How to Spend 3 Days in Budapest- Our Itinerary

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As our train pulled away from Prague, I was excited to spend the next 3 days in Budapest, yet also feeling a little uneasy. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Hungary’s largest city. Would we feel any Soviet influence, lingering from when Hungary was behind the Iron Curtain? Or would Budapest feel similar to the western European countries we were used to? | How to Spend 3 Days in Budapest- Our Itinerary

As we got to know Budapest over the next 3 days, we felt influence from many different countries and periods in history. The Romans, Magyars, Turks, Austrians, and Soviets have all left their mark on Budapest, helping shape it into the city it is today. | Budapest Itinerary- How to Spend 3 Days in Budapest

Outside influences aside, Budapest can be described as one large celebration of Hungarian culture and power. Its iconic buildings, like the Parliament and Buda Castle, reflect Hungarian power, while its many monuments pay tribute to Hungarian culture and history. | Budapest 3 Day Itinerary- How to Spend 3 Days in Budapest

Budapest turned out to be a curious mix of things for us. It was hectic, yet calm at times, a little shabby, but under construction, beautiful, but still rough around the edges.

All in all, Budapest was an interesting, enjoyable city. Even though I felt like we saw a lot during our 3 days in Budapest, I still think we just scratched the surface of what the city has to offer. | 3 Day Budapest Itinerary- Things to Do in Budapest in 3 Days
Matthias Church

How to Spend 3 Days in Budapest- Our Itinerary

What we ended up seeing and doing in Budapest was not as ambitious as I initially planned. Still, the itinerary we ended up creating for ourselves was a nice mix of historic sites and parks, with enough time to just wander around and take it all in!

Here’s a look at what we managed to see and do with 3 days in Budapest.

Note: All links will open in a new window for your convenience. | How to Spend 3 Days in Budapest- Our Itinerary
Matthias Church

Day 1: Explore Castle Hill (Buda Castle) and Relax at the Gellért Baths

For a great introduction to Budapest, start by visiting one of the city’s most well-known landmarks, Castle Hill. | Budapest Itinerary- How to Spend 3 Days in Budapest

The Castle District turned out to be our favourite area of Budapest and we spent our entire first day exploring it. Castle Hill is an incredibly interesting part of town- full of history, beautiful architecture and outstanding viewpoints. | Budapest 3 Day Itinerary- How to Spend 3 Days in Budapest

Castle Hill has so much to see but the highlights are the Royal Palace, Matthias Fountain, Matthias Church and Fisherman’s Bastion. From Fisherman’s Bastion you’ll be able to see sprawling views of the city, making it easy to orient yourself for your second day in the city. | How to Spend 3 Days in Budapest- Our Itinerary | 3 Day Budapest Itinerary- Things to Do in Budapest in 3 Days

Now that you’ve become familiar with Budapest, it’s time to enjoy a favourite pastime of the locals- soaking in the spa! Head to the Gellért Baths to enjoy a relaxing evening lounging in the therapeutic hot waters.

Day 2: Tour the Parliament Building and Visit Margaret Island

First thing in the morning, head over to the Hungarian Parliament building to buy your ticket for the tour (or buy it in advance here). The Parliament building tour is a very popular activity and time slots do fill up fast. | Budapest Itinerary- How to Spend 3 Days in Budapest

As an icon of Budapest, the Hungarian Parliament building is definitely worth seeing. Inside, you’ll see more gold than you could have imagined! A tour will take you into the Session Hall where the government meets, plus you’ll get to see the Crown of St. Stephen being carefully protected by sword-wielding guards.

After your tour, walk along the banks of the Danube to Margaret Island. This is one of Budapest’s loveliest parks and is a nice place to escape the noise and bustle of downtown. | How to Spend 3 Days in Budapest- Our Itinerary

While Margaret Island is mainly a great place for a stroll, there are a few attractions including Sculpture Avenue, medieval ruins, a small zoo, swimming pools, an outdoor waterpark/beach, and a health spa resort. | 3 Day Budapest Itinerary- Things to Do in Budapest in 3 Days

Our favourite attraction in the park was the musical fountain. Five times a day (10:30 am, 5:00 pm, 6:00 pm, 7:30 pm, 9:00 pm) the water sprays and twirls, all stunningly choreographed to music. | How to Spend 3 Days in Budapest- Our Itinerary

End your night with another walk along the Danube to see Budapest’s famous bridges and landmarks beautifully illuminated at night. | Budapest 3 Day Itinerary- How to Spend 3 Days in Budapest | How to Spend 3 Days in Budapest- Our Itinerary
Margaret Bridge | Budapest 3 Day Itinerary- How to Spend 3 Days in Budapest | Budapest Itinerary- How to Spend 3 Days in Budapest

Day 3: Explore Gellért Hill, Andrássy Avenue, Heroes Square and Széchenyi Spa

Start your final day in Budapest with a walk up the historic Gellért Hill. This is another great place to enjoy beautiful views the city, while also learning a bit about Budapest’s past. There are many important monuments on Gellért Hill, most notably the Liberty Monument. | Budapest 3 Day Itinerary- How to Spend 3 Days in Budapest

Next, make your way over to the Pest side of the city. If you’d like, visit St. Stephen’s Basilica before beginning your walk down Andrássy Avenue. | Budapest Itinerary- How to Spend 3 Days in Budapest

Andrássy Avenue is an iconic boulevard dating back to 1872. It is lined with luxury boutiques and old mansions (many which have seen better days). Hungary’s opera house is located along this avenue, as is the House of Terror museum.

