So you are planning 3 days in Budapest and you are not sure how to optimise your time? Understandable, the city is packed with things to do, historical sights and restaurants to try.
We’ve just got back from a long weekend in Budapest and tried to see as much as we could, with the promise to come back to see what we’ve missed.
Here we crafted a 3-day Budapest itinerary but suggested also what to eventually skip or give priority to if you are only two days in Budapest. We mentioned some of the unmissable Budapest sights as well as the hidden gems and some places to eat. And if you are still not sure, find out why you should visit Budapest.
READ MORE: Convinced already? Check out our useful tips to plan a perfect trip to Budapest.
What to Do in Budapest in 3 Days – Table of Content
- Day 1 in Budapest: Explore Buda Castle Hill
- Day 2 in Budapest: Explore Pest
- Day 3 in Budapest: Hungarian History and Jewish Quarter
Budapest Itinerary of 3 Days for First-Time Visitors
What to do in Budapest in 3 days? Our tips and tricks to enjoying a long weekend in the Hungarian capital. Delve into its culture and history and discover its alternative side.
TIP: Budapest Card 72h will get you free public transport, free entrance to several museums and discounts to restaurants and other attractions such as some thermal baths and city tours.
Click here for more info and to buy it.
Day 1 in Budapest: Explore Buda Castle Hill
The oldest part of the city, impossible to miss even if you want to explore Budapest in a day only. Relics of the Hungarian empire and beautiful viewpoints in the most touristy district of the city.
How to reach Buda Castle Hill? If you are staying in Pest, some of the buses to reach Castle Hill are n. 5 and 16.
Visit Buda Castle
The main attraction in the Buda district, the apartments of the Royal Palace can’t be visited due to the heavy bombing during the Budapest siege that fully destroyed it.
Today, inside the Buda Castle you can visit only the Budapest History Museum and the Hungarian National Gallery.
The museum is located in the Gellérthegy wing and allows you to visit some halls of the Royal Palace and the exhibition displaying the main events and characters of Budapest history. The gallery is a thorough display of Hungarian art history from the first works to more modern and contemporary art.
Buda Castle address: Szent György tér 2 – Royal Palace, 1014 Budapest.
Buda Castle opening times: Tues-Fri 10 am-4 pm, weekends until 6 pm. In summer every day until 6 pm. Monday closed.
Buda Castle entrance fee: Budapest History Museum 2000 HUF (7 USD), Hungarian National Gallery 2800 HUF (10 USD). Both museums are free with Budapest Card 72h.
Visit Matthias Church
Matthias Church is a gorgeous Catholic worship place built in the Middle Ages and bearing a long and stormy history. A majestic example of the local Gothic style, the church was used as a coronation place for Hungarian kings before becoming a mosque during the 150 years of Ottoman rule. Now it’s a fully operative Catholic church and one of the top places to visit in Budapest.
As soon as you enter, you will be faced with stunning oriental-style decorative patterns and colours perfectly matching a Western religious architecture. Already in medieval times the interior bore frescoes as well as tapestry decorative elements. The current style, work of 19th-century painter Székely and architect Schulek, is a mix of styles and features using ancient Hungarian design into a local Art Nouveau.
Matthias Church address: 2 Szentharomsag Square Budapest 1014.
Matthias Church opening times: Mon-Fri 9 am–5 pm, Saturday 9 am–1 pm, Sunday 1 pm–5 pm.
Matthias Church entrance fee: 1800 HUF (6 USD). Not included in the Budapest Card 72h.
Enjoy the View From the Fisherman’s Bastion
After Matthias Church, you can’t miss the Fisherman’s Bastion right next to it. Even if you only have one day in Budapest, this is probably something to visit as it is probably the best viewpoint of the Pest side and the impressive Parliament building.
Built in the 19th century following a design by architect Frigyes Schulek, visiting the Fisherman’s Bastion is one of the most romantic things to do in Budapest.
Many of its turrets and towers are free to enter, while the upper floor terraces require a small fee.
Fisherman’s Bastion address: Szentharomsag tér, 1014 Budapest.
Fisherman’s Bastion opening times: Daily 9 am-7 pm, in summer until 8 pm.
Fisherman’s Bastion entrance fee: 1000 HUF (3,5 USD). 10% discount with Budapest Card 72h.
Visit the Golden Eagle Pharmacy Museum
In the Castle district is also a hidden gem that I suggest including in your 3-day Budapest itinerary. The Golden Eagle Pharmacy Museum is a small exhibition that won’t take long to visit but that will add value to your day in Buda.
