Budapest, as many other European main cities, has countless activities and buildings to visit. Its extensive public transportation is helpful to get around the city is very walkable, see our Budapest Walking Guide.
First of all a little bit of history about this city. Budapest was born out of three separate cities before becoming one in 1873: Obuda, Buda and Pest. The cities where divided by the Danube River, having Buda on the hill and Obuda on the shore, and Pest on the other side of the river. There has always being competition with Vienna as it was the second major city in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
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The first time we visited Budapest we literally had no money because we lost our wallet in Vienna. There where so many places we could not visit in Budapest, so we planned a new trip to Budapest to see all the amazing attractions the city has to offer.
What to do and see in Budapest in 5 days map:
The first thing we did is buy the Budapest City Card. The city pass offers free entrance to numerous attractions, free transportation and discount on a wide variety of additional attractions and restaurants. If you want to see all Budapest and do not want to miss a single spot, the Budapest City Card is worth buying. We recommend to make a list first of the places you want to visit and see if the price for the city pass is less than the individual tickets.
Our entire time in Budapest is full with activities and as we love walking we got from place to place, walking times do need to be considered. You can always skip one of the destinations or take the metro to cut down on time and energy. The transportation system in Budapest is amazing, so everything is close by and easy to reach.
What to do and see in Budapest 5 day Itinerary:
Day 1: Exploring Pest
We start our tour around the city from Pest. We like staying at two different hotels in Budapest when we travel so we can recommend the best option, depending on where you want to say in the city. The first night we stayed at the Eurostars Danube Budapest, located a block from Deak Ferenc Ter and in the heart of the Jewish District.
Vorosmarty Ter: This square is best to visit during Easter or Christmas time as the square is home to a lively holiday market where locals sell food, souvenirs, and traditional clothing.
Little Princess statue: While you are near the Vorosmarty Ter, you should go and find the little princess statue. Also, cross through the underpass near the statue to get a fantastic photo opportunity of the Budapest.
Budapest Eye: We are big fans of ferris wheels and going for a ride on the Budapest Eye is amazing. This 65 meter ferris wheel has a beautiful view of the city. The wheel goes around four times during the ride, and on the last round it stops when you are on top for several minutes giving you enough time to take a bunch of photos. It is really fun!
St. Stephen’s Basilica: It is by far one of the most beautiful churches we have ever visited in our global adventures. The whole interior of the church is a work of art. The entrance is free although they request a one euro donation. It is good to give some money to help with the upkeep of the historic building.
We strongly recommend to go up to the dome of the church. You get a breathtaking 360 degree view of all of Budapest. There is an elevator that goes up to the dome, but you still have to walk some stairs to make it all the way to the top. Visiting this church and going up to the dome was definitely a highlight of our trip. With the Budapest City Pass you get 20% discount to the dome.
Shoes on the Danube: As a Jew and as a human, this monument is so powerful and each time it hits me how awful the Holocaust was and how many lives were cut short.
The memorial portrays when the Jews from the Budapest Ghetto as well as from Warsaw Ghetto were brought to the Danube River. Nazis forced the Jews to take their shoes off then shot them into the river.
Hungarian Parliament Building: The Hungarian Parliament is one of our favorite buildings in the city. it is never enough to just sit down and contemplate this magnificent building. Our favorite times to visit the Parliament are to see the sunset or after sunset. As it is on the opposite side from where the sun sets, it is the perfect place to see the sun setting over the hill of Buda. At night it is just magical as the whole building lights up and is breathtaking. It is best to see the building from across the Danube as you can get a better photo of the large building. You can also go inside for tour of the parliament which requires you to register in advance.
Hungarian State Opera: When we went to the Opera House (2018) it was under construction so we could not see the building from the outside. However we took a guided tour of the beautiful interior. Unfortunately 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 your Budapest Card. The photo underneath is from our trip in 2016
Boat tour: We could not finish our day without going on a boat tour on the Danube River. The tour we choose is two hours and had the option to purchase dinner as well. Two hours was a little too long for us, even though we saw the city and its main landmarks at night, which was pretty amazing. If you choose to have dinner keep in mind that you will be missing many of the photo opportunities. It better to enjoy the boat ride and have dinner afterwards.
Day 2: Exploring the other side of Pest
Day two we will be walking for a while and end the day relaxing. One of the busiest and most commercial streets in Budapest is the Andrassy avenue. Here is where the Opera House, the house of terror and the Hosok Tere are located. This street is home of many of the local embassies as well.
House of Terror: The House of terror is not included in the Budapest City Card but it is a museum that you should visit to learn more about the Hungarian history between the Second World Word and the Communist era. The museum has permanent exhibitions of all the atrocities that happen during this period of time in history.
Hosok Tere: The Heroes Square is one of the most famous squares in the city. It has seven statues remembering the seven tribes that founded Hungary.
Vajdahunyad Castle: 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 clothing. It is free to enter and worth the visit.
Szechenyi Thermal Bath: You cannot leave Budapest without enjoying a swim one of its many thermal baths. We visited the Szechenyi Thermal Bath as it is close to other attractions. Both baths are the most famous ones. The second one they say it is more beautiful although we have seen more photos of the first one.
Day 3: Exploring the Jewish Neighborhood
Today we will be learning about the Jews of Hungary and visiting the Jewish district. There are 3 main synagogues in the area for its three historic communities: Orthodox, Conservative and Reform. Unfortunately, only two of those synagogues are still active as the Conservative congregation disappeared after the Shoah, the Holocaust.
