Planning a trip to Budapest and feeling overwhelmed? Then this Budapest itinerary for 4 days is the perfect one for you! From where to stay, to what to see and where to eat, it’s all here!
I was expecting Budapest to be a bit, well, Soviet.
Joke’s on me.
After spending most of 2020 stuck in Russia, I think I’d fallen into the trap of viewing the Hungarian capital through a rather historical lens. I was expecting to find a slightly antiquated city, largely defined by its past under Communist rule.
Instead, where I’d envisioned grand but somewhat grim architecture and old-world European charm, I actually found a city that’s vibrant, friendly and full of surprises.
Budapest is still a city of contrasts – split by the Danube into Buda and Pest (pronounce it pesht!). Each side has its own distinct character. Buda is the more historical and serene half, while Pest is vibrant, buzzing, and a little wild.
The city has seen its share of hardship; invaded by the Ottomans, enveloped into the endless Empire of the Hapsburgs, overtaken by the Nazis, and finally hidden behind the Iron Curtain under Communist rule. Budapest, however, not only survived but is now managing to thrive.
You’ll see from this Budapest itinerary that there’s so much on offer. From a thriving food and wine scene, unique ruin bars, bustling markets and fascinating museums to beautiful parks. Not to mention the fantastic thermal baths and incredible views from places like Buda Castle.
All in all, Budapest is a great place to explore as a solo traveller. Affordable luxury, good food, great drinks, and loads of history. Budapest will feel like a friendly, welcoming place where you can indulge without breaking the bank.
Ready to get started? Let’s plunge headfirst into a world of indulgent thermal baths, world-class wines and architectural treasures with my Budapest itinerary for four fabulous days in the city!
Currency: Hungarian Forint – Ft.
Money: Most places will take cards, but not all, so have cash on hand for smaller cafés and toilets!
Visit in: spring, late summer and autumn
Transport: excellent public transport system of trams, metro and buses
Best for: Foodies, wine lovers and history buffs!
- Who is this 4 Day Budapest Itinerary For?
- Where to stay for 4 Days in Budapest
- Budapest Itinerary for 4 Days at a Glance
- Budapest Itinerary for 4 Days: Day 1 – Get to Know Budapest
- Budapest Itinerary for 4 Days: Day 2 – Hungarian History
- Budapest Itinerary for 3 Days: Day 3 – Budapest Views, Cruise and Brews
- Budapest Itinerary for 3 Days: Day 4 – Budapest's Serious Side
- Top Tips to make your Budapest Itinerary run smoothly
- Budapest Itinerary with less time
- Budapest Itinerary with more time
- Is the Budapest Card worth it for this Budapest Itinerary?
- How to get to Budapest
- How to get around in Budapest
- Budapest Frequently Asked Questions
- Final Thoughts: 4 Days in Budapest Itinerary
- Planning A Trip To Europe?
The features in this post were hand-selected by a picky diva (that’s me) and some of them are affiliate links. If you buy via these, I may earn a commission on some of these awesome recommendations at no extra cost to you. Thanks for your wonderful support – Cat.
4 Days in Budapest Itinerary
Who is this 4 Day Budapest Itinerary For?
While I think this Budapest itinerary is great for anyone, I’ve learned that I can’t actually please all of the people all of the time. The last thing I want is for you to use my itineraries and feel disappointed. So I want to make sure that this Budapest itinerary will suit you!
IS THIS 4 DAY BUDAPEST ITINERARY FOR YOU? | I think this itinerary is for first-time visitors to Budapest who love food, wine, history and thermal baths! It’s perfect for solo travellers, couples and small groups. Families with younger children may not find it suitable for them.
This itinerary for Budapest in 4 days was something I created for myself while I was on my Budapest, Vienna and Prague trip. The entire visit focused on improving my understanding of the fascinating history and culture of this part of the world.
I wanted to take a deep dive into the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the aftermath of WW2 and the effects of Soviet occupation in this part of the world. For me, it’s always about finding out how the past influences the present.
With that in mind, this Budapest itinerary focuses on visiting places with historical importance, tasting the food and wine of the region, meeting local people and learning about life in Budapest today. It’s less about stag-dos and budget bites and more about wine tastings and thermal baths!
If you’re a solo female traveller who loves food and wine, history, culture and art, then this Budapest itinerary was made for you because it was made for me!
4 Days in Budapest Itinerary
Where to stay for 4 Days in Budapest
Where To Stay | I highly recommend the Matild Palace for your Budapest itinerary. This luxury hotel has a great central location, really easy for walking to all of Budapest’s top sights. There’s a stunning rooftop bar and also a restaurant from Michelin-star awarded Wolfgang Puck. Check availability and book here.
For other options, read my guide to the best luxury hotels to stay in Budapest for a short trip (coming soon).
4 Days in Budapest Itinerary
Budapest Itinerary for 4 Days at a Glance
Budapest Itinerary Day 1: Walking Tour, Gellert Hill, Gellert Baths
We’re kicking off with a walking tour because that’s just how I roll. I think it’s absolutely the best way to orient yourself to a new city. In the afternoon, take in what I think is the best view in Budapest before heading for a relaxing couple of hours in Budapest’s most beautiful thermal baths – not the ones you think!
Budapest Itinerary Day 2: Hungarian Parliament, Palace District, Széchenyi Thermal Baths, Wine Tasting
This is a true taste of Budapest, taking you from Hungary’s seat of power to the district that once housed all the power players. In the afternoon, enjoy a dip in Budapest’s most famous baths before tasting delicious Hungarian wines that rarely make it out of the country. You’ll hear the fascinating reasons why that is, and I guarantee you’ll leave wanting more.
Budapest Itinerary Day 3: Buda Castle Walking Tour, Market Hall, Rudas Baths, River Cruise, Ruin Bars
Today you’ll watch the sunrise at Fisherman’s Bastion before exploring Buda Castle with a fabulous guide. Head to the impressive Market Hall for lunch before enjoying a relaxing afternoon in another of Budapest’s wonderful thermal baths and then enjoy a sunset cruise on the Danube. Round out your day with a trip to one of the famous ruin bars.
