From the Romans and Turks to the Austro-Hungarians and the Soviets; Budapest's mosaic of influences makes it a fascinating place to visit. Located along the banks of the Danube, the capital of Hungary is actually made up of two medieval cities, Buddha e Pest which in 1873 merged into a city: Obuda.
Read on to find out what to see in Budapest in 3 days, an itinerary full of wonders covering historical sites, city life and a beautiful romantic dinner sailing the Danube.
I have a wonderful memory of the holiday in Budapest with my mom and Massi: it was winter, it was a bit cold in the evening, but the beautiful sunny days and the Christmas markets made it a special holiday for me!
Unfortunately 3 days they are definitely not enough for visit Budapest as it should be, but we have managed to put together a nice list of things to see which includes the most interesting monuments.
If you are short on time and you are alone three days in Budapest to see it all, here are some great ways to spend your time in this welcoming city.
- Useful information for 3 days in Budapest
- 1 day
- 1 - Fisherman's Bastion (Halasbastya)
- 2 - Matthias Church
- 3 - Walk to the Buda Castle
- 4 - Ponte delle Catene (Széchenyi Chain Bridge)
- 5 – Gresham Palace
- 6 - Basilica di Santo Stefano (St. Stephen's Basilica)
- 7 – Sinagoga di Budapest
- 8 – Vorosmarty Ter
- 9 - Mercato Centrale
- 10 – Gellert Hill
- 11 - In the evening: Medieval dinner with the knights
- 2 day
- 3 day
- More things to do in Budapest
- Getting around
- Where to eat in Budapest
- Where to sleep in Budapest if you stay 3 days
Budapest is a combination of two cities, Buda and Pest, which were merged with a much smaller third city, Obuda, in 1873.
Buddha it is located on the west side of the Danube. In Buda, the most famous places to visit are the Fisherman's Bastion, Matthias Church and Castle Hill. This is where you can take legendary photos of the Parliament and the Danube.
Pest it is located on the east side of the Danube. This is where you will spend most of your time. On the Pest side, take a tour of the Parliament, visit St. Stephen's Basilica, take a dip in the Szechenyi Baths, and shop in the Central Market.
If you are coming from Budapest airport you have 3 ways to get to the city:
- by bus:bus 200E which leads to the Kőbánya-Kispest stop, the terminus of the M3 metro line with which you can reach the center.
- on the train: bus 200E it also leads to Ferihegy station and from here you can take the train to Nyugati, right in the city center.
- by taxi
- with a private transfer (more comfortable and cheaper than a taxi)
CAUTION: a few years ago the Gianfranco's scam (invented name) at Budapest airport. After a strenuous struggle, and also thanks to this blog (pat pat pat) for some time this bad problem has never occurred again.
However, pay attention to those who ask you for loan money, you will probably never see them again.
Book this free Budapest tour with an English speaking guide Free, or take the Budapest sightseeing bus to learn more about the history of the city and save time and money.
One of the better things to spend an evening in Budapest is one dinner on the Danube: check out this dinner cruise I took.
Always take out travel insurance. I advise you Heyworld e buying it here you have a 10% discount exclusively for Fortourslovers readers.
If you have decided to visit Budapest you may want to consider purchasing the Budapest CARD that gives you unlimited public transport, free admission to some of the main attractions and various discounts.
⇒ See here what is included in the Budapest CARD
Get up early to visit Budapest, there are a lot of things to see. The first day is the busiest of all, but if you don't manage to visit everything, don't worry, you can recover it in the following days!
FREE tour in ENGLISH
If you want a taste of the city, another great option is the FREE TOUR in Budapest.
Now I don't miss out on a free tour in English anymore, they are a great way to get acquainted with the city, learn to orient myself and understand more about its history.
What better place to start a Budapest visit than the Fishermen's Bastion with its incredible view of the city?
It was built between 1895 and 1902 and its seven pointed towers represent the seven chiefs of the Magyars who led their tribes in this area and created the country of Hungary.
Climb between the towers and ramparts to look for the best views and the best spots to take your photos. Even if you have to share them with half a million other tourists (it's always full of people), it will still be fun.
So try to wake up early and be up by 9:00 in the morning so as to find less crowds.
Nearby is the Statue of St. Stephen, the first Hungarian king.
To get to the Fishermen's Bastion from the base of the Chain Bridge, you can take a local bus, the funicular Budavári Sikló or go up with a long and steep walk!
Directly behind the Fishermen's Bastion is the colorful and suggestive Matthias Church: With its brightly colored tile roof, painted interiors and architectural splendor, it's no surprise to learn that this building also has history.
