A Perfect 3 Days in Budapest: Where to Eat, Stay & More
Arts & Culture
Food & Wine
Budapest is one of my absolute favorite cities to visit! Come explore a historic city split in two and steeped in rich history. This city has something for everyone, from beautiful architecture that lights up the Danube at night to relaxing spas to some serious nightlife in "ruins." The city is sprawling, so you will never run out of things to do or see...you will just keep coming back for more. After spending 3 days in Budapest, you can pair this itinerary with visiting its neighbors: Prague, Bratislava, and Vienna, for the ultimate extended international vacation!
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Where to stay
La Prima Fashion Hotel
This elegant 80-room gem lies in the heart of the magical Budapest.
Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest
Set on the banks of the Danube River, this art nouveau-style hotel brings new levels of luxury to Budapest.
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Leo Boutique Rooms Budapest
Clean and straightforward rooms close to many popular sites in the heart of Budapest.
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Day 1 of 3 Days in Budapest: Architecture Bliss
Budapest is a city known for its beautiful architecture and buildings, which is what you will explore today! You will probably be arriving to the city early in the morning via plane or train, so start your day by dropping off your luggage at the hotel and grabbing some much-needed coffee. There are so many options but stop by Espresso Embassy for tasty specialty coffee in a unique location, feeling like an underground cellar. Feel free to take your drink to-go and stroll along the River Walk heading towards the Shoes on the Danube. Pay your respects for those lost during the Holocaust as you read and learn about the Jews in Hungary during World War II. The shoe statues along the river are a powerful reminder of our troubled past.
Next, head toward the gorgeous Hungarian Parliament Building…you can’t miss it since it’s a <5-minute walk from the Shoes on the Danube. This building is breathtaking and is one of the most photographed sites in Budapest! If you have time, I suggest taking the tour of the inside (recommended to pre-purchase tickets). After you have had your fill of Parliament, I could stare at it all day, head over to Hungarikum Bizstro. Reservations are necessary as this is a very popular spot for traditional Hungarian cuisine. With its homey, comfy vibe, you will instantly feel like part of the family!
After lunch, what do you need? Of course, some dessert! Head over to Gelarto Rosa, which is Instagram-famous for its floral-shaped gelato. I can attest that it is worth the “hype” and wait. The gelato is delicious, you can mix and match flavors, and it happens to be neighbors with your next stop…St. Stephen’s Basilica. Pro-tip here: If you are with a group, have half stand in line to purchase your tickets to enter St. Stephen’s Basilica and half stand in line for your gelato, they are right across the way from each other, and both can host long lines. If you are up for some steps, highly recommend going up the tower at St. Stephen’s. You get a lovely view of the city from up there!
Take a picture of the Hungarian State Opera as you head back to your hotel to freshen up for dinner. There are about a million places to go for a great dinner, but my personal recommendation would be KIOSK Budapest, which offers something for everyone in a modern, high-class locale. Post-dinner, you will now embark on your Danube Cruise. There are many options to choose from, but a simple 1-hour tour does the trick! This is absolutely something you do NOT want to miss. Watch both sides of Budapest come alive in a yellow glow and marvel at the true beauty of the city.
For those that still have some energy left after such a fun-filled day, feel free to wind down with a glass of wine (or more…) at High Note Sky Bar, which hosts incredible city views and a piano lounge (reservation recommended).
Day 2: Culture, History, Food & Drinks
Welcome the day with breakfast at the hotel, because I recommend getting to Fisherman’s Bastion early in the morning (for the ambitious types, sunrise is the best) as there are way fewer crowds and you can take your time enjoying the incredible view of the Pest side of the Danube, including the Hungarian Parliament Building.
Explore the area as Fisherman’s Bastion is situated on a hill with several other things to see and do including a few museums, Matthias Church and shopping through the Castle District. Shop and explore your way over to Buda Castle. It is large, so take plenty of time to walk around and enter the Budapest History Museum. There are several viewpoints and gardens around the castle where you can take beautiful photos! If you plan to travel here in September, there is an amazing Wine Festival with thousands of different vendors. The festival is usually held in early/mid-September. I highly recommend fitting this into your schedule!
