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With the river Danube as its centrepiece, Budapest shows off its flamboyant history, Baroque architecture, intricate cave systems and dramatic sunset views on the Buda side. While elaborate market halls, Soviet monuments, vibrant ruin bars and Europe’s largest thermal baths dot its Eastern Pest side.
Undoubtedly one of Europe’s most underrated cities, spending three days in Budapest is just enough time to sample some of what this vibrant city has to offer.
Three-day Budapest itinerary at a glance
Begin your tour of Budapest at the exuberant Parliament building before making your way along the banks of the Danube River. Unravel the dark history behind the ‘Shoes on the Danube Bank’ before crossing over the Chain Bridge towards Castle Hill on the Buda side of the city. Visit the beautiful Buda Castle, home to the Budapest History Museum and National Gallery and enjoy stunning views of the city from Fisherman’s Bastion. Finish off the day with a magical sunset cruise on the Danube.
- Hungarian Parliament Building
- Shoes on the Danube Bank
- Castle Hill – Budapest History Museum, Hungarian National Gallery, Széchenyi National Library, Hungarian Presidential Palace, Buda Tower.
- Matthias Church
- Fisherman’s Bastion
- Sunset cruise on the Danube
Start your day exploring the vast city centre including Budapest’s largest and oldest indoor market at the Great Market Hall. Cross over Liberty Bridge towards Gellért Hill and hike up the 19th-century Citadella for panoramic views of the capital down below. Return to the Pest side and dance the night away at one of the many trendy ruin bars located in the Jewish District.
- Central Market Hall
- Gellért Hill – Liberty Statue, Szent Gellért Monument, Gellért Hill Cave, sunset at the Citadella
- Szimpla Kert ruin bar
On your final day, explore the Pest side of the city starting with the St. Stephen’s Basilica. Make your way across the elegant Andrássy avenue while appreciating the architectural marvels of the Hungarian State Opera House. Learn about the atrocities of Hungary’s dreaded secret police at the House of Terror museum before making your way to Heroes Square. Reward yourself after a long day on foot at one of Europe’s largest bathhouses while relishing your final hours in the city.
- St. Stephen’s Basilica
- Hungarian State Opera House
- House of Terror
- Heroes Square
- Széchenyi Thermal Baths
Detailed three-day Budapest itinerary
Marvel at the Hungarian Parliament Building
One of the finest examples of Gothic-Renaissance architecture, the House of Parliament is the third-largest national assembly building in the world.
Things to do: Go on a guided tour available in English and seven other languages at pre-allocated times every day. (lasts for around 45 minutes.)
- Location: Kossuth Lajos tér 1-3
- Timings: Monday to Sunday, 9.00 a.m to 4.00 pm (Visits are restricted during weeks in which the National Assembly holds its plenary sittings.)
- EU citizens- Adults: HUF 3500, Students (aged 6-24): HUF 1900
- Non-EU citizens- Adults: HUF 6700, Students: HUF 3500
- Website: https://www.parlament.hu/en/web/visitors/home
- How to reach: Parliament can be reached via Line 2 of the Budapest Metro and via tram line 2, from the Kossuth Lajos Square station.
Pay your respects at the ‘Shoes on the Danube Bank’ memorial
Thousands of Jews were forced to remove their shoes (a valuable commodity during the war) before being shot dead into the Danube river by Fascist Hungarian militia during the Second World War. Poignant in their simplicity, a trail of iron footwear dot the promenade in honour of these victims.
- Location: Budapest, Id. Antall József rkp., 1054
- Timings: Open 24 hours
- Cost: Free to visit
- How to reach: Located right beside the Parliament building. (5-minute walk)
Walk over the Széchenyi Chain Bridge
Having contributed immensely to the country’s economic, social and cultural status, the Széchenyi Chain Bridge, named after its initiator István Széchenyi, was the first permanent link between Buda and Pest. The bridge continues to be regarded as a national symbol of advancement and awakening.
- Location: Széchenyi Lánchíd, 1051
- How to reach: All tram lines that run along the banks of the Danube river or by metro, Vörösmarty tér, line M1 (yellow).
