I’ve been to Budapest twice now, and my two itineraries could not have been more different. One was a family trip, heavy on the sightseeing and light on the urban culture. The second was a solo trip dedicated to exploring the city’s culinary scene and photo spots, with a little bit of nightlife education thrown in there, too!
Between the two trips, I finally feel like I’ve seen a good portion of what this Eastern European gem has to offer, and I’ve put the best of each together into one ultimate Budapest itinerary! Read on to see how I’d structure a three-day while hitting all the highlights.
THE ULTIMATE BUDAPEST ITINERARY FOR FIRST-TIME VISITORS
Welcome to Budapest! First thing’s first: Drop your stuff off at your hotel, and if you’re staying on the Buda side, admire the view across the river, where the stunning Hungarian Parliament building sits on the banks of the sparkling Danube. (I highly recommend staying in Buda for this reason—I could gaze out the window at Parliament for hours!)
Keep the day going strong by walking over to a pair of Buda’s other architectural treasures, Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church. If you’re staying at the Hilton Budapest, one of my favorite hotels of all time, you’ll be just around the corner! Admire the colorful tiled zigzags on the roof of the church and find a perch to take it all in at Fisherman’s Bastion. Afterward, roam the quaint streets of Buda, popping into little shops as you go!
Eventually, make your way down toward the famous Chain Bridge and cross to Pest, where you’ll find MÁK Bistro, open for lunch Tuesday through Friday. Take advantage of the restaurant’s three-course business lunch special and enjoy sampling contemporary Hungarian cuisine with a Scandinavian twist.
My favorite way to orient myself to a new city is to take a free walking tour, and Budapest has a great one. It currently leaves at 2:30 from the Budapest Eye on Erzsébet square, but check the website, as the meeting place may move once construction wraps up on Vörösmarty square! The tour will lead you several famous landmarks in Pest and eventually back across the river to Buda Castle. Once it wraps up, head back to your hotel to relax for a bit before finding a homey place for dinner close by (and don’t forget to try the Hungarian wine!).
Start the day off by visiting Budapest bathhouse, a quintessential experience when visiting this city (it’s been a bath capital for centuries!) I highly recommend the gorgeous, Neo-Baroque Széchenyi Thermal Baths, one of Europe’s largest spa complexes. It’s got both indoor and outdoor bathing options at various temperatures, so don’t worry if the weather isn’t ideal! For tips on visiting Széchenyi, check out this post.
Have you been to Budapest? Anything from your Budapest itinerary that I missed? Let me know in the comments! >>
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