There are several lunch stops near Castle Hill including Tabani, which is another quaint, traditional Hungarian place. Stop and have a rest here, as you’ll want your energy for the next part of the day. After your peaceful lunch, make your way over to Gellert Hill to hit some additional viewpoints. I recommend checking out the Citadel Viewpoint and the Rock Chapel. These are at opposite ends of the hill from each other, so I suggest taking your time to stroll through the park area.
Next, head over Liberty Bridge (the walk is great, but you can take a cab) to Central Market Hall where you can shop to your heart's content. This massive, two-story center is a must for any 3-day trip to Budapest. Here you can find every type of souvenir (paprika, porcelain, painted eggs, etc.) as well as fresh food and snacks. If you are traveling here on a Saturday, please note that the market hall closes early at 3pm (lesson learned…). Once you have bought things for your loved ones, head back to the hotel to drop off your bags and freshen up for dinner. For dinner, I recommend eating at For Sale Pub. It is a pub-style restaurant known for being covered in letters and notes from people all around the world, which provides a unique atmosphere. Also, most nights there is live music downstairs!
After dinner, you should stop by one of the many “ruin bars” in Budapest. The largest and most well-known is Szimpla Kert, which is located right next to an outdoor food truck space called Karavan (you know…for the late-night snacks). Another great option is Instant. Head back to the hotel for some much-needed recovery!
A note from Victoria Lee
If you end up going to Fisherman’s Bastion later in the day, I recommend a stop at Faust Wine Cellars. If you need assistance traversing the Castle Hill, there is a funicular that can take you up the hill. There are also several carts that will take you around the complex for an additional fee.
Day 3: Pure Relaxation
Today (your final day of 3 days in Budapest) is all about relaxation. You’ve worked hard walking all over the past two days, so it is time to treat yourself! Start off with a cup of coffee at New York Café. I will say a reservation is required, so plan ahead. It is also quite expensive, which is why I would only recommend getting a coffee there. However, the inside is stunning! Also, there is a coffee place right across the street if you prefer to just walk inside New York Café and take a couple of *quick pics* instead.
After your morning coffee and breakfast bites, you should take a stroll through Heroes Square, a large square that hosts some historic memorials as well as the Museum of Fine Arts. Behind Heroes Square is a massive park. Take your time walking through here and end up at Vajdahunyad Castle, where you can walk through all the romantic courtyards. The inside just houses the Hungarian Agriculture Museum, but it is worth the walk just to see all the beautiful buildings and gardens.
Next, it's time for the best part of the day…the famous Szechenyi Thermal Baths! Explore all the different pools, both inside and outside. Szechenyi also offers massages, to take away any soreness in your feet and body from traveling around! It is important to note that Szechenyi is very popular, and therefore, could become pretty crowded, which is why I would recommend going earlier in the day. But if you like a party scene, the thermal baths also host SPARTYs (foam parties) every Saturday evening. An alternative would be Gellert Bath, which is located on the Buda side of the Danube and is just as gorgeous (if not more so in my opinion).
Now that you have fully relaxed, it's time to grab lunch and tour the largest synagogue in the world, Dohany Street Synagogue. Make sure to arrive no later than 3pm (entry closes then, as the synagogue closes at 4pm for visitors) and to come fully covered.
Spend the rest of the afternoon walking around and enjoying Margaret Island, particularly the lovely musical fountain! For dinner, I would recommend the upscale, “ruin” restaurant called Mazel Tov which serves delicious Mediterranean food. If you don’t want to end the night, grab a snack and some wine and make your way over to the Ferris Wheel in the park. It is a great local hangout spot (feel free to ride the Ferris Wheel for a fee).
Need to Know
Heading to Prague after 3 days in Budapest? Check out Fora Advisor Cliniece Goodluck's guide: Top Things to Do in Prague, Czech Republic.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on arts & culture travel.