3 days in Budapest is enough to visit most of the main sights. This itinerary will help you get the most out of your short stay. Let’s explore the busy downtown of Pest and the medieval Castle District of Buda. You will also have time to soak your tired muscles in our baths. Let’s go! 😊
3 days in Budapest: Day 1 - Explore Downtown
Szamos Cafe - breakfast with a view
Parliament and Kossuth Square
Walk around Kossuth Square, where the House of Parliament is located.
The richly decorated, Neo-Gothic styled Parliament is the third largest Parliament in the world. The national flag in front of it is ceremonially raised and lowered every day. Soldiers stand guard and the changing of the guards happens once every hour.
If you would like to see the interior of the building, you should go on a tour. Tours take 45 minutes and you will get guiding, information about the history of the building and of course you can see the crown jewels. These tours sell out far in advance. Make sure you book your tickets online.
Tours: English tours are offered at 10:00, 12:00, 12:30, 1:30, 2:30, 3:30
Cost: HUF 3,500 EU Citizens; HUF 6,700 non-EU Citizens
Book your tickets in advance: this is the website where you can purchase your tickets in advance.
Shoes on the Danube Promenade Memorial
After visiting the Parliament, go to the bank of the Danube and head to the south. In about 5 minutes you will arrive to the Shoes on the Danube Promenade Memorial.
The sixty pairs of shoes commemorate those who were shot into the Danube by the Nazis.
Victims were instructed to take off their shoes before being shot. Their bodies fall into the Danube and carried away by the river.
The Memorial was unveiled in 2005.
St. Stephen’s Basilica
St. Stephen’s Basilica is the most significant Roman Catholic Church in Budapest. It can host 3,500 people at the same time. Have a look at the mummified right hand of our first king. The panorama from its lookout terrace is wonderful, it really worth the climb.
Basilica is open: Monday – Friday 9 am to 7 pm; Sunday 7:45 am – 7 pm
Bell Tower: 10 am – 6:30 pm between June and September; 10 am – 4:30 pm between November and March and 10 am – 5:30 in April, May and October
Cost: 200 HUF / 1 EUR as donation, HUF 1000 to climb the tower
After visiting the Basilica, walk back to the Danube through Zrínyi street.
On the corner of Zrínyi street and Szent István square stands Gresham Palace, the most luxurious hotel in Budapest. Even if you are not staying here, have a quick peek inside.
If you want to take a quick break, step into Gerbeaud. This fancy coffee and pastry shop has delicious cakes and coffee. If this coffee shop is not your style but you would like something sweet, there is also a Szamos cafe at the corner of Deák Ferenc street and Váci street, right next to Hard Rock Cafe.
This is the main shopping and pedestrian street of downtown Budapest. This two kilometers long street runs between Vörösmarty Square and the Central Market Hall.
Visiting the Market is not part of this day, I recommend strolling through cute little streets instead. 😊
So, walk along Váci street and cross Szabad sajtó út (the only huge road that crosses Váci street) and continue your walk, straight.
Now you are on the other side of Váci street. This part is calmer, there are fewer people on the street. Also, you can see restaurants here, but I do not recommend them. There is only one exception, Fatál restaurant (fatál means “wooden plate” in Hungarian, not something deadly 😀 ).
From here I recommend taking tiny streets, I give you a Google map as a guide.
So, the route:
From Váci street, turn to the left and walk through Nyári Pál and Papnövelde streets. You will arrive to Egyetem tér (“University square”). Here you can sit in a Starbucks and/or Pad Thai fast food restaurant, if you would like to. (There will be better options later.)
From here, Károlyi Garden is just around the corner. I recommend to have a rest here (maybe ask your coffee or your pad thai in a paper cup/box and sit on one of the benches in Károlyi Garden. There is no bathroom here, so use it in the restaurants before heading to the garden).
There is also a cute “winebar and garden”, called “Csendes Társ” with tables outdoor at the main entrance of Károlyi Garden, and a cafe/restaurant, “Csendes” (yeah, same company) with a menu, if you would like to try something new.