Dating from the 13th century (with major changes and reconstructions in several places dating back to the 19th), the Matthias Church has, among other highlights, hosted royal weddings, the coronations of two Habsburg kings, and spent 150 years as a mosque.
Timetables: from Monday to Friday 9: 00-17: 00; Saturday 9: 00-13: 00; Sunday 13:00 - 17:00
Il Buda castle is an iconic landmark in the city.
From Matthias Church, it's a short walk through the Royal Palace until you reach the top of the funicular (Budavari Siklo). Enjoy the view from the terrace. From here, you will have another iconic view of Budapest, the trio formed by the Chain Bridge, Gresham Palace and St. Stephen's Basilica in a perfect line.
We visited the National Gallery during my first trip to Budapest and we had a great time, maybe during our second trip I will be able to visit the Budapest History Museum!
You know that photo with the castle illuminated with a bridge with large towers in front? Here this is the famous Chain Bridge.
Built in 1800, it was the first bridge to join Buda and Pest. It was completely destroyed by the Nazis in World War II, but was quickly rebuilt.
The stone lions guarding the bridge entrance are the original statues dating back to the 1800s.
Take a walk over this historic bridge and arrive in Pest.
All this walking will surely have made you hungry, but before lunch my advice is to pop in and see the Gresham Palace which is a symbol of the wealth and opulence of old Budapest.
This impressive Art Nouveau building was refurbished in 1999 and is gorgeous on the inside. Now there is the Four Season Hotel, even if you don't stay here, at least go check it out.
From Gresham Palace, walk up Zrinyi Utca towards St. Stephen's Basilica.
It will definitely be lunchtime so take the opportunity to stop at one of the restaurants along the way.
Here are 2 places to eat that might be for you.
KOLLAZS - Brasserie & Bar. This fine dining restaurant is located just around the corner from Gresham Palace. They serve Hungarian and Central European cuisine.
0,75 bistrot. This restaurant serves European and Hungarian dishes with views of St. Stephen's Basilica.
La St. Stephen's Basilica it is the largest Roman Catholic church in Hungary. It was completed in 1905, after 54 years of construction. The long delay was due to the collapse of the dome in 1868, which required a complete demolition and reconstruction of the dome.
If you want to see something unusual and a little morbid, look for the mummified hand of Saint Stephen which is kept in a jeweled glass case.
Yes, this is a 1000 year old hand. Every August 20th, which is Boxing Day, this famous right hand is brought out of the basilica for the Budapest parade.
THEentry to the Basilica of Santo Stefano is free.
For the best view of Budapest from the Pest side, climb the 364 steps to the top of the Panoramic tower (Surcharge).
Hours of the Basilica: from Monday to Friday, from 9 to 17; Saturday 9: 00-13: 00; Sunday 13:00 - 17:00
Hours of the observation tower: 10: 00-18: 30 in summer, reduced hours for the rest of the year
From the Basilica of Santo Stefano head towards the Great Synagogue of Budapest, the second largest in the world, surpassed only by that of Jerusalem.
Just think that it is 53 meters high, 26 meters wide and has room for 2.964 people!
It was built between 1854 and 1859, according to the plan of the Viennese architect Ludwig Forster in a Moorish style, with Byzantine, Romanesque and Gothic touches.
During the Second World War the Jewish ghetto was built around the Synagogue, which was later transformed into a concentration camp: from here the Jews were sent to the extermination camps.
Of the people who survived the deportations, more than 2.000 died of starvation and cold. Their bodies were buried in the cemetery of the Great Synagogue.
Inside the synagogue, in addition to the Jewish cemetery, you will also find a museum it's a Memorial sculpture of the victims of the Holocaust in the form of a weeping willow with the name of the victims engraved on each leaf.
If you want to know more about the history of the Jews in Budapest and the Jewish ghetto you can take part in a 2-hour guided tour of the Synagogue (in English), but personally I recommend you do a English tour of the entire Jewish ghetto and visit the Synagogue on your own.
Timetables: From June to October: from 10:00 to 19:30, (Friday until 16:30).
From November to February: from 10:00 to 15:30, (Friday until 13:30).
From March to May, from 10:00 to 17:30 (Friday until 15:30).
Closed on Saturdays.
From the Great Synagogue, walk to Vorosmarty Ter. This square is the center of the city of Pest.
Consiglio: stop for a coffee and a pastry from Gerbeaud! This elegant café / patisserie sells some truly spatial desserts: for me a must stop during the winter for a hot chocolate and a slice of cake.
