A complete itinerary for 3 days in Budapest (perfect for summer and winter + map with all attractions and how to save €39 with Budapest City Card).
Budapest is one of the cities that have it all! Outstandingly beautiful architecture, dramatic history, hot thermal springs, excellent cuisine and wines! Plus, it’s one of the cheapest destinations in Europe.
With more than 20 centuries of history, Budapest is a must for every history lover. Although the first settlement here dates before the 1st century AD, if you look on a map dated before 1873, you won’t find the city. Before that time Budapest simply didn’t exist. It was formed as a union of three smaller cities Buda, Óbuda and Pest during the Habsburg rule.
3 days in Budapest itinerary
How to spend three days in Budapest? What are the must-see sites? Follow this 3-day guide to Budapest to get an excellent first experience of the city.
Find a map of this 3-day Budapest itinerary (with all attractions and restaurants’ websites) at the end of the blog post.
Already have a hotel booked? Check if it has a good location in my guide to where to stay in Budapest.
The perfect Budapest 3 day itinerary
- Day 1: Chain Bridge, Buda Castle, Matthias Church, Fisherman’s Bastion
- Day 2: Shoes on the Danube Promenade, Budapest Parliament, St. Stephen’s Basilica, Vajdahunyad Castle
- Day 3: Gödöllő (day trip from Budapest), Szentendre Szechenyi Spa Baths
For my trip to Budapest, I used this DK Eyewitness Travel Guide. I love their travel guides, as they have practical information, walking tours and a durable map!
3 Days in Budapest – Day 1
Danube River cuts the city into two parts – Buda and Pest. Buda is located on the west bank of the Danube, while Pest is on the east. There is a lot to see on both sides of the river, so I recommend you dedicate a full day to each of them.
Let’s start with Buda, the capital of the Kingdom of Hungary in the Middle Ages.
08:30 AM – 09:30 AM
Start your Budapest itinerary with breakfast at Cserpes Tejivó or À la Maison Grand.
Cserpes Tejivó is a great place for a quick bite. They offer cold and hot sandwiches, pastries and a wide variety of yoghurts.
À la Maison Grand is a breakfast restaurant that serves classical egg snacks, pancakes, waffles and amazing coffee.
Admire Gresham Palace
09:30 AM – 09:45 AM
Gresham Palace (Gresham palota) is an outstanding building in the Art Nouveau style. It was built in 1906 to serve as an office for the Gresham Life Assurance Company. Nowadays it’s a luxury five-star hotel.
Cross Chain Bridge
09:45 AM – 10:00 AM
Chain Bridge (Széchenyi Lánchíd) is named after Count István Széchenyi who proposed its construction. Yet, it’s mostly known as Chain Bridge, because of the huge iron chains that hold it.
Chain Bridge was the first permanent construction that connected Pest and Buda across the river Danube. During World War II, it was blown up by the Germans, only its pillars remained intact. After the war, it was rebuilt in its original form.
At the end of the bridge at Buda side is the Zero Kilometre – an oval-shaped stone. It marks the place from where all the main roads in Hungary are measured.
Explore Buda Castle
10:15 AM – 12:30 PM
The easiest way to get to Castle Hill, where Buda Castle is located, is by using the castle funicular. The ride is short (about 2-3 min) and the ticket costs 1,400 HUF (~4 EUR). It’s possible to walk to the top of the hill but prepare for a little hike.
Buda Castle with its marvellous architecture and breathtaking views over Pest is a must. However, keep in mind that the castle no longer functions as one, but it’s a complex of museums. Over the centuries Buda Castle has been extended, destroyed and rebuilt many times.
King Béla IV built the first royal residence on Castle Hill in the 13th century. At the beginning of the 15th century, King Sigismund significantly enlarged the palace. Later King Matthias Corvinus and his wife Beatrice of Naples rebuilt it in a Renaissance style.
Nowadays only fragments from this Renaissance building can be seen. The medieval palace was completely destroyed during the Great Siege of 1686 when Buda was freed from the Turks. Later the Habsburgs restored the castle to its previous beauty.
Today, the castle houses the History Museum, the National Gallery and the National Library. In the History Museum, you can see a modest selection of restored rooms from the medieval palace, including the Royal Chapel and the Gothic Hall.
The Sándor Palace (Sándor-palota) is located next to Buda Castle. It is the official residence of the President of the Republic of Hungary. Don’t miss the changing of the guards (it’s every hour by the hour).
