3 days Budapest itinerary for first-comers

Long Weekend in Budapest – My Best 3 Days in Budapest Itinerary for First-Time Visitors

I have been to Budapest on so many occasions. My first trips there were taking place quite often when I lived in Ukraine and was going on Europe city breaks almost every month to spend 2-3 days in Budapest, Prague, Krakow, or Vienna.

Later on, I would return to Budapest with Mark either on a getaway or on a quick one-day visit. And every time the city welcomed us with the same warm atmosphere and familiar sights, yet revealing new places to discover.

All these trips (including the newer recent one) made me want to sit down and craft a Budapest itinerary that would include the most interesting attractions, important landmarks, historical walks, and just all those places that make Budapest famous. 

This itinerary turned out to be a 3 day long agenda perfect for a long weekend with all the must-see sights, hidden gems, and culinary delights, promising an unforgettable experience filled with discovery and wonder. You can copy it with all the step-by-step suggestions to see the best of Budapest and even more!

And then if you feel like staying longer, I have a few alternative things to do in Budapest at the end of the post that will make sure your experience of this dynamic city stays with you long after you leave!

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Where to Stay During the Weekend in Budapest

If this is your first trip to Budapest, it is better to look for accommodation on the Pest side, in particular near the city center in District V (Belváros-Lipótváros) or District VII (Erzsébetváros). They both offer convenient access to major sights, dining options, and nightlife and easy access to Buda.

There are also a couple of hotels and flats for a lower budget in those neighborhoods that are very nice (like TG Hotel Suits and Heritage Home Apartment both for €70 per night). Just make sure to them early to guarantee availability.

For a very tight budget, consider Maverick Urban Lodge where the price for a bed is €30 per night or Avenu Hostel within the same price range.

3 Days in Budapest Itinerary Great For a Weekend Break

Day 1 in Budapest (Starting From the Afternoon/Early Evening)

Not sure when exactly you arrive in Budapest, but I assume it will be somewhere around or after lunchtime, so I start my itinerary from that time. Feel free to move activities around but keep in mind that some of them are time-sensitive and begin in a consecutive order.

I tried to build a route in such a way that the time was planned correctly and so that you could see as much as possible within a short period. Because no matter how you look at it, spending just 3 days in Budapest (or even a bit less than that) isn’t much.

So, here is the start and my vision for the best Budapest itinerary for a long weekend!

14:00-17:30 – Small City Tour – Have Lunch/Coffee/Quick Bite – Tour The Parliament Building 

I don’t know where your hotel or AirBnb is, but if it is central enough, you can start your three -or two-and-a-half- day adventure in Budapest by just walking around the city, trying to get a sense of its texture and soul, as a kind of an initiation ritual. This is what I like to do especially if I’m visiting a city for the first time.

Then you can continue with a quick coffee and/or a bite or if you are hungry for something more filling, then go for lunch to a traditional Hungarian eatery where you can get a taste of Hungarian food, which will be your first (and great) introduction to the city!

walking in Budapest

I recommend Hungarikum Bistro near the parliament building (the arrival point from where the itinerary continues). The location is right here.

If you are not hungry and prefer a light snack with coffee, then I have another pick for you. There are countless coffee shops in the city centre, but my choice this time is Madal Cafe, a small, warm, cute place with tasty specialty coffee and fresh pastries. It is a chain with 3 different shops, but I talk about this one in particular as from it it’s also easy to continue your walking route.

After the food break, the next step will be visiting the Parliament Building (it is pretty close to Madal), which you probably have noticed after you stepped into the area.

Budapest parliament

The grandiose Parliament Building, situated right beside the Danube, is one of the most beautiful sights in Budapest, and certainly its most iconic structure. This neo-gothic style building dating back to 1904, is the third largest parliament building in the world, and definitely one of the most impressive.

If you wish to get the most out of this experience -and if you have time, of course- take a guided audioguide tour of the Budapest Parliament Building too! Here is the website with the schedule, prices, and details on the entree. 

With this, you can see the Hungarian crown jewels and explore the maze of chambers as well as learn about the history of the place. Keep in mind that you might need to book a few days before. And the last entry with an audioguide is at 16:00, so make sure to plan accordingly.

