We LOVED Budapest.
The fact that it was our favorite city on a recent 5-week trip to Europe was surprising to both of us.
Before our trip, we knew very little about Budapest. Other than Szechenyi thermal baths being popular and goulash soup having beef, we really didn’t know what to expect.
I knew it was a treasure trove of Gothic architecture*. I knew the Danube River divided Buda from Pest but what I didn’t expect, was to find a cool and trendy city with an edginess that belied its classical feel and recent socialist past.
We loved Budapest so much that we’re already planning a return trip back. And when that happens, we’ll stay for no less than a month. Budapest resonated with us to such a degree that we want to experience what it’s like to actually live there, even for just a month.
Not everyone has a month so if you have limited time, then I’d say 3 days in Budapest is enough. It’ll give you a good taste of the city and hopefully make you fall in love with it as much as we did.
This 3 day Budapest itinerary lists many of the city’s top attractions and restaurants to help first-time visitors plan the perfect 3 days in Budapest.
*I know very little about architecture. I don’t feel comfortable talking about it but it’s such a key part of the Budapest experience that it’s important to describe it in some capacity. I apologize in advance for any incorrect descriptions.
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WHAT TO DO IN BUDAPEST IN 3 DAYS
Listed below are the city’s top attractions and a few recommended restaurants you van visit with 3 days in Budapest. You can jump to the location map at the bottom of this post to see exactly where they are in the city.
Budapest has a great public transportation system so getting around shouldn’t be a problem. We explored Budapest on our own but if you’d rather go on a guided tour, then you can choose one from the many offered on Get Your Guide or Klook.
• Andrassy Avenue
• 9BAR (breakfast)
• St. Stephen’s Basilica
• Great Synagogue
• Bors GasztroBar (lunch)
• Heroes’ Square
• Szechenyi Thermal Bath
• Karavan Street Food (dinner)
• Szimpla Kert (drinks)
• Szechenyi Chain Bridge
• Matthias Church
• Fisherman’s Bastion
• Baltazar Budapest Grill and Boutique Hotel (lunch)
• Ruszwurm Confectionery (dessert)
• Buda Castle
• House of Terror or Flippermuzeum
• Mazel Tov (dinner and drinks)
• Molnar’s Kurtoskalacs (breakfast)
• Great Market Hall (takeaway)
• Danube River Cruise
• Margaret Island
• Hungarian Parliament Building
• Shoes on the Danube Bank
• Stand25 Bisztro (dinner)
DAY 1: THE PEST SIDE
On your first of 3 days in Budapest, take a stroll down Andrassy Avenue which is the city’s main boulevard. It’s about a 2.3 km stretch that starts in central Pest and goes all the way to Heroes’ Square.
On either side are beautiful Neo-Renaissance buildings with cafes, restaurants, luxury boutiques, and embassies. The Hungarian State Opera House, considered by many to be one of the world’s most beautiful opera houses, is located along Andrassy Avenue.
Inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002, Andrassy Avenue is a chic shopping street and a great place to get a feel for the city.
From our AirBnB in Liszt Ferenc Square, we walked down Andrassy Avenue to have breakfast at 9BAR, a terrific little cafe near St. Stephen’s Basilica. They make great croissants and serve a good selection of sandwiches and cakes.
9BAR is a local favorite with a perfect 5-star rating on TripAdvisor. It was the ideal place to have breakfast before proceeding to St. Stephen’s Basilica and exploring the Jewish Quarter.
Address: Budapest, Lázár u. 5, 1065 Hungary
Operating Hours: 8AM-6PM, Mon-Fri / 8AM-4PM, Sat (closed Sun)
What to Order: Coffee, croissants, sandwiches
Expect to Spend: About HUF 1,000-1,200 for coffee and a croissant
St. Stephen’s Basilica
After breakfast at 9BAR, you can proceed to St. Stephen’s Basilica which is less than a 5-minute walk away. It’s one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks and a must-do on any Budapest itinerary.
Completed in 1905, St. Stephen’s Basilica is the biggest church in Budapest and considered the most sacred Catholic church in all of Hungary. It’s named after Stephen I, the first King of Hungary, and houses his mummified right hand.
St. Stephen’s Basilica was designed by Miklos Ybl, one of Hungary’s most influential architects and the same person responsible for building the Hungarian State Opera House.
Entrance to the church is a nominal HUF 200 per person. We didn’t do it but you can climb up to the basilica’s dome for an additional HUF 600.
If you’re Catholic or have an interest in Catholic churches, then Get Your Guide offers a guided church tour that takes you to St. Stephen’s Basilica and two other churches of note in Budapest’s Old Town.
