I’ve been city and country-hopping in Europe for a month and a half now, and the single city I’ve spent the most time in to date has been… Budapest! And because I love to eat, I appreciate rich culture, there’s a lot to see, and I also don’t mind a party (here and there), Budapest was a welcome haven for me.
Note: Details about places and things may have changed since the time of this writing. Be sure to cross-check while planning your trip!
I found it most convenient to stay on the Pest side of the river, as I spent most of my time there, while making fewer outings to the Buda side. Luckily, the transit in Budapest is very efficient and affordable.
I also was gifted the Budapest card, a tourism card which gives the holder free public transport and free or discounted entrance to tons of museums and a number of other activities, services, and dining for a designated period of time (a 72-hour card is €56). It saved me a lot of money in Budapest — a big thank you to the Budapest tourism board for the gift!
My DIY 7-day itinerary for Budapest, Hungary
Budapest Day #1: Monday
There’s no better way to get acquainted with Budapest than with a walk! There are two free walking tours included with the Budapest card, but I opted to explore on my own to get my bearings. Head to Vajdahunyad Castle, walk the numerous trails around it, and if you’re feeling cultural, check out nearby Museum of Fine Arts and Kunsthalle. Then, walk the scenic Andrássy út towards town. You may want to stop at the House of Terror (museum documenting the Nazi and Soviet occupations in Hungary) on the way.
Once you’ve worked up an appetite, get the whole Hungarian experience by stopping at Street Food Karavan Budapest ($$), an outdoor food market/garden with local favorites like lángos and goulash.
Finish up with dessert at Molnar’s Kürtöskalács, which makes traditional Hungarian chimney cakes with toppings and/or ice cream ($).
Budapest Day #2: Tuesday
Is your camera charged up? You’re going to need it!! Take the bridge to the Buda side, and visit the epic Buda Castle complex, museum, St. Stephen’s Hall, Matthias Church, Fisherman’s Bastion, and the church tower of St. Mary Magdalene. (The museum on the upper floor of the Buda Castle has a wonderful history exhibit detailing Budapest’s ancient and modern history!) If you need a break from the sun, consider adding the underground labyrinth (where Count Dracula was once imprisoned) to your itinerary.
Pick up a loaf of fresh bread or sandwiches at Arán Bakery Budapest ($) for a pre-wine snack, then head to Champion Wine Vinarium ($$), a wine bar with curated Hungarian wines. Bottles are very reasonable, and the tasting flight is 50% off with the Budapest Card. This was one of my most enjoyable experiences in Budapest! If you want even more Hungarian wine, I can recommend this Half Day Private City Tour of Budapest With Wine Tasting.
Budapest Day #3: Wednesday
Visit Lukacs Baths for free with your Budapest card, and prepare to spend a few hours lounging (or swimming laps, if you aren’t too hung over from the wine) in the various baths of different temperatures and salinities.
For a package deal and more spa time, consider also Széchenyi Spa + Dinner & Cruise with Live Music.
Assuming you’re rejuvenated, catch the sunset while riding the Ferris Wheel of Budapest with a champagne toast (discounted with the Budapest Card). Then, visit Belli di Mamma ($$) for seriously good stone oven pizza and a nice ambience!
Budapest Day #4: Thursday
Want to do some more sightseeing from above? Take the Zugliget Chairlift to the top. Then, it’s a short hike up to the Elizabeth Lookout for views for days… and tons of other trails, should any more hiking be to your liking!
On the way back, try to time it so that you can catch the sun setting on the Hungarian Parliament Building from the Buda side. Once it gets dark, the building is illuminated by lights, making for a gorgeous photo.
Head to Im-oon Thai Restaurant ($$) for dinner for amazing and authentic Thai food outside of Thailand. I can vouch for the pad thai!
Budapest Day #5: Friday
Spend Friday taking in the Jewish history of Budapest in the Jewish quarter. First, visit breakfast cafe VAJ for French pastries — the pistachio croissant is incredible — then head to Dohány Street Synagogue, the largest synagogue in Europe. A tour is included in the admission, and you can enter the synagogue itself, the garden and cemetery, and the museum. Be sure your knees and shoulders are covered.
Keep the theme going and get dinner at Mazel Tov ($$$), a hugely well-known spot in Budapest for Mediterranean. There’s always a line and the table service is slow, but the ambiance is super vibey, there’s often live music, and the food is delish.
Budapest Day #6: Saturday
Spend an hour or two visiting Central Market Hall, a giant market with food stalls and souvenirs — and pay special attention to the architecture! OR, for a little more glamour, stroll the corridor of Váci utca, the main shopping thoroughfare of Budapest.
Did you know? Budapest is the city that doesn’t sleep. Dance the night away at Instant-Fogas, a night club with multiple dance floors of varying music styles (it stays open until 6 a.m.)! I never stayed out that late, but it was my preferred night club the week I was there.
For Saturday night, pre-game at outdoor bar/garden Backyard ($$), hit the club afterwards, and then when hunger pains strike, swing by late night/early morning food spot Melissa’s Bisztro ($) for fast and delicious gyros and kebab plates. It’s the best in Budapest!
Budapest Day #7: Sunday
Hit up Szimpla Sunday Farmer’s Market, open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., for farm-fresh cheeses, jams, juices, produce, and artisan products — it is held in the Szimpla pub/dance venue (the other popular night club in Budapest).
Later, head to nearby Bors Gasztrobár ($$), a popular sandwich and soup shop, for a late lunch, then, starting at 5 p.m., visit Bortodoor City Wine Bar for its “drink the losses” night. Sunday night is an event in itself, frequented by lots of Budapest’s expats, where the week’s wines are offered at a discount to finish up the week’s menu. First-time guests get a complimentary glass of sparkling wine!
Don’t want to DIY? I recommend this 4-Day Private Historic Tour of Budapest With Accommodation where you can visit a lot of the sites listed above.
For more information about the benefits and discounts of the Budapest Card, visit: www.budapestinfo.hu/budapest-card
Official Budapest information page: www.budapestinfo.hu