home to several spa complexes that use water from the city’s thermal springs. Our three favourite thermal baths in Budapest are the Szechenyi, Gellert and Rudas Baths.
The Szechenyi Baths complex is the most famous spa in Budapest and a must-visit for anyone visiting Budapest. Opened in 1913, the Neo-Baroque Szechenyi Thermal Baths offer indoor pools, saunas, massage therapies and three fantastic outdoor pools. One of them features a built-in whirlpool for endless fun moments. For a unique experience, you can visit Szechenyi Baths for a late-night spa party.
Don’t forget to take your flip-flops with you. For more information about the top 3 Budapest spas and what to know before you visit them, watch our YouTube video!
All relaxed and reinvigorated, head back to the city centre by walking along the aristocratic Andrassy Avenue. Inaugurated in 1876, the boulevard was named after a former Hungarian Prime Minister.
Andrassy Avenue is the main shopping street in Budapest. It’s lined with magnificent mansions and buildings that now house museums and embassies. There are a lot of notable spots along or near Andrassy Avenue, such as the Hungarian State Opera House.
While walking along Andrassy Avenue, you can visit the House of Terror, a museum about Fascism and Communism in Hungary. Personally speaking, we were a bit disappointed by this museum but we leave it to you to decide.
We expected that the museum would display the atrocities of both the communist and fascist regimes to an equal degree. However, we felt that the museum mostly touched on the communist-era reality, dedicating way too little space to fascist terror.
For photography lovers, there are two amazing places to visit near Andrassy Avenue. The House of Hungarian Photographers, the former studio and home of the Imperial and Royal Court photographer, Mai Mano, and the Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Centre.
Both photography museums are free with the Budapest Card.
Danube River Cruise
Our final suggestion on this Budapest in 3 days itinerary is a river cruise along the Danube. However, before you get on board, have a look at Parisi Passage, a stunning former shopping arcade that now houses the café of Hyatt Hotel.
A romantic sightseeing cruise is the best way to end your Budapest trip as now the scenery feels so familiar, allowing you to recognise all the major sites. Almost every cruise along the Danube River offers a welcome drink on board. The best time to enjoy the cruise is during sunset. It is then that Budapest’s skyline is dyed by the splendid colours of the golden hour.
Download the short version of our Budapest 3-day itinerary to keep it handy during your trip to Budapest!
What To Do in Budapest If You Have an Extra Day
Although this guide is about how to spend three days in Budapest, here are a few suggestions if you have 4 days in Budapest instead.
Located on the Danube River, Margaret Island connects to Budapest via the beautiful Margaret Bridge in the south and Arpad Bridge in the north. The 2.5-kilometre-long island is a fantastic recreational area with parks, gardens, a sports complex, the Palatinus thermal baths and a swimming pool.
You can roam around Margaret Island for free. It will take you around one hour and a half to walk the entire length of the island from south to north. The main sights on Margaret Island include the popular Musical Fountain, the ruins of a Dominican Monastery, the Water Tower, the Japanese Garden and the Musical Well.
From Arpad Bridge, take the public bus to Aquincum in Obuda. Aquincum was an ancient Roman city, part of the Roman Empire. At first, a Celtic tribe settled in the area. Then, the Romans occupied Aquincum, turning into the city which later became the capital of the Roman Province of Pannonia Inferior.
As you wander around the ruins of the ancient city, you can learn about the lifestyle and the achievements of the Roman Empire, such as the central heating system they developed for houses and public baths.
Take the H5 train from the railway station near Aquincum and spend the rest of your day in Szentendre, a picturesque riverside town north of Budapest. If you’ve already purchased a Budapest Card, you only need to buy an extension ticket from the ticket machine for your trip to Szentendre. Otherwise, you need to buy a regular train ticket and an extension one.
Once you arrive at the train station in Szentendre, don’t let the somewhat bleak surroundings disappoint you. The good part starts once you cross the bridge that leads to the utterly charming Old Town.
Cobbled streets, colourful houses, several interesting museums compared to the town’s size and many restaurants and souvenir shops make Szentendre an exciting yet super easy day or half-day trip from Budapest.
While in Szentendre, take the short uphill path to Saint John the Baptist Parish Church to enjoy panoramic views of the town. If you ask us, our favourite part of Szentendre is the riverside walk along the Danube and the café right on the riverfront, with its sun loungers and easy-going vibes.
The train ride back to Budapest takes about 40 minutes. Alternatively, you can book this half-day tour to Szentendre which returns to Budapest by a boat cruise along the Danube River during the summer.
We always say that slow travel is the best way to travel. The more time you spend in any destination, the better it is for your appreciation of the place and its people but also for the local economy and community. Slow travel is sustainable travel at its best.
However, time isn’t always on the travellers’ side and this is why we did our best to make this 3-day Budapest itinerary as complete as possible. So, if you’re planning a city break to see Budapest in 3 days or if Budapest is only one stop on a longer Central European adventure, we hope this Budapest itinerary is your guide to an unforgettable trip to the Hungarian capital!
Other Central Europe Articles To Read
- The Best Views in Prague & Other Prague Photo Spots
- What To Do in Brno, South Moravia’s Capital
- 13 Things To Do in Liberec, Czech Republic’s Secret Gem
- Winter in Warsaw: Top Things To Do & Warsaw City Guide
WORDS & IMAGES: Katerina
Disclosure: The Budapest Tourism Board offered us press Budapest Cards for our Budapest in 3 days trip and we experienced the Szechenyi, Gellert and Rudas spas on press visits. As media and marketing specialists, we often visit destinations on press tours or as part of marketing campaigns, but under no circumstances does this affect our opinions about the places we visit and the experiences we try. Rest assured that you will find nothing but honest reviews throughout our content.