Including the outskirts of the city, Budapest is home to over three million people. In a city so large, you can be sure there is a multitude of sights to see. Here’s a quick guide to Budapest’s most talked-about locations, including local restaurants, the Budapest baths, and the famous castles and cathedrals that the city is known for. A perfect itinerary for a long weekend in Budapest.
Budapest is charming. The city is history and culture and breathtaking views, all rolled into one.
At night, the skyline glows, as if the stars themselves have swooped down from the inky sky. Lights rest on the pinnacles of the city, on its turrets and stone towers. Below, the Danube faithfully runs, shaping the city into halves with its purple ribbon of water: one side is Buda, the other is Pest. Together, they form the famous capital of Hungary.
If you’ve only planned a long weekend in Budapest, you’ll be quite busy trying to take in all the sights. There is so much to experienmouth-wateringring Hungarian cuisine, architectural marvels, live music, museums, and street markets. If you truly would like to sample (almost) everything that Budapest has to offer, this guide to 3 days in Budapest offers activities for everyone.
Friday: Museums & Music
Let the adventures begin!
To start this long weekend in Budapest, on Friday, you might begin your tour of the city by grabbing breakfast from The Donut Library. This charming café has the feel of a cozy living room, inviting you to stay a while. It offers delicious homemade donuts in both classic and unique flavors (Cinnamon Plum, anyone?) and even has a selection of library books available for patrons. The café is known for using all natural ingredients and serving its donuts with cordials and milk.
From the Donut Library, you’ll be able to head over to The Museum of Fine Arts and Hero’s Square, two Budapest attractions you won’t want to miss. The Museum of Fine Arts is filled with Renaissance paintings from the 15th-18th centuries and the expansive stairs leading up to the museum are a perfect place to give your feet a break from walking. Across the street, Hero’s Square (Hősök tere) stands out against the hustle and bustle. With tall statues and columns commemorating the seven tribe leaders who led the Magyar people to Hungary, it’s an impressive place (and a great photo op).
Feeling hungry yet? Hungarikum Bistro is a favorite casual eatery of mine. It’s open for lunch and dinner and offers live music every night. If you’re interested in trying traditional Hungarian pork dishes or goulash, this is a great place to try traditional food made correctly.
As you traverse through the city by bus or trolley, you’ll pass by many of Budapest’s impressive bridges, so keep your eyes open. The Chain Bridge, one of the most imposing sights, has two tall archways and long, suspended lights along either side. You won’t regret stopping to take a photo. As you pass through the city, keep an eye out for Liberty Bridge, Margaret Bridge, and the Megyeri Bridge, each passing over the Danube and connecting the Buda and Pest sides of the city.
As dusk falls and purple twilight begins to envelop the city, I’d suggest stopping by Montázs Art Café. This café has it all—great coffee drinks, draft beer, live music, and a rotating art gallery. On most weekends, the café offers concerts or live music, so call ahead to see what’s offered. Wrap up your Friday night in Budapest with great music and brews.
Saturday: Walk the City & Dine on the Danube
Saturday, the second day of this Budapest long weekend, is going to be a full day. So, why not start it by hiking Gellért Hill to catch the sunrise?
I’ve made the trek to the top of Gellért Hill in both summer and winter, and it is deeply rewarding in both seasons. Here, at the peak of the city, nothing is veiled from the eye, and even at night, it’s a stunning lookout. If you reach the top in time to see the sunrise, you’ll be able to watch the Danube making its eternal pass as flecks of golden sunshine glint off of Buda Castle and Parliament.
If you visit the north side of Gellért Hill, you can take a 20 to 30-minute hike up the trail to reach the lookout. It is not terribly long but is quite steep. You can also walk to the top from Hotel Gellért, but this route offers less shade. While you’re at the top, don’t forget to stop by the Cave Church, a tiny church built into the Gellért cave system.
Next, consider exploring the Fisherman’s Bastion. Start from Matthias Church, a stunning building with tall turrets, and walk towards the long wall overlooking the city. Built in the late 1800s, this neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque fortress was never used as a defense, but rather as a lookout.
Nonetheless, it’s stunning, and you can grab a bite to eat in the café afterward. Certain parts of the lookout are free, and other areas require a small admission fee. This is the wall that inspired the Walt Disney logo—it has that kind of fairytale charm.
Once you’re at the Fisherman’s Bastion you’ll want to stop by the nearby Buda Castle. You’ll be able to catch a tram to get you close to the castle or walk up castle hill yourself, but be warned— it’s steep! You can take a guided walking tour through the enormous building, or take a castle district walking tour that will take you to other architectural attractions in the Castle District.
I recommend walking outside the Buda Castle at the very least. The original interior was destroyed and has been reconstructed, but the outside is full of history and charm.
Tired yet? Try a bowl of cold fruit soup, offered on the appetizer section of most restaurants that serve traditional Hungarian fare. It’s like a smoothie in a bowl, and is a cold, refreshing treat, especially in the summer.
Now we’ll head over to the Pest side. Before you’re done touring the architecture of the city, I don’t want you to miss St. Stephen’s Basilica, my favorite building in Budapest. In a city filled with marvelous architecture, it stands out as a massive, baroque style cathedral. Admission is free, and you’ll be able to walk around on the main floor and take in the incredible scenes depicted on the walls and ceiling of the cathedral.