Budapest Itinerary Day 4: Jewish Budapest Walking Tour, House of Terror Museum, St Stephen’s Cathedral, Rooftop Bar
This is a day for reflection. Walk through the streets of Budapest with a local guide who will explain what happened to his Jewish community during the Nazi and Soviet occupations. Next, learn more at the House of Terror Museum, one of the best things to do in Budapest. Finish the day by visiting St Stephen’s museum and taking in the city from a different vantage point.
NOTE | I absolutely loved all three of the walking tours that I’ve put on this Budapest itinerary. A lot of people do this under their own steam, but I thoroughly appreciated the local knowledge, tips and perspectives. If you want to DIY, you’ll need a good guidebook, such as the DK Eyewitness Top 10 Budapest or Lonely Planet Budapest.
4 Days in Budapest Itinerary
Budapest Itinerary for 4 Days: Day 1 – Get to Know Budapest
Trying to see the best of Budapest in 4 days isn’t easy, so have a great breakfast before taking a walking tour through Pest to orient yourself to the city. Head up to Gellert Hill, the best viewpoint in the city and then have a soak in one of Budapest’s incredible thermal baths, Gellert Baths. End the day with dinner at one of my favourite restaurants in the city!
1. Breakfast at Portobello
This was one of my favourite cafés in Budapest. Portobello’s vegetarian brunch menu is imaginative, and their coffee was deemed excellent, even by this coffee snob (I got my start in Melbourne – if you know, you know).
You may want to eat at your hotel or check out another local favourite, such as Szimply (also a favourite of mine!), but make sure that you’re ready for your first activity on this Budapest itinerary – a walking tour!
2. Walking Tour
A lot of tours take in both sides of Budapest in a morning, but I really don’t think that’s enough time to do either Buda or Pest justice. Instead, use your first morning to explore the younger, hipper sibling, Pest.
The walking tour that I recommend starts at 10 am and is guided by a local historian. This was my first trip where I made absolutely sure that all of my tours were with knowledgeable locals, and it made such a difference!
You’ll wander along the Danube Promenade and past the Shoes on the Danube Memorial before heading to more of Budapest’s most famous sights. Have your first trip on Budapest’s historic subway, go inside St Stephen’s Basilica (included in your ticket price), and finish up at the romantic City Park.
I loved all my walking tours with Budapest Explorers, and this will give you a great first taste of Budapest.
I also tried a free walking tour, which also started at Elisabeth Square at 10:30 am and lasted 2 hours. Our guide was good but it felt as though she was just reciting learned information, and I didn’t love it.
If you can’t afford to do any of the paid walking tours, then I would still recommend this, but it wouldn’t be my first choice. There were probably 40 people (mid-pandemic too!), and it was occasionally difficult to hear the guide unless you were pressed up against her.
FREE WALKING TOUR | I took my walking tour with Trip to Budapest. It was enjoyable, but definitely not the best free walking tour I’ve ever taken. Note that the free tour, unlike the paid option, doesn’t include entry into the Basilica.
You’ll be finished with your walking tour (whether you opt for the free or paid version) between 12:30 and 1 pm, so it’s time for lunch! I’m suggesting Kelet Kávézó és Galéria, another of Budapest’s excellent cafés, but feel free to do your own exploring!
3. Lunch at Kelet Kávézó és Galéria
I chose this area for lunch because it’s a great location to head up Gellert Hill, next on this Budapest itinerary.
The easiest way to get here is by taking either the metro or the tram to Szent Gellert stop and then walking a short way down the street. Kelet has fabulous coffee, soups, sandwiches and curries and is great for a light lunch
If Kelet doesn’t take your fancy, here are a couple of others I recommend on the same section of street:
- Café Hadik: Open since 1911 (so they’re doing something right!), this beautiful restaurant serves classic Hungarian dishes and is a great option for local food on your first day.
- Béla: Middle Eastern-style dishes with a great selection of drinks
Once you’ve fuelled up, it’s time to take a walk up Gellert Hill for my favourite views of Budapest!
4. Gellert Hill
I recommend heading up the back streets via Lépcső Street to enter Gellert Park via Kelenhegyi út. It’s all uphill, but take your time to explore, and it won’t seem too bad! My favourite part of coming up this way is that you don’t see any of the view until you reach the top, when it sort of just hits you in the eyeballs!
The Citadel at the top of the hill has been undergoing refurbishment for a couple of years now, and there’s wire fencing up around the building. You can still see the beautiful Freedom Statue and enjoy the views out over Pest from the top.
INSIDER TIP | The citadel refurbishments were due to finish in 2022 but, as with so many things, the date has been pushed back. Hopefully, everything will be open by late 2023, but I’ll keep you posted!
This is a great sunset spot for photography, but you’ve got a lot to pack into your visit, so rather than hanging out up here, wander back down through the park to your next stop on this Budapest itinerary (one of my favourites!), Gellert Baths.
5. Gellert Baths
Budapest sits on the Carpathian Basin, one of the largest thermal basins in the world. The Earth’s crust is at its thinnest, and the water that runs through Hungary’s network of natural springs picks up huge amounts of minerals as it filters to the surface here.
Emperor Marcus Aurelius built Budapest’s first thermal baths for his soldiers over 2000 years ago when he noticed their wounds healed faster after bathing in the water. Ottoman invasions led to Hammam-style baths, and then the Hapsburgs went all in with Art Nouveau.
Gellert Baths, one of Budapest’s best (and my favourite), are housed in an absolutely stunning complex of turquoise and gold, with statues, stained glass and ornate columns everywhere you look. A visit here is genuinely one of my favourite things to do in Budapest and a must on your Budapest itinerary.
There are 13 pools, both indoor and outdoor, ranging from 26°C to 40°C, in addition to saunas, plunge pools, steam rooms and massage therapists!
It’s entirely possible to spend an entire day here, but unfortunately, you don’t have that kind of time! I recommend purchasing your ticket in advance, but you can also buy one on the day if you’re not sure when you’ll be visiting.
INSIDER TIP | Don’t forget your bathing suit, a quick-drying towel and flip-flops to make your visit to Budapest’s best thermal baths perfect.
If you’re following my Budapest itinerary exactly, I anticipate that you’ll be here at about 3 pm, which is plenty of time to enjoy the baths before they close at 7 pm. Personally, I find 3 hours to be about my limit at any thermal baths!
