If you’re wondering if 4 days in Budapest are enough, let me start by saying that you can (and should) spend a lot more time in the Hungarian capital if you can make it work. While you can even see some of the highlights of Budapest in a day, this city has so much to offer.
It has been on the back burner of my bucket list for quite some time, and when I actually got to visit, I was blown away. I know it’s a cliche, but Budapest is truly one of the most beautiful cities in Europe I’ve seen.
It has everything you need in a city break, but the thing that especially made me fall in love with it was that each and every building looked completely different and had unique architecture, and they all seemed to have so much history to tell.
But trying to describe why Budapest is worth visiting in a couple of sentences is impossible, so let’s dive into this detailed itinerary, that will hopefully help you make the most of your trip.
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BUDAPEST IN 4 DAYS – WHERE TO STAY
There’s no shortage of amazing places to stay in Budapest, from apartments to B&Bs to luxury hotels.
I stayed in a lovely central apartment, but unfortunately, it isn’t available at the moment. Check out these other highly-rated accommodations instead.
Note: If you want to book an apartment, please avoid staying in the Jewish Quarter. The local guide in one of the walking tours I had taken talked about how the apartment rentals, specifically in the Jewish Quarter, were hurting the locals, causing high rent prices and disturbing noise.
4-DAY BUDAPEST ITINERARY SUMMARY
To get an idea of what this itinerary includes, here’s a quick summary:
Day 1: Buda Castle district (Fisherman’s Bastion, Matthias Church, Buda Castle, and more).
Day 2: Pest (Dohany Synagogue, Jewish Quarter, Heroes Square, Vajdahunyad Castle).
Day 3: Pest (Museum of Sweets and Selfies, Andrassy Avenue, St. Stephen’s Basilica, street art walking tour, Hungarian Parliament Building, Tram 2).
Day 4: Day trip.
If you to change it a bit, here are highly-rated activities you can add to my Budapest itinerary:
- An evening Danube River cruise (with a drink)
- A spa day at the famous Széchenyi Thermal Bath
- Hungarian wine tasting
- An alternative walking tour
FOUR DAYS IN BUDAPEST: TIPS AND NOTES
Here are a few things to know before visiting Budapest:
– Budget: Budapest is considered a budget-friendly city. Everything from food to attractions is relatively cheap (in comparison to other big European cities), and you can take quite a few fun free tours like a classic free walking tour of Budapest, a contemporary Budapest free tour, a free tour of the Jewish Quarter, and a free evening tour.
– Local currency: Hungarian Forint – HUF (1 USD = 294.5 HUF, 1 EUR = 357.2 HUF). Bring some HUF with you, but know that you can also exchange money or draw money at an ATM (American Express is not always accepted).
– Getting from the airport to the city center: I preferred taking a taxi for convenience, but you could use public transport instead. Read here for more info on that.
– Most of this itinerary is done on foot, so be sure to bring comfortable shoes. When you need to use public transport, purchasing a single-ride ticket should be enough.
– Vegans, this one is for you. Although Hungary is not the most vegan-friendly destination, finding places to eat vegan food in Budapest is a lot easier than you think.
4 DAYS IN BUDAPEST – DAY 1 – BUDA
Head to A La Maison Grand (Szervita tér 3), where dreams come true and where your needs in a delicious and insta-perfect breakfast are satisfied.
With every dish having several versions (like 5 types of pancakes, 5 types of eggs benedict, etc.), the menu looks like a book.
I highly recommend taking a look at it in advance on their website, or else you’ll be spending your first half an hour (if not more) just trying to decide what to devour.
With yummy, picture-perfect food and modern, inviting decor, A La Maison Grand is, without a doubt, one of the best breakfast and brunch spots in Budapest.
Who doesn’t love visiting places that look like they belong in a fairytale? That’s surely why Fisherman’s Bastion is one of Budapest’s top attractions.
Surprisingly, even though it is called a bastion, it actually never served as a fortification in Budapest. It was built in the late 19th-century, so there would be a proper place to enjoy the views of the Danube river and the Pest side of the city. Genius, right?
The combination of the unique architecture and the beautiful scenery is definitely magical, yet you should expect to be surrounded by quite a few people.
If you want to take photos with no tourists around you, you’ll have to visit Fisherman’s Bastion very early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
Apart from the upper towers, which cost 1000 HUF (less than 4 euros) to access, all the other towers and balconies are completely free to stroll around.
How to get there: Fisherman’s Bastion is located in the Castle District on the Buda side of the city. Bus number 16 gets there all the way from the Pest side.
