Beloved by locals and tourists alike, Budapest stands out from other European destinations with its natural setting and an unmatched combination of history, culture, and fine cuisine besides holding a massive reserve of spring water which has made the city the spa capital of the world. In this post, we are sharing the ultimate 4 days in Budapest itinerary with sightseeing highlights in the city and beyond!
4 days in Budapest itinerary: Explore Budapest in 4 days
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Day 1 of Budapest 4 day itinerary:
- Fisherman’s Bastion
- Matthias Church
- Buda Castle
- Gellert Thermal Bath
- Liberty Bridge
- Central Market Hall
- Szabo Ervin Library
Day 2 of Budapest 4 day itinerary::
- New York Cafe
- Hungarian Parliament
- Shoes on the Danube
- Danube Promenade Walk (Pest side)
- Dohány Street Synagogue (guided tours)
- Jewish Quarter
- St Stephen’s Basilica
- Dinner at Bestia
- Ruin Bars (Szimpla Kert)
Day 3 of 4 days in Budapest itinerary:
- Szechenyi Thermal Bath (less crowded in the morning)
- Vajdahunyad Castle
- City Park
- Heroes Square
- Andrassy Avenue
- Deak Ferenc Square
- Budapest Eye
Day 4 of Budapest itinerary 4 days: Pick a day trip of your choice
The capital city of Hungary was formed in 1873 with the merging of the three cities of Obuda, Buda, and Pest. While Buda is where the elite resides, Pest is associated with the main population of the city.
Both Buda and Pest are connected by the spectacular Széchenyi Chain Bridge.
To make the most of your four days in Budapest, follow this detailed itinerary which will ensure that you do not miss out on anything important and be fully prepared as to what to expect in the limited time available.
We have included an extra day for sightseeing outside Budapest (the fourth day). If the first three days in Budapest are too fast-paced for your liking you can surely pick a few favorites on the final day!
Planning your trip to Budapest Hungary: Budapest Travel Tips
Assuming you are visiting Budapest for the first time, knowing beforehand how to get around will save you a lot of time. While most attractions are at a walkable distance, it is always better to have an idea of how the local public transport systems operate.
Getting around in Budapest
To access the city centre from the Liszt Ferenc international airport you can either pre-book a one-way shared transfer in a spacious mini-bus (€10 or $14 USD) or catch the 100E airport shuttle which operates every 20 minutes (€3 OR $4 USD).
Finally, you can opt for a private shuttle which will cost you around €25 (about $26 USD). Or book a shared shuttle ride here
When you visit Budapest, make sure to download the BKK FUTAR app that will guide you through the city easily and help plan your trip using public transport.
Without public transport, you can get a hop-on and hop-off sightseeing bus tour for 24, 48, or 72 hours. This way you can get to various attractions with ease. We like the Big Bus tours, as they always include an optional walking or sightseeing cruise.
In this 1-3 day hop-on and hop-off bus tour, you also get an hour cruise on the Danube. Book your tickets here
Where to stay in Budapest?
Whenever one is visiting a new destination, the problem of accommodation crops up first. To find the best place to stay, you must have a fair idea of the geographical location of Budapest.
The Danube River divides Budapest into two halves, Buda in the west and Pest in the east. While there is a wide range of accommodation available on both sides of the river, the focus should be on staying in close proximity to the city centre and the public transport network.
For a central location, try staying in the 1st District in Budapest, also known as the Castle District, or in Belvaros in the 5th District. Staying in either of these two places will allow you to explore most places in the city in your allotted time of three days.
To experience the nightlife, the Jewish Quarter is a great area to make a base. Additionally, the 5th District includes Deak Ferenc Square, the main transport junction in Budapest.
If you are not sure where to base yourself, here are some of my favorite places to stay in Budapest.