The House of Terror is a memorial to the victims of the communist and fascist regimes of the 20th century. We didn’t go inside, but did stop to pay our respects at the memorial outside. | How to Spend 3 Days in Budapest- Our Itinerary | How to Spend 3 Days in Budapest- Our Itinerary
The chains represent the Iron Curtain and the cement slab is a piece of the Berlin Wall.

At the end of Andrássy Avenue you’ll come to Heroes Square. It was created in 1896 to mark the 1,000th anniversary of the Magyar conquest and foundation of the Hungarian state.

Heroes square is dominated by the Millennium Monument. Its centerpiece is a column topped by Archangel Gabriel holding the Hungarian Holy Crown. Behind that are two curved colonnades featuring statues of important people in Hungarian history. | How to Spend 3 Days in Budapest- Our Itinerary

Next, take a walk through City Park (behind Heroes Square) to Széchenyi Spa. After a full day of walking, you’ll appreciate a soak at Budapest’s most famous spa! Admittedly, we didn’t have the best of times here, but it was still nice to have a traditional experience to end our visit to Budapest.

Our Next Trip to Budapest- More Places to See in Budapest

There are a few things we missed out on during our 3 days in Budapest that I would like to see if we visited again.

It was on my list to see the Shoes on the Danube memorial, but for some reason it didn’t happen. This memorial honours the Jews who were ordered to take off their shoes before they were shot at the edge of the river by fascist militiamen during World War II.

In City Park, we missed out on Vajdahunyad Castle, an imitation Transylvanian Castle incorporating 21 architectural styles from across Hungary. Instead we hung out at a little festival that was taking place near Heroes Square.

I’d also like to visit the interior of the Gresham Palace Hotel and St. Stephen’s Basilica (we chose to visit a cat café instead!) | How to Spend 3 Days in Budapest- Our Itinerary
Gresham Palace

Final Thoughts About Our 3 Days in Budapest

Although our 3 day trip to Budapest wasn’t perfect, we still very much enjoyed our time here. I loved admiring the views from Castle Hill and walking along the Danube at night. Budapest’s landmarks are stunning when glittering in gold light!

While I was satisfied with our 3 day Budapest itinerary, I’m glad we left some things to see and do on a future trip to Budapest because it’s definitely worth returning to one of Europe’s most beautiful cities! | How to Spend 3 Days in Budapest- Our Itinerary

Tips for Visiting Budapest

Where to Stay in Budapest: When choosing accommodations there are a few things to consider. The Buda side, where we stayed, is quiet and close to many historic sites like the Castle District and Gellért Hill. However, there’s not a lot of nightlife or restaurants to choose from. Also, this area is not well served by the metro. The Pest side, on the other hand, is far busier with a lot more nightlife, shopping areas and restaurants. There are also many more metro stops, making it easier to get around.

Best Time to Visit Budapest: We are big fans of travelling in shoulder season, so recommend visiting Budapest between March and May and September to November. The weather is pleasant and the city isn’t over-crowded with tourists, like in the summer. We visited in September and thought it was perfect because the daytime temperatures were comfortable and the nights were warm enough for riverside walks.

ATMs: We had a lot of trouble with our debit cards in Budapest. For some reason our cards would not work at most of the ATM machines, even though we didn’t have trouble elsewhere in Europe. Not sure if anyone else will experience this, but it might be worth having a good supply of cash on hand before you arrive, just in case.

Safety: As in most big cities, be aware of pickpockets on crowded public transport, at markets and at train stations, especially Keleti station.

  • Avoid hailing a taxi off the street, or risk being ripped off. We always had our hotel concierge order us a cab from a reliable company. Also, before we arrived in Budapest we arranged for a driver to pick us up from the train station. I was really happy we did this once I saw how sketchy the train station was! | 3 Day Budapest Itinerary- Things to Do in Budapest in 3 Days
Matthias Church

Buy Tickets to Budapest Attractions & Skip the Line

For quick and convenient access to Budapest’s attractions, here are some trusted links where you can buy advance, mobile tickets to the sites mentioned in this post (or click here to shop all Budapest attractions tickets). Digital ticket delivery is instant and you can show your phone at the ticket holders entrance- no need to print your tickets (in most cases).