You will travel through the history of local pharmacy with a fascinating display of tools, documents, images and objects used to make medicines, potions and different types of treatments.
It’s not crowded and I found it very interesting. Probably not something to visit if you have only 1 day in Budapest, but definitely if you are staying three days to a week.
Pharmacy Museum address: Tarnok u. 18, 1014 Budapest.
Pharmacy Museum opening times: Daily 10 am-4 pm, weekends until 6 pm. In summer until 6 pm. Monday closed.
Pharmacy Museum entrance fee: 800 HUF (3 USD). 50% off with the Budapest Card 72h.
Stroll Around Budapest Citadel
End your day in the Buda side with a stroll around the Citadel. This is a great place to enjoy the sunset or just have a relaxing walk with a lovely view of the Danube and its bridges.
The Citadel is a fortified stronghold located on the Gellert Hill, a strategic construction pivotal to Budapest military history. It was built in 1851 during the Austrian Empire after the 1848 Hungarian Revolution from a project by Emmanuel Zitta and Ferenc Kasselik.
Inside the Citadel is kept some Red Army weaponry from World War II such as mortars, anti-craft autocannon and an anti-tank gun. Here, you can also visit the beautiful Cave Church.
You will spot Gellert Hill from afar also for the tall Statue of Liberty. Close to the entrance are several stalls of sweets, street food and souvenir shops.
Citadel address: Gellert Hill.
Citadel opening times: In summer daily 9 am-8 pm, in winter until 5 pm. Cave Church Mon-Sat 9.30 am-7.30 pm.
Please note: When we went (beginning of June 2019), the Citadel was closed to the public due to renovation works, so also the Cave Church was impossible to visit. You might want to inquire beforehand at the tourism office. You can still walk around the hill and enjoy the view.
Citadel entrance fee: 300 HUF (1 USD).
Day 2 in Budapest: Explore Pest
While Buda is the city’s oldest part, some of the attractions in the Pest side are a must even if you are staying only 2 days in Budapest. The palaces of power, the buildings of the local modern history and the bustling markets are revealing of the current local lifestyle.
Visit the Parliament Building
A place not to miss if you are wondering what to see in Budapest in 2 days only is the Parliament building.
Inspired by London’s Houses of Parliament, the building is in a neo-Gothic style that includes Renaissance and Baroque elements.
The tour inside the Parliament lasts for about 45 minutes and you will admire the fine decorations of walls and furniture as well as visit the Senate, the hall where the Hungarian crown is kept and the staircase with the red carpet.
Parliament address: Kossuth tér 1-3, 1055 Budapest.
Parliament opening times: Daily 8 am-6 pm, in winter until 4 pm.
Parliament entrance fee: 3500 HUF (12 USD).
TIP: The Parliament can only be visited with a guide, so along with the ticket, you also need to book your tour. You can either go to the ticket office and see what slots they have available (can be quick or even after a couple of hours and an official guide is included) or you can book in advance online both ticket and tour on Get Your Guide.
Click here to book online your Parliament tour.
Visit St. Stephen’s Basilica
The largest church in Budapest with a capacity of 8500 people, the Neoclassical St. Stephen’s Basilica is named after Hungary’s first king.
Inaugurated in 1906 with the participation of emperor Franz Joseph, the dome of the cathedral is 96 metres tall, the same height of the Parliament building, to symbolise the balance between religious and secular power. According to the local law, no building in Budapest can be taller than 96 mt.
Inside the cathedral is kept the important relic of the mummified hand of St. Stephen, while all around are many cafes and restaurants for a nice meal, afternoon coffee or evening.
St. Stephen’s Basilica address: Szent Istvan tér 1, 1051 Budapest.
St. Stephen’s Basilica opening times: 9 am-7 pm, in summer until 8 pm.
St. Stephen’s Basilica entrance fee: Free for the Basilica but they expect a donation of 200 HUF (less than a dollar). To go up to the panoramic deck is 600 HUF (2 USD), with a 15% discount if you have the Budapest Card 72h.
READ MORE: Find out where to eat in Budapest, our picks of some of the best restaurants in the city!
House of Terror (Terror Haza)
The facade of this building is of a very austere grey. In 1944, it was the “House of Loyalty”, headquarters of the Hungarian fascist Arrow Cross Party, while between 1945 and 1956 was the building of the AVO (State Security Office) first and later its successor AVH (State Security Authority).
The exhibition is a memory to the victims of the Hungarian Nazi regime and two tough periods of the modern Hungarian history and its victims. You will see pictures of the victims, objects, rooms, prisons, clothes and videos.
House of Terror address: Andrassy Ut 60, 1062 Budapest.