For a small admission fee (about 2 USD), you’ll be able to walk up a narrow spiral staircase and view the city from the top of the basilica. The cathedral still holds organ concerts as well as mass, so if you stop by at the right time you may catch a lovely sound echoing against the walls. You won’t be the only tourist, but the balcony provides a birds-eye view of Budapest.
Hungarian Parliament is another great place to visit while you’re in town, and it’s nearby, on the edge of the river. With steep, pointed turrets, it stands out against the skyline. It’s the third largest Parliament building in the world and boasts nearly 13 miles of stairs. You can take a 45- minute guided tour of the building or just enjoy the views of Parliament from outside.
I’d suggest you end your day of sightseeing with a riverboat cruise. You’ll have plenty of options—there are several dinner cruises available, and last time I was in Budapest I dined at the Spoon Café & Lounge, which is located on a stationary riverboat docked on the Danube.
It’s a beautiful place to enjoy a meal. The lights from Parliament and the Chain Bridge light up everything in sight and the purple water laps against the boat. It’s best at sunset, in my opinion. It’s certainly a tourist attraction and you might have to wait a while for a table, but the atmosphere is wonderful.
Sunday: Check out the Budapest Baths & Shop the Streets
What better way to start a lazy Sunday and the third day of this Budapest weekend itinerary than with a relaxing trip to the Budapest baths?
Over 120 thermal springs run underneath the city of Budapest, and the city has been operating thermal baths for hundreds of years. Touted for their wellness properties, many people come from afar to see if the baths are truly as life-changing as advertised.
Admission to the baths usually covers a two-hour stay and the opportunity to swim in indoor and outdoor thermal pools. Most baths offer saunas, steam rooms, and spa treatments like massages and facials.
Széchenyi Baths is a great place to start as it is open every day and offers mixed bathing (men and women are allowed to swim in the same pool.) Opened in 1881, it’s over a century old and is a little more expensive than some of the other baths in the city, but it is also clean and well-maintained.
It offers 18 different pools and even an underwater aqua massage. You can enjoy snacks, wine, and beer on the property as well. Disclaimer: If you’re not a fan of crowds, you won’t enjoy this experience. It tends to be very crowded, especially on the weekends.
Gellért Baths are also very popular and incredibly beautiful. It’s connected to Hotel Gellért (which is a beautiful building in its own right) and is characterized by large, majestic pillars, skylights, and a balcony overlooking the long baths. There’s a restaurant included in Gellért Spa, so grab a bite to eat before you head out.
If the Széchenyi or Gellért Baths don’t strike your fancy, there are dozens more to choose from.
If you’re a coffee enthusiast like me, you’ll probably be longing for a quiet place to sit and sip a pour over right about now. Espresso Embassy is next on our list. If you drop in at the right time, you might be able to attend a cupping class. If not, enjoy a pour over, French press, or European style espresso, and sip your coffee on the lovely terrace. Lactose intolerant, rejoice—this coffee shop offers homemade almond milk as an alternative for lattes and other coffee drinks.
Though I’ve not extensively explored the coffee scene in Hungary, my coffee enthusiast friends assure me that Espresso Embassy offers one of the best cups of coffee in the city.
If you’re ready for lunch and looking forward to a fine dining experience, Onyx should be next on your list. Dress up, act the part and save room for three or four courses paired with fine wine. Enjoy exotic dishes like goose liver, oxtail consommé, and mushroom veloute. Try cottage cheese with apricot and lavender for dessert.
Onyx is a place for the adventurous palate. Though you’ll have to shell out a considerable amount of money for a meal, the experience is worth it, especially if you consider yourself a foodie.
There’s not a perfect way to wind down a trip to the city than to go shopping in Budapest street markets. Start with The Great Market Hall, one of Budapest’s most popular street markets. Offering everything from produce to clothing to spices to souvenirs, it’s an enjoyable atmosphere to explore. If you’re interested in a less crowded market, I suggest the Szimpla Famer’s Market, a smaller market that’s open every Sunday.
At the Szimpla Market, a must in any Budapest weekend trip, you can find fresh produce, homemade jams and jelly, juices, coffee, tea, and fresh pastries. There are live music and art, too, so it’s a place to experience Hungarian culture.
If you’d like to check out the nightlife before you leave, the ruin pubs (romkocsma) are a unique attraction. They’ve only existed for about a decade, so they’re a new scene, mostly populated by the younger generation. You’ll have to head to Budapest’s District VII neighborhood, where you’ll notice crowds of people outside of abandoned buildings.
The vintage, artsy décor of the ruin pubs attracts a hip crowd. Start with Szimpla Kert (the original ruin bar), where every room has a different theme, and work your way through the pubs, asking about specialty drink offerings.
These pubs, housed in abandoned buildings—factories or former apartment complexes— frequently move from building to building. They offer interesting flea market furniture and street art. Others have quirky courtyards filled with lights. Wherever you end up, you’ll be able to enjoy a drink and good conversation.
A Weekend in Budapest is Well Spent
This city is well worth a visit, even if you can only carve out three days in Budapest. My best travel advice is to put aside your fears and reservations and be fully present during your travels. Try new foods, tackle unique experiences, and fully invest in the city. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have!
Did we miss anything on this Budapest itinerary? Let us know your tips to improve this Budapest weekend guide in the comments below!