Budapest, Hungary’s capital, without a doubt is off the beaten path in Eastern Europe. It is rapidly becoming more and more popular because of its beauty and the fact Budapest is a very affordable destination. If you are planning your next next Eurotrip make sure to include Budapest in your itinerary.
Budapest is a vibrant city with many coffee shops, interesting museums, exceptional ruin bars, and plenty of things to do. We have been to Budapest three times and each time there is something new to see. In this itinerary we share the best things to do in Budapest in 3 days.
What to do in Budapest in 3 days
Budapest was originally 3 cities; Buda, Obuda and Pest. Today Budapest is one city divided by the Danube River which split the Buda and the Pest side. Make sure to read on in this three day itinerary to explore the best things Budapest has to offer.
Day 1: Explore Buda
The Fisherman’s Bastion is my favorite site in Budapest and a must visit in Budapest. Not only do you get a fantastic panoramic view of the city where you see the main landmarks like the Parliament Building, but it is a real piece of architecture art. The Fisherman’s Bastion is a castle with detailed arches and seven white towers.
Here you will get the most beautiful photos as it is our favorite picturesque spots in the city. Make sure to walk up the steps to the castle as you are greeted with a fantastic view of the entire complex and visit the towers for a great photo opportunity.
➳ Tip: The best time to visit the Fisherman’s Bastion is at sunrise. Not only do you avoid the crowds but the lighting at sunrise is fantastic.
➳ How to get to the Fisherman’s Bastion? You can either walk up to the castle or take a tour bus. The towers are free to enter before it is officially open at 9AM.
Within the same complex behind the Fisherman’s Bastion is the Matthias Church. The colorful tiled roof make of this church absolutely worth visiting. You can go up to the bell tower for another fantastic panoramic view.
It used to be the residence of the Hungarian Monarchy, the Buda Castle is one of the largest royal residence in Europe. Covering nearly 2 square miles, we easily could spend a whole day exploring the castle grounds and the many museums and historic buildings insides.
Visit the Hungarian National Gallery
Entrance to the Hungarian National Gallery is included with the Budapest Card, which includes entrance to 19 museums and 30+ attractions and tours around the city for one flat rate. Take the elevator and some stairs to the dome and you will be met with a beautiful view of Budapest.
It is on the top of the hill with a breathtaking panoramic view of the city well worth visiting. The statue is 14 meters tall erected on top of a 26 meter tall pedestal. The statue has an inscription that reads “In the memory of all those who gave their live for the independence, freedom and prosperity of Hungary.”
Cross the Széchenyi Chain Bridge
There are a total of 8 bridges that connect Buda to Pest but the most famous that you will see in photographs is the Széchenyi Chain Bridge. It was the first bridge connecting these two cities.
➳ Tip: Walk along the river bank to take a fantastic photo of the bridge from different angles.
Day 2: Explore Pest
Shoes on the Danube
As a Jew, this is one of the most memorable places in all of Budapest. Every time we visit Budapest we make sure to stop and remembered all those who lost their lives during the Nazi Occupation in Budapest. This monument is a memorial to over 20,000 jews who were forced to take their shoes off and were then shot as the bodies fell into the river.
A few steps from the Shoes on the Danube is the Hungarian Parliament Building. It has to be one of the most beautiful and outstanding government building we have seen to date. The gothic style parliament can be visited by making a reservation ahead of time for a 45 minute long tour.
St. Stephen’s Basilica
The St. Stephen’s Basilica is the highest church in the city and a picture perfect attraction in Budapest. It is free to go inside, which you must do to enjoy the stunning interior, but a 200 HUF donation is asked at the entrance.
Make sure to go up the church tower for fantastic views. We never get tired of all the viewpoints of Budapest from different parts of the city.
Hungarian State Opera
When we went to the Opera House in 2018 it was under construction so we could not really see the facade on the exterior. However we took a guided tour of the beautiful interior.
Unfortunately at that time the main venue was also under construction so we could not go in, but we received a 10-minute opera show instead. If it is still under construction when you go and are on a budget, go in and enjoy it from the lobby for a free sneak peek at the interior.
