Budapest is one of my favourite cities for a weekend getaway. Full of history, bursting with energy and incredible architecture straddling either side of the Danube; visiting Budapest is a must on any European adventure. It’s super affordable making it a great place for anyone travelling on a budget with plenty to see, do, and eat!
Fun fact: Buda sits on the western side of the river whilst Pest sits on the east, connected by the iconic Chain Bridge. Each side has its own distinct charm. Buda is rich in culture and thanks to its hilly nature, provides beautiful views across the city. Pest, though a bit more gritty, is energetic, filled with ruin bars, shops and restaurants.
How many days in Budapest?
Though you could probably see a good amount of the city in two days, my top recommendation would be to spend at least three full days here. This gives you a perfect amount of time to see the city since it allows you time to explore at a leisurely pace whilst still seeing the best of Budapest.
Getting around Budapest
Budapest is a great city to explore on foot. You can spend the day strolling around, ticking off sights and having the chance to really soak all of your surroundings in.
That being said, public transport here is fantastic since you have the option of their metro, buses and trams. The best option is to purchase a 72-hour ticket which includes unlimited travel for around 5,500 HUF (approx £13). You don’t need to validate the ticket, just show it to inspectors when required.
If you’re travelling in a group, Bolt is a great cab option. They’re fairly low-cost – we took a 10-minute cab trip for around £5.
Where to stay in Budapest?
I highly recommend staying on the Pest side of the river. There is so much to see and do here that you’ll never be too far from the action. District VII (or the Jewish Quarter) is my top recommendation, as you will be close to plenty of restaurants, ruin bars and sights.
Budapest 3-day Itinerary
- Fisherman’s Bastion
- Matthias Church
- Buda Castle
- Széchenyi Chain Bridge
- St. Stephen’s Basilica
- Try Hungarian Cuisine at Hungarikum Bistro
After breakfast, start your day on Castle Hill in Buda, exploring the iconic Fisherman’s Bastion and taking in the sweeping views of Pest and the Danube River below you. Originally built to form the walls of the castle, it was named after the fishermen who lived below and protected the walls. Nowadays, this monument has become well-snapped thanks to its dramatic spires and lookout towers offering panoramic views.
Neighbouring Fisherman’s Bastion is Matthias Church, a beautiful and historically significant church. The striking Gothic design was home to royal weddings and coronation ceremonies. Interiors remain incredibly grand with colourful hues pouring through the stained glass windows. Entry is HUF 1,800 (£4.20).
Keep strolling and you’ll find Buda Castle. This UNESCO World Heritage site can be spotted across Budapest thanks to its location on top of Castle Hill. Home to the National Széchényi Library, Hungarian National Gallery, and the Budapest History Museum, you’ll find your morning filled with things to do and see.
You will have worked up an appetite exploring all morning. Make your descent down the hill and enjoy a meal at Lánchíd Söröző for some traditional Hungarian cuisine. This makes the perfect pit stop before you cross the Széchenyi Chain Bridge – this was the first major bridge built that connected Buda and Pest. It takes around 15 minutes to walk across and offers some wonderful views. You can choose to take public transport but I really enjoyed the walk.
Once you reach Pest, carry on walking until you reach St. Stephen’s Basilica. This is Budapest’s largest church and is sure to take your breath away. Entry is free but if you’re looking for more city-wide views, you can climb the observation deck of the dome for HUF 500 (£1.20).
End your day by dining at a local and authentic restaurant called Hungarikum Bisztro. We tried the goulash (a more refined and soupy version), the hortobagyi (a meat-filled crepe topped with paprika sauce), pork stuffed cabbage rolls, and the duck leg. The staff here were so incredibly friendly and they had the sweetest man playing live music. It was such a heartwarming meal. They gave us some local liquor called pálinka to try at the end – which sounds lovely but that drink was pure evil. It felt like being punched in the throat.
To end your day with a sweet treat, make sure to try some local strudel or a chimney cake. There are bakeries and stores dotted around the city.
- Brunch at Vinyl & Wood
- Széchenyi Thermal Baths
- Fürdő Előtti Park
- Vajdahunyad Castle
- Heroes Square
- Dine at Mazel Tov
- Hungarian Parliament Building (great by night and easily spotted on a sunset cruise)
- Shoes on the Danube Bank
- Danube Sunset Cruise
- Stroll Through Gozsdu Udvar – this is a fun alleyway lined with bars!
- Explore Ruin Bars – Szimpla Kert is a great place to start!
Day two is a little bit more chilled. Start your day with brunch at Vinyl & Wood. It’s small and cosy but if you manage to grab a seat outside, you can lap up your food in the sunshine. Recommended dishes include the goat cheese toast, eggs benedict and pancakes. Portions are big which should last you for a while. Since we had a big day of sightseeing and exploring yesterday, unwind in one of the iconic thermal baths. I highly recommend Széchenyi Thermal Baths, (though Gellért or Dagály Baths are also popular), as the building is beautiful and you can explore the Fürdő Előtti Park afterwards. Don’t be alarmed, it looks a bit strange when you first enter. Just make your way past all the indoor pools until you’re outside – where you’ll find three pools each of different temperatures. You can also enjoy drinks and ice cream at the bar.
