Best Things to Do in Budapest in 3 DaysRuss Bily
In the Middle Ages, it was believed that there are three pearls in Europe: Venice on the water, Florence on the plain, and Buda on the hills. Buda is one of the three Hungarian settlements, which in 1873, together with Pest, formed the city of Budapest. Today the parts of Budapest are connected by numerous bridges, the oldest of which, the Chain Bridge, has finally linked Buda and Pest.
Today the capital of Hungary is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Its historical part is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In one of my previous articles, I discussed different ways to get to the capital of Hungary, as well as the most famous places to visit on the way from Prague to Budapest and from Vienna to Budapest (please, see the article The Best Way to Travel Between Prague, Budapest, and Vienna).
In this article, I’m going to tell you not only about the most popular tourist attractions in Budapest but also about the secret places, which you will not find in the typical guidebooks. Budapest has a lot of names, such as “the Eastern Paris”, “the city of bridges”, and “the pearl of the Danube”. I will tell you why this city is worthy of each of them.
So, let’s find out the best things to do and see in Budapest during, so to say, 3 days of your holidays in the capital of Hungary.
Tip 1: If you want the Middle Ages, Welcome to Buda
Budapest is a cultural mix. When you come to this wonderful city, it’s hard to understand what part of the world you are.
Even the ancient travelers considered Buda one of the most beautiful places in Old Europe. Today, tourists come here for a unique sense of involvement in history. It’s enough to walk through Tarnok street, visit Buda Castle district, and feel like participating in a historical film.
The courts, courtyards of the Buda Castle are open day and night, 24/7. On special days, when festivals take place on the Buda Castle courts, they are fenced off, and you will need to buy a festival entry to be able to get access to the castle and its attractions.
Currently, the Royal Palace (aka the Buda Castle) is the home of the National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum.
- National Gallery Opening hours: Tue-Sun 10 am – 6 pm (closed on Mondays, but often open on national holidays).
- Budapest History Museum opening hours: 1 March – 31 October Tuesday – Sunday 10 am – 6 pm, November 1 – February 29 Tuesday – Sunday 10 am – 4 pm (closed on Mondays, but often open on national holidays).
By the way, if you are going to spend a day in Buda, you can have a lunch or just drink a cup of coffee and eat apple strudel (which is prepared in Hungary not worse than in Austria!) in the cafe “Miro”. What is interesting, in the 16th century, the first city cafe was located in its place.
Tip 2: Go to Hungarian wine tasting at Faust Wine Cellar in Buda Castle
Enjoy a wide selection of the best Hungarian wines on a guided tasting session in Faust Wine Cellar, in the Buda Castle District.
Faust Wine Cellar is part of the vast labyrinth system winding beneath Buda Castle. The cellar is a very relaxed and romantic setting and you’ll be sure to leave your tasting with a rich understanding of Hungarian wine.
The stairs are leading down from the remains of a 13th century Dominican Cloister, ending at the cellar, carved in the middle ages as an escape route.
This medieval atmosphere is a perfect match for tasting delicious beverages while learning about the wine regions and main wineries of Hungary. Your host will be the owner of the Cellar, who is a knowledgeable wine expert and sommelier – he will introduce you to the world of Hungarian specialties in the English language.
Individual guests and groups are welcome as well, however, advance table reservation is highly recommended due to the size of the cellar. Groups of more than 16 people are kindly asked to book min. 3 days in advance.
Please see the details on the following website: http://budacastlebudapest.com/wine-tasting-faust-wine-cellar-groups/
Tip 3: Take a Danube cruise for beautiful panoramic views of both Buda and Pest
Embark on a relaxing daytime sightseeing cruise that includes a stroll through Margaret Island, or add a romantic touch with an evening cruise that’s accompanied by dinner and dancing beneath the stars.
Now you will understand why Budapest is called “the city of bridges” and “the pearl of the Danube”. You will be charmed by its most famous and beautiful Chain Bridge. Budapest is beautiful by day, but absolutely stunning by night as the buildings lining the banks of the Danube twinkle and reflect on the dark waters.
