From the Romans and Turks to the Austro-Hungarians and Soviets, Budapest’s mosaic of influences makes it a fascinating place to visit. Situated along the banks of the Danube, the capital of Hungary actually consists of two medieval cities, Buda and Pest, which in 1873 merged into one city – Budapest.
Both sides are definitely worth visiting! With a lot of amazing sights to see, it can be tough to take it all in just 3 days, but we have put together this perfect itinerary for 3 days in Budapest.
One of the most beautiful cities in all of Europe, Budapest has an amazing range of incredible things to see and do – so what are you waiting for?! If you’re pressed for time and only have three days in Budapest to see everything, here are some great ways for you to spend your time in this welcoming city.
Make sure to read our where to stay in Budapest guide to make sure you pick the best neighborhood for you.
*When looking for the best price and biggest selection of hotels in Budapest, check prices on Booking.com. We’ve found they are the best option and have a great cancelation policy.
Best overall hotel in Budapest – Kempinski Hotel Corvinus Budapest
We stayed at the Kempinski hotel and love it for so many reasons, but one of the best is there is a Christmas Market right out your door. From our room, we could see down onto it. It’s also one of the best locations to stay in.
The Perfect Budapest 3 day Itinerary
We have put together our favorite stops in a 3-day city guide to Budapest for your next visit. In three days or a long weekend, you can see just about all of the city’s highlights if you don’t mind a busy itinerary.
We broke it down day by day in a logical guide for a fun 3 days in Budapest. The first day you’ll spend on the Buda side, and then the next two days exploring different neighborhoods on the Pest side of the Danube River.
Day 1 – Explore The Buda Side of Budapest
A perfect way to start your trip is to set off and explore the Buda side of the city. Perched atop Castle Hill overlooking the Danube River is the domineering Buda Castle. Formerly a Royal Palace that was home to Hungarian kings and queens of times gone by, the Castle is now one of the main attractions in Budapest. Make sure to take a tour of the Castle and learn all about its fascinating history.
Constructed in 1265, it’s fair to say that the beautiful Baroque building has certainly survived through some interesting times! If you are a morning person, try your best to make it here for sunrise. The views of the city are simply spectacular and will definitely make the early morning wake-up worth it! Gazing out over the sprawling city will help you to gather your bearings for the days to come, and you can’t fail to spot the breathtaking Parliament Building by the river. More on that later, though!
The Budapest History Museum and the Hungarian National Gallery are also part of the Buda Castle complex. While the former will enlighten you about Budapest’s 2000 years of history, the national gallery will be of particular interest to art lovers.
With a multitude of amazing artworks on display ranging from Gothic altarpieces to paintings by Hungarian realists, the museum takes you on a lovely journey through the nation’s art history. The amazing combination of stunning architecture, beautiful art, and the millennia of history enclosed within its walls is, in part, what makes the Buda Castle complex so great to visit.
- Budapest History Museum Entrance Fee: 2,000 Hungarian Forint ($8 USD)
- Budapest National Gallery Entrance Fee: 1,800 Hungarian Forint ($7 USD)
As part of the Buda Castle tour, you will have passed by the Fisherman’s Bastion. You will want to return, however, after having explored the castle. The beautiful bastion has a lovely terrace from which you can drink in the awe-inspiring panoramas of Budapest below you. And speaking of drinks, time for a coffee!
Relax on the terrace surrounded by the neo-Romanesque spires of the building. With one of the best views in the city stretching before you, now might also be a good time to have some brunch. Although it’s a bit more expensive than most places you’ll find in Budapest, you’re unlikely to find a restaurant with a better view than the one at the Fisherman’s Bastion.
Suitably refreshed, relaxed, and ready to continue? Ok, let’s go! The Fisherman’s Bastion is just a stone’s throw away from the delightful Matthias Church, which dates all the way back to the 14th Century.
Gothic in appearance, the original church that was on the site was actually destroyed by the Mongols in 1241. The ornately carved pulpit and beautiful exterior make Matthias Church a must-see on the Buda side of the city.