The palace connecting Museum Boulevard with Magyar Street is one of the earliest works of Miklós Ybl, one of the greatest masters of Hungarian architecture.
The building was built between 1852 and 1853, commissioned by Henrik Unger.
On the first floor of the building, which features Romantic, Byzantine, and Moorish elements, we can see seven small balconies, each of which are supported by two griffons from below. Have a look at them from Múzeum körút.
The courtyard, which is most commonly used as a shortcut, is covered by wooden blocks – similarly to the driveway of the Opera House.
The worn building definitely deserves a thorough renovation.
For more info about hidden courtyards in the vicinity, check out my post: Hidden courtyards in Budapest.
National Museum and the Palace Quarter in Józsefváros
The area you are going to visit now is called Józsefváros, named after the heir of the Hungarian throne, Emperor Joseph II in 1777.
This area has seen and experienced a lot during history. Flood damaged the whole neighborhood in 1838, demolishing 900 houses. Aristocrats built their palaces and mansions here between 1860 and the WW1.
Bullet-marks on the buildings show that the area was scarred by numerous wars and fights such as the Second World War, the 1956 revolution and the subsequent Soviet attack. By the early post-communist period, the Józsefváros had a reputation as the poorest and most crime-ridden area of Pest.
Today, the area is renewed or being renewed, some of the district’s streets are converted into pedestrian-only areas. The slum is converting into a friendly neighborhood, where restaurants and cafes are already thriving.
The Palotanegyed (Palace Quarter) is part of Józsefváros. It includes a few streets behind the National Museum.
It was the first palace built in the Quarter between 1837 and1847. Its presence raised the value of the whole area, where wealthy families started to build their residences.
After visiting the National Museum (inside or outside) walk a few hundred meters on Baross street to Szabó Ervin Library.
Here is the map of this area (from the National Museum to Dohány street Synagogue)
Wenckheim Palace - Metropolitan Szabó Ervin Library
The building at Szabó Ervin Square was built between 1886 and 1889 with Neo-Renaissance, Neo-Baroque, Rococo and Biedermeier elements. The palace was named after and built for Frigyes Wenckheim. In 1927 the building was sold to the capital and Szabó Ervin Library opened its doors to the public and has been operating in the palace ever since.
Have a peek inside!
Address: Szabó Ervin square 1.
Hungarian Chamber of Architects operates in this smaller palace.
It has a very unique, oasis-like inner garden and ivy-run walls, a wall fountain and flower-patterned stone paving.
There is also a small restaurant inside with classic daily menus and reasonable prices.
Address: Ötpacsirta street 2.
Gróf Károlyi Alajos Palace (my favorite)
This building – by Miklós Ybl – was one of the first buildings erected after the completion of the Museum. It showed aristocrats that investing in the area behind the Museum has potential.
It burned down in 1944 and doesn’t have a proper function ever since.
Building of the Hungarian Radio
Well… It is just an ugly modern building, built during the communist regime. I heard rumors about its demolition.
Eszterházy Palace (the red brick building)
It was built in 1871 and was the residence of the Hungarian President between 1946-48.
Since 1950 it is also one of the buildings of the Hungarian Radio and it is famous for its Marble Room and its superb acoustics.
Gróf Festetics Palace - Andrássy University
This palace was one of the luckiest of all as it survived the past century without much damage, so it is in its original condition.
It is also an Ybl-building that was built on the model of Italian palaces.
Today the palace is not only an event venue (four unique banquet halls can be rented for photo shoots, filming or weddings) but also the home of the private Andrássy University, the only completely German-language university outside German-speaking countries.
Students are listening to the lectures in one of the most beautiful buildings in Budapest.
Address: Pollack Mihály square 3.
This palace on the corner of Bródy Sándor Street and Puskin Street was partly an aristocratic palace and partly a tenement house. The residents of the two sides used separate entrances and staircases so they did not interact much.
This palace is a bit different than the others. Its main front facing Pollack Mihály square is majestic but modest, while its side on Puskin street is quite monotonous. Comparing its facade to Festetics Palace or Károlyi Palace it does not seem to be palace-like.
