3 day Budapest Itinerary – to enjoy the best of Budapest’s attractions!
If you lust for epic city breaks – then you need to check out this 3 day Budapest itinerary!
Budapest, Hungary’s capital is the perfect European destination if you’re looking for stunning architecture, cheap food and drink, a warming atmosphere, a place to relax as well as party the night away – it truly is one of the best city breaks in Europe.
There are two sides to Budapest, as you guessed it, Buda and Pest – which are separated by the famous Danube River and only became Budapest in 1873 when bridges were created to join each side. To this day you can tell the differences between Buda and Pest, both geographically and culturally. Buda is described as being ‘classier’ and a more residential side of the city, whereas Pest is where all of the action happens. There’s a lot of controversy regarding which side is better, but I suggest experiencing both so you can make your judgement – they’re both special in there own unique ways.
Let’s look what’s included in this post;
- Arriving at Budapest airport
- Day 1
- 2nd Day
- Day 3
- Final thoughts
Arriving at Budapest Airport
Once you land head out of arrivals and follow the signs for ‘public bus’ – there’s even a blue line painted on the floor to make it that little bit easier! There’s one bus that takes you right into the city centre number 100E and only costs 900 HUF for a single ticket. There are ticket machines next to the bus stop where you can pay both cash or card and the journey takes around 30 minutes.
Day 1 in Budapest
I’d normally recommend starting with a hearty breakfast but on this occasion give it a miss – you’ll soon see why..
Budapest Food Tour
I always think the best way to start any city break is by taking part in a food tour to gain a greater understanding of the culture, cuisine and history of the city from a local expert. We had the amazing opportunity to join Taste Hungary one of Hungary’s leading food tour companies for a culinary walk experience. We got to sample some of Hungary’s most authentic dishes, taste delicious wines and learn about the true Hungarian way of life through a friendly knowledgeable guide. We ate and ate and ate until we could eat no more – now you understand why I said skip breakfast! Read ‘Budapest Best Food Tour’ for a detailed insight into one of the best things to do in Budapest. You get to try a range of foods such as;
- Goats cheese
- Goulash soup
- And more
You can book the Budapest food tour here!
Explore the Castle District
After tucking into all that tasty food why not burn some calories and head to the cities historic quarter, castle district and wander through the cobbled streets taking in some of Budapest’s best architecture. Stop by Matthias Church and enjoy Budapest’s best lookout point Fisherman’s Bastion before continuing to Buda Castle where the epic views continue. If you’re not a fan of walking you can also catch the funicular railway links the Adam Clark Square and the Széchenyi Chain Bridge.
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Experience the famous River Cruise
Once the sun sets head back down to Danube River and catch a river cruise to see some of Budapest’s highlights on the water. There are lots of different options to choose, from budget-friendly to luxury private cruises, as well as party cruises. We opted for a one-hour river cruise with Portum Lines which is located towards the North of Budapest at Dock 42. Passengers are welcomed by a friendly team and offered a tasty mulled wine or orange juice and cosy blanket to keep you warm. They also sell snacks and additional beverages on board if you need a top-up!
Marvel at the Parliament Building
Finish the night with a stroll back down the Danube River passing the magnificent Parliament Building – Hungary’s largest building. This is an impressive building and for those who aren’t particularly thrilled by architecture, trust me you’ll get a sense of awe at the overwhelming beauty of it. It makes for a great picture up close, but if you head on a river cruise you’ll get to see the real perspective of how big the building actually is. I’d recommend visiting once the sunsets as the building is lit up and adds to the effect.
If you’re looking to take a guided tour these are available in several languages and cost 2,400 HUF for EU travellers and take around 45 minutes between the hours of 08:00 and 18:00 in peak season.
Pick up a bargain at the Local souvenir shops
On your way back to the hotel make sure you stop off and have a nosy at the amplitude of souvenir shops, yes most of its tat that you buy and never use or even look at again! But to my surprise there are some unique gifts perfect for loved ones back home – we ended up buying some sweet and spicy paprika, a Budapest inspired wall plaque and shot glasses, one can never have too make shot glasses!
Day 2 in Budapest
Start the day with a traditional Hungarian breakfast consisting of a hearty dish of sausage, egg, cheese and homemade bread or keep it simple with a delicious cinnamon raisin roll and a hot cup of coffee. Food seems to be generally cheap in Budapest depending on where you choose to eat, but a typical breakfast will set you back around 1800 HUF.
Learn some history at the House of Terror
Once you’ve fuelled up, take the metro line to the House of Terror, a museum exhibition related to the fascist and communist regimes in 20th-century Hungary, as well as being a memorial to the victims of these regimes, including those detained, interrogated, tortured or killed in the building. The only downside is the lack of English Audio available which is replaced by A4 pieces of paper explaining the nation’s relationship with Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.
Hero’s Square & City Park
Once you’ve explored House of Terror continue walking 20 minutes to the Hero’s Square – Hungary’s largest and most impressive square. The square was laid out in 1896 to mark the 1000th anniversary of Hungary and plays an important part in Hungary’s contemporary history. If the weather permits you can also combine this with a stroll around City Park, where you can visit Budapest Zoo, the Municipal Circus, the Museum of Transport, the legendary Gundel Restaurants and the famous Szechenyi baths. If you happen to be there on the weekend, there’s a local flea market helo between 8 am and 2 pm where you may just find some Hungarian treasure!
