Welcome to Budapest, a vibrant city full of impressive architecture, spectacular views, thermal baths, ruin bars, and so much more! It’s without a doubt one of the most interesting cities in Europe. If you’re considering visiting “the pearl of the Danube”, you’ve come to the right place. Allow me to share with you the best things to do in Budapest in 4 days.
With its intriguing history, vibrant nightlife, unique thermal baths, and impressive architecture, Budapest has everything you could ever ask of a European city. Are you ready to explore the capital of Hungary? Read on to discover the best things to do in Budapest in 4 days.
Things You May Not Know About Budapest
Budapest is an amazing and eclectic city, full of surprises and delights for all tastes and budgets. Let’s start by going over some fun facts about Budapest:
- The capital of Hungary once consisted of two medieval cities separated by the Danube: Buda and Pest. In 1873, they were merged into one city: Budapest.
- The Romans, Magyars, Ottomans, Austrians, and Soviets have all left their mark on Budapest. As you get to know the city, you’ll feel the influence of all these different countries, cultures, and historical periods. You’ll also feel the tragedy: Hungary has lost all its wars and most of its territory over the last few centuries.
- You will fall in love with Budapest’s spectacular architecture! Budapest is full of splendid buildings that reflect its history in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, where it competed against Vienna for the title of most beautiful city.
- The weather varies widely between freezing winters and scorching hot summers.
- Regardless of the weather or season, bring your swimsuit! Budapest is full of thermal baths, some of which you can swim in outdoors even when it’s snowing.
The Best Things to Do in Budapest in 4 Days
Now that you know these important facts about Budapest, it’s time to start exploring! Here are some of the best things to do in Budapest in 4 days.
Day 1 : Walk around the city
On your first day in Budapest, I recommend exploring the city on foot. You’ll want to start in the most emblematic and photographed place in the city: the spectacular Budapest Parliament.
- Budapest Parliament
Budapest once competed against Vienna for the most beautiful city in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which explains why its architecture is so majestic. The city’s most iconic building is the Budapest Parliament, the third-largest parliament building in the world (and one of the most spectacular buildings I’ve ever seen). The Budapest Parliament building can be seen from all over the city: it’s a beautiful sight from every angle! If you want to see the inside, I recommend booking a tour well in advance.
- Shoes on the Danube Bank
From the Budapest Parliament, I recommend taking a walk along the Danube River until you reach the Shoes on the Danube Bank, a simple yet powerful memorial honoring the Hungarian Jews killed by the fascist Arrow Cross in Budapest during World War II. Before being shot and dropped into the Danube, victims were forced to remove their shoes so as not to waste them.
- St. Stephen’s Basilica
Another spectacular building in Budapest is the Basilica of St. Stephen (the first Hungarian King), where you can see the mummified hand of St. Stephen himself. Admission is free, but you must make a donation. I recommend climbing to the dome for some amazing views of the city!
On a hot day, you can cool off after a visit to the Basilica with some delicious ice cream. Try Gelarto Rosa, a small ice cream shop next to the Basilica where they sell flower-shaped ice cream. There’s always a queue, but it’s worth the wait to see how they serve the ice cream—and, of course, to taste it!
- Chain Bridge
After visiting the Basilica, continue on to the Buda side of Budapest. There’s no better route than a walk on the most iconic and photographed bridge in Budapest: the Széchenyi Chain Bridge.
- Fisherman’s Bastion
Once on the Buda side, your trip will take you up several hills and steps (Pro tip: you can also take the Number 16 bus). Here you’ll find another of the most spectacular places in Budapest: Fisherman’s Bastion. This place features gorgeous architecture that feels like it came out of a fairy tale, and it even offers stunning views of the Parliament, the Danube, and the entire Pest area.
Located in Fisherman’s Bastion is another of the most beautiful buildings in Budapest: the Matthias Church. This building’s most curious feature is its unique roof made of colorful zigzagging tiles. If you want to visit the inside, the entrance fee is 1500 HUF (€5).
Day 2 : Get lost in the Jewish quarter
On your second day in Budapest, you should explore one of its most interesting and bohemian neighborhoods: the Jewish quarter, which was the ghetto of Budapest during its darkest times.
Start with the synagogue, then get lost in the streets, which today are full of street art, modern cafes, vintage shops, and ruin bars.
- Synagogue of Budapest
The Synagogue of Budapest is notable for its peculiar architectural style, but also for being the largest synagogue in Europe and the second-largest synagogue in the world. Its style is rather eclectic: it actually resembles a cathedral on the outside and has elements reminiscent of the Giralda of Seville and the Mosque of Cordoba. This synagogue broke off from the most orthodox branch of Judaism and introduced modern elements like music into its ceremonies.It is possible to visit the inside; just remember that it’s closed on Sundays.
- Walk through the Jewish quarter
Although the Jewish quarter has a dark past (more than 600,000 Hungarian Jews were killed by the Nazis), today the seventh district of Budapest is one of the liveliest neighborhoods in the city. You’ll love getting lost in its streets full of street art, cafes, and interesting shops!
One of the most popular places in the neighborhood is the Gozsdu Udvar, a passage with colorful restaurants and a market on the weekends. If you’re into history, I recommend you do a walking tour in the Jewish quarter to learn all the secrets hidden behind the walls of the ghetto.
- Visit the Central Market Hall
After all that walking through the Jewish quarter, I bet you’ll be hungry! There’s nothing better to feed that appetite than a trip around the Central Market Hall, another must-visit location in Budapest. The Central Market Hall is the perfect place to get a taste of Hungarian cuisine and the lives of the locals. You can go on your own or take a culinary walk through the Central Market Hall, tastings included!