12:30 PM – 02:30 PM
Stop for lunch at Horváth Étterem or Ramazuri Bistronomy. Ramazuri Bistronomy serves modern Hungarian cuisine, while Horváth Étterem offers authentic Hungarian food.
Admire Holy Trinity Column
02:30 PM – 02:45 PM
This Baroque monument (Szentháromság Szobor) was erected in 1716–1754 in honour of God and to celebrate the end of the plague epidemic.
Visit Matthias Church
02:45 PM – 04:00 PM
With its colourful diamond shape roof and white stone in Gothic style, Mátyás-templom is a real pleasure for the eyes. It is named after King Matthias, whose two royal weddings were held here.
There is an entrance fee to visit the church. The fee includes entry to the church’s museum where you can see an exhibition of religious relics and replicas of the Hungarian crown jewels.
Panoramic views from Fisherman’s Bastion
04:00 PM – 05:00 PM
Fisherman’s Bastion (Halászbástya) looks like it came out of a fairytale. It was built at the end of the 19th century at the site of an old rampart, that was defended by the guild of fishermen during the Middle Ages.
The white stone construction represents a viewing terrace with many stairs and paths. Its seven towers symbolize the seven Magyar tribes that settled in 896 in this area.
Many of its balconies are free to enter, but for the upper towers, there is an entrance fee.
Finish the day with dinner at Alabárdos Étterem or Halászbástya Restaurant. Halászbástya Restaurant is located in the Fisherman’s Bastion and has some of the most awesome views of the city. Alabárdos Étterem is a traditional restaurant with fine cuisine and an extensive Hungarian wine list.
See the iconic Little Princess
The Little Princess with Buda Castle as a background is an iconic view. Its creator, László Marton, was inspired by his daughter to model the statue. She used to pretend to be a princess, wearing a bathrobe and a crown made of newspapers.
Labyrinth of Buda Castle
The labyrinth of Buda Castle deserves a visit only if you’re a real fan of Dracula. Vlad III, the Prince of Wallachia (known as Dracula) was kept imprisoned here. You can see the cage where he was held and tortured for years.
Hospital in the Rock
The labyrinth of Buda Castle is not the only option to explore the underground tunnels on Castle Hill.
The Hospital in the Rock is a museum hidden in the caverns under the Buda Castle. The place used to be a hospital and a bomb shelter during WWII. Later it became a nuclear bunker. You can visit it only with a guided tour.
3 Days in Budapest – Day 2
08:30 AM – 09:30 AM
Start the second day of this itinerary for 3 days in Budapest with breakfast at Espresso Embassy or 9BAR.
Shoes on the Danube Promenade
09:30 AM – 09:45 AM
Shoes on the Danube Promenade is a memorial, dedicated to the murdered Jews by the fascist Arrow Cross militiamen. The Arrow Cross Party ruled Hungary from 15 October 1944 to 28 March 1945. During this dreadful rule ten to fifteen thousand people, mostly Jews, were murdered. In addition, more than 80 000 were deported to death camps.
Many Jews were executed by being shot on the edge of the banks of the Danube. Before every execution, the Jews had to take off their shoes as they were considered valuable belongings at the time. The 60 pairs of iron shoes look so real that you can feel the horror of this inhumanity that took place here.
The easiest way to get to the memorial is by coming from Chain Bridge towards the Parliament building.
Hungarian Parliament Building
10:00 AM – 10:30 AM
The Hungarian Parliament building (Országház) is the city’s most unique landmark. This structure in the Gothic Revival style is the third largest Parliament building in the world. During its construction, 40 million bricks and 40 kilograms of gold were used.
The Hungarian Parliament building is the tallest building in the city along with St.Stephen’s Basilica. Both of them are 96 metres high. The number signifies the year 896 AD in which the Hungarians settled in the region.
Today the government uses a small part of the building.
The latter includes the main entrance stairs and hall, one of the lobbies, the old House of Lords and the Hungarian Crown Jewels.
Climb the dome of St. Stephen’s Basilica
10:45 AM – 12:00 PM
St. Stephen’s Basilica is the largest church in the capital of Hungary. Szent István-bazilika is dedicated to Saint Stephen I, the first King of Hungary. His mummified right hand is kept in a glass case in a side chapel.
The church’s dome is 96 metres high – equal to the height of the Hungarian Parliament Building. This equation symbolises the balance between the spiritual and the worldly. You can reach the dome by elevator or by climbing the 364 stairs.
