Hungary, Itinerary

How to have a PERFECT weekend in Budapest

girl overlooking the Budapest skyline from Fisherman's Bastion

Here’s a fun fact I learned on a weekend visit to Budapest; Budapest’s name derives from the union of the “Buda”, the more hilly district on one side of the Danube river with the “Pest” district. Together they form Budapest! Pretty cool right?

Budapest is known as one of the most affordable cities in Europe! Not only that, but it’s the perfect size to visit for a weekend getaway! Of course, if you can extend your visit for a day or two, there are plenty of day trips you can explore that venture into the Hungarian countryside. But if you’re a weekend warrior and a weekend is all you got, here is the perfect itinerary for you!

This itinerary will go over some tips about visiting this iconic city of Eastern Europe as well as go over my own weekend itinerary step by step! We had a perfect, well-rounded weekend and we left feeling we really explored the city and felt like we enjoyed all it had to offer. So keep reading to discover how to make the most out of your weekend in Budapest!

*Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking one of these links, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.


Tips on visiting Budapest 

📆 We visited in the winter but typically, the best time to visit Hungary is in the spring and fall seasons.

🚗 We found Budapest to be a very walkable city. Once we arrived from the airport to our hotel, we could walk everywhere with no problem at all. We did not feel the need to rent a car or rely on public transit (though it is there if you need it!)

💰The official currency of Hungary is the Hungarian Forint (HUF). We found that Euros were often accepted but when our card we were charged in HUF.

PRO TIP: I used my Wise card when travelling in Hungary because I could add HUF straight to my account before our trip. I just transferred some money from my home currency to HUF directly on the app (the transfer had minimal fees) and was able to use my card in Hungary without any additional fees. I’ve been using Wise for YEARS and its one of my favourite travel tools! Highly recommend using them!

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE:  Best weekend itinerary seeing the tulips in Amsterdam


Itinerary Outline

Day 1: Arriving & Budapest  exploring at night

Day 2: Visiting both sides of the Danube

Day 3: Last minute moments


Day 1: Arriving & exploring Budapest at night 

A large Ferris wheel in Budapest with a fountain in front of it

Arriving in Budapest 

✈️ Arriving by plane: you’ll arrive in the Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport and there are several options for getting into the city centre. You can choose between public transport (the 100 E bus), airport shuttle minibus service, or taxi. You can learn more about how to get to the city centre from the airport here.

🚂 Arriving by train: There are a few stations around the city but the main one is called Budapest Keleti station. It is located quite centrally so from there you can either walk to where you need to go or you can rely on the city’s buses or trams!

🏨 Where to stay in Budapest: We stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott Budapest City Centre. It was a super central location which is great and very spacious rooms. This wasn’t the cheapest accommodation I’ve ever stayed in but when splitting it with others it was great for the connivence and comfort of it all!


Explore Budapest by night

The Budapest Parliament buildings at night
View from the foot of the Parliament Building at night

After we got food in our bellies from a local restaurant (which is sadly now closed), we headed on a walk around central Budapest, along the Danube. Admiring the House of Parliament at night was absolutely stunning and is something I recommend doing at one point during your visit. The riverside walk passes in front of the House of Parliament and down towards the Chain Bridge. Seeing Budapest lit up at night was magical, to say the least. During this walk, you’ll also pass the Shoes on the Danube which is a war memorial located directly along the river.

There are also plenty of options to take river cruises to get the same experience. We did not have time to try this during our weekend in Budapest but we saw many choices of tours operating! This is something I really wish we did so look into this option and book it in advance!


Check out the Ruin Bars

The Ruin Bars are one of the top tourist attractions to check out when visiting Budapest. What are they you may ask? Well, they are a group of cheap bars in the neglected, run-down buildings of the Jewish Quarter. These bars have become so popular that the owners have turned to second-hand stores to buy extra furniture. This actually contributed to their popularity because now the spaces are quite eclectic and eccentric.

Szimpla Kert is by far the most popular bar and was a spot I really wanted to visit. It was a long room, with many small spaces following no theme whatsoever with some of the most interesting seating options I have ever seen. One room was filled with people sitting in bathtubs and another had people sitting in a converted car. There was ‘stuff’ (art, mirrors, graffiti, memorabilia, lights, TVs – to name a few) filling the walls and ceiling from head to toe. Just visiting, is an experience in itself and it is definitely something you should add to your bucketlist!

To keep in mind: the bathtubs fill up fast! When we arrived they were all taken and we only got the chance to sit in them for a quick moment when someone offered to let us try when they when to the bathroom. If this is something you want to do, you might have to wait. Or, I’d highly recommend checking out the other rooms too, they’re all cool!

A girl smiling in the Budapest Ruin Bars 2 girls laughing in a bathtub in the Budapest Ruin Bars


Day 2: Both sides of the Danube

Walk along the Széchenyi Chain Bridge

girl sitting on a bridge smiling in Budapest
The Széchenyi Chain Bridge

The next morning, we decided to walk over to Buda. One of the main and most important bridges that connect Buda and Pest is the Széchenyi Chain Bridge. We had seen this cast iron wonder lit up the night before and decided that it offered the most direct path to our next stops over in Buda. It reminded me a lot of the Brooklyn Bridge in New York and apparently has similar significance to Hungarians.