From the square it won't take you long to go back to the Danube bank to take pictures and have beautiful views of the bridges that cross it.
Before you are Castle Hill, Matthias Church and Fisherman's Bastion, where our day began.
During your walk along the riverside, be careful as you may notice a lovely statue: "The Little Princess". This statue has no real historical significance. It's just a fun and carefree statue that attracts many photographers and instagrammers.
PRO TIP: if you keep walking towards the Central Market you will notice a very famous Mac Donalds, as he was the first behind the Iron Curtain. In the 80s, people lined up around the block for burgers, fries and a taste of "western" food.
Along the walk you could also pass through the famous one Vaci Utca that is the most touristic street in all of Budapest: in addition to poor quality souvenirs and locals, this street is sadly famous for the scam of the "young ladies" (which I believe no longer exists) who went hunting for boys to get offer to drink.
All pleasant eh for God's sake, except the bill: for a couple of drinks the unfortunate could have a receipt for hundreds of euros!
Il Central Market in Budapest reminiscent of a train station for its size.
You will find yourself wandering among stalls, other tourists and locals: here you will find everything and it is a good opportunity to take home some souvenirs or typical local products: among these you should take a look at the famous paprica, to the typical painted eggs, to the Palinka (Hungarian fruit brandy).
The Central market is also a good place to stop and eat: you can try the typical g, the tasty soup made with meat, onion and vegetables, and therengos, stuffed pancakes covered with sweet or savory toppings. Yum!
From the Central Market, take the tram that crosses the Liberty Bridge to the base of Gellert Hill. At the base of the hill are the term di Gellert, one of the most famous thermal pools in Budapest (find here the ticket with priority entrance).
Here you have two choices: the first, (if you still have time) is to stop at Gellert term (among the most famous in Budapest) or continue walking to the Citadel, located at the top of the hill.
The view from up here rivals that of the Fishermen's Bastion. Almost all of Budapest stretches out in front of you in a wonderful panorama, especially at sunset.
If you have time, try to visit the Hapsburg fortress, or if you love art you could visit the Ludwig Museum and admire works by great masters such as Warhol or by young contemporary artists.
Timetables: Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 to 20:00, closed on Mondays
You cannot visit Budapest and not have dinner with the knights in a real medieval tavern!
We have chosen one of the most famous clubs: the Sir Lancelot (you can read HERE my full review)
The restaurant is very touristy, but the food is good (try the onion soup that will be brought to you inside a large loaf hollowed out inside) or the tray with grilled meat.
During dinner (the place is very nice, furnished as if you were in an old medieval tavern) you can watch the show that includes knights, belly dancers and fire eaters.
Address: Podmaniczky utca 14, Budapest 1065
Il Parliament it is the largest building in Budapest and the largest architectural work of its time. Built between 1884 and 1902, the building has 691 rooms!
You can visit the parliament in Budapest Fortunately. During your visit, don't miss the main staircase and its atrium.
In front of the main staircase is the sculpture of St. Stephen, the first king of Hungary.
Other things to see in the Parliament are:
- Hall of the dome with the statues of the kings of Hungary
- Ancient Upper Room: the hall of the Parliament, now used for tourism purposes. In the south there is its twin: the Hall of the Chamber of Deputies.
The only way to see it is a tour and the tours sell out well in advance. Make sure you book tickets for the guided tour of the Parliament long before visiting Budapest otherwise you risk running out of water (as happened to me by the way).
Tours last 45 minutes and cover the history of the building with a visit typically including the crown jewels and the House of lords.
Opening Hours: Visits to the Budapest Parliament are held daily at 10:30 am, 13:45 pm, 14:45 pm, and 15:45 pm.
From the Parliament it is a short walk to get to the Danube riverfront, but be sure to pay a visit to the memorial of the Shoes on the Danube.
Shoes on the Danube it is a memorial in remembrance of the numerous Jews who were murdered in Budapest during the Nazi occupation. Between 1944 and 1945, many murders took place along the Danube.
The victims were asked to take off their shoes before being shot to death and their bodies fell into the river. Take a moment to reflect on this tragic story.
Andrassy-Ut is Budapest's answer to the Champs-Elysees in Paris. It might not be as grand as the Champs-Elysees, but it's still a nice place to take a stroll.
The most famous place to visit in Andrassy-Ut is the Budapest Opera House (Magyar Allami Operahaz). This opera house was built to compete with the Vienna State Opera.
Although smaller on the outside, it is more richly decorated than its Viennese counterpart.
High quality shows are offered at discounted prices! So if you love opera, don't miss this opportunity.
