Top things to do in Budapest if you only have 3 days

Destination: Budapest
Travel Companion: Solo
Duration: 3 days

I was in Budapest (pronounced Budapesht) for 3 days, when I first got there, after about an hour of walking I thought to myself, why am I here for 3 days, there isn't much to do. On my 3rd hour of walking (and researching while walking), I realized that 3 days aren't enough at all, nonetheless still a good start and you will be able to cover quite a bit. I couldn't do everything I am recommending below, but I would've if I had the chance. Here are some recommendations (and some are not just specific to Budapest):

Feet photo with Budapest - Paez

  1. After you land, if you're on your own, grab a return ticket for a shuttle bus (it’s right beside the baggage claim). It will drop you in front of your hotel if it's central. It's 5.500 Forint (return ticket which is equivalent to 20 USD). If you’re two or more people, then taxi would probably amount to the same cost. If you're traveling with Wizz air, get the airport drop package for only 10€.
  2. Make sure you book your hotel in the center and book it early as the cheap ones disappear fast (DUH). I usually use, reason behind that is that you build a profile, so you might start finding special prices just for us Geniuses (that’s what they call loyal customers), and their customer service is impeccable. For the location, obviously pick something near a metro / bus station. Mine was in Broadway apartments, nothing fancy or super pretty, but very good location, clean, comfortable and very affordable (that's what hostels are about). Small note: have cash, since they don’t take credit cards in this hostel.

  3. Transportation is quite cheap, although most things can be quite done by walking (which I recommend because every street has something interesting happening in it). I mostly walked, and took the metro few times. There is also a combo card which gives you free transport for 3 days, free access to museums etc… I didn’t get that, because I am not much of a museum fan. On that note, make sure to at least grab the M1 metro line once. Budapest's metro system is one of the oldest, and M1 is a witness to that (you will travel back in time!). 
  4. If you’re there for 4-5 days, it’s a good practice to go on a walking tour on the first day. They’re free (just tip the guide towards the end). It gives you a good grasp and a lot of knowledge about the city and the history, and quite an overarching idea of what you can do for the next few days based on what appeals to you. 
    Random festival that was happening near the Széchenyi area
  5. Research beforehand (google and FB events) regarding music festivals and such, specially around end of spring and summer, as it seems Budapest is becoming more and more international and adopting quite fun events, like beer festival, Tilos radio concerts week (an independent radio that mostly gets its funding from their listeners), trance and pop festivals, etc… I told a local that given Budapest’s warm summer, they need more swimming pools, he said that the government actually decided to build more experiences and focus less on hotels now that there are airbnbs everywhere (good strategy yeah?). 
  6. A nice way to hang out where most of the locals do, is to grab a couple of drinks and go to Erzsébet ter (square) and chill there. If you can grab them earlier in the night, you’d avoid queuing in front of the liquor store (where there's a bouncer believe it or not).

    How beautiful is Budapest during sunset time?
    The shallow pool in Erzsébet ter (cool to visit in the day and night)
  7. If you want to sit at night and have a nice view to the bridge and the castle, you can try the Március 15. tér area. It’s less young people, more chill / lounge kind of crowd. In that same area, just the parallel street, there are a lot of restaurants and souvenir shops (beware though, it’s full of tourists). 
    I have no idea what was happening here except puppies!
  8. If you’re there during warm and non-rainy weather, there are a lot of parks and greenery around, you can grab few baguettes, cheese and juice, and just go chill in city park (or even tan!). You will get to be around beautiful and magical looking castles as well that you can visit. 
    Széchenyi Spa
  9. Kiraly street, the ruins pubs (Szimpla, etc..) and District VII, is where the city center and all the crowd are. There are plenty of different types of restaurants and pubs, many having live bands. A nice place that caught my eye was Utopia (Rock / Metal), but to be fair, most of them look super cool and have this weird fun identity, just find what rocks your boat. Don't settle for one pub a night. So if you’re with friends, bar hop! If alone, a pub crawl could be a good idea. 
    The "Forbidden" Tilos radio event
    Most places sell Pizza slices, which is perfect if you're constantly on the go
  10. I didn’t even imagine that Budapest would have incredible swimming weather, when I got there it was between 27 and 30 degree Celcius, so a friend recommended I hit Rupaz Spa (which has night swims and oversees the Danube river). Spas in Budapest have Thermal Baths, Swimming Pools and Massage centers. I went to Széchenyi spa instead based on a local’s recommendation. It’s located after Hiro’s square (also known as: Hősök tere), so you get to do some sightseeing as well since it’s near city park. In fact, the actual spa is located in an old castle (photo above) and has different thermal pools including a swimming pool outside. Only downside is, might be too crowded, because everybody flocks there on a good sunny warm day :)
    Széchenyi Spa
  11. Finally, leave visiting the Buda Castle for a Sunday, because everything else will be closed. So it’s the perfect day to do that, I recommend you walk the lions bridge, and ignore the funicular ride, instead have the mini 7-10 minute easy nice hike towards the castle, and reward yourself with a lemonade or ice cream. Before or after that, make sure you pass by the Shoes on Danube quai, and head to the parliament, quite a lovely square to hang out in. 
    View from the Buda Castle

Have a (phone) camera on you. There is definitely plenty more to do, I’ve heard of lakes and islands etc…. but hopefully this will be Budapest Travel Entry: Part II :)



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