HIGHLIGHT: Explore Fisherman’s Bastion

Fisherman’s Bastion was by far my favourite destination in Budapest. The building itself was absolutely stunning and it offered a fantastic, panoramic view of Budapest. And the best part is, it’s free to visit (if you want to visit the turrets, you’ll have to pay extra for that). I didn’t think it was necessary to pay to visit the turrets since there are so many wonderful viewpoints and photo opportunities across the building. We spent quite a while wandering around taking photos and didn’t even need to pay extra.

This was a nice place to stop and have a quick snack. There were several tourist shops at the top and even a restaurant and cafe. Of course, these I’m sure are a little more overpriced than other spots but we felt the views made it worth it! It is worth noting that Buda is more hilly than Pest which means that accessing Fisherman’s Bastion did require a bit of a hike, nothing too extraneous but something to keep in mind.

PRO TIP: This is a very popular spot, so expect a lot of tourists. Since our visit, I have now learned that the best time to visit Fisherman’s Bastion is at sunrise because it has a gorgeous panoramic view. However, it will still probably be busy, even at sunrise!


Admire Matthias Church

St. Mathias Church in Budapest
View from Fisherman’s Bastion of St. Mathias Church

Directly behind Fisherman’s Bastion is an enormous, colourful church (I was a bit confused at first when turning to google but Fisherman’s Bastion is the white buildings overlooking the city and the church is directly opposite, in the same square). We weren’t able to visit inside, but the church itself is so stunning from the outside we had no complaints. I loved the colourful roof tiles, they reminded me of a mosaic.

From the church, we wandered around the shops of Buda. We found many paprika shops (Hungary is a major supplier of paprika so they aren’t hard to find!) and more or less followed our way to our next destination which was the Gellert Thermal Baths (more on that later). Our 30-minute walk took us past many other beautiful buildings like the Buda Castle and Palace.


Enjoy a thermal bath

A beautiful indoor pool surrounded by columns in Budapest
Inside the Gellert Thermal Baths

Our weekend in Budapest would not be complete without visiting a thermal bath!

As I mentioned above, this was our next stop. It is iconic to try a thermal bath in Budapest – they are all over the city! The most touristy one to visit is the Széchenyi Thermal Bath – the larger of the thermal bath options. We actually read that this bath is now mainly visited by tourists.

We wanted to find one that was a little more authentic (and hopefully less crowded). So we opted for Gellért Thermal Bath. You can book your tickets here

Important things to know when visiting this thermal bath:

💰 It cost us roughly 20,000 HUF or approximately 50 euros to visit. This included access to the baths, for a locker, for a swimming cap (they were required) and for towels (mainly because we didn’t have any).

⏰ The baths were open at 9 am and closed between 6-7 pm.

To keep in mind: if you are interested in Gellért Thermal Baths I read that some of the baths and pool will be closed for repairs. You can find out their opening hours and what pools and baths are operational on their website here.  


Try Goulash for dinner

A goulash meal in Budapest
The goulash itself was more appetizing than the photo!

After our relaxing thermal bath experience, it was time for dinner. We crossed the other famous bridge connecting Buda and Pest, the Szabadság Híd Bridge and headed back over to Pest.

Goulash is one of the go-to authentic foods to try in Hungary. It’s the staple dish so it isn’t hard to find in most restaurants. What is it exactly? It’s a meat and vegetable stew with paprika and other spices. Sounds pretty generic but it was delish and was the perfect comfort food on a winter day!

✨ My recommendation: Alma & Körte Restaurant


Day 3: Last Minute Moments

Wander around the Central Market Hall

Central Hall Market
Inside Central Market Hall

Before heading to the airport, we wanted to check a few more things off our bucket list. One of which was the Central Market Hall. Our original plan was to go there for dinner after the Thermal Baths BUT all of the stalls were closed when we visited – everything is closed by 6 pm (keep this in mind for future visits!).

So instead, we stopped by the next morning and I am so glad we did because it was bustling! It’s the largest and oldest market in the city and is made up of 2 floors! You can find everything there! People were selling fresh produce, crafts, purses, clothes, and souvenirs and there were even stalls offering limited seating for lunch. I wasn’t expecting it to be that big and have that many options of things to explore. We spent probably close to 2 hours walking around and eating our lunch.


Try a chimney cake

someone holding a chimney cake
My tasty Nutella topped chimney cake!

On our way back to the hotel, we needed to try another food staple of Hungary for dessert – the chimney cake. It is a tubular dough (that’s cooked on a spit) and is topped with sugar. You can also add other toppings/fillings (I opted for Nutella!). These cakes can be found in other countries in Eastern Europe, I also tried one in Czechia – where they are called trdelník. They are super tasty and I recommend trying one at least once!


Enjoy your weekend in Budapest

As I said in the beginning, we left Budapest feeling like we saw everything this great city has to offer. We had a nice mix of experiences, tried local foods and by walking around by foot, we saw everything we wanted to see. It was a perfect weekend and I hope you found this weekend in Budapest guide useful for planning your next visit! I try to provide as much detail as I can – I know how important it is when visiting new cities!

If you are interested in other weekend getaway itineraries you can also check out my Best Weekend Itinerary seeing the Tulips in Amsterdam blog post! Or if you need help planning your itinerary, check out my customized travel planning services on Thatch! I’d be happy to help build you the perfect itinerary for Budapest or any other city you’re thinking of exploring!

If you’ve been to Budapest before, comment below and share which of these spots is your favourite! (I already mentioned mine above!)

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Caity Zagar

Travel Planner & Blogger

Welcome to CZ Phones Home! I’m here to help make your travels easier by giving you tips, advice and inspiration to make your trips memorable!

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