Let’s go on a 3-day journey through Hungary’s enchanting capital. Budapest is a captivating city with beautiful architecture, a vibrant cultural scene, and a romantic atmosphere.
This itinerary leads you along the iconic landmarks, thermal baths, eclectic ruin bars and so much more. In just 3 days in Budapest, you’ll discover the heart of the “Queen of the Danube” and why this city is a true European gem.
Day 1 - Exploring the inner city of Budapest and the Castle district
We start our journey through Budapest in district V. This is the inner city of Budapest, called Belváros. It is a tiny part of the city with an upscale vibe. There is a lot to see and do here.
The famous Széchenyi Chain Bridge guides us from district V into district I: the Castle district. This district is the city’s most historic area with stunning architecture and a rich cultural history
Day 1 in Budapest - Summary
- St.Stephens Basilica
- Shoes on the Danube
- Széchenyi Chain Bridge
- Budapest Funicular
- Buda Castle and the Castle district on Buda Hill
- Fisherman’s Bastion
- Matthias Church
Day 1 in Budapest - Map
ST. STEPHEN'S BASILICA
This Neoclassical Roman Catholic Cathedral, which is named after the first King of Hungary, Stephen, is a famous landmark in Budapest.
When you look at it from the outside, you see a gigantic dome flanked by two bell towers. The right tower houses the biggest bell of Hungary, weighing over 9 tonnes.
Together with the Hungarian Parliament, which is also 96 meters high, this is the tallest building you see when you gaze at the Budapest skyline. Both buildings are equally high as an illustration of the equal importance of religion and government.
If you are up for it, you can climb the 364 steps of the Dome to get some very panoramic views over Budapest city. But don’t worry, you can also take the elevator.
Walk about 2 km to the Danube for the next stop on this Budapest itinerary.
In 896, the first Magyar tribes settled in the country, and they consider this the starting point of the Hungarian Kingdom. For this reason, no building in Budapest can be higher than 96 meters because the number 96 has a symbolic value.
Good to know
- You can visit a small part of the inside of the cathedral for free
- To visit the north and south towers and the catacombs, you pay an entrance fee
- Address: Szent István tér 1, 1051 Budapest
SHOES ON THE DANUBE
The shoes on the Danube pay respect to the Jews who were killed here by the Hungarian fascist militia during World War II.
Prisoners had to take off their shoes and were shot in cold blood, their bodies falling into the Danube, making the river their final resting place.
You can find the memorial close to the Chain Bridge, with the Parliament building a few 100 meters further down the bank.
Address: Between Széchenyi tér and Kossuth tér
SZéCHENYI CHAIN BRIDGE
The iconic Chain bridge is one of many bridges that connects the two parts of the city, Buda and Pest, that are separated by the river Danube.
Pedestrian zones flank the vehicles zone on the left and the right, so you can safely get from one side to the other on foot.
On the Pest side, big lion statues ornament the entrance of the bridge that starts right in front of Széchenyi square. It ends on the Buda sight at Clark Adam square, where you find the Funicular to take you up Buda Hill.
Walk this iconic bridge to the Buda side of the city to continue your sightseeing.
Good to know
Come back when it’s dark outside to see hundreds of lights illuminate the bridge. This creates one of the most gorgeous views of all Budapest.
This cable car rides steeply up Buda Castle Hill and drops you off at the Royal Palace. A ride in the funicular makes you feel they transported you back in time. This feeling will only get stronger when you explore the Royal Palace once arriving up the hill.
It can get really crowded here. As a result, the queues can get long and waiting in line is never fun. It might be a good idea to walk up the hill instead of waiting in line for that short ride in the funicular.
Good to know
The Magyar call it Budavari Palota, and it’s also known as the Royal Palace or the Royal Castle.
It stands majestically on top of Buda Hill surrounded by the Castle District and once was the palace of the king of Hungary. Whereas now, it houses the Budapest History Museum and the Hungarian National Gallery.
Buda Castle is a very attractive and popular touristic landmark, and it’s even on the list of UNESCO world heritage sites.
For us, the best thing about it is the stunning views you have from up the castle walls over the Pest side of the city. You can take amazing photos from the Chain bridge with the mighty Danube streaming underneath it.
Walk to Fisherman’s Bastion.
Good to know
When you reach Fisherman’s Bastion, you will see it surrounds the Matthias Church.
They built Fisherman’s Bastion on what once were the fortification walls of the Buda District. Now, it is a terrace in Neo-Romanesque and Neo-Gothic style that offers superb views over the Danube and the Pest side of the city.
The Bastion looks exactly like a Disney Castle, with all the cute towers and ornaments.
Good to know
Matthias Church lies straight behind the Fisherman’s Bastion, and it is a church like you’ve never seen before.
If you choose to explore just 1 church in Budapest, then make it this one.
The look of the beautifully coloured diamond-tiled roof already gives away that this is quite a special building.
They built the structure originally in the 11th century and then reconstructed it multiple times in the decades that followed. The result amazingly combines styles and colours that will leave you in awe.