Operating Hours: 9AM-5PM, Mon-Fri / 9AM-1PM, Sat / 1-5PM, Sun
Admission: HUF 200 (church), HUF 600 (dome)
Estimated Time to Spend: About 30 mins – 1 hr
Erzsebetvaros (District VII) and the Jewish Quarter
This was my favorite neighborhood and where we spent most of our 3 days in Budapest. Erzsebetvaros or Elizabeth Town refers to an area south of Andrassy Avenue. It’s home to the Jewish Quarter and the Great Synagogue, not to mention the city’s ruin pubs.
The Jewish Quarter is where we spent most of our evenings. It’s a youthful and vibrant area with plenty of interesting dining options. In fact, we enjoyed some of our most memorable Budapest food experiences here in the Jewish Quarter.
I suggest walking around the area for a bit before lunch, and then coming back later in the evening to experience what it’s like at night.
The Great Synagogue or the Dohany Street Synagogue is the largest synagogue in Europe and another essential addition to your Budapest itinerary. It was built in 1859 and designed in the Moorish Revival style with a mixture of Byzantine, Gothic, and Romantic elements.
I didn’t go inside but there’s a HUF 5,000 admission fee which gives you access to the Heroes’ Temple, the Jewish Museum, a graveyard, a memorial site, and the synagogue itself.
You can pay for admission at the gate or book a guided tour that stops at the Great Synagogue.
About a 5-minute walk from Dohany Street Synagogue is Bors Gasztrobar, a tiny street food joint where we enjoyed one of our best meals during our 3 days in Budapest. They make gourmet interpretations of Hungarian street food like baguette sandwiches, soups, and stews.
We had this terrific baguette sandwich made with chicken breast, raspberry onion jam, and edamer cheese. It was so unbelievably delicious. The soup we had was fantastic as well.
Bors GasztroBar is located along trendy Kazinczy Street in the Jewish Quarter. It’s a popular place with a perfect 5-star rating on TripAdvisor, even after accumulating 3,200 reviews. Don’t miss it!
Address: Budapest, Kazinczy u. 10, 1075 Hungary
Operating Hours: 11:30AM-9PM, daily
What to Order: Grilled baguette sandwiches, soups, stews
Expect to Spend: About HUF 750 (half) / HUF 1,200 (full) for grilled baguette sandwiches
After lunch, it’s time for a bath. If you need to go back to your hotel for a change of clothing, then go ahead and do that before taking the bus or metro to Heroes’ Square.
Located at the eastern end of Andrassy Avenue, Hosok Tere or Heroes’ Square is one Budapest’s major squares. It’s known for its statue complex featuring the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars and the Memorial Stone of Heroes.
The statues are impressive but most tourists seem to be more interested in taking selfies with this large Budapest sign. After snapping a few pictures, take your swimsuit and walk to Szechenyi Thermal Bath.
Operating Hours: 24 hrs
Estimated Time to Spend: About 30 mins
Szechenyi Thermal Bath
Szechenyi Thermal Bath is one of the most popular attractions in Budapest. It’s the largest medicinal bath facility in Europe, featuring fifteen indoor thermal pools and three outdoor pools, including one with a whirlpool.
The water in these thermal pools reach temperatures of up to 40°C (104°F). They’re rich in calcium, magnesium, and hydrogen carbonate and are said to be good for joint pain, arthritis, blood circulation, and disorders of the nervous system.
We visited Szechenyi Thermal Bath but we didn’t bathe in the pools, which was a decision I would later regret. Everyone we know who’s done it says it’s one of the best things they did in Budapest. In one friend’s words: “I wish I did it everyday.” With 3 days in Budapest, you have plenty of time to experience this.
Karavan Street Food
After your spa experience, head back to the Jewish Quarter for dinner. As described, there are plenty of interesting restaurants in the area, but if you want more street food, then check out Karavan.
Karavan is a food park on the same street as Bors GasztroBar. There are about 10-15 food stalls to choose from but we were here specifically for one place – Langos Burger.
As their name suggests, they make burger versions of langos which is a classic Hungarian food made with deep-fried dough. Langos Burger was voted one of the ten best street food stalls in Europe in 2018.
Address: Budapest, Kazinczy u. 18, 1075 Hungary
Operating Hours: 11:30AM-11PM, Sun-Wed / 11:30AM-1AM, Thurs-Sat
What to Order: Langos Burger, Langos
Expect to Spend: About HUF 1,100 (classic) / 1,690 (burger) for langos
Located two doors down from Karavan, Szimpla Kert is the original romkocsma. Romkocsma means “ruin pub” in Hungarian.
