A Guide to the Perfect 3 Days in Budapest

by madelineraeaway
View of Budapest from Gellert Hill
Budapest Itinerary // 3 Days in Budapest // Budapest Food Guide // Budapest City Guide

Budapest is a city that I have longed to visit for awhile. It was a city that I have almost visited so many times, but never quite got there. So when we started planning our first weekend away since I moved to Sweden, spending 3 days in Budapest seemed like the easy choice.

And our weekend in Budapest certainly lived up to the hype.

Szechenyi Baths, Budapest
Szechenyi Baths, Budapest

The sunny weather reached over an unexpected 20 degrees [in late March!], and the city felt so alive. Coming from a chilly, grey Sweden, we felt like we might as well have been in the Mediterranean. And, because it was March, the city lacked the bustle of tourists that it typically experiences in the warmer months.

This set the stage for a truly perfect weekend away.

We had the best 3 days in Budapest, and I want to give you the all the details so that you can have the best time too. As we always aim to do, this itinerary offers the perfect mix of must-do touristy and off-the-beaten-track Budapest – and A LOT of amazing food recos.

So, here it is: A guide on how to spend the perfect weekend in Budapest.


Where to Stay in Budapest

Pal’s Hostel

Confession: I have always loved a good, cheap backpacking hostel, where I shared a room with a bunch of strangers and made friends with other travel-lovers. But since Sebastian and I met and started travelling together, our travel preferences have changed a bit. And consequently, I haven’t stay in a hostel in a couple years.

However, this trip was extremely last minute, and the price of booking a last minute hotel was expensive. We were looking for something simple, but clean, with a private bathroom, and in the city centre – all at a good value. That’s when I stumbled across Pal’s Hostel and knew that I had found the perfect place.

However, nothing could have prepared me for just how nice this spot would be. Located in the most gorgeous historical building right across the street from the popular St. Stephen’s Basilica landmark, this hostel is in the perfect location, within walking distance of all major sights. Not to mention, the hostel has the most friendly and helpful staff who went out of their way to ensure that we had the best stay!

We opted for a private room with private bathroom, and to say the room was huge would be an understatement. It also featured the most beautiful high ceilings, comfortable bed, kitchenette with dining room table, and the biggest surprise – the private balcony overlooking St. Stephen’s Basilica. This was a feature that I was not expecting, and it absolutely blew me away. I mean, look at those views.

Pal's Hostel, Budapest
Views from our private balcony at Pal’s Hostel

If you’re looking for a no-frills, affordable, perfectly-located private room in the heart of Budapest – this is your spot. And if you can, request this room and take in the breathtaking basilica views.


Things to Do in Budapest

Visit a Historical Castle

Buda Castle, which sits atop the Buda side of the Danube River, is worth spending time to explore. Walk across the famous Széchenyi Chain Bridge and enjoy the riverfront views.

Once across the river, you can either enjoy a leisurely walk to the top of the hill, or take a tram, and explore the Buda castle grounds. Here, you’ll also find some beautiful views of the city.

Once you’re done at the castle, make your way to Matthias Church and the Fisherman’s Bastion. We opted to not tour the church, or pay to walk along the top of the Bastion, but these are both options. Instead we explored the ground area, and again admired the views.

Hike to the Highest Point in Budapest

Gellert Hill offers panoramic views of Budapest. Take a 15-20 minute uphill walk to the Citadella at the top, and admire Pest from an entirely new perspective.

I have been told that the best time to visit Gellert Hill is at sunset to take in the most beautiful views. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to do this and instead visited in the morning, but it is something I will definitely do when I next return to Budapest.

Explore the Famous Budapest Pub Culture

Scattered throughout the Jewish Quarter, you’ll find tons of ruin bars offering cheap drinks in the most eclectic, unique atmospheres. Our favourite was the most famous ruin pub, Szimpla Kert, but other really popular options include Instant [which has turned into more of a night club], Csendes, and Yellow Zebra.

Szimpla Kert, Budapest
Patio at Szimpla Kert, Budapest

Soak in the Famous Thermal Baths

One of the most popular things to do in Budapest is undoubtedly visit their famous thermal baths. We decided to visit the most popular bath, Szechenyi Thermal Baths, because we were really interested in an outdoor bath experience. Although a bit expensive, this was an awesome experience. With 18 indoor and outdoor pools, this place is huge! We spent most of our time outside in the thermal pool, taking in the beautiful surrounding architecture and enjoying the sunshine.

Szechenyi Baths
Szechenyi Baths

Tip: If you plan to visit Szechenyi Thermal Baths, the earlier in the day the better. We arrived around 10am on a Sunday and it was already fairly busy. And by the time we left, there were several people queuing outside for tickets.

To get to the Szechenyi Thermal Baths from the city centre, I recommend hopping on the Budapest Metro. Tickets are cheap, and taking a ride on the yellow line will make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time.

There are tons of thermal baths all over Budapest. I would have loved to visit others, but we simply didn’t have the time. Other local and tourist favourites include Gellert Spa and Rudas Baths.

Go Shopping at an Indoor Market

Central Market Hall is a massive indoor market that offers a variety of different vendors. Here, you can find local souvenirs, tons of handmade goods, fresh produce and meats, and a variety of food vendors.

Central Market Hall, Budapest
Central Market Hall

Experience Budapest at Night

Budapest is beautiful at all hours of the day, but it’s charm is a little extra special at night. Walk along the banks of the Danube at night, and watch the city sparkle. Buda Castle and and the Hungarian Parliament Building are especially beautiful when lit up at night.

Many people recommend taking a Danube River cruise at sunset or in the evening to truly appreciate the glow of the city. We didn’t end up having time to do this, but I’ve heard that it is a fantastic experience.