Explore Buda Castle
Once the residence of the Hungarian Kings, this 18th-century, Neo-Baroque-style castle has been razed and rebuilt numerous times over the past seven centuries. It is currently home to the Hungarian National Gallery, the Budapest History Museum, and the National Széchenyi Library.
Things to do:
- Visit the National Gallery and a wide range of other museums dedicated to music, military history, pharmacy, and the life of Houdini.
- Take a romantic stroll under the blossoming trees of Tóth Árpád sétány, watch the change of the guard, and make your way back to the city centre by descending on the most scenic funicular in the world.
- Location: Szent György tér 2
- Timings & Cost: See individual sights
- Website: www.budacastlebudapest.com
- How to reach:
- By foot: Climb the steep stairs from the Chain Bridge, at Clark Adam Square or walk up the hill on the path that starts at the Funicular.
- By Funicular: Take the Buda Hill Funicular up to the Castle. (Costs HUF 1,200 one way. Open from 7:30 am – 10 pm.
Visit the Matthias Church
Named after King Matthias Corvinus and subject to extensive restorations over the centuries, this neo-Gothic style church was once used as a coronation church by Hungaria kings. It was also used as a mosque for over 150 years by the Ottoman Turks, before taking on its current role as a thriving Catholic church with holy masses, concerts and countless weddings.
Things to do:
- Ascend the 200-odd steps of the bell tower for panoramic views of the city.
- Attend the 7000-pipe organ concert that takes place here on certain evenings.
- Location: I. Szentháromság tér 2, Buda.
- Monday to Friday: 9 am – 5 pm
- Saturdays: 9 am – 12 pm
- Sundays: 1 pm – 5 pm
- Church: Adults: HUF 2,000, students and seniors: HUF 1,500, Children (less than 6 years old): free entrance.
- Belltower: Adults: HUF 2,200, students and seniors: HUF 1,700, Children (less than 6 years old): free entrance.
- Website: https://matyas-templom.hu/
- How to reach: Szentháromság tér, lines 16, 16A and 116. Board from Deák Ferenc tér on the Pest-side of the city.
Enjoy panoramic views from Fisherman’s Bastion
Offering one of the best panoramic views of Budapest, the Fishermen’s Bastion was so named after the guild of fishermen who defended this stretch of the castle wall during the Middle Ages. The neo-Gothic structure with its seven turrets represents the seven Hungarian tribes who founded the present-day country in the late 9th century.
Things to do: Enjoy lunch with a view at the Fishermen’s Bastion terrace cafe and restaurant.
- Location: Szentháromság tér
- Timings: Open 24 hours
- Cost: Balconies are free to enter
- How to reach: By bus: Szentháromság tér, lines 16, 16A and 116
Cruise the Danube at sunset
End the day with a magical river cruise on the Danube and witness the beautiful flood-lit monuments of Budapest. Choose from budget river cruises to the more high-end, fancier cruises offering meals and drinks.
- Timings: Several daily cruises are available ranging from 1-2 hours.
- Cost: Depending on the type of cruise, it can range anywhere between HUF 3,000 to 30,000.
Shop until you drop at the Central Market Hall
The largest and oldest indoor market in Budapest, the Central Market Hall or Great Market Hall is the perfect place to get your hands on delicious local produce, fresh fruits, vegetables, and a range of Hungarian arts and crafts.
Unravelog tip: The market halls are most lively on Saturdays with special programmes, live music, food tasting and guided tours.
- Location: Vámház körút 1-3
- Tuesday to Friday: from 6 am – 6 pm.
- Monday: from 6 am – 5 pm.
- Saturday: from 6 am – 3 pm.
- Sundays closed.
- How to reach:
- Metro: Kálvin Tér, line M3 (blue).
- Tram: Fővám tér, lines 2, 47 and 49.
- Bus: Fővám tér, lines 15, 83 and 115.
Hike to Gellért Hill
One of the earliest inhabited parts of Budapest, a hike to Gellért Hill offers panoramic views of the two sides of the city- Buda and Pest along with the Danube river cutting through them.
Things to do:
- Sunset at the Citadella: A fortress built under the Austrian empire and used also by fascist and communist forces, Citadel is one of the best spots to catch the setting sun in Budapest.
