Budapest is one of the most popular capital cities in Europe – it has so many things to do, see and experiment. It has some really unique attractions, budget-friendly prices, and very interesting foods. We believe that 3 days in Budapest is the perfect amount of time for most travelers. Three days in Budapest will allow you to see all the main landmarks and a few less known things without feeling too rushed.
In this post, we will explore 21 fun things to do in Budapest in 3 days, where to stay, some practical tips and advice, and obviously a 3-day itinerary to Budapest that you can adapt to your needs.
21 fun things to do in Budapest in 3 days
#1 Wander arround Budapest
Similarly to other historic European cities, Budapest itself is a monument worth visiting. The buildings and the streets are beautiful, with a Belle Époque architecture and full of life with both locals and tourists. But with a bonus: the Hungarians are very good-looking and stylish, particularly the women.
Andrássy Avenue, Váci Utca, banks of the Danube and the castle district are your best options if you want to walk around Budapest. You can do this by yourself and explore Budapest on your own. But one other great option is to take a walking tour and learn about the city while going to the places you most want to visit.
One of the most surprising things you can find wandering around Budapest is the Ronald Reagan Statue.
#2 Visit the Hungarian Parliament
You can’t miss the parliament, even if you want it. It’s located on the Pest side in the bank of the Danube and is 268 meters long and 96 meters high in the central dome. The Hungarian parliament is one of the biggest and oldest legislative buildings in the world.
Imre Steindl used the English Parliament as inspiration. The building is beautiful and is inspiring to look at from every possible angle. Inside it is full of details, golden ornaments, and beautiful rooms. The tour will guide you through these rooms and sights which include the Holy Crown, the magnificent staircase, and the session room.
Our guide was very knowledgeable and seem to really enjoy her work, which only made the tour more interesting. If you want to visit the interior (highly recommended) you should reserve the tour ticket online – you will save time, money and guarantee your ticket. In peak seasons the tickets sell out quickly.
#3 Visit The Shoes On The Danube Bank
While visiting Budapest you’ll surely walk on the banks on the Danube, and when doing so you should take some time to see this art installation. It’s installed on the left bank about 300 meters south of the Parliament, so it’s very easy to reach.
The monument consists of 60 iron shoes lined along the river. It’s a very simple but thoughtful memorial to the thousands (mostly jews) killed by the Arrow Cross Party. The victims were shot by the river, leaving their shoes behind and falling into the Danube.
#4 Take the old metro
Budapest is such an interesting city with so many things to appreciate that even the metro system is a relic. The Millennium Underground Railway was built under Andrássy Avenue and it’s the first metro line in continental Europe. Plans started as early as 1870 but construction started only in 1894 and it was finished in 1896 when Budapest was home to the World Fair. Since 2002 it’s a UNESCO heritage site.
The Millennium Underground railway connects the city center with the Heroes square and the city park, where the world fair took place. Andrassy Avenue was the most elegant street in Budapest and that’s why it was decided to build the transportation underground. Each station is a little museum, with photos and texts in English and the metro themselves are very ancient. Traveling in this old metro line is really an experience. We suggest you start in the city center and then exit at Heroes Square station at the end of Andrassy Avenue.
#5 Heroes’ Square
At the end of Andrassy Avenue is Heroes’ Square (Hősök Tere) the largest square in Budapest. It’s also called the Millennium monument because it was built for the 1896 Millenium celebrations (Hungary celebrated its 1000th anniversary that year).
The monument celebrates many of the Hungarian Heroes and in the center, there’s a 36 m Corinthian column with Archangel Gabriel holding St. Stephen’s crown on top. The Heroes’ Square serves as the gate to Budapest’s city park.
#6 Vajdahunyad Castle and the city park
Vajdahunyad Castle was supposed to be a temporary construction. It was built in cardboards and wood for the 1896 millennium celebrations. However, it became so popular among the locals and visitors that it became permanent in 1904.
The castle was built with 4 different architectural styles, Gothic, Baroque, Renaissance and Romanesque as a unique tribute to Hungarian architectural tradition. This is easily one of the most unusual things to visit in Budapest.
The park where the castle is located is very pleasant to walk around while enjoying the views and the unique building. Close to Vajdahunyad Castle, there’s a lake with boats in summer, and an open-air ice rink in Winter. We found it particularly cool in Winter. It looks amazing to ice stake there, unfortunately, we can’t skate and didn’t try…
#7 Relax in the Szechenyi Thermal Baths
A visit to the Baths in Budapest is absolutely mandatory. Have you ever felt absolutely exhausted after hours of visiting monuments, shopping, and walking around a big city like Budapest? Budapest has the best way to end the day – a late afternoon in one of the biggest thermal baths in Europe, with 18 pools (15 indoors and 3 outdoors) and several saunas and steam baths.
