Country: Hungary Language: Hungarian Currency: Hungarian forint (ft)
Budapest is one of our favorite cities in Europe. The unmatchable architecture of the Hungarian Parliament, the rich history of the city, and Hungarian cuisine leave you in awe. In case you don't know, Budapest is actually two cities separated by the Danube River. Buda is rather hilly and is located on the west side of the river. It features St. Matthias Cathedral, the National Gallery, and the Citadella. Pest is on the other side of the river and is flatter and has more of a city life atmosphere. In Pest, you will find the Parliament, the renowned pedestrian shopping street, Váci Utca, and a huge range of restaurants serving local and international cuisine. While in Budapest, do not hesitate to use public transport, as it is incredibly easy to navigate and will help you get around the city much quicker.
We recommend downloading the app “SmartCity Budapest Transport” to help you navigate the public transportation system in Budapest. You have to pin your starting point and ending point on the map, and the app will help you find the nearest tram stop, bus stop, or metro station. It gives you all the transfer information, and even walking directions to your end point. Using this app, together with your downloaded Google Map of Budapest, will save a lot of time and worry. If you aren’t sure what we mean by 'downloaded google map of Budapest', check out our post on Travel Apps!
CTW Must See
The Hungarian Parliament Building is one of the most iconic buildings in Budapest. Construction of the Parliament was completed in 1904, creating the largest building in Hungary. In the style of gothic revival, it has one central dome and a symmetrical exterior. It has nearly 700 rooms, 20kms of stairs, and houses the Hungarian Crown Jewels. The Parliament Building is the second largest parliament building in Europe, and the third largest administrative building in the world. The breathtaking building is viewed from right in front of it, or from across the Danube River.
St. Stephen’s Basilica
Named after the first king of Hungary, St. Stephen’s Basilica is a beautiful Roman Catholic basilica that was built in 1905. St. Stephen’s Basilica is as tall as the Parliament Building, to represent equality between the church and the government. Other buildings in Budapest cannot be taller than these two buildings. The church can hold up to 8,500 people and took over 50 years to build. While visiting the interior of the basilica is free, you will need to pay a couple of euros to visit the observation deck at the top of the church. You can choose between taking the elevator, or walking up 364 steps. St. Stephen’s Basilica is not to be missed. Be sure to take the time to take in the richness of its interior.
The Danube River is gorgeous with tons of photo opportunities from both sides. On the Pest side of the river, you have stunning views of Buda, the National Gallery, and the many bridges that connect Buda and Pest. Not far from the Parliament along the river sits the ‘Shoes on the Danube’. This touching memorial goes out to more than 3,500 people who were killed during WWII. Further along the Promenade, you can catch an array of river cruises. You can even watch the sunset over Buda Castle from the Promenade.
The iconic Chain Bridge was built in 1840 and took 9 years to complete. The Chain Bridge was the first bridge that crossed the Danube and sits at 375 meters long. Sadly, like all of the other bridges that currently cross the Danube, the Chain Bridge was destroyed during the siege of Budapest. The bridge has four lion guardians that resemble the lions featured at Trafalgar Square in London. While the Budapest lions came first, the bridge was designed by an English architect and it was constructed in the UK and sent to Budapest in sections. From the Chain Bridge, you can enjoy great views of the Parliament Building and Buda Castle.
Great Market Hall
Found at the end of the pedestrian shopping street, Váci utca, and at the foot of the classic, green Liberty Bridge, the Great Market Hall is the largest and oldest indoor market in Budapest. This market hall dates back to 1897, but was unfortunately damaged in WWII and it was not rebuilt until the 1990s. Most of the stalls on the ground floor are filled with local produce, meats and candies. The stalls on the upper levels have a huge range of souvenir shops and many eateries featuring traditional Hungarian cuisine.
From almost any point on the Danube River, you will be able to spot the Citadella. It sits at the top of Gellért Hill and holds much historic significance for Budapest’s military. The best part of the Citadel is the view you get overlooking the city. From the top, you can see most of the city. It is no wonder why many warring groups used this hill as a base.
Across Liberty Bridge, you will find yourself at Gellért Hill, the base of the Citadella. You can enjoy the fabulous views looking back at Pest, visit the Gellért Hotel and have a relaxing bath in the famous Gellért Spa. Just across from Gellért Hotel & Spa is the Gellért Hill Cave. This cave is quite photogenic, as are the features of Gellért Hill.
A small walk up the Danube River from Gellért Hill, heading towards Parliament, you will walk right into the Várkert Bazár. This garden has recently been restored and is a beautiful way to see the Royal Palace at the top of the Hill. The bazaar is now a garden with a beautiful and peaceful facade. Helpful tip - it also has an escalator to help you with the walk up to Buda Castle and the National Gallery.
Buda Castle and National Gallery
You can see Buda Castle from almost anywhere in Budapest. It stands tall and proud at the top of Buda Hill and is as beautiful close up as it is from the Parliament. To get here, you can take the escalator from the Várkert Bazár, the Funicular from the Chain Bridge, you can walk up one of the many steep pathways, or you can take one of the busses straight to the top from almost anywhere in the city. The castle is the home of the National Gallery and Budapest’s History Museum and was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. Entrance to the interior of these all require tickets, however the exterior is free for visitors to observe.
A short walk from the National Gallery, through a beautiful street in the Buda Castle filled with rich colors, cobble stone roads, and many shops and restaurants, you will find Matthias Church. This incredibly beautiful Roman Catholic Church is an impressive sight. The tall bell tower reaches to the sky and the colorful roof perfectly complements the Hungarian architecture found throughout Budapest. You can buy a ticket to visit the church as well as go to the top of the bell tower for a rewarding view overlooking the city.
Blending in perfectly with the church’s facade is Fisherman’s Bastion. It got its name because this side of the Buda Castle Wall was once protected by the fishermen’s guild. From the walls of Fisherman’s Bastion, the views of Pest and Gellért Hill are absolutely gorgeous. This portion of Buda beyond Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church, is as if you are in a storybook. The white-washed facade of the buildings, the rich color of the roofs and statues, and the views that they provide really are something special.
Just a short metro ride from Pest city center is Heroes Square. This incredible square features Hungarian kings, politicians and leaders as well as the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars, the leaders of the tribes of the Hungarians who arrived in Hungary around 895AD. This square also holds the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It is surrounded by the Museum of Fine Arts and the Palace of Art on either side, and is backed by the beautiful City Park. The centerpiece of Heroes Square is the Millennium Monument. This monument is dedicated to those who gave their lives for the freedom and independence of Hungary. While it is a bit of a way from the Danube, you can jump on the M1 and it will take you straight there.
City Park sits directly behind Heroes Square and is one of the most beautiful parks in Budapest. Just across the bridge, you will find the Vajdahunyad Castle. The castle resembles that of the classic Transylvanian Castle, but has many more architectural styles to it. This part of the park provides numerous photo opportunities. See our blog on taking better photos to make sure you get the best shot! Further into the park, you will find trees that date back to the 1700s, an artificial lake, Budapest Zoo, and the well-known Szécheyni Thermal Bath.
Széchenyi Thermal Bath
The bright yellow building is easy to find among the green park, and the bath itself is a warm, relaxing change from busy Budapest. Széchenyi Thermal Bath is the largest medicinal bath in Europe and the water comes from two thermal springs, with a temperature of 77°C & 77°C (166°F & 171°F). The warm bath is perfect any time of the year, and is certainly a popular spot for locals and tourists alike.
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With close proximity and accessible transportation, it's easy to visit multiple European cities in one visit. See our guides on other destinations to keep your adventure going...
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