Dohany Street Synagogue: The Dohany Synagogue is the largest Synagogue in Europe and the third largest in the world. It is a synagogue that you must visit as there are not many synagogues built in this style still standing. The synagogue has a mix of styles: moorish and romanticism. The reason for its eclectic architecture is that it was under the supervision of three different architectures during its five years of construction. From the outside it has a mosque aspect and from the inside it looks like a catholic church. Here you can also visit the Jewish Museum and the tree of life. They offer a one hour tour included with the entrance fee.
Kazinczy Street Synagogue: Not visiting the Kazinczy Street Synagogue is a terrible mistake. It is beautiful and cheaper to enter than the Dohany Street Synagogue. It is a orthodox synagogue that is still active to this day. Next to the synagogue is a Glatt Kosher restaurant.
Rumbach Street Synagogue: The first time we came to Budapest this building was falling apart, but our love for Jewish history encouraged us to go inside, and we found one of the most colorful and beautiful synagogues. This time we were happy to see that it is under renovation and the outside looks fantastic again. We could not go inside this time but we cannot wait to see how the new museum will look.
Jewish History Free Walking Tour: If you are more interested in learning about Judaism and the life of the Jewish community before and after the World War II, I strongly recommend to take a 2-hour free walking tour. You visit many important landmarks in Hungarian Jewish history and learn more about the difficult history.
Szimpla Kert: You can finish your day at Szimpla Kert, one of the most famous ruin bar in the city. It is pretty close to the Dohany Synagogue. The building looks that looks like it is going to fall apart and is full crazy and various decorations. It is perfect to go and grab a drink or two in the evening.
Holocaust Memorial Center: The Holocaust Memorial is a little bit further away from the Jewish District but it is a good place to learn more about the Shoah and the atrocities that the Jewish people suffered during World War II.
New York Cafe: Inside the Boscolo Hotel is one of the most beautiful and expensive coffee shops we have ever been. The food is not great, so go for a cup of coffee and be part of the experience. If you hate lines as much as we do, make a reservation ahead of time, otherwise you will face a long very long line.
Day 4: Exploring Buda
Today we are crossing the bridge to visit the Buda side. As we mentioned before we like staying at two different hotels, to get a better idea of the perfect location on where to stay. For the second part of our trip to Budapest we stayed at the Art’Otel. It was perfect as it is two blocks away from a metro station, the perfect spot to take a photo of the Parliament building and just a ten minute walk from the Fisherman’s Bastion or the famous chain bridge.
Our view could not be better, we woke up every morning at Art’Otel looking at the Budapest Parliament. If your room is facing the other way, do not worry you will be facing the Fisherman’s Bastion. So either way you will get a fantastic landmark view.
If you have the Budapest Card you get a free shuttle from the chain bridge (square) to the Buda complex.
Buda Castle: It used to be the residence of the Hungarian Monarchy, the Buda Castle is one of the biggest royal residence in Europe.
Matthias Church: It is one of the most famous churches in Budapest. Go to the bell tower for a fantastic view. Unfortunately, it is not included in the Budapest City Card, so we did not go. Instead we visited the Buda Tower which is free with the card and got a beautiful view as well. The only thing to keep in mind is that you have to walk up the stairs.
Fisherman’s Bastion: This is by far the most beautiful landmark of the city together with the Parliament and the St. Stephen Basilica.
Hospital in the Rock: It was built in a bunker during the Second World War.
Hungarian Folk: Enjoy a show with traditional folk dances from across Hungary. It is a fun activity if you enjoy watching this type of shows.
Hungarian National Gallery: Entrance to the Hungarian National Gallery is free with the Budapest Card. Go to the dome, which has an elevator and some stairs, and you will be met a beautiful view of the city.
Chain Bridge: The Szechenyi is the most famous bridge in the Budapest. We love walking across this bridge to take a bunch of photos. The Liberty Bridge is also beautiful and unique making it worth crossing the river again.
Day 5: Exploring other areas of Budapest
Gellert Hill Cave: This is a small church built into a cave at Gellert Hill that had its entrance sealed in concrete during communist rule.
Central Market: It is the perfect place to try some local Hungarian food. The Central Market was built in 1897 and it is beautiful from the outside. It is closed on Sunday.
Liberty Statue: 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.”
Bálna (Whale) Building: This modern building is a mixed use space with commercial, cultural, and entertainment facilities. As the name suggests its architectural design looks reminiscent of a whale from its exterior.
National Hungary Museum: Here you can learn about Hungarian history from its prehistory all the way to modern times.
Margaret Island: This is a small island in the middle of the Danube River in central Budapest. A majority of the island is an open park and is a great place to enjoy a walk on a sunny day.
Momento Park: It is a open air museum with many of the statues that have been relocated from around the city during the Communist era. It is included with the Budapest Pass but it is a little bit out of the way.
What to eat in Budapest:
1. Langos: This is seriously my dream come true. It is potato fried dough, with sour cream and a pile of cheese.
2. Goulash: This traditional Hungarian beef stew is often flavored with paprika and other spices.
3. Kürtőskalács: This sweet spit cake is often served with cinnamon and walnuts or filled with soft serve ice cream.
⇟ More articles from Budapest that might interest you:
➳ Read More: Boutique Hotel Review: Art’Otel Budapest, Hungary
➳ Read More: Guide of Jewish sites in Budapest
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