The building itself is stunning and in a walking distance from the heroes square and Vajdahunyad Castle, so you can visit them in the same afternoon. We went there in winter so it was incredibly relaxing and fun to be in a hot pool with whirlpools with a temperature of about 0º C.
These are the most popular baths in Budapest if you really want to go (and you should go!) we strongly advise you to buy tickets beforehand! They may sell out or you may need to wait in line for a long time!
#8 Stroll to the Castle district
The Castle district is like a small old town inside Budapest, with limited traffic and parking. You almost forget that you are inside one of the busiest cities in Europe. You should definitely walk around because everything is quite close to each other. One of the times we visited Budapest we stayed in a very nice hotel inside the castle district and were able to enjoy it both day and night.
The best way to get there from Pest is crossing Chain Bridge and then walk your way up to Fisherman’s Bastion and Mathias Church. You can take the famous funicular, but it really isn’t worth it. It only saves you a few meters and it’s expensive!
Once you are up there you can enjoy the fantastic view of Pest from Fisherman’s Bastion. tip: A few meters from this is one of the best Cafes in Budapest: Cafe Ruszwurm, where you should definitely try the Cream Cake and the famous and traditional tortas.
#9 Buda Castle
Buda Castle is also known as the Royal Palace as it was the home of the Hungarian kings. This historical palace is one of the most well-known images of Budapest and it’s impossible to miss from almost everywhere in Budapest. Today it’s home to the National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum. If you are fond of museums this is a must-do place, but if you aren’t it’s also worth going there as the building is really impressive and you get some nice views of Pest and the Danube.
Even if you decide not to visit the castle you can still enjoy it. The castle is located on the top of a hill and it can be seen from anywhere in Pest. In fact, the huge building is one of the most imposing sights we have ever seen. It’s just majestic.
#10 Matthias Church
Matthias Church is officially known as the church of our Lady and it’s situated in the heart of the Castle district. Constructed in 1255 in Trinity Square this iconic church was renovated several times. It was also used as the coronation site by the Hungarian kings for centuries and hosted royal weddings and baptisms.
The outside of the church is as beautiful as any European Gothic Cathedral with delicate turrets, and beautiful details. The interior, however, is what makes this church really shine. It’s different from any other with golden frescoes from the floor to the ceiling, wonderful stained glass windows, arches, and beautiful combinations of shadows and warm colors.
The entry fee to the church is 1800 HUF but you can also climb the tower for another 1800 HUF. Or you can take this tour the includes the ticket to the church and where you’ll learn more about this fascinating building and its relevance in Hungary’s history.
#11 Fisherman’s Bastion
The Fisherman’s Bastion is right next to Matthias Church which makes it the perfect next thing to do in Budapest. This landmark is one of the most famous sights in Budapest with its signature turrets and spires. It’s also one of the best places to take pictures, both of the city and the attraction.
The Fisherman’s bastion may look very old, but it was built in the 19th century as a lookout tower with beautiful panoramic views to Pest. And we need to say that it really serves its purpose – from the Bastion, you get the best views of Budapest.
The lower terraces are free and accessible all day, every day, but the upper towers cost 1000 HUF to enter.
#12 Gellert baths
If Szechenyi Thermal Baths are the most famous and popular baths in Budapest, Gellert baths are the most elegant and beautiful with an exquisite one hundred years old art nouveau building. The Gellert Spa and Gellert hotel are in the same building, but you can enjoy the baths without staying in the hotel.
Gellert baths are sometimes called the palace of the baths, as the building really looks like a palace. The main indoor pool of the baths is really something, it’s easily the most beautiful thermal baths we have ever visited. It looks taken out of a movie!
During Summer, you can easily spend a full day exploring each pool, the saunas, the geothermal pools, the sunbathing terrace, and the outdoor wave pool. Though you should note that this is a very popular thing to do in Budapest and it can get crowded. For this reason, we suggest you go right at opening times and enjoy it the most! It’s also a good idea to buy a skip-the-line ticket! Or if you want to have a massage, buy a skip the line plus massage ticket.
#13 Chain Bridge
The Chain Bridge is another iconic landmark of Budapest – one that’s very difficult to miss. It was the first permanent stone bridge connecting Buda and Pest. It was built in the 19th century and it opened in 1849. During WWII it was destroyed but in 1949, exactly one century later, it was reponed.