- Fisherman’s Bastion Entrance Fee: 800 Hungarian Forint ($3 USD)
- Matthias Church Entrance Fee: 1,500 Hungarian Forint ($6 USD)
Now that you’ve scaled the heights of what Buda has to offer, how about delving deep down below the city’s streets? Well, ok, not that deep. Beneath Buda Castle is actually a couple of caves known as the ‘Castle Labyrinth’ and, like everything in Buda, it is just a short walk away from the other sights in Budapest.
This consists of two natural caves that are beautifully lined with stalactites and stalagmites. The crystal and rock formations are marvelous to explore, and as the caves stretch up to seven kilometers – there’s quite a lot to see. Wandering around in the dark with only a lantern to guide you definitely makes for a fun visit.
- Castle Labyrinth Entrance Fee: 2,500 Hungarian Forint ($ 10 USD)
After a day filled with exploring and excitement, it’s time to think about food, and if you haven’t tried Hungarian cooking before then, you’re in for a treat. For dinner, a great place to head to in Buda is Kacsa Restaurant.
It’s a short walk along the river from the caves, and with night falling, the lights on the water look spectacular. With pickles, goulash, paprika-flavored dishes, and more. Kacsa is the perfect introduction to Hungarian cuisine, and with live gypsy music to entertain you – you’re set for the evening!
Once you step out, you’re just a minute away from one of the most beautiful sights in the city: the Parliament Building lit up at night. The night view of the river is mesmerizing as lights shimmer and dance on the water flowing by.
A short walk away is Chain Bridge which itself is beautifully illuminated. A symbol of national awakening and a link between East and West, a nighttime walk on the bridge is a must and is a great way to end your first day. Tantalizingly close, the lovely Parliament building will have to wait until tomorrow.
- Budapest Dinner Cruise on the Danube $43 – Click here to Book on Viator
- Kempinski Hotel Corvinus Budapest | Check Prices Online
Don’t forget your insurance! You never know when you’ll need it. We suggest getting travel insurance with Safety Wing. Which coverage includes medical, trip interruption, lost luggage, and more. Often rates are as low as $12 a week.
Day 2 – The Upper Pest Side
In the morning, head back to the Danube to start your day in a great way with a tour of the Hungarian Parliament Building, which is absolutely GIGANTIC! The largest building in all of Hungary, you’re sure to be impressed with the sheer scale and size of the parliament. It has beautiful facades and lovely neo-Gothic architecture, which, coupled with the great location next to the Danube, makes it the perfect spot for some photos.
Remarkably, the interior has two massive parliament halls which are identical; one for the actual governing of the country and the other just for guided tours. Once you’ve finished the tour, stick around for the changing of the guard to catch a glimpse of some of Hungary’s traditions.
There are tours in English, Spanish, French, Italian, German, Hungarian, Russian, and Hebrew.
Directly in front of the parliament, you can’t miss what appears to be a number of shoes left by the side of the river. This is the ‘Shoes on the Danube Bank’ memorial, which commemorates the victims murdered by the Arrow Cross militiamen during the Second World War.
3,500 victims were instructed to take off their shoes before they were shot and disposed of in the Danube River. It is a somber and heartfelt reminder of some of the hardships that Budapest’s citizens have suffered over the ages.
A short walk inland from the Parliament and memorial is St. Stephen’s Basilica. The Roman Catholic basilica is the most important church in the whole of Hungary and definitely warrants a visit. The Neo-Classical building is home to a number of massive bells that toll out regularly.
Make sure to climb all the way to the top because the observation deck has an epic view over the rooftops of Budapest. While there is an elevator available, the beautiful spiral staircase makes for a spectacular climb, although there are a daunting 365 steps – one for each day of the year.
