Old and new are close together in Budapest. While there still seems to be a touch of the Middle Ages in the historic castle district on the Buda side of the Danube, the lively shopping and trendy districts on the Pest side are in no way inferior to those of other European metropolises.
The two opposing parts are connected by 12 bridges in the city area. Among them some of the oldest and most beautiful in Europe.
The Hungarian capital has much more to offer than just goulash soup and coffee house culture. Picturesquely situated between the Hungarian low mountain range and the great lowlands, it is