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Budapest - How Many Days/Nights?

I'm working on some preliminary trip plans that I hope would take us to Budapest in October 2020. This would be part of a much longer trip. We are retired, so don't have vacation time restrictions. That doesn't mean we don't have budgetary restrictions, since we haven't won the lottery - yet. This would be our (me & hubby) first, and likely only trip there. What is the minimum number of nights we should plan for?

My hubby is resistant to the idea of going there, yet he knows exactly zero about Budapest. I'm hoping to give him information and have mutual friends who love it tell him about their experiences.

Thanks for any advice you can give.

Posted by
7786 posts

Budapest is our new favorite city that we feel very comfortable in. It would be a 4 day city.
PM me if you need a good place to stay. I know great places there and in Vienna.

Posted by
3961 posts

Andrea, We plan to spend 5 nights in Budapest this year. This will be our first time in the area. Relatives, friends and RS Forum contributors inspired us to visit this lovely city. We have also found the RS Eastern Guidebook very informative.

Glad David has offered his advise. We've appreciated his help as well! Perhaps our other "go to" person James E. will chime in?

***Edit-- I meant to include Christa as well! Thanks for more ideas.

Posted by
6113 posts

I had 6 nights there in December, to visit the Christmas markets. Although this was a great amount of time to spend, we could have managed with a day less if we increased the pace. We obviously had no jet lag issues as we are based in the UK and with the timing of our flights, we arrived late morning on day 1 and left late in the afternoon of day 7.

We rented an apartment near Oktogon underground station, which was a great location, yet quiet at night. We had a guided tour of the Parliament building, visited the Castle, some of the museums and churches, markets, parks and gardens. We took the furnicular railway up to Zugliget in the hills, with fantastic views over the city and the cable car down. There are many good restaurants and coffee shops for people watching. I enjoyed my visit and hope to return soon.

Posted by
4123 posts

I was in Budapest for almost 4 full days this past October. (I loved being there in October - lovely weather and, presumably, smaller crowds. The English tours of Parliament did still sell out as early as September, so do book those ahead.) I had thought during that time I would take a day trip to Eger or the Danube Bend, but I decided not to because I was enjoying my time and wanted to continue to see Budapest.

I plan to visit again to see more and take some of those day trips!

Posted by
2510 posts

4 nights would be the minimum, and what I did the first time I went there in 2014. In 2016 I stayed 6, in 2017 it was 5, 2018 for 6 and this May just 4, but that's at the end of time in 3 other countries, and already I feel it won't be enough. So, be careful--it works a strange magic on people!

I first went because I am half Hungarian and wanted to explore my heritage, and quickly got very comfortable there. I'm slowly learning the language, though you will find enough English spoken in tourist areas. The people are extraordinarily friendly, kind and helpful, things are fairly cheap as they are still on the forint, the food is excellent and I never fail to be amazed by the beauty of the view across the Danube from either side. I've enjoyed various attractions--the Easter market at the end of April, Terror House, Parliament (reserve an English tour & tickets in advance), Castle Hill (especially the National Gallery and Hospital in the Rock), the zoo in City Park, Dohany synagogue, Great Market Hall and then there's the Ecseri piac (flea market) a bit outside Budapest proper if you like poking through old funky stuff. For day trips I've taken the HEV suburban trains to Szentendre--charming little artists' colony on the Danube--and to Godollo to tour the palace--each is about 40 minutes from Budapest. My most favorite thing is to visit Margit sziget, the little island in the Danube that is lovely to explore either on foot or you can rent bikes--ruined monastery, Japanese garden, baths & spa, and the part I love best is the little zoo where there are nesting storks.

I have been to the Opera once, but my favorite is the Operettszinhaz, a gorgeous old theatre just off Andrassy that has delightful musical plays. I saw the Duchess of Chicago and Singin' In the Rain, and right now I'm eagerly waiting to see the schedule for May. Tickets are quite affordable and there are super-titles in English, though you will find yourself surrounded by locals more than tourists.

