Budapest is the picturesque capital city of Hungary, situated on the River Danube. The city and its architectural beauty is a mecca for explorers, offering unique experiences like Turkish baths, rickety trolleys, sticky apricot jam, and art nouveau building facades. No matter your reasons for visiting Budapest, find out how to plan the perfect itinerary to help you explore the city’s can’t-miss attractions.

Buda Castle
Buda Castle, built in 1265.

Arrive in Budapest

Budapest is serviced by the Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport (BUD), formerly known as Ferihegy Airport, which is located about 20 kilometers from the city center. Conveniently, there is only one terminal (Terminal 2), which makes getting around the airport easy for foreign visitors who don’t speak or read Hungarian.

Using public transportation from the airport is easy. The underground metro line M3 runs from the Ferihegy railway station, providing easy access to the city center in less than half an hour. To get to Ferihegy station, you will need to take the number 200E bus during the day and the number 900 bus at night. You can purchase train tickets at Terminal 2 or use a Budapest travel card.

If you prefer to rent a car, the airport has partnered with AVIS, Budget, Hertz, SIXT, and other rental car companies, giving you plenty of options. Depending on where you’re staying, you can also take advantage of the miniBUD airport shuttle services, which transfer you directly from the airport to your destination. Taxis are also available from the terminal.

When returning to the airport for your homebound flight, be sure to arrive at least three hours early to check your bags and clear security.

Early Morning: Grab Breakfast

It doesn’t matter whether you’re craving a scrumptious pastry, hot sausage, or a fresh bowl of fruit and granola — Budapest has you covered. Start your day off with a light meal and coffee at one of the local cafes, or enjoy heartier fare with eggs, toast, and all the trimmings.

Kolosy Ébresztő is a local favorite that opens at 7 a.m. Monday through Friday. Given its laid-back, friendly atmosphere, it’s one of the best places to acclimate yourself to the city. Order from a variety of yogurts, compotes, jams, cheeses, and creams, all served with fresh French croissants, pine bud syrup, and fresh fruit juice.

Located near Batthyány Square, Coyote Coffee & Deli boasts a trendy vibe and quality coffees and teas, making it a hopping joint in the mornings. The 100 percent Arabica coffee is roasted fresh from Vienna, and the café is happy to accommodate your preferences for soy, lactose-free, or rice milk. Enjoy fresh croissants, muffins, cakes, and other sweet and savory treats while watching the local city life start the day.

Hoping to capture a romantic breakfast with the one you love? Head to Villa Bagatelle on the Buda side of the city. Located in an elegant building surrounded by lush greenery, Villa Bagatelle is known for its fragrant bread baskets, soft-cooked eggs, crispy bacon, and fried Debrecen sausages. Keep in mind, however, that the place is incredibly popular, so it’s best to reserve a table in advance.

Other great breakfast spots in Budapest include Keksz in Madách Imre Square, 9BAR at Lázár utca 5, Kelet Café on Bartók Béla Avenue, and Zoska Breakfast Café beside Károlyi Garden. To help you get around Budapest, download the free SmartCity Budapest app for iOS or Android.

Momento Park
A statue in Momento Park.

Midmorning: Explore the Sights

Budapest has so much to offer that your best bet is to wander around and get lost. Stroll through Memento Park to view more than 40 statues and plaques, wander in and around the world’s third-largest Parliament building, or visit the Great Synagogue.

Free walking tours in the city begin at 10:30 a.m. daily, with no booking required! Simply show up and explore Hungarian history, architecture, and society with knowledgeable guides. The walk focuses on the highlights of Buda on the western bank of the Danube and Pest on the eastern bank. The tour ends at the Fisherman Bastion, another great area worth exploring. Best of all, your tour guides can provide insight into the best places to eat and how to avoid tourist traps.

While the free walking tour is a must, it doesn’t go into extensive detail regarding Budapest’s history and architecture. To go into more depth, book a private walking tour where you can spend more time with the guides and customize the tour itinerary based on your interests.

Noon: Have Lunch

After working up a sweat strolling around town, you’ll be hungry by midday. Budapest offers a delicious variety of lunches from the cheap to the extravagant.

Menza is a trendy restaurant in Liszt Ferenc Square that sports vintage tablecloths, hot chicken soup, and a vibrant ambience. The food is inexpensive and consists of daily specials like zucchini bisque with BBQ coleslaw, dumplings in broth with potatoes, mushroom soup with cranberry jam and rice, and sour cherry soup with chicken breast. For dessert, try the fruit yogurt foam or the homemade sour cherry strudel with poppy-seed ice cream.

