Budapest is easily one of the most beautiful European cities that I have ever visited. The city is built from unique architecture which is both incredibly beautiful and rich in history. Hungary’s capital is split into two halves, Buda and Pest, joined by the famous Chain Bridge, but is still very walkable so you can easily explore the whole city on foot.
With budget airlines offering flights from under £50 and the exponential rise of Airbnbs, Budapest is quickly becoming one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations. There is so much to do here, so follow this guide of all the best things to do in Budapest in just four days.
Start your morning in Budapest’s vibrant and friendly Jewish Quarter. Explore the narrow streets and winding passages filled with unique independent bars, restaurants, cafes and shops. Murals decorate the exposed brick buildings of the neighbourhood, transforming the streets into colourful works of art. Find coffee and breakfast in amongst the chaos and excitement of the Jewish Quarter to start your day.
Your next point of call is one of Budapest’s most famous landmarks, St Stephen’s Basilica. Admire the incredible architecture of this iconic building, both inside and out. Admission is free, but tourists are encouraged to give a 200HUF donation at the door. For just 600HUF, you can climb to the top of the basilica for sweeping views of the whole city – absolutely worth it.
Spend your afternoon wandering from St Stephen’s through Liberty Square and to the river’s edge, taking in the views of Buda across the water. Another essential stop is the Parliament building, its incredible architecture making it one of Budapest’s most popular landmarks. It’s possible to book a tour of the Parliament’s inside as well, although make sure to do this in advance as it can get very busy, especially in the summery tourist seasons.
Slow down after a busy day of sightseeing at one of Budapest’s many outdoor bars. Finish your riverside walk at Pontoon – an outdoor bar on the bank of the Danube with views of the Chain Bridge and Matthias Church as they’re drenched in the golden light of sunset. Pontoon is also known for its live music so make sure not to miss this vibrant and popular evening spot to end your first day in Budapest.
Spend your second day in Budapest by travelling over to Margaret Island, a 2.5km long island in the middle of the Danube. Step away from the traffic and the noise of the city into the peaceful serenity of this island. You can travel to Margaret Island across the bridge from the heart of the city by car, bus or on foot. On Margaret Island you’ll find swimming pools, an open air theatre and a beautiful Japanese garden. Walk through the picturesque green expanses where you’ll discover the island’s history in the medieval ruins of a Franciscan priory and Dominican nunnery. Spend the day walking the island and discovering all its hidden beauty, and don’t miss the musical fountains before you leave.
After a long day of walking, make your way back to the city centre to grab a cheap and easy dinner at Vegażżi – a vegan pizza stand amongst food and drink stalls in an open market area. Eat and drink outside, meeting other travellers and enjoying the evening before the sun sets – the perfect way to end your second day in Budapest.
Use your third day in Hungary’s capital to discover the second half of the city by crossing the bridge from Pest into Buda. Cross the iconic Chain Bridge that connects Buda and Pest over the Danube river to reach Fisherman’s Bastion whilst getting incredible views of both sides of the city.
Once you’ve reached Buda, take the Castle Hill Funicular to get up to Fisherman’s Bastion and Buda Castle from river level. It only takes a few minutes, slowly climbing Castle Hill, allowing you to slowly take in the sites across the Danube.
Fisherman’s Bastion is home to some of Budapest’s most spectacular architecture; its white stone was only built in 1902 and embodies the gothic revival that Hungary’s monuments are so well known for. Explore the Bastion and its neighbour Matthias Church, which rivals its extraordinary design and discover the fascinating history behind them.
Finish your day back across the river in Pest, in Budapest’s famous ruin bars. The quirky and eccentric Szimpla Kert is Budapest’s first and biggest ruin bar, filled with mismatched decor and furniture from old bikes and cars to antique lampshades. As it gets later, Szimpla Kert fills with both tourists and locals, drinking, talking and dancing – this is definitely a spot that you don’t want to miss.
For your last day, you still have two major sites to experience. The first is Budapest’s House of Terror – a museum depicting Hungarian life during the fascist and communist regimes of the 20th century and memorialising the victims of this violence. The museum’s building was previously the headquarters to a far right political party, and although it has been significantly renovated, the basement floor which was once where prisoners were tortured and killed is still heavily intact, presenting an almost uncomfortably tangible portrayal of the atrocities of these tyrannic regimes in Hungary. You must visit the House of Terror in Budapest to understand this devastating history that is often forgotten.
From Andrássy, take the metro to visit Budapest’s renowned thermal baths. There are many of these thermal baths located across the city, but the one most worth visiting is the Szechenyi baths located in the City Park. Szechenyi is made up of over 18 baths both indoor and out, each one differing in size and temperature. The outdoor pools here are incredible, surrounded by the famous yellow brick that makes this location extremely picturesque. Relax in the baths all afternoon, using your last afternoon in Budapest to unwind and refresh.
You can take the metro back into the city centre or choose a leisurely stroll which takes you through Heroes Square – an impressive Millennium Monument, dedicated to soldiers who fought for Hungary’s freedom and independence. This walk is perfect for the early evening, to get a view of the Memorial Stone of Heroes as the light starts to collect behind it.
Enjoy your last sunset in Budapest from a unique vantage point – 200 feet up on the Budapest Eye. Located in Erzsébet Square, this ferris wheel allows you to see the city from 200 feet up. Watch the light fade across the city and as darkness settles, make your way to Fröccsterasz – a nearby bar offering local cider which turns into a nightclub later in the evening. The streets around here are lined with restaurants so you can easily find dinner with inside or outside dining.
There is so much more to discover in this fascinating and vibrant city, so try and fit as much into your four days as possible to get the full experience of Hungary’s incredible capital.