October would be a great time to visit weather-wise, and you'll want to check and see what events or festivals are going on when you're there--I've been there for May Day, Whitsunday, the Easter market and the museum festival in May, and the Hungarians just love a good festival, really fun to be amongst them.

Posted by
9782 posts

Thanks all for your replies and the great information.

At the beginning of our trip we will be traveling with another couple. It will be his first time to Europe and her first time to all of our destinations. My hubby and I have already been to some of the following destinations.

Here's the plan so far:

  • Arrive together in Munich for Oktoberfest (3-4 nights)
  • Austria, Salzburg/Lake area (3-4 nights)
  • Stay one night somewhere on the way to
  • Switzerland, Berner Oberland (4-5 nights)
  • France/Germany, Alsace & Black Forest (7 nights in Alsace)
  • Stay one night in Kaiserslautern (at request of our friend)
  • Germany, Mosel (4 nights)
  • Frankfurt (? nights)

We will travel by car. This portion of the trip will take approximately 4 weeks. In Frankfurt we will get rid of the car. Our friends will fly home from Frankfurt and we will travel to Cologne and/or Hannover to visit with family. I'm figuring 7-10 days for that, depending on if we need to go to both cities or if we can see everyone in one city. After the family visit is when I am hoping to go to Budapest. From there I would like to go to Paris for a couple of weeks before we head home.

Posted by
16058 posts

Not sure that Budapest is such a great fit for that trip. Typically I would say that five nights is pretty ideal.

Just some observations that may or may not be helpful


Switzerland is among the most expensive places in Europe. Here is a source for an idea of costs. Their data base seems to be from budget travelers and I think the numbers are bit low for middle of the road sort of travelers; but for relative cost one against another its useful. They show about $200 a day per person in Switzerland and about $75 per day per person in Hungary (their exchange rate is a bit off). Germany at $105. If nothing else, it tells you that Switzerland is twice as expensive as Germany and you might want to consider that when planning how much time there.

BUT, people want to see what they want to see, so saying, “save money, go to Bulgaria” is sort of senseless (but I love Bulgaria)


A rental car can get expensive quick. Gas isn’t cheap, you will be paying tolls all along the way, parking I would budget nothing less than 25euro a night, day time parking as you go from site to site can be expensive and time consuming; and if you don’t drop it off where you picked it up, it can cost you hundreds of euros extra.

For cities, i use public transportation. Between cities a train or discount airline. You can get between many cities these days on a discount carrier, non-stop for under $100 in about 5hours door to door; when a train might cost $50 but take 8 hours door to door.

Trips into the country I could do with a car rental, then back to the city. But I am spoiled and will hire a driver or a guide to do the work. Last trip to Montenegro that cost about 70 euro a day.

The overall plan

This sounds to be a once in a life thing, so maybe it’s worth the effort to reach those places you really want to see, but will never have another opportunity.

Still something to think about might be, instead of paying $XXXXXX on this trip, spend $XX so you will have the money for a second trip sometime in the future. You help reach that ideal by planning a tighter trip with less time traveling and more time seeing things and making some cost considerations. That would mean one, two or three hubs that are cheaply connected; then lots of day trips and a few overnight trips. At the hubs get an Airbnb for a week or more for about the cost of a night or two in a decent hotel. You give up no quality this way, but get more time seeing what there is to see, and less expensively.

Posted by
16058 posts

Your Husband and Budapest

When we started traveling about 20 years ago we stuck to the mainstream places like London, Paris, much of Italy and Greece. Then on one trip, Vienna didn’t seem to be much of a detour on that thought process so off we went to Vienna. It was boring. After a few days we got a train schedule and looked for a place nearby to escape to. We ended up in Budapest. Back then very few ever went to Budapest. We saw only a few American tourists while we were there. But we fell in love with the place and some years later purchased an apartment there to make our return visits more comfortable and less expensive. Within a few years we realized that further “East” there was an entire rarely visited world. Everyone should see London, Paris and Rome; then pack up and head to Eastern Europe to discover some of the most amazing places imaginable. Another benefit, cheap. That same website says Eastern Europe is $50 to $75 per person per day. Of course you have to be interested in what is there or it’s a waste.

