Budapest: 5-Day Guide to Budapest
I decided to go to Budapest before I even knew where it was. Yup. I didn’t even know where Budapest was on a map (thanks U.S. school system for making us horrible global citizens). While driving one day, a song by George Ezra came on the radio called Budapest. It was one of those happy-drive-with-the-windows-down-wind-in-your-hair type of songs and I was like hmm, I’ve never been to Budapest… that’s where I’ll go this year. A few days later, I was planning my trip to Budapest.
So that’s the story on how I settled upon a trip to the hidden treasure chest that is Budapest.
I had little expecations because honestly, I knew nothing about the country of Hungary or the city of Budapest, but wow was I blown away. How is this city not up there with the ranks of London and Paris and Madrid?! It was a magical city full of breathless moments, magical lighting and the alluring lull of water (which always gets me). Even if you haven’t heard much of Budapest and know much about it’s incredible history, you’ve probably seen the Parliament building. Also, the “Worlds Most Beautiful Cafe” is in this enchanting city, so come on - that’s reason enough to visit here. Oh and have I mentioned it’s incredibly affordable for us US-dollar enthusiasts?! Literally one of the most affordable places I’ve ever traveled.
I spent a total of (5) days in Budapest and though you can obviously do this city in less/more time, I felt like it was a good amount of time that allowed for wandering, planned visits, lots of eating, park sitting, drinking, coffee shop enjoying, historical sites and just plain chill time. If you’re looking for a good place to start your planning your dream trip to Budapest, look no further! Below I’ve written out my 5-day itinerary to Budapest complete with some links and addresses to help you plan our your perfect trip. Leave a comment if you have any questions or let me know if you’ve been to any of these spots!
Budapest Day 1
I arrived to Buadpest in the late morning and waited at the airport for my friend coming on a different flight. We then took a taxi to our Airbnb. Here’s a link to our Airbnb which was a great 2-bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment centrally located and close to a Metro line a few blocks away, in walking distance to St. Stephen’s Basilica as well as a ton of restaurants and bars. After showering and changing, we set off for the afternoon. Oh and ps, we went in early November and the temperature was decent, not too cold but we definitely needed a jacket/coat during the mornings and evenings.
We ate at a cafe that was on the corner of our street (which we ate breakfast at basically every day) called Avenue Café. They had an English menu and their staff for the most part spoke English. After a bite, we walked the about 10 minute walk to St. Stephen’s Basilica. Talk about a breath-taking cathedral. Make sure you go inside and take a self-guided tour of the inside. You can also pay to take a tour up to the top.
We spent such a long time at Basilica that we missed the tour we were trying to go on of the Jewish Center of town, but I heard it’s a great tour and worth it if you have time to make it! One of the things you could’ve done after the tour is visit the Dohany St. Synagogue which looks absolutely spectacular - the vivid colors would’ve been worth to see.
We spent the rest of the afternoon just walking around town exploring. We stopped and got a glass of wine and a snack on our way to dinner and just enjoyed our time wandering the streets. We were making our way to the Jewish “ruin bar” district. This area of town was once occupied by a large Jewish population that thrived and cultivated life rich with food, shops, restaurants, synagogues and so forth. During WWII and the destruction of these people, they were forced to evacuate their homes. Afterwards, the area fell into ruin and destruction. It wasn’t until recently that people have come back and revitalized the area by turning it into the “ruin bar” district: literally making beauty out of ashes. Now it’s a hip, funky mix of historical sadness and modern innovation. One of the best things we did when we were there - make sure you go! In my Day 1 interlay below you’ll find a few names and addresses to help you locate and do some research on where to go.
Lastly, before calling it a night we had to walk by the iconic “Chain Bridge” and see the golden Parliament building from our side of the Danube River. Budapest is incredible by day, but it comes alive at night.
Budapest Day 1 Itinerary
Lunch at Avenue Café | Budapest, Paulay Ede u. 1, 1061 Hungary |
Walk to St. Stephen's Basilica Budapest | Szent István tér 1, 1051 Hungary | cost: free - but to go inside and tour it was a suggested donation
Free Walking Tour of the Jewish Center | Jewish Center | Vörösmarty square (at the lion fountain)| cost: free (tips encouraged)
Dohany St. Synagogue | 1074 Budapest, Dohany utca 2. | $15 admission to go inside
Dinner | Mazel Tov, Budapest, Akácfa u. 47, 1072 Hungary
Ruin Pub hopping … (pub names and addresses below)
Szimpla Kert, Budapest, Kazinczy u. 14, 1075 Hungary
Fogas Ház és Kert, Budapest, Akácfa u. 49-51, 1073 Hungary
Pacific Vintage Bar & Café, Budapest, Ferenczy István u. 5, 1053 Hungary
Budapest Day 2
I think there’s something magical about waking up in a foreign country where you don’t know what magic awaits you. I love opening the window and listening to the sound of the city waking up. Breath in, breath out. It’s so invigorating. We started off our second day by getting breakfast at the Avenue Café again, they had such a wonderful selection of breakfast items - both traditional and what I’d consider more “Western” items like pancakes. Definitely get a latte, so delicious!
