3 Day Budapest Itinerary (with map) | Perfect For First Timers

The Hungarian capital city of Budapest has long left behind its dark Soviet past, once run down and grey, today it is a city that can easily rival any large cosmopolitan Western city! This 3 day Budapest itinerary for first timers will show you all the best parts of the city to learn about the fascinating history.

This fun 3 day Budapest itinerary is packed full of historical sites like the Hungarian Parliament, Fishermans Bastion, Gellert Hill, St Stephens Basilica along with unique places such as a zoo cafe, hot air balloon ride, and a night time party down the Danube!

Make sure to save my Google Map for this 3 day Budapest itinerary, each day on this itinerary is highlighted in a different colour, along with the best restaurants, coffee spots, and other places to check out along the way! This can be handy to have during the nights when you don’t know where to eat!


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Ok, let’s start this EPIC 3 day Budapest itinerary.

3 Days In Budapest Itinerary

Day 1 Budapest Itinerary: Explore ‘Pest’

Day 1 of this 3 day Budapest itinerary we are getting to know the Pest side of the city, seeing all the top historical sights.

1. Pest Walking Tour

2. Hungarian Parliament Building

The Hungarian Parliament Building has withstood turbulent times in Hungary’s past, including World War II, during which it sustained damage, the fall of communism, and the 1989 proclamation of the Hungarian Republic.

To see the inside of the Hungarian Parliament Building, you’ll need to book your tickets a few weeks in advance, as they sell out fast!

3. St Stephens Basilica

You already visited the outside of St Stephens Basilica this morning but now you are going to see the inside and climb up to the terrace for some incredible views of the city!

St Stephens Basilica is a must visit during your time in Budapest, it is one of the most iconic landmarks in Budapest, and can be seen all across the city! I thought that the panoramic observation deck was epic, the walk up the 364 steps of the dark spiral staircase to get there was also pretty fun!

Some other cool things to check out at St Stephens Basilica is the right hand of the first King of Hungary displayed in a glass case (it’s a bit creepy!), the magnificent main altar that has detailed sculptures and paintings, and of course the dome’s observation deck where you get awesome panoramic views of the city.

If you are visiting Budapest in December you might just get lucky and see the choir practice some Christmas hymns. It was such a highlight to light a candle in this beautiful cathedral to a backdrop a live choir.

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A post shared by Cookie Beacon Brunch (@cookiebeacon)

I saw Cookie Beacon pop up all over instagram and TikTok, another over hyped place I thought to myself! I could not have been more wrong! Cookie Beacon gave me the BEST cookie I have ever tasted in my life! The cookies are warm, soft, and gooey, with a large selection of flavours.

You can always choose to sit in and order from their highly reviewed lunch menu, however queues to sit in can be more than one hour. I recommend just getting a cookie to go, the takeaway queue (on the right) is usually very short and goes fast.

Flavours include red velvet, caramel and pecan, oreo, and kinder bueno.

5 (i) Terror Museum

Dive into Hungary’s dark fascist and communist past, at the Terror museum!

Once the former headquarters of the secret police who employed tactics such as propaganda, intimidation, interrogation, and spying to control the country’s population during the communist period. Today, it is now a museum with exhibitions detailing these oppressive tactics, it is one of the more sombre things to do on this 3 day Budapest itinerary.

It is a place that will invoke disbelief and some parts are tough but is an important place to learn more about Hungary’s past.

Please note that tickets can only be purchased at the museum, and the museum is closed on Mondays.

5 (ii) Food Tour

Hungarian food is hearty, delicious, and will keep you coming back for more!

Some things to try are langos (deep fried bread), sausages, goulash, chimney cake, strudel, and stuffed cabbage.


6. Jewish Quarter

Known as the party district of Budapest, the Jewish Quarter (officially called Erzsébetváros) is a unique and hip area that is definitely worth visiting. Its narrow streets are lined with trendy restaurants, cafes, boutiques, and street art.

Prior to World War II, this area was home to over 200,000 Jews but was declared a Jewish Ghetto in 1944, where residents lived in misery. Today, there are some remnants of the strong Jewish community that once stood here. One such reminder is the largest synagogue in Europe, the Dohany Synagogue. Here, you can visit a Holocaust memorial garden, weeping willow tree statue and a museum. You can also visit two other synagogues in the are, Rumbach street synagogue, and Kazincy street synagogue.

Here are some other things to see in Budapest’s Jewish Quarter:

  • Gozsdu Court – large alleyway with restaurants, bars, and karaoke.
  • Food Karavan – lively outdoor street food market
  • Mazel Tov – amazing Israeli food, trust me, you need to eat here!
  • The street art scene is thriving and ever changing, BudapestFlow.com have an up to date list of where the newest art is located.