- Kempinski Hotel Corvinus Budapest (Unparalleled luxury and comfort): This polished downtown hotel is just a minute’s walk away from the metro station and a further ten minutes from the Hungarian State Opera House. The rooms are luxuriously outfitted and the in-house restaurants serve high-quality local and international cuisine. You can book your stay here at the Kempinski Hotel Corvinus Budapest
- Leonardo Boutique Hotel Budapest M-Square (A balance of comfort and value): This mid-range hotel is located in downtown Madach Square, a few minutes away from the city centre. All rooms are well-equipped with all the basic amenities. Breakfast is complimentary and the spread is quite lavish. Click to view availability and photos
- iBis Styles Budapest Center (Mid budget hotel): Clean and bright rooms at this ibis Styles Budapest Center are all you need for a nice night’s sleep. This fuss-free property is located in a trendy district, surrounded by ruin pubs and shops. Check out their cute artwork in the rooms
- Pal’s Hostel (Budget): Unlike other hostels, Pal’s Hostel is actually a chain of apartments adjacent to St Stephen’s Square. They have dorm beds, private rooms as well as complete apartments, where you can interact with fellow travelers and enjoy marvelous views of the Basilica from the hotel’s balcony. Pal’s Hostel won the 2018 Hostelworld award for being the 10th best hostel worldwide. Click to view rooms at the Pal’s Hostel and Apartments
Day 1 of Budapest 4 day itinerary: Fisherman’s Bastion, Matthias Church, Buda Castle District, Citadella, Gellert Thermal Bath, Liberty Bridge, Central Market Hall, Szabo Ervin Library, Dinner and drinks at 360 Bar
Since the city is divided so perfectly, it is best to tackle each half separately. Start your first day at the ritzy Buda side of the Danube with a visit to an ornate, fairytale-like structure known as Fisherman’s Bastion on Castle Hill.
Fisherman’s Bastion is located in the heart of the Castle District and from its seven turrets, you can get unparalleled views of not only Buda but also Pest.
The Bastion is made up of a series of walkways and stairs that lead up to each turret. The climb to the Fisherman’s Bastion is easy, but take the funicular for novelty value. (1200 HUF one way)
There are seven lookout towers on the terrace, representing the seven Hungarian tribes that founded Budapest. Admission is free, but there is an admission fee of 1 000 HUF if you want to visit the terrace.
We particularly enjoyed Fisherman’s Bastion for its spectacular views from the lookout tower.
Also at the complex is the Buda Castle which is home to the Budapest History Museum showcasing the country’s history from the Roman times to the modern day. The Castle dates back to the 13th century, and it used to be the primary residence of Hungarian rulers.
The castle grounds are beautiful and offer great views of Pest. The entry fee to the Castle is 1 400 HUF ($4 USD approx.)
If you are a museum buff, stop at the Hungarian National Gallery, home to thousands of works of art, including Hungarian fine art displays.
There are entry tickets for the Gallery, which are valid for one entry and include visits to both the temporary and permanent exhibitions. Tickets start at 2 900 HUF ($8 USD) for adults.
Climb on top of the dome for marvelous city views. And don’t forget to walk across the Matthias Church, with its colorful tiled roof.
Right next door is the unique Matthias Church, with vibrant colors and designs that are usually not found in European churches. Nothing remains of the original structure built in the 11th century, but the newly significantly renovated one has vaulted ceilings and ornate decor.
Matthias Church is a Roman Catholic church. If you enter, there is an admission fee of 800 HUF ($2.50 USD approx.), which will give you access to the church’s treasury as well.
Once you have had your fill of the views, head down to the Citadella, located on top of Gellert Hill. For this, you have to cross over to the Buda side and climb the 140m high Gellert Hill.
Besides enjoying views of Buda and Pest from the top, you can explore Citadella, a fortress converted into a tourism centre in 1960 as well as Liberty Statue or Freedom Statue, a monument to commemorate those individuals who lost their lives in the freedom struggle.
The Citadella is a 19th-century fortress that was used as a military base and it also served as a prison during World War II. Today, it houses a museum, a restaurant, and a cafe.
Gellert Thermal Baths
From the Citadella, you can walk down to the Gellert Thermal Bath, which is located at the foot of the hill. The bath is fed by hot springs and it has several pools with different temperatures.
There is also a wave pool, a sauna, and a steam room. After a day of exploring, you can relax in the baths and let all your worries melt away. The baths are located in a stunning Art Nouveau building and using the facilities costs around 6900 HUF ($20 USD).
Without bathing, you can still visit the complex to check out the Thermal Baths for 3000 HUF ($8 USD approx).
Central Market Hall
Wander over to the Central Market Hall, a vibrant marketplace with a lively atmosphere offering a wonderful selection of inexpensive meals. It is highly recommended if you are a fan of supermarkets, but we would suggest walking around and admiring the beauty and not buying or eating anything inside.
