Split by the river Danube, Budapest offers the best mix of history and contemporary vibes, making it one of the most beautiful destinations in Europe for travelers.
Budapest was on my bucket list for years (to visit especially during Christmas time) but had the opportunity to visit it in August 2019 as part of a bigger tour in Europe.
I spent 3 days exploring the city, mostly on foot. One of my biggest regrets is not giving the city more time to fully enjoy all the magic the city has to offer. I would definitely go back for at least a week to be able to have the full Budapest experience.
- Parliament building
The popular tourist destination in Budapest is situated on Kossuth Square in the Pest side of the city, on the eastern bank of the Danube. It was designed by Hungarian architect Imre Steindl in neo-Gothic style and opened in 1902. It has been the largest building in Hungary since its completion.
The building is an architectural piece of art. It has a symmetrical façade and a central dome and is largely symmetrical from the inside as well with two identical parliament halls on the opposing sides of the building.
To be able to tour this magnificent building, you should book your tickets in advance to avoid long queues.
I would also recommend taking a night Danube boat ride to marvel at this stunning building at night. The views are breathtaking.
- Heroes’ square
Hősök tere is one of the major squares in Budapest, Hungary, noted for its iconic statue complex featuring the Seven chieftains of the Magyars and other important Hungarian national leaders, as well as the Memorial Stone of Heroes, often erroneously referred as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.*
The square is a bit far from the city center, but can be reached by public transportation (metro, bus, and taxis). I usually buy a 48-hour ticket for the Big Bus Tour (https://www.bigbustours.com/), which allows me to see most of the city’s important touristic points. especially if I’m staying for a short period of time in that city.
The square is surrounded by the Fine Arts Museum and the Mucsarnok Art Gallery, which are also worth visiting if you have the time.
- Danube Promenade
Located on the Pest side of the Danube, extending from the Széchenyi Chain Bridge to the Erzsébet Bridge. In addition to the breathtaking views of the Parliament, the Buda Castle, and Chain Bridge, visitors can enjoy the fresh warm breeze, unique ambiance, and sights of the river from a variety of cafes and restaurants located on the river banks.
On the Parliament side, there is a popular and very touching monument located on the riverbank known as The Shoes on the Danube Promenade. Tribute to the Hungarian Jews that were killed by Arrow Cross Militiamen during WWII, where they were forced to remove their shoes before being shot so that their bodies fell into the river and were carried away. There are sixty pairs of shoes, made of iron, and set into the concrete, which represents their shoes left behind on the bank.
- St. Stephen’s Basilica
St. Stephen’s Basilica is a Roman Catholic basilica in Budapest, Hungary. It is named in honor of Stephen, the first King of Hungary Today, it is the third-largest church building in present-day Hungary.* The church hosts a collection of fine arts. The interior features over 50 types of marble, sculptures, and the mummified “Holy Right Hand of St. Stephen” which is kept in the small chapel.
Equal with the Hungarian Parliament Building, it is one of the two tallest buildings in Budapest. You can take the elevator or walk up 302 steps to the dome terrace where you can enjoy a breathtaking panoramic view of the city.
The church is located in a beautiful square in the center of the old town. I spent a lot of time walking around this square and trying delicious local food with a view.
- Fisherman’s Bastion
The Halászbástya or Fisherman’s Bastion is one of the best-known monuments in Budapest, located in Buda Castle. It is one of the most important tourist attractions due to the unique panorama of Budapest from the Neo-Romanesque lookout terraces. The Fisherman’s Bastion’s seven high-pitched stone towers symbolize the seven chieftains of the Hungarians who founded Hungary in 895.*
The architect of the Halaszbastya is Frigyes Schulek, who also restored and redesigned the Matthias Church (Church of Our Lady). The construction of the Fisherman’s Bastion is intertwined with the restoration of the church: its historical architectural style was also picked to suit the church, redesigned in a later medieval style (Neo-Gothic). **
- Central Market Hall
The Great Market Hall in Budapest was built in 1897, and is the most beautiful and largest of all Budapest market halls. You can get all sorts of goods on the 3 floors building. The market is open from Monday to Saturday, so schedule your market accordingly.
The market is walking distance from/to the Chain Bridge and can be a great place to try some fresh local food. I would recommend trying the Lángos (Lángos is a Hungarian food specialty, a deep-fried dough covered with cheese… Yummy)
- Buda Castle
Buda Castle is the historical castle and palace complex of the Hungarian kings in Budapest. It was first completed in 1265, but the massive Baroque palace today occupying most of the site was built between 1749 and 1769. The complex in the past was referred to as either the Royal Palace or the Royal Castle. The castle now houses the Hungarian National Gallery and The Budapest History Museum.*
The castle is a great architectural building with stunning views of the Danube river and the two parts of the city: Buda and Pest. All the site is free and you can walk around the huge square and walk to the Fisherman’s Bastion.
Don’t miss out on riding the Buda Castle Hill Funicular, where you can capture one of the most famous pictures of Budapest on Instagram.
- Széchenyi Thermal Baths
Szechenyi Baths (built in 1913) is the most visited and much-praised attraction in Budapest: relaxing, fun, affordable, and, at night, romantic. In addition to the marvelous medicinal natural hot spring waters in the 18 pools, there are 10 saunas/steam cabins, several massage therapies, facial treatments, and more.*
If you are not a fan of hot water (like me), the baths have pools of varying temperatures. The outdoor pools (swimming pool, adventure pool, and thermal sitting pool) are 27 to 38 °C (81 to 100 °F). The indoor pools are of varying temperatures, between 18 to 38 °C (64 to 100 °F).
The bath was one of the many places I planned to visit in Budapest but didn’t have the chance to due to lack of time, but definitely on my list when I go back. (Not sure how things will be after COVID-19 yet, but hoping for the best)
- The Chain Bridge
The Széchenyi Chain Bridge is a chain bridge that spans the River Danube between Buda and Pest, the western and eastern sides of Budapest, the capital of Hungary. Designed by English engineer William Tierney Clark and built by Scottish engineer Adam Clark, it was the first permanent bridge across the Danube in Hungary. It was opened in 1849.*
The Chain Bridge is one of the best-known landmarks of Budapest, and can be seen from many of the locations mentioned above. One of my favorite things to do while in Budapest is sit on the Pest side of the river and watch the sunset from the bridge. I noticed that many locals bring their chairs and mats and sit by the river to have a beer around sunset time.
- Budapest Eye
With its 65 m height this is the largest Ferris wheel in Europe offering an awesome view from the top. The wheel is located in a public park near St. Stephan Square. I personally enjoy Ferris wheels, even though I’m afraid of heights.
By the way, only the Basilica, which you can admire during the ride, is higher.
Bottom line? I promise you that you will enjoy every moment you spend in Budapest. And if you like nightlife, the city offers some of the best night clubs in Europe.
I can’t wait to go back and visit Hungary again.