7. Ruins Bar

The Jewish Quarter has a host of ruin bars, the most popular one being Szimpla Kert, which tends to see large crowds every night.

Ruin pubs are a relatively new concept, stemming from the 2000s when young people wanted to drink somewhere rather than upper class bars in the city centre. Abandoned buildings were kitted out with old furniture and local art.

It is a-lot of fun exploring the floors and rooms of Szimpla! The atmosphere is always lively, and you never know what you will walk into.

Other good ruin bars in the area are UdvarROM and Instant & Fogas Complex.

Day 2 Budapest Itinerary: Explore ‘Buda’

Day 2 of this 3 day Budapest itinerary explores the Buda side of the city.

1. Walk Across Széchenyi Chain Bridge

Walk across the first stone bridge that connected Buda and Pest, Széchenyi Chain Bridge!

This suspension bridge is a sight to behold, in my opinion it is the most beautiful bridge in Budapest, and one of the things you cannot miss! Széchenyi Chain Bridge crosses the Danube River, and should only take about 15 minutes, but you will likely want to stop and take lots of photos!

Strolling across Széchenyi Chain Bridge with a coffee in hand, along with views of Castle Hill and the great Danube is one of the more relaxing things to do in Budapest!

2. Fishermans Bastion

From one iconic landmark to the next, the Fisherman’s Bastion is at the top of most visitors’ list of things to do in Budapest!

Built in 1902 as a celebration of the 1000th anniversary of the Hungarian state, the Fisherman’s bastion is reminiscent of a fairytale castle with its neo-gothic turrets and towers. From here, you can get the BEST views of the Parliament Building!

Entrance is free, but to visit the St Matthias church at the top, you need to pay a small fee. In my opinion, the best bits are the free areas, and would recommend you skip St Matthias church.

I recommend getting here early to avoid the crowds; it can get very busy.

3. Chimney Cake

All of the morning’s walking will likely have given you an appetite. One of the best ways to curb that appetite is to devour a fresh and warm chimney cake, or as they are known in Hungary, kürt?skalács.

Kürt?skalács is made from sweet yeast dough, wrapped around a cylinder, and baked on an open fire. Once cooked, the cakes are rolled in sugar and cinnamon, and some are lightly filled with nutella or ice cream. They are delicious!

Close to Fishermans Bastion and the next stop Buda Castle is Budavár Kürt?skalács! They were my absolute favourite Kürt?skalács in Budapest!

4. Buda Castle

Built in the 13th century, Buda Castle is as fascinating stop on the 3 day Budapest itinerary.

Buda Castle sits on top of Castle Hill, along with amazing views across the Danube River, other?highlights include the Hungarian National Gallery, Changing of the Gaurds Ceremony, Budapest History Museum, and Szechenyi Library.

5. Gellért Hill – citadel lookout

After walking around the castle for the last while, this next activity gets you out into nature! Gellért hill is another prominent landmark in Budapest, with many important sites to see!

The best thing to do is to climb up the hill to the citadel lookout; the views here are truly incredible.

Start across from Elisabet Bridge and go up the stairs on the right hand side towards St. Gerard Sagredo Statue, the guardian of Budapest.

After this, follow the winding path through the forest to the citadel lookout. Here, you can see expansive views of the city, including Parliament Building, Chain Bridge, St Stephens Basilica, and the Danube!

It takes about 20 to 30 minutes to reach the citadel lookout! After the citadel, there is a 200 year old fortress; however this is currently closed for renovations, expected to reopen December 2025.

6. Boat Cruise

Budapest at night | Image by Dan Novac 

Today was an action packed today, so why not rest your feet and unwind with a drink in hand on a nighttime cruise down the UNESCO listed Danube!

Budapest at night is stunning, the twinkling lights of the floodlit landmarks of Vigadó Concert Hall,Várkert Bazár, Buda Castle, Chain Bridge, and of course the Parliament Building, need to be seen!

Day 3 Budapest Itinerary: Thermal Bath, City Park, Zoo Cafe, Central Market

Day three of this 3 day Budapest itinerary is a bit more relaxing than the last two days!

1. Thermal Bath

szechenyi-spa in Budapest - best things to do
Széchenyi Thermal Baths | Image by Corina

You cannot come to Budapest, also known as the city of baths, and not visit at least one thermal bath! After all Budapest has nine thermal baths, and 123 hot springs! Aside from relaxation, thermal baths offer a catalogue of health benefits, such as improved circulation, stress reduction, pain relief, and detoxification.

