Budapest is the kind of city where one visit is never enough.
After my first trip to Budapest in 2015, I knew I had to go back. And finally, that dream was fulfilled.
There’s a lot to see and do in Hungary’s capital. And it can seem daunting trying to plan a short trip to Budapest. I’ve taken all guesswork out for you. Use my hours of planning and research, plus first-hand experience on the ground, to make your next trip easy and breezy.
I used the Budapest Card to streamline my trip and squeeze the most out of every minute. But in the wrong hands, the card can be a waste of money. Like most tools, it’s all about how you use it.
Here’s everything you need to know about the Budapest Card, including my grab-and-go 3-day itinerary.
Budapest Card benefits include:
- Free unlimited public transportation within city limits (200 buses, 32 trams, 15 trolleys, 4 metro lines)
- free entrance to 20+ museums and attractions
- free walking tours in Pest and Buda
- free thermal bath entrance (St. Lukacs Thermal Bath)
- free cave entrance
- discounted luggage storage
- 5-90% discount on sightseeing, programs, gastronomy, travel
For the special 72-hour PLUS version, it has all the same perks as the standard card PLUS:
- free door-to-door airport transfer by miniBUD
- free Danube river cruise by Legenda Duna Bella
- free return ride on the Buda Castle Funicular
- free admission to Matthias Church (inside Buda Castle)
- free Hungarian dessert (Molnár’s kürtőskalács)
The current prices as of May 2023 are:
- 24 hours: €33
- 48 hours: €49
- 72 hours: €63
- 96 hours: €77
- 120 hours: €92
- 72 hours PLUS: €96
I found the list of attractions and restaurants that support the Budapest Card a bit overwhelming at first. But don’t fret… they offer a searchable directory that can be filtered by keyword, topic and discount level. This was my starting point for building out an itinerary for Budapest.
I also suggest downloading (and/or printing) the official companion guide for a handy 1-page overview. This makes it easy to build out your itinerary, and tick off these items, so you don’t miss anything important.
Tip: Unlike other tourist discount cards that are timed by the day, the Budapest Card is timed by the hour from first use. If you start a 24-hour card at 4pm on Friday, it will expire at 4pm on Saturday. This gives you better value and flexibility than day-based alternatives.
Is Budapest Card Worth it?
Note: The Budapest Card price increased recently in May 2023, and it was better value before. Now you have to use it more strategically to get the most value out of it.
The answer to this question depends on how long your card is valid and how often you use it. If you just use it for 1 or 2 attractions, you won’t get the most bang for your buck. But if you’re willing to cram a bunch of fun activities and museums back-to-back for a few days, then you’ll be sure to get your money’s worth.
The secret to getting the most out of your Budapest Card is to plan your itinerary well before your visit, so you know what you want to see and can check the opening hours and transport options, saving time and stress. I don’t recommend flying by the seat of your pants.
I’ve created a handy 3-day itinerary below based on my experiences in Budapest.
The downside: Some of the most popular attractions (like the Hungarian Parliament Building, Matthew’s Church and the House of Terror) are not included in the card. It seems they try to push tourists towards lesser popular attractions, maybe in an attempt to reduce overtourism.
Which Budapest Card Should I Get?
That depends on how long your visit is. You can’t really do Budapest justice in 1 or 2 days, so I recommend at least the 72-hour card (or longer). I went with the 96-hour card.
If you’re staying longer than 3 days, then I suggest cramming all your card-related sightseeing in a compact 3-day window, and then keep your other days open for sights that aren’t supported by the card at a slower pace (such as the Hungarian Parliament).
Where to get the Budapest Card?
You can buy your Budapest Cards at the BudapestInfo Centers (listed below), as well as several BKK customer service centres (public transport authority).
Budapest Liszt Ferenc International Airport (BUD) Terminal 2A – Arrivals level
Opening times: every day, 8am – 10pm
Budapest Liszt Ferenc International Airport (BUD) Terminal 2B – Arrivals level
Opening times: every day, 9am – 9pm
Buy and pay online, then exchange your voucher at one of the 3 above BudapestInfo Center locations in person when you arrive in Budapest.
GetYourGuide – my favourite! If you use my link, I’ll receive a small commission and no extra cost for you. Thank you!