- St. Stephen’s Basilica Entrance Fee: Free to enter the church, but donations are welcome
- Top of St. Stephen’s Basilica Entrance Fee: HUF 400 to access using the stairs of HUF 600 by taking the elevator
If you are visiting in December, make sure to stop by, as one of the best Budapest Christmas markets is in front of St. Stephen’s Basilica.
Right next to the basilica is a great place to stop for a snack: Gelarto Rosa. If ice cream is your thing, then you’ll definitely want to try a bunch of the flavors that they have to offer. While the different flavors are scrumptious, it’s actually the appearance of Gelarto Rosa’s gelatos that makes them so good to try: they come in the shape of a rose!
With ice cream in hand, make your way to the House of Terror. An 8-minute walk from the church, this museum used to be the headquarters of the terrifying Arrow Cross Party that used to rule Hungary at the end of the Second World War. The building was home to a number of atrocities that were committed both by the Nazi party and the Communist regime that followed it. A memorial to the victims, you need to visit the House of Terror to gain a better understanding of Hungary’s 20th Century history.
- Hour of Terror Entrance Fee: 2,000 Hungarian Forint ($ 10 USD)
The next stop on our 3 days in Budapest itinerary is a walk to Heroe’s Square, or you can take the metro for a few stops across the city. To walk it is only around 20 minutes on foot and you’ll get to see all the nice buildings along the way.
Once there, Heroes’ Square is a pretty cool monument with statues of several famous Hungarian national leaders, including the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars.
- Heroe’s Square Entrance Fee: Free
In the same park as the monument is Széchenyi Thermal Bath – a place you just have to visit when in Budapest! The largest medicinal baths in Europe, the soothing warm waters of this huge spa complex are sure to relax your body. With 21 pools and a whole host of saunas and steam rooms, the thermal baths are a great place to unwind.
The buildings around the pools are simply stunning, and if you want to sample some of Budapest’s unique nightlife, every Saturday night, it stays open for a pool party! Go early in the morning for a quiet, peaceful time. We suggest planning on spending a few hours here and getting a massage if you have time.
- Széchenyi Thermal Bath Entrance Fee: 5,400+ Hungarian Forint ($21USD)
There are several baths in Budapest to check out, but if you only have time for one, head to Széchenyi. For our top 7 favorite thermal baths in Budapest, click here.
If you just can’t get enough of the beautiful view of the Danube lit up at night, head to the Spoon restaurant, which is located on an anchored boat on the Pest side. Although it’s a bit of a walk from the museum, the stunning views of Buda Castle and Chain Bridge definitely make up for it. With typical Hungarian cuisine to savor, the foods not bad too!
Related Article: Best Places To Stay in Budapest
Budapest Day 3 – Lower Pest and The Jewish Quarter
Whether you’re a shopaholic or not, Great Market Hall is a delightful place to visit. With three levels of shops selling all sorts of wares, from Hungarian foods to souvenirs. Here, you can find fresh market produce, crafts, and more. Make sure to read our complete Great Market Hall guide before visiting.
A beautiful building with a lively atmosphere, it’s always fun wandering around the bustling market. We suggest joining this Budapest food walking tour. It includes the Central Market and 4 hours of some of the best food in the city.
Before continuing your adventure, a great place to stop for lunch is the breathtakingly beautiful New York Cafe which is a 15-minute walk from the market. The grand surroundings and opulent decorations make for a fine dining experience!
Just a short walk from the cafe is the Jewish Quarter of Budapest. With numerous monuments and quirky cafes to discover, the narrow streets make for delightful exploring. Nowadays, the bustling streets hide a rich (and tragic) history, so take a tour to learn more about the past of the Jewish community.
Related Article: Traditional Hungarian Foods To Try in Budapest
Bordering the Budapest Ghetto is Dohany Street Synagogue, which is the largest synagogue in Europe. The beautiful building’s architectural style is based on Islamic designs from Southern Spain and North Africa. Be sure to visit the Jewish Museum and Jewish Cemetery, which are right next to it, for a deeper insight into the community.