ATTENTION: the Opera House is closed for renovation until 2021. The performances take place at Teatro Erkel.
For the best Budapest history lesson from World War II through to the Soviet occupation, visit the House of Terror Museum.
This is a very informative and sobering look at the atrocities that occurred during these times. The museum is located in the same building that the communist regime used to torture and imprison Hungarian dissidents.
Renting the audio guide is a must. You would be lost in the museum without the commentary and history that a guide provides you. The visits last about 2-3 hours. The queues to enter the museum can be long at noon.
Timetables: 10: 00-18: 00; last ticket sold at 5:30 am; Monday closed
Heroes' Square (Hosok tere) is one of the most important squares in the city and is a place full of political and historical elements.
On either side of the square there are the Fine Arts Museum and on the other the Galleria d'arte Art Gallery.
Behind Heroes Square is the City park (Varosliget). This is a nice place to take a walk, depending on how much energy you have left.
I highly recommend walking to see the castle Vajdahunyad, a castle built in 1896 to resemble the castles of the Transylvania, in Romania and within which today the Agricultural museum.
Budapest is built on hot springs and throughout the city these springs have been transformed into thermal pools.
The terme di Szechenyi they are the most popular and iconic (and also the most touristy and crowded) in all of Budapest.
Join the crowd, relax in the healing, warm waters, and maybe play a game of chess on the floating chessboards. One of the best things to do? Swim in the circular hot tub!
Finding an English speaking assistant can be a challenge and you will need to rent a towel as part of your entry ticket.
Timetables: 6: 00-22: 00
Skip the Line Tickets: If you're visiting from May to October, consider purchase of tickets with priority entrance Skip the Line. These tickets are a bit more expensive but will allow you to get in immediately and avoid any queues.
Ok this thing is also touristy, but my mom wanted to do it (she wanted to give Massi and me a romantic evening to thank us for bringing it to Budapest)
It was worth it? I would say yes.
True, you will only find tourists on board, but the environment is calm, relaxed and intimate.
Navigate on the Danube seeing the city (and Parliament!) all lit up around you is something you will remember. You will be offered a dinner of local dishes and sparkling wine (see our souvenir photo above!)
it was a really good experience, one of the most vivid memories I have left of Budapest. Would I do it again? Surely.
Here you find more information on the Danube Dinner Cruise that I did.
If you don't want to have dinner instead here you find a very popular one hour sunset cruise with drinks included.
Spend the morning venturing into the system of caves of Budapest.
It may not be the most traditional tourist activity, but climbing and crawling through the rocks below Budapest has to be, without a doubt, one of the most fun adventures you can have.
Unfortunately I couldn't do it, but it's the first thing on the list for when I go back to Budapest.
Time to relax!
It has been a busy 3 days, but there is one more thing you miss for your 3-day visit to Budapest to be complete: a visit to theMargaret Island!
Just as London has Hyde Park, New York has Central Park and Paris has the Jardin du Luxembourg, so Budapest has Margaret Island or Margitsziget as its green lung.
Margaret Island was called Rabbit Island in the Middle Ages, and was a royal game reserve.
Following the Mongol invasion, the Hungarian king Béla founded a convent on the island and swore to send his daughter Margaret there if he was able to retake the country from the Mongol invaders.
Soon after, the Mongols left Hungary and true to his promise, King Béla sent 11-year-old Margaret to the convent. Since then, the island has taken its name.
Today the island is a public park, connected to the city by Margaret Bridge. It is a popular place for locals to spend an afternoon, relax, play sports or just stroll.
There are also yours terme Palatine (Massi was there, while I waited outside to enjoy the rays of the winter sun.
I Ruin Pub they are one of the unique features of Budapest and are absolutely not to be missed on any itinerary in the city.
The Ruin Pub pubs are set up in the buildings of the old Jewish quarter of Budapest (technically called District VII) just behind the Synagogue, buildings destroyed during the Second World War and left to fall into disrepair.
The dilapidated buildings, funky art and of course the bars themselves make for a wonderful atmosphere and a place you can't afford to miss in Budapest.
The oldest and largest of these ruined pubs is the Szimpla Kert, which is generally the most visited and touristic one.
I hope this itinerary is for you, but sometimes everyone has different needs and unfortunately if you only have 3 days in Budapest, it is not possible to include everything.
That said there are other things to see that you might like (and maybe you could "swap" with those listed above)
Entering this library is a bit of a magical dip in a neo-baroque palace.
Timetables: Open Monday to Friday, 10:00 to 20:00, Saturdays 10:00 to 16:00, closed on Sundays
If like me you have already been to Vienna, probably Princess Sissi has no more secrets for you: you will have visited all the places of her life, its palaces and gardens.