17:30-20:15 – Free Walking Tour of Budapest as Introduction to the City

After touring the parliament (be strict with finishing time), go on a walking tour around Pest, a commercial hub in Budapest where all the action happens.

View from Buda

I can recommend you take this free tour from Donfreetour which I took myself and loved it. It starts at 17:30 with the meetup point at the Parliament building which will be perfect as you’ll finish an audioguide by that time.

With the tour, you’ll get a broader understanding of what Pest is like and what the main sightseeing points of Budapest are.

NOTE: Some people on the first day of arrival to Budapest (on any itinerary) prefer to go straight to the Széchenyi Thermal Baths in the evening. But my suggestion is not to do it and better leave baths for the morning (I talk about this must-do Budapest attraction below) as morning is the best and very special time to be there.

Alternative Things to Do in the Evening on Day 1 in Budapest


20:15-Night – Dinner & Get Back to Your Accommodation

After the tour, with this itinerary, I suggest you end the day of activities early, eat dinner, just walk a bit more through the city through those areas that you like, and then return to your accommodation. Because the following day will start very early and you want to get enough sleep.

For dinner, since you will be around Varosliget Park, you could stop for a meal in Városliget Cafe & Restaurant which offers a mix of Hungarian and international dishes.

Other places I like that are in the near location are Menza with modern Hungarian cuisine (there are a few and I mean this one) and Kadarka Bar with extensive wine selection and Hungarian tapas-style dishes.

Interesting Food & Drink Tours to Join in Budapest


Day 2 in Budapest

7:00-10:00 – Soak Up in Healing Waters in Széchenyi Thermal Baths

Start your second day with the most refreshing and unique experience which is among the top things to do in Budapest! And do it in the early morning because there will be almost no people and just because it is such an awesome feeling to start the day in hot springs!

I went to Széchenyi Baths many times during different times of the day and the most memorable was early morning for those two reasons I indicated above. Especially do so if you are visiting Budapest in winter. It just brings indescribable emotions when you wake up very early to stroll through the cold city before 7 am but then immerse yourself in the hot water under the open sky.

So pamper yourself before your full day of sightseeing in Budapest.

soaking in Széchenyi Thermal Baths

Széchenyi Thermal Baths, by the way, are fed by two thermal springs and is one of the largest bath complexes in Europe. It has saunas, pools, healthcare and wellness services, and even a “beer spa”, where you can enjoy your beer while bathing in tubs filled with thermal water enriched with natural beer ingredients! I guess you won’t be participating in this in the morning but maybe will want to return in the evening later on. 

There is also a “bath party” organization called Sparty here, “every Saturday night between 9:30 pm and 02:00 am from February to December”, according to their website, where you can enjoy electronic music while partying in thermal water.  

10:00-12:00 – Breakfast at Kollázs – Walk by the Danube River & Across the Chain Bridge

After the baths, if you don’t want to return to your hotel/Airbnb to have breakfast there, then jump on a tram to ride to the Széchenyi Bridge where to get breakfast or by this time brunch. There are lots and lots of cool breakfast joints and brasseries in Budapest as you would expect.

My recommendation for day two would be the beautiful Kollázs, a chic yet casual brasserie in the center of the city, which is actually more affordable than it looks! It has a range of delicious patisserié items, as well as a rich menu of different types of breakfast combinations, ranging from traditional Hungarian breakfast to eggs and caviar, to French-style breakfast to buffet breakfast, and more.

After you are full, you can burn some calories walking by the lovely Danube River. While doing this, make sure to check out the dozens of bronze shoe statues on the ground, facing the river. It is a memorial to the people (mostly Jews) who were killed on the banks of this river between 1944 and 1945.

walking on Chain Bridge
Danube river memorial

Very close, you will see the Chain Bridge (Széchenyi Lánchid), a bridge that dates back to the 1800s, which is one of the landmarks of the city. Passing through it is a must-do when you are in Budapest, and over it, you will enjoy the magnificent views of both parts, Buda and Pest, and the Parliament Building.

12:00-15:00 – Visit Matthias Church & Fisherman’s Bastion & Have Lunch at Pest-Buda

Not so far from the other end of the Széchenyi Lánchid where you will be leaving Pest and entering Buda, sits one of the most beautiful structures in the city -and that says a lot in a city like Budapest- Matthias Church. It is a couple of kilometers away, so it might be a long walk or a very short ride, depending on your preference and weather.