Hungarian Parliament at Night
Hungarian Parliament
Buda Castle at Night
Buda Castle at Night

Shop In The Jewish Quarter

We stumbled upon Gozsdu Udvar in the Jewish Quarter, which is an eclectic narrow alleyway filled with street vendors, restaurants, and bars. We bought a few souvenirs, including some handmade leather goods, and really enjoyed the overall vibes of this district.


Best Restaurants in Budapest

It’s safe to say that one of my favourite things about Budapest was the food culture. Before visiting, the only Hungarian food I had heard of was goulash – and I had absolutely no idea what to expect. Verdict: Hungarian food is delicious [and cheap!].

Here’s all the places to eat – and the restaurants I would avoid – in Budapest.

Cirkusz

Located in the Jewish Quarter and coined the ‘ruin pub’ of breakfast joints, Cirkusz offers a diverse and tasteful breakfast menu, complete with staples like eggs benedict, as well as Hungarian-inspired breakfast options.

Things to Try: I indulged in the french toast, which was perfectly cooked and flavourful, and Sebastian opted for in one of the seasonal delicacies – a pulled pork eggs benedict. Delicious!

Hungarikum Bisztro

We had the best Hungarian food at Hungarikum Bisztro. It was so good, in fact, that we ate there twice for lunch.

This place serves authentic Hungarian food, and has super generous portions at a very affordable price. It is super popular with both locals and tourists, so if you plan to visit for lunch or dinner, make a reservation in advance.

Things to Try: Goulash Soup with Mini Noodles, Dumplings with Sausage and Sour Cabbage, Hungarian Gnocchi with Sour Cream and Roasted Bacon Cubes, and Pork Loin with Paprika Sauce and Bacon-Sour Cabbage Dumplings.

Tip: The goulash portion is huge. However, you can ask them to split it into two bowls to split for an appetizer.

Belvárosi Lugas Vendéglő

Another traditional Hungarian option located nearby our hostel, Belvárosi Lugas Vendéglő is affordable and has great food if you’re looking for traditional Hungarian fare.

Things to Try: Goulash Soup, Hungarian Ratatouille with Smoke Sausage, Hungarian Deer Stew, and for dessert, “Bird Milk” with Baked Foam and Caramel Sauce.

Central Market Hall

At Central Market Hall, go upstairs to explore a variety of vendors with traditional Hungarian options. Here, we indulged Langos, which is Hungary’s most popular street food, and spicy sausages.

HILDA

HILDA is visually beautiful, and offers a menu to match. Here, you can find modern twists on Hungarian favourites, an extensive cocktail menu, and lots of local Hungarian wine options.

Things to Try: Goulash [can you tell that we loved goulash?] and Chicken Paprikash with Dumplings.

HILDA is also open for brunch/lunch, and I wish we would have known about it earlier because we would have definitely visited again to try the daytime menu.

Gelarto Rosa

For the most beautiful gelato you’ll ever eat, head to Gelarto Rosa. Here, you can sit outside of St. Stephen’s Basilica and eat gelato in the shape of a rose [talk about insta-worthy!]. I loved the Basil Lemon and Rose flavours!

Tip: This place was located outside our hostel, and every time we walked by it always had a very long line. However, we went in the late morning, shortly after they opened, and only had to wait a few minutes.

Gelarto Rosa, Budapest
Gelarto Rosa

Street Food Karavan

Street Food Karavan is just what it sounds like – a marketplace full of food trucks! You can find a variety of Hungarian street food staples here, such as langos, kolbice, and sausages. We stopped in and grabbed a cinnamon chimney cake, which is essentially a cylinder of citrusy dough covered in cinnamon, and a definite must-try in Budapest.


Restaurants I Wouldn’t Visit Again

In the interest of transparency, I also want to share the restaurants we visited that didn’t live up to their hype. These places came highly recommended, and weren’t total misses, but it’s safe to say I won’t be returning.

Our first dinner at Fricska Gastropub was good, but not great, which was incredibly disappointing because it had such outstanding reviews and was recommended by several notable food blogs. The food lacked a lot of flavour, and despite the more premium price point, paled in comparison to other meals we had in Budapest.

Additionally, Café Gerbeaud came highly recommended but was absolutely over hyped. The interior was beautiful, but they charge you a premium to eat there, as well as an additional service charge. The sweets were yummy, but we paid over 30 euros for two pieces of cake and two coffees – which, quite frankly, is just plain robbery in Budapest. If you want to indulge in these popular sweets, I would recommend going inside, snapping a couple pictures, and taking the desserts to-go for a third of the price.


Best Drinks in Budapest

Szimpla Kert

There are a ton of ruin pubs in Budapest. Just wander around the Jewish Quarter and you’re bound to find a few to stumble into. However, the first, and most iconic one, is undoubtedly Szimpla Kert.

Filled with a mix-match of just about every kind of repurposed ‘junk’ you can think of, including bathtub planters and old cars, this is a must-visit. We opted to visit during the day and sit on the patio, and it was the perfect place to drink beers in the sunshine.

Warmup

If you’re looking for cocktails, Warmup is your place. This is a speakeasy-style cocktail bar where the friendly bartenders come sit at your table, ask you what you like, and then craft a unique cocktail aimed to satisfy your favourite flavours.

Personally, I am a huge fan of a floral cocktail, and the bartender delivered me arguably the best rose-flavoured cocktail I’ve ever had. I really can’t say enough about this spot.


It’s Safe to Say That I Fell In Love with Budapest

Exploring Budapest

With the friendliest locals, spectacular sights, and some of the most delicious food that I’ve had in all of Europe, this city is so easy to love. And I’m confident that you will love it too.

If you have any questions about spending 3 days in Budapest, send me a message. And you liked what you read, don’t forget to pin it below!

xx,

Madeline

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