Top 10 Things To Do In Budapest On A 3 Day Visit
I don't want to imply that visitors are limited to only the top ten things to do in Budapest, but if you only have 3 days like us, then here's what we suggest you do during that time. We found these to be the top things to do in Budapest based on our experience in such a short time. However, what you choose to do really depends on your personality and energy level. On our list we have a lot packed into a three-day itinerary, but as you read the guide, you'll notice there's a tip about how you can do it without tiring yourself out too much.
We suggest starting your sightseeing off on the right foot with some of the top 5 things to see which include the Parliament Building, the Opera House, River Promenade, Heroes Square, and the Basilica. This is a good list the first day in Budapest because the locations of these places are so close to some of the other top things to do so it will give you a good preview of what's to come!
Check Out The Top 5 Things To See In Budapest - Day 1
1. Hungarian Parliament Building
I'm not sure how anyone could miss seeing the Parliament Building in Budapest. That would akin to visiting San Francisco and not seeing the Golden Gate Bridge. The Parliament Building is, of course, the seat of the Hungarian Parliament. However, the architecture alone is something to marvel at. You can also take tours of the inside when the National Assembly is not in Session. The building demands attention no matter from which angle you are viewing it from. During the "golden hour" at sunset, the entire building seems to glow. This is the best time to view it from the other side-the Buda side. Seeing it up close has an appeal to it as well. So, take a stroll all around to really catch all of the facets and intricacies that make up this magnificent structure.
2. River Promenade
Just south of the Hungarian Parliament Building along the edge of the Danube River, you'll find a row of iron shoe sculptures. The "Shoes On The Danube" are a haunting reminder of those thousands that were executed there along the shores during WWII. The 60 pairs of shoes installed there in memory of those lost give passersby a chance to pay reverence. To walk along this path gives visitors a beautiful setting to reflect upon the events of history with the backdrop on the Chain Bridge and views of the Buda side across the Danube. You will see Buda Castle, the Liberty Statue on Gellert Hill and the Fisherman’s Bastion.
As you walk down towards the Chain Bridge, you'll see a cafe called Pontoon. This cafe/bar is a great place to enjoy the sunset and some fantastic views of the river, bridge, and everything on the other side.
3. Heroes Square (Hősök tere)
One of the most symbolic and highly photographed sites in Budapest and a tribute to Hungary’s national identity, Heroes Square is a must see. The extensive square and monuments are part of the UNESCO World Heritage list. It is a monument with statues of kings and heroes, as the name so precisely implies. To get full details and descriptions here.
Other Things to see near the square:
- Museum of Fine Arts
- Hall of Art (Műcsarnok)
- City Park (Városliget)
- Vajdahunyad Castle
- Széchenyi Baths (more on this below)
4. Opera House
The Opera House was one of the first things we saw upon our arrival to Budapest. Our Airbnb was just steps away from here! Having spent the last several months in Thailand, this type of architecture was in total contrast to what we were used to seeing. The Neo-Renaissance architecture is not the only fascinating characteristic of this building, it is also known to be one of the best opera houses as far as acoustics goes. There are tours available if you are curious about the inside of the structure, but for us it was not possible due to time constraints.
To accomplish the above in one day, you'll need some help getting around. For us, the best way to do this was by purchasing tickets for the Hop On Hop Off Sightseeing Tours. The bus is comfortable to ride and even comes with an audio guide in several languages.
Having the option to check out a bunch of places at once without having to worry about transportation was a huge relief. The bus also made it more fun and educational. We highly recommend this tour because you'll also be able to use it on multiple days. So if, you miss something or get tired, you can just use the bus to go back on another day.
5. The Basilica
Other Top Things To Do - Day 2
Okay, so I know there are plenty of amazing places to see fantastic views in Budapest, but the Citadella has got to be one of the top! Aptly situated atop Gellért Hill, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a symbol of freedom in Budapest and provides some exquisite outlooks over Buda Cast, Parliament, the curving Danube, and Pest embankment as well Buda hills.
We were fortunate to visit during an air show that was happening on the river so it was a special treat for us to see everything from so high up! In any case, you can ride the sightseeing bus up to here and enjoy a couple of hours of taking in the views and snapping some epic photos of Budapest.
7. Shopping On Vaci Street
This one is for the shoppers out there. I'm typically not one to spend my travel time inside stores much, but there are loads of people who love it so this would be a good place to go. You'll find a variety of high-end stores along this pedestrian street. It's also a great place to stroll and just check out the awesome architecture. Make sure to look up at the facades along the avenue. I am sure that they are festively decorated during the holiday season as well, if you happen to be visiting in the winter time.
You may find some great souvenir shops as well, so it's a good place to go if you want to grab some popular things like paprika to take back home.
8. Walk Across The Chain Bridge
If you get a chance during your visit in Budapest, take the time to walk across the Széchenyi Chain Bridge. This beautiful suspension bridge spanning across the Danube was the first to connect Buda and Pest and only the second bridge over the entire span of the river! Make sure to check out the lion sculptures carved from stone that are situated at the bridge end. They survived the destruction of WWII!
9. Enjoy Great Food and Drinks
- Here are some of our recommendations for where to eat in Budapest:
- Stika - Breakfast
- Cirkusz - Breakfast (order the "Turkish Eggs" and Hungarian breakfast with duck pate)
- Menza - This is where you want to have the famous Hungarian goulosh!
- Divino - Wine bar (get the cheese platter and enjoy people watching and views of the Basilica)
- Boutiq Bar - Hip bar serving unique, tasty cocktails in a trendy setting (try the "Budapest Barbeque")
Relax in At The Thermal Baths - Day 3
10. Spend A Half Day At Széchenyi Thermal Baths
The thermal baths of Budapest are, without a doubt, widely known. It's no wonder that Budapest is referred to as "The City Of Baths." The baths are fed from several hot springs around the city since it has one of the world's largest thermal water reserves! The baths are a great getaway if you are looking for some thermal healing, or just want a place to relax on your vacation.
We tend to pack a whole lot of activity in our travels so taking half a day to just relax was much needed and the Széchenyi Thermal Baths were just perfect for that! We purchase a package deal where we were able to enjoy a private relaxation area, steam room, saunas, and all of the interior baths as well as the outside ones. It was an awesome package at a great price.
Where To Stay In Budapest
We highly suggest renting an Airbnb while you are staying in Budapest. Our apartment was in a perfect location within walking distant to everything. It was a very unique type of accommodations that gave us a true feel for what it's like living in Budapest.
If it's your first time signing up for Airbnb you can get $40 off through our link by clicking here.
If you prefer using Booking.com, you can get $20 back when you use our link by clicking here.
Check out our articles on the other European cities we have visited:
About the Author
Hi! I'm just a California girl addicted to travel and adventure with a passion for art and dance on the side. Born in Iran, but I consider myself a citizen of Earth, adhering to the belief that "The world is but one country and mankind its citizen." I strive to make a positive impact on everyone I meet and learn as much as possible from them. My degree out of college is in Marketing. However, I entered the hospitality business at an early age and worked my way up to hotel management. After about 13 years in that industry (5 of which I was a hotel assistant manager), I made the decision to move to Thailand and leave the 9 to 5 grind behind. My husband and I set off for a life of living abroad and hopes to continue traveling the world, just 3 months after our wedding. It all started with the two of us, along with our cat, together in Thailand. Can't wait to see where life takes us next!