- The Buda Castle
After a break for lunch, you’ll want to cross the Chain Bridge again to explore the Buda Castle, the former residence of the Hungarian royal family. The best way to access it is by funicular: 1800 HUF for a round-trip ticket.
This huge area is full of beautiful buildings, gardens, and amazing views of the city. If you want to know more about the history of the Buda Castle, I recommend taking the Buda castle walking tour.
- The Budapest Citadel
If you have energy to spare, I recommend visiting the city’s military fortress: the Citadel of Budapest. Located at the top of Mount Gellért, it’s the highest point in the city and offers some of the most incredible panoramic views of Budapest.
Day 3 : Relax in thermal waters
Without a doubt, one of the best things to do in Budapest is relax in its wonderful hot springs! This is the city of thermal baths; you can enjoy the waters any time of the year. Therefore, your third day in Budapest should be all about pleasure and relaxation!
- Relieve your stress in a spa with an unpronounceable name
Budapest’s most famous spa is the Széchenyi Bath. With 21 swimming pools, it’s one of the largest thermal baths in Europe! Whether it’s sunny or snowing, you can enjoy the baths in a bikini any time of the year! Buy a day pass here for €19.
The second most famous spa in Budapest is the Gellért Thermal Bath, also known for its spectacular architecture.
If you’re looking for a more local and less crowded experience, I recommend the Lukács spa on the Buda side. It’s not as popular, but it’s quieter and cheaper.
- Explore Margaret Island (Margitsziget)
If the weather is nice, I recommend taking a walk in my favorite place in Budapest: Margaret Island. Located in the middle of the Danube, this island is perfect for walking, running, biking, and people-watching. The island is full of surprises, including a Japanese garden, musical fountains, swimming pools, restaurants, and great views of the Parliament.
- Drink coffee in the New York Cafe
It’s not the cheapest place in Hungary, but it’s worth the 10 euros to enjoy a cappuccino or hot chocolate in the New York Café, one of the most elegant cafes in the world!
- Drink cheap beer in the ruin bars
If Hungarians are good at anything, it’s turning any structure into a bar! Proof of this is the popular ruin bars, where you can find people having a drink inside a bathtub or in a collapsed car. The most famous ruin bar is Szimpla Kert, considered by Lonely Planet to be the third best bar in the world. Next to Szimpla is Karavan, a food court that houses several food trucks.
If you’re into nightlife, another popular ruin club I recommend is Instant-Fogas.
Day 4 : Take a day-trip to Szentendre
For your last day in Budapest, I highly recommend you visit this charming little town only 40 minutes outside the city. You don’t need to know how to pronounce its name to fall in love with Szentendre!
- Visit Szentendre
If you want to see more of Hungary, there’s no better place to visit than Szentendre. This picturesque town is only 19 km from the city and certainly worth a day trip from Budapest. Szentendre is full of museums and art galleries, but what I love most is getting lost in its cobbled streets. Located on the banks of the Danube, Szentendre is a charming town full of color and detail that you absolutely must see!
How to get to Szentendre:
The easiest and cheapest way to get to Szentendre is by taking the H5 train from Batthyány Tér (in front of the Parliament on the Buda side). The train runs every 20 minutes and takes about 40 minutes to reach Szentendre (last stop). You can also take an organized day trip to Szentendre.
- Visit the Hungarian State Opera House
To finish the day and your trip to Budapest, I recommend taking a walk down the majestic Andrássy Avenue, the most elegant and expensive street in Budapest. Here you’ll find the Opera of Budapest, a neo-Renaissance building commissioned by Franz Joseph I (the husband of Empress Sisi). Though it was built on the condition that it shouldn’t be larger than the Vienna Opera, many agree that it does surpass the Vienna Opera in beauty. Fun fact: Sisi herself loved to go alone to the opera in Budapest, where she had her own royal box.
You can visit the Opera House by buying a ticket to a performance (although they don’t have shows in summer) or taking a guided tour. Attending an opera concert in such a historical building would be the perfect end to your 4 days in Budapest!
Where to Stay in Budapest
I recommend staying at any central place near Tram 4-6. If you like to party, stay on the Pest side; for a more relaxing trip, stay in Buda. Here’s my list of some of the best places to stay in Budapest:
Other Interesting Facts about Budapest and Hungary
- Euros aren’t used here; the local currency is the Hungarian forint and the exchange rate is 320 forints for one euro. Cards are accepted in almost every location, so I don’t recommend carrying a lot of cash. I recommend opening a TransferWise Borderless account and getting its debit card to pay less banking fees while traveling.
- Public transportation is great. I recommend staying anywhere close to Tram 4-6. This tram operates 24/7, so you’ll save a lot on taxi fare. When leaving the airport, I recommend taking the 100E bus.
- Hungarian is considered the third most difficult language in the world. Fortunately, Hungarians seem to be aware of this, as they speak great English (at least in touristy areas). However, I do recommend learning a few courtesy words. Here are three good words to know in Hungarian: szia (hello), köszönöm (thanks), and sör (beer!).
- Hungry in Hungary? Typical Hungarian food is very meaty and heavy, and the portions are huge. It’s said this is why they invented palinka, an alcoholic beverage that helps digestion. I must admit I’m not a big fan of Hungarian cuisine; I haven’t even tried goulash yet, the paprika and meat soup that this country is famous for!
I hope this mini-guide will help you make the most of your 4 days in Budapest! There are always more things to do in Budapest in 4 days, so I’ll be updating this post as I discover them. And if you have any suggestions or experiences of your own, I encourage you to share them in the comments!