Read recommendations for three days in Budapest, including restaurants, wine tasting, visiting attractions, thermal baths and more.
We finally made it to Budapest! It has been on our list of places to visit for several years, after many good recommendations from friends and family. I’m glad to say it did not disappoint!
Transport & accommodations
We flew to Budapest from Frankfurt International on Lufthansa. Upon arrival, we rode a bus from the airport to a stop within walking distance of our hotel, The Three Corners Hotel Anna.
We made the right choice staying at this hotel — everything was great! For a very reasonable price we had a spacious room, a decent breakfast buffet, we were in a great location, and the staff were very accommodating. We loved the honesty bar in the lobby stocked with beer, wine, water and more and available 24 hours a day — simply take what you’d like and fill out a form to bring to the front desk so they may charge you accordingly.
Things to do
The Christmas market in Vörösmarty square starts in early November, so it lined up perfectly with our November visit. Culinary delights (Lángos with toppings galore!), hot mulled wine and festive decorations made it a fun spot to hang out for a bit. We ate a late lunch/pre-dinner snack here on the day we arrived and returned for more the following day.
Danube river cruise
A must-do in Budapest is to cruise the Danube, and there are several companies offering boat rides daily! You can choose between dinner cruises, craft beer tasting cruises, wine tasting cruises, even cruises with entertainment. We opted for a simple sightseeing cruise with Silverline Cruises.
We ordered a bottle of wine from the bar onboard and brought it up to the viewing deck where we enjoyed a cold but beautiful ride along the river, taking in some of Budapest’s most stunning sights. We really wanted to take the cruise at night because the Parliament building lit up at night is an incredible sight to see.
I highly recommend booking this activity online in advance, especially during peak season. Even during our visit in the off-season, we were glad to have prepaid tickets for what appeared to be a nearly sold-out cruise.
Fisherman’s Bastion and Buda Castle
Fisherman’s Bastion resembles a fairytale fortress and provides panoramic views of Budapest. The bastion was built for the fishermen’s guild, who guarded the Buda Castle during the Middle Ages. Every turn you take provides another photo opportunity better than the last.
While you’re up there, you can grab a Starbucks (prime location!) and visit the beautiful Matthias Church.
Buda Castle is a few minutes on foot from Fisherman’s Bastion. We did not spend a lot of time exploring the castle, but we did walk the perimeter. Check out the cool funicular that goes up to the castle from the river while you’re there.
Wine tasting at Faust Wine Cellar
Faust Wine Cellar is located underneath Fisherman’s Bastion (enter via the Hilton hotel). The staff were very friendly and informative with the wine presentation and it was an intimate, cozy setting. We were there for roughly two hours, and we left a bit tipsy! They also fed us some tasty cheese rolls. Be sure to reserve your tasting online in advance.
Shoes on the Danube
The Shoes on the Danube is a moving memorial dedicated to the Jews who were killed by fascist Arrow Cross militiamen in Budapest during World War II. The victims were lined up and shot into the Danube River, removing their shoes first so that they could be sold.
Today, an assortment of iron shoes rest permanently alongside the river, including shoes for men, women and children of all sizes, painting a picture of the atrocities committed during the war.
Budapest sits atop of more than 100 thermal springs that are naturally fed into its thermal baths – therefore earning its “City of Baths” title. There are many to choose from, but perhaps the most well-known is Széchenyi – the biggest of all the thermal baths in Budapest and one of the biggest in Europe.
We didn’t get a chance to visit any of the other baths, but we enjoyed Széchenyi during both our morning and evening visits.
The night Sparty (spa + party) at Széchenyi Thermal Bath was one of the most fun and unique experiences I’ve had when it comes to European nightlife!
Every Saturday, Széchenyi opens the baths for a booze-filled, wild event complete with DJs, dancers, flamethrowers and other forms of entertainment. It’s an experience not to be missed and well worth the cost. We had a great time, and I loved that the baths were warm enough to have this experience in the cold chill of winter!
Book this online in advance – it can (and does!) sell out.
A visit to Budapest isn’t complete without a visit to one or more of its many ruin bars. The ruin bars, old buildings and courtyards that have been converted into pubs, have evolved into a popular part of Budapest’s nightlife.
The most popular is Szimpla Kert, which even during the day is a fun experience. Each room is decorated with different mismatched items, old furniture, funky artwork and plants. We first explored Szimpla Kert for their Sunday morning farmer’s market, then came back in the evening for drinks.
Other ruin bars we visited were UdvarROM (smaller and quieter with arcade games to enjoy) and Fogas/Instant (many rooms and dance floors – more of a nightclub atmosphere).
Places to eat
Something we learned while planning this trip is that reservations are necessary for many restaurants. We started making reservations about a month before our trip and were turned away by three places due to no availability.
We made reservations at Mazel Tov for our first night in Budapest. This lovely Mediterranean restaurant is somewhat like an upscale ruin bar. The tables are arranged in an open area between two old buildings’ facades (it is heated and covered, so don’t worry about being cold) and the foliage and lighting provide a romantic ambience.
The staff were friendly, the food was great, and we were certainly happy to have a reservation as we saw a long line form at the door throughout the night. You can make a reservation online via their website.
I didn’t love the entrée I ordered at Kiosk, but the restaurant was cool. We loved the décor, Ben enjoyed his meal, and we drooled over their delicious poppy seed cake. I would return to try another meal!
We also made our dinner reservations for Kiosk online, but it didn’t seem to be too busy on the night we dined there. Showing up without a reservation may be okay here.
New York Café
It’s a bit of a tourist trap, and the food is nothing to write home about, but it’s beautiful and therefore worth it in my book (my husband might not agree).
We ordered the breakfast buffet at the self-proclaimed “Most Beautiful Café in the World” for €25 per person. It had the basics – eggs, fruit, yogurt, pastries, etc. – but what stood out to us were the bottomless mimosas. I can drink €25 worth of bottomless mimosas fairly easily, so the cost was justified.
Make a reservation online via their website; we saw long lines form at the door while we enjoyed our breakfast here.
Karavan: Street Food & Beer Garden
Just say the words “street food market” and Ben and I are there. There’s nothing better than being able to sample different varieties of delicious foods in one spot.
Karavan was great! There were so many tasty-looking options, it was hard to narrow it down. We split several plates and ventured back out into the city with our stomachs full and content.
Overall, it was a short but enjoyable time in Budapest. Some things we did not have time for were a tour of the Parliament building, a show at the Hungarian State Opera House and more thermal baths. Maybe a return visit to Budapest is in the cards for us!