6. Dinner at Déryné
Okay, time to pull yourself out of your thermal bath-induced haze (there’s actually a word for this in Russian because it’s totally a thing!), and either take a short walk or even shorter tram ride to one of my favourite restaurants in the whole of Budapest for dinner.
Déryné was where I had my first dinner in Budapest, and it became the standard for all others. The cuisine is French-influenced Hungarian and, while it’s definitely not the cheapest meal you’ll have in Budapest, the whole experience is well worth it.
I essentially handed over to the waiters to suggest the best dishes to me, and they exceeded my expectations. I had incredibly tender calamari, accompanied by a wonderful local sauvignon blanc (my introduction to Hungarian wine – more on that later!), then tried their traditional lecsó (ratatouille), which is like a hug in your mouth – smoky paprika married to sweet pepper and onion with the tang of sour cream.
For dessert, I had soft and fluffy apricot dumplings surrounded by a crunchy cinnamon crumble and topped it all off with the most expensive wine in the world (I didn’t actually have the most expensive version on this occasion!), Tokaji.
The menu changes seasonally, and I highly recommend booking a table, especially in summer.
If you want to have a walk after dinner, Budapest is lovely for aimless meandering. Otherwise, head back to your hotel for a well-earned rest!
4 Days in Budapest Itinerary
Budapest Itinerary for 4 Days: Day 2 – Hungarian History
Today’s Budapest itinerary is going to take you on a whistle-stop journey through recent Hungarian history. You’ll start your day with a tour of the Hungarian Parliament before heading to the beautiful 8th District for a visit to a couple of Budapest’s best sights. Take a trip to Széchenyi Baths, Budapest’s most famous. In the evening, learn about Hungary’s famous wines in a local wine-tasting class.
1. Hungarian Parliament
Hungary’s stunning Parliament building will look rather familiar to anyone who has been to London! The building draws from Gothic Revival, Renaissance Revival and even Baroque architectural styles, resulting in a stunning neo-Gothic edifice on the banks of the Danube.
The building has been a UNESCO world heritage site since 1987. The best views of the exterior are from across the river in Buda, but it’s the interiors that you really need to see.
You’ll see statues of Hungarian rulers perched on plinths and hear about what they symbolise to the Hungarian people. There’s the Dome Hall, home to the Hungarian Holy Crown and Coronation Insignia, but it’s the Grand Stairway with its detailed frescoes, incredible stained glass and impressive granite columns (the only part of the building not sourced from Hungary!) that really steals the show.
ADVANCE BOOKING | You’ll need to book your ticket well in advance via the official website to make sure you don’t miss out since 700,000 people a year take the 50-minute tour here!
2. Visit Aran Bakery
Even if you’ve already had breakfast, try to squeeze in one of the divine croissants from Aran. I’d actually recommend skipping breakfast to go here, but if you can’t tackle the Parliament tour without something in your stomach, I totally understand!
They also have good coffee and sell some really cute local goods such as tote bags (which I couldn’t resist). There’s usually a line, but don’t be put off because it moves fast. It’s also full of locals, and if that’s not a nod to the quality, I don’t know what is!
Now you’re going to cross Rákóczi Utca and enter Józsefváros, Budapest’s beautiful 8th district, aka the Palace District, for reasons that will become very obvious!
3. Explore the Palace District
I first properly learned about this part of Budapest thanks to Mark and Mim of The Common Wanderer, and they’ve got a wonderful guide to Józsefváros if you want more details. I recommend just letting your feet take you where they will, as everywhere in the district is just gorgeous.
There are, however, two places that I would specifically recommend trying to visit in the area.
The Hungarian National Museum
This isn’t a “must-see” simply because the parts of the museum that I would have most liked to learn more about – the second floor’s Modern History period covering WW2, the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and the end of Communism – were the smallest.
The building is beautiful, and I think it’s worth a stop to learn more about the history of the country, but the Jurassic Age to the 10th Century just wasn’t for me. This is, in part, why I think it’s so important that your tours be led by local historians because much of Budapest’s most interesting history is actually alive in the memories of her people.
The Ervin Szabó Library
The beautiful Wenckheim Palace was built in the late 1800s by a Hungarian aristocrat, Count Frigyes Wenckheim, then purchased by the city of Budapest and converted into the Ervin Szabó Public Library in the early 1930s.
It is a working library, full of students depending on the time of year, and the most beautiful sections are found on level 4 – follow signs to the ballroom and reading room. The library can also be visited with a guided tour – I’ve not done this, but would love to on my next visit. Please let me know what it was like if you’ve done it!
4. Lunch at Gettó Gulyás
There are plenty of lovely places to eat in the 8th District, so feel free to have lunch at one of them. I chose to head back into the 7th District for lunch at Gettó Gulyás, which is something of a Budapest institution and very much an experience.
The menu is full of Hungarian classics (think meat-heavy), so it was something of a challenge to have a vegetarian meal, although not impossible! I ended up having pancakes with mushrooms and then a mushroom paprikash as my main, both of which were delightful.
My favourite part of the whole thing, though, was the atmosphere. It feels as though you’ve stepped into the 1920s, with antiques, tiled walls and sour-faced waiters bustling around the restaurant. Just make sure that you book ahead because it gets extremely busy, even at lunchtime.
5. Andrassy Avenue, Heroes Square & City Park
Once you’ve finished lunch, have a stroll through the 7th District to the start of UNESCO world heritage-listed Andrassy Avenue. This beautiful street was, like the Palace District, largely constructed during the 1800s as homes for Budapest’s elite.
NOTE | If you follow my suggestion for the walking tour on Day 1, you’ll already have had a wander down the avenue and explored Heroes Square and City Park, so you might want to skip this and just head straight to Széchenyi Thermal Baths.
Enjoy a gentle stroll past theatres, boutique stores and upmarket restaurants. It’ll take you about half an hour to walk the length of the avenue, and you’ll end up at Heroes Square, right by City Park.
If you’re an opera lover (or ornate baroque architecture lover!), take a guided tour of the stunning Hungarian National Opera House, where you’ll also get a short performance to demonstrate the incredible acoustics.