Right next to Fisherman’s Bastion, you’ll find the stunning Matthias Church. Dating back to the 13th and 14th centuries, the current building has hosted countless important events throughout the years.
Ceremonies like King Matthias’ royal wedding and the coronation of King Franz Joseph have made the church a significant historical landmark, which is now one of the most visited places in Budapest.
Beyond its history, the church’s Gothic-style architectural details, along with the colorful roof tiles and unique interiors, are a feast for the eyes (and the camera). To enter, you’ll need to buy a ticket with a specific time slot on the church’s official website.
Bonus tip: Matthias Church also hosts several classical music concerts throughout the year, which you can book here.
OTHER THINGS TO SEE NEAR FISHERMAN’S BASTION AND MATTHIAS CHURCH
1. Colorful streets
It’s so odd to see the area of the church and bastion packed with people while the surrounding streets are almost completely deserted.
Take advantage of this serenity and enjoy some colorful streets and squares like Táncsics Mihály and Bécsikapu.
2. HOSPITAL IN THE ROCK
This unusual museum is dedicated to a secret underground WWII military hospital.
You can only visit it with a 60-minute guided tour, where you’ll wander through the different rooms which have been restored to resemble wartime conditions.
3. HOUSE OF HOUDINI
This museum is dedicated to the Budapest-born magician Harry Houdini, showcasing original items of his and preserving his heritage.
4. TÓTH ÁRPÁD PROMENADE
This lovely avenue is filled with beautiful trees and overlooks the city. If you visit at the right time in spring, you’ll also get a chance to see some gorgeous pink blooms.
Scattered around the streets surrounding Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church, you’ll find quite a few restaurants and cafes.
Are you a dessert person like me? Don’t miss the bakery Ruszwurm Cukrászda (Szentháromság 7) and have a piece of one of their delicious cakes.
As the former Royal Palace, the Buda Castle is a must-have on your 4-day Budapest travel itinerary.
Today, it houses the National Széchényi Library, the Budapest History Museum, and the Hungarian National Gallery. Each has its own price, but you can also wander around the courtyards for free.
At the foot of Buda Castle, you’ll find the Castle Garden Bazaar. This 19th-century complex of elegant buildings and gardens was designed to create an attractive cityscape near the castle. It is free to visit and can make a perfect afternoon stroll.
For a hearty dinner in a cozy environment, head to the nearby Marvelosa Restaurant (Lánchíd 13), and indulge yourself in a Hungarian meal.
4 DAYS IN BUDAPEST – DAY 2 – PEST
Start your day at one of the Jewish Quarter’s cozy cafes. A few options to consider are Vintage Garden (Dob 21), Solinfo Cafe (Wesselényi 6), and Pantry Brunch & Coffee (Dohány 5/B), but you’ll find plenty of other breakfast places in this lively area.
I absolutely love exploring my Jewish heritage when traveling, and since the 19th-century Dohany Synagogue is the largest in Europe and second-largest in the world, I had to include it on my Budapest itinerary.
I loved roaming the beautiful streets of the Jewish Quarter. They’re packed with street art, shops, restaurants and cafes, and unique buildings, and they definitely deserve a couple of hours of exploring.
Tip: Have a cup of coffee and some delicious cakes at The Sweet (Dob 21).
There’s no shortage of places to eat in the area, but if you’re looking to have Hungarian food, try Klauzál Café (Klauzál 23) or Korhely Faloda & Daloda (Liszt Ferenc tér 7).
FREE JEWISH HISTORY WALKING TOUR
Continuing with the Jewish theme, I highly recommend taking a free Jewish history tour. It covers the Jewish landmarks in the area (including the synagogue, but only on the outside) and talks about the history of the community in Budapest.
I had an amazing guide, so I really enjoyed this walking tour, which you could learn more about here. The meeting point is Elizabeth Square (where the Budapest Eye is located), and it starts at 3:30 PM (on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday).
Alternatively, book one of these Jewish heritage tours.
The tour ends in Szimpla Kert, one of the most iconic ruin bars in Budapest. But what are ruin bars?
Essentially, these are old, abandoned buildings turned into quirky, budget-friendly drinking joints. Szimpla Kert is a pretty big one, and even though it has become touristy, it’s worth visiting. It also hosts a farmers’ market on Sundays.
Whether by foot or by metro (line number 1), head to Heroes’ Square.
This iconic square commemorates important Hungarian rulers, including the seven chieftains who founded the country (there’s actually a fascinating European legend about the birth of the Hungarian nation involving a magical stag).
You’ll also find the Museum of Fine Arts and the Műcsarnok (Hall of Art) on both sides of the square.