People are sometimes surprised at what there is in Eastern Europe, so, some Eastern Europe Sights pretty much chosen at random













Since I have gone this far off the track; the next question is how the heck do I work freaking ALBANIA!!! into a trip? There is non-stop service from just about every country listed above, under $100 and 1.5 hours to Budapest. Budapest, likewise non-stop under 1 hour and $100 in most cases to every major tourist destination in Western Europe.

Sorry, answer to your question is 5 nights minimum in Budapest.

Posted by
3802 posts

I can see your logic with traveling in a clockwise loop with your friends whom you want to show some of your favorite places in Germany/Austria/France. I can also understand your wanting to stretch out and see something new (Budapest) on your first extended retirement trip and then return to something familiar and beloved (Paris) before you head home. Fortunately there are inexpensive 2h flights between FRA and Budapest and then Budapest to Paris so I think a little fling can be done once the road trip with friends and a visit to family is over.

Have fun planning!

Posted by
9782 posts

Thank you for your thoughts, James E. You make some valid points. We will have a car because we will be traveling primarily around small towns. Even though gas is expensive, tolls, etc., the benefits of a car for 4 people outweighs the downsides. I have driven in all the countries we will be in with the exception of Switzerland. Splitting the cost will help and I planned the route to be able to pick up and drop off in the same country. I have been to Europe 9 times since 2006. My husband has been with me on 7 of those trips. We plan to have more trips, but you never know what will happen in life. I look at each trip as it being potentially my last.

Mona, that is pretty much what we are trying to do in regards to our friends. It all revolves around the one day at Oktoberfest. That is definitely not for me, but we all make compromises. Because of that I chose places that my friends would like (she doesn't care for cities) that would geographically make sense. They want to arrive in Europe with us, so that means we only have the time after to visit family and do our own thing. I have been to all the areas we are going, with the exception of Switzerland. I want to see new places, and Switzerland fits the bill. I think we need to allow at least 4 nights to try to be sure we have some good weather.

I would be happy to finish the trip in Budapest, but we will be using airline miles. When I looked at flights it was going to take 70,000 each to fly home. We can fly round trip to Europe for 60,000, so 70,000 is a no go for one way. We can fly to Paris and spend time there before flying home. We can alway choose somewhere else if we want, as long as it doesn't use more than 30,000. But you know how much I love Paris.

Posted by
16058 posts

small towns + 4 people = car. No argument there.

Mona, I just picked a random day in July and one way, non-stop Paris to Budapest and Frankfurt to Budapest ran $60 to $100 on either leg. Travel time is about 2 hours or a little less. It's actually one of the better hubs in Europe these days. Fairly easy airport, fairly close to town.

Posted by
1878 posts

Four full days (five nights) is about right for Budapest. It's the kind of city that may not have as many blockbuster sights as some, but it makes you want to slow down and just be there. I don't especially think it's a natural fit for this itinerary, but it's your trip so go for it. I think it's a very underrated city and I am sure you will have a great time.

Posted by
16058 posts


Your comments in your two posts remind me of two things.

First, about 10 years ago I went to the Budapest Operett. If you purchase box seats in the center you get invited back to the parlor at intermission. There, you share a table with an adjacent box for champagne and hors d'oeuvres. On this particular occasion we shared a table with a well dressed Hungarian business man in his late 50's or early 60's and his wife. They asked what we were doing in Budapest and we described how beautiful it was, how kind the people had been, so much so that we bought a home in Budapest. The gentleman argued, like you, that Hungarians were rude and the country was a wreck. He wanted to know, jokingly, if he and I had seen the same Budapest. I was only half surprised because its an attitude that you cant go long without finding in Hungary. Suffering and self loathing are sort of a national badge of honor.

I must stand around looking lost a lot, because on most ever trip some local citizen has offered to help me with one thing or another. I still mark the moment on each trip when i am the subject of a random act of kindness.