After a day spent exploring all that the area has to offer, head to Gozsdu Courtyard in the heart of the Jewish Quarter. It is a bustling and lively complex of six interconnected courtyards dispersed amongst the buildings.
There’s always something going on here, and it’s an awesome place to stop for dinner and take in the ambiance. With cafes, bars, clubs, art exhibitions, and concerts all in the vicinity, grab a drink after dinner and take in the sights and sounds of the courtyard’s busy life.
Before leaving this wonderful city, there’s just one more thing you need to do. You simply can’t visit Budapest without having had a drink at a Budapest Ruin Bar! These amazing bars are great fun to visit at any time of the day though they really come alive at night.
The city’s (and maybe the world’s) first ruin bar is Szimpla Kert. Its distinctive and unique artistic style is like no other. These are bars located in dilapidated buildings with weird old furniture and quirky decorations – plus good drinks.
With a shot of the delicious fruity Palinka in hand, it’s time to toast the city until the next time you return. Surrounded by the amazing ambiance, Szimpla Kert is the perfect place to celebrate a trip to Budapest!
Once you visit, you’ll realize how much there is to see in the city and that 3 days in Budapest is a good amount of time to see the highlights, but you could easily spend a week or more.
If you have more time in your Budapest itinerary, consider adding a few more days and filling them with some of these top Budapest attractions! Enjoy Budapest and safe travels!
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Monday 1st of July 2019
Thank you for taking the time to post this information. I am Hungarian by heritage, and have been trying to locate distant relatives using Ansestry.com. Found a lot of dead ones but none living. We'll be there from August 30 - September 3. I think on the first day, we'll either take the BIG BUS and get a feel for the city, or take a walking tour. The rest of the days we'll take your suggestions from Jewish Quarter to Grand Hall. Once again thank you. Rev. Alan Bosmeny
Saturday 12th of January 2019
Hello! My parents and I will be visiting Central Europe in April, and Budapest will be our first stop. We have three full days there to explore the city, but unfortunately, our first full day is a Monday when many attractions are closed. Any suggestions on how to fill our days? Thanks!
Saturday 12th of January 2019
I would spend your first day exploring some of the Budapest Baths plus that would help with jet-lag too. Take the day easy and get over jet-lag so you can explore the next day.
Saturday 10th of November 2018
Wife and I are starting a Viking Danube cruise in Budapest November 25. Planned to fly in early, November 23, to get over jet lag and see the city. Confused about preferred meand of trandpottation: public transit pass vs. Budapest Catd vs. Hop On Hop Off. Any suggestions?
Wednesday 14th of November 2018
That is one of our favorite Viking River Cruises! We opted for public transport and Uber in Budapest, but last year when we were there Uber was banned and it still is. The Hop On Hop Off buses is sometimes good too as they bring you to all the best things to do in Budapest. Depending on the price and if you aren't tight on time we would maybe opt for this but also check out the subway when you are in a rush it's super easy and cheap in Budapest. Where are you staying in Budapest?
Tuesday 2nd of October 2018
Nice post! :) Just a note, in 1873 they merged actually three cities: Buda, Pest and Óbuda. Buda is the hilly side, Pest is the flat and Obuda is in the north: so calling some part of Budapest lower Pest and upper Pest I find a bit confusing, especially because lower Budapest is usually Budateteny or Pesterzsebet (Budapesters call Budapest `Pest` as a short version except if they are from Buda, and they are super proud of that) Hope you had a great time! I`m glad you enjoyed my city, I love it and do miss it a lot <3
Thursday 6th of September 2018
How long would you plan on visiting the House of Terror? Any suggestions for a river cruise at night to see the city from the river?
Monday 10th of September 2018
I would say you would need around 2 hours for the house of Terror depending on how deep you want to get. You could do it a bit quicker, but I would say most need about 2 hours. There are many companies that run night river cruises in the city, but we recommend this one - Budapest Dinner Cruise on the Danube $43 - http://shrsl.com/vldl