Right behind Heroes’ Square, you’ll see the fairytale-like Vajdahunyad Castle. It is seriously dreamy, and sunset is ideal for visiting it and taking hundreds of pretty pictures from every possible angle.
It was originally built to celebrate Hungarian architecture, and it definitely looks like a celebration. Today, it houses the Museum of Agriculture, but the courtyards and surroundings are free to wander.
You can also take this walking tour to explore the square and castle with a guide.
A nearby Hungarian restaurant that will make you feel like stepping into a cozy wooden cabin with its unique decor is Paprika Vendéglő (Dózsa György 72).
4 DAYS IN BUDAPEST – DAY 3 – PEST
Going back to the Jewish Quarter for breakfast, you can start your day at Stika (Dob 46/a) or Rézkígyó Coffee House (Paulay Ede 15).
MUSEUM OF SWEETS & SELFIES
The Museum of Sweets and Selfies (Paulay Ede 43) is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but I personally loved this hidden gem in Budapest (especially because it was a great addition to my girls’ trip)!
It’s a different kind of museum where the whole purpose is just to have fun like a kid (and take insta-worthy pictures). You’ll go through rooms like the sprinkles pool, banana swing, and neon room, which are all unique and colorful.
Opening hours: Every day 10 AM – 6 PM.
Price: 2990 HUF or 10 Euros on weekdays and 3500 HUF or 11 Euros on weekends.
If you want to check it out, a second museum opened – the Museum of Sweets & Selfies BUBBLES (you can purchase a combined ticket for both museums).
ANDRASSY AVENUE AND THE BUDAPEST OPERA HOUSE
The museum is located only a minute away from the beautiful Andrassy Avenue. More specifically, from the spot where you’ll see two stunning buildings on both sides – the Hungarian State Opera House and the Drechsler Palace.
Stroll along the avenue towards Bajcsy-Zsilinszky Metro station, and turn right to get to St. Stephen’s Basilica.
ST. STEPHEN’S BASILICA
Probably one of the most distinctive landmarks in Budapest, St. Stephen’s Basilica is the third-largest church in Hungary, named after Stephen, the first King of Hungary. Admire its exterior architecture or go inside to have a look at its impressive interiors.
You’ll find dozens of restaurants around the basilica of all kinds of cuisines.
FREE STREET ART WALKING TOUR
I’m obsessed with street art, and Budapest did not disappoint me. To learn more about the local scene, I took this free walking tour (with the same company as the Jewish history tour).
I highly recommend it to every street art lover because it adds more meaning to your visit and shows another side of the city. The meeting point is Elizabeth Square, and the tour ends in the Jewish Quarter.
HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT BUILDING
You can either walk alongside the Danube River or use the tram or metro to get from the Jewish Quarter to the Hungarian Parliament Building, which is one of the most stunning buildings in the city and a notable Hungarian landmark.
Take some time to take all that beauty in, and on the side that faces Kossuth Lajos Square (one of the prettiest squares in Europe), go and see the guards circling the national flag. You can also learn more about the parliament on this free tour.
Tip: If you decide to walk from the Jewish Quarter to the parliament, stop at the Shoes on the Danube Bank, a memorial that honors the Hungarian Jews who were shot into the river during WWII.
TRAM 2 AT SUNSET
To enjoy the sunset, get on the yellow Tram 2 at Kossuth Lajos Square tram station (right behind the Parliament).
It passes alongside the Danube River and overlooks the Buda side of the city, and sunset time is when everything looks soft and glowy. You can take the full route and then go back with it to the Parliament or get off wherever you want.
Alternatively, you can also book an evening Danube River cruise (with a drink) or an evening cruise with a candle-lit dinner and live music.
If you do go back to the parliament, there are quite a few bistros (and other restaurants) in the area.
4 DAYS IN BUDAPEST – DAY 4 – DAY TRIP
When you only have four days in Budapest, you can definitely spend another day exploring the city itself, visiting places like:
- Margaret Island
- Széchenyi Thermal Bath (book your full-day spa package here)
- Great Market Hall
- Gellert Hill
Otherwise, you can take a day trip to see a bit more of Hungary’s cities, towns, and countryside. If you prefer booking a guided day tour, here are some highly-rated ones:
- Half-day wine tour to Etyek.
- Full day tour to the Danube Bend and Szentendre with lunch.
- Lake Balaton tour.
If you like to take day trips on your own, a few easy ones reachable by public transport are the picturesque town of Szentendre, Gödöllő and its famous royal palace, or the town of Visegrád.
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