The tour last about 45 minutes and you get a 20% with the Budapest Card.
Szabadság Híd Bridge
The Liberty Bridge is my favorite bridge in the city.We found that it is underestimated by tourists but it is beautiful, especially when the yellow tram crosses the green bridge.
Day 3: Explore the Jewish Quarter in Pest and take a relaxing Thermal Bath
1. Explore the Jewish Quarter
As an old Jewish neighborhood, the Jewish Quarter used to be a slum area just 100 years ago, but it is now at the heart of the city. You will find the most famous restaurants, trendy cafes, coolest bars, and it is the place where Orthodox mets hipsters.
It is normal to see Orthodox Jews walking around the neighborhood during the day and at night see all the young hipsters enjoying the ruins bars and ample food trucks.
While you are in the Jewish Quarter make sure to check out the three standing synagogues left in the city. One of them is closed temporarily for remodeling but the other two are open to the public.
The Jewish Quarter is also known for its street art and you will find large murals pretty much in every block.
➳ Read More: The Complete Jewish Guide of Budapest
Have lunch at Mazel Tov:
Mazel Tov is a middle eastern restaurant at the heart of the Jewish Quarter. It is a popular place to eat because of the delicious Israeli and mediterranean dishes in an upscale ruin bar setting.
One of our favorite spots in the city is the Vajdahunyad castle. Within the castle you can find a statue of the famous chronicler, Anonymous. It is nice place to walk around and take photos.
During Christmas time there is a fair outside the castle where you can buy food, drinks and festive clothing. It is free to enter and definitely worth the visit.
Széchenyi Thermal Bath
The best way to finish your trip and a day full of walking is by relaxing at the thermal bath. Budapest is known for having so many thermal pools in the city and they are included on every single list of things to do in Budapest for a reason. Locals and tourist love going to the thermal baths as it is relaxing and they are all over the city. The most popular ones are Gellert and Széchenyi.
Go to a Ruin Bar – Szimpla Kert
We recommend going to the ruins bar during the day and at night, as they have a completely different vibe. Ruin bars used to be old abandoned buildings that were transformed into funky original bars. Szimpla Kert is the most well known ruin bar in Budapest as it was the first one in the city.
General Information about Visiting Budapest
Currency: In Hungary they do not use the Euro but the HUF. 1 USD equals 290 Hungarian Forint, as of Summer 2019.
How to get from the airport to the city center: The best option is to take the bus 100E that goes straight to the airport or the bus 200E which takes you to the metro line 3 Blue where you can do the transfer to the airport. The ride is about 1 hour. Uber does not work anymore in Budapest but you can use an app called Bolt to get a cab.
How to get around Budapest: The best way to explore Budapest is by foot, but that can take a lot of walking and time. The public transportation system is fantastic and it is well connected. You can take the trams, metro and busses as the most popular areas in the city are easily accessible and it is relatively cheap. A single metro/bus/tram ticket cost 350 HUF, with an option to also buy a multi day pass.
Where to sleep in Budapest: Budapest has several options from budget friendly hostels to luxury hotels. We recommend to stay in Pest as the majority of the attractions are on that side of the city.
Airbnb is a great option if you are looking for a longer stay at a lower price. On our last trip to Budapest we choose to stay in both sides of the city to be able to go to the Fisherman’s Bastion at sunrise. Both hotels were absolutely comfortable and the price were fantastic.
We stayed at the Art’Otel in the Buda side of the city. It is perfectly located just few blocks from the Buda Complex and the Chain Bridge, and a short walk to metro and bus stop. The best part of the hotel is the view from the bedroom as you can overlook either the Fisherman Bastion or the Hungarian Parliament.
➳ Read more: Complete review of our stay at the Art’Otel
If you want to stay in the Pest side, we recommend the Eurostars Danube Budapest, in the heart of the Jewish Neighborhood. It is close to the most famous ruin bar, szimpla, the Jewish synagogues and Deak Ferenc Ter.