There is no fee to enter the church, but a small donation is required at the entrance.
12:00 PM – 02:00 PM
For lunch stop at Meatology or Bistro Fine.
Hungarian State Opera House
02:00 PM – 02:15 PM
Hungarian State Opera House has the 3rd best acoustics in Europe (after the Palais Garnier in Paris and La Scala in Milan). This richly decorated building in neo-Renaissance style is opened to the public in the 19th century.
To discover its beautiful interior and hear a mini-concert, join this State Opera House guided tour.
Discover Heroes’ Square
02:45 PM – 03:15 PM
Heroes’ Square (Hősök tere) is one of the most beautiful city’s squares. You can reach it by taking the underground (M1 line), which is the oldest underground line in continental Europe.
Be amazed by the Vajdahunyad Castle
03:30 PM – 04:30 PM
The Vajdahunyad Castle is like a thousand years old but in fact, it’s relatively new construction. It was built for the city’s millennium exhibition in 1896.
To achieve its extraordinary appearance, the architect Ignác Alpár combined a few different styles: Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque. Yet, he was mostly inspired by Dracula’s Castle – the Hunyad Castle in Transylvania (nowadays Romania). Since 1907 Vajdahunyad vára houses the Agricultural Museum of Hungary.
There is a statue of Anonymus in the castle’s courtyard. Anonymus was a chronicler of a Hungarian king (probably Béla III) during the 12th century, but his true identity was unknown.
The City Park, right next to Vajdahunyad Castle, is a great spot for a picnic with your loved one.
Finish the day with a dinner at Városliget Café or Paprika Étterem. Both restaurants offer traditional Hungarian cuisine.
Take an evening cruise
The city is absolutely stunning at night. Don’t miss to see the illuminated sites of Budapest on a cruise down the Danube River.
Monument to Imre Nagy
Imre Nagy was a Hungarian communist politician and Prime Minister of Hungary (two times). He was executed in 1958 during the Hungarian Revolution against the Soviet-imposed policies.
Dohány Street Synagogue
Dohany Street Synagogue (Dohány utcai zsinagóga) is the largest synagogue in Europe. It’s also known as the Great Synagogue or Tabakgasse Synagogue. This building in Moorish style has a marvellous interior. The entrance fee includes a free tour. Inside the synagogue, men have to wear a small skullcap (you’ll receive one at the entrance).
There are also a Jewish museum and a Heroes’ Temple on the site. In the backyard of the temple, you’ll find a Jewish cemetery and a Holocaust memorial.
The memorial, which represents a steel weeping willow, is deeply moving. The names of thousands of Hungarian Jews, brutally murdered during WWII, are engraved on the leaves. There are also blank leaves dedicated to the unknown victims of the Nazi regime.
If you’re visiting in the high season, buy Great Synagogue skip the line ticket and save time (lines could be long). The ticket also includes entry to the Hungarian Jewish Museum and a free guided tour.
This zoo (Budapesti Állatkert) is one of the oldest in the world. You can see the animals from a very close distance and even touch some of them. My favourite thing is the animal petting area where you can caress or feed goats and sheep.
House of Terror
Terror Háza Múzeum represents the two terror regimes that Hungarian people had to face – the Nazi and the following Soviet regime. The Arrow Cross Party and State Protection Authority used the building as headquarters. They tortured, interrogated and killed people in the basement cells.
3 Days in Budapest – Day 3
On the third day of this Budapest itinerary, take a half-day trip in the morning (see my recommendations further in the post).
Spend the afternoon at Szechenyi Spa Baths and enjoy the hot springs. If the spa is not your thing, check out the attractions below.
Szechenyi Spa Baths
Budapest isn’t called the City of Spas for nothing. The city is famous for its hot thermal springs. The most popular baths are Szechenyi Spa Baths. With more than 15 pools with natural hot spring water, this is the largest thermal spring bath complex in Europe.
The second most popular baths are the Gellért Spa Baths.
If you are looking for truly awesome views of Budapest, Gellért Hill is the place to go. This hill features the best panoramic view of the city. There is a fortress on the top of the hill dating from the Habsburg rule.
This is not the typical church that you used to see. It’s a unique place housed in a natural cave. The entrance fee includes an English audio guide.
Museum of Applied Arts
Museum of Applied Arts occupies an Art Nouveau building with unique architecture. Even if you don’t visit the Iparművészeti Múzeum, the architecture itself worth a look.
