Disclaimer: This is a trip taken back in 2018. Considering the present COVID19 situation, I don’t endorse any travelling. Even though travelling across some countries is allowed in Europe, please check with every local attraction before planning your vacation. Many of them are still temporarily closed to facilitate social distancing!
Before I share my 3-day itinerary for Budapest, a gorgeous city in Hungary, I have to tell you that this is a long due post! I had my Euro-trip in September 2018. Two years and I thought I would probably never write about it here. Thanks to the pandemic, reminiscing about the previous trips is all I could do! I am sure a lot of you are doing the same! I have written about the European country of Greece as well!
Our 14 days trip consisted of four cities – Budapest, Prague, Berlin and Amsterdam. Precisely in that order, and that is how I am going to write about my experiences as well!
Budapest was, obviously was the first stop. We flew by Turkish Airlines. It was roughly a 12-hour long journey, including the 90 minutes layover at Istanbul. Our flight was pretty comfortable. Man, I miss plane journeys, do you too? I remember standing in a massive queue for immigration. The good part is, the immigration process was smooth. It was just the crowd and the long line than can be frustrating.
3 Day Itinerary for Budapest: Things to know before you go!
Before I deep dive into our 3 day itinerary for Budapest, here are few tips you might want to keep in mind before going there:
- Learn to say Budapest. It’s “Bud-a-pesht”. That is how the Hungarians say it!
- It’s an English – friendly state, so language is not going to be a problem!
- Though the September weather is pleasant, I will suggest that you carry your jacket and warmer whenever travelling to Europe. We had checked the weather before packing, and it was between 20-25 degree celsius (forecasted). However, the temperature suddenly dropped to freezing when we were there. And that is how unprecedented the weather in Europe is.
- Budapest is one of the safest cities in Europe. Roaming around late at night is pretty safe, and the chances of getting mugged are meagre.
- Use the Taxi App / City Taxi / Taxify apps for booking cabs. We were in a group of five, so hailing taxis were safe. However, I had read stories of people getting ripped by taxis late at night.
- Budapest is perhaps one of the cheapest cities in Europe. You can afford 5-star hotels for more extended stays, even on a budget trip! Also, if possible, make this the last stop of your Euro Trip so that you can shop as well! We had not researched this aspect earlier. As we move from Budapest to Amsterdam, the prices kept on increasing.
- Use HUF (Hungarian Forints) as much as you can. The conversion rates to the Euro is pretty low mostly.
- Just like the US, Hungarian follow the culture of tipping for services.
- Pedestrians are given priority. Use crosswalks. Jaywalking is illegal in Hungary!
Budapest is the most populous city of Hungary, with a population of roughly 3.3 million. Now, if you are visiting from a crowded city like Delhi or Mumbai, Hungary already qualifies for a peaceful settlement. Buda and Pest are two towns separated by the Danube River, which flows across the length of this historic city, which can be traced back to the 9th century. You get the archaic vibes the moment you step in.
Where did we stay?
We were living in this super cool place called the Flow Hostel. It was around $15 for one bed per night. It is on the topmost floor of an ancient building, and there are no lifts! The location was terrific. It is close to the Danube River, on the Pest side of the city and just near the Liberty bridge. There is a total of eight such bridges, build from the 19th century.
The hostel is reasonably close to a lot of major attractions in the city. It is hardly 2 miles from the Hungarian Parliament, which is a beautiful building. You can reach there while taking a stroll along the Danube River. The hostel reception was friendly and helpful. It was complete with a kitchen where you can cook and enjoy your food. We loved the place.
First day in Budapest!
The first day in Budapest was all about letting the feeling sink in that we were finally in Europe. We decided to leisurely walk around the city, exploring the street markets and cafes and learning more about the local culture.
The Liberty Bridge and the Széchenyi Chain Bridge
We strolled around the place randomly. And it’s indeed a great feeling. Crossing the heavily chained bridges is one of the topmost activities listed on all the websites, and I will mention that too!
The bridges are ancient, have an archaic feel to them (of course!) and provide a beautiful backdrop for some great pictures! The city and the river look extremely beautiful from the bridges. The stroll across the river is indeed scenic!
We went across the Buda side of the town. We were pretty intrigued by the Gellert Hill Caves which was visible from the Pest side of the city.
Gellert Hill Caves
This is a pretty unusual chapel with a brutal history. The entry to this place is free. However, you need to pay a fee of $15 for the audio-guided tour. It’s named after a Bishop, Gellert, who was thrown to his death during the fight against Christianity in the 11th century. Even in the modern world, this place served as a Nazi Asylum and hospital during the second world war.
The church is unusual because it’s more of a hidden place of worship and thus has a natural setting, in contrast to the high vaults and fancy interiors like a typical cathedral.
