Trendy cafes, bubbling ruin bars and jaw-dropping architecture – Budapest is one of the most incredible, creative and underestimated cities in all of Europe! This vibrant capital of Hungary is affordable and bursting with things to do, making it the perfect choice for a weekend away. Three days is just enough time to visit all of the main sites, including the medieval side of Buda and the swanky downtown of Pest. Let’s dive into this Budapest Weekend Guide!
Budapest Weekend Guide
Budapest Weekend Guide: Day 1
If you’re coming in from a nearby European city, you’ll most likely arrive in the afternoon or evening. In our case, we got in at about 7:00PM. Tired from our drive, we took it easy the first night and went on an evening walk through Pest. I highly recommend walking around Parliament at night when the buildings are all aglow – it’s seriously so magical to see and totally made me feel like I was on the set of Harry Potter!
Budapest Weekend Guide: Day 2
Start off your first full day in Budapest by heading to the Central Market Hall. Built in neo-Gothic style, this indoor market boasts fresh produce, lots of paprika, and even handmade Hungarian lace.
The lower level houses stalls filled with fruits, vegetables, meats and spices, while the upper level offers a number of cafes and plenty of souvenir stalls.
Tip: Try to go as early as you can as the upstairs can get exceptionally crowded. It is best to avoid if you dislike enormous amounts of people.
While the market is a great place to purchase spices and paprika, you’ll generally find the same brands in local grocery stores at a much cheaper price.
After visiting the market, walk over to the nearby Liberty Bridge, better known as the Green Bridge. It connects the market and the end of Vaci Utca to the other side of the Danube and provides the perfect perch for viewing all of the stunning buildings that line the river.
If you’re hungry for some brunch after taking in the views from the Green Bridge and exploring the market, then Kuglof should be your next stop. This lovely cafe/restaurant is tucked away just off of Vaci Utca under an archway. We stumbled upon this place by chance, and were not disappointed. Everything was freshly prepared and tasted even more delicious thanks to the charming courtyard Kuglof is located in!
After filling up on eggs benedict and coffee, it’s time to explore Buda! You can either walk up to the top of the hill on the Buda side to begin your journey through the city’s medieval landmarks, or take the bus. We actually planned on walking to the top, but it was sweltering hot outside…so we saved ourselves the sweat and hopped on a bus.
At the top, you’ll want to check out the three main sites:
- Matthias Church – this Roman Catholic church is decorated with colorful rooftop tiles and gorgeous architecture, making it one of the most unique churches in Europe. The first church at this site was built in 1015, but was later destroyed by the Mongols. The current church was constructed in the 13th century, though its age is still pretty impressive.
- Fisherman’s Bastion – a fairytale-like structure sitting on the ledge of the hill overlooking the Danube River and Pest is the most stunning in all of Budapest. Its detailed arches and dazzling white towers make it incredibly picturesque. Fisherman’s Bastion is a definite must-see when visiting Budapest even for just a weekend. Nearby you’ll find plenty of cafes, restaurants and souvenir shops to stop in for a break from the heat, or to enjoy a snack.
- Buda Castle – Buda Castle is a historic monument where Hungary’s royal kings used to reside. This baroque palace is often referred to as the Royal Palace, and is now home to a number of museums and institutions. Take a walk around and explore the beautiful gardens of this massive complex…and don’t forget to soak in the views.
Once you’re finished, walk down the hill and back to the Pest side of the city over the famous Széchenyi Chain Bridge. This beautiful suspension bridge was the first bridge that connected Buda to Pest.
Back on the Pest side, hop onto the metro and ride over to the Jewish Quarter for some lunch and a beer.
The Jewish Quarter of Budapest oozes with coolness, as unique ruin bars can be found around every street corner. This was by far our favorite section of the city, and we even happened to stumble upon a local Jewish festival the weekend we were visiting. To say the neighborhood was buzzing would be an understatement.
Going to a ruin bar is a staple activity during any visit to Budapest. Ruin bars are essentially abandoned buildings, mainly located in the Jewish Quarter, that have been transformed into hip spaces with eclectic design and affordable drinks.
We chose to visit Szimpla Kert first, as it was highly recommended to us by previous visitors. The building that houses this famous ruin bar was actually a crumbling factory before it was reincarnated into one of Budapest’s most popular bars in 2004!
Today, Szimpla consists of a maze of rooms, each one with its own kitschy design and collection of miscellaneous objects that add to the mystery and marvel of the place. We ordered a beer and enjoyed people-watching and laid back vibe.
Tip: If you’re not into huge crowds, try to make it to Szimpla during the day, when there are less people and more opportunities to enjoy the unique interior decor.
Right next to Szimpla Kert is Karavan Street Food Market. It’s technically a food court that is home to a number of food trucks and booths serving up everything from juicy burgers and Italian cuisine to cocktails and beer. We grabbed some burgers from Zing for lunch and hung out on the wooden picnic tables. Karavan is a great option for some easy, casual and inexpensive food in one of Budapest’s most hip districts.
Finish the day off with an evening cruise along the Danube River. You can opt to either have dinner on the boat, or just enjoy the spectacular nighttime views of Budapest with a cocktail.
If you’re craving something sweet after the cruise, check out GelArto Rosa. This artisanal ice cream shop serves ice cream cones in the shape of a rose! Not only does the gelato look beautiful, but it also tastes heavenly.
Budapest Weekend Guide – Day 3
Start your morning off at Heroes Square, known for its iconic statue complex. The Millennium Monument in the center of the square was constructed to commemorate the 1,000-year-old history of the Magyars.
Once you’ve checked off Heroes Square, take a stroll down Andrássy Street, a large boulevard that dates all the way back to 1872. This historic avenue is lined with Neo-renaissance mansions and exquisite townhouses. It was even recognized as a World Heritage Site in 2002. Along the way, you’ll also see some noteworthy sites such as the Hungarian Opera House and the Terra Háza Múzeum. You can also find many luxury and designer brands on this lane – it’s basically the Champs Elysees of Budapest.
After all that sightseeing, it only seems fitting to relax your body and soul at one of Budapest’s thermal baths! Széchenyi Thermal Bath offers both an indoor and outdoor complex of pools and is one of the city’s most famous buildings. The other two most popular baths are Rudas and Gellert. We actually ended up not making it to any of the baths, but it is definitely on my must-do list next time I visit Budapest.
There you have it! A Budapest Weekend Guide that allows you to see all of the major sites while still having plenty of time to enjoy yourself and the beauty of the city. What do you think of my three days in Budapest? Did I miss anything? Let me know! I’d love to add suggestions to my list for my next visit.