A ruin pub is basically a drinking establishment set up in an old abandoned building. Szimpla Kert was the first and most iconic, but many others have sprouted in and around the Jewish Quarter.
Ruin pubs have become so popular over the years that they’ve become synonymous with the Budapest experience. You definitely need to add this to your Budapest itinerary. They cater mostly to the young and creative so many ruin pubs can be loud and club-like in feel, though some like Mazel Tov have evolved to become more elegant dining spaces.
Address: Budapest, Kazinczy u. 14, 1075 Hungary
Operating Hours: 10AM-4AM, Mon-Sat / 9AM-4AM, Sun
DAY 2: THE BUDA SIDE
Szechenyi Chain Bridge
After exploring the Pest side on your first of 3 days in Budapest, it’s time to walk along Szechenyi Chain Bridge and cross over to the Buda side. The bridge is only 375 meters long (1,230 ft) so it takes less than 10 minutes to get to the other side.
The Buda side’s top attractions are at the top of a hill so walking will be difficult. You can either ride the funicular to Buda Castle Hill, pay for a hop-on hop-off castle shuttle, or go on a guided tour.
The line to the funicular was too long so we chose the hop-on hop-off castle shuttle. If you’d like to explore Buda’s historical attractions with a guide, then a fun way to do that would be to go on these segway or bike tours.
St. Stephen’s Basilica may be larger and more physically impressive but I found Matthias Church to be more beautiful. It’s one of the city’s most striking landmarks and a highlight on this 3 day Budapest itinerary.
Originally built in the 11th century, Matthias Church is a strikingly beautiful church with a colorful roof covered in diamond-patterned tiles. It was used for centuries as a coronation church by Hungarian kings and a mosque by Ottoman Turks before becoming the Roman Catholic church that it is today.
You can visit Matthias Church on your own or go on a guided tour.
Operating Hours: 9AM-5PM, Mon-Fri / 9AM-1PM, Sat / 1-5PM, Sun
Admission: HUF 1,800
Estimated Time to Spend: About 30 mins – 1 hr
Just a few steps away from Matthias Church is Fisherman’s Bastion, one of the city’s most popular monuments and another must-add to any Budapest itinerary. It was built in the early 20th century by Frigyes Schulek, the same architect responsible for the restoration of Matthias Church.
Though Fisherman’s Bastion looks like a fortification, it was designed primarily as a viewing platform where people could appreciate some of the best views of the city and the Danube River. It gets its name from the medieval guild of fishermen responsible for defending this section of castle wall.
Some people claim that Fisherman’s Bastion served as the inspiration for the Walt Disney logo. I think this is a stretch. What do you think?
Fisherman’s Bastion is easy enough to visit on your own but you can also go within the context of a guided tour.
Operating Hours: 9AM-11PM, daily
Admission: FREE (lower terraces), HUF 1,000 (upper towers)
Estimated Time to Spend: About 30 mins
Baltazar Budapest Grill and Boutique Hotel
About 500 meters from Matthias Church and Fisherman’s Bastion is Baltazar Grill, an Hungarian restaurant and boutique hotel which some say serves some of the best beef goulash in Budapest.
If you’d like to try beef goulash and other traditional Hungarian dishes, then you may want to have lunch at Baltazar Grill before proceeding to Buda Castle. We had the goulash and chicken paprikash but they do offer less traditional fare like burgers and ribs as well.
Address: Budapest, Országház u. 31, 1014 Hungary
Operating Hours: 7:30AM-11PM, daily
What to Order: Beef goulash soup, chicken paprikash, burgers
Expect to Spend: About HUF 5,000-6,000 per person with drinks
Ruszwurm Confectionery is a great place to have coffee and cake. Located less than a hundred meters from Matthias Church, it’s one of the city’s oldest pastry shops with a reputation for serving some of the best dobos torte in Budapest.
Dobos torte or drum torte is Hungary’s signature cake. It’s a type of sponge cake layered with chocolate buttercream and topped with a hard caramel coating.
We had a slice each of dobos torte and kremes or Hungarian cream cake. Both were delicious.
Address: Budapest, Szentháromság u. 7, 1014 Hungary
Operating Hours: 10AM-6PM, daily
What to Order: Cakes
Expect to Spend: About HUF 600-800 for a slice of cake
After polishing off your cake, you can jump into the hop-on hop-off shuttle or walk to Buda Castle. It’s a little over a kilometer away.