Gellért Spa (Skip the Line)

Széchenyi Spa (Skip the Line)

Parliament Guided Tour (Skip the Line, printed voucher required)

Tours in Budapest

Here is a reputable site that has a large inventory of tours and tickets for activities in Budapest. You can book everything from sightseeing river cruises, walking tours, bike tours, guided visits, concerts, shows, hop-on hop-off bus passes, day trips out of the city, and airport transfers. There’s a lot of great activities to choose from, but here are a few related to what I’ve mentioned in this post.

Budapest 1 hour Evening Sightseeing Cruise

Budapest City Sightseeing Tour

Accommodations in Budapest

For your convenience, here is a list of hotels in Budapest. Please consider booking your Budapest accommodations through the included link. It costs nothing extra and helps support this website. Thank you! | Budapest Itinerary- How to Spend 3 Days in Budapest
Chain Bridge- The first to link Buda and Pest.

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  • travelFREAKImpressive architecture! Your photos are fantastic! Are three days enough to explore every corner of this beautiful city or only for the main attractions?March 18, 2015 – 6:35 amReplyCancel

    • Rhonda KrauseThank you! Three days was good for just the main attractions. I think 4-5 days would be perfect to really see all that Budapest has to offer.March 18, 2015 – 8:30 amReplyCancel

  • LRRTruly amazing photos. Should be at least a week to discover the impressive Budapest.March 18, 2015 – 7:56 pmReplyCancel

  • BeckyI love your photos, they’re amazing! We went to Budapest last year and did most of the same things as you (The fisherman’s bastion was my favourite building and the cat cafe was so fun!), we didn’t get to see Margaret Island though – that fountain looks beautiful, maybe next time.March 19, 2015 – 9:40 amReplyCancel

  • Elaine J. MastersSo appreciate the work it took to get these images and that you mentioned the truth that the city is under construction and not always easy to navigate. I’d still visit in a heartbeat.March 20, 2015 – 2:31 pmReplyCancel

  • Tangerine Reyes TrubianoI loved our stay in Budapest. Awesome shots! :) March 21, 2015 – 11:12 amReplyCancel

  • Mike OrobonaI have a mostly Hungarian heritage, so Budapest is at the very top of places I want to visit. I want to see the crown of St. Stephen and sut szalonna. Thanks for boiling down a nice itinerary.March 21, 2015 – 12:59 pmReplyCancel

  • NitaBudapest looks beautiful! Haven’t been there but visited Czech a few years back. The architecture in that region is stunning, isn’t it? Lovely pictures :)March 23, 2015 – 10:20 amReplyCancel

  • MonicaThank you for sharing! I am traveling to Budapest myself in a few weeks and am so excited to see everything you shared. I did have a question about how you arranged for a car to pick you up at Keleti Station. Did you order a cab or was it with a separate driving company?June 5, 2015 – 1:59 pmReplyCancel

    • Rhonda KrauseWe hired a private driver. The guy we used was highly recommended in a blog post my husband came across when doing research for our trip. Unfortunately, I lost his card during our travels, so I can’t pass along his name. Sorry :(June 10, 2015 – 11:34 pmReplyCancel

  • Maaike - Travellous WorldThanks for all the tips! I’m about to head to Budapest for two days, and I love to be inspired!July 6, 2015 – 11:54 amReplyCancel

  • Beng Honghi, great photos! May I ask where is the location of the spot you took for the 1st photo in this article? thanks!November 23, 2015 – 4:40 pmReplyCancel

  • Helen HendricksenWe’ve had trouble with ATMs here too, but the ones that are inside of the bank buildings seem to work ok. Great post! Thanks for all the helpful info!December 8, 2015 – 6:37 amReplyCancel

  • The TraveloidGreat post, wish I had actually gone inside the parliament building when I was there! I’d also recommend visiting some of the ruin pubs, especially Fogashaz and Szimpla Kert, which are unlike any other pubs elsewhere! They’re great during the day to chill or for a few drinks at night.March 30, 2016 – 5:56 amReplyCancel

  • Elisabeth CraverInsightful article indeed. I’m coming to Budapest on business soon and will have only one a couple of days to explore the city. My question would be, what is the best way to get into the city from the airport? April 5, 2016 – 7:59 amReplyCancel

  • Ankita MihariaBeautiful pictures. Love your post. I am planning to visit Budapest in September. Is the weather good during that time? Are 2 days enough or do I need 3 days?

    June 5, 2016 – 10:26 pmReplyCancel

  • VictoriaWow, great photos! And, yeah, Budapest never seems to have any of that old communist feel… it’s just a beautiful place. Glad you made it to the other side of the river… you’d be surprised how many people never do. :)May 14, 2017 – 3:45 amReplyCancel

  • FarenexusBudapest is really beautiful city to visit. Really nice itinerary.October 18, 2018 – 1:33 amReplyCancel

  • SoutoThis is incredible and amazingly inspiring. I am commited to make this real for me in about a year and a half. May 22, 2019 – 7:37 amReplyCancel

  • TammiYou guys are great!  Thanks so much for all the details and pro/con review of your trip.February 27, 2020 – 2:25 pmReplyCancel


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