Prices of toppings are not displayed and you can end up paying a lot of money for something you considered free.
Szabo Ervin Library
Once you have had your fill, walk over to the Szabo Ervin Library, which is located in a beautiful neo-renaissance building. Built at the end of the 19th century, a visit here will take you back to a time when libraries were housed in mansions, just like this one.
Often left out of most guidebooks, the incredible hidden treasure of the Szabo Ervin Library, located in the busiest part of the city, is a must-visit on any 4 day itinerary to Budapest. The library has a collection of over two million books and it is the perfect place to spend an evening exploring.
360° rooftop bar
Your first day’s sightseeing must have taken a toll on your tummy as well as your legs, so it is time to spend the rest of the evening in the enchanting heated igloos of the 360° rooftop bar.
Each igloo is strategically located to provide panoramic views of Budapest as you enjoy your food and drink.
Did you know? You can co-work from Budapest’s highest rooftop bar between 02:00 pm to midnight hours (including weekends, hours may vary).
Day 2 of the Budapest 4 day itinerary: Hungarian Parliament Building visit, Shoes on the Danube, Danube Promenade Walk (Pest side), Dohány Street Synagogue (guided tours), Jewish Quarter, St Stephen’s Basilica, dinner at Bestia, Ruin Bars (Szimpla Kert)
Explore Budapest’s iconic landmarks on your second day such as the Hungarian Parliament, and other attractions nearby. And finish the day with time at the Ruins Bars!
We will be focusing on the Pest side today, so we recommend starting with breakfast at the iconic New York Cafe. Often called the ‘world’s most beautiful cafe’, the New York Cafe is a stunning place for a meal.
It is a work of art and opulence with Italian Renaissance-style interiors. There are shining chandeliers dangling from high ceilings, and there are stunning frescoes everywhere. This cafe is one of the oldest cafes in Budapest, dating back 125 years.
Food items are pricey here, but again the ambiance and the interiors make it worth it!
Enjoying a stunning location on the banks of the Danube, the Hungarian Parliament is an incredible institution in its own right. The Hungarian Parliament is a beautiful Neo-Gothic building.
If you want to explore the building from inside, book at least a couple of days in advance, and much more during the summer months. Multiple tours happen at the same time, so one has to stand close to the guide.
Seeing the two military men guarding the Hungarian Crown Jewels was worth the price of the ticket. Should you fail to get admission, make it a point to admire the building from the outside as it will be a shame if you return without a photo or two of this fantastic place.
Here is a 45 minute Hungarian Parliament guided tour, that we recommend.
Shoes on the Danube
If you walk on the edge of the river after you are through with the Parliament building, you will find a number of bronze shoes (60 pairs), facing the waters. This is actually the Shoes on the Danube memorial, built in memory of the Jews who were executed on the river banks during WWII.
It is free to visit.
Danube Promenade Walk
After paying your respects at the Shoes on the Danube, take a stroll down the Danube Promenade.
We loved spending time at the Danube Promenade Walk. It provided stunning views of the Buda Castle and the Danube.
The promenade connects the Elizabeth Bridge on the Pest side with the Chain Bridge. This is where the luxury hotels are located and some fine dining venues.
Dohany street synagogue
Built in 1854, the Dohany Street synagogue is the second biggest in the world and is also known as the Great Synagogue.
Take a guided tour (the price includes an admission ticket to the synagogue) to learn more about this impressive building. In this guided tour, you will be led by an expert who will take you through the history of the synagogue and the Jewish community in Budapest.
If interested, you can also check out the Hungarian Jewish Museum, situated nearby.
You can also book Skip the Line Tickets only.
After your visit to the synagogue, explore the Jewish quarter, which is a beautiful area of Budapest. Stroll through the streets and admire the architecture.
From casual dining to vibrant nightlife, there is no better place than the Jewish Quarter of Budapest. Most of the must-do things in the city can be found here, including the quirky ruin bars and diverse restaurants.
The once dreaded wartime ghetto is now the party district, but the skyrocketing tourism has driven the prices up and customers away. However, this unique area is an area worth visiting. You will also love colorful street art in the Jewish Quarter.
