When you think about romantic getaways in Europe, what comes to mind? Most certainly you’ll tell me Paris and some other parts of France, maybe Italy and Vienna. But you might never think about this one place that won me over, the first and the second time I’ve seen it: Budapest. Bear with me and read all about what to do in Budapest in 3 days: from the best places to stay in Budapest, to top things to do in Budapest, attractions, and even the best cafes in Budapest and food I’ve tried during my short visit.
Note: For the transparency, there are affiliate links in this article. However, there will be no extra costs for people who decide to book via my link.
Where is Budapest
Very well located, only 217 km away from Vienna, in the North part of Hungary, Budapest is easily reachable both by plane and by car (depending on where you come from).
If you only have 3 days in Budapest, and traveling from farther away, you will most likely want to book a flight to Hungary’s capital.
Getting around Budapest
Once you land at Ferenc Liszt International Airport you, of course, have 2 ways of getting to the center:
- Bus or shuttle – the trip by bus was around 3 EUR one-way and it took us around 30 min to get to the city center. As soon as you exit the airport, you will find ticket machines, just look after the long lines of people and don’t stop at the first one, since there are plenty more if you just walk a little bit to the left. TIP: don’t buy the normal ticket, take the one with a plane on it (Airport shuttle).
- Taxi – since our plane was very early in the morning, we took a taxi from the city center, close to Buda Castle, where we stayed. We used Taxify and the ride took around 25 min at a cost of roughly 25 EUR (but it depends on the hour). Also, be careful because I’ve understood that drivers at the airport tend to overcharge.
Best places to stay in Budapest for 3 days
As we sometimes do lately, we chose to stay in an Airbnb which promised an unbeatable view. It sure did not fail to deliver!
Even though it is rather small (especially the kitchen which is not really one as such), the studio has a great design, comfortable bed, and the small balcony offers the perfect setting for sitting and enjoying a glass of good Hungarian wine with the Buda castle in front of your eyes.
I’ve also loved the setting of this place: walking distance from the city center and most of Budapest’s main attractions, but still in a quiet area, with a beautiful park in front and really good bistros only 5 min away.
If you choose to stay here, keep in mind that in order to get great views, you most of the times will need to climb a hill or some stairs, this being true also in this case.
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If you are not an Airbnb fan, there are plenty of options to take into consideration when looking for the best area to stay in Budapest and accommodation in Budapest.
The first step when deciding upon where to stay in Budapest is to choose where you want to be:
It is where we stayed mainly because of the view. Buda is the more quiet part of Budapest, located on hills.
Here is where Buda Castle, the Citadella, and Fisherman’s Bastion are, but also where you will have peace and tranquility.
I would totally love to live in this area of the city, because of its charm.
Here are some options to choose from, which I found particularly charming:
- Maison Bistro & Hotel – in the mid-range of prices (just below 100 EUR/night for a double room), this hotel looks delightful and you will have the chance to stay in a traditional Hungarian building.
- Hotel Clark Budapest – You cannot miss this hotel even if you wanted to since it is right in front of the Chain Bridge. A really cool, modern hotel, with rooms overlooking the Danube and a cool bar and restaurant on the rooftop, it has over 9 points on Booking and you can get a double room for as low as 115 EUR.
- Hotel Orion Várkert – with a bit of an older feel, but still a great location really close to all the main attractions, this hotel it’s somewhere in the lower range of prices.
The “wilder” side of Budapest, where the huss and fuss is. Here is where you will find all the cool bars, restaurants, the Opera, the Jewish quarter and many more.
Choose to stay on this side of Danube if you want to feel the vibe of the city, and at the same time, you will be at the heart of the fun.
Here are some options you might want to take into consideration:
- Hotel Estilo Fashion Budapest – only a few steps away from the Central Market Hall and the Danube, located on the main shopping street (Vaci utca), here is where my boyfriend usually chooses to stay whenever visiting for work.
- Aria Hotel Budapest – you will find this hotel also in other parts of my posts, as a top attraction of Budapest, but not for the hotel itself, but for its amazing rooftop restaurant. The hotel is truly luxurious from the front door, the lobby inspired by music, to its restaurant and location, almost glued to St. Stephen’s Basilica. For all this, be prepared to pay the extra price, but sometimes we just need to be pampered, right? Especially if you see Budapest in 3 days only.
- Roombach Hotel Budapest Center – centrally places, close to all the cool spots in Budapest, this is the greatest place to stay if you are looking to have fun.
What to see in Budapest in 3 days // Top Budapest attractions and things to do
I loved Budapest so much and have managed to see most of the main attractions and did a lot of sightseeing in the 72 hours spent in Hungary’s capital.
The city is infused with a certain vibe and feeling that you get everywhere you go.
