This was both my first time traveling alone and my first visit to Budapest. (Thanks to all- especially Mr. E.) I figured I'd focus on itinerary since that is the most common request around here. I wanted to do a lot in my 3 days, so I prepared (a very theoretical) hour-by-hour itinerary that I could use as a guide. I mapped out travel times to make it more accurate.
I had been traveling 22 hours when I arrived and thought I would crash, but I was too hungry and excited to sleep.
My first stop (after checking in) was Bors Gastro Bar for a cup of soup and it was perfection. (I don't know that I've ever seen a place with thousands of reviews that has a full 5 stars on tripadvisor?) It's a small shop run with culinary precision and everything is homemade. I was not dressed appropriately for the weather because I thought I'd zip right out and back in. I walked the Christmas markets, which were as stunning and enchanting as people say they are, and a shopkeeper chided me about my red fingers and not wearing gloves, haha.
I also went to the University Library (partly to warm up) and they said I needed a library card for entry. I still had a student ID from a technical program which the guard was happy to use to sign me up. The library is stunning and I was nerding out over having a Budapest University library card. I also got a chimney cake at Molnar's and it's just one person's opinion, but NOT OVERRATED.
I am a cookie fanatic so I went to Cookie Beacon for a cookie and coffee. This, I feel, is a little overrated. It was so stuffed with chocolate and what little cookie there was, was dough, so I ended up throwing most of it away and I generally don't do that. Coffee was good.
I started at St. Stephen's Basilica and downloaded a free audio guide online so that I could get some background info as I walked. I relished every moment I was inside because it was SO cold.
I took an orientation walk with Ultimate Budapest (pay what you want) and the guide not only gave recommendations about what to see, but told us what lines to use to get there, the cost, how long it would take, etc... She gave us a historical overview, went over some current things, and covered decent ground on the Pest side. The Shoes on the Danube were a priority to me, but I dreaded it a little too. She walked us by and gave everyone a few moments.
After the tour, I took the metro to Buda and went to Fény Street Market for lángos. (Note: the lángos stand here only takes cash.). Lángos is also not overrated, but I carried that dang thing around all day and still couldn't finish it! There was an old piano in the market that had a sign suggesting passersby play it. I used to play for a traveling church band and the market was not even a little busy, so I sat down a played for a few minutes. So out of body to be somewhere I never thought I'd see, with no one I knew inside a thousand miles, playing the piano in a market.
The funicular to Buda Castle was a cute little jaunt, but I did not take the museum tour in favor of seeing Matthias Church and Fisherman's Bastion. The church was my favorite of my trip (including many beautiful churches in Italy). I also walked through the old town and it was very dreamy and "European".
After warming up at the hostel, I got lost on my way to Kisharang Étkezde. It was delicious, comforting and inexpensive. (Also tiny and busy, so I had to wait a few minutes outside.). There was only one very sweet waiter (also the host), but he was getting it done. By then it was jet-lag-o'clock, but I still couldn't resist another stroll through the Christmas Markets on my way back.