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Updated: 1 April 2023
Budapest is truly one of my favorite cities in the world. As some of you know, I had the honor of visiting Budapest twice, once in summer and once in winter, and both trips were a ton of fun.
In many ways, Budapest is a city that perfectly fits my own travel style. For example, I love snapping photos of ornate architecture (Budapest literally has no bad angles), sitting in a historic cafe with cake and coffee, and then learning new ideas inside a museum.
In addition, I’ve always been a “city gal” at heart, and Budapest ticks all the “what Rachel likes most when traveling” boxes.
Now I know that 4 days in Budapest may seem like a lot, but personally, I think it’s a great amount of time to see and do everything essential for tourists.
Finally, along with loving cities, I’m a “slow” traveler at heart. Meaning I would rather spend multiple days in one city than zip from place to place.
Budapest Travel Tips
Since I’ve been to Budapest twice, I think I’m pretty qualified to help you navigate one of the prettiest urban gems in all of Europe.
Budapest is a great solo travel city, but the Hungarian capital is also wonderful for groups of friends. Still, don’t put off your trip if you have no one to go with. Budapest is very conveniently located in Europe, making it a perfect base on a larger Central Europe itinerary, and as a popular spot, the city has a wonderful tourism infrastructure.
Let’s talk about your arrival and how to get into the city. You’ll want to plan ahead especially if you’re jetlagged and not in the mood to figure out public transportation in a new country, haha.
Getting Around Budapest
Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport is the main international hub for travelers coming to Hungary.
Keep in mind that if you’re arriving from outside the EU, be prepared to go through customs and allow extra time – especially if you plan on scheduling activities that first day.
To reach Budapest, you can take Bus 100E to the center of the city. This bus runs frequently (every 30 minutes) and a traffic-free ride should take the same amount of time (30 minutes or so). Bus stations are located at both terminals.
If you’re incredibly jet-lagged, you may want to splurge on a taxi. The average price is around 26€. Don’t be afraid to ask about the price before getting into the taxi. Although I didn’t have any issues, you don’t want to overpay for a taxi.
Booking a private airport transfer ahead of time is also an option if you don’t want to feel stressed out after you land in Hungary.
Public Transportation in Budapest
Budapest is a compact city with a plethora of transportation options. Personally, I loved taking the metro and tram cars.
Budapest’s metro has 4 lines: Metro 1 (Yellow), Metro 2 (Red), Metro 3 (Blue), and Metro 4 (Green).
These lines will take you all over Budapest. In particular, make sure to ride the yellow line, which is one of the oldest metros in continental Europe and considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site!
As always, validate your metro tickets ahead of time. You don’t want to pay a ridiculous fine.
What to Pack for Budapest
Your packing list will vary depending on what time you visit Budapest.
For off-season travelers, I have an extensive post about what to wear in Budapest in winter to help you plan your trip.
However, you should always bring the following items to Budapest:
- Budapest Guidebook: Your pocket guide to Budapest will give you the most up to date information about attractions, accommodation, restaurants, and more!
- Comfortable Shoes: Merrell makes my favorite shoes for traveling! A comfortable slip-on shoe, such as this classy black pair, will make walking miles throughout Budapest’s street soothing on your poor feet.
- Theft-Proof Crossbody Bag: Like other European capitals, you may encounter pickpockets on the streets. Invest in a theft-proof crossbody bag if you have concerns about keeping your belongings safe.
- Travel Insurance: Budapest is a super safe city, but it never hurts to be prepared! I buy a travel insurance policy with World Nomads to keep me safe on the road.
- Travel Scarf: Speakeasy travel scarves are my favorites, because they include a hidden pocket for your most important belongings!
Where to Stay in Budapest
As a capital city, Budapest has plenty of options for accommodation. I wanted to appeal to every budget, so I’ve included recommendations for both hotels and hostels in Budapest. I would stay at any of these places!
- Hostel One Budapest: If you want a social atmosphere, then you need to check out Hostel One Budapest! Free dinners and other activities provide an atmosphere for travelers to bond with one another (see prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com).
- Lavender Circus Hostel: This hostel is located right across from the Hungarian National Museum. Lavender Circus Hostel offers a quiet stay in historical Budapest (see prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com).
