Budapest — easily classified as the crowning jewel of Central Europe — is quickly becoming one of the most popular and sought-after destinations on the continent. This is no surprise, as Hungary’s capital city is not only absolutely beautiful but is packed to the brim with historical landmarks, a fantastic arts scene, and an unrivalled nightlife. These, combined with the fact that it is incredibly easy to visit Budapest on a budget makes spending 4 days in Budapest an incredibly appealing option for those both looking for a short city break or as part of a longer Central European trip.
Is Budapest Worth Visiting?
Budapest is a hot destination in Europe now, with many affordable flights serving the city and numerous glossy travel magazines highlighting the Hungarian capital. But with all the hype, it can still leave some potential traveller’s begging the question: “Is Budapest worth visiting?”
Well, Budapest has a LOT going for it, so if you’re wondering if Budapest is worth a visit, have a look at these reasons why we think it is:
Sat upon the banks of the Danube and almost exactly in the centre of the European continent, Budapest has a fascinating history. Originally inhabited and built by the Celts, throughout history Budapest has been under the rule of the Romans, the Magyars, the Ottoman Turks, the Hapsburgs, the Nazis, the Soviets, and finally, the Hungarians themselves.
Each of these occupations has left their mark upon this diverse city and has shaped everything from its culture to its architecture. Learning about the city’s complex history is something you must do when you visit Budapest, whether that be at one of the city’s many museums or soaking up the healing waters in one of its famous bathhouses.
Not too Big, Not too Small
One thing that we love about visiting the Hungarian capital is how incredibly walkable the city is. Divided into two parts on either side of the river, Budapest is incredibly well-connected with an extensive tram and metro network. However, the lively Pest side is quite concentrated and you can easily walk from one side to the other without returning home with blisters. This makes it easy to cover a lot of ground when spending only 3 or 4 days in Budapest.
Budapest is also incredibly beautiful, and the ease of walking along the riverfront and across the many bridges just makes it all the more pleasant. Being able to walk everywhere also can save you money on cab fares and transportation tickets.
Budapest Has Some of the Best Nightlife in Europe
No article about visiting Budapest would be complete without a mention of its famous nightlife and checking out some of the awesome ruin bars is one of the best things to do in Budapest.
While it is entirely possible to go out, get black-out hammered, and not remember how you got home when you visit Budapest (please don’t do this), it is equally easy to have a mellow beer and enjoy the atmosphere or some great music. The nightlife truly does have something to offer everyone and you will see locals and tourists alike at many of the ruin bars.
Another great option for a fun night out is to grab a couple of beers and hike up to the citadel, where you can watch the sun set behind the gorgeous skyline as the city lights up for the night. It is one of the best things to see when your Budapest itinerary.
4 Days in Budapest Itinerary
Now that we’ve answered the question that Budapest is worth visiting, it’s time to discuss how you should spend your time there.
Budapest is a massive city, and travellers can easily spend a number of weeks there and not get bored. However, many do not have this luxury and are stuck wondering how much time to spend in the city to experience it to its full potential. While I would honestly recommend spending about a week in Hungary’s capital, I think, if you are short on time, travellers should try to visit for at least four full days.
This gives you enough time to see the main sites and museums without exhausting yourself. Budapest has an amazing laid-back feel to it that is hard to experience if you only have two or three days in the city. Here is how I would recommend you spend 4 days in Budapest:
Budapest Itinerary: Day 1
One of the absolute best ways to begin any European city break is with a free walking tour, and in Budapest, it is no different. There are quite a few free walking tour companies to choose from, but I would personally recommend Free Budapest Tours. Begin your trip by taking their three-hour general tour, which meets at 10:30 AM at Deak Ferenc ter. The tour will take you by all of the main highlights of Budapest, provide you with some historical context, and help you get your bearings and give you many ideas of what to do and see in the city.
After the walking tour, take the time to visit the Great Synagogue and the Hungarian Jewish Museum. Full-price entry is on the more expensive side at €12, however, it is well worth it to gain a more broad understanding of Judaism in Hungary. There is also an incredibly moving Holocaust memorial in the courtyard. You can skip the line by clicking this link and pre-purchasing your ticket.
After touring the synagogue, take the time to explore Budapest’s Jewish quarter, which is packed with its own unique history. It is worth noting that there are also free walking tours specifically for this neighbourhood, so if you want to dig deeper, this comes highly recommended.
This neighbourhood is also home to the majority of Budapest’s ruin bars including the original and most famous, Szimpla Kert. After you’ve found somewhere to grab some dinner, why not pop into one of these interesting bars?
Budapest Itinerary: Day 2
The second day of this Budapest itinerary sees you venturing from the lively Pest side of the Danube to the more subdued and residential Buda side. Spend the morning exploring the area around the Buda castle, known as Castle Hill. While this area can get quite popular and touristy, it is not without reason. There is a funicular that will take you up to the castle, however, if you want to save some money (and burn some calories!) I would recommend taking a hike up there yourself.