While usually packed at lunchtime, Ruben is a homemade-style eatery serving traditional Hungarian favorites like tarhonya soup and cvekedli. To really experience Hungarian flavors, order The Best of Hungary starter, which features fried goose fat, smoked country ham, and mangalica pork sausage. Other great options include the Riesling deer pate, fried Tihany Camembert cheese, and the pancake with minced meat.

For some incredible street food, head to Ricsi’s near the westernmost corner of Klauzál tér, the landscaped square in Budapest’s old Jewish quarter. Here you’ll discover exceptional Jewish street food like lamb tabbouleh, vegan grilled sandwiches, Ricsi’s soup of the day, and sandwiches named Vegetarian’s Nightmare and The World’s Best Sandwich. Prices are cheap, and outdoor seating is available.

Széchenyi Baths
Széchenyi Baths, the largest medicinal bath in Europe.

Afternoon.: Soak in the Thermal Baths

Perhaps Budapest’s main attraction is the city’s selection of thermal baths. Budapest sits on almost 125 natural thermal springs, and soaking in the medicinal water has long been a pastime of both locals and visitors.

The most notable site is Széchenyi Baths, the largest medicinal bath in Europe. Its corresponding spa offers a sauna, fitness room, aqua gym, aerobics, and other wellness services. Opening times vary depending on the season and day of the week, so check in advance before you plan an afternoon at the baths. Széchenyi offers both a thermal and cooling pool, a 50-meter swimming pool, a sitting pool, two plunge pools, and a training pool.

Gellért Baths in Hotel Gellért is a vintage art nouveau spa featuring medical services, family programs, and relaxation services. There’s also an inhalatorium area that’s ideal for travelers with asthma.

Other thermal complexes around the city include Király Baths, the Lukács Thermal Bath, and Rudas Bath. When visiting any of the city’s 15 public thermal baths, come prepared with your own towel, flip flops, and a water bottle. Swim caps are also required if you plan on swimming. Avoid being fussed at by a lifeguard by bringing your own or buying a swim cap at the information desk. If you’re only using the thermal baths, a cap isn’t required.

Be aware of which door to enter and exit at the bath complex. Rules are different at each facility, so follow the instructions carefully. Typically, entrances are marked for each gender. Changing rooms are also out in the open, so don’t be afraid to show some skin when changing. Nobody is judging you anyway!

Late Afternoon: Hop on a Sightseeing Bus

A great way to acclimate yourself to Budapest and its many landmarks is to book a hop-on, hop-off bus tour. Companies like Big Bus Tours and Official Hop On Hop Off offer multiple bus lines, numerous stops, and unlimited rides for up to 48 hours. Certain tickets only entitle you to a one-day tour, and if that’s the case, start your hop-on, hop-off tour early in the morning. It’s a convenient way to explore Budapest’s highlights without wearing yourself out, and you can always ask uniformed staff for information at the bus tour offices or along the route.

Most bus tour companies also offer a boat tour as either a separate ticket or as part of the bus tour package. A full circle around the Danube takes about one hour and gives you an incredible view of the Hungarian capital.

Dinnertime: Enjoy a World-Class Meal

Dining in Budapest can be expensive, especially at dinner time, so be sure to budget accordingly.

If you do feel like splurging on an upscale dinner, make a reservation at Costes Restaurant. One of the city’s Michelin restaurants, Costes serves four- to seven-course meals consisting of delicacies like duck liver, scallops, dove, trout, polenta, dessert pancakes, and cheese plates.

For a more laid-back vibe, try Bors GasztroBár. This popular gastropub serves a delightful array of panini-style sandwiches and soups you won’t find anywhere else. Seriously, the flavors are off the wall, but they’re delicious! At Bors, the eats are cheap and the line moves fast, so don’t be deterred if there’s a long line.

Planning a romantic dinner for two? Why not take a Budapest dinner cruise? Various cruise companies offer dinner cruises down the River Danube, helping you and your loved one relax at the end of a long day with a hearty meal and candlelight. Depending on the company and season, the cruise’s a la carte menu might consist of scallops, shrimp, pumpkin soup, roasted trout, beef confit, duck breast, a mushroom medley with rice, chocolate cake, or panna cotta.

Szent István Bazilika
Inside Szent István Bazilika in Budapest.

Late Night: Get Spooked

Given Budapest’s long, tumultuous history, it’s no surprise that the city is ripe with creeptastic walking tours, escape rooms, and even vampire tours.

One of the best options is the Budapest Night Time Dark History and Vampire Walking Tour at the Castle. The tour guides you away from busy Pest and into the darkened streets where vampire tales and other legends took root. Listen to mysterious tales and learn about Budapest’s darker side of history while enjoying stunning nighttime views of the city.