House of Terror opening times: Tues-Sun 10 am-6 pm. Closed on Monday.
House of Terror entrance fee: 3000 HUF (10 USD). Not included in the Budapest Card 72h.
Hold Street Market (Downtown Market Hall)
This is a smaller market than the Central Market, but very nice. We had lunch at the Russian eatery. I took the prawn dumplings, my husband chicken stuffed with herbs and cheese and both dishes were absolutely delicious.
The market is a lovely place to visit for shopping of local products as well as having an inexpensive meal. We paid some 20 euro in two.
Built in 1891, it was opened to the public in 1897 with some 174 permanent stalls and 80 temporary laid out on two levels. Today is a favourite shopping venues for locals and tourists as well as a nice hangout place.
Hold Street Market address: Hold utca 13, 1054 Budapest.
Hold Street Market opening times: Mon-Fri 6.30 am-6 pm, Monday until 5 pm, Saturday until 2 pm. Sunday closed.
Vajdahunyad Castle and City Park
Round off the second day of your Budapest itinerary with the impressive view of the Vajdahunyad Castle, photographing its reflection on the water and strolling around the large green park all around.
An eclectic mix of architectural styles and features including Gothic, Baroque and Romanesque, the castle is really a fairy-tale place for a peaceful afternoon and evening. When we visited, its courtyard hosted a lovely market selling anything from handicraft to sweets to delicious marzipan chocolates. So if you are lucky and it’s there (we went on Saturday afternoon), do try some of their treats.
Today, the castle is home to the Museum of Hungarian Agriculture, but if you don’t want to visit you can just stroll around, enjoy the architecture and relax at the local cafe.
Vajdahunyad Castle address: City Park, Kós Károly stny., 1146 Budapest.
Vajdahunyad Castle opening times: the courtyard is always open. The Agriculture Museum is open Tues-Fri 10 am-4 pm, in summer until 5 pm, Saturday and Sunday until 5 pm. Monday Closed.
Vajdahunyad Castle entrance fee: Free for the courtyard, 1600 HUF (5.50 USD) for the Agriculture Museum.
Round off your day 2 in Budapest at its largest piazza, Heroes’ Square. Built late 19th century to celebrate 1000 years of Hungary’s history, it’s located at the end of trendy Andrassy Road and surrounded by attractions and museums.
At its centre, a tall obelisk stands out with on top a statue of the Archangel Gabriel holding the crown and the Christian cross, while decorating the surrounding pillars are kings and leaders that played an important role in the country’s history.
Day 3 in Budapest: Explore the Hungarian History and the Jewish Quarter
Time to soak in Hungarian history and explore the Jewish Quarter. Whether you have 4 days in Budapest or deciding what to see in Budapest in 2 days, this neighbourhood is worth it.
It is on the Pest side of the city and offers a wide range of things to see, activities and delicious restaurants, street food places and pubs.
Hungarian National Museum
Kick off the third day of your Budapest weekend itinerary at the Hungarian National Museum. A large collection of working tools, decorative objects, paintings, documents, graves all documenting the 1000 years of Hungarian history.
On display are remnants from the 11th century up to modern age, as well as a section for archaeological findings.
It will take you from one and a half to two hours to visit but I think it’s one of the top things to do in Budapest, especially if it’s your first time in the city and you want to understand the local culture.
Hungarian National Museum address: Muzeum krt. 14-16, 1088 Budapest.
Hungarian National Museum opening times: Daily 10 am-6 pm. Closed on Monday.
Hungarian National Museum entrance fee: 1600 HUF (5.50 USD). Free with Budapest Card 72h.
Budapest’s Great Synagogue
After the museum, head to the Jewish District where you can have lunch and spend the rest of the afternoon. The Great Synagogue is likely going to be the first place you will visit in the district. Its impressive exterior won’t fail to capture your attention.
Built in 1859, the twin tower synagogue of Dohany street is Hungary’s and Europe’s largest.
You need to book your entrance online before going as the security service might limit the admission depending on the number of reservations made. Tickets include a guided tour the Synagogue, the Heroes’ Temple, the Raoul Wallenberg Memorial Park and the Synagogue’s graveyard, an audio guide for the Jewish Museum and entry to the temporary exhibitions in the Cellar, the Heroes’ Temple and the Lapidarium.
Great Synagogue address: Dohany utca 2, 1075 Budapest.
Great Synagogue opening times: Opens daily at 10 am, closing time changes pretty much every day and some days it’s just closed all day so you’d better check their website. Saturday always closed and Fridays it closes earlier.