After breakfast we walked to the Parliament Building where we had a tour scheduled for 10:00 a.m. (NOTE: make sure you book your Parliament tour ahead of time, because they do fill up fast. Tour times when we went were 8:30, 9:15, 10, 12 and 1. They only have certain times for particular languages so check their website here.) It was worth the tour, do not miss this on your stop to Budapest; you’ll learn a great mix of the history of the two cities (Buda + Pest), WWI and WWII, and see some wonderful pieces of art history in these hallowed halls.
After our tour of the Parliament building, we walked along the Danube river towards the Chain Bridge. Along the way you’ll see the iconic Shoes on the Danube Promendadne Memorial. It’s quite a moving piece of artwork. It’s n artwork installation to memorialize all the Jewish people that were murdered during the regime during WWII.
We kept on walking down the bank until we got closer to the bridge, and crossed over the river to explore the other side of Budapest (Buda side). When we got to this side of the river we really spent the rest of our afternoon over there because there was tons to see. First we rode the fincular, explored the grounds of the Royal Palace (it was closed for a private event so we couldn't go inside for a tour), had lunch at a little restaurant in the Castle Hill area (an incredibly touristy area so don’t be shocked to see overpriced so-so food).
My favorite part of the afternoon was exploring the nooks and crannies of the Fisherman’s Bastion and taking in the views and pulse of this gorgeous city. Make sure you stop into the Matthias Church, it’s beautiful and colorful and vibrant. Usually cathedrals of Europe are gray muted tones, but this cathedral was full of life and colors.
We ended the day grabbing a bite to eat at a great Hungarian restaurant (who knew goulash was so delicious?!) and then going on an evening drinking cruise of Budapest. We split a bottle of champagne (or two) and took in the marvels of this twinkle-light town. Really, this should be the city of lights!
Budapest Day 2 itinery
Breakfast at a café
Parliament Tour Budapest, Kossuth Lajos tér 1-3, 1055 Hungary |Tour Times: 8:30, 9:15, 10:00, 12:00, 13:00 // $8 EU | Citizens free or $22 Non-EU
Shoes on Fanube Promendande Memorial | Budapest, Id. Antall József rkp., 1054 Hungary | free
Chain Bridge Széchenyi Chain Bridge | Budapest, Széchenyi Lánchíd, 1051 Hungary | free
Walk up the river to see Parliament from Pest side
Gresham Palace | free
Lunch in the Castle Hill area
Explore the Castle Hill Area | Free
Royal Palace (Buda Castle) Buda Castle | Budapest, Szent György tér 2, 1014 Hungary | Free to enter grounds; Tours $11 at 2pm (pre-arrange)
Fiserhman's Bastion | Budapest, Szentháromság tér, 1014 Hungary | Free
Matthias Church | Budapest, Szentháromság tér 2., 1014 Hungary | $5
Varbazar Bazar Castle Gardens | Budapest, Ybl Miklós tér 4, 1013 Hungary | Free
National Gallery Hungarian National Gallery | 1014 Budapest, Szent György tér 2., Hungary | $6
Dinner/Drinks/Out or Budapest Late Night Drink Cruise late night water cruise with drinks
Budapest Day 3
Shocker… we had breakfast at the Avenue Café again on day three. Then we took the metro to the Buda side of town via the adorable yellow old-fashioned subways. Now let me inform you…. ***SUPER IMPORTANT NOTE***: when you get a metro ticket you have to get it verified or punched either by the attendant in the little box or by these stands that enter the metro station. We didn’t know, didn’t get them verified, and some person got on the metro and was checking tickets and we got a) kicked off the metro and b) fined $80 USD (which we had to pay in cash immediately) as a penalty. Trust me, we were highly pissed off that all we needed was a silly punch in order to avoid the issue. So learn from us and don’t make THAT expensive mistake.
We visited Vajdahunyad Castle and explored around the grounds before heading into the actual “castle” for a tour. Although this enchanting castle looks like it’s hundreds and hundreds of years old, it was actually only built in 1896 for the 1,000th anniversary celebration of Hungary! We spent a few hours here exploring the grounds, getting a hot chocolate and sitting by the lake, going on a tour and of course taking tons of pictures along the way.