2. City Park

Some notable things to check out are the Hereos’ Square, where you’ll find the millennium monument representing the seven Magyr chieftains, Vajdahunyad Castle, Városliget Lake, and during the winter months, an ice skating rink.

There is also BalloonFly, an observation balloon that takes guests to heights of up to 150 metres on a 15 minute ride. The deck is panoramic, so you get some awesome views of the city. The ride is completely dependent on weather; therefore it is impossible to book in advance. You just show up and purchase tickets on the spot.

3. Zoo Cafe

Zoo meets cafe in this cool concept cafe. Imagine sitting down with coffee and cakes, while every 10 minutes being handed an animal by a professional zookeeper.

Animals include snakes, lizards, parrots, hedgehogs, rabbits, cats, and much more! You get to interact and take photos with all of the animals you are handed.

Due to the popularity of the zoo cafe, you will need to reserve a table about a week or two in advance. Reservations are for 90 minutes and can be booked from their website.

This is definitely one of the more unique things to do on this 3 day Budapest itinerary.

4. Central Market

You have done a-lot over the course of the last 3 days, now is the perfect time to get a few souvenirs. My final suggestion on this 3 day Budapest itinerary is Central Market!

The central market is one of the oldest markets in Budapest, the architecture alone is worth checking out, with its red brick facade and tall colourful ceilings.

Inside are three sprawling floors selling Hungarian specialities such as paprika, Tokaji wine, fresh meats and cheeses, along with clothing and ornaments.

On the top floor are a few food stalls, here you can try some of the best Hungarian cuisine such as Langos, sausages, goulash, and apple strudel.

view of gellert hill from Erzsébet Bridge in Budapest - Tara O'Reilly travel blogger

Where To Stay In Budapest

District V

This is the best area in Budapest for tourists! Located on the Pest side of the Danube you will be close to all the top sites. Surrounded by history, elegant buildings and a lively atmosphere it’s the place to stay for first timers!

Jewish Quarter

Also referred to as the 7th district, or Erzsébetváros, this is the best area to stay in Budapest for nightlife.

District I

Also known as the castle district, located on the buda side of the city! Here you will be close to the fishermans bastion, buda castle, and gellert hill. The pest side is just a scenic walk or tram ride across the river!

This area is best suited for families, or couples. If, you want an area with lively nightlife then do not stay here.

Retro Lango and Goulash bar - 3 day Budapest itinerary

Getting Around Budapest

budapest-tram 3 day Budapest itinerary

The trams are the best way to get around Budapest! The city is huge and although walkable (if you really like walking) you will probably be using the public transport here.

It is really easy to navigate Budapest’s public transport with the official app Budapest Go! In this app you can purchase single, timed or daily tickets. Once purchased you must activate the ticket prior to getting onboard via the QR code on the exterior of the bus and tram doors, or at the blue machines at the entrance of the metro stations.

There are a few different ticket types;

  • Single – valid for 1 trip with no transfers, 450 HUF
  • Timed – choose either 30 minutes or 60 minutes (530 HUF or 750 HUF), allowed to transfer
  • 24 hour – 2500 HUF
  • 72 hour – 5000 HUF

If you are staying in a central area then I think it is better value to buy single tickets rather than a 24 hour or 72 hour card. Budapest is a lovely city to walk around, you probably won’t use transport as much as you think!

Frequently Asked Questions

How to get from Budapest airport to the city?

You will be pleased to hear that getting from Budapest’s airport to the city centre is really straight forward!

The best and easiest way to get to Budapest city centre from the airport is the 100E express bus.

The bus departs from terminal 2 and stops at the following city centre locations; Kálvin tér, Astoria, and Deák tér station.

Tickets cost 2200 HUF (approximately €6) and can be purchased at BKK ticket offices in terminal a and b, or on vending machines outside arrivals.

How many days is enough in Budapest?

3 days is enough to see all the best attractions, experience the nightlife, and food! Especially if you follow my 3 day Budapest itinerary for first timers! However,If all you have is 2 days then do not worry because you can still see so much of Budapest, it will just be at a faster pace than if you had 3 days!

What is Budapest’s currency?

Budapest uses the Hungarian forint, abbreviated to HUF and the symbol is Ft.

In terms of payments, card is widely accepted, I personally had no issue and mostly paid with card everywhere.

When withdrawing cash from ATMs remember to withdraw the local currency (in this case HUF) for the best rate. If you select your home currency, you are effectively letting the bank decide the exchange rate, and it always works out to be much more expensive. This Budapest travel tip will save you some money!

What plugs are used in Budapest?

Plug sockets in Hungary use the European Type C and Type F.

These type of plugs have 2 round pins, and type F has two round pins with 2 earth clips.

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