If touring the Opera House isn’t your thing, just continue walking until you hit Heroes Square.
The square was built to commemorate the 1000th anniversary of the Magyar conquest. At the centre, you’ll see the Millenium Monument, featuring the seven chieftains of the Magyars, with the Archangel Gabriel holding the Hungarian Holy Crown. Behind are two colonnades showcasing Hungary’s most important historical figures.
On either side of the square are two wonderful art museums, the Museum of Fine Arts (Free with the Budapest Card) and the Kunsthalle. Both of these are worth a visit if you’d rather not go to the baths this afternoon. You’ll also find romantic Vadjahunyad Castle here – a wildly out-of-place Transylvanian-style castle in the heart of Budapest!
6. Széchenyi Thermal Baths
Following this itinerary, and assuming that you don’t get too sidetracked, you should get to the baths no later than 3 pm (2pm if you choose not to tour the Opera House). This gives you at least 2 hours to enjoy the most popular baths in Budapest.
Széchenyi Thermal Baths were built 1913 over healing hot springs and there are 18 separate pools here, along with steam rooms and saunas. The delicious lemon-yellow outdoor area is definitely the most popular draw for visitors.
Here, you’ll find three pools in front of the pastel yellow building – two are heated immersion pools (one activity pool of 30-34°C and a thermal pool of 38°C), and the 50m swimming pool (26-28°C). The indoor pools aren’t as impressive appartently!
Spend as much or as little time here as you like, but be sure to leave in time to get to your wine tasting which starts at 6 pm. On foot, it’s about a 50 minute walk, half an hour by public transport or 15 minutes in a taxi.
7. Wine Tasting
I opted for the 8 wine tasting, and it was my favourite experience as a first-time solo traveller in Budapest! I swear that’s not just because of the pleasant buzz after 2 hours of wine!
The tasting is held in a 160-year-old wine cellar and hosted by knowledgeable local sommeliers – the evening that I went, we had Nikki, who ran an incredible tasting. She talked to us about the history of wine in Hungary and the Hungarian wine industry. For me, one of the most interesting parts of the evening was discovering why you’ve hardly ever seen Hungarian wine outside of the country.
The wine is served with a generous charcuterie and cheese platter for each person – lots of fresh bread to pair with the generous pours of wine. I had a great time meeting fellow travellers and sharing stories about our love of wine and food. I got loads of great travel tips and some new friends out of the evening!
#1 TOP PICK
BEST BUDAPEST WINE TASTING
I highly recommend this tasting of 8 Hungarian wines. Led by a local sommelier, it includes cheese and charcuterie from local suppliers too! A tasty exploration of the history of wine in Hungary.
If you’re still feeling hungry after your tasting (which I doubt), there are plenty of restaurants nearby for you to pick from. Otherwise, just head back to your hotel for the night.
WINE BAR ALTERNATIVE | If you’d rather not commit to a wine-tasting event (although you definitely should), I recommend heading to DiVini Gozsdu, a lovely bar selling a huge variety of local wines. They also have a venue near St Stephen’s Basilica.
4 Days in Budapest Itinerary
Budapest Itinerary for 3 Days: Day 3 – Budapest Views, Cruise and Brews
Get an early start before exploring Buda Castle on a guided walk and enjoying some of the best views of the city. Grab lunch at the market hall, indulge in an afternoon soaking in yet another of Budapest’s wonderful thermal baths before a sunset cruise and round your evening off with a drink at the unique ruin bars.
1. Sunrise at Fisherman’s Bastion
Assuming that you didn’t overindulge at your wine tasting last night, drag yourself out of bed in time to greet the sun at Fisherman’s Bastion atop Buda Castle Hill.
You won’t have the place to yourself, but I guarantee that it’ll be a whole lot quieter now than at 9 am, which is probably when you’d otherwise arrive! It’s also highly entertaining to watch people having their engagement photos taken, along with wedding shoots, Instagram fun and everything in between!
At this time in the morning, you will have to walk up the hill. It’s steep but actually a fairly short walk, and I swear it’s worth it. You won’t even have to pay to access the Upper Terrace (where the best views are) at this time of day!
GETTING TO THE CASTLE DISTRICT | Either take trams 4 or 6 to Széll Kálmán tér then walk up to the district, or get on the Castle bus (No. 16 – departs from Deák tér), or take the funicular from Clark Adam Square at the Buda end of the chain bridge (if open).
2. Breakfast at Franciszka
Since you had such an early start, it’s time for a reward in the form of breakfast! Make your way down the hill to the awesome Home of Franciszka – Buda. It’s a beatufiul light-filled space with the most delicious food.
I had the Morning Bowl and it was so good that I’m still trying (and failing) to recreate it at home. Just another excuse to go back to Budapest I guess! You can check out the full menu here.
Once you’re finished, retrace your steps back up the hill (about 10 minutes walk) for the next stop on your Budapest itinerary.
3. Buda Castle Walking Tour
Starting at 10 am, I think that this walking tour of Buda Castle with a historian was one of the best I’ve ever taken. Starting at the Holy Trinity column near Fisherman’s Bastion, you’ll get a guided tour of the highlights of Buda.
You go inside Matthias Church, which has been on this site in one form or another since 1015. The current Gothic-style masterpiece was constructed in the late 1300s, before undergoing extensive renovations in the late 19th century.
If you’ve been to Russia, the interiors, with their detailed frescoes, colourful stained glass windows and extravagant use of gold, are reminiscent of those stunning orthodox church interiors quite unlike anything else in Europe. Two Kings of Hungary were crowned in this gorgeous building, and you’ll learn so much about it on this tour.
From here, stroll through the Buda Castle District, hearing about life here through the ages and the challenges being faced in Budapest today. Pop into the Hilton Hotel for a rather unexpected surprise, and enjoy a coffee and a chat before heading to Buda Castle itself.
Home to the Hungarian National Gallery, the Budapest History Museum, the ornate King Matthias fountain, Oroszlános archway, neo-Renaissance gardens and Presidential Sándor Palace, you could spend hours exploring here.
If you’d rather spend more time here, find a spot for lunch and continue investigating the Castle District for the rest of the afternoon. Otherwise, your Budapest itinerary continues below.