Once we were done at the Castle, we walked through Heroe’s Square with it’s iconic statue in the middle of the square for the Unknown Solider and the war heroes of Hungary. There were people scattered along the walls enjoying the sunny day when we were there. We also walked through the Szechenyi Thermal Bath although opted not to go in (we didn’t bring bathing suits this trip). I’d love to go back and actually take a dip in these thermal waters sometime. It sure was beautiful the parts we could see.
The best part of the day in my opinion — the most beautiful cafê in the world! It’s called the New York Café and it is beyond words. I closed my eyes and literally felt like I was stepping back in time to an era long past gone, where women donned gowns, men wore top hats, chaperones were a must, and afternoon tea was a daily occurrence to be savored. There was a cello, violinist and pianist playing classical music on the second level of the café which added to the atmosphere. Crystal and glassware clinked softly as people laughed and chatted, I mean it was truly an incredible experience… I can’t get over that I was even in this space. NOTE: Reservatiosn are a must or else you’ll be waiting for hours. Go to their website, here, and email them about a resrevation. If you have a reservation when you arrive you can bypass the line and opt for the shorter “Reservations” line. If you go to Budapest you HAVE to go here for their dessert and coffee/tea at the very least.
We finished our day by grabbing a bite to eat at the same Hungarian restaurant (it was just that good), grabbing a bottle of wine to go at the grocery store, and stayed in and chatted and listened to the sound of the city life through our opened windows.
Budapest Day 3 Itinerary
Vajdahunyad Castle, Budapest | Vajdahunyad vár, 1146 Hungary | Free to get into the ground; $4 to get into museum inside which goes to the top of the castle which offers great views of the city
Heroe's Square | Free
Szechenyi Thermal Bath | Budapest, Állatkerti krt. 9-11, 1146 Hungary| $20
New York café |Budapest, Erzsébet krt. 9-11, 1073 Hungary |Must have reservation
Walking around town
Budapest Day 4
The night before we had stopped at the grocery store for wine and also picked up a few items for breakfast too like a small orange juice, yogurt and some fresh fruit so we had breakfast in this morning since we had an really train to catch to Bratislava, Slovakia. Slovakia is only an hour and a half train ride away from Budapest so we thought it’d be a great day-trip away. We used rail Europe to do our research on which train to take but didn’t purchase our tickets until we got to the train station. You can do some research here on Rail Europe. It was around $40 USD for our round-trip ticket. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time… (we got a little turned around in the train station and almost missed our train, oops!)
When we arrived in Bratislava the first thing we did was go to the Bratislava Castle. Turns out that on Monday’s they were closed - I’m thinking that’s because we were there during the “off season” so make sure you check before you head out here. Even though we couldn’t get inside, the grounds were fun to walk around! There is a few great photo spots that look over the river and some that look out over the city itself.
We left the castle and walked through the windy curvy roads and stumbled across some cute little restaurants and café’s for lunch. It was a cold day that day, so we stopped for some soup to warm up! We kept on wandering around the town and came across St. Martin’s Cathedral. We popped in for a self-tour and it was quiet and peaceful.
The rest of the afternoon we just walked around and hit some historical sites including the Grassalkovich Presidential Palace where they had a change of the guard at 1:00 p.m., The Mesto, UFO Bridge & Tower, the Blue Church and Michael’s Gate/Tower in Olde Towne. We also had a lovely dinner in a local pub/restaurant that was to die for. We had a wonderful evening and this gave us the luxury of stopping in shops we wanted, grabbing a coffee or glass of mulled wine if we wanted and allow for enough time to get back to the train station to get back to Budapest.
Budapest Day 4 itinerary
Take train to Bratislava 7:25 a.m. - arrive at 10:07 a.m. | Approx $40
Bratislava Castle | Free to enter the grounds but museum inside is $8
St. Martin's Cathedral | Free
Grassalkovich Presidential Palace (changing of the guards 1pm) Hodžovo námestie 2978/1, 810 00 Staré | Free
Mesto, Slovakia | Free
UFO Bridge & Tower | Free
The Blue Church | Free
Michael's Gate & Tower (oldest structure) Old Towne entrance | Free
Take train back to Budapest
Budapest Day 5
Our final day in Budapest was a half day before we had to catch a train to our next destination - Vienna! We got breakfast at our little café one more time and then popped out to do a little walking around the town before we had to go back to our Airbnb, pack up and get to the train station. We mostly did free things, walked around, stopped in a few shops for any last minute gifts or souvenirs then gave ourselves plenty of time to get to the train station. We metro’d to the train station and it was pretty easy to navigate by the way.
Budapest Day 5 Itinerary
Szabo Ervin Library $3
Central Market Hall | Free
Walking around the Jewish District + Ruin pubs | Free
Leave Budapest for Vienna
I hope you enjoyed this little guide to Budapest. Leave me a comment if you’ve been or if you have any questions! Happy travels my dear wanderlusters!!!