Underneath the Buda castle is a truly fascinating and under-visited museum known as the Hospital in the Rock. Budapest is built up a network of highly complex caves and during WWII, the caves beneath the castle were turned into an underground hospital. As the times shifted toward the Cold War, the hospital was turned into a bunker. The museum offers guided tours and it is an incredibly interesting way to spend an hour or two.
After you’ve explored Castle Hill, it’s time to walk across the Margaret Bridge and visit the large, wonderful park that is Margaret Island. If the weather is nice, this is a fantastic place to spend a few lazy hours soaking up the sunshine and leisurely walking around the beautiful gardens. There are also a number of cafes and ice cream stands, so you won’t go hungry while here.
In the evening, head back to Buda and watch the sunset over the most beautiful skyline in Europe from the rooftop pool at the Rudas Baths.
Budapest Itinerary: Day 3
The final day of this Budapest itinerary sees you exploring more of the Pest side of the city. Begin your day at the House of Terror, a museum housed in the former Nazi and KGB headquarters. You won’t leave here feeling light-hearted, but the three floors of this excellently curated museum certainly put the horrors that Hungary saw before the fall of the Iron Curtain into perspective.
To boost your spirits after this museum visit, I would recommend taking a stroll down Andrássy Útca, which is heralded as Budapest’s Champs-Élysées. While most restaurants and cafes along this avenue aren’t great to stop at if you’re travelling to Budapest on a budget, the street itself is lovely and makes it even more evident why Budapest is such a lovely place to visit.
Spend the rest of your day in Budapest browsing through the Central Market, which is truly a foodie’s paradise. While it is one of the city’s main tourist attractions, it is still worth visiting this historic marketplace if only to discover more about the unique Hungarian cuisine and to stock up on an ample supply of paprika.
End your day on the Buda side while watching the sunset from the citadel, maybe with a beer or a bottle of wine. It is worth noting that it is technically illegal to have an open container of alcohol in Budapest, however, the police are largely ambivalent to this law and locals and tourists alike often enjoy a cheeky beverage in public spaces.
Budapest Itinerary: Day 4
On the final day of your 4 days in Budapest itinerary, it’s time to head a bit further out of the city centre and learn about the horrors of Budapest’s communist past. A great way to gain a general understanding of what life in the Hungarian capital was like during communism is to take a free Red Budapest tour.
Another interesting place to visit on your fourth day in Budapest is Memento Park. Located southwest of the city centre though easily accessible by public transport, this open-air museum houses a collection of Soviet-era artefacts, statues, and memorabilia that were removed from public spaces following the fall of the Iron Curtain. Entry to the park is around €5 for adults and €4 for students with a valid ID. There is also an option to have a guided tour (in English) for an additional €4 fee.
After gaining enough knowledge about Hungary’s dark communist past, spend the rest of your day relaxing in the gorgeous Széchenyi Baths. This is one of the most popular bathhouses in Budapest and for good reason: the architecture is beautiful and the atmosphere is unbeatable. That is why a stop here is one of the best ways you could end your 4 days in Budapest. You can skip the line by clicking this link and pre-purchasing your ticket.
Have 5 days in Budapest…or more?
If you have more time to spend in Budapest, there are a number of cool and unusual things to do in the Hungarian capital that didn’t make this four-day itinerary, including visiting city park, going for a sunset cruise along the Danube or, for the more adventurous set, caving tours underneath the city.
If you are planning a 5-day Budapest itinerary, this also allows for a day trip if you’re keen to explore more of Hungary beyond the capital. Going for a hike in Visegrád or visiting the charming city of Eger, both of which are within easy reach of the capital, are fantastic options.
Budapest is also often part of a longer Central Europe itinerary, but if you’re looking to get a little further off the beaten path rather than stopping in well-trodden cities like Krakow and Prague, there are a number of options available. If you’re curious to explore more of Hungary, consider visiting the lovely town of Pécs, which is largely undiscovered by foreign tourists.
Both Romania and Serbia are within easy reach of Budapest as well, with multiple daily connections to the Romanian cities of Timișoara and Cluj-Napoca and also to the Serbian cities of Novi Sad and Belgrade. This makes Budapest a wonderful and accessible starting point if you’re keen to travel through the Balkans and Eastern Europe.
How To Spend 4 Days In Budapest On A Budget
Budapest is one of the most affordable cities to visit in all of Europe. Everything in the city — from accommodation to food costs — is severely discounted if you compare it to the prices of other major cities in the EU, like London, Paris, or Rome. This is a major factor that drives budget travellers to the Hungarian capital. So is Budapest expensive? If you’re wondering how much 4 days in Budapest will cost, here’s a brief breakdown of average prices:
The cost of accommodation generally makes the biggest dent in any travel budget, so it’s something that needs consideration. Luckily, Budapest is an incredibly budget backpacker-friendly city so there is ample choice for affordable accommodation close to all of the major attractions and public transport links.
