Budapest hits our list as one of the more unknown romantic cities in central Europe. Check out our post on other hidden gems in Europe here. Everybody knows about London, Paris, and Venice, but let us introduce you to Budapest! Located almost right in the middle of Europe, Budapest is one of the best under-visited cities we’ve ever been to! Did you know that Budapest is actually two cities combined into one? Back in the day, they were referred to as Buda and Pest with the Danube River splitting the two? Today, the two cities are simply known as Budapest, with locals referring to locations either on the Buda side or the Pest side! The city has so much to see and do, has one of our favorite hotels, and is extremely accessible to and from other parts of Europe! Take a seat and let us walk you through some of our favorite parts of Budapest in this amazing 3 days in Budapest itinerary!
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Cool Things to do in Budapest
Budapest has a crazy long history and has been influenced by numerous cultures over the years. Just like any city with long a history, there’s always plenty of areas to explore! We have listed a few of our favorite spots with some background and details to help guide you along the way!
Thermal Baths in Budapest
The Széchenyi Thermal Baths are the largest thermal medicinal baths in all of Europe. The waters of these pools are said to have healing minerals in their warm, steamy waters. Visitors come from all over for a variety of reasons from experiencing the healing nature of the waters, to simply relaxing in the pools, or even to get a massage or beauty treatment. Not only is it a fun place to relax during the day or even at night, but it’s a beautiful facility and makes for some beautiful shots for your next Instagram post! Because the Széchenyi Thermal Baths are extremely popular and can get very crowded at times we recommend heading over to Rudas Thermal Baths. Being a slightly less well-known thermal bath in Budapest the Ruda Baths will allow you to beat the crowds and enjoy some peaceful relaxation. Equally as beautiful, this old Turkish thermal bath will allow you to find some peace and solitude amidst your stay. Spend time in one of the six thermal steam pools, one of which is a rooftop pool that will give you panoramic views of the city and the Danube River. Also available are a large swimming pool, a variety of saunas, a wellness department, and a full restaurant there’s surely something here to meet your needs! We opted for the Swimming pool-wellness ticket with locker usage at 3,500ft which converts to $11.56. Click here to get this special deal, that’s been offered to our readers only! It includes a full-day spa ticket to the wellness section of the Rudas Bath, a 3-course meal, coffee, a glass of wine, and a glass of champagne.
Oldest Subway in Europe
The Millennium Underground, also known as the M1, is the oldest electric subway in Europe. This underground railway dates back more than 120 years and is still used every day by locals and tourists alike! While there is a lot of governmental history surrounding this railway dealing with evacuations and such, we’ll just suggest that you take a few rides on the rickety yellow cars that make their way under the bustling streets of Budapest above. It’ll be like stepping back in time! We do suggest to make sure you pay for your ride. Even locals will try to simply get on without paying and will be fined. It’s only a few Hungarian Forint to ride, but it’ll be worth it!
This nearly 800-year-old castle sits atop a hill overlooking the Danube River and the best of Budapest. A visit to the Buda Castle can pack two items into one. To get to the castle there are several options, the most popular being the Buda Castle Funicular. This particular funicular is the second oldest of its kind in the world! Using weights and pulleys to move the cart up and down the rails, the ride itself is a bit of an adventure with some of the best views over Budapest! When you get to the castle, you can take the 2-hour tour offered Tuesday-Sunday from 10am-6pm. The grounds are open 24-hours and we HIGHLY recommend going to see the views of Parliament and the bridges from here at night!
Fisherman’s Bastion as we see it today was constructed around the turn of the 20th century as part of the reconstruction project of the Buda Castle. Known for having arguably the greatest panoramic view of Budapest in the city, the Bastion is located just beyond the Buda Castle, on Castle Hill. The grounds are free to explore and open 24-hours, so come any time of day for beautiful site seeing and exploring. However, the real glory of the city can happen after the sun goes down! Wander up to Fisherman’s Bastion to look across the Danube to Pest side of the city and see the Liberty Bridge, Parliament building, and the rest of the city all lit up as the night comes alive!
Located in the old Jewish Quarter, these Ruin Bars are the stuff of legend. After World War 2, buildings, shops, and homes were left broken and abandoned. That is until a few business owners started to come in and set up bars in these abandoned structures. Now, these funky bars are everywhere! They look like normal buildings, and you may even walk by a few without knowing it, but once you walk inside you won’t want to leave! One of the main drags for the ruin bars is called Gozsdu-Udvar. The seven buildings that comprise the area were a former Jewish Ghetto during the height of World War 2. Today the area is filled with cafes, shops, galleries, and ruin bars! Come grab a drink, meet both locals and travelers, and grab someone to dance with! These bars are decked out in second-hand furniture, random artwork, and feature unique vibes that can’t be found anywhere else.
Pro Tip: Just a short walk from this alley of ruin bars is a GREAT restaurant called Konyvbar. We were specifically there for the Lord of the Rings tasting menu. This restaurant also has vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, and gluten-free options. This would be a great option to fill up on food before heading to Gozsdu-Udvar for drinking and dancing the night away!
