If you’re asking yourself, “is 3 or 4 days too much time to spend in one city?”, the answer is that 4 days in Budapest isn’t even enough time to do the city justice.
The hazy orange sunsets, the international array of cuisines, the abundance of ancient architecture, the welcoming warmth of the locals, the rushing river running through the city, the breathtaking views from the hillside, the vibrant yet relaxed atmosphere and the endless ways to interact with Budapest left me craving more.
By the end of my visit, it was up there with my top favourite cities in the world after Granada and Barcelona. Trust me, you will fall in love with Budapest like I have. There’s so much character to the city and so much do that something is bound to resonate with you. It really does cater to every traveller.
Getting into Budapest city centre
From Budapest airport, take either the 200E bus plus M3 metro on the blue line or 100E bus directly into the city centre.
The single ticket price for public transportation is 350HUF (£1). They can be purchased in the airport for both bus and metro. A special ticket for the 100E direct bus costs 900HUF (£2.50).
Where to stay in Budapest
As always, I stayed in an Airbnb (get £30 off) and as always, the accommodation topped any I’d stayed in before. We had an entire flat to ourselves for £40 a night.
It was kitted out with everything you could possibly need, including a fully equipped kitchen (perfect for saving money on meals). The location was perfect, on the same street as Szimpla Kertmozi, restaurants, outside bars, street food and 1 minute away from supermarket.
How to spend 4 days in Budapest
Of course, when you’re travelling, not everything goes to plan. Below is a loose guide to the best attractions which I saw during my 4 days in Budapest.
Along Kazinczy street, there’s an alleyway (nowhere near as dodgy as it sounds) near Szimpla Kertmozi bar with a variety of food stalls. They even have vegan and gluten-free options!
Budapest is famous for its ruin bars. Once destroyed by bombing, these buildings were minimally restored and pimped out with elaborate art. You will have a far better night in one of these ruin bars than a club!
We went to Szimpla Kertmozi on a Thursday night (not too busy, not too quiet) for an amazing night. Drinks aren’t too expensive, and they have Shishas too. Szimpla Kert, along Kazinczy Street, also holds a farmers market on Sundays.
Think chilled out summer nights outside with a drink in your hand. There are lots of outside bars in Budapest with either a patio or terrace.
My favourite was Kőleves Kert at 37 Kazinczy Street. It has an outside bar, patio and hammocks. The atmosphere is vibrant yet low key and local. It’s perfect if you’re trying to avoid a touristy experience.
Marvel at the collection of grand statues in heroes square. Amongst them, are the Seven chieftains of the Magyars (Hungarian) and other national leaders.
Just beyond Heroes Square lies a huge city park. Come here for a stroll around the man-made lake and Vajdahunyad Castle, or picnic in the afternoon sun. Szechenyi Baths are also located in the park.
St Matthias Church and Fisherman’s Bastion
Either walk or take the Buda Hill Funicular (1100HUF/£3 for a single or 1700HUF/£5 return per adult) up to Fisherman’s Bastion. There is a breathtaking view of the Danube River and buildings on the Pest side.
The quaint cobble streets and unique architecture of Matthias Church makes you feel like you’re in a fairy-tale.
Tip: Some hop-on hop-off bus companies give a free Funicular return ticket with your bus ticket. It means you can queue skip with a pre-paid ticket!
Although Szechenyi Baths are the most popular, I went to a “SPArty” there on my birthday with my boyfriend and got groped twice. I’m sure it’s nice during the day, but you can understand why I didn’t want to return ever again.
On the bright side though, we found an absolute gem the next day when we were feeling ridiculously hungover. Rudas Baths.
For 5900HUF (£17), you get access to six thermal baths ranging from 16 to 42 degrees, a swimming pool, a sauna world, steam rooms and a wellness centre with jacuzzis and a big rooftop pool with a panorama view of Budapest.
We watched the sunset as a storm rolled in from the distance while soaking in a hot tub. It was my favourite experience by far during the whole trip!
The 19th century fortress and Liberty Statue is a 10 minute walk from Gallert Baths. There are other walking routes available too depending on where you’re coming from. The best bus to get up is number 27.
There’s an astonishing panorama of Budapest at the top. The best part is, it’s free! It’s also less busy than Fisherman’s Bastion. At night, admire the glorious view of Pest as the bridges and Parliament buildings light up. After 8pm is the best time to avoid tourists.
Tip: If you have shorter than 4 days in Budapest, this is the spot for the best views of the city!
River Cruise at Night
My second favourite experience was cruising along the Danube River just as the sun was setting. We got to see the whole city light up as the last orange haze disappeared into blackness.
A guided boat cruise costs anywhere upwards of 3000HUF (£9). Some travellers prefer to use the boat line going to Margaret Island for 900HUF (£3) return as a cheaper cruise option. It’s around 1 hour in total and gives you the option to spend time on the island.
Tip: Some hop-on hop-off bus companies offer a free River cruise with your ticket.