Matthias Church, a great piece of Gothic architecture dating all the way back to the 11th century (was rebuilt in the 15th), is another must-see.

exploring Fisherman's Bastion
Fisherman's Bastion in Budapest

Then you can check out the Fisherman’s Bastion, another iconic monument of the city. You can climb over its towers, not just for a pleasurable time travel experience, but for some of the most beautiful views in the city as well. Very close to it, there is a gift shop called Medieval Memories, where you can buy really cool stuff for your loved ones back at home – or for yourself!

For lunch, you can take a walk to the Pest-Buda Bistro. One of the oldest restaurants in Hungary, this homely small restaurant was first built as an inn and was used so between 1696 and mid-1800s, then was turned into a restaurant in the early 20th century! It is certainly one of the top spots for local food.

15:00-18:00 – Coffee at Walzer Café – Self-Guided Tour – Visit Vérmező Park

After your lunch, you can grab a coffee at Walzer Café, a small, cute and very traditional Hungarian coffee place in a beautiful street with very good coffee and sweets/appetizers. If you go in winter, keep in mind that they serve good mulled wine as well!

Then you can take a self-guided tour of the city, which is never enough for a city like Budapest in three days so you can squeeze these in as much as you can while you are there, regardless of this guide :).

Some of the top places to visit and things to see while you’re in the Buda part of the city would be the Budatower, Buda Castle, St. Anne Parish, and Hungarian National Gallery (Magyar Nemzeti Galéria).

Danube river and Budapest from above

Then you can move onto the historical Vérmező Park, which will provide a refreshing experience surrounded by shades of green. Here you can take a walk, sit back and relax, do some people-watching and just enjoy your surroundings- of course it is better if the weather is agreeable.

18:00-21:00 – Wine at Faust Wine Cellar – Dinner at Halászbástya Étterem

Before dinner, you can do wine tasting (trying Hungarian wine!) in an intimate atmosphere at Faust Wine Cellar. Still in the same area -I’m giving the second day mostly to Buda- as an appetizer before dinner. The place has a very warm, enthralling vibe, which you will enjoy especially if you like wine! Walk to the cellar goes through the Hilton Hotel which opens up some panoramic views of Budapest.

For dinner, I have chosen Halászbástya Étterem, a bit of a luxurious place, that is located in a sweet spot in the Fisherman’s Bastion, the one mentioned above. It has a very chic ambiance, impeccable dishes, and of course, one of the best views in town! It might be a bit expensive, but in my opinion, it’s worth it!

Day 3 in Budapest (When Leaving Late at Night or on the Following Morning)

10:00-15:00 – Breakfast in À la Maison Grande & Discover the Jewish Quarter (Erzsébetváros)

For the third day in Budapest, I assume you’d want to sleep in a little bit considering the fact that you woke up very early on the previous day and ended that day late. 

If that’s the case (and if you don’t feel like having breakfast in the accommodation where you stay in Budapest), then I’d recommend you choose the elegant À la Maison Grande cafe for the first meal, a very nice place not just for breakfast in Budapest but for brunch as well – keep in mind if you are a late riser and want to have breakfast at noon. Here you can find both sweet and savory items to your liking.

This cafe is near a very interesting neighborhood in Budapest which is called Erzsébetváros or simply the Jewish Quarter. It is one of the most colorful and fun Budapest areas, filled with old courtyards, good restaurants, cafes, and bars, and it has quite a characteristic texture that makes it fun and always interesting to explore.


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Jewish Quarter is a culturally rich neighborhood, populated both by locals and tourists alike, so you can easily spend a few hours here walking, stopping for a coffee/drinks, shopping, etc. without ever noticing how time passes by. While you are around, you can check out Dohány Street Synagogue, the largest synagogue in Europe.

Among other places to see in this part of Budapest are Holocaust Memorial Center which tells a story about all tragic events of the Holocaust in Hungary and Gozsdu Courtyard filled with restaurants, bars, and shops housed in historic buildings. There is also interesting street art here, reflecting the area’s dynamic and creative spirit.

But if you want to explore the neighborhood qualitatively, join a Jewish Heritage Tour to learn about the community that remains active there today.