Book your Széchenyi Thermal Spa tickets here.
After a morning spent decompressing in the heated pools, stroll through Fürdő Előtti Park and explore the Vajdahunyad Castle. Marvel at its spectacular architecture and venture further inside if you’re interested in visiting the Hungarian Agricultural Museum. Just a short walk away, you can also find Heroes Square, one of the major squares in Budapest where the Millenium Monument stands.
Enjoy a late lunch at Mazel Tov, a popular middle-eastern restaurant with gorgeous garden-like decor. Dine on shawarma and hummus whilst sipping on a refreshing drink.
Next up, you can either choose to take public transport to the Hungarian Parliament Building or take a leisurely stroll towards it, passing the Opera House on the way. From here, follow the east bank of the river where you can find the Shoes on the Danube. The bronze shoes were crafted as a haunting, yet moving tribute to the 3,500 Jews executed during WWII.
Continue walking down towards the docking point, where you will catch your ride for a perfect river cruise down the Danube. If you book on Viator, you can guarantee the timing you want – make sure to double-check sunset times and book one where the sun sets during your cruise. This way, you’ll see the city light up, with the Hungarian Parliament Building and Buda Castle looking particularly magical. We had a free drink on arrival too!
Finally, you might be craving the action of the ruin bars! My recommendation is to walk towards Gozsdu Udvar en route. This is a fun alleyway lined with plenty of bars and even a little arcade where you can have some fun and get a bite to eat. From here you can head to the ruin bars – a great first stop is Szimpla Kert, one of the most famous. It’s quaint by day but comes to life at night – it’s a labyrinth of rooms each with its own unique decor. It’s pretty cool to walk through – there was a room with live music and people relaxing on pillows on the floor, an open-air bar where people were enjoying a drink and casual conversation and a room where a DJ was blasting music and people were dancing. You can find something to suit you.
- Central Market Hall
- Try Langos (I recommend the place in Central Market Hall!)
- Dohány Street Synagogue
- Eat At Karavan Street Food
- HOPAHOLIC Craft Beer Bar Budapest
On your final day, head towards the Central Market Hall – the biggest and oldest market hall in Budapest. It’s a great place to explore and sample local Hungarian delicacies and shop for crafts and souvenirs. An absolute must is to try the lángos (classic Hungarian fried bread) on the upper level. It’s completely customisable (they even do sweet versions) but to start, definitely try a classic of sour cream, cheese and garlic. Yum!
Next up, Dohány Street Synagogue – Europe’s largest synagogue. It’s incredibly grand from the outside, so head in to soak up the Jewish culture and history here. I recommend getting your tickets in advance and skipping the queue.
End your day by eating and drinking! I enjoyed Karavan Street Food, where you can easily sample a bunch of local dishes. I went for more goulash from Goulash Station, which was served in a bread bowl – one of my favourites I tried. You can also try langos burgers. Now that your stomach is lined, head to HOPAHOLIC bar to enjoy some craft beer tasting. If you enjoy craft beer, it’s a great way to sample some local flavours and it’s good fun!
Getting to Budapest
Budapest is a great city break from the UK with a flight time of just 2 and a half hours. I always use SkyScanner to search for flights and I was lucky enough to find return tickets for just £16!!! This was bang in the middle of summer too. Incredible bargain. For a trip this short, I don’t tend to purchase seat selection (me and my friend can cope without each other for a few hours) or any luggage/carry-on bags, which helps keep the price down.
From Budapest Airport, you can choose to hop on the 103 bus, which makes multiple stops throughout the city centre. This costs around 1,800 HUF (£4.20) one way. Or if there are a few of you, split a cab using Bolt, which costs around £18 one way.
Budapest is incredibly well-connected. You can reach it from other major European cities like Vienna, Krakow, and Zagreb easily. Use RailEurope or Interrail to book your tickets.
If you’re arriving by bus, book tickets using Flixbus.
Is Budapest expensive?
Not at all. Accommodation is extremely affordable with hostel options starting from around £12 pppn and apartments from £60 per night. It’s such a walkable city with plenty of activities to enjoy for free or at a low cost. Local snacks like langos cost around £1.80 whilst a meal in a restaurant is around £11 on average. Beer costs as little as £2.80 for a pint. For three days, I spent a total of £180 ALL IN!
Best time to visit Budapest?
I have visited in both the summer and winter months and both seasons were amazing. However, June-August gets extremely hot and can make it a bit uncomfortable to stroll the city at your own pace. Shoulder season can be a great way to combat this and if you’re willing to brave the colder temps, winter is beautiful!
Summer can get extremely hot and thanks to the summer holidays it does get busier. I would recommend going just outside of these months to make the most of the warmer temperatures so you can enjoy strolling at your own pace and take in the river cruises without a harsh chill. I really loved visiting this city in the warmer temperatures!
Winter months (November to January) are great as the Christmas markets begin to open and this makes the city feel truly magical! If you visit during the winter, I highly recommend timing it with the markets and making the most of the wide range of incredible authentic cuisine on offer. Be warned, it does get cold and make sure to double-check which attractions are open during the winter.