St Stephen’s Basilica
Built over a period of fifty years, the St Stephen’s Basilica is the largest church in Hungary and an unmissable landmark on any Budapest tour.
Do check out the beautiful artwork and the mummified hand of St Stephen’s inside the little chapels. Entry is by donation, while you need to pay 2000 HUF to access the observation tower.
Dinner at Bestia
We found this buzzing restaurant overlooking the St Stephen’s Basilica the perfect place to enjoy grilled meats – the Bestia. The Bestia is very popular with tourists and locals. It has chic decor and a full-service bar that serves both cocktails and local beer.
They serve steak, seafood, and sandwiches. Their pork ribs made over a charcoal oven were exceptional. Food items were slightly pricey, but worth it for the ambiance!
Ruin bars (Szimpla Kert)
Ruin bars have been flourishing in Budapest since 2001 when the first one was launched by the name of Szimpla Kert. These bars are located in the Jewish Quarter in the ruins of abandoned buildings that were left to decay after WWII.
Szimpla Kert is located in an old factory, with an open courtyard and a top floor where one can enjoy a drink.
Day 3 of the 4 day Budapest itinerary: Szechenyi Thermal Bath (less crowded in the morning), Vajdahunyad Castle, City Park, Heroes Square, Andrassy Avenue, Deak Ferenc Square, Budapest Eye
Kickstart your third day Budapest itinerary by soaking in at the Szechenyi thermal baths.
Szechenyi thermal baths
Budapest is home to thermal baths, which are a great way to relax after a day of sightseeing. Or in the morning when it is not busy.
Széchenyi thermal baths in the City Park have 18 pools and are the largest in the EU. They are extremely popular with the locals and tourists alike, so head there early in the morning (opens at 6:00 am) to avoid the crowds.
The lovely yellow-colored buildings came up only in 1913, though these springs have been in use since Roman times. Remember to carry your own bathing suits and slippers, though lockers and towels are available for rent.
The baths are fed by hot springs and they have several pools with different temperatures. There is also a sauna, a steam room, and a massage service.
Connected by the City Park via Heroes Square, the Vajdahunyad Castle is a replica of some other castles in Europe and was built during the Millennial Exhibition of 1896 to mark the conquest of the Carpathian Basin.
The building is so spectacular looking from the outside, that you must stop by for a quick stroll and photos. To enter the Vajdahunyad Castle grounds is free.
Christmas markets and many other festivals are held at this beautiful castle.
If you wish to visit the museum at the Vajdahunyad Castle, there is an entry fee (Tickets for Adults: HUF 1,600/ $4.50 USD).
You must have passed the City Park on your way to the Baths, but what is important to know is that this gorgeous place is used as a cultural centre including some motorsports. Its main entrance is from Heroes Square in District XIII.
The best way to explore the park is by walking from the Vajdahunyad Castle end to the Zoo.
One of the best ways to explore some of the landmarks of Budapest is by taking a stroll along Andrassy Avenue. This World Heritage site is home to the Hungarian National Opera House and other amazing architecture.
There are lots of quaint bars and cafes where you can rest and enjoy a drink.
This historic place is located at the end of Andrassy Avenue and is known for the famous monument depicting the Seven Chieftains that ruled Magyar. It was built in 1896 to commemorate the country’s 1000th anniversary.
Heroes Square is free to visit.
There are good art galleries on either side of the square, which are all well worth a visit.
Deak Ferenc Square
Named after Deak Ferenc, this is a major transport hub in Budapest. An assortment of sculptures and small statues and a huge pool where people can dip their feet are located here.
Besides the obvious metro connections, we found it to be a cool place to relax and have a drink on a nice sunny day.
Set up in popular Erzsebet Square near the city centre, the 65m high Budapest Eye is the largest Ferris wheel in Europe.
The wheel operates every day, even during festivals, and offers amazing views of Budapest, especially at night when it is decked with fairy lights. It has 41 air-conditioned cabins, each holding eight occupants.
Tickets start at 2400 HUF (about $6 USD) for adults.
Danube river cruise
Alternatively, you can also opt for a Danube river dinner sightseeing cruise for this evening. We personally love river cruises, and Budapest was one of the first sightseeing cruises that we took, and absolutely loved it. Read our detailed Budapest river cruise review
Cruise ships in Budapest operate at different times of the day with a variety of thematic trips. You can choose from a one-hour sightseeing cruise with a welcome drink, or a full-on 3-course dinner (like we did).