There is honestly an overwhelming number of highly-rated hostels to choose from, and most dorm beds start at about €10 per night. If you want me to close to all the action on the Pest side, then I recommend staying at Big Fish Hostel. Shantee House is a great option on the Buda side while there are also a number of party hostels like Retox or Grandio if that’s what you’re looking for.
If you’re travelling as a couple and want a bit more privacy, a private room in a hostel averages around €35 – 40 per night. If you’re looking to save some more money while also getting a “local experience,” it can be a good idea to consider Airbnb. Private rooms through the platform start at about €20 per night and it can be a great way to see the city through a different light. Click here to get up to $40 off your first stay with Airbnb!
If your budget allows for more than a hostel or Airbnb room, then you will be pleased to find out that there are also myriad affordable hotels available in Budapest that also happen to be quite well-located.
While you will certainly pay more per night in a small hotel than you would at a hostel or Airbnb, prices do not even come close to mimicking those of some Western European capital cities. Butterfly Home Danube, for instance, is a great mid-range option in a great location on the lively Pest side of the city.
Budapest has an extensive public transport system that includes multiple metro, bus, and tram lines. That being said, many of the major sites in the city are quite close together and Budapest itself if quite walkable. However, it is still quite a large city so using the public transport system can be useful and affordable.
A single ticket costs about €1 and a 24-hour travel card costs about €5 and they are valid on all modes of transport within the city. If you’re planning on using the transport system a lot while in Budapest, it works out to be a better value for money to purchase a travel card rather than single-journey tickets. For instance, if you’re spending three days in Budapest, I would recommend purchasing a 72-hour travel card which costs about €13 for unlimited journeys during this time period.
If you avoid the tourist trap restaurants along the river or near Castle Hill, eating out in Budapest can be incredibly affordable for western travellers. Hungarian cuisine is also unique to that of other Central and Eastern European cuisines so it is very much worth sampling.
There are a number of cheap, international fast food options available for budget travellers as well. For instance, a kebab or falafel from a fast food restaurant will only cost around €2 – 3 for a sizable portion. If you’d prefer to eat at a sit-down, mid-range restaurant, a two-course meal will only cost about €10 per person and a meal at a budget restaurant will be even less.
If you are staying in a place that has self-catering facilities and would prefer to cook your own meals, groceries are also quite affordable in Budapest and you won’t have to spend much to eat.
While it is incredibly possible to experience Budapest to it’s fullest without spending a cent on activities, sometimes it is nice to visit a museum or historical landmark and most do charge admission fees. Most museum tickets won’t cost more than about €10 at full price, and there are a number of discounts available as well. For example, most places offer significant discounts for students, youths (under 25’s), and seniors (over 65’s).
One of the most popular activities in Budapest includes going to one of its many thermal bathhouses, and admission to these can range in price depending on where you go. The popular Széchenyi Baths, for example, are also among the most expensive, starting at €18 for basic entry. My recommendation would be to head to the more local, less touristy bathhouses such as the Rudas Baths where entry prices start at €11.
Budapest is becoming internationally recognised for its unique nightlife and, luckily for the backpacker-type, it is incredibly accessible to experience all the Hungarian capital has to offer while visiting Budapest on a budget.
Budapest has some of the cheapest alcohol prices in Europe and a pint of local lager at a bar will rarely cost more than €1.50. A glass of local wine is priced similarly, however, a basic cocktail such as a gin and tonic will cost somewhere around €4 – 5 depending on the establishment.
Budapest’s quirky ruin bars are famous the world over and neither of us has ever encountered a cover charge for entry, however, I cannot speak for all of them and I’m not sure if this has changed.
Average Budapest Cost Per Day
To sum it up, this is how much you should expect to spend daily while visiting Budapest:
Accommodation: €10 / night
Transport: €4 / day
Food: €10 / day
Activities: €5 / day
Entertainment: €5 / day
Suffice it to say, you can enjoy Hungary’s capital to the fullest even if you’re travelling on a shoestring budget. All in all, your average Budapest cost per day does not need to exceed roughly €35, factoring in all of the aforementioned costs.
This doesn’t include any pre-trip expenses such as flights or travel insurance. We recommend buying World Nomads however it’s important to read the policy details to ensure it’s right for you. Click here to get a quote from World Nomads.
While travellers could easily spend more than 4 days in Budapest, it also can be the perfect amount of time to get to know the city and even get a little bit off the beaten path.
Are you planning on visiting Budapest on a budget? Have you been? Let us know in the comments!