The term “Buda Castle” was confusing to me at first. If I understand correctly, it can be used to refer to both the actual structure and the castle district or quarter.
Buda Castle, the physical castle, is located within a fortified complex called the Castle Quarter (Varnegyed), which is located on top of a hill known as Castle Hill (Varhegy). Buda Castle, Matthias Church, and Fisherman’s Bastion are all located within the Castle Quarter.
Much of the Castle Quarter is now residential so you’re free to explore the area. Buda Castle is home to the Hungarian National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum. You can explore the area around Buda Castle for free but you’ll need tickets to enter the national gallery or museum.
We were perfectly happy exploring the castle district on our own, but if you’d like to go on a guided tour, then you can book one through Get Your Guide.
Operating Hours: 24 hrs (Castle Quarter)
Admission: HUF 3,200 (Hungarian National Gallery), HUF 2,400 (Budapest History Museum)
Estimated Time to Spend: Between 2-5 hrs, depending on how many sites you want to visit
House of Terror
The House of Terror is a museum along Andrassy Avenue, located inside a beautiful building that once served as the headquarters to both the Hungarian Arrow Cross Party (Hungary’s Nazi Party) and AVO/AVH Communist Terrorist Organizations.
It traces the history and horrors that transpired during the Hungarian Nazi regime, much of it occurring within the bowels of this very building. It’s an important but harrowing exhibit that may not be for everyone.
I wanted to be entertained, not depressed, so I skipped the House of Terror and went to Flippermuzeum instead. Flippermuzeum is both a museum and an arcade featuring fully functioning pinball machines from every era.
For HUF 3,500, you can stay for as long as you like and play any machine for free. Aside from pinball machines, they have other vintage games as well like early foosball and rod hockey tables from the 1930s and 40s. It’s definitely one of the more interesting stops I made in our 3 days in Budapest.
Operating Hours: 4PM-12MN, Wed-Fri / 2PM-12MN, Sat / 10AM-10PM, Sun (closed Mon-Tue)
Admission: HUF 3,500
Estimated Time to Spend: About 2 hrs
I wanted to have dinner at Mazel Tov but I read about the long waits so we decided against it. It’s one of the more popular ruin bars in the Jewish Quarter that’s evolved into a more upscale but unpretentious dining space.
Middle Eastern cuisine and Israeli fusion dishes are the specialty here. As described, it’s a popular place so reservations are highly recommended.
Address: Budapest, Akácfa u. 47, 1072 Hungary
Operating Hours: 11AM-1AM, Sun-Wed / 11AM-2AM, Thurs-Sat
DAY 3: THE DANUBE RIVER
Now that you’ve explored the Buda and Pest sides of the city, it’s time to take a cruise on the river that divides them. But before then, you need to have a breakfast of kurtoskalacs, a delicious spit cake that was one of our favorite things to eat in Budapest.
Kurtoskalacs or chimney cakes are spit cakes that are specific to Hungarians from Transylvania. Popular in Hungary and Romania, they’re made by wrapping yeast dough around baking spits and roasting them over charcoal.
While roasting, they’re basted with butter until they turn a deep golden brown. They’re then dusted with toppings like ground walnut, powdered cinnamon, sliced almond, or grated coconut.
Crisp and caramelized on the outside but soft and buttery on the inside, they’re absolutely delicious and go great with coffee. Trying kurtoskalacs is something you definitely need to add to your Budapest itinerary.
Molnar’s Kurtoskalacs is often cited for serving some of the best chimney cakes in Budapest. Situated close to the river on the Pest side, you can easily get there by metro, tram, or bus.
Address: Budapest, Váci u. 31, 1052 Hungary
Operating Hours: 9AM-10PM, daily
What to Order: Kurtoskalacs
Expect to Spend: About HUF 990 (kurtoskalacs) / HUF 2,190 (kurtoskalacs with ice cream)
Great Market Hall
Before proceeding to the dock, I suggest making a stop at Great Market Hall, the biggest and oldest indoor market in Budapest. It’s less than a kilometer south of Molnar’s Kurtoskalacs so you can either walk there or take the riverside tram.
The market is in a beautiful 19th century building with lots of food and souvenir stalls spread out over two floors. You’re probably still full from breakfast but you may want to pick up a few items to go if you plan on following this Budapest itinerary and proceeding to Margaret Island.
Operating Hours: 6AM-5PM, Mon / 6AM-6PM, Tue-Fri / 6AA-3PM, Sat (closed Sundays)
Danube River Cruise
Like the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok, locals commute to work on the Danube River everyday. If a quick ferry ride is all you’re interested in, then keep reading. Otherwise, you can book a proper Danube River cruise on Get Your Guide.