One hour evening sightseeing cruises are available with audio headsets that give interesting facts about the history of Budapest, the buildings, and little-known facts like that the Rubik’s Cube was invented by a Hungarian in Budapest in 1974.
Longer and more romantic buffet-style dinner cruises are also available. A visiting card of Budapest, its Parliament, is located on the banks of the Danube river, so I recommend you to see it all in lights at night while enjoying a Danube cruise.
Tip 4: Walk Across the Chain Bridge
The Chain Bridge is one of the tourists’ favorite bridges in the world. It was the first bridge to permanently connect Buda and Pest and was completed in 1849.
At the time, the Chain Bridge was considered to be one of the wonders of the world and the architect was so immensely proud of his work that he challenged anyone to find fault with the bridge.
It is said that when it was discovered that the lions that stand guard at either end are missing their tongues, the architect committed a suicide. So please don’t miss an evening stroll across the bridge when it is all lit up!
Tip 5: Visit Budapest Parliament and St. Stephen’s Basilica
As I have already mentioned, the commanding building of the Hungarian Parliament stretches between Chain Bridge and Margaret Bridge on the Pest bank of the Danube. It draws your attention from almost every riverside point.
The Hungarian Parliament building is splendid from the inside too. It houses one of Hungary’s greatest treasure: the Holy Crown of St. Stephen.
You can visit it on organized tours only, except on some national holidays when it is open to the public. A perfect way to visit the Parliament building and the Holy Crown of Hungary is to go on an organized guided tour.
Time and date: English-language guided tours: every day at 10:00, 12:00, 13:00, 14:00, 15:00
- for EU citizens: 26 EUR, non-EU citizens: 39 EUR
- Students (ages 6-24) EU citizens: 13 EUR, non-EU citizens (ages 6-24): 19.5 EUR
- children under 6: free
- April – 31. October: Mon-Fri: 8.00-18.00, Sat-Sun: 8.00-16.00
- 01. November – 31. March: Mon-Sun: 8.00-16.00
St. Stephen’s Basilica, the largest church in Budapest, is dedicated to Hungary’s first king, St. Stephen. Apart from its vastness, the Basilica offers some unique attractions:
- It houses Hungary’s most sacred treasure, St. Stephen’s mummified right hand, the Szent Jobb (Holy Right Hand),
- Go up the cupola and take in the view of whole Budapest from above!
- Several musical programs are organized in the church throughout the year. Stephen’s Basilica has the great acoustics, and you can enjoy the organ concert here.
Opening Times: Mon-Fri: 9.00-17.00, Sat: 9.00-13.00, Sun: 13.00-17.00
Admission: free (except the lookout in the cupola, that can be visited from spring to autumn, you can enquire at Tel. (+36 1) 311 0839 about exact opening hours before visiting it).
By the way, the spacious St. Stephen Square offers plenty terraced cafes and bistros to people watch by a cup of coffee.
Tip 6: The most beautiful view of Budapest opens from Gellert Hill
I must say that this place is mystical, as it was chosen by Hungarian witches for their coven. People say that witches gathered here until 1848 until the authorities built the Citadel, a great fortress for intimidating the rebellious city.
Today, lots of tourists and photographers from all over the world climb this Citadel, as from here opens a stunning panorama of old Budapest, in particular, the Chain Bridge and other amazing sights.
The Citadel is a part of the UNESCO World Heritage site. The fortress has been turned into a lookout tower, which provides one of the most stunning views over the river Danube. It is popular amongst locals and tourists alike and is one of the free Budapest’s attractions.
There is also a good restaurant (open from 5 pm to 11 pm) with beautiful views, a small museum, and a hotel at the Citadel. I recommend walking up to the Citadel. It is about 15 minutes from the level of the Danube river. As you ascend higher and higher, the whole beauty of Budapest slowly unfolds in front of you.
In addition to the Citadel and mentioned above attractions, only a few tourists know that there is another amazing place in Gellert Hill. This is the so-called Philosophical Garden. There are 8 bronze sculptures in it: Abraham, Akhenaten, Jesus, Buddha, Laozi, Mahatma Gandhi, Daruma, and Francis Diaz.