4. Lunch at Central Market Hall
Your walking tour will finish between 12:30 and 1 pm, so it’s time to make your way to Central Market Hall for lunch. It’s around 20 to 30 minutes, depending on whether you walk or take public transport, so you’ll be there by 1:30 pm.
I love a good market filled with the smells, sights and sounds of local life. And while Central Market Hall is probably the most touristy of the markets in the city, it’s still an incredible place to see and experience.
Built in 1897, Central Market Hall is the oldest and largest indoor market in Hungary, set across two floors. On the ground floor, you’ll find stalls and vendors selling some of Hungary’s finest and most famous exports – paprika, Tokaji wine, salami and spirits. It’s full of hustle and bustle, and you’ll be rubbing shoulders with the locals.
On the upper level, it’s a little different, focused on tourists rather than locals. What you will find, though, are some little Hungarian street food restaurants selling classics like goulash, langoś and pörkölt. Either eat here or get something to go and have your picnic on the banks of the Danube, as the local students do!
5. Rudas Thermal Baths
Okay, listen, I know this is the third thermal bath to feature on this Budapest itinerary. They’re all so different and so wonderful that I just think it would be wrong not to give you the opportunity to visit as many as possible!
Rudas Baths felt like the most local thermal bath experience in Budapest for me and quickly became a favourite. Although who am I kidding, they’re all my favourites!
I carefully timed it so that I would be here on Tuesday when the Turkish Bath is women-only. Mostly because I love a cheeky European-style nude bathing experience!
Rudas Bath has existed on this site since the 16th century when the Ottomans built a small hammam here. The ornate, domed Turkish Bath is still very much the centrepiece of the complex and the entire reason for my visit. It’s seriously atmospheric and feels like you’re stepping back in time.
Other than the Turkish Baths, there are several therapy pools throughout the complex with temperatures ranging from 10-42 °C (50-108°F). There’s also the Insta-famous rooftop dome pool, which I intend to make time for on my next visit.
6. River Cruise
Traditionally, I’m not one for a river cruise. I usually find them to be rather disappointing and, particularly as a solo traveller, they can be a bit hit-and-miss. I actually really enjoyed my Danube River Cruise, carefully selected so that I’d be on the river when the sun went down!
This is definitely the time that I would recommend for the cruise, as it means you cruise along the river one way in daylight, and by the time you turn around, everything’s lit up for the night.
The evening cruise I chose comes with unlimited Prosecco (you’ll detect a theme to my trips) or soft drinks. It does start in a slightly awkward part of the city, up near Margaret Island, but I figured that a 4.7/5 rating with over 5,000 reviews was worth it!
TIP | Check what time the sunset is for your visit, then select the cruise time where sunset is 30-45 minutes after the start. The cruise itself lasts 75 minutes.
I advise arriving 30 minutes early to be near the front of the line, as you’ll get the pick of the seating options that way. I had a lovely time and made some new friends who I went to dinner with afterwards!
7. Dinner at Menza
I’d marked this spot months before I even knew I was visiting Budapest, following a hyped recommendation, so I was expecting greatness. I was not disappointed.
I had the creamiest garlic soup and lángos (fried bread), followed by lescó (in my attempt to eat it at literally every venue in Budapest) and divine wine with my new friends Jeff and Darren from the cruise. All in all, I felt this was a great end to the day and headed home. They, however, went on to do the next (optional) stop on our Budapest itinerary – the Ruin Bars!
8. Drinks at a Ruin Bar
Ruin Bars have been a staple on almost every traveller’s Budapest itinerary for the last 20 years. The original is the famous Szimpla Kert, which you’ll have walked past a couple of times already on your trip.
Post WWII and the long Soviet occupation, many buildings in the Jewish Quarter of Budapest were left in a state of complete disrepair. In 2002, a group of four locals transformed one of these dilapidated buildings into the original ruin bar, Szimpla Kert.
Since then, there’s been something of a boom in the ruined building industry here in Budapest, with many more of these ruin bars popping up across the 7th District and beyond. Full of eclectic and mismatched furniture, wild art and plentiful booze, they’re a great start (or end) to a night in Budapest.
4 Days in Budapest Itinerary
Budapest Itinerary for 3 Days: Day 4 – Budapest’s Serious Side
Although it’s traditional to finish on a high, I want to end this Budapest itinerary by giving you some food for thought. One of my favourite quotes is this;
Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.
Budapest provides a unique opportunity to learn about the recent past and reflect upon how the world might become a better place. To that end, today, take a walking tour of the Jewish Quarter before exploring the House of Terror Museum. Reflect on your visit, looking out over the rooftops of the city, before enjoying a last dinner in Budapest.
1. Breakfast at Freyja
Let me level with you. Having grown up in the UK, with flaky croissants at my fingertips, living in New Zealand and Australia has been //a challenge//. I recently stood in line for 30 minutes to purchase Australia’s best croissant. And, you know what? They weren’t as good as what you’d get in literally any bakery in France.
Which meant that I knew I had to visit Freyja when I was in Budapest. The subtitle is “- a croissant story” for crying out loud. What’s a girl to do?
So I went to Freyja and had my morning croissant. And do you know what? It was bloody delicious, perfectly flaky and buttery, and the coffee was also superb.
All this is to say that if you’re coming from somewhere with good croissant culture, it might not be worth the slight side trip, but for everyone else? 11/10 make the effort.
2. Jewish Budapest Walking Tour
I found this walking tour of the Jewish Quarter with a local guide absolutely fascinating. It was a wonderful opportunity to not only hear about a different side of Budapest’s history but also ask questions.
Our guide, Daniel, told us personal anecdotes from his grandmother about living in Budapest as a Jewish person under both Nazi and Soviet occupation. It gave a completely different perspective than just reading about this difficult period of Budapest’s history.
This walking tour includes entry to the Rumbach Street Synagogue but not the Dohány Street (Great) Synagogue, which you should definitely visit independently to round out your experience. You will, however, visit the exterior of Dohány Street Synagogue on this walking tour and hear plenty about it.
You can visit all these sights under your own steam, but I really don’t think that you’ll get as much out of it as you will with a guide.