The second thing you remind me of is the national anthem. How can you expect to feel happy about your state in life when your national anthem contains lines like these:

Ah, but for our sins
Anger gathered in Your bosom
And You struck with Your lightning
From Your thundering clouds
Now the plundering Mongols' arrows
You swarmed over us
Then the Turks' slave yoke
We took upon our shoulders.

Pity, O Lord, the Hungarians
Who are tossed by waves of danger
Extend over it your guarding arm
On the sea of its misery
Long torn by ill fate
Bring upon it a time of relief
They who have suffered for all sins
Of the past and of the future!

Still, your country, not mine and never would or could be; so it's just an outsider's opinion based on pretty limited, in the big picture of life, contact. There are few places in the world where one can enter, and become one with the ethnic or cultural majority. I am an optimist, but still, I can think of two countries where during my short stays I didn't feel as though the people were particularly polite, so I do have something to compare it against. However, since you refer to yourself as Scythian are you Magyar as well?

Point of fact, in 15 years of travel to and from Hungary the people have been nothing but kind. I have not one instance of rudeness to relate. I wish I did, as one instance would make the whole more believable. After more than 50 flights in or out of the airport I have never lost a bag or a content in that bag. The new terminal in particular is as clean and modern as any in Europe. The check-in lines can be a bit of a bother, but the new kiosks have solved about half of that. As for the cost of everything? Cheaper than some, no more than most anywhere in the world. These guys list it as 90 out of 500, not too shabby.

Not once has the trip from Pest, near the opera house, to or from; taken more than 40 minutes by taxi and if you are into buses, the new direct bus to Deak Ferenc ter is nearly as fast as the taxi and only about 2 euro. Where in most cities the taxi from the airport will cost you north of 50 euro the one in Budapest will get you into town for about 25 euro, tip included; to my home near the opera house at least.

Posted by
16058 posts

Scythian, a surprising number of people are just unhappy.

Correct me if I am wrong here, and I very well could be, but a Scythian can be Hungarian, but not ethnically Magyar?

If someone ever starts a post of what are the nicest things a local has done for you while traveling I would fill the post with Hungarian stories.

I will be there shortly, when I get out of the taxi I will wave through a window at the bartender at the corner wine bar. Then at about 8pm I will go to the wine bar and find my name reserving my favorite sidewalk table .... despite the fact on Friday a reservation the day before is pretty much the rule if you want a table after 7pm. Taxi drivers have proven to be honest beyond need (sort of a long story), dispatcher wouldn't let me quit and stayed with me on the phone till he could figure out where I was (lost). Audiologist couldn't help, so no charge for the tests, then called me a taxi to a doctor who dispensed some drugs for issue no charge. Doctor opened the clinic on Christmas day to examine a minor surgery performed two days earlier, dentist treats me like relative and charges the same. It goes on and on and on ....

I dont get this sort of care any place outside of Texas.

If I wanted to over generalize I could say, like a lot of Eastern Europeans I have encountered, Hungarians (especially the older generations) tend to be a bit reserved till they figure you out. Given the history of the region, this makes sense.

Posted by
294 posts

Don't know if anyone has mentioned this yet (didn't have time to read all informative replies), but be aware that rental cars in Switzerland need a dashboard toll sticker. You can purchase easily at gas station after crossing the border. It is a yearly sticker. Possibly if you rent the car in Germany, perhaps another prior renter will have already taken the car into Switzerland and applied one for you. I don't recall what it cost, but 6 years ago we picked up our car on leaving Vienna and drove all over Austria, Germany, and Switzerland.

PS, My husband's favorite travel memory of all time was a visit to Hallstatt, Austria. In case you can add that in.

Enjoy! You have some amazing things planned.

Posted by
9782 posts

Yes, I am aware of the costs to drive in Austria and Switzerland. I didn't consider the cost of tunnels though. We will be splitting all the transportation costs with another couple, and considering our destinations a car is the only travel mode that makes sense.

In Austria we will base ourselves in the Hallstatt or St. Gilgen area and explore from our base. I'm not even sure if we will go to Salzburg. It depends on what our friends want to do. We have been there 4 times. We've spent very little time at the lakes, so I'm fine with concentrating on that area.