3 Day Itinerary for Budapest: The Great Market Hall
After the long strolls and exploration, we were back to the hostel. On our way back, we came across the Great Market Hall, which is a huge indoor market place. It’s a paradise for you if you want to try each and every local Hungarian snack. Situated inside a Gothic revival building in the city, it spreads across 3 floors and is the liveliest market, according to all local guides.
Night Cruise Across the River Danube
We ended the first day with a spectacular night cruise at the Danube river. The city and the bridges look entirely different at night and the cruise is the best way to enjoy this picturesque view. The price per person was around $25, including a welcome drink. You do have options of dinner and premium decks and they go up to $100. If you have booked a ticket to the Hop On Hop Off Tour buses, you get the boat tours complimentary. Do check that when you are planning the itinerary.
We enjoyed some great music, a live orchestra playing on board while we sipped our drinks. I learned a fun fact, by the way. Hungarians don’t clink their glasses together. Legends say that Austrian generals clinked their drink glasses to celebrate the execution of the 13 martyrs of Arad in the 1849 Hungarian revolution.
Second day in Budapest
After a rather fulfilling day, we started our second pretty early with a morning hike to the Liberty statue.
Citadella / Liberty Statue
Literally, a fortress, the Citadella is located at the top of the Gellert hill. It is living proof of the modern Hungarian history.
The Liberty Statue is located right at the edge of the Citadella. It gives a panoramic view of the river with its eight bridges and is a beautiful place to be at early in the morning.
After that we came back to the hostel for a hearty breakfast cooked by us. We really wanted to have that feeling of “backpacking through Europe”.
Hop On Hop Off Bus
After that, we started our tour on the Hop On Hop Off Bus. I find this an excellent idea to discover a city. You get to move around, evaluate and then take stops wherever you want to. It saves a lot of time. The stop was near hour hostel, obviously, and we did not have any trouble locating our bus.
If you are not sure what these buses are, here you go:
This was our first stop from our tour route was the busiest and the most important squares of Budapest. It’s a Millennium moment to commemorate the leaders of the seven tribes who founded the country. There are beautiful statues and this is a world heritage site too!
If you are a sucker for museums, next to the Heroes’ square is the Museum of Fine Arts. We headed to City Park from the square, which is just across the street.
City park is said to be a royal hunting ground which was made accessible to the public in the nineteenth century. We went there by accident and it was having some weekend carnival – with food stall, gift stalls, live carnival music and dance and a lot of summer weekend vibes.
It also houses some more museums!
We got to know that the park is always lively with families on a picnic, even when there is no carnival going on. We did have some great beer and local food before heading to the City Park lake.
Our next stop was the Buda Castle District. Buda Castle is one of the major landmarks of this city and is situated at the Buda side of the Chain Bridge. So, there are three ways in which you can go up the Buda Castle:
- By foot using the steep stairs from the Chain Bridge. Or you can walk up the hill, without climbing up the stairs.
- By Funicular. Ride using the Funicular is one of its kind. The ticket is around $5 if I remember correctly.
- By electric rickshaws, which are fun!
We opted for the rickshaw because we were too exhausted to walk up the hill and the Funicular had a long waiting time. It was a fun ride, while we looked around the castle quarter and enjoyed the medieval and neoclassical houses, churches and monuments around.
By the time we came back to the bus stop, we were exhausted. But I would like to mention that Hungarian ice creams are great refreshments!
We were now back on the Pest side of the city to explore the Hungarian Parliament building. Now, let me tell you that a political complex is not really a place to be, specially when you are on a leisure trip! However, the architecture is magnificent enough to pull you towards it!
We didn’t go inside, but you can surely. You need to book the trip through the guided tour of the city. The price is somewhere around $10-12.
The building is massive – gigantic!
We strolled back to our hostel, while we grabbed some dinner from the nearby local cafes. Now, we were too tired to try some local delicacies, apart from the bakery. We saved that part for our final day in Budapest.
3 Day Itinerary for Budapest: Third Day in Budapest
The third in Budapest was pretty exciting! It was perhaps the best day. Also, three days are perhaps sufficient to explore the city. However, I don’t mind going back to the city and explore the outskirts of the city.
Gellert’s Thermal Bath
Did you you know that Budapest is known as the “Spa City” of the world? It is because of the natural springs of these places which are said to have healing waters. And the hermits living in the caves of Gellert also allegedly treated the sick with the help of these “healing waters”.
Nevertheless, these natural springs, at a temperature of around 35-40 degree Celsius make up for an extremely relaxing day. We walked towards the ancient bath complex, which is now situated inside the Gellert hotel. The complex includes saunas, plunge pools and open-air swimming pool.