The first five personify the main world religions. They stand on a round pedestal, in the center of which there is a small steel ball. The next three statues are in honor of people who lived at different times, in different places but reached a high spiritual level.
The Philosophical Garden is a quiet and cozy place. Figures of great spiritual leaders are pondering various thoughts. However, looking at them, everyone thinks about something of their own.
Tip 7: Rest with health benefits
We are used to the fact that the capital is, above all, government quarters and business centers. But in Budapest, among other things, it is common to have a rest with health benefits! About 1 km deep under the city, there are thermal springs.
For the first time, they were used by the ancient Romans. By the way, they built the first baths in the place of the future capital of Hungary. People from all over the world come here, as rich in magnesium and sulfur waters help to cope with cardiovascular and rheumatic diseases.
The most popular bathhouses are Gellert and Széchenyi. Their interiors resemble the palace of Neptune with luxurious sculptures and marvelous mosaics in Neo-Baroque style.
Széchenyi baths, located in Varosliget or the City Park, will carry you away for the whole day, as there are 18 swimming pools, saunas, a massage room, and many many other attractions.
In the evenings, young people gather in Széchenyi for the parties with the world famous DJs. The parties take place right in the pools.
Tip 8: The best shopping in Hungary and Budapest in Grand Boulevard
If you look at the Hungarian capital from the Buda hills, you can clearly see the unusual layout of the city. The center of Budapest is surrounded by a small ring of highways. In the distance, you can see the huge highway of Hungaria, and between them, there is the middle circle called Nagykörút or Grand Boulevard, literary the “Big Ring Road”. This is one of the most famous and busiest places in the capital.
It is the main business and shopping street in Budapest. It’s simply impossible to count all the shopping malls, boutiques, restaurants, and hotels! At some point, you may think that you are walking along one endless shop-window.
If you want to buy a souvenir, the most popular among tourists are lace and hand-painted porcelain ware. Uniquely designed, colored, scented souvenirs, jewels, clothes, and pieces of art can be bought here for reasonable prices.
If you want to try or buy typically Hungarian food, don’t forget about hot paprika, cherry palinka, and goose liver. Most supermarkets carry an extensive selection of Hungarian wines, which you should definitely taste.
Most stores are open Monday to Friday from 10 am to 6 pm and Saturday from 9 or 10 am to 1 pm or sometimes 2 pm. Some stores stay open an hour or two later on Thursday or Friday. On Sunday, most shops are closed, except for those on Vaci street.
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And finally, some useful information for those, who are planning to visit the capital of Hungary.
- You can buy a card called Budapest Kartya in the local tourist agencies. It will give you the right to travel free of charge in public transport, buy tickets to museums at more favorable prices, and even have dinner in some restaurants with good discounts. If you are going to stay in Budapest for at least 3 days, I recommend you to think about it.
- There are only 3 lines of the underground in Budapest, and every time you change lines you will have to buy a new ticket either in newsagents or directly at the entrance to the metro. By the way, the same tickets operate not only in the underground but also in city buses and trams.
From the embankment of the Danube River, Budapest reminds London. Walking along Andrassy Avenue, you will feel yourself in Paris, and after glancing into Gozsdu Lane, you will sink into the atmosphere of West Berlin.
The capital of Hungary is similar to a mosaic, made up of the most beautiful and colorful sights of Europe. This is the first reason to visit the city and see everything at once. The second reason is that Hungary is recognized as the cheapest country in Europe in the world tourism rating.
As it has already been mentioned, Budapest is famous for its bathing facilities. There are 30 thermal springs in the city, where you can not only improve your health but also have a lot of fun.
After having a rest in the thermal baths, after the walks through the fabulous Buda and visits to the iconic places of Pest, you will have no doubt that Budapest is beautiful at any age and any time of the year.
By the way, if you are looking forward to going to Budapest from Prague, Vienna, or any other European city by a private car, our service www.besttrips.eu with the local English-speaking driver-guide can drive you to the destination in every season of the year and with a great comfort!