It’s possible to walk across the chain bridge, Buda to Pest and back. It’s actually one great way of absorbing the stunning views, with the majestic parliament on one side, and the Castle district on the other, while the mighty Danube runs below you. It’s obviously very picture friendly, plus the bridge itself is beautiful with 2 lions guarding each entry.
#14 St. Stephen’s Basilica
St. Stephen’s Basilica is the largest church in Budapest with a capacity of about 8500 people. This beautiful neoclassical cathedral is a must-visit place for those who enjoy religious temples.
Located right in the center of the city the Basilica hosts a few unique features like the mummified right hand of St. Stephen and the huge cupola, from which you can see most of Budapest.
The entrance to the church is free, but you are expected to donate 200 HUF. The interior of the church is a bit dark but it’s beautiful, with sculptures, frescoes, and stained glass windows. Outside the church, there are plenty of cafes with terraces where you can have a drink or an ice cream while enjoying the beautiful building and the people hustling around.
#15 Ruins Bars
Budapest’s ruins bars are famous worldwide, but if you haven’t heard about them the concept is simple, you take an abandoned old building (usually in the old Jewish quarter) and set up a bar in it and fill it with random flea market furniture, cool street art, and start serving alcohol.
Each bar is different and has its own vibe and atmosphere. Originally these had an underground culture and were mainly frequented by young Hungarians. Now, they are very very popular with everyone visiting the city.
The first and most popular ruin bar is Szimpla Kert, but there are lots of these bars for you to choose from. Instant is a huge bar/club that takes a whole apartment building. Fogasház is smaller, a bit less popular, and more hipster, but still kind of a club. Mazel tov is a little more upscale. There are ruins bars for every taste. Even if you are not into this scene, it may be worth checking it out. On the other hand, if you are really into this idea, you should really consider doing a pub crawl.
#16 Great Synagogue
The great synagogue of Budapest is the biggest in Europe (second in the world), but it’s usually considered the most beautiful in the world. It was built in the 19th century in a fascinating Byzantine-Moorish style. The building also houses the Hungarian Jewish Museum.
It’s possible to visit it every day except Saturdays and Jewish holidays. We really suggest you can take a guided tour to better understand the significance of the building and all the important historic events.
#17 Relax at Margaret island
Margaret island is located in the middle of the Danube in central Budapest. It’s a rather big island with about 2.5km long and roughly 500 meters wide. The island works as a city park where people go to relax, practice sports and have some fun.
There are plenty of things to do on Margaret Island, from jogging with locals and tourists to going to the Japanese Garden, watch the musical fountain, and climb to the water tower. Despite not as famous as the others mentioned in this post, there’s also a thermal bath in Margaret Island! However, our favorite thing on the island is simply doing a picnic and eat langos – a delicious Hungarian treat.
#18 Enjoy a night cruise in the Danube
There are quite a few different options for a cruise and with plenty of different choices of itineraries, duration, activities… from one-hour sightseeing to dinner cruises, party cruises, day cruises, and night cruises. You could do a different cruise every day!
We ended up choosing a one-hour night cruise to relax at the end of a day filled with landmarks and walking around the city. At night you have a spectacular view of Buda and Pest and particularly some of the famous landmarks like the Parliament, the Buda castle, the bridges…
The night cruises have quite a romantic atmosphere with the city lights, the river, and the stars. We caught the boat on the Pest side and left on the Buda side near Betthyány square. We did this during our winter trip to Budapest so it was quite cold so during the cruise we had a hot cappuccino which only made the trip even more pleasant.
Hot tip: If you simply want to take a boat during the day and see the city from a different perspective, you can catch one of the public transport boats! It’s very very cheap!
#19 Visit the Great Market Hall
One of the things we always visit in each city we visit is the Market, and Budapest is no exception! On the contrary, Budapest’s market is a tourist attraction in itself and it’s a great place to buy groceries and souvenirs, particularly the famous Hungarian paprika.
Although the market doesn’t have only paprika, there is a big variety of traditional Hungarian salami, of pork, duck, lamb with spices (we really liked the lamb one). You can ask the different sellers to taste before you buy. There is also a great variety of cakes, bread, fresh fruit – a feast for your eyes.
On the upper floor, you can try Hungarian fast/street food so don’t have lunch before going to the market, you can find there a variety of tasty and cheap food; compare prices between different sellers to find the best as they vary a bit.
The big downside of this market is that it has become very very popular and touristy. The time we went Budapest in Summer it was almost impossible to wander around the market and the experience wasn’t that great. If you are traveling to Budapest in peak season expect lots of tourists and try to go early or later in the day.