- Maverick City Lodge: A boutique hostel in Budapest’s thriving Jewish quarter. This modern sleek hostel has large common areas and a fully equipped communal kitchen (see prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com).
- Anantara New York Palace Budapest: Want to stay in an elegant 19th century building and feel like a Romantic writer? Look no further! (see prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com)
- Hotel Moments Budapest: This highly rated hotel is located on the famous iconic Andrássy Avenue. Travelers can expect to be pampered in their wellness facilities (see prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com)
- Hotel Palazzo Zichy Budapest: I stayed here on my winter trip to Budapest! This hotel is located in the gorgeous historic Palace Quarter of Budapest, which makes sightseeing easy. Can’t beat this location! (see prices on TripAdvisor.com and Booking.com)
The Best Things to Do in Budapest
Budapest has an abundance of things to do and see. The city has a great vibe that appeals to a diverse group of travelers. It’s one of the most popular stops in Central Europe for good reason.
Here are some top things to see and do during your 4 days in Budapest.
Delicious Hungarian Food
Hungarian food is hearty and filling. Don’t come to Budapest expecting to count calories.
Below are some of my favorite Hungarian dishes:
- Goulash/Gulyás: This is the staple of Hungarian cuisine.
- Halászlé: I love this paprika-based fish stew in the winter. Perfect for travelers who adore fresh seafood.
- Lángos: This deeply-fried bread is usually sold on the streets by vendors. I’m a sucker for fried dough. The dough is topped with sour cream yogurt, cheese, mushrooms, and more!
You’ll also want to visit some cafes for coffee and cake, but I’ll talk about them in the itinerary section of this guide!
Hot Springs Galore
Budapest is well-known for its relaxing thermal baths. What better way to soak off the stress of a busy travel? The most famous hot baths are Széchenyi Spa and Gellert Spa.
With 4 days in Budapest, you’ll probably have time to take a dip in both baths, but if I had to choose one, I’d go with Széchenyi Spa due to its size and ambience. I loved being outside!
Lastly, if you’re traveling in “high season,” I recommend buying fast entrance tickets to Széchenyi Spa and Gellert Spa ahead of time. You don’t want to feel excited for a spa day and then realize all the time slots are completely booked!
Stunning and Unique Architecture
Budapest’s Gothic and Baroque architecture are wonders for your eyes and cameras. You can spend hours getting lost in this city and snapping photos of buildings.
On your 4 days in Budapest, you mustn’t miss the neo-Gothic Parliament Building that towers over the Danube.
Nor should you skip a tour of the neo-Rennaissance Hungarian State Opera House.
And don’t forget Fisherman’s Bastion’s fairy tale towers and panoramic views of Pest!
Walking tours are wonderful for learning the history and culture of your latest destination. And Budapest’s fascinating history means that you need to take advantage of the walking tours!
With 4 days in Budapest, I would select a walking tour that appeals to your personal interests. No two walking tours are alike, and it’s important to do research ahead of time.
Here are a couple of walking tour recommendations:
- Budapest Alternative Culture Walking Tour: If you want to learn all about the local art scene, check out this tour that shows a different side to Budapest. I’d especially recommend for street art lovers.
- Budapest Food Walking Tour: Did you love all those Hungarian foods that I talked about in this guide? Then you should go on a food tour with stops at hidden eateries and the Central Market! Come with an empty stomach.
- Budapest Ideal City Tour: If you want an overview of Budapest’s main attractions, then this is the walking tour for you!
- Budapest Jewish Heritage Walking Tour: Budapest has one of the greatest Jewish quarters in all of Europe. On this tour, you’ll learn all about Budapest’s Jewish history with stops at Kazinczy Street Synagogue, Raul Wallenberg Holocaust Memorial Park, the Jewish Museum, etc.
4 Days in Budapest Itinerary: An Overview
|1||Explore Buda: Széchenyi Chain Bridge, Castle Hill, Fisherman’s Bastion, Buda Castle, Hospital in the Rock|
|2||Explore Pest: Walking Tour, Hungarian Parliament Building, Danube Banks, St. Stephen’s Basilica, the Jewish Quarter|
|3||Day Trip to Memento Park, House of Terror|
|4||Budapest Spas and Relaxation, Gellert Hill, Hungarian State Opera.|
4 Days in Budapest: Detailed Itinerary
Let’s dedicate our first day to Buda, which is located on the west side of the Danube River. Buda may lack nightlife, but the gorgeous scenery and rich history will steal your heart.