BEST JEWISH BUDAPEST WALKING TOUR
I loved the walking tour of Jewish Budapest that I took when I was there. It was a really personal perspective on a difficult subject and time in Budapest. It’s rated 4.9/5 with almost 100 reviews
If you’d like to add Dohány Street Synagogue to your Budapest itinerary, be sure to buy skip-the-line tour tickets in advance since the lines are long by lunchtime!
3. Lunch at Dobrumba
Right around the corner from the Great Synagogue is this little Middle Eastern gem. The service can be a little bit hit-and-miss, but the food is sublime, and the venue is adorable. It’s a great spot to grab lunch before walking to your next destination on your Budapest itinerary.
4. The House of Terror
If there’s only one exhibition you get to on your Budapest itinerary, make it this one. I hesitate to call it a museum because I feel the House of Terror is more of a memorial.
Located in an imposing building on a corner on aristocratic Andrássy Ave, the slate grey facade with blocked-out windows makes quite the impression. Indeed, the designer of the exterior has said that he intended it to be a striking memorial to the victims of Nazi and Communist occupation.
The building was once the headquarters for the Hungarian Fascist Arrow Cross Party (Nazi sympathisers) during World War II, only to be taken over by the so-called State Protection Authority (AVH), the Soviet secret police of the People’s Republic of Hungary.
The exhibits here are loud and multi-sensory, evoking an almost visceral reaction in the visitor. The intention is to shock, to bring home the atrocities of the mid-20th century, and the House of Terror does just that.
However, I’ve left it until last for a reason. By now, you’ll have had the opportunity to learn about the even more recent history of Hungary. You’ll have met locals and learned about what it’s like to live in Hungary today. Hopefully, you’ll realise that the atrocities spoken about in the House of Terror weren’t all perpetrated by outsiders.
The House of Terror has been accused by many historians of providing a revisionist history of Hungary at the behest of the current government, which continues to fund it today. I would argue that, in itself, is reason enough for a visit. Part of understanding life in any country, I think, is to see how the people in charge want their stories to be told.
If you’d like to tour the House of Terror with a guide, then you’ll need to book an external tour, as the museum itself only provides guided tours for groups of 10 or more. An audioguide is available for an additional charge. I opted not to get one and did find that I struggled to understand many of the exhibits as there was no written explanation.
5. St Stephen’s Basilica
If you didn’t make it to St Stephen’s and up the tower on the walking tour on Day 1, you’ve just about got time to squeeze it in today. I think that this is the perfect antidote to the heavy content at the House of Terror.
The largest church in Budapest, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, contains the mummified right hand of King St. Stephen, the founder of modern-day Hungary. It’s a hugely significant site to Hungarian Catholics, and the church’s opulent interior reflects that.
The highlight of a visit here is to go up the panoramic dome, providing nearly 360° views over downtown Budapest. It’s a particularly beautiful spot for sunset, where the golden light will hit many locations you’ll recognise, such as Castle Hill, the Hungarian Parliament and more.
INSIDER TIP | You can either walk up the 200 stairs or pay an additional fee to use the lift!
There are long lines, as this is a favourite stop on everyone’s Budapest itinerary, so I recommend buying tickets in advance. As an alternative, you can take a wonderful St Stephen’s guided tour that includes the rooftop viewing platform.
If you’re visiting on a Thursday in summer, I highly recommend buying tickets for this wonderful organ concert in the Basilica, which starts at 8 pm. It’s also worth knowing that on St Stephen’s Day (Hungary’s national holiday on August 20), the mummified hand of St Stephen is brought out of the side chapel and paraded around the building!
5. Sunset at a Rooftop Bar
Since I am a firm believer that there is no such thing as too many rooftop views (see: Prague), I’m sending you up for a drink at a rooftop bar with views of the cathedral. You definitely don’t have to be in a group to enjoy this spot since it’s all about the views!
I researched pretty extensively and decided to go to Intermezzo, on the top floor of Hotel President. You’ll get a lovely view of St Stephen’s Dome and an even better one of the nearby roof of the Postal Savings Bank with its spectacular tiles.
I would just get a drink here, watching the sun go down, before heading off to your dinner. Be sure to book as it gets busy, and they limit the number of guests.
6. Dinner at Onyx Mühely
The last stop on your Budapest itinerary is the wonderful Mühely restaurant, the recipient of a Michelin Green Star. I absolutely adore the concept here, where you dine around a communal table for 16, getting the chance to be up close and personal with the chefs. It’s pretty much perfect for solo diners.
The food is sublime, the experience unique, and I think this is the perfect way to round out your Budapest itinerary. You’d best be sure that I’m booking a return trip to Budapest for the opening of Onyx Restaurant in 2024!
If you can’t get a seat or the days don’t work, I also recommend Salt, Costes, Caviar & Bull and Borkonhya Winekitchen.
4 Days in Vienna Itinerary
Top Tips to make your Budapest Itinerary run smoothly
1. Book your tickets online in advance
Use Get Your Guide, Viator or Tiquets so that you have your tickets available on your phone without having to worry about paper versions! It’s also a great way to keep your Budapest itinerary organised.
2. Pick the right hotel location
The first thing you need to decide is Buda versus Pest. In Buda, everything’s quieter, but it also takes a lot longer to get to most of the sights on a Budapest itinerary. I would recommend staying in Pest for ease of access to the majority of experiences.
I recommend staying in the Palace District at the Matild Palace, which has a sublime rooftop bar and Michelin-rated Wolfgang Puck restaurant. It’s quiet in the evenings and an easy walk to public transport and the main city sights.
3. Consider getting a Budapest Pass
The Budapest Card is valid in increments from 1 to 5 days, perfect for a 4 day Budapest itinerary! It gives you free public transport, plus free and/or discounted entry to the city’s main highlights, like most of the galleries and museums.
If you’re going to do my itinerary as planned, you can save on virtually everything except the walking tours, so I highly recommend buying the Budapest Card if you plan to do plenty of sightseeing. As an example, you can save 20% off your entry ticket to all of the thermal baths!
4. Book restaurants in advance
Many of the best restaurants in Budapest are extremely popular, and you’re unlikely to get a table without a reservation, especially in summer.
If you’ve got your heart set on a particular venue, book ahead so you’re not disappointed.
