An Epic 3 Days In Budapest – Complete Itinerary
Congratulations you have arrived in the Hungarian capital. This city can simultaneously feel enormous and small and even after two years here the sheer amount of things to do in Budapest remains overwhelming. Luckily, I am here to help you along with an hour-by-hour itinerary, custom-tailored to help you squeeze as much fun from 3 days in Budapest. I highly encourage spontaneity though, so don’t feel like you have to take this advice word for word. Rather, use it as a basis for your exploration. Each to their own and away we go.
This itinerary is perfect if your planning 3 days in Budapest, however, if you’re interested in seeing more local spots, then be sure to download the Like Locals App, available for free on both iOS and Android devices.
Day 1: Awesome Architecture, Magic Murals, Lukács Bath and a Bar Crawl
10AM- 11AM | Breakfast at Két Szerecsen
You’ll start things off at Két Szerecsen, which is hands down one of my favourite breakfast spots in Budapest. To try a taste of Hungary right off the bat, go for the ‘peasant’s breakfast’, aka boiled eggs, Mangalica sausage and freshly sliced paprika with crispy bread. The French breakfast is a meat-free alternative and includes a buttery toasted croissant and some lovely jams. For something heartier try the English fry-up. There are plenty more choices and anything is a delight when dining on Két’s bright and breezy patio along tree-lined Nagymező utca.
Location: Nagymező utca | Opening Hours: Mon-Fri: 8AM-12AM, Sat-Sun: 9AM-12AM
11AM – 1PM | St. István’s Basilica and the Dohany Synagogue
Following breakfast, stroll down the remainder of Nagymező utca out onto the leafy luxury of Andrassy út, our so-called Champs–Élysées of Budapest. At the Opera metro station submerge beneath the ground and take a ride on the M1 to Bajcsy-Zilinsky út station. This is just 1 stop away and you could easily walk the distance, but the M1 is the oldest tram line in all of Continental Europe and is a totally aesthetic piece of living history worth experiencing.
Now you’ll arise from the bowels of the earth and drink in the monumental contrasts of religious Hungarian architecture. First up is Szent István’s: a neo-classical Roman Catholic Basilica that is arguably the most famous building in all of Budapest. It’s more than worth the paltry 600 forint fee to climb to the top of the basilica for a breathtaking view of the city.
Next, walk 5-minutes down Károly krt towards the Great Dohány utca Synagogue. This is the crème de la crème of Jewish architecture in Budapest; a neo-Moorish marvel that is unlike anything else in Europe. Although a bit on the pricey side at 5,000 forints, the guided tour is excellent. This tour will also grant you access to the Holocaust memorial garden and the Jewish museum.
1PM – 2PM | Mural Hunting in the 7th District
The Dohány Synagogue is right on the cusp of the 7th district, leaving you well-positioned to explore the cobbled streets of what used to be the Jewish ghetto. A wander through this area will contextualize much of the history gleaned on your tour and there is some downright brilliant street art amongst these mazy streets. I’ve created two in-depth, comprehensive guides to weave you through both the big murals and the hidden gems.
2PM – 2:30PM | Soup and Sandwich at Bors GasztroBár
You’ll probably be in the mood for a bit of a refuel at this point so head down famous Kazinczy utca for a grab-and-go sandwich/soup combo at Bors: a Budapest institution. My go-to sandy is the French Lady, a terrific sweet and savoury baguette. The Bors wizards rotate hot/cold liquid offerings each day and they are all packed with phenomenal flavour. There will be a bit of a line out the door unless you get lucky, but it moves quickly and is so worth the wait. One of the best value spots in town at just a hair under 2,000 forints for the soup/baguette combo.
Location: Kazinczy utca | Opening Hours: Mon-Sun: 11:30AM-9PM
2:30PM – 4PM | Wander around the Margit Island
Take your sandwich on the road with you to save some time – let’s be real you drained your soup already – and head on over to a paradise park in the middle of the Danube: Margit Sziget aka Margaret Island. To get here hop on the 4/6 tram line to the fittingly named Margaret Bridge. There’s a stop in the middle of the bridge which will funnel you down to the island.