Its architectural approach is more like the concept of the palaces in downtown and Lipótváros, meaning it does not flaunt, or show off even between more casual blocks of flats. Only its elegance and tiny delicate features show that “different” kind of people lived in it.
The values of Degenfeld Palace – the doorway, hallway, the grandness of the main staircase and the cast-iron balcony of the courtyard – are uncovered only for those who step inside the building.
When Miklós Ybl – the architect – died, the whole building was covered with a huge black veil.
House of Representatives (Today: Italian Institute)
Again, a building designed by Miklós Ybl. 😊
This palace, that was completed in just 5 months in 1863, was originally built for the Lower House of Representatives. The upper house of the parliament hold their meetings in the National Museum until 1904, when the new Hungarian Parliament building opened.
Since 1942 the building has been housing the Italian Cultural Institute. Currently is has a library, a 500-seat concert hall, a café and even a 140-seat cinema.
Address: Bródy Sándor street 8
After this short sneak-peak into the Palace Quarter, head to the Great Synagogue. It will take about 10-15 minutes on foot to get there.
Great Synagogue of Dohány Street - take a walk through District VII
This unique mix makes this quarter one of the most exciting neighborhoods of Budapest.
After World War II, District VII — the old Jewish quarter — was left to decay.
About 10 years ago, bars and restaurants began to appear again in abandoned buildings.
Have a rest in a Ruin Bar. From the outside, there usually isn’t much to see, but once you get in, you find yourself in a funky, laid-back bar filled with nice people and good food.
Explore the Jewish Quarter.
From the Synagogue, walk along Dohány street to Kazinczy street.
Have a look at Szimpla, the most famous ruin bar of Budapest, then continue your stroll along the street to Ellátó Kert.
From here Gozsdu Courtyard is just a few steps.
Visit the courtyard, eat and drink something if you would like to, the courtyard is full of bars and restaurants. Or: Zing Burger is right at the entrance of the courtyard in Király street.
From here head to Deák Ferenc square, and have a rest on one of the benches while you enjoy the sight of the small pool and make new, duck friends. 😊
3 days in Budapest: Day 2 - Citadel + Castle District
Fővám Square - Great Market Hall
A tourist-favorite, for sure, but locals are also flock the aisles.
Here you will find everything that you need for a tasty breakfast. Try “lángos” on the second floor or eat strudels on the ground floor (middle, main aisle).
TIP: there is also an ALDI supermarket in the basement.
Just across Liberty Bridge towers Gellért Hill. There are several routes to take upwards, you can’t miss them, just follow the stairs and tracks on the Danube side of the slope. Take your time, enjoy the sights.
It will take you 30 minutes maximum to arrive to the top.
There you will find lookout terraces and of course the Citadell and the Statue of Liberty.
If you are hungry or thirsty already, I recommend a small shop, Füge. Here you can purchase soft drinks, an ice-cream or a coffee.
Tabán is a green slope overlooking the Buda Palace right at the foot of Gellért Hill on its north side.
Here is a nice route from Tabán towards the Palace.
This complex is made of newly renovated Neo-Renaissance buildings and flower garden. From here the Castle District is easily accessible on foot or using the escalator and elevators.
As you walk towards Dísz Square you will see excavations. These are ruins, castle walls from the medieval ages. They revealed during the WWII bombings.
Tóth Árpád promenade
This street has gorgeous views of the Buda side. During April the cherry trees are blooming.
If you take the stairs downwards to Lovas street 4, you arrive to the Hospital in the Rock.
Hospital in the Rock Nuclear Bunker Museum – “The history of the Hospital in the Rock is the story of saving lives” – quote from its website
This Museum (Sziklakórház Atombunker Múzeum) is part of a six-mile stretch of interconnected caves and cellars beneath Buda Castle Hill.
During World War II, the caves and tunnels were connected, fortified, and used as an air raid shelter and an emergency surgical hospital was also built within the caves.
The best street if you would like to see some medieval details on its residential houses.
At the end of Úri street you will see