If you’re looking for a weekend getaway in Europe, Budapest offers incredible architecture, delicious Hungarian cuisine, vibrant street markets and world-class museums. Our guest writer Stefan Pidruczny shares his tips for 3 days in Budapest, with an itinerary of what to see and where to stay.
Friday – Day 1 of our Budapest itinerary
After you arrive and check into your hotel it’s time to head out into the city – here are some ideas of where to stay in Budapest. It’s probably easiest to spend your three days in Budapest on foot, since the city is flat and easy to get around. You can pick up a 3-day metro pass if you’d rather use public transportation or check out the Budapest Card which covers free transport and discounted entry to many of the sites and attractions, giving you even more ideas of what to do in Budapest.
You’re probably hungry by now, especially if you just got off a long plane ride or train journey. In this case, you’re going to want to make your way through the city center into the old Jewish neighborhood (known as District VII by the locals), where you’ll find the most unique restaurants and pubs. While you’re wandering around you’re going to notice quite a few abandoned buildings, which are actually the famous “ruin pubs” in Budapest.
Both locals and tourists come to this neighborhood to grab a bite to eat or something to drink. It’s the lively atmosphere and unique architectural style that draws such a crowd and throughout the week and especially on weekends this district is alive with people.
As for where to start, I would recommend Szimpla Kert which is one of the best ruin bars in Budapest and the first that opened up in this neighborhood. Each room boasts a unique theme and design style and there’s always a variety of different cocktails and mixed drinks available.
Make an effort to pop into any of the small shops or storefronts that seem interesting to you. Many of them will be selling antiques or vintage items that you won’t be able to find anywhere else. Despite the tourist crowds you’ll still be able to find unique shops selling local goods. It isn’t like this in the rest of the city – a feature that makes Szimpla Kert so unique.
If you’re not hungry yet there are amazing cafes throughout the district, so take a quick look inside and if it’s busy then you know you found a great place. Grab a cappuccino or a warm drink and if the weather is nice sit outside on a patio to enjoy the view and watch the world go by. Don’t worry about getting lost in this neighborhood as it’s easy to make your way back to the city centre. Getting lost might be worth it though! Each of the streets here have their own unique charm and hidden gems waiting for you to discover them.
Where to stay for your weekend in Budapest
Kempinski Hotel Corvinus in Budapest
The Kempinski Hotel Corvinus is a great choice for luxury accommodation in the heart of Budapest. Valet parking and chauffeur services make your visit as easy as possible while you relax in the large, comfortable rooms. Food lovers will enjoy the Nobu Restaurant at the hotel – the only one you’ll find in all of Central Europe. Check prices and book here
Boscolo Budapest, Autograph Collection
The Boscolo Budapest, Autograph Collection boasts an incredible architectural style with a picturesque exterior that turns it into a tourist destination all on its own. On the inside you’ll find marble columns, ancient frescoes, and gold crown mouldings that pair well with the chandeliers and marble that you’ll find in your own room. Stop by the Salon Restaurant on the ground level for some upscale Hungarian cuisine. Check prices and book here
Saturday – Day 2 of our Budapest itinerary
Your Budapest long weekend is now starting in earnest and with a full day ahead of you it’s a great time to head to the Buda Castle and the surrounding complex.
Visiting Buda Castle in Budapest
Reaching the castle is simple, you can use public transportation, take an Uber or walk from the city centre to the main entrance of the castle. The exterior of the Buda Castle is impressive and picturesque, with lots of little architectural details that you should keep an eye out for.
One of the main highlights of visiting the castle is the amazing view over Budapest. From the viewing platforms there is a panoramic view of the city centre, which makes for an amazing photo opportunity. On a clear day you can see St Stephen’s Basilica rising above the skyline, as well as other landmarks such as the Market Hall and Hungarian Parliament.
Fisherman’s Bastion in Budapest
Once you’re finished enjoying the view make your way over to the Fisherman’s Bastion, a historic structure right beside the Castle. You can walk along the viewing platforms and find even more photo opportunities with amazing views of the city. During the summer there is outdoor seating at a cafe right on the Fisherman’s Bastion and I recommend grabbing a coffee or a cold drink and enjoying the view down below.
Matthius Church in Budapest
Steps away from the Fisherman’s Bastion is the Matthias Church, one of the most impressive churches in Budapest. During the day it’s possible to enter the church and I recommend doing so if you want to get a good look at the picturesque interior.
By now it should be coming up to lunch time. Down the street, between the Fisherman’s Bastion and the Buda Castle, are a few cafes and small restaurants. Now would be a good time to grab a bite to eat and rest your feet for a short while because there is some more walking in store.
Read More: My Top 10 Places in Budapest
After lunch I recommend heading to one of the museums here at the Buda Castle complex where you’ll find the Budapest History Museum and the Hungarian National Gallery, both of which are top places to visit in Budapest for culture lovers. It’s not a good idea to do both in a single day, since they’re quite big and you could spend a few hours exploring one of these museums on its own.
The Hungarian National Gallery in Budapest
At the Hungarian National Gallery you’ll find a collection of fine Hungarian art as well as international masterpieces. An English guide is available and here are information boards throughout the gallery written in English as well. There are always new exhibitions coming and going at the gallery so you can check the website or ask at the tourist office to see what the current exhibition is.
Visitor information: Hungarian National Gallery website – entrance 1800 HUF (around £5 / €6 / $7 ) The gallery is open 10 am – 6 pm throughout the week, closed on Sundays.
The Budapest History Museum in Budapest
The Budapest History Museum is a great choice for history lovers. It’s here that you’ll learn about the history of Budapest over the past 2000 years and how the city developed.
Visitor information: Budapest History Museum – cost between 1800 – 2000 HUF (from £5 / €6 / $7 ) depending on when you visit, open 10 am – 6 pm, closed on Sundays.
Visiting a Thermal Spa in Budapest
After spending the afternoon at the museum and Budapest Castle complex it’s time to relax! Your weekend in Budapest isn’t complete without a visit to one of the thermal spas of Budapest. One of the best thermal baths in Budapest is the Széchenyi baths although I would actually recommend the Gellért baths which are much closer to the castle.
The Gellért spa is part of a hotel, which when it opened in 1918 was the most impressive bath house in the city. Even today it’s still an amazing place to visit and not as busy as some of the other spas in the city, so it’s also one that locals tend to use.
On the inside you’ll find an enormous spa complex with coloured tiles, Romanesque columns and a glass roof that lets in plenty of natural lighting. There are also four medicinal pools, six general indoor pools and two outdoor pools for you to use.
There are many medicinal and healing benefits of visiting the spas, that it’s no surprise they are so popular with tourists and locals alike. You’ll leave feeling relaxed and rejuvenated – ready for some more exploring.
Don’t forget that you’ll need a bathing suit to visit the spa, so remember to pack one before heading out for the day. Plan to spend a few hours enjoying yourself at the spa and you should sleep well tonight.
Try a Danube River Cruise in Budapest
Depending on the time you might want to consider going on a Danube River Cruise, which usually comes with dinner and provide relaxed city sightseeing in Budapest, since some of the best views of the Hungarian Parliament and riverfront are from these cruises.
There are quite a few different cruise lines to choose from with many of them offering a dinner package. This can be a great way to enjoy a meal while floating along the Danube, admiring the incredible scenery as you float by.
If you’re not interested in a river cruise then head back to the city centre. Wander through the area around your hotel as there are restaurants located throughout downtown Budapest.