This island perfectly mirrors Budapest in some respects. Groves of ancient trees, scattered collections of ruined holy places, and the way the light hits on the cusp of late afternoon. Margaret Island has so much to see and do: it has its own thermal park, a marvellous amphitheatre, stretches of perfect green space in every direction. A Japanese zen garden, musical fountains pumping colourful jets, a god damn petting zoo.
Margaret Island is where the people are. You can spend a whole day wandering around the park making new friends, with but a lick of courage. Or enjoy the solemnity of blissful solitude. There’s no right way to do Margaret Island, and there’s definitely no wrong way. So get on down to Margaret Island and do it your own way.
4PM – 6PM | Soak at Lukács bath
Head back onto the Margaret bridge and walk over to the Buda side. It’s time to luxuriate at Lukács, one of the best thermal baths in Budapest. In the City, you’ve got the expensive bathhouses: Rudas, Gellért and Széchenyi and the cheap bathhouses: Király and Dandár. While they are all great in their own way, Lukacs is just right. It’s the goldilocks bathhouse. Not too expensive, not too cheap, not too big and not too small. Not too touristic and not too local. Lukács is what it is and what it is, is brilliant. 2 hours here will sort you right out and leave you primed for a night on the town.
7PM – 8PM | Farm to Table Fare at Fricska Gasztropub
I’ve never left the bath without feeling absolutely famished. Something about the hot water just drains you, in a good way of course. I can almost guarantee it will be time to fill up again. So I’m sending you to Fricska Gasztropub for farm-to-table veggies and superb, succulent meats. It’s a little bit Italian, a little bit French, a little bit Hungarian and everything good. They also supply some of the best Hungarian wines in Budapest with a cellar hand-selected by the sommelier and co-owner Csaba. Just like the cuisine, the wines all come from small, local producers.
Location: Dob utca | Opening Hours: Tue-Sun: 12PM -2:30PM, 7PM – 10PM, Fri-Sat: 12PM -2:30PM, 7PM – 10.30PM.
8PM – Lights Out | Bar Crawl around Budapest’s Jewish Quarter
After dinner, you’ll notice a parade of pedestrians marching down the streets out to hit Budapest’s seemingly infinite watering holes There are a few spots that I really like and want to send you towards. First, off you can head to Dzzs and Kisüzem on Nagy Diófa utca, before hitting Fekete Kutya on Dob utca, a treasured local bar with phenomenal tapas (if you are somehow still hungry).
Wind your way through Gozdu Udvar (most of the bars here are pretty meh) to make it out to the Madach tér where you can find cocktails at Barside (expensive, but terrific), a buzzing crowd next door at Telep, and a packed to the gills atmosphere at the freshly renovated boozer-by-night-cafe-by-day, Központ. It is a haven for locals and ex-pats alike and on the weekends there is a festive, party-like vibe on the surrounding square and this is true even during the colder months. They’ve got a spanking new dance floor downstairs, custom-built for late-night spin sessions with some of the best DJs in town.
Day 2: Markets, Museums, and Beautiful Buda
10:30AM – 11:00AM | Nurse Your Hangover at Freyja
If your hungover, then start the second of your 3 days in Budapest the right way, begins with a bit of lush food. There’s no better place to do this than at Freyja: The Croissant Story. They do croissants and croissants and croissants galore at this small little shop just above the New York Cafe on the upper end of District 7. Perfect, spine-tingling, otherworldly croissants. Of course, you can get a plain croissant, but why bother with that when you have a roster of daily specials to try. Some of my favourites are the audacious duck liver paté, the sweet and salty prosciutto with fig jam, and a smorgasbord of constantly changing inspirations such as banana peanut butter chocolate (below). On the weekends they also offer an eggy brunch special.
Location: Szövetség utca | Opening Hours: Mon-Fri: 8AM-6PM, Sat-Sun: 8AM-2PM
11AM – 12PM | A Wee Little Mozy around Hunyadi tér Market
Hungarians are market people and this is best expressed at the smaller, off the beaten path market halls. At Hunyadi tér you’ll be able to frolic amongst fat links of cured kolbász, ogle rows and rows of shiny red paprika, sweep through mountains of purple-tinged cauliflower and see piles of pickles in every direction. Linger and sample and try to converse with the vendors if you can manage it (check my handy guide to the Hungarian for some help on that front). My Hungarian teacher first brought me to this marvellous place and now you shall follow my lead.
