With three days in Budapest, you can experience the main sights and then some. Delve into the local culinary scene, step back into the city’s rich history, take advantage of money-saving sightseeing passes, and squeeze in side trips to the Danube Bend or the Etyek wine region. Here’s a 3-day itinerary that packs it all in.
Spend the first day checking off quintessential Budapest experiences. A hop-on hop-off bus tour takes you around the top sights, allowing you to get off and explore landmarks such as Heroes’ Square, the Budapest Parliament, and St. Stephen’s Basilica. Then board a lunch cruise down the Danube and dine on a traditional buffet as you float under Chain Bridge (Széchenyi Lanchid).
After lunch, waste no time waiting in line at Budapest’s famous thermal baths by booking a priority access ticket to Széchenyi Baths. Submerge yourself in hot thermal pools and destress with a massage. Now that you’re revitalized, spend the evening hopping between Budapest’s ruin bars, which occupy abandoned, disused, and often crumbling spaces. Many serve casual bar bites, such as sandwiches and sausages, alongside beer, cider, and Hungarian wines. Alternatively, make a pit stop at a street side stall for lángos (deep-fried bread topped with sour cream and cheese).
Venture outside the city for a day in the Hungarian countryside. Travel to Etyek to taste the region’s renowned white and sparkling wines, many of which are produced by small-scale, family-run wineries. Other popular day trip destinations include the Danube Bend, where you can wander the galleries and museums of riverside Szentendre and explore the medieval castle and Renaissance palace of Visegrád.
Farther away and less explored by tourists is the Great Plain region, known as the puszta. Spend a day here to learn about pastoral folk traditions and explore historical cities, such as the art nouveau–influenced Kecskemét and the culture-rich university town of Szeged.
Back in Budapest, head for the Castle District, where you’ll find a high concentration of quality restaurants with terraces for warmer-weather alfresco dining.
Spend your final morning museum-hopping. The Budapest Museum of History provides a comprehensive overview of the city’s past, while the Hungarian National Gallery specializes in fine arts. Housed in a converted 18th-century monastery, the Kiscelli Museum is another worthwhile option, with quirky and eclectic displays ranging from exhibits of baroque sculptures to a re-created 18th-century pharmacy.
Having worked up an appetite, spend the afternoon snacking on a guided food tour that covers the Great Market Hall and the Jewish Quarter. Sample various dishes and delicacies, from piping hot goulash and paprika-spiced sausage to artisan chocolate and kosher pastries.
That evening, continue your cultural quest by attending a live folk performance. Watch traditional dancers and musicians in action at historical venues such as Danube Palace or Budai Vigadó.