Maybe it was just me, or maybe it was because of the colors that Autumn brought along, but I truly felt like in an old romantic black and white film, or a fairytale with princes and princesses.
It’s sometimes hard to put into words all the feelings a place or a thing bring your way, but even though it rained for 2 out of the 3 days, Budapest managed to sweep me off my feet for the second time.
But here are my recommendations for what to do in Budapest in 3 days and the greatest Budapest attractions not to miss, whether you spend 3 days or much more.
Day 1 of your 3 days in Budapest itinerary: explore Buda
The Funicular in Buda Castle
Here is where you’ll want to start your trip from if you are not staying like us on this side of the Danube River.
Even so, we had to climb a number of stairs and hills in order to get to the top, thus a ride on Budapest’s Funicular would have been a great way to start the day without a full workout.
The Funicular stop is easy to see at the end of Chain Bridge, it takes just a few minutes to get you up the hill and offers a great view over the Danube.
Address: Clark Adam Square, District I, 1013 Budapest
Opening hours: Mon to Sun: 7.30 am to 10 pm
Admission fee: 5.5 EUR – 6 USD – 1800 HUF return; 3.6 EUR – 4 EUR – 1200 HUF one way
Fisherman’s Bastion & Matthias Church
This is definitely one of the first places where you will need to stop because it offers one of the best views over the city, but also because it looks like a place torn from a fairytale, or even better: an old Disney film.
We decided to try to find this place not very crowded, without waking up too early in the morning, so we climbed the hill and reached the Fisherman’s Bastion at around 9 in the morning.
Needless to say, we were disappointed to see the crowds were already gathering and people were running around and trying to capture the best shot of this place.
So, if you want to have the place all to yourself, you might have to get up as early as possible and head to this place.
If not, go whenever and:
- Explore one of the 7 turrets (some have free entrance and a few have an entrance fee) representing the 7 tribes who founded the present country in 895
- Take lunch or dinner in one of the most charming places there are: Halaszbastya Restaurant
- Wander away from the Bastion and let yourself charmed by the beautiful colorful houses and cobbled streets up the hill
- Enter Matthias Church, built in the 14thncentury, or simply admire the Roman Catholic impressive building from the outside, with its colorful rooftop it will be hard to miss
Matthias Church opening hours: Mon-Fri: 9 am – 5 pm; Sat: 9 am – 1 pm; Sun: 1 pm – 5 pm
Matthias Church entrance fee: around 5.5 EUR – 6 USD – 1800 HUF
Fisherman’s Bastion upper towers opening hours: from 9 am to 7 pm (March 16 to April 30); from 9 am to 8 pm (May 1 to October 15)
Fisherman’s Bastion upper towers entrance fee: 3 EUR – 3.5 USD – 1000 HUF
Huge, imposing, overwhelming, romantic. Those are all things that came through my mind when I first saw the Buda Castle, one of the main attractions of Budapest and one which cannot be missed when visiting Hungary’s capital (even if you want to, you won’t, trust me).
The castle was standing between our room and the Danube River, tall and proud on the hill, offering us a charming view whenever we approached the window.
Budapest important landmark greeted us early in the morning when we passed it on our way to the city, and wished us Goodnight as we lay to bad.
If, unlike us, you have the time, explore it every building and museum at a time. Don’t miss a thing and take it slowly, don’t rush things.
Nowadays, Buda castle is home to the National Gallery and Budapest History Museum.
Buda Castle opening hours: are the same as the ones for the National Gallery ( Tue-Sun 10 am – 6 pm; closed on Mondays) and the History Museum (1 March – 31 October Tuesday – Sunday 10 am – 6 pm, November 1 – February 29 Tuesday – Sunday 10 am – 4 pm; closed on Mondays)
Budapest History Museum entrance fee: 7.5 EUR – 8 USD – 2400 HUF
National Gallery entrance fee: 5.5 EUR – 6 USD – 1100 HUF
Gellert Hill and the Citadella
We climbed the Gellert Hill, through the foliage-filled park, stopping every now and then to admire our surroundings, since everything was so charming.
We passed several playgrounds, benches perfect for sweethearts, climbed God knows how many stairs, passed several Belleview balconies and finally reached the top of the hill.
One thing I know holds true: the whole climb it’s totally worth it once you see the view!
We didn’t really visit the Citadel, the fortress built in 1848-49 serving now as one of Budapest’s tourist attractions, but you should go inside if you have the time. The admission fee is around 1 EUR – 1 USD – 300 HUF.
Other things to visit on Gellert Hill:
- The statue of liberty
- The Cave Church
- The Taban
Elizabeth Bridge and the yellow tram
Once we got off the hill we ended up right at the foot of Elizabeth Bridge and waited in the rain for the yellow tram to cross it and take the perfect picture with it in the background.