Great Synagogue entrance fee: 16 euro, includes a tour to the Synagogue as well as the other attractions of the complex. Booking with Get Your Guide is 13.90 euro. Click here to book your ticket.
Karavan Street Food
Close to the Synagogue are several restaurants, but if you prefer a quick, casual and inexpensive lunch, you can stop at Karavan Street Food. This is a lovely street food market where you can stop any time of the day for lunch, dinner or just a snack.
The offer is pretty wide, from burgers to Italian cuisine to Mexican dishes as well as delicious vegan options. At the vegan stall Las Vegan’s we had two very much needed and refreshing fruit smoothies.
It’s usually quite crowded, especially on weekends, but you are likely to find somewhere to sit or leaning on and eat standing.
Karavan address: Kazinczy utca 18, 1075 Budapest.
Karavan opening times: Daily 11.30 am-11 pm, Thursday and Friday until 1 am, Saturday until 12 am.
Szimpla Kert, Budapest’s most famous ruin pub
Right next to Karavan is Szimpla Kert, Budapest’s oldest and most famous ruin pub. Translating from the Hungarian ‘rom kocsma’, literally pub in ruin, the city’s ruin pubs or bars are set inside abandoned buildings destined to be destroyed. Started around 20 years ago, now this new entertainment style is very popular in downtown Budapest.
A sort of a collection of pubs, Szimpla Kert opened its rundown doors in 2002. The founders decided to rescue this old factory from being demolished and saw an opportunity to start an alternative bohemian culture in Budapest. Serving affordable drinks and eats in an environment that would attract young people and independent artists, they launched what now is a space for concerts, events, courses, workshops, festivals.
The weary look of its exterior is a perfect introduction to what you will find inside, a mix of everything where nothing matches and yet stays together.
Every day you can pop in for lunch, while on Sunday they also serve breakfast and brunch during the weekly Farmers’ Market.
Szimpla Kert address: Kazinczy utca 14, 1075 Budapest.
Szimpla Kert opening times: Daily 12 pm-4 am, Sunday from 9 am.
TIP: If you want to get to know more in-depth the Jewish District, book a tour to discover the Jewish Hungarian heritage and culture.
Click here to book a tour to Budapest Jewish District.
Take a Danube Cruise
Whether you are looking for what to do in Budapest in 2 days or staying longer, an evening Danube Cruise is a nice way to round off a long sightseeing day.
There are several types of cruises. You can pick one during the day or one in the evening. Also, you can choose one for only sightseeing, one with drinks included or those where they also serve dinner.
You just need to book your cruise online and show up at the given dock along the river at the given time. The boat will take you up and down the Danube under Budapest’s bridges, a lovely way to see the city in a different perspective.
More Things to Do in Budapest If You Have More Time
If you are staying longer and are wondering what to do in a week or even 5 days in Budapest, here are some of the things we skipped for various reasons.
This is something I was truly longing for. I love the Turkish bath culture and I love pampering myself at a spa. But at the time of our 3-day trip to Budapest, I was 7 months pregnant so not allowed to soak in hot thermal waters.
Budapest has several thermal baths, all either downtown or easy to reach with public transport, so this is definitely something we will do in our next Budapest holiday.
Some of the most popular? Gellert Baths, Széchenyi Baths and Rudas Baths.
Crossing the Chain Bridge
We walked a lot in Budapest and enjoy this bridge from almost every angle, including from the boat, and both Buda and Pest sides. But we didn’t walk across and that’s something I feel I missed. This is a beautiful bridge, so next time, we will sure devote a bit of time to cross it.
Margaret Island Park
I had read about this park and would have loved to enjoy a walk in the green. But with so many things to do and in only three days in Budapest, you need to leave something out.
A lovely break from the traffic, this is a park in the city centre boasting plenty of attractions and things to see such as medieval ruins, dancing fountains, a rose garden, thermal baths and a water tower.
The Shoes on the Danube Memorial
This is also something we didn’t manage to do. Even though we did spend some time along the river, we didn’t see reach the Shoes on the Danube bank.
It’s a memorial to the victims of the Jewish holocaust in Hungary by the hands of the Arrow Cross Party. We would have loved to see it as it’s one poignant tribute to a terrible page of Hungarian history, so guaranteed it’s on the bucket list of our next trip to Budapest.
I love markets, and even though our apartment was pretty close to the Central Market, we didn’t manage to fit it in our busy schedule. We somehow preferred to visit the Hold Street Market that I mentioned above and we loved it. But next time a visit to the Central Market will be one of our first priorities.
READ MORE: Check out our full review of the apartment we rented in Budapest.
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