Much of eastern Europe has spectacular cities, and Budapest is most definitely one of them. It’s especially ideal if you want to see Europe on a budget. The Hungarian Forint currently equals roughly $0.0036 USD, making a 3 day Budapest trip very affordable.
Budapest also seems to have a bit of everything, depending on your interests; castles, bar scene, good food, religious sights, historical elements and spas. All in one city. I was there for a long weekend and it wasn’t nearly enough time, though I tried my best. It remains one of my favorite European cities and I think you’ll soon see why.
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Table of Contents
Official Language(s): Hungarian
Currency: Hungarian Forint
Emergency phone number: 112
When to Go to Budapest
March – May or September – October
It’s hard to find a bad time to visit Budapest. In general, I’d avoid July and August since it can get pretty hot and crowded. January can also get bitterly cold.
I visited in October and was treated to changing leaves at every turn. Autumn in Budapest is really something and the temperature was just perfect for this midwesterner.
Plan to Stay
Where to Stay in Budapest
Maverick City Lodge Hostel
Maverick City Lodge Hostel is phenomenal in many aspects. It’s incredibly cheap for the frugal traveler, but I didn’t notice a compromise in quality.
I also enjoyed the fact that, like many good hostels, they offer options to help integrate you to the city. Maverick has free walking tours and a pub crawl (pubs will be relevant in a bit). It’s also steps away from three major attractions; Szimpla Kert, the largest synagogue in Europe and the Street Food Karavan.
Budapest, Kazinczy u. 24, 1075
How to Get Around in Budapest
Budapest is yet another major European city that is meant to be walked around in. Almost everything you’ll want to see is easily walkable.
Some places (like the spas) will require taking the train. I didn’t mind, the stations are really pretty.
Where to Eat in Budapest
Street Food Karavan
The Street Food Karavan requires multiple stops (or one trip when you’re very hungry). It has numerous street food carts and stalls with something for every palate. It’s cash only, so come prepared. You’ll want seconds. Of everything.
Budapest, Kazinczy u. 18, 1075
Café Gerbeaud is very upscale and beautiful. It serves traditional Hungarian fare, but really, come for the desserts. They have monster-sized shakes and my personal favorite, a fabulous selection of cakes. Just looking at them is a treat.
Budapest, Vörösmarty tér 7-8, 1051
Drum Cafe is, to the best of my tastebuds, the place to get Hungarian food. It’s cheap, fast and fun. I had lángos and goulash soup, and both were delicious. If you arrive with a group, I’d recommend you each order something different and play pass the plate. Good way to taste Hungarian dishes.
Budapest, Dob u. 2, 1072
This next recommendation will sound a little strange, but I had to throw it in. If you find yourself craving Cajun and Creole food, go to Soul Food. I realize that if you’re going to Hungary, you probably want to try Hungarian food. But it’s worth a go if you have the time.
Budapest, Kazinczy u. 32, 1075
Day 1 of 3 Days in Budapest
Dohány Street Synagogue
Start the day with a walk around the city. The first stop at Dohány Street Synagogue, the largest synagogue in Europe. The outside is ornate, and inside is a museum, cemetery and memorial to the Holocaust.
Budapest, Dohány u. 2, 1074
Great Market Hall
Great Market Hall is a place you could spend hours in. Food is on the first floor and souvenirs on the second.
It’s also just a great place to people watch. There’s always so much going on.
Budapest, Vámház krt., 1053
Open 6 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday – Friday, 6 a.m. – 3 p.m. Saturday, closed Sunday
St. Stephen’s Basilica
I really, really wish I had done more than glance at St. Stephen’s Basilica. It’s pretty, isn’t it?
Don’t be like me, actually check it out.
Budapest, Szent István tér 1. 1051
Shoes on the Danube Bank
This memorial to the murdered Jews is a short walk away along the Danube. It commemorates the victims of the Holocaust who died in a truly tragic way. They were rounded up, asked to remove their shoes and were then shot at so they fell into the river. 60 pairs of shoes, vayring in styles to note that no one was spared, are displayed. Take a moment here for quiet reflection.
Shoes on the Danube Bank, Budapest, Id. Antall József rkp., 1054
The Hungarian Parliament Building looks so old world, but it was actually completed in 1904. I highly recommend booking a tour; it’s huge.
The building looks like a royal palace, and on that note, you can see the Holy Crown of Hungary. Guarding the Crown is taken very seriously; there’s a changing of the guard every hour, which I was thrilled to witness.
I also may or may not have pretended to be a royal being led through the palace. It just fit the mood.
Budapest, Kossuth Lajos tér 1-3, 1055
Open 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Saturday – Sunday
Margaret Island is located right in the middle of the Danube. It’s dotted with parks, so if jogging is your thing, it’s worth an early morning trip. But if you avoid exercise while vacationing (*raises hand*) I think the island is best viewed at sunset. It’s beautiful.
Open 24 hours
Day 2 of 3 Days in Budapest
Hero’s Square is the largest square in the city, and it’s the most architecturally stunning. Statues of kings, saints and historical figures line the area. I’m told it’s a sight to see at night, so check it out then and get back to me.
There’s museums left…
Open 12 p.m. – 8 p.m. Thursdays, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. all other days except Monday
Museum of Fine Arts
…and right for you aficionados.
Budapest, Hősök tere, 1146
Open 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. every day except Monday
But if museums aren’t your thing, fret not. There’s also a castle showcasing Hungarian architecture that’s only steps away.
Open 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily
Széchenyi Thermal Bath
Next on the list is Széchenyi Thermal Bath, the largest medicinal bath in Europe. Services are available indoor and outdoor. Depending on your spa preferences, you could be here all day or just a couple of hours. I found it difficult to leave. It was so relaxing.
Budapest, Állatkerti krt. 9-11, 1146
Open 6 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Budapest doesn’t just have a castle. They have a whole Castle District. It’s amazing. I had the most fun at Fisherman’s Bastion, a viewing terrace originally built to guard the area, but serves some of the best views of the city.
Matthias Church is housed within the bastion. The exterior itself is stunning. The roof tiles drew me in and I’m so glad I stepped inside.
The curvature of the ceilings, combined with the art and excellent restoration are remarkable.
Budapest, Szentháromság tér 2, 1014
Final stop is Buda Castle. The walk there is tree-lined and beautiful.
No wonder the castle got it’s own district, amiright?
Go at sunset if you can. The castle looks especially imposing at night, and the view of the city is one for the memory books.
Budapest, Szent György tér 2, 1014
Day 3 of 3 Days in Budapest
Gellert Hill is an area I didn’t have nearly enough time to explore. It’s a UNESCO-Heritage site and for a good reason. Hike (or be lazy and take a bus like me) and you’re treated to stunning views of the city. It felt like I could see all of Budapest.
If I had more time and gone a little further, I would’ve stumbled across the statue of Bishop Gellért for whom the hill is named. #manyragrets
The ruin pub scene in Budapest is relatively new and so much fun. Szimpla Kert, the main pub, is the one to see. It was an old factory, set to be demolished. In 2002, it was bought and turned into an open air pub, because why not?
The decor (where the “ruin” comes from) is ridiculous fun. Mismatched items, old antiques and more. Grab a drink and toast to Budapest, you’d only find something like this here.
Budapest, Kazinczy u. 14, 1075
One Last Thing
If you eat in a restaurant in Budapest, leave a tip. Tipping is normal behavior and usually hovers around 10-15%. Many restaurants are starting to add it in addition to your bill, but not all. If you’re not sure, just check your bill and respond accordingly.
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