Call us crazy, but it was totally worth it!
The Parliament from the other side of the Danube
Maybe the most iconic building in Budapest, located on the banks of the Danube river, the Parliament building cannot be missed and makes for a perfect setting for some lovely pictures.
Day 2 of your 3 days in Budapest itinerary: explore Pest
Not so close to the city center as the previous main attractions, Vajdahunyad Castle is easily reachable by public transportation. We got there by metro with only a few small stops from Astoria station and got back by bus, having the chance to admire also other parts of the city.
And since we’re here, did you know that Budapest’s metro is the oldest electrified underground railway on the European continent? Yes, it’s true! Use it while in Budapest and you will feel its charm, with the yellow small and narrow trains.
But coming back to the Vajdahunyad Castle, this place will sweep you off your feet, or at least it did so with me.
Surrounded by a beautiful park (the City Park) and in the middle of a small lake, the castle was built in 1896 and is, in fact, a fantasy mix, showcasing Hungarian’s architectural evolution throughout the years.
Go inside the garden, take a walk around it, step inside the church, admire all the spots perfectly fit for pictures out of this world (there’s no wonder we’ve seen several photographers with their muses – or clients – during our visit).
Address: Budapest, Vajdahunyad stny., 1146 Hungary
Opening Hours: Tuesday – Friday: 10 am – 4 pm (1 November – 31 March), 10 am – 5 pm (April 1 – October 31); Saturday – Sunday: 10 am – 5 pm; Mondays closed; The Courtyard is always open
Admission Fee: Courtyard is free; Museum of Agriculture residing in Vajdahunyad Castle: 5 EUR – 5.5 USD – 1600 HUF
Heroes Square (Hősök tere)
Right next to the castle you’ll see lots of people gathering around in a pretty big square with the statues of the 7 chieftains of the Magyars and other important Hungarian national leaders set up in a semicircle.
The Heroes Square or Hősök tere is one of the largest squares in Budapest, and here is where you’ll find also the Memorial Stone of Heroes.
As you’ve guessed, this is one of the major picture-perfect spots in Budapest, which you should not miss, also because of the view it offers over Vajdahunyad Castle.
Like any important town out there, Budapest has its own pedestrian street filled with shops and restaurants.
At the heart of Budapest, Váci Street is where you’ll want to take a walk and shop for some souvenirs or take a bite of some traditional delicious Hungarian food.
Central Market Hall
At the end (or beginning, depending on where you’re starting your walk from) of Váci Street you’ll find the Budapest Central Market Hall.
The perfect place to explore whether you are a foodie or not, but I always believed local cuisine is the best way of really getting to know a place and its people.
Unfortunately, we found the Market closed when we got there on a Sunday, but if you are more organized in arranging your Budapest 3 days itinerary, you’ll get to see and taste it all.
Address: Budapest, Vámház krt. 1-3, 1093 Hungary
Opening hours: Monday 6 AM to 5 PM; Tu – Fr 6 AM to 6 PM; Saturday 6 AM to 3 PM; Closed on Sunday
Erzsébet Square and the Budapest Eye
Central Pest and its old buildings and parks are lovely, but Erzsébet Square is maybe the most iconic one in town, the largest green area in the inner city, and you’ll recognize it from afar after the huge wheel rising from here.
St Stephen’s Basilica
Named in honor of the first king of Hungary, St. Stephen’s Basilica rules Budapest’s skyline with its beautiful cupola, and is one of the most iconic landmarks in Budapest, and definitely one of the best things to see in Budapest in 3 days.
The Jewish Quarter
During the day you won’t see much around these parts of town, except for the Synagogues of course, which can be visited and are pretty nice. But as soon as night falls, here is where you want to be heading for a night of fun in town, especially in the ruin bars Budapest is so well known for.
We’ve been to Szimpa Kert, the most iconic of them all, which was really interesting and different from anything we’ve ever experienced.
Being located in a dilapidated pre-war building, with several rooms and different bars (a wine bar, a disco bar, a techno-punk room, and several more intriguing places).
Even though we didn’t really have fun since nobody was dancing and I felt like most of the people coming there were tourists coming to see the place itself and have a drink, it sure is an experience and I’m glad we’ve got there even if for only less than an hour. I wouldn’t count it off of the party destinations in Europe.
Day 3 of your 3 days in Budapest itinerary: Thermal baths and Danube River cruise
Relaxation time at Thermal Baths in Budapest
One cannot leave Budapest without trying one of the thermal baths in town.
Whether you choose the Gellert Baths or the Szechenyi Bath, indulge yourself with a few hours of relaxation and pampering in Budapest. You well deserve it after the first 2 days packed with activities.