#20 Buy the best paprika in the world
The Great Market of Budapest is home to the best Paprika you’ll ever try. You’ll find there paprika in all possible and imaginable formats and sizes: in powder, paste, or pepper… dried and fresh… You have sweet paprika, mild and hot! Smoked or not smoked! You simply have to buy some to take home and delight yourself… Our favorite is the smoked Paprika. It gives our cooks such a delicious touch.
Foodies tip: The hot is really hot, at least to the Portuguese standards, so when cooking use only a teaspoon, but I guarantee that it gives your recipes a special taste, particularly meat dishes. You can buy also a kit to cook Goulash – it’s a package that has all the ingredients and the recipe.
#21 Have a late-night pancake at Palacsintazoja
Nagyi Palacsintazoja (yes, I know… but that’s the name) is a fantastic pancake house in Betthyány square on the Buda side of Budapest. There you have a huge choice of salty and sweet pancakes which are very tasty and quite cheap…
Although being very good, we won’t lie saying that it’s the best pancakes we ever ate, but for its price is surely one of the best value for money. When we went there it was full of young Hungarians and a few tourists, so there was a good environment. There is an English menu and the staff was very attentive. Overall it was a great surprise and when returning to Budapest we will surely go there again.
One great advantage of this place is that it’s open 24 h so it’s a great option for a late meal before/during/after a night out.
Budapest 3-day Itinerary
Now that we explored all the major attractions and a few of the lesser-known but really fun ones, let’s create an awesome 3 days in Budapest Itinerary!
Day 1 – Budapest itinerary 3 days
In our opinion, the best way to get to know a city is by doing a walking tour! Free or paid, private or in a group, large or small, the important is to do one to get the feel of the city and some insights from the guide. Then you should go to the Parliament, probably the most iconic building in Budapest. Close to the Parliament, you have the Shoes on the Danube and further south the famous chain bridge. Also within walking distance St. Stephen Basilica. To finish the day we suggest a nice evening cruise, with dinner if your budget allows it. In a hindsight,
- Walking tour
- Shoes on the Danube
- Chain Bridge
- St. Stephen Basilica
- Night Cruise
Day 2 of our 3 days in Budapest
On the second day, we will start the day in the great market hall where you can buy souvenirs, and particularly paprika. Then we head to the Great Synagogue and afterward to Andrassy Avenue. explore this elegant avenue and take the metro to Heroes Square. From Heroes Square you can walk to the city park, have a picnic, maybe eat langos and visit the unique Vajdahunyad Castle. Finally, go to Szechenyi Thermal Baths and relax before finishing the day in the ruins bars.
- Great Market Hall
- Buy Paprika
- Great synagogue
- Andrassy Avenue
- Millennium Underground
- Heroes Square
- City park
- Vajdahunyad Castle
- Szechenyi Thermal Baths
- Ruins Bars
Day 3 of our 3-day itinerary in Budapest
Finally, we visit Buda! In this day, we start by going to Gellert baths, probably not too early if you did the ruins bars in the day before :). This should take a few hours as you can use the sauna, the outside wave pools and relax in the indoor pools. Afterward, we head to the castle district where we can visit the Buda Castle (and maybe the national gallery), Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church. Don’t forget to roam through the small alleys and cute narrow streets of Buda, nor stopping at Cafe Ruszwurm for their famous Hungarian Cakes. In the end, if you still have time and energy you can go to Margaret Island.
- Gellert Baths
- Buda Castle
- National Gallery
- Fisherman’s Bastion
- Matthias Church
- Buda District
- Cafe Ruszwurm
- Margaret Island.
Where to stay for 3 days in Budapest
Budapest has a very good public transport network, and you can easily reach any monument in this list from about anywhere in the central district. However, we still think you should stay right in the center of Pest, or Buda. It’s much more fun and we can thoroughly enjoy Budapest. In Pest, you should try to stay in the downtown area, districts V, VI, and VII. Some of the best lodging options include:
- Hostel one is a great party hostel. Check here if it’s available.
- Boomerang hostel is fantastically located and a good budget option with excellent value for money. Click here to check if it’s available and book.
- Pal’s hostel and apartment is another good option right in the center of downtown pest. Check availability here!
Buda is popular during the day but peaceful and almost deserted at night. It’s great for couples and mature travelers. It is also home to one of our favorite hotels in Budapest. Well, actually it’s our favorite, we don’t usually stay in boutique hotels, but this one was a splurge, and it was well worth it! We are talking about the wonderful Buda Castle Fashion Hotel Budapest. If can afford something a little more expensive, this is our recommendation. Book it here! On the other hand, a cheaper option is the Budapest best by castle apartment.
Further read this 3-day itinerary to Budapest is also very cool.
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