Take a dip at Szechenyi baths
You can’t come to Budapest and not visit one of their many famous best Budapest spa and thermal baths. Budapest has a total of nine baths dotted throughout the city and even though the water mineral content is similar across the baths, each one is unique in its own right in terms of architecture, the number and size of pools, as well as the services provided. I would highly recommend Szechenyi baths which understandably is one of the best in Budapest. Szechenyi baths were built in 1913 and have an impressive total of 18 hot spring pools, 10 different types of saunas and steam rooms, as well as a spa where guest can relax after a long day of exploring Budapest with a choice of different massages. This is one of the best things to do on the 3 day Budapest itinerary.
There’s even a bar on site so guests can stay hydrated even if it is with beer! Just remember you can’t take food or drink into the pools or you’ll get shouted at, believe me from experience it’s not worth it! We visited during November was the sunset around 4 pm and got to the spa at 3 pm so we could experience the baths in both daylights and after sunset – the colours of the building make for some great pictures if you’re a keen photographer.
You can book the amazing Szechenyi thermal spa here!
Sip on a cocktail at the 360 Bar
Once you’ve revitalised after the Szechenyi baths head to the 360 Bar, an outdoor rooftop bar serving cheese fondue, cold meat boards, fabulous cocktails and more for a very reasonable price considering its impressive setting. Just hop on the metro and stop off at Oktogon where you’ll have to walk a few minutes before reaching this cool bar. From the outside, it doesn’t look like much, but once you’ve reached the top you’ll be transported into another world. I’d recommend pre-booking on a weekend to secure an Igloo which is heated (a must during the cold winter months), but even if you only get a seat outside, they provide cosy blankets to keep the chill away!
Day 3 and the last day on the 3 day Budapest itinerary
If you’re fed up of walking why not spend the day exploring what Budapest has to offer on one of their electric scooters. All you have to do is download the App onto your phone, look out for the scooter location and your good to go. The price varies – you have to pay an initial 250 forints, followed by 50 HUF per minute. However, it seems wherever you go, you end up paying a minimum of 1000 HUF.
Have a coffee and hold a snake at the Zoo Cafe
This is one of the most unusual things to do on the 3 day Budapest itinerary.
Why not start the day an unusual way and head to Budapest’s only Zoo Cafe – what is that you may ask? You get 1.5hrs to sit and relax over a cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate while you enjoy the company of the shop’s residents, including kittens, bearded dragons, parrots, snakes and rabbits! On arrival at the cafe, a friendly waiter will lead you to a table where you’ll be given some basic rules to keep both you and the animals safe, then they’ll hand you an animal and some information about how to hold the animals etc. Every 15 minutes you’ll get to swap animals until your time runs out!
There’s no entry price, you just have to spend 1000 HUF on food or drinks which is nothing in the grand scheme of things! And don’t worry if your a hygiene freak there’s hand sanitiser on each of the tables to freshen up after holding each animal!
Shop till you drop
There’s plenty of great shopping experiences to be had when visiting Budapest and you’re on holiday so when’s there a better time to treat yourself! Head down to Vorosmarty ter where you’ll find plenty of high street stores such as Zara, H&M and Pull a Bear, alongside chic boutique designer stores and you’re typical souvenir shops.
If you’re looking to buy some top quality to wine to take back home and impress your dinner party guests, then head to the tasting table – a quirky basement in the heart of the VIII District where you’ll find a collection of regional wines – particularly Tokaji to enjoy. And whilst you’re there why not indulge in a tasting session too!
Budapest Great Synagogue
The Great Synagogue of Budapest in Dohány Street is a good starting point to learn about Jewish history through their daily informative audio tours. The Great Synagogue holds the title of the world’s second-largest synagogue, featuring a room that holds three thousand people – now that’s impressive. The tour guides are very knowledgeable and happy to answer any questions you may have. I’d also recommended booking tickets online to beat queuing as this is one tourist attraction people do not want to miss.
Have a beer at the Ruin Bar
Head to one of Budapest’s famous (after all, shopping is thirsty work) and take advantage of their cheap drinks, lively atmosphere, quirky architecture and free music sessions. Our favourite has to be Szimpla – Budapest’s original ruin bar – located near the Great Synagogue and is a great place to relax with a classic cocktail and enjoy their mouth-watering burgers. It attracts people of all ages who come to enjoy the unique decor and quirky atmosphere.
Finish off the day with an authentic traditional Thai massage at one of the many parlours dotted throughout Budapest. We choose Spirit Thai Massage and wasn’t disappointed. I booked online and received an email straight away confirming our appointments for the same day – a one-hour traditional Thai massage and a one-hour oil aroma full body massage for 18,000 HUF, in my eyes a bargain! We even got some Thai tea for after the massage to keep hydrated. My only recommendation – don’t go on a full stomach, we went for dinner beforehand and it probably didn’t aid with the digestion process!
Check out the Budapest Thai massage here!
Time to reflect and relax
After exploring Budapest for the last three days it’s time to reflect on what you’ve seen, who you’ve met, what you’ve learned and what you’ve eaten. I think a short city break can often be pretty hectic and people soon get caught up in the whirlwind of trying to see as much as possible in such a short period of time! Well, truth – it’s impossible. Three days is enough to see what we believe to be the best things to do in Budapest. Take your time and enjoy each attraction by giving it the time it deserves – don’t rush or you’ll ruin the experience for yourself. We hope you enjoy your 3 day Budapest Itinerary because we sure did!