Budapest is definitely one of our favorite cities in all of Europe and as many other European main cities it has countless activities and buildings to visit. In this 5 day Budapest itinerary we have put together the best things to do and see in Budapest.
Budapest has the perfect mix between history and beauty offering its visitors many things to do and delicious food. My favorite thing about Budapest is that it is such a budget-friendly destination making it very affordable and interesting to any type of traveler. If time is a concern, you can spend at least 3 days in Budapest and still enjoy some of the best things to do in Budapest.
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, so we planned a new trip to the city to see all the amazing attractions Budapest has to offer.
What to 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.
Fun things to do in Budapest in 5 day Itinerary:
In this 5 days in budapest you will see the main highlights and the best things Budapest has to offer to its visitors. You will be visiting beautiful churches, heart warming monuments and trying delicious food.
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 one of the world’s largest traveling Ferris in Budapest is a must. This 65 meter (213 feet) 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 church is free to enter although they request a one euro or 200 HUF 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 panoramic view 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 to Budapest.
With the Budapest Card you get 20% discount to the dome otherwise it cost HUF 400 to access using the stairs of HUF 600 taking the elevator. The elevator is open from April 1st to October 31st.
Shoes on the Danube: As a Jew and as a human, this memorial is so powerful and each time it hits me how awful the Holocaust was and how many lives were cut short.
The “Shoes on the Danube Bank” memorial portrays when 3,500 Jewish people 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. Visiting the Shoes on the Danube Bank is definitely a must things to see in Budapest.
Hungarian Parliament Building: The Hungarian Parliament is one of our favorite buildings in Budapest and Hungary’s most recognizable and largest building. It is never enough to just sit down and contemplate this magnificent building, so try to watch the changing of the guards at the Parliament for a complete experience. You can also go inside for tour of the parliament which requires you to register in advance. If you are out of luck and there are not more free spots left, you can always take a city tour of Budapest and the parliament.
Our favorite times to visit the Parliament are at 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.
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. The Hungarian State Opera is a top sight in Budapest that cannot be missed.
Cruise the Danube River: 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 in Budapest 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 War and the Communist era. The museum has permanent exhibitions of all the atrocities that happen during this period of time in history. The House of Terror is one of the best things to see in Budapest.
Hosok Tere: The Heroes Square is one of the most famous squares in Budapest and it is located at the end of the Andrassy Avenue. It has seven statues remembering the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars, 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 relaxing at one of Budapest many thermal baths. It is the perfect treat for a long day of seeing all the things to do in Budapest.Therefore swimming in a Budapest bath is a must!
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.
Dohány Street Synagogue: The Dohány Synagogue, also known as the Great 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 in 1854. 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 Budapest. The ruin bars are located in the Old Jewish Quarter of Budapest and they have been around since 2001. The building looks that looks like it is going to fall apart and is full crazy and various decorations. Normally, all the ruin bars in Budapest are hosted in a old abandoned building from World War II. Szimpla Kert is the perfect place to go and grab a drink or two in the evening. It is pretty close to the Dohany Synagogue.
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 is located at the top of Castle Hill in the same complex as the National Gallery and the budapest History Museum. The Buda Castle used to be the residence of the Hungarian Monarchy. The castle is one of the biggest royal residence in Europe and it was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987.
The grounds of the castle are open 24 hours every day but the Buda Castle is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM. A great way to explore the castle is on a 2-hour guided tour.
A great option is to ride the funicular up to the Buda Castle complex. It connects the shores of the Danube and the Buda Castle since 1870 and was listed as UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987. The funicular runs daily from 7:30 AM to 10:00 PM and it takes 10 minutes to make it to the top.
Matthias Church: It is one of the most famous churches in Budapest and one of the oldest in Buda; the church is over 700 years old. 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.The Fisherman’s Bastion offers some of the most iconic and beautiful views of Budapest. The seven towers at the Fisherman’s Bastion used to be lookout towers. The upper towers have a small fee during peak season, but if you go before it opens you can go for free.
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, the Chain Bridge, is the most famous bridge in the Budapest that connects Buda with Pest. We love walking across this bridge to take a bunch of photos. The Chain Bridge was built in 1849 with its official name István Széchenyi. Start your sightseeing in Budapest on one side of Buda or Pest and then walk across the bridge to see the other side. My favorite time of the day to take photos of the bridge is in the early morning, before sunset and at night.
The Liberty Bridge is another bridge worth visiting due to its beautiful and uniqueness.
Day 5: Exploring other areas of Budapest
Gellért Hill Cave and the Rock Church: This is a small church built into a cave at Gellért Hill that had its entrance sealed in concrete during communist rule. The church was built in a natural cave by monks in the 1920s and during WWII, the church served as a hospital and took in refugees from the war.
Central Market: It is the perfect place to try some local Hungarian food. The Central Market Hall was built in 1897, it is the oldest and largest indoor market in Budapest. The Central Market is beautiful from the outside and it 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.
4. Pálinka: It is Budapest favorite liquor made with different fruits, it is similar to brandy.
5. Take home some Hungarian Paprika.
More interesting tours from Budapest:
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➳ Read More: Boutique Hotel Review: Art’Otel Budapest, Hungary
➳ Read More: Guide of Jewish sites in Budapest
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