The Kerepesi Cemetery (Kerepesi úti temető) is one of the oldest cemeteries in Hungary. Although it’s out of the city centre, you can easily reach it by metro.
The cemetery is an eternal resting place for many famous Hungarians. The park is very peaceful and romantic with long silent alleys and beautifully ornate graves and tombs. Nowadays the cemetery is closed for new burials.
November the 1st is called “All Saint’s Day” in Hungary. If you visit the cemetery on this day you will find the graves covered with flowers and candles.
The Tropicarium is inside the Campona Shopping Center on the city’s outskirts. It is a long trip from the city centre, but if you are interested in sea life don’t skip it. The Tropicarium features a water tunnel and a great variety of fishes and animals living in the tropical rainforest.
Memento Park is an open-air museum that features statues and sculptures from the Communist period in Hungary. You can see huge statues of Lenin, Marx as well as several Hungarian Communist leaders.
Hungarian Parliament Building – to see the building from the inside you need to book a guided tour (for a specific time slot), so book as early as you can. You can book your Budapest Parliament tour here.
How to save money on your Budapest itinerary
The best way to explore the city and save money is with Budapest City Card.
The city card includes:
- unlimited free public transport
- 19 free museums, including the museums housed in Buda Castle
- 2 free guided walking tours (for Buda and Pest)
- free entry to Lukács Thermal Bath
- 10-50% discount to over 100 places, attractions and restaurants
By using the city card (€44 for 3 days) you will save €39.
- 2 guided walking tours (for Buda and Pest) – €22
- Buda Castle museums – €12
- entry to Lukács Thermal Bath – €12
- card for 72 hours (public transport) – €37
Total without the card – €83
Using the card – €44
Total savings – €39
3 days in Budapest in winter
If you’re visiting the city in the winter, follow the first and second day of this Budapest travel itinerary.
For the third day – relax at the hot springs at Szechenyi Spa Baths in the morning. The hot baths are one of the best places to visit in December, especially on a cold winter day.
Dedicate the afternoon to the Christmas markets. The most popular ones at Vörösmarty Square, Erzsébet Square and St. Stephen’s Basilica.
Getting around Budapest
Find a map of this 3-day itinerary here.
The easiest way to get around Budapest is by using the metro. There are 4 metro lines. M1, M2 and M3 meet at Deák Ferenc tér in the city centre.
You can also take hop-on hop-off bus tour that will show you the most popular landmarks.
As I was staying in the city centre, I used the single ticket option and a 24-hour travel card for one of the days. The 24-hour card is valid for an unlimited number of trips within the administrative boundaries of Budapest. No validation is required, unlike the single ticket that has to be validated at the start of your journey.
The trams are also an excellent option to get around the city, especially tram number 2. Its route covers the most iconic places along the riverside on Pest.
How to get to Budapest
There are three main train stations: Eastern Railway Station (Keleti pályaudvar), Southern Station (Déli pályaudvar) and Western Station (Nyugati pályaudvar). All three are well-connected to the rest of the city by the metro. Check timetables and book train tickets online at MÁV official site.
Ferenc Liszt International Airport (BUD) is located only 16km away from the city centre. There are several options to get from the airport to the city centre:
- The easiest one is to book a private transfer directly to your hotel. I recommend this airport transfer (more than 10,530+ excellent reviews).
- Take bus 200E from Terminal 2 to the Kőbánya-Kispest metro terminal. From there, take the metro line M3 towards Újpest Központ to reach the city centre.
- Take bus 200E (daytime) or 900 (nighttime) from Terminal 2 to Ferihegy train station. From there take a train to Nyugati railway station. For the train ride, you can use the Budapest travel card, 24, 72-hour or weekly passes.
- Take bus 100E from the airport to Deák tér for a direct connection to the city centre. You’ll need a special ticket for this one (900 HUF).
Day trips from Budapest
Located right in the heart of Hungary on the Danube River, Budapest is an excellent base for short trips and excursions all over the country.
There are plenty of fascinating destinations within easy reach from Budapest by train, boat or bus. The beautiful scenery of the countryside charms with preserved historic towns, royal palaces and vast wine regions.
The capital of Austria, Vienna, is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Known for its gorgeous Baroque architecture, imperial palaces and classical music, this city is a must-see.
The journey is a little long for a day trip, so I’d recommend you spend at least one night in Vienna. If you’re planning to visit both Budapest and Vienna, dedicate more days to Vienna. For more details, check out this perfect Vienna itinerary (for first-timers).