- Gellért Monument: A memorial for St. Gellért, Hungary’s first missionary.
- Liberty Statue: A female figure holding a palm leaf above her head- a symbol of victory and success as a reminder of Hungary’s liberation from Nazi rule.
- Cave Church: Inspired by Our Lady of Lourdes in France, the church is built into the rocks and caves of Gellért Hill.
- Gellért Baths: Located in the Hotel Gellért, it is one of the best known thermal baths in the city
- Location: Gellérthegy
- How to reach:Bus: Búsuló Juhász, line 27 from Móricz Zsigmond körtér
Party at the Ruin Bars
Set amidst the ruins of abandoned pre-war buildings in the city’s Jewish District (District VII), the ruins bars have become synonymous with contemporary Budapest while offering a vibrant nightlife scene.
Things to do: Szimpla Kert is where it all began, the first and most famous ruin bar in the city. Check out our Unravelog blog for a list of the best ruin bars in Budapest as well as some of the most happening party scenes across the city.
- Location: Kazinczy u. 14
- Monday to Friday: 12 pm to 4 am
- Saturday: 9 am to 4 am
- Sunday: 9 am to 5 am
- Website: http://szimpla.hu/
- How to reach: Take a metro/tram to Astoria
Visit St. Stephen’s Basilica
Built in Neo-classicist style, St. Stephen’s Basilica is the largest church in Budapest having a capacity of up to 8,500 people.
Things to do:
- Its most noted relic is the mummified right hand of Stephen I, Hungary’s first king.
- The adjacent square is home to several markets throughout the year and is lined by terraces of trendy bars and cafés.
- Offering great acoustics, the Basilica also hosts organ concerts on Thursdays.
- Location: Szent István tér 1
- Monday to Saturday: 9 am – 7 pm
- Sunday: 7.45 am – 7 pm
- Cost: Entry to the Basilica is free but it’s customary to pay HUF 200 as a donation
- Website: en.bazilika.biz/
- How to reach:
- Metro: Bajcsy Zsilinszky út, line M1 (yellow) and Arany János utca, line M3 (blue).
- Bus: Hercegprímás utca, lines 15 and 115.
Attend an opera at the Hungarian State Opera House
This neo-Renaissance opera house is not only an architectural masterpiece amidst the elegant Andrássy avenue, but also famous for its distinctive opera programmes.
Things to do: Attend a concert or opera at the Opera House or experience its opulent interiors on an hour-long guided tour that includes a mini-concert.
- Location: Andrássy út 22, 1061
- Timings: Guided tours start at 2 pm, 3 pm & 4 pm daily
- HUF 2,500 per adult
- Free for children under the age of 6
- 50% off for children under the age of 14
- 20% off for students with international students’ card and senior citizens over 65.
- Website: https://www.opera.hu/
- How to reach: Metro: Ópera, line M1 (yellow), Bus: Ópera, line 105.
Learn about Budapest’s dark history at the House of Terror
Once the headquarters of the dreaded Hungarian secret police, the House of Terror museum currently houses exhibits relating to the fascist and communist regimes in 20th-century Hungary and also serves as a memorial to the victims of the holocaust era.
Go on a picnic at Heroes Square
The vast Heroes’ Square is adorned by sculptures of the seven Magyar chieftains, surrounded by the most prominent rulers who followed them in Hungarian history.
Things to do:
- A highly photographable neighbourhood, this quarter is home to several landmarks built for the millennial celebrations in 1896.
- Visit the Museum of Fine Arts and the Kunsthalle located adjacent to the square,
- Continue past the wall of sculptures to reach City Park and Vajdahunyad castle.
Unwind at Széchenyi Baths
The Széchenyi Baths, built in 1913 in neo-Baroque style, is undoubtedly the most famous of the 100 plus thermal baths across Budapest. Europe’s largest medicinal bathhouses 18 pools, 10 saunas, and various events to be enjoyed all year long.
Some of the other attractions to consider if you have more time include the Budapest Eye, Margaret Island, Dohány Street Synagogue and the Szabo Ervin Library among others. For more ideas on how to spend a perfect weekend in Budapest, check out Voyage Fox’s top picks, here.