Are you planning a tour around central Europe and wondering which cities are a must-visit? If you plan to visit Prague and Vienna, why not visit Budapest? The three capitals are situated just a few hours from each other, making it an easy way to explore central Europe. If you want to do the Prague, Vienna, Budapest itinerary, then start your tour in this charming and vibrant Hungarian capital!
Nowadays, Budapest is one of the biggest cities in Europe and a great place for first-timers to explore. The city is full of exciting places to explore, beautiful historical sights, relaxing baths, to delicious Hungarian cuisines waiting for you to taste! To make sure that you get to enjoy your time to the fullest, I have created this 3-day itinerary with the best things to see and do in Budapest and its surrounding areas.
This blog will show you an example of a detailed itinerary for 3 full days in Budapest and the Town of Szentendre. I will also take you through the history of Budapest, must-visit sights for the first-timer and what benefits there are if you hire a private guide for your trip. At the end of the article, you will find the latest COVID-19 measurements in Hungary. So let's begin!
Let's start with a brief history of this fascinating city. Budapest is the capital of Hungary, and the history of the area dates back to the Stone Age. Since then the city has been part of the Roman Empire, Turks and many others, which makes Budapest a very exciting city to explore. Budapest also has several attractions that are parts of the UNESCO World Heritage sites, such as the Buda castle district, Chain Bridge, Heroes Square and Fisherman's Bastion.
While searching for information about Budapest, you might have come across people referring to different parts of the city with names of Buda and Pest. Before the Chain Bridge was constructed to connect the two shores of Budapest in the 19th century, Budapest used to be 3 different cities. On the western side of the Danube was the city of Buda and Óbuda, while on the eastern side was the city of Pest.
In 1873 these three cities were unified as one and Budapest we now know was born. Buda is usually described as a quieter and classier district, where you go for a peaceful time to explore sights. Pest alternately is a more vibrant and action-filled side of the city, where you can do the shopping and other fun experiences.
Best 3 day itinerary Budapest
Our 3-day itinerary includes the most significant landmarks you must visit and it helps you to immerse yourself in the Hungarian culture. Before going on your tour of Budapest, I will tell you important information and tips to make sure your tour of Budapest will be the best!
What is the best time to visit Budapest?
As we all know, summer is the busiest season in tourism, and why wouldn't it be? The weather is nice and warm and the summer holidays are in action, bringing masses of tourists to popular destinations. Budapest is not an exception. Budapest's busiest and most expensive season is the summer months in June and August.
Another busy season is the Christmas season when the traditional Christmas markets all around Europe are starting to pop up and Budapest's Christmas market is among one of the most visited ones in Europe.
Which leads to the spring and autumn seasons being the best time visiting Budapest. The weather is suitable for sightseeing, while attractions are not crowded and the accommodation prices have not yet increased.
How to Get Around Budapest?
Budapest is a great city to walk on foot. Most of the sightseeing spots are easily reached by walking, but if you do need to use public transportation, then great news! The city is very well connected with its metro system, trams, trollies and buses. There are three subway lines and tramline 2, 4 and 6 can take you to the most places in the city centre. For more information on the routes and tickets, you can check Budapest's public transportation site.
Now let's get to The Perfect 3-Day Budapest Itinerary!
Day 1: The Buda side of Budapest
Start your first day by exploring the Castle Hill of Budapest and end your day in Gellért Baths after hiking up to the Gellért Hill.
- Fisherman’s Bastion (9.00 AM): Visit the beautiful bastion built between 1895 and 1902 to celebrate Hungary's 1000th birthday. The name of the bastion comes from the guild of the fishermen who protected the city during the Middle Ages and the lookout towers are a great place to see a panoramic view of Budapest.
- Matthias Church (9.30 AM): Located next to Fisherman's Bastions, this church has been part of Hungarian history since 1015. With its romantic historicism and orientalism inspired interior, combined with Neo-Gothic features, it is considered to be one of the most beautiful churches in Europe.
- Hospital in the Rock (10.30 AM): Go back in time to World War II by visiting the hospital underneath Buda Castles natural cave system. Built-in 1944, its main purpose was to work as a bunker and first-aid station. Today the hospital works as a wax museum, in which you can find the original furniture and machinery displayed the same way it was during the war.
- Buda Castle (12.00 PM): Next, visit the palace. The palace contains the Budapest historical museum, Hungarian national gallery and the national library. The building itself is a combination of Baroque and modernist style, with elements of Renaissance and Gothic.
- Take a lunch break on the way to Gellért Hill.
- Gellért Hill and Church in a Cave (3.30 PM): The hill is the highest point in Budapest and it takes around 15 to 20 min hike to reach the top. The Church in a Cave is on the way and it is a must-see sight. At the top of the hill, you can find the Citadel and Statue of Liberty.
- Gellért Baths (5.00 PM): After coming back down, end your day in relaxing baths of Gellért.
Day 2: The Pest side of Budapest
Now that you have seen the must-visit places in the Buda side of Budapest, it is time to explore the Pest!
- Hungarian National Parliament and Shoes on the Danube Bank (9.00 AM): Start your day by the Danube river where one of the most photographed buildings in Hungary lies, Hungarian National Parliament. In front of the building, you will find 60 pairs of iron shoes pointing towards the river. It is a memorial to the victims of Budapest’s Arrow Cross militiamen during the Second World War.
- St. Stephen’s Basilica (10.00 AM): Walk over to the St. Stephen’s Basilica, the largest church in Budapest. The church is dedicated to Hungary’s first king, St. Stephen and it holds Hungary's most sacred treasure, the Szent Jobb, which is St. Stephen’s mummified right hand.