Location: Hunyadi tér | Opening Hours: Mon: 7AM-5PM, Tue-Fri: 7AM-6PM, Sat: 7AM-2PM.
12:00-2:00 | Wander around Károly Kert and Check out the Magyar National Museum
After you’ve had your fill of marketing its time to wander over towards Károlyi krt, a French-style public park ringed all around by centuries-old palaces. There’s always a lively atmosphere in this small garden and its the perfect place to sit on a bench and read your book while lovers lounge and children laugh beneath the leaves. The surrounding palace district is a great area to get a little bit lost. But if you are in the mood for a concrete activity then go find the Magyar National Museum just around the corner.
This museum was constructed in 1847 and holds a collection that is curated from the history of all of Hungary’s former territories – even those such as Transylvania and Slovakia which were ceded following defeat in the First World War. The price of a ticket to the permanent exhibits is 1600 forints and should be bought without hesitation. This section of the museum will take you through the story of the Hungarian people from its pre-history to the current day.
Location: Múzeum krt.| Opening Hours: Tue – S: 7AM-5PM, Tue-Fri: 7AM-6PM, Sat: 7AM-2PM.
2PM – 3PM | Lunch outside at Fecske Presszó
And now its time to grab a spot of lunch at nearby Fecske Presszó. This is a super popular place among college students because of its reasonable prices, optimal location, and supreme service. It’s not the most gourmet food in Budapest, but it is still definitely delicious and has great options for vegetarians. The atmosphere is unbeatable on the outdoor patio beneath the shadow of the magnificent Ervin Szabó Library.
Location: Baross utca | Opening Hours: Mon-Fri: 10AM-12AM, Sat: 12PM-12AM, Sun: 12PM-11PM.
3PM – 4:30PM | Climb the Citadella
After lunch, take a stroll towards powder green liberty bridge which is one of the most scenic places in all of Budapest for my money. If you really feel in the marketing mood then stop off at the famous Great Market Hall just before the bridge. While I don’t rate this market as high as Hunyadi tér, it is still worthwhile to poke your head inside and observe the contrast offered by the cavernous building.
Now across the narrowest bridge in the city, you’ll find the Gellért Hill looming high above Budapest. Follow one of the myriad pathways up to the top of the hill and the statue perched ‘Citadella‘. There’s nothing quite like drinking in Budapest from this height for the first time. Just a mesmerizing sight. There are plenty of off-shoot viewpoints below the crowded peak, so have a little wander before moving farther afield.
4:30PM – 5:30PM | Stroll down to Feneketlen Tó
Throw ‘Feneketlen to’ into google maps and wander down the backside of the hill. It’s a gorgeous little lake that’s really more of a pond and offers another prime time opportunity to relax and indulge yourself in the atmosphere. Most tourists don’t make it over to this part of the city.
If you want to uncover some more of the awesome green spaces and gardens in Budapest, then be sure to check out our Guide to the Parks and Gardens of Budapest.
5:30PM – 6:30PM | A Pint at Pingvin Sörözö
I found Pingvin Sörözö just the other day after a walk down to the pond and I couldn’t be happier for that fact. It’s an authentic Hungarian Késdobalo, which directly translated that means ‘knife dropper’, and is basically the same thing as a dive bar. The name suggests that it is a place where fights will break out, but this joint has a super friendly atmosphere and in a fitting tribute to their namesake, they have amassed what has to be Budapest’s largest collection of stuffed animal penguins. Plus there’s karaoke every night and a lively regular crowd to make friends with locals.
Location: Bocskai út | Opening Hours: Mon-Sun: 9AM-11PM
6:30PM – 7:30PM | Tapas at Kelet
The menu includes sandwiches, soups, and appetizers featuring flavors from around the globe. My personal favorite dishes are the Indonesian Peanut sandwich and the Smoked Catfish Sandwich. They also have a delicious Georgian Soup called Kharcho, lovely oriental dips and a litany of other interesting options. Local beers, wines, and coffee, as well as organic teas, make this place an amazing option for any time of the day. I wouldn’t say you should come for an enormous group dinner as most of the dishes are smaller and snack-sized, but it is the perfect start to a night out on the town if you want to eat light, amongst locals, in an unbelievably cozy environment.