One of the grandest buildings you’ll see anywhere in the world, the Hungarian Parliament building sits right on the edge of the Danube River with its imposing beauty. Tours run most days through different parts of the building. Be prepared to go through extra security which is normal for any governmental building. For the best views of the Parliament building, make your way up to the Fisherman’s Bastion at night or opt for a river cruise that will get you up close and personal with this massive building. The Parliament building lights up the face of Budapest with splendor and glory that will leave you breathless.
Great Central Market
The Great Central Market is a massive covered marketplace where locals will shop for fresh veggies, meats, and produce as well as other goods. Hungary has had some Turkish/Ottoman influence throughout history, so you’ll feel like you’re walking through the European version of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar or Spice Bazaar. You can walk through the lower level to see all of the vendors and then once your mouth is watering from looking at all of the delicious delicacies, you can make your way upstairs where the Hungarian food stalls are located and grab a bite to eat!
Ervin Szabó Library
The Ervin Szabó Library is an old aristocratic mansion that was turned into a library. Pro Tip: This hidden gem has yet to make it mainstream as a tourist attraction but it won’t be long until it has. So get it on your Instagram now! It’s a hard-to-find location but it is worth the discovery! There’s a fee to get in, but it’s five times cheaper if you just get a library card! Simply fill out the information with the address you’re staying at and receive your first Hungarian library card! The next adventure is navigating the library. With the winding staircases, side staircases, hidden and hard to find rooms, you’ll have your hands full finding the Central Library. The Central Library is one of the more picturesque old library rooms we’ve ever seen! Once you find it, go grab a leather-bound book off the shelf and find a comfy corner to sit in and let yourself live the aristocratic life for a day!
Where to Stay in Budapest
The Baltazar Hotel
One of the biggest reasons why we love Budapest is because of how incredibly affordable it is! Aside from being able to eat and explore on a budget, there are incredible places to stay with some of the best prices we’ve seen in Europe. When you combine that with everything else there is to do in the city, why wouldn’t you want to visit for your 3 days in Budapest adventure?! For us though, there’s one place that we stayed that stood out more than the rest – the Baltazar Boutique Hotel!
The Baltazar Boutique Hotel is BY FAR our favorite hotel when it comes to affordability and luxury! This swanky spot will have you feeling like you took a walk back in time. It’s a bit of old-school luxury with the touch of an elegant, bohemian feel. Each of the eleven rooms is uniquely decorated in different styles that adhere to the entire atmosphere of the hotel. The service at this hotel is world-class and second to none. We were cared for far beyond the standard of any normal hotel and from what we had heard prior to our stay, that’s simply how great the staff is ALL THE TIME.
Baltazar Boutique Hotel is located in a central part of the city, just on the Buda side of the river. If you’re riding public transportation during your stay, bus number 16 will stop right in front of the hotel, which makes getting to the Pest side, as well as around the city extremely convenient. Fortunately, you won’t even need to catch a bus to find adventure! Fisherman’s Bastion is just a short five-minute walk from the hotel and Buda Castle only ten minutes past that.
The owner of the hotel was originally in the restaurant industry, so you can imagine just how amazing the restaurant and bar are here! If you need some extra convincing, just consider the fact that it’s listed on the Michelin Guide for 2019! Whether you find a seat outside on the terrace or head inside for a cozy experience, the Baltazar restaurant will satisfy every one of your taste buds. With charcoal from Argentina, aged beef from the US, pork from Austria, and homegrown Hungarian duck and chicken, you can be assured that you will only be served the absolute best! Is your mouth watering yet? Ours certainly are.
Book directly through their website for their “secret deal”.
Top Destinations from Budapest
Being centrally located in Europe has its perks. Several easy trips can be made from Budapest, whether it’s just a day trip to Vienna or a weekend trip to Munich. We’ve listed a few easy routes below to some incredible other European cities.
- Distance by train: 2 hours and 40 minutes
- Top Attractions: St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Schönbrunn Palace, Spanish Riding School
Prague, Czech Republic
- Distance by train: 6 hours and 30 minutes
- Top Attractions: St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague Castle, Astronomical Clock
- Distance by train: 2 hours and 30 minutes
- Top Attractions: Devin Castle, Historic Centre, Blue Church
- Distance by train: 6 hours and 50 minutes
- Top Attractions: Marienplatz, Oktoberfest, Hofbräuhaus
- Distance by train: 4 hours and 55 minutes
- Top Attractions: Kaptol and Gradec, Tkalčićeva Street, Mimara Museum
This is not a comprehensive list of attractions in each city, but just enough to wet your pallet. We’ve listed these popular destinations by train, as it’s probably the most European way to travel. However, you can find flights to further destinations around Europe for insanely great prices. Prices get even cheaper if you’re simply taking a weekend trip and only taking a backpack. Most flights will be well under $100 with some budget airlines even making it under $20 for a one-way flight. Check out our post on how to use and book with Skyscanner.
To sum up these 3 days in Budapest itinerary, there’s an option for everybody. Whether it’s lovely strolls along the Danube, partying at a ruin bar in the Jewish Quarter, eating world-class food, or searching out the best nighttime views, there will be something for you that makes you fall in love with this city. So if you are already in Europe and want to hop on a train to a new city, or if you are sitting at home trying to find inspiration to visit a new country, we can’t recommend Budapest, Hungary enough. However, if you are heading to Western Europe we also have you covered in our Western Europe Travel Guide.
We would love to hear what you think of Budapest and what are your favorite spots to visit while there.