Read More: Five great places to eat in Budapest
Where to stay on your Budapest city break
Aria Hotel in Budapest
The Aria Hotel features a blend of modern style and classic comfort. All of the rooms have been inspired by different styles of music making this hotel a great choice if you’re looking for something unique and luxurious. Enjoy a drink from the hotel’s rooftop bar or mingle with other guests at the daily wine and cheese reception. Check prices and book here
Buddha-Bar Hotel Budapest Klotild Palace
Steps away from many of the main attractions in the city, the Buddha-Bar Hotel Budapest Klotild Palace is a luxurious 5-star hotel that offers guests everything they need for a comfortable short-term visit. The rooms feature an Asian Colonial design and guests can enjoy an incredible view of the city from the rooftop lounge. To make your stay even better there is a full service Finnish spa at the hotel with a wide range of treatments available. Check prices and book here
Sunday – Day 3 of our Budapest itinerary
Our Budapest 3 day itinerary continues but today is going to be a much more relaxing experience – especially after yesterday’s adventure. In the morning I recommend making your way to the Great Market Hall, the largest market in the city. There are hundreds of different stalls selling seasonal produce, exotic spices, local meats, souvenirs, trinkets and anything you might want.
The market is deceivingly large so I recommend wandering around and stopping at any of the stalls that seem interesting to you. Don’t hesitate to grab a few slices of Hungarian salami, try some grilled sausages, or pick up some handmade gifts for souvenirs.
On the second floor you’re going to want to visit the Langos stand. This is a Hungarian speciality and judging from the line you’ll be able to tell that it’s bound to be delicious. The market is also a great place to pick up genuine Hungarian paprika, local honey and saffron. You can even find something for lunch here before continuing on with your day.
After exploring the market I recommend hopping on a tram and making your way across the city to Margaret Island. On the island you’ll find one of the most beautiful parks in the city, a great place to escape the crowds of tourists and busy city life.
On the island you’ll find some incredible sculptures and a surprising number of other attractions. There are some medieval ruins, a health resort with its own spa, swimming pools and even a small zoo. In the center of the island is a musical fountain that displays its own water show with music and choreography during the day.
After exploring the island it’s time to make your way back towards the city center to the Hungarian Parliament. Be sure to walk along the Danube River walkway, where you’ll have amazing views of the Buda Castle complex and Fisherman’s Bastion.
Once you reach the Parliament building I’d recommend walking around the entire thing. The building itself is an architectural wonder, with lots of unique style points and plenty of opportunities for great photos. Once you’re finished exploring the exterior you can make your way inside for a Parliament building tour which is a must for history or architecture lovers. The tour costs about 2400 – 6000 HUF (from £7 / €8 / $9 ) and takes approximately one hour with a tour guide.
By now it should be pretty late in the day. If you don’t have to make your way home yet I would recommend continuing your walk along the Danube towards the city centre. The Budapest skyline at night, especially the castle complex, is magical. Everything is lit up with a picturesque yellow glow.
Enjoy Your Weekend in Budapest
Spending three days in Budapest is enough to scratch the surface when it comes to what the city has to offer and you probably won’t want to leave. Hopefully this Budapest itinerary has given you a better idea of some of the best things to see and do in the lovely Hungarian capital.
Where to Stay in Budapest
Four Seasons Gresham Palace in Budapest
With a prime location right on the banks of the Danube River the Four Seasons Gresham Palace is one of the best hotels in the city. Guests are rewarded with amazing views from their rooms while being able to take advantage of the world class hospitality that the Four Seasons chain has to offer. Check prices and book here
Intercontinental Hotel in Budapest
The InterContinental Budapest enjoys an excellent location on the banks of the Danube next to the Chain Bridge land there’s a tram stop right outside the hotel. The elegantly furnished suites and rooms at the InterContinental feature sleek interior design and some offer stunning views of the river and the castle. Read my review of the hotel here | Check prices and book here
About the author: Stefan Pidruczny is a travel blogger and runs StefanRTW.com. His blog is dedicated to helping fellow travelers make the most of their time abroad. When he’s not working away at his laptop you can find him exploring a medieval old town somewhere, hiking through the Swiss Alps, or relaxing by the Adriatic Sea. You can also find Stefan on Instagram and Twitter.
Photo Credits: Photos by Stefan Pidruczny.