NOTE: Jewish Quarter is Budapest’s “party street” (which is probably why Budapest often gets the status of the best city for nightlife), so you may want to come here on one of the previous nights if partying is your thing. There are many places great for drinks or for a more dynamic entertainment option.

15:00-18:00 – Discover Vaci Street & Visit St. Stephen’s Basilica (Szent István Bazilika)

Probably the most famous street in the area (also probably the one filled with most tourists), Vaci Street is considered the “shopping street of Budapest”, and it is filled with shops, restaurants, cafes, etc. Here you can spend thirty minutes or three hours, depending on your preferences.

Buda side

It is mostly a tourist-oriented area, so if you are not into that you might not find it all that pleasing, but it deserves at least one visit, as it is an important part of Budapest – and probably you will be able to find something you will like while discovering the area, as it is so rich.

After that, you can go check out St. Stephen’s Basilica, which is not far from Vaci Street. It is a very beautiful Roman Catholic basilica named in honor of Stephen, who was the first King of Hungary. It has a captivating aura, and there is a regular music program here on some Sundays and every Wednesday (if you happen to spend 3 days in Budapest during the week).

18:00 – 21:00 – Cocktails at Blue Fox – Dinner at Hungarian Hell’s Kitchen

Before dinner, this time you can have some cocktails to freshen up instead of wine, and Blue Fox in the Pest area is a great place to do so – chic setting, open-air sitting areas, fresh and delicious cocktails, and live music on Fridays and Saturdays.

According to their website, it is among the top 500 bars in the world, so it is definitely worth a try if you are into cocktail bars.

And for the final dinner in Budapest, I would recommend a restaurant called Hungarian Hell’s Kitchen! I think it would be suited to end the Budapest experience with some great local food, and this place has a range of some of the best foods of Hungarian cuisine. It has a cozy, casual atmosphere, a rich menu filled with delicious local dishes, and a good selection of wines.

Other Places Where to Eat in Budapest on a 3 Day Visit

Old Budapest
people eating out in Pest

Budapest, as many other cities in Europe, has so many places where to eat, be it traditional Hungarian food or mixed cuisines. 

If those places I proved above in the itinerary are not your cup of tea, I’d love to share a few of my other favorite places that may be more to your liking.And they are:

1) Street Food Karavan – great for lunch and dinner. It is basically an outdoor parking lot that has been transformed into a courtyard filled with food stalls! It is conveniently located in the Jewish Quarter and includes a range of tasty food that you can try.

But note that it is closed on cold winter days, as it might get too chilly. So if you are using this Budapest itinerary in winter, you may want to skip it and choose another good restaurant in the same area.

2) STIKA Budapest – modern European cuisine with a creative twist, focusing on locally sourced ingredients and innovative flavor combinations. 

3) Barack & Szilva – another bistro with a variety of dishes of Hungarian cuisine, including vegetarian and vegan options.

4) Vicky Barcelona – a fusion of Spanish and Mediterranean cuisine.

Alternative Things to Do in Budapest in 3 Days

Here are a few more suggestions for what to do if you want more sightseeing in a day or feel like what this itinerary has is not enough:

  • Go to Gellért Hill Park – it’s right by the Erzsébet Bridge in Buda. The park is big and totally gorgeous, but you can come here to walk lower trails to get panoramic views of Budapest, including the Danube River, Parliament Building, and Buda Castle.
  • Go Hungarian wine tasting – with a local guide on a walking tour through boutique wineries and a few cool pubs.
  • Learn how to make Hungarian Chimney cake – the most beloved Hungarian dessert on a workshop in the heart of Budapest.
  • Spend a day on Margaret Island – in the middle of the Danube, a place for relaxation in thermal baths, exploration of Japanese gardens, walking along scenic paths, enjoying musical fountain shows, and getting views of the river and the city skyline.
  • Explore Budapest by bike – guided sightseeing tour by bike along the Danube rover down to Duna Corso and the Chain Bridge.

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alternative Budapest 3 days itinerary

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  1. We enjoyed Budapest but missed a lot of this – just a reason to go back and see more! We loved the baths and we also did a tour through Dracula’s labyrinth that was really interesting. Thanks for the tips!

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