Official Budapest tourism website – quick and easy.
Budapest Card tips
- Plan your trip in advance so you know how much time you’ll have at each location, transport options, and the best times to visit.
- Try to book get a card with a longer duration, so you have more time to explore the city and its attractions.
- If you need airport transfers, book the 72h Plus Card. You’ll save a bit.
- Sign your card on the back once you receive it, along with the starting date and hour (in 24-hour format) – it’s not valid otherwise.
- Cards can’t be returned or refunded. However, if you bought one and didn’t use it, you can use it later or on your next visit. Just be aware that Budapest Cards have a maximum validity of 1 year from May. So if you buy the card in August 2023, it can be used until 1 May 2024.
- Museums are generally closed on Monday, so check the opening hours on each of the official museum websites.
- Once you purchase your card, it’s important to register it online (optional). It only takes a few minutes, and if your precious Budapest Card is lost, you can get a replacement card from the Budapest Infopoint with the same validity as the original card, topped up with all the unused benefits.
- Use CityMapper to plan your transport around Budapest. Get live public transport updates and intuitive routing, all inside a free, user-friendly app. It’s a lifesaver!
3-Day Sightseeing Itinerary with the Budapest Card
This itinerary mixes a range of activities and attractions to give you a broad taste of Budapest, including history, culture, food, nature and relaxation. I didn’t focus on the discounted restaurants included with the Budapest Card, but opted for vegan-friendly eateries that have a solid track record for quality.
Arrive – reach Budapest by air, train or bus in the afternoon and pick up your Budapest Card at the relevant location. If possible, head to your hotel or apartment and check-in first, so your hands are free. I recommend picking up your Budapest Card from Varoshaza Park as the staff are very knowledgeable and can help you fine-tune your itinerary and answer any questions. Remember to sign the back of the card.
5pm – Self-guided walking tour. Take a glance down the famous Fashion Street, wander through Elizabeth Square, rub the belly of The Policeman for good luck, and finish by heading west towards St. Stephen’s Basilica, which houses the country’s most sacred relic, the mummified right hand of the first king of Hungary.
Or if food is what tickles your pickle, then wander over to Molnár's kürtőskalács, and try the famous kürtőskalács (Székely festival spit cake, or “chimney cake”), a hollow bread-based dessert. Use your Budapest Card for a 20% discount (or free dessert with 72-hour PLUS card).
7pm – Dinner at Tahina Bite Vegan Food. Mouth-watering Middle Eastern classics like hummus, tabbouleh and falafel. 95% of the menu is gluten-free, and all dishes are free from processed sugar and soy.
8:30pm – Rest up afterwards because the next 3 days will be go, go, go!
10am – Zugliget Chairlift (Libegő) to Erzsébet (Elizabeth) Lookout Tower.Gently soarup the side of János Hill to the top station, over a period of 15 minutes, enjoying panoramic vistas of Budapest along the way. From the top station, it’s about a 10-minute walk north up a steep road to Elizabeth Tower. Entry to the tower is free.
1pm – Lunch at Szabad Bisztró. Amazing vegan food, with lunch specials that rotate every day of the week. They are the first plant-based gastropub of Budapest, with artisan beers, ciders and soft drinks plus burgers, pasta, salads and a few Hungarian specialities.
2:30pm – Kunsthalle (Műcsarnok). This is an awe-inspiring testament to the city's artistic legacy, housing a diverse collection of contemporary and modern masterpieces that captivate visitors.
Entry with card is free.
3:30pm – Museum of Fine Arts. A vast gallery that includes works from antiquity to the late 18th century, from ancient Egyptian artefacts to masterpieces by Raphael.
Entry with card is free.
5pm – Heroes’ Square. An iconic tribute to the nation's storied history, adorned by towering statues and flanked by magnificent colonnades.
5:15pm – Rest, under a shady tree in the nearby park.
6:30pm – Dinner at Yes It’s Vegan 2. Their plant-based interpretations of traditional Hungarian cuisine have earned rave reviews from satisfied customers. This is the place for vegans to try goulash.
8pm – Drinks. Have a few drinks at one of the many famous ruin bars, like Instant-Fogas Complex, which is only a 6-minute walk away.