How to get to Vienna
Take a train from Budapest-Keleti train station to Wien Hbf (2h 40min journey).
The small village of Etyek is one of the main wine-producing areas in this region of Hungary. Due to the cooler climate, the area is great for producing white wines. Etyek is famous for its Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and sparkling wine.
Visit 2 unique wineries in Etyek village and taste 4 wines at each location. Each of these wineries produces boutique wines sold only at selected restaurants. Also, you’ll have the chance to savour some classical Hungarian dishes on a rustic 3-course meal.
Gödöllő is a lovely little town located about 30km east of Budapest. The city is known for the Royal Palace of Gödöllő (Gödöllői Királyi Kastély). It served as a summer residence of Franz Josef, Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary, and his wife Elisabeth.
How to get to Gödöllő Palace
Take the HÉV 8 suburban train from Örs vezér tere to Gödöllő Szabadság tér (40min ride). From there it’s less than a 5min walk to the palace.
Szentendre is one of the four Danube Bend towns and it’s the closest one to Budapest. In fact, this is one of the most popular day tours from Budapest, Hungary.
This picturesque riverside town has a unique art atmosphere. With its colourful baroque houses and cobbled-stone streets, it’s the perfect setting for a romantic city escape.
Highlights include the Marzipan Museum, Blagoveštenska Church and the Art Mill (art gallery housed in an old mill). The Szabó-Szamos Marzipan Museum presents unique sculptures made entirely of marzipan. There are even marzipan statues of Michael Jackson and Princess Diana.
And last but not least, don’t miss to try the best Lángos (delicious fried dough) in Hungary at Álom Lángos.
How to get to Szentendre
- by train – the fastest way to reach Szentendre is by taking the HÉV 5 suburban train from Batthyány tér (40min journey). The city centre is a short walk from the train station.
- by boat – If you’re visiting the city in the summer months, you can reach Szentendre by riverboat. It’s about an hour and a half journey to Szentendre and an hour back to Budapest. The travel time is longer on your way to Szentendre as you travel upstream. However, the boat option is more scenic than using the train.
Visegrád is a small town on the Danube River and its name literally means “the upper castle”. A 13th-century castle is rising above the city, revealing magnificent views of the Danube Bend. It was constructed during the reign of King Béla IV of Hungary. The castle housed the Holy Crown of Hungary for nearly 200 years.
Down in Visegrád, you can admire the Renaissance palace of King Matthias Corvinus. Featuring more than 350 rooms, the palace was one of the most luxurious residences of its time.
How to get to Visegrád
- by train – take a train from Nyugati Railway station to Nagymaros-Visegrád (40-50min journey). From there, you need to take the hourly ferry across the river to Visegrád. Then it’s a bit of a hike to reach the castle.
- by boat – take a hydrofoil from Vigadó Square to Visegrád (1-hour journey).
How many days in Budapest
Are 3 days in Budapest enough?
3 days in Budapest are more than enough to see the most popular attractions and even to take a day trip. You’ll need 2 days to explore Buda and Pest (one day per each side of the river). On the third day, you can take a half-day trip and spend a few hours in the famous hot spring.
What if I don’t have 3 full days in Budapest?
If you have less than 3 days, follow the first and the second day of this Budapest itinerary. Skip the day trip, you won’t have enough time. And you can always visit the Szechenyi Spa Baths in the evening (the pools stay open till 10 PM).
2 or 3 days in Budapest?
If Budapest is a part of a longer Europe itinerary, dedicate 2 days to the city. It will be enough to see the major tourist attractions.
Yet, if you’re visiting Budapest on a long weekend, I’d recommend you to spend 3 days. In this way, you’ll have the chance to explore the beautiful countryside as well. Ones of the most popular day trips are Szentendre and Gödöllő Royal Palace.
Best time to visit Budapest
For pleasant and warm weather visit Budapest in April, May, June, September or October. If possible, avoid the months of July and August – this is the busiest time of the year.
If you’re visiting Budapest in the middle of September, don’t miss the Wine Festival at Buda Castle. You’ll have the chance to try premium local and foreign wines.
Winters are chilly, but it’s the perfect time to enjoy the hot thermal springs. Plus, this is the season of the Christmas markets (in December).
|I’m a full-time travel blogger based in Sofia, Bulgaria. I love to travel and to discover new places, cultures and food. I’m an expert in travel planning and I am here to help you plan your dream vacation.|