During a one or three-hour duration trip, the ship sails past some iconic sights of Budapest like the Hungarian Parliament, Gellert Hill, and the Gresham Palace.
Day 4 of the Budapest itinerary 4 days: Day trip ideas
Hungary is said to have the highest density of attractions and historic sites of any country in Europe. Given its central location, Budapest is the right place to make your base for venturing out to see different parts of the country.
Here are some of the most beautiful places to visit in Hungary as a day trip from Budapest on the fourth day of your itinerary
Located 140 km east of Budapest, Eger is, without doubt, one of the most stunning of all small towns in Europe.
Nestled on the southern slopes of the Bukk Mountains, Eger boasts thermal baths and as many as 17 Baroque churches. The highlights here include the beautiful Eger Cathedral, the Eger Castle, and the Istvan Dobo Castle Museum.
The Hungarian Open Air Museum
This museum, also known as the Szentendrei Skanzen Village Museum, lies just 23 km from Budapest. The building showcases in detail the lifestyle of the different 18th century Hungarian settlements.
Besides the quaint houses, you will come across old mills, barns, and workshops. A guided tour is the best way to learn more about this museum. Kids get to ride on the historic Skanzen train.
Aggtelek National Park
Much of it is a protected World Heritage site, the Aggtelek National Park covers an area of almost 200 sq km and is situated on the border with Slovakia.
Since it takes just 2.5 hours by car to access Aggtelek, it has become a popular day trip destination from Budapest.
Apart from excellent hiking trails and the diverse flora and fauna found here, the star attraction here by far is the Baradla Caves. The caves are 25 km (15.5 miles) long and these impressive stalactites and stalagmites wonder come in different colors and extend well into neighboring Slovakia.
Hortobagy National Park
Near the eastern Hungarian town of Debrecen are 800 sq km of vast grass-covered steppes and pastures that form the beautiful Hortobagy National Park, bounded by the Tisza River.
Traditional farming still takes place here, as a result, many visitors come here to see the unique flora and fauna and many small villages and towns. The park is a haven for birders, who come from far and wide to see some of the rare and endangered birds which nest here.
A variety of domestic Hungarian animals can be found here like the Puli dog and nonius horse.
Danube Bend and Ram Canyon Hiking day trip
Spend the day in the volcanic Visegradi Hills on a day trip from Budapest – this is where an old volcano still pervades Hungary. The volcano is no longer active, making it a great spot for hikes with stunning views.
This hike starts at a tiny village on the coast of the Danube, called Dömös. After a steep climb, it welcomes you to panoramic views over the river Danube and surrounding mountains.
From here you can also find huge volcanic rocks that were left behind after the ancient eruption.
You can book a hiking tour that also includes a guided climb to Predikaloszek, the summit with some of the best views in Hungary. This place is perfect for nature-lovers.
4 day Budapest Itinerary Sightseeing Map
Alternate tour recommendations for Budapest itinerary for 4 days
When planning your trip to Budapest, it is advisable to think about nature and architecture also. To get the maximum bang out for your buck, make sure you visit Margaret Island, a quick and nice place to visit, known for its surreal views.
Visit this place, both during the day and night, to enjoy two totally different experiences. While the days are peaceful and calm after dark allows you spectacular views of the lights of the city.
As you walk along the banks of the Danube, you will come across other attractions such as a beach, a zoo, Sculpture Avenue and a nice spa. You must check out the musical fountain, which choreographs water with music five times a day.
Another way to unwind at the end of a tiring day of sightseeing is by visiting the Gellert Baths, where you can take a dip in mineral-rich waters, a great therapeutic way to get rid of the aches and pains after a hard day outdoors.
There are a good number of free walking tours available in Budapest (but remember to tip the guide), that provides a novel way to orient yourself and learn about the culture of the country. Strawberry Tours and Generation Tours are highly recommended.
When visiting the Buda Castle grounds, you can also visit the Castle Garden Bazaar, which is located at the base or bottom of the castle. This so-called Bazaar of the Royal Garden is also known as Varkert Bazar, which is the Hungarian name.
The site is home to manicured gardens and exhibitions.