Boat trip on the Danube River
I did this during my first visit to Budapest, and I did it also during my second visit, thus I shouldn’t say it: it is a must!
We haven’t booked the trip ahead of time and you will find plenty of boat companies leaving at different times of the day (every hour or so) along the docks of the Danube River.
My recommendation would be to take one of the boats in the evening, during sunset because that’s when all the magical colors come alive and the city is brought to life in a whole different way. Also, you will get to see the most important landmarks beautifully lightened up.
Budapest food and best cafes in Budapest
If there’s something I like in life, that’s good food and great locations, and I found plenty of that in Budapest. Sometimes I discover places that look amazing, but the food is not really in my cup of tea or the other way around, delicious food in a boring place.
Let me introduce you to all the great places for foodies and Instagrammers alike, to go to in Budapest. Since we’ve mainly had 2 meals per day (brunch and dinner), I’ll split the locations into these 2 categories.
Best Brunch places we got to eat at in Budapest
Zoska – $
We were on the bus from the airport towards the city and feeling famished when I took to the internet to look for the greatest places for brunch in Budapest and found this little-hidden gem really close to Astoria, where we were getting off.
The place is small but incredibly cute, with a mix of old chairs and tables, a whole wall covered with pink post its, the table next to the window (we were lucky to find empty), the famous Ikea shark toy, and delicious food.
The place is filled with youngsters, thus I’ve concluded that some UNiversity must be really close by.
We had a ham and cheese omelet and a coffee latte for around 5 EUR. But they also have pancakes, English breakfast, sausage or traditional Hungarian food.
A la Maison Grand – $$$
One night we were walking in the city center, finding our way back home, when we passed by this pretty place. Being a breakfast and brunch place, at that time it was of course closed, but we decided this was the place we were returning to the following day.
And so we did.
Even though neither of us remembered the name, we somehow managed to redo the way back and found ourselves in front of this chic place. I would recommend making a reservation beforehand if you don’t want to wait, but even so, it is surely worthwhile.
Even though the place is a bit more pricey, they have a large menu, with everything you can think of from sweet pancakes, crepes, sultry crepes, waffles, eggs Benedict, English breakfast, you name it!
Stika – $$
Another great brunch we savored was at this little (and I mean little) place in the Jewish Quarter of Budapest. They have a few tables outside, but if it’s raining (as it was on both occasions that I’ve visited Budapest) it might not be fun to sit outside.
Come prepared to wait in line for a table (people after us waited even for 30 min), but also to enjoy a great delicious meal and coffee. We were hungry when we got there, so decided to try the Eggs Benedict and share some pancakes with raspberry jam.
All I can say is the food is delicious and worth visiting this hip place!
Best Dinner places we got to eat at in Budapest
I know I’m talking about Budapest in 3 days, but I’ll recommend to you 4 places you should not miss, but where you could also try for lunch if you are a morning person and prefer breakfast, not brunch.
Kazimir Bistro – $$
Found this place by chance, but ate the best goulash there is! Great atmosphere with live instrumental music, delicious wine, everything that makes a dinner unforgettable.
Deryne Bistro – $$$
Also by chance, we bumped into this place and decided to have dinner here one evening since it was really close to our Airbnb. From the outside looked totally different than the posh, stylish place we found inside.
Food was delicious and even though they have a large variety of meat, we chose something traditional (wild boar paprikas) and some refreshing white Hungarian wine.
Langos Papa – $
Promise me you won’t leave Budapest without eating langos at least once during your stay!
We also have it in Romania, in the areas with Hungarian heritage ( Oradea for example), and I’m a huge fan. Langos Papa is located in the heart of the city, close to the Opera house, and it’s a family business from what I could tell.
You don’t have to try anything fancy, just go for the traditional langos with sour cream and cheese, it won’t disappoint.
New York Cafe Budapest – $$$
You enter its doorway and you get love-struck!
The restaurant it’s almost torn from a fairytale, looking like the interior of a castle, with classical fancy music playing all around, and delicious food.
We only went there for dessert and a glass of wine (which was kind of hard to get, haha), but I suggest booking a table in advance if you don’t want to wait in line to be seated.
Rooftop bars with amazing views in Budapest
On the 9th floor of Aria Hotel, offering a 360 degrees view over Budapest, this place is perfect for a romantic dinner under the stars, or just a drink (as we had) with a charming view over St. Stephen’s Basilica.
Tip: book a table in advance on their website.
More relaxed, in the central part of Pest, come here for a relaxing cocktail
Apart from the great view, it offers over the city, they even have an ice skating ring on the rooftop terrace! How cool is that?
Now that you have all the information for spending 3 days in Budapest in the best way possible, what are you waiting for?