5. Wear comfortable shoes!
This is pretty much my religion wherever I’m travelling, but please wear sensible shoes in Budapest. There are cobbled streets everywhere, and you’ll be doing a LOT of walking!
4 Days in Budapest Itinerary
Budapest Itinerary with less time
If you’ve got to put together a Budapest itinerary for less than 4 days, you’re going to have a hard time of it! Unfortunately, you’re definitely not going to be able to fit it all in, no matter how quickly you dash between sights.
Here are a couple of ideas for a single-day Budapest itinerary that you can mix and match to find what works for you if the above doesn’t suit you!
Single-Day Budapest Itinerary Ideas
- Day #1: Fisherman’s Bastion, Matthias Church, Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest History Museum, Gellert Hill
- Day #2: 8th District, Dohány Street Synagogue, Andrassy Ave, House of Terror, City Park, Szechenyi Baths
- Day #3: Parliament, Shoes on the Danube, St Stephen’s Basilica, Market Hall, Gellert Baths
- Day #4: Fisherman’s Bastion, Matthias Church, Chain Bridge, Shoes on the Danube, Parliament, Dohány Street Synagogue, river cruise, ruin bars
- Day #5: Budapest walking tour, Matthias Church, Parliament, Rudas Baths, wine bar
4 Days in Budapest Itinerary
Budapest Itinerary with more time
Although a 4 day Budapest itinerary is incredibly popular, it does mean you have to make compromises when it comes to activities. Visiting three of Budapest’s thermal baths is a great use of time, in my opinion, but I know it’s not for everyone!
Here are some things that didn’t make it onto my Budapest itinerary that I really wanted to do:
Veli Bej Thermal Baths
Listen, okay, listen. I just love thermal baths, and this one looks so beautiful. I was gutted that I didn’t have time to get here since those in the know say that it’s one of the best. If you’ve been, then please let me know what it’s like. Next visit, this is on my list!
Coffee and Cake at New York Café
For over 125 years, New York Cafe has been welcoming visitors, starting life as a meeting place for the local gentry, writers and poets. Now, it’s one of the most popular places in Budapest for visitors to enjoy coffee and cake in a stunning old-world setting. There’s also live Gypsy music from 11 am.
I made the mistake of not booking in advance and they were full every day of my visit. They no longer accept bookings except for the dinner service after 6 pm, so if you’re prepared to line up, you’ll get in. I recommend checking here before you visit in case they’ve changed things again.
Walk across the Chain Bridge
You might actually have done this. When I visited, the bridge was closed for long-awaited refubishments. It should be back open for pedestrians by the autumn of 2023. Currently, you can take several buses over the bridge, including No. 16 which takes you up to Buda Castle.
Visit Budapest’s Caves
There’s an extensive network of underground tunnels under Castle Hill that you can explore with a guide. They’ve been wine cellars, bomb shelters, and even a medieval prison! Everyone that’s done this tour raves about it and says it’s one of the best things they did on their visit.
I’d also love the chance to do this Adventure Caving Tour where you get to explore Hungary’s longest cave system on a half-day caving expedition. They take you to the source of the water of Budapest’s thermal baths, although I don’t think they let you take a dip, sadly.
A Food Tour
You guys know how much I love my food tours! I was pretty gutted that I couldn’t fit one into this Budapest itinerary, but it just means we’ve all got reasons to return. My plan is to take this 10-dish food tour that visits some of the major sights of Budapest.
Connected to the rest of the city by beautiful Margaret Bridge, this 225-acre island is a favourite summer escape for locals. There’s a lot to see, including Platinus thermal baths (you caught me), an Art Nouveau water tower with amazing views, a Japanese fountain and bars lining the banks of the Danube.
Memento Park is very much a one-of-a-kind open-air museum. When the Soviet Union fell, there were hundreds of public statues venerating the Communist ideal all over the country. Understandably, most people didn’t want the visual reminder of oppression staring them in the face and wanted the statues gone.
Instead of destroying them, they were all transported to Memento Park, where you can now wander between Lenin and Marx while looking at the propaganda on display.
Elisabeth Lookout Tower
I really wanted to get here during my trip, but it’s just a little bit too far from the city centre to be worth it with limited time. If you take a tour, you’ll get driven to the bottom of the chairlift at János Hill before heading up to the Elisabeth Tower and the highest point in Budapest! The panoramic views are supposedly sublime and I was told by locals that it’s a wonderful sunset spot.
Take a Day Trip from Budapest
If you’re lucky enough that your Budapest itinerary is 5 days or more, then I think you should definitely try to squeeze in one of the best day trips from Budapest!
The best part is that most of these are available as tours, so you don’t even need to hire a car to experience more of the beautiful countryside around Budapest.
A Day Trip to Szentendre
One of Hungary’s hidden gems, Szentendre is all cobbled streets, pastel-coloured Baroque architecture, history and art. It’s about 45 minutes from Budapest, so a really great option for a day trip. You can get there easily by public transpsort or, even better, by booking a tour.
To get to Szentendre via public transport, take the HÉV suburban rail from Batthyány Square metro station. You’ll need to grab a Budapest public transport ticket (HUF 350), and an extension ticket to ‘Békásmegyer-Szentendre’ (HUF 350) from the ticket machines at the station.
A Day Trip to Lake Balaton
Lake Balaton is the largest freshwater lake in Central Europe, often referred to as the Hungarian Sea. A day trip can take in Balatonfured, a renowned traditional bathing resort, a walk along tree-lined avenues and past 18th-century villas.
There’s the possibillity of a boat cruise with views of beautiful Tihany Peninsula, and swims in the lake before exploring lavender fields prior to returning to Budapest. If you don’t have time for a weekend in the Balaton area, a day trip is a great option!
4 Days in Budapest Itinerary
Is the Budapest Card worth it for this Budapest Itinerary?
If you follow my Budapest itinerary to the letter, you’d save HUF 10,000 on entry fees alone, assuming that you don’t buy any skip-the-line tickets in advance and waited until you got to Budapest.
Since you’d need to get a 4-day Budapest Card, you’d be looking at €77, which is around HUF 29,000. Unless you plan to live on the public transportation system, I don’t think it’s worth getting the card for your full visit.