I didn’t bother going inside the Parliament Building during my 4 days in Budapest as it’s extremely busy and touristy. Instead, walk around the outside or admire its Gothic beauty at night on a river cruise.
Check the opening times as it varies depending on the day and season. Tickets cost 3500HUF (£10) for non-EU members or 1750HUF/£5 for students and EU-members (bring your passport).
On the Buda side, admire the architecture of the castle or venture inside to admire the Hungarian art collection or learn about Budapest’s history.
The National Gallery opens Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 6pm. Ticket to a permanent exhibition costs 1000HUF/£3 and a temporary exhibition costs 2000HUF/£6 for adults.
The History Museum opens Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 4pm between November and February. It’s open to 6pm between March and October. Entry costs 2000HUF/£6 for adults.
At both attractions, a ticket is 50% off for students and seniors. Entry is free for everybody on national holidays (15 March, 20 August and 23 October).
St. Stephen’s Basilica
The neoclassical Roman Catholic St. Stephen’s Church is 96m tall, the same height as Parliament Buildings. This symbolises equal importance of worldly and spiritual thinking. There’s even a law in place which prohibits construction of any building taller than 96m!
Inside, the church contains St. Stephen’s mummified right hand. It also offers musical concerts and panoramic views from the cupola.
Entrance is free although there is an optional 200HUF/60p donation.
Dohany Great Synagogue
On Dohany Street, there’s a beautiful Synagogue along with the Hungarian Jewish museum. I personally didn’t go inside as it was too expensive for my budget (4000HUF/£12).
The Synagogue and museum open Sunday to Friday from 10am. Closing times vary depending on the season.
Four blocks from Danube River, this central square is the perfect place to relax. There’s a Ferris wheel during the summer, statues, a fountain and outdoor restaurants and bars. Sometimes there’s food stalls too.
Have a picnic, play cards and watch skaters do tricks in the afternoon. At night, the square comes alive with younger people socialising and having a drink.
If possible, make your trip longer than 4 days in Budapest to see even more of the city!
Central Market Hall
There are three floors in the market hall, with a variety of international food, drink and spices.
On national days, the hall is filled with specific cuisines such as Thai, Polish and Japanese.
The market hall opens on Monday from 6am to 5pm, Tuesday to Friday from 6am to 6pm and Saturday from 6am to 3pm. It’s closed on Sundays and public holidays.
A city jungle lies in the middle of the Danube River. Margaret Island is accessible by boat (900HUF/£2.50 return from pier 5), bus (26), tram (4 or 6), foot or bike. It’s perfect if you want to take a peaceful break from city life. There’s an open air theatre, church ruins, Japanese gardens, musical water fountains, water park and swimming pools.
You can explore the island on foot, Segway or electric train (1050HUF/£3 per adult or 605HUF/£1.75 per child). Also it’s possible to rent a bringo cart, bike, roller blades or electric car.
Budapest is also well-known for its many historical grand cafes. They will take you back in time with their beautiful 19th century decor and traditional coffee drinking culture.
The most famous grand cafe in Budapest is New York Palace. Others include Alexandra Book Cafe, Ruszwurm, Cafe Gerbeaud and Callas Cafe.
Built at the start of the 1900s, this strip of courtyards was turned into restaurants and bars. Gozsdu Udvar has buzzing nightlife, making it the perfect place for a pub crawl. Also, sometimes it hosts a market.
Try a traditional Hungarian Meal
Even though Budapest is the capital of Hungary, it hasn’t lost its culinary roots. Although I couldn’t find a vegan/gluten-free traditional meal, I almost feel guilty for not trying one during those 4 days in Budapest.
A friend who I met there went to Zeller Bistro in the Jewish Quarter. Tania said she LOVED how excellent and moderately priced the traditional Hungarian food was. A main meal costs between 2900HUF (£8) and 5400HUF (£15). You may need to make a reservation in advance!
Shoes on the Danube Bank
Shoes on the Danube Bank is a memorial for the victims (mainly Jews from Budapest). They were ordered to take their shoes off and then were shot into the Danube River by fascist Arrow Cross militiamen in 1944 and 1945. A morbid history which shouldn’t be overlooked.
Located Gallert Hill, there’s a church which was built within a natural cave in 1926. It’s open Monday to Saturday from 9.30am to 7.30pm. Tickets cost 600HUF (£1.70) for adults and 500HUF (£1.50) for children. Service takes place at 8.30am, 5pm and 8pm every day.
I would say it’s low on the list of tourist attractions in Budapest. It seems to be more for religious purposes than entertainment.
Sit on a Bridge to Watch the Sunset
There are 8 bridges in total in the city of Budapest. Chain bridge is probably the most popular. As we were taking a river cruise during sunset, we saw people sitting on one of the bridges. It looked like an amazing viewpoint to watch the sun go down!
Budapest is a truly magical city. It’s one of those places where I thought to myself, I want to live here. Seriously, if you get the chance, spend longer than 4 days in Budapest!
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