Good to know
- Address: Szentháromság tér 2, 1014 Budapest
- Openings hours: check the official website
Nice video of Fisherman's Bastion & Matthias Church
Day 2 - Parks, markets and thermal baths
The second day of uncovering Budapest starts in district 14, where you start the sightseeing with a visit to the famous Heroes square. Relax and enjoy a peaceful walk in Budapest’s city park. Don’t miss the chance to see the picturesque Vajdahunyad castle.
Scour Gozsdu weekend market in search of trinkets and souvenirs. Visit the Great Market Hall in District 9 and end your day with a relaxing spa visit.
Day 2 in Budapest - Summary
- Heroes Square
- Budapest city park and Vajdahunyad castle
- Gozsdu weekend market
- Great Market Hall
- Gellert Hill and Gellert Thermal baths
Day 2 in Budapest - Map
Day 2 starts with a metro trip to the 14th district. Take the yellow line M1, get off at the stop: Széchenyi Baths / Hosok Tere and walk towards Heroes Square.
Heroes Square is the largest square in the city, and it was created in 1896 to celebrate the 1000-year anniversary of the Hungarian Kingdom. It is a popular attraction for visitors.
In the middle, you see a large pillar with the Angel Gabriel standing on top of it holding a cross and a crown. Below are the chieftains depicted who lead the original seven tribes of the Magyar to Hungary.
The statues on the arches left and right of the Angel all represent important historical figures and kings.
If you are a fan of museums, you can visit the Museum of Fine art on the left of Heroes Square. On the right side of the plaza, you find the Contemporary Art Building.
Standing on Heroes square you can see the towers of Vajdahunyad Castle emerging from the City Park. Walk to the City Park.
Good to know
Address: Hősök tere, 1146 Budapest
Budapest City Park & Vajdahunyad Castle
This enchanting castle in Budapest’s City Park looks like it comes straight out of a fairy tale. Built on Széchenyi island on an artificial lake, it houses the museum of Agriculture of Hungary where you can visit multiple exhibitions about old trades, customs, plant, animals and many more.
If you’re not interested in the museum, you can still enjoy the castle’s architectural styles by strolling outside. Influences of Gothic, Romanesque, Baroque and Renaissance are well-balanced to create this masterpiece.
Take the yellow metro line M1 again to Vörösmarty tér. Walk about 2 blocks to Gozsdu weekend market.
Good to know
Gozsdu weekend market
We can find this touristy and colourful market in a cosy alley. Lots of pleasant restaurants flank this weekend market so you can take an enjoyable break here on a terrace or have lunch. Shop for a cool souvenir or just stroll through it to experience the vibe.
Get to the next stop by heading over to the metro stop Astoria M on Rakoczi Utca. Take the 49 and get off at the second stop at Fovam tér. From here, you walk away from the Danube and you see the Great Market Hall appear soon.
Good to know
Great Market Hall
The great market Hall is also called the Central Market, and it is the largest indoor market in Budapest. Dating from 1897 it is also the oldest one.
The central floor is full of local vendors selling their produce of vegetables, fruits, meat and many other items.
On the second floor, you can buy souvenirs, clothes, bags and other non-eatable products. The food corner is also upstairs, so if you want to grab a snack, this is the place to be.
Even if you’re not interested in buying anything, it’s just nice to walk around and feel the vibe of this place. The setting takes you back in time and it also creates some cool photo opportunities.
Cross the Liberty Bridge to get over the Danube. From there, you can walk to Gellert Hill.
Good to know
- Address: Vámház krt. 1-3, 1093 Budapest
- Opening hours from 6 am to 17 pm/18pm
- Closes on Saturday at 15 pm
- Closed on Sundays
Gellert Hill & Gellert thermal baths
After all the sightseeing and walking around, it is time to relax! You just reached the Buda side of the Danube again, so you know you can expect some gorgeous views from up the hill.
Take your time to walk around, breathe in the fresh air and enjoy the panoramic views of the city.
You can also visit the Gellert Hill Cave under Gellert Hill. A thermal spring, which no longer exists today, created this cave over 300,000 years ago. This cave got transformed into a church and has a rich history.
The thermal baths of Gellert Hill are the perfect spot to let your muscles relax. It is a popular thermal bath that resembles a traditional Turkish bath house. Beautifully decorated with blue tiles and pillars.
The complex is a spa centre, and you can opt for additional massages to make the relaxation complete.
In summer, when the weather is too hot to really enjoy the hot thermal baths, you can swim outside too.
Good to know
- Hungary is referred to as “the land of waters” due to its numerous thermal and mineral springs. Budapest has a rich spa culture, and many thermal baths and wellness resorts use the natural water sources for relaxation and healing purposes.
- Address Gellert thermal baths: Kelenhegyi út 4, 1118 Budapest
Day 3: Ruin bars, Street food and vintage stores
You probably went out a little late last night and just want to chill today. So, today we counted in some time to sleep in a bit. 🙂
We start the day in District 7, with a visit to Szimpla Kert Ruin Bar, which is so much more than a bar, and the cool vintage store next door. For lunch, grab some nice food at the famous Karavaan street food stalls. End your day in District 13, with a relaxing visit to Margaret Island and the Japanese Gardens.