If you decide to deviate slightly from my itinerary, including museums and use of public transport, you might find it cost-effective to buy a Budapest Card for 1 or 2 days of your stay and maximise the use of it.
If you think you’ll use the public transport system a lot (or you’d like the option), then get one-day or three-day travel cards instead. It works out much cheaper at HUF 2,500 for 24h and HUF 5,500 for 72h. Find out more here.
4 Days in Budapest Itinerary
How to get to Budapest
Getting to Budapest is incredibly easy, no matter how you’re getting here. Access to the city centre is will take you, at worst, an hour from the airport. The train will deliver you to the heart of the city!
Getting to Budapest by Air
The 100E Airport Express goes straight from the airport to Kalvin square, Astoria and Deák Ferenc square, in the heart of Budapest. The ticket costs HUF 2,200 (€6) and the journey takes around 45 minutes. Buses depart at 6 to 40 minute intervals depending on the time of day.
If you don’t want to wait for the bus, take the MiniBUD shared airport shuttle bus transfer (book here). You can book in advance, it’s fairly stress-free since you’ll get dropped at your hotel, and it runs 24 hours. The service costs HUF 4,000 (€10) so it’s still super affordable!
When you’ve just gotten off a long flight, it’s so much nicer to be able to chuck your luggage into the back of the car and get door-to-door service, so I always book a private hotel transfer in advance of my arrival.
#1 TOP PICK
Uber and Lyft do not operate in Hungary – the only taxi app is Bolt. You can hail a cab at the airport though – they’re right in front of the door when you exit the airport terminal. A 25-minute ride to the center will set you back around HUF 8,500 (€22), and you can pay the driver in cash or card.
Getting to Budapest by Train
This is probably the easiest way to get to Budapest if you’re coming from Vienna or Bratislava. It’s how I got here when I was doing my Budapest, Vienna and Prague itinerary and I found it a breeze. The only tricky part is making sure you know which station you’re arriving at!
Budapest has 4 main stations – Keleti, Déli, Nyugati and Kelenföld. Trains from Vienna usually arrive at Keleti or Kelenföld. Trains from Prague may arrive at Keleti or Nyugati. Make sure you check your ticket!
I use Omio to book all my tickets for my European trips.
If you’re arriving by rail and you have a lot of luggage, I’d really recommend booking a transfer in advance. I don’t recommend getting a taxi from the ranks in Budapest itself as low fare amounts mean that most drivers are freelancing and it’s not unusual for the metre to be “broken”. Use the Bolt app for a safer taxi alternative!
Getting to Budapest by Car
If you’re road-tripping through Europe, then I’m sure you already know how to use a map! I’d recommend that you select a hotel with free parking because trying to find street parking in Budapest can be a bit of a nightmare.
You could even stay a little outside the city centre and just make use of the excellent public transport system to get around with ease.
4 Days in Budapest Itinerary
How to get around in Budapest
Budapest is incredibly walkable, and I did this entire Budapest itinerary using my own two feet and public transportation without any issues. You can invest in a travel card, but I spent less doing single journeys than I would have with the card.
As discussed, the Budapest Card is available, which gives free use of public transport and discounts at lots of the major experiences.
The metro line in Budapest is awesome, with some stations feeling like something straight out of a movie set. Metro line 1, known locally as kisföldalatti (the small underground) is the oldest metro line in mainland Europe and the world’s second oldest, after the London Underground.
INSIDER TIP | Except for some buses, you can’t buy travel tickets on board. You either need to purchase them beforehand on one of the many machines in the city (located at stations and stops) or get the BudapestGO app and buy and validate them on your phone. This is what I did and it was a breeze.
4 Days in Budapest Itinerary
Budapest Frequently Asked Questions
How Many Days in Budapest is enough?
I think 4 days is a great amount of time in Budapest, but 3 days would be enough to see most of the best tourist sights if you’ve got limited time and are trying to work a visit into a longer European itinerary.
When is the Best Time to visit Budapest?
The best time to visit Budapest for sunny weather without the crowds is early summer (May to July) or autumn (late August to October).
Winter can be magical in its own way and there are some fabulous Christmas markets in Budapest!
Where should I stay in Budapest?
I recommend staying in Pest, preferably in the quiet 8th District. You’re close enough to join the party, but far enough away to get some peace and quiet. The Matild Palace is my pick and is perfect for this Budapest itinerary.
Is the Budapest Card worth it?
If you’re planning to visit most of the main attractions in Budapest, then this pass will almost certainly work out to be cost-effective for you. You’ll also get free use of public transport. You can purchase your Budapest Card here.
Is Budapest worth visiting?
Budapest is definitely worth visiting if you love history, food, wine and thermal baths! It’s a compact city that’s easily walkable, and I loved my time here.
Is Budapest expensive?
Budapest is still one of the most reasonably priced cities in Europe, even if you’re planning a no-holds-barred luxury extravaganza! In fact, this is probably the best place for one…
Is Budpest safe for solo female travel?
Budapest is definitely safe for solo female travellers. I did this entire Budapest itinerary on my own, using public transport and walking around the city. I felt completely safe the entire time.
4 Days in Budapest Itinerary
Final Thoughts: 4 Days in Budapest Itinerary
So, there you have it, everything you need to create a perfect Budapest itinerary for your visit – I hope that you found it helpful! The capital of Hunary really is a lovely city and a great place to explore.
Drop a comment below if you’ve got any questions, and I’d love it if you would share on Pinterest and social media for other people to find.
Planning A Trip To Europe?
Check out these essential guides, travel tips, and more to help you plan your trip:
TRAVEL INSURANCE | Don’t go anywhere without it! I use and recommend Safety Wing.
THOUGHTFUL TRAVEL | No matter where you go, always be aware of the fact that travel impacts the place and people that live there. Being a thoughtful traveller is more critical than ever. Here are my top tips to make your trip a mindful one.
PHOTOGRAPHY | Love my photos and want to know how to take better shots on your own trips? Then my photography guide is for you. Here’s all the photography gear I use too. Want to buy one of my images? Head to the Print Store.
ESSENTIAL GEAR | You’ll find my travel essentials here, and a complete guide to all my hiking gear here.