The thermal baths are beautifully decorated with murals and mosaic tiles. We did not take our phones along, so I might not have the best pictures. The prices are somewhere between $15-$20, without the massages.
We had a lot of fun here! It’s a great place to unwind. But honestly, now when I look back, I don’t know how much time I will take to jump into a crowded pool again!
Inner City and Local Markets
We came back from the bath to our hostel. Packed our stuff because we had an early morning bus to Prague the following day. We wanted to catch up a quick nap and go out to and party the whole night before saying goodbye to this artistic and architecturally aesthetic city of Budapest!
In the evening, we strolled down to the local markets – explored the street food and drinks.
Budapest: What to Eat and Drink!
On the recommendation of our travel planner, we went to this casual place for an early dinner. The place is called Castro Bisztro. It’s a warm and cosy place which is certainly very welcoming to tourists and locals alike!
When in Budapest, you should not miss the authentic and traditional Hungarian Goulash. It’s a dish which is between a stew and a soup with beef, carrots, potatoes and typical spices!
Also, a traditional drink to have prior to the dinner is the Palinka shots. Palinka is exclusively bottled in Hungary and has a minimum of 37.5% alcohol (it can go up to 86%). Palinka is fermented using fruits and has a not so sublime hint of the fruit it is made from. Apricot, pear, cherry and plum are some popular flavour.
Since Hungarian cuisine is on the heavier side, Palinka is supposed to have before dinner – a couple of shots. You ain’t expected to have it in one go, but you know the Hungarians, never lenient with their drinks! And as they say, you end your dinner with a Palinka too!
After a hearty meal, we decide to explore the ruin pubs and let our hair down.
Ruin Pubs: Pub Crawl
There are guided pub crawls which you can book with some complimentary drinks. We decided to skip that and check out some ruin pubs on our own.
What are ruin pubs?
The ruin pubs are made around a very young concept (hardly 20 -25 years) where they “upcycle” and reuse the abandoned buildings to serve as a recreational space for creative youth. What do I mean by abandoned building? As I have already mentioned that Budapest is an ancient city, there are much-dilapidated building in the Jewish quarters (thanks to the second World War).
The concept is same for the ruin bars – they retain the old walls, with the plastered wall peeling off, throw in some artistic furniture, giving the local artists opportunity to adorn the walls with their master-pieces and serve affordable booze. I love the organized chaos these ruin pubs are! They are super lively at night. Many of these pubs host exhibitions, screen movies and holds weekly farmer’s markets too.
The First Mover in the Ruin Pubs Culture: Szimpla Kert
This was the first ruin pub that came into existence, and we started our pub crawl with this legendary bar. It’s a little more expensive than the other bars. It has around twenty rooms and has a club like culture. It’s often crowded, queued and loud. But I loved the chaotic vibes – and the mix and match furniture which looked like outsourced right from the street!
Within a mile of this bar, there are other ruin pubs, and honestly, you can check out any of them. They are all great. The rest of the night was lost for me for obvious reasons – we had too much fun at the first two bars that we checked out.
As mentioned earlier, we had to start early morning the following day to catch our bus to Prague. We did not travel by the Euro Rail because we did plan our trip a little late and the Euro Rail is expensive if you don’t book it early. But yes, that is another reason to plan another trip to Europe!
We crossed the country borders via Flix Buses, and we had a very smooth experience. I have travelled inter-city in Flix Buses in the US as well, and they are as comfortable as they were across Europe.
I will be back soon with my itinerary for Prague!
Last Words: Things I missed in my 3-day itinerary for Budapest
I feel that we did enjoy Budapest as much as we could. However, we did miss some things, and you can include them in your itinerary!
- Ride the Buda Castle Funicular
- Sit at the banks of Danube, near the Shoes of Danube. Its a trail of iron footwear of the thousands executed during the Second World War alongside this river
- You can check out the Széchenyi Thermal Bath as well if you miss the Gellert’s Bath
- Take a peek inside the Parliament
- Visit the Margaret Island – in the River Danube
- Travel like the locals – in the trams!
- If you are there during their summer carnival, don’t miss their wine fests.
- If you love visiting churches, visit the St. Stephen’s Basilica, which is a significant religious monument of the country
3 Day Itinerary for Budapest: 7 things you shouldn’t miss!
And here is a quick recap of the post and some pins to pin!
- Soak in the natural spring pools at the Gellert’s Bath
- Enjoy the architecture of the Heroes’ square
- Hike up to the Liberty Statue to get an enchanting view of the river and the city
- Let your hair down in the ruin pubs at the Jewish Quarter
- Goulash and Palinka
- Walk along the Danube and on the Chain Bridge
- The excellent Market hall for some authentic and local street food
You can refer to this wonderful post for spending a long weekend in Budapest!
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