Another must-see experience is the Ghost Tour. Whether it’s your first time in Budapest or not, you’ll delight in the scary tales of local witches, vampires, black magic, and mysteries. The tour is conducted by a professional English language actress who thrills and entertains the crowd with her talent. It’s a bit of a live performance and a tour all rolled into one!

Escape rooms abound in Budapest! These thrilling venues are open late and provide a memorable night of fun for you and your fellow travelers. Escape Room Budapest offers multiple themed rooms, including The Time Machine, The Motel, and Night at the Egyptian Museum.

Verem Room Escape Game on the opposite side of the river is located at the foot of Buda Castle and feature extreme challenges that require teamwork to complete.

Where to Stay in Budapest

Since Hungary’s capital city is such a popular European destination, you have plenty of options when it comes to Budapest hotels, hostels, and private rentals. Whether you’re visiting for business or leisure, choosing the right accommodation can help you create the perfect trip to Budapest.

Top Hotels

Budapest hotels are scattered across the city on both sides of the Danube, enabling you to select the best district for your vacation.

IBEROSTAR Grand Hotel Budapest is a centrally located luxury hotel with all the trimmings. This five-star hotel boasts gourmet cuisine, a fitness room, massage treatments, and a spa with a whirlpool and steam bath. Guest rooms include minibars, complimentary Wi-Fi, hair dryers, and plenty of natural light. You can also select a bed-and-breakfast or room-only option.

Budapest Marriott Hotel provides a contemporary accommodation experience on the banks of the Danube, placing you within walking distance of many attractions. Guests will enjoy the luxury bedding, renovated bathrooms, on-site lounge bar, and a tasty Mediterranean grill. Be sure to take advantage of the fitness facility with its Jacuzzi, sauna, and fitness classes.

Boutique Hotel Budapest is a four-star accommodation that reflects the trendy, modern-but-elegant design of most international boutique hotels. Rooms are tastefully appointed and feature LCD TVs, Wi-Fi, in-room safes, luggage racks, hair dryers, and complimentary toiletries. Airport transfer services are also available and can be booked at reception (via email) up to 36 hours before your arrival.

Fisherman's Bastion
Fisherman’s Bastion in Budapest.

Best Hostels

For solo travelers, small groups, and budget-minded couples, Budapest hostels offer an undeniable savings over the cost of traditional hotels.

Marco Polo Top Ho(s)tel is centrally located with great public transport links. Twin and quad rooms feature private bathrooms with TVs, while dormitories are designed to maximize privacy and comfort. The facility uses a water-saving system and solar panels, making it an eco-friendly option. You’ll gain comfortable social spaces, available mini safes, Wi-Fi, and laundry facilities, and no curfew, giving you everything you need to make the most of your stay.

Wombat’s City Hostel is a popular option with the younger crowd, but it’s not an all-nighter party hostel like you’ll often find in European destination cities. Choose from a private twin room, an all-female four-bed dorm, or mixed dorms with space for four to six people. Wombat’s offers a huge buffet, an on-site bar, and en-suite bathrooms, giving you a lot of value for your euro.

Another hostel, geared toward young backpackers, is N’joy Hostel. An easy four-minute walk from the nearest metro station, N’joy Hostel boasts a great location, Wi-Fi access, free coffee and tea, and a 24-hour reception. Staff members are super friendly and are a delight to get to know in the common rooms. As for the rooms themselves, choose between a private room with a double bed, a four-bed mixed dorm, or a six-bed mixed dorm.

Coolest Private Rentals

If you’re traveling with a big group of friends or the whole family, you may want to consider booking a private rental with extra space. Private rentals vary from luxurious downtown loft apartments to cozy studios. Private rentals are generally affordable in Budapest, especially if you travel in the offseason, so you can find two- and three-bedroom apartments for less than you’d typically spend at hotels.

An apartment in Castle Hill places you in the heart of Budapest, providing easy access to popular landmarks and historic buildings. Óbuda is a nice residential neighborhood with high-rise blocks that provide a quieter experience for the perfect night’s sleep. The Inner City district is Pest’s historic old town, which is the heart of the eastern side of the Danube River.

If you don’t mind staying a little farther out, such as in the 19th District of Budapest, Kispest (or “Little Pest”), you’ll have access to entire homes and luxury villas with enough space for a crowd. These rentals provide you with full kitchens, laundry facilities, multiple bedrooms, and that home-away-from-home experience we all crave. No matter your needs, private apartments in Budapest offer something for everyone.

Are you ready to take the trip of a lifetime? Plan your Hungarian getaway right here on GoDoTrip, the internet’s best place to book your Budapest accommodations, attractions, tours, and transportation.