9am – Central Market Hall. An integral part of the city since its inauguration in 1897, serving as a hub for trading, social gatherings, and the celebration of Hungarian traditions. Stroll through the fragrant halls, and try free taste tests.
10am - Hungarian National Museum. Founded in 1802, the museum holds a revered position as the country's premier historical institution, showcasing an extensive collection of artifacts, artworks, and documents, each intricately woven into the tapestry of Hungary's past, preserving and presenting the nation's rich history and cultural legacy.
Entry with card is free.
12pm – Lunch at Las Vegan’s. Eat quick at Hungary's first vegan food truck hamburger restaurant, because there’s a lot to cram in this afternoon. Or if you’re a meat-eater and want a taste of traditional Hungarian goulash, you can’t go past the quirky For Sale Pub (a pot of goulash is 1 litre!).
12:45pm – Budapest Castle Bus (website). This oversized electric golf cart drives around Buda castle complex, stopping at 4 convenient locations, and departing every 10 minutes.
Ride with card is free.
1pm – Church of Saint Mary Magdalene. Exit bus at stop 2 (behind the church). This 600-year-old lookout tower offers panoramic views of the whole city. If you’re feeling fit, climb to the top of the tower. But be aware, the winding staircase can be very narrow at some points, so this is not for the faint of heart or claustrophobic.
Entry with card is free.
1:30pm – Mediaeval Jewish Prayer House. A small collection of exhibits and images from the 16th and 17th centuries which reflect life within the Jewish quarter of the Buda Castle during the Middle Ages
Entry with card is free.
1:45pm – Classic Buda Walking Tour (meeting at Holy Trinity Statue in front of Matthias Church). This tour covered a fair amount of the Buda Castle complex, but only the exteriors. I found the information provided by the guide was a little inaccurate at times, so best to fact-check anything that sounds unusual.
Tour with card is free.
4pm – Castle Museum. Located in a wing of the former Royal Palace, visitors can tour the halls to discover the museum’s unique treasures and exhibitions and gain insight into Budapest’s rich history. The museum is only open until 6pm, so you’ll need to go double speed to see everything!
Entry with card is free.
6:45pm – Dinner at Édeni Vegán, and rest. Catch the tram north to Batthyány tér M+H station. This cute vegan restaurant is located a stone’s-throw away from the tram stop, so you don’t have to walk too far. Put your feet up after the thousands of steps you’ve already done today.
8:15pm – Now you’re just a couple minutes’ walk to the west bank of the Danube river. Opposite the Hungarian Parliament building, watch the beautiful lights come on. It’s magical… and free! Or if you’ve got the Budapest 72 hour PLUS card, use your free evening Danube River cruise with Legenda City Cruises. Check their website for the latest timetable based on the season (they depart from the east bank).
10am – Thermal bath of your choosing. Go with the St. Lukács thermal bath for free entry with the Bupdest Card, or use the 20% discount on one of the more famous larger baths like Széchenyi Bath (although it’s a little further out of the way). Remember to bring your own towel and swimwear.
Entry with card is free (St. Lukács thermal bath).
1pm – Lunch at The Planteen. Located around the corner from the next stop, this is the first vegan canteen in Hungary, and features daily specials.
2pm – Aquincum Museum. More detail… Nestled amidst the ancient ruins of Aquincum, this museum provides a captivating window into the Roman past, preserving and showcasing the remnants of this once-vibrant provincial capital.
3:30pm – Chill out on Margitsziget (Margaret Island) and ride a rental bike. Find out how the MOL Bubi bike system works. And check the location of bike stations and live availability here. As you bike around, look out for a shady, grassy spot and take a rest, soaking up the warm breeze and peaceful vibes. If you’re looking for a selfie spot, check out this big “Budapest” sign. Later return your bike to this location, which is just around the corner from dinner.
7:30pm – Dinner at Tökmag Vegan Street Food. Eye-catching dishes that are health conscious too. What more could you ask for? Tip: try the nachos burger.
8:45pm – Budapest pub crawl. Go out with a bang on your last night. Hang out with a fun group of party people, and explore Budapest’s famous ruin bars, guided by a friendly nightlife expert. Tip: the meeting place is in front of Burger King Oktogon.