Hungary Travel Tips
Depending on your passport, you might have to apply for a tourist visa for Hungary. Hungary is a European Union member, and it uses the Schengen Agreement to allow nonvisa-exempt visitors to enter the country.
A Schengen Visa is not a visa on arrival, so it has to be applied for prior to your visit. This is the same visa that applies to a majority of countries in Europe.
Visitors holding the USA and Canadian passports do not require a visa to enter the country and stay for 90 days; however from 2023, an online authorization – ETIAS – is required prior to travel.
Although Hungary is a part of the European Union, it hasn’t adopted the Euro as its currency and still uses the HUF or Hungarian Forint. This means you will have to exchange money from time to time through the exchange dealers.
We found that many places did accept Euros, but the change was returned in HUF.
If Hungary is the only country that you are visiting on your Europe trip, then exchange money when you are in the country, or use ATM machines at reputed banks for one time withdrawal to avoid paying transaction fees multiple times.
Do not go near the Euronet ATMs as they give an unfavorable rate and on top charge a commission as well. You might be better off using your travel credit card instead.
And finally, be sure to check your restaurant bill before making payment. Local hotels routinely overcharge unsuspecting tourists by adding gratuity or an extra item or two.
What to eat and drink in Budapest?
Budapest is one of the cheapest/most affordable European cities (and beautiful too). Their food is one of the most delicious in the world, and we highly recommend setting aside time to relish them.
- Goulash: Goulash is the National Dish of Hungary, and it is a stew made of beef, onions, paprika, tomatoes, and pepper. It is delicious and spicy. You can order this anywhere in Hungary, and nearby countries like the Czech Republic.
- Kürtőskalács (Chimney Cake): Chimney cakes are sweets, like the Trdelník in Prague or any other parts of Central Europe. These sweet treats are made of a sugary dough that is wrapped around a cone or a rod and roasted over charcoal. Some come sprinkled with butter, chocolate, or cream fillings.
- Töltött káposzta (Stuffed Cabbage): This Hungarian delicacy is made of cooked cabbage that is stuffed with ground pork and beef, rice, tomatoes, and sauerkraut.
- Other food items include sausages, cured meats, meat pancakes, Chicken Paprikash or paprika, etc.
What to pack for Budapest?
Here are some quick tips for packing for Budapest,
- Universal adaptor: Europe uses the round power pins, and the same goes for Budapest, so carry a universal adapter. Here is what we use
- Anti-theft backpack: Because we travel in trains, and use other means of public transportation, we recommend carrying an anti-theft backpack (or a daypack). We use the same backpack as a carryon (and – I carry 4-5 dresses, 4 blouses, 2 light jackets, and a small cosmetics bag)
- Comfortable walking shoes: Walking shoes are a must for Budapest and nearby areas. You will end up walking and climbing to the castle and many squares and neighborhoods so pack comfortable walking shoes.
- Lightweight waterproof jacket: Highly recommend carrying a lightweight waterproof jacket, especially when visiting in the spring. But it is a good idea to pack one for all times of the year.
- Swimsuit: Pack swimwear so that you can enjoy the thermal baths.
As always don’t forget your travel documents, credit cards, currency, and travel insurance.
Yes, 4 days is perfect for sightseeing in Budapest. It will allow you to check off all the prime attractions, hang out in thermal spas or chill in ruin bars. An extra day in and around Budapest is perfect to enjoy nature and the small towns near it.
If you are only interested in visiting the iconic landmarks in Budapest, with a sightseeing cruise or a nice dinner on another night, then 2 days in the city would be enough. Just ensure all the tickets are booked in advance and do pick your favorites before you visit.
For a short visit, staying in Pest is better as you are close to sightseeing attractions. Buda is great if you like to be in a quieter part of town, and go easy on sightseeing.
Were 4 days in Budapest enough?
Budapest is a destination where you can really chill and relax, so it is a good idea to have some extra time on hand, in which case three to four days in the city, though action-packed, would be ideal.
Not only will you be able to explore most of the big attractions, but have enough time for rest and relaxation as well.
The major plus point of visiting the Hungarian capital is that the city is quite affordable. So if you think your sightseeing schedule is hectic and you want to move at your own pace, you can spend even a week here without breaking the bank.
Moreover, there is a quirky side to Budapest as well, and you would want to keep some extra time aside to start your day slowly if you would have had more than just a few drinks the night before.