We will be arriving on the afternoon of day 1 and then 3 full days in Budapest. We will be seeing the great synagogue and know some of the other sites to visit, but are not sure how to arrange our itinerary. Any assistance would be appreciated.
I would tell you to take one of the "Free Walking Tours" to start. The tourguides are excellent, and they work off tips.
Then, take a nightlife tour the first night you're there. You'll then know where to go the rest of the time you're in town. Budapest's grunge bars are about as good as European honky tonks can get.
I suspect James will chime in for more specifics. I'm thinking he's over there right now.
I visited the Basilica during the day, then found out they have evening concerts. Had I been to the concert first I might not have done the day visit. During the day the Basilica was lit mostly (maybe entirely) by natural light, so much of it was dim and hard to see. For the concert, the church was very well lit. I arrived soon after the doors opened and there was lots of time to wander a bit and take photos before the concert started. Then I sat back, enjoyed the music while feasting my eyes on all the sumptuous decorations in the nave. I got the medium-priced section - no reserved seats - and it was the best for viewing. The only benefit to the day-time visit is vising the dome or tower (if it's open) for the view - if you have good weather.
I had a difficult time getting the Parliament tour. When I was there (about 5 years ago) you had to line up for tickets, then return later in the day and line up for the tour itself. I got there late on the first day, no tickets left. On the next day, it was closed. If they use the building for official purposes, then no tours. Often these closures are pretty last-minute. It was worth the effort, but took up a lot of time and energy.
One of my favorite things was on the day I spent in Buda up on Castle hill. After seeing most of the sights, I went into the Hilton next to the Fisherman's Bastion, and deep in its bowels, I found a wine-tasting room. So good. It's run by a wine merchant, so there are wines from many different wineries. Hungarian wines are excellent.
I plotted out the sights on a map of the city (downloaded from the internet) and went to them geographically for the most part. The farthest as I recall was the Holocaust Museum (very well done).
If you need a bathroom, go into the Four Seasons Hotel, the fanciest in town, I believe. It's worth going in just to see the public rooms.
There is a lot to choose from depending on your interests. To give some relevance; in the broadest and most general view locations like Prague and Rome for first time visits are more travels between points of interest; Paris and Budapest are more immersion visits, so keep that in mind. In practice that means getting from point A to point B is as much of what the visit is about as the points themselves.
Here are some recent posts that might help:
With some specific information we can get more specific: Where are you staying? What dates? How much a day is your budget? Age? Interests? Why Budapest?
You mentioned the Dohany utca Synagogue. Is Jewish Budapest of interest or WWII or Holocaust History? You might find this interesting: http://en.tracesofwar.com/article/33926/Stumbling-Stones-R%E1k%F3czi-%FAt-68.htm
Hope this helped a little. Send more detail and we can dig deeper.
EDIT: Phil didn't have anything productive to add, but I think he wanted to be sure this link got added to the list.
If anyone finds themselves here on January 3rd there will be another protest rally. We have secured a couple of folding lawn chairs and a good source of hot mulled wine and intend to enjoy every moment of it. This sort of thing is a European cultural norm and part of the reason a lot of us travel. Just use a little common sense and take it all in. Here is a pretty good photo of the November rally. The parliament building is really beautiful when lit up at night. Democracy European style, you gotta love it.......
George/Phil; thanks for the suggestions.
Totally unrelated to the question, but a day on our trip in Budapest:
Sunday evening a Texan, a Hungarian, a Brit and a Honduran went to dinner. Pretty good start for a joke isn't it? No joke. At first the place seemed too crowded but then the waitress remembered the Honduran from a visit about six months ago. Bingo, we had a table …. and a good one at that. The place was Lugas behind the Basilica. Sort of on the fringe of the tourist area but still very authentic and still predominately Hungarian guests. The typical Hungarian food is as good as any in town and be3tter than most. We ate from 19:30 to about 23:00, then headed back to the apartment for bed.
Overslept the next morning so ate lunch at Két Szerecsen. Weather turned pretty cold so we stuck to soup. Then some shopping that you don't need to know about and then off to District VIII for pastries. Cant remember the name of the place, but its at 51 Nepszinhaz utca. The girl behind the counter remembered us from several years of visits and ran out to hug my wife. This is one of Budapest's most sketchy neighborhoods, but if you are in town for an extended period of time its a remarkable experience.
After the snack, more shopping, mostly in the antique district. At one point on the tram my wife and I began discussing which stop to get off at. A woman in her sixties having overheard us spoke up with advice in very rough English. This unsolicited kindness happens almost every trip., Then after a well deserved rest we went to Kadarka's wine bar for dinner and a drink. Again, after several years of showing up two or three times a year we are greeted like locals and treated like royalty. We really love these people.
Then back to the house, video games with the daughter, and off to bed.
Oh, the tourism? We had just finished a week playing tourist with three guests. We are on down time now
Or we were until my wife suffered a medical issue that ended up requiring a very minor surgery. We went to First Med in Buda's District 1 where we experienced very pleasant and professional care. Its hard to describe the kindness, concern and professionalism that my wife experienced. Astonishing. So tonight, New Year's Eve we sit in our apartment watch old reruns of HOUSE on CD's, drinking very good local wine (at least I am), and dining on microwaved pizza. We had tickets to the New Year bash at the Opera House but the best plans of man..............
You can cadge some timing ideas from the second half of Rick's Prague and Budapest tour itinerary online. His guidebook has a similar "Planning Your Time" summary on pages 36-7 and reminders about the days of the week; most museums are closed Mondays, but other activities are open.
George (Phil), et al; just returned from the protest rally
You have to appreciate the fact that the government provided a permit for this which included closing one of the city's most prominent and important avenues; Andrassy ut. A great lesson in Democratic free speech.
This country does have significant problems but tonight was a success.
Then wen to Kadarka Wine Bar for dinner and ....... well, great Hungarian wine.
You got a lot of replies. Years ago I built a map of Budapest with all the mass transit lines a tourist needs to use. And the most common and some more uncommon places to visit. If you want a copy contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org I can email it to you. The second page of the map is an explanation and a suggestion of where to visit.