But if you come to Budapest you must know (if you don't already know) that there is a palace here too!
It is Gödöllö Palace, one of the largest Baroque palaces in the world and the summer residence of the princess, who received the palace as a gift in 1867, when she was crowned Queen of Hungary.
The palace is located just 30 minutes from the center of Budapest and you can visit it with a tour in English who will reveal a lot of secrets about the life and relationship of the monarchs during theAustro-Hungaric Empire.
When I first told you about the Central Market, I also advised you to try it Palinka, a brandy (alcoholic therefore, very alcoholic) which is a very typical drink of Budapest.
And it is so loved by locals that they even dedicated a museum to it!
You can visit the Museo Palinka quietly on your own (and if you ever pay for the visit directly on the spot with the tasting included)
Here you will learn how it is produced, which fruits are used the most (spoiler: plum, pear or peach) and through virtual reality you can make your own!
The factory is in the center of Budapest and is an interlude for those who love typical spirits like me and take home an original and traditional Budapest souvenir to friends!
Budapest is the classic weekend destination or to spend 3 days and there are so many things to see that rarely does anyone decide to take a tour in the surrounding area.
I am no exception, but since I hope to return soon I have inquired because I would like not only to visit the city but also to know a little about the countryside and the surrounding villages.
I state but you will have already understood: I have not been there. But I looked on the internet, the photos seem so cool that I think it's worth checking out!
It is a tour between 3 nearby villages, a bit in the countryside: each of them has a particular point of interest such as the Visegrád Castle.
I'm really very curious, if you decide to go there then leave me your impressions and tell me if it's worth it!
Budapest has an excellent public transport network: They go pretty much everywhere so even if you don't like walking, you will be able to get around quite easily.
The public transport network includes buses, metro, trolley buses, trams, suburban railway lines (called HÉV lines) and boat services. Using any type of transport, you can reach your destination quickly and conveniently in the city.
Il Centro per i trasporti di Budapest (Budapest Transport Center, BKK) is responsible for the main transport services in Budapest and offers an integrated system.
You can buy tickets every time you get on board.
La Budapest CARD, in addition to free admissions and discounts at many of the places of interest, it also gives unlimited access to transport. So consider buying it because it could be convenient!
Budapest offers a lot great restaurants: from the luxury ones offering western cuisine to the typical trattorias where you can taste traditional cuisine, to the medieval-style restaurants. you are spoiled for choice.
In addition to the aforementioned Sir Lancilot, here you will find other restaurants that make traditional cuisine that could be for you:
- Kispiac Biztro (Hold u. 13, 1054): With only 20 seats, Kispiac Biztro feels more like the interior of a house than a lively bistro. Locals and tourists alike dine here thanks to the restaurant's fair prices and generously sized portions. Most importantly, the tiny bistro serves really good and quirky Hungarian dishes that please culinary purists and adventurous diners.
- Menza 1 (061 Bp. Liszt Ferenc ter 2) Traditional Hungarian dishes. Better to book in advance as the restaurant is very busy in the evening. The menu includes both local and international dishes.
- Zell bistro (1077 Bp. Lzabella u. 38) This is a very popular bistro in the center of Budapest, the most popular with tourists. It serves modern Hungarian cuisine with locally produced wines.
- Halaszbastya restaurant (1014 Budai Var, Bp. Halaszbastya Eszaki Hfradastorony) Serves classy Hungarian food with the best view of the Danube River.
Where to sleep in Budapest if you stay 3 days
Deciding on the perfect neighborhood for your trip could be quite boring and difficult - the city is large and if you've never been there you may have some doubts about the best area to look for your hotel.
So I will try to list the best areas to stay in Budapest if you are going there for the first time.
The city of Budapest covers over 525 square kilometers. Divided into the center of the Danube River, Budapest is divided into 23 distinct districts each with its own charm and a different characteristic.
West of the Danube River lies Várkerület. The Castle District of Budapest, this district is famous for its stunning landscapes, ornate churches and palaces.
Cross the river and you will find yourself in the district V. Downtown o Pest is the modern heart and center of the city. This neighborhood is home to excellent restaurants, impressive architecture and a number of important cultural and historical monuments.
Continuing east, you pass through districts VI, VII and VIII. Terézváros, Erzsébetváros, Józsefváros they are located in the main center of Budapest and are home to a variety of world-class restaurants, trendy bars and unique tourist attractions.
I was brief, but I hope I have given you some interesting ideas on the best areas to sleep in Budapest!