If you’re happy to experience the Danube River on a ferry, then take the tram from Great Market Hall to the Boraros ter H tram stop. You’re looking for the Boraros ter H (Petofi hid) ferry terminal which is about a 2-minute walk north of the tram stop.
You’re going to take the D12 ferry to Margaret Island. The one-way fare is HUF 750 and you can get off at Margitsziget, Centenariumi emlekmu ferry terminal which is seven stops away. You can refer to this ferry map for more details.
NOTE: The D12 ferry line doesn’t seem to be operational in winter. If that’s the case, then you can take the D11 ferry instead from Boraros ter H (Petofi hid) to Nepfurdo utca (Arpad hid) ferry terminal. It’s a 1-minute walk to the island from there.
One-way Boat Fare: HUF 750
Margaret Island is a small island sitting in the middle of the Danube River. It’s connected to the Buda and Pest sides by two bridges on the northern and southern ends of the island.
Margaret Island is a pleasant green space that offers good views of some of the city’s grandest attractions like the Hungarian Parliament Building, Buda Castle, and Matthias Church. Attractions on the island include a Japanese garden, an Art Nouveau water tower (pictured below), and the Palatinus Strand Thermal Bath.
If you’d like to explore the 2.5 km long island, then you can do so in fun vehicles like golf carts, egg-shaped cars, electric scooters, and Segways. A few guided tours will take you to Margaret Island as well.
Hungarian Parliament Building
From Margaret Island, you can take the ferry or bus to the Hungarian Parliament Building, one of the grandest structures in Budapest. It’s an impressive sight and a highlight on this 3 day Budapest itinerary.
Completed in 1902, the Hungarian Parliament Building is an architectural marvel built in the Gothic Revival style. It’s the third-largest parliament building in the world and contains 691 interior rooms, 10 courtyards, and 12.5 miles of staircase.
There are many impressive buildings in Budapest but this was by far the most spectacular. To fully appreciate it, you need to view it from a distance. From a boat on the Danube River or directly opposite on the Buda side is perfect.
We didn’t do the tour but I read that it’s a good idea to purchase tickets in advance. You can do so directly from the Hungarian National Assembly website. You can also visit the Parliament Building as part of a guided city tour.
Shoes on the Danube Bank
A short walk from the Parliament Building is this haunting tribute to the thousands of Jews murdered by Hungary’s Nazi Party.
Approximately 20,000 Jews were shot along the banks of the Danube River by the Arrow Cross Party in 1944-1945. Shoes were a valuable commodity during WWII so the victims were made to remove them before being shot into the river.
The memorial consists of sixty pairs of 1940s-style shoes cast in iron. They’re in different styles and sizes, from men’s work boots to women’s heels to the tiny shoes of a child.
Set by the beautiful Danube River, it was one of the most sobering attractions we visited in our 3 days in Budapest.
Operating Hours: 24 hrs
Length of Tour: About 15 mins
For a special meal in Budapest, you can take a taxi or bus to Stand25 Bisztro, a Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant that offers 2- or 3-course menus featuring modern interpretations of traditional Hungarian food. We had lunch at their former Hold Street Market location but it looks like they’ve since moved to the Buda side.
We had many fantastic dishes at Stand25, some of the most memorable being their meatloaf with yellow pea puree and a delicious layered potato dish with sausages and beetroot salad.
Pictured below is an interesting grilled eggplant tartare with Vaszoly cheese and pumpkin seeds. You can refer to my article on Stand25 Bisztro for more pictures and information.
Address: Budapest, Attila út 10, 1013 Hungary
Operating Hours: 12NN-2PM, 6-10PM, Mon-Sat (closed Sundays)
What to Order: 3-course menu
Expect to Spend: About HUF 14,900++ (dinner)
I made a map to help you better understand this 3 day Budapest itinerary. Click on the link to open the interactive map in a new window.
As described at the top of this article, we fell in love with Budapest and would have loved to stay longer. But if it’s your first time in the city, then 3 days in Budapest is a good amount of time to get a decent feel for the city. It was certainly enough time to make us fall in love with the place and want to experience more.
Whether you’re into architecture, design, history, food, or nightlife, Budapest has something for you. It’s a surprisingly cool city that turned out to be one of our favorite stops in Europe. We reminisce about it often and can’t wait to go back.
Anyway, thanks for reading and I hope this itinerary gives you plenty of ideas on how to maximize your 3 days in Budapest. If you have any questions, then let us know in the comments below. Enjoy your trip!
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