Day 3 in Budapest - Summary
- Szimpla Kert Ruin bar & vintage store next door
- Karavan street food
- Margaret Island & Japanese gardens
Day 3 in Budapest - Map
Szimpla Kert Ruin bar & vintage store next door
Day 3 of this Budapest itinerary starts with a visit to one of the most beautiful ruin pubs in the city. Szimpla Kert is truly stunning and loads of other visitors agree. It can get really crowded here, but you just have to see it for yourself.
We started off in the vintage store right next to the bar. This curiosity store sells a lot of cute, decorative items. It gets crowded from time to time, which makes moving around difficult. But it’s worth a visit if you like to take a nice souvenir home with you.
The Ruin bar itself is an enormous complex, with an upstairs and inside patio, and lots of plants and bright colours everywhere.
On a Sunday, people are playing music, selling stuff in little stalls, and hoards of other tourists try to make their way through the place.
Many people have breakfast upstairs. But I’m pretty sure you had to make reservations for that.
Almost right next to the Ruin bar, you find the Street Food Karavan.
Good to know
- Address: Kazinczy u. 14, 1075 Budapest
- Check info on Szimpla website
Karavan street food
Time to get lunch at the Karavan. This formerly abandoned piece of land is now home to food trucks and stalls alike serving a wide range of different dishes.
Take your pick out of Mexican dishes, Italian cuisine, vegan options, cheese, burgers, and more.
To get to the last stop, you need to take two metro lines. First you walk over to Deak Ference tér M where you take line 9, Obuda, Bogdani ut, for 5 stops. You exit at Jaszai Mari tér. There you transfer to line 26, Arpad hid M, for 4 stops, you exit at Palatinus Furdo. From there, it’s just a short walk to the island.
Good to know
Address: Kazinczy u. 18, 1075 Budapest
Margaret Island & Japanese Gardens
The last stop on this itinerary is Margaret Islands. A green gem hidden away on an island in the Danube river to get away from the crowded city.
Margaret Island is to Budapest what Central Park is to New York. Citizens come here to relax and enjoy being outdoors.
There is more to do here than walk and enjoying the fresh air.
For instance, you can visit the Japanese Garden on the Northern tip of the island or take a dip in the Palatinus swimming pool and Thermal Baths. There even are ruins of an ancient church on the island, a musical fountain and many more attractions.
It’s also the location of the famous Sziget Music Festival in summer. So visiting during the festival is not a good idea if you don’t want to attend the party and come to enjoy quiet time.
Good to know
- Opening Hours Margaret Island: 24/7
- Address: Margitsziget Budapest, between Margaret Bridge in the South and Arpad Bridge in the North
- Opening hours Palatinus Furdo: Check the official website
Practical information for 3 days in Budapest
When planning a trip to Budapest, you also have to think about some practical issues. How can I travel to Budapest? Where should I stay? How can I easily get around the city? How can I save money on entrance fees for attractions?. Let’s dive into that.
How to get around in Budapest - Save yourself a lot of money
With a Budapest city card, you can use all public transportation in all zones for free! (The only exception is the Funicular, which is a tourist attraction)
On top of that, the card has many extra free perks, including:
- A guided city walking tour
- Free entry to Lucas Thermal Baths
- Free entry to many historical buildings and museums
- Discounts up to 50% at attractions, cafés and restaurants
If you choose the 72-hour plus option, you get to enjoy even more:
- Airport transfers
- Danube river cruise
- Round trip on the Buda castle funicular
- Free entry to Matthias church
In short: This card really is worth its money.
Where to stay in Budapest
When choosing a place to stay, the first thing you have to decide is which district you prefer.
- Do you want to be in the middle of Budapest’s vibrant night scene?
- Do you want to wake up in the upscale inner city?
- Or do you prefer a hotel in the Castle district, closely to a lot of major sightseeing opportunities?
No worries, we’ve got you covered. Explore our comprehensive guide to Budapest’s districts. Discover the landmarks, transportation options, and pros and cons of staying overnight.
Second, you’ve got to decide where you’re going to spend the night. Budapest has a lot of accommodation options in all budget ranges. As you know, the city is famous for its many spa & wellness hotels.
A few favourites:
The right hotel choice can elevate your stay in Budapest to new heights. If you’re seeking a unique and intimate experience, have a look at the best boutique hotels in Budapest.
A few recommendations:
How to get to Budapest
There are many options to get to Budapest. Depending on your favourite travel style and departure point, these are the best ways to get here:
If you’re looking for a unique way to discover the best of Europe by train, make this trip a stopover of a great central and eastern European train adventure.
What are the best guided tours to do in Budapest?
Taking a guided tour in Budapest is an opportunity to unlock the city’s hidden gems and rich history.
A guide brings the stories behind iconic landmarks alive, from Buda Castle to the Parliament Building.
Get to know local insights and let a guide lead you through the maze of streets, revealing places you might never discover on your own..
That was our 3 days in Budapest Itinerary where you visit most of the top attractions in the city and enjoy the healing powers of a Thermal Bath as well.
We hope you love your time in the capital of Hungary and that this Budapest itinerary is helpful for you.