If you’re staying in Pest, to reach Buda, cross Széchenyi Chain Bridge, a stunning 19th century suspension bridge, and take pictures of the lions.
Buda’s main attractions are at the top of Castle Hill. The climb to the top of the hill is easy (trust me, if I can do it, anyone can), but you’re welcome to take the funicular too.
Buda is home to some of the city’s greatest architecture. On Castle Hill, take a walk through Fisherman’s Bastion and snap photos of Hungary’s Parliament Building from any of the available vantage points. You’ll feel like a princess as you wander through the towers. Of course, you’ll also want to see Buda Castle, as well as Mattias Church, with its bright tile roof.
In Buda, one of my favorite museums is Hospital in the Rock – which is only available to those who book a tour. You’ll learn all about how this underground hospital functioned in World War II, as well as how it was used as a nuclear bunker in the cold war.
Lastly, make a reservation for the Faust Wine Cellar and sip Hungarian wine under ground in an intimate environment.
Your second day in Budapest will start in Pest.
Let’s begin with a walking tour and learn some history about this UNESCO city!
As I’ve already stated, Budapest has many tours available, and I would select one based on your own personal interests. Even though 4 days in Budapest is plenty of time, you want to maximize those hours with a highly qualified guide.
Afterwards, I recommend taking a tour of the Hungarian Parliament Building, which is one of the most famous structures in all of Budapest. Be sure to reserve your tour ahead of time, as it does sell out in the busiest weeks.
Then take a walk along the river to see the Shoes on the Danube Bank, a long row of 1940s-style sculptured shoes. After Hitler replaced the previous ruler with Ferenc Szalasi, nearly 20,000 Jews were shot along the Danube River with many more thousands upon thousands marched to concentration camps. Jews were forced to remove their shoes before being killed in cold blood.
Afterwards, swing around to Liberty Square and then walk to St. Stephen’s Basilica. If you’re feeling hungry, then I would walk a little further to New York Cafe, which is one of the most famous places to grab a coffee in Budapest! You’ll feel like a princess in the ornate Renaissance surroundings.
Last but not least, be sure to take the time to explore Budapest’s vibrant Jewish Quarter. In addition to the beautiful Dohány Street Synagogue, you absolutely want to experience all the Ruin Bars.
Today you’re going to learn all about Budapest’s complicated recent history.
Start your day with a visit to Memento Park. This open air museum is home to 42 pieces of art from the Communist Era. You can see how impactful these propaganda statues of Lenin, Engels, Marx must have been during the Soviet Occupation of Hungary.
My personal favorite piece? Stalin’s boots!
Memento Park is located outside Budapest. You will need to take a bus, with the easiest route being Memento Park Direct Bus transfer from Deak Square. This direct bus leaves every day at 11:00 am, although it’s important to check the times just in case.
After returning to Budapest, you’ll need to go to my favorite museum of all time: the House of Terror.
The House of Terror is dedicated to all the victims of the Nazi and Soviet Regimes. This museum also features how the people fought back. The audio tour of the House of Terror is one of the best that I have ever experienced on my travels.
It’s important to know that the House of Terror limits the number of people permitted inside the museum at any given time. You’ll have to wait in line, but it’s SO worth it. The House of Terror is a gem to add to your 4 days in Budapest.
Your 4 days in Budapest is about to end! Let’s make the most of your time!
You’ll want to start off with a thermal bath experience. I recommend going to Széchenyi Thermal Bath in the morning. This amazing spa is located right next to City Park and Heroes’ Square, where you can take even more photos of Budapest’s landmark statues.
Afterwards, I highly recommend hopping on the metro and going on a tour of Hungarian State Opera. Even if you’re not an opera fan, the elegant ceiling frescos and plush red seats will blow you away. Without a doubt, this is one of the most gorgeous buildings in all of Budapest.
Hope on the metro again to go to Gellert Hill. See all the extravagant caves, panoramic views from Liberty Statue, and Gellert Spas.
Last but certainly not least, you’ll want to end your 4 days in Budapest with a night river cruise. I love seeing all the buildings lit up and sparkling on the river!
Are you planning to spend 4 days in Budapest? What do you want to see and do? Have a wonderful trip! You will love the Hungarian capital city!