- Dohány Street Synagogue (11.30 AM): After visiting St. Stephen's Basilica, your next stop is Dohány Street Synagogue. The synagogue is the largest in Europe and second-largest globally. During your visit, you can also explore The Hungarian Jewish Museum which is in the same building.
- Take the Metro 1 to Heroes Square (12.30 PM): Take the historical Metro 1 to your next destination. The metro was opened in 1896 which made it the first electric underground line on the European mainland. After arriving at Heroes Square, a 40m high column is the first thing you notice. The monument is known as the Millenium Monument and it was built in 1896 to celebrate the change of the millennium. All of the parts in the monument are tributing Hungary's history.
- Museum of Fine Arts (1.30 PM): Next to Heroes Square you will find the Museum of Fine Arts. It was opened in 1906 and its exhibitions contain Hungarian and international art from ancient times to the end of the 18th century. The total number of artworks it contains exceeds over 120 thousand pieces.
- Vajdahunyad Castle (3.00 PM): After visiting the museum, walk over to the City Park where you will find the Vajdahunyad Castle. It was built in 1896, and it is a great example of the architectural history of different styles and centuries in Hungary.
- Széchenyi Thermal Bath (4.00 PM): After a long day of walking, end your day relaxing in the famous Széchenyi Thermal Bath near the castle.
Day 3: Day trip to Town of Szentendre
Now that you have seen the most important parts of Budapest, why should you limit your experience only to one city? Hungary has a lot to offer and there are plenty of other places to visit. Take a day trip to the cute river town of Szentendre, located on the left bank of the Danube. You can reach the town easily from Budapest by train, bus or car. Szentendre is famous for its pastel-coloured building, cobblestone streets and cute little shops.
Back in the day, the town used to be a settlement for Serbians who were fleeing from Ottoman Turkey in the late 17th century. After the Balkan was freed in the early 20th century, most of the Serbs returned to their motherland. Still today you can find many signs of the old settlement and Serbian culture all around the town. The town also has an old artist colony dating back to 1926, which is why the town is full of museums dedicated to famous artists.
- The Main Square (9.00 AM): The main square is the most picturesque part of the town. Various cute shops are located in the area, waiting for you to explore, or you can sit down in cafés and restaurants and enjoy traditional Hungarian cuisines. It is also an easy place to start your day since most of the attractions are connected through it. Later during the day, it is a great place to have lunch!
- The Marzipan House (10.00 AM): This is a place that you do not want to miss. It is an entire museum dedicated to statues made from marzipan. A fun activity for all ages!
- Lunch (11.00 AM): Take lunch in one of the many restaurants or cafés found in the town. After lunch, buy gelato and take a relaxing walk by the riverside.
- The Kovács Margit Ceramics Museum (12.30 PM): Visit the most popular museum in Szentendre. Dedicated to Margit Kovács works of Kossuth Prize-laureate ceramics.
- Hungarian Open Air Museum (1.30 PM): Walk back to the Szentendre HÉV station and take a local bus to the museum. The ride takes around 40 minutes. The museum presents Hungarian culture and way of living from the 18th century to the 20th century. The area is huge with more than 400 buildings and the area consists of many different museums and exhibitions. It is a must-visit attraction that will take the rest of the day for you to explore!
Why should you hire a private tour guide Budapest
Budapest is a great destination for first-timers, but wouldn't it be much more fun to experience the city with a local? By booking a private tour guide you can enjoy your vacation to the fullest. Our guides can plan and take you to different sights in the fastest ways while avoiding the big crowds. If you are not sure where to visit or you want to see more off-beaten paths our local guides can arrange a customised itinerary just for you. All you have to do is ask!
Another benefit of booking a private tour is that you can enjoy interacting one-on-one with your guide as they provide you with detailed and interesting information about each location you visit. Every tour is customizable to your needs, schedule, and preferences, all you have to do is contact one of our guides and they will work with your requests. Let us know your interests and we can your itinerary based on your preferences to make your visit truly unique and memorable.
I hope this article got you interested in hiring a private tour guide for your next visit to Budapest. Below you can find more recommendations of the tours offered by our local guides.
Recommended Private Tours
Information about COVID-19 measures in Hungary
The current European entry ban is affecting some people from travelling to the European Union or Schengen area. Hungary has its own classification of risk areas and is not using the common EU Traffic Lights map and it has closed its border to all foreign nationals. For more information click here.
When arriving in Hungary:
- All foreign nationals must apply for an exemption, which should be completed in advance of travelling
- All persons arriving in Hungary need to have a medical examination in which the temperature is checked
- If there is a risk of infection, the person will be refused entry to Hungary
- A person who can provide a certificate of recovering from COVID-19 in the past 6 months can enter Hungary without restrictions
- There is a mandatory 10-day quarantine for all persons arriving in Hungary
- Quarantine may be shortened if a PCR test is taken no less than 5 days after arrival. The second one has to be done no less than 48hours after the first one. If results are negative on both tests, then the quarantine can end
The whole nationwide recommendations:
- There is a curfew between 10.00 PM and 5.00 AM
- Mask is mandatory in public
- Shops are open from 5.00 AM to 9.30 PM
- There is a limit for customers inside shops, one customer per 10 m2
- Restaurants are bars are closed
- Public areas and parks are open
- Hotels are closed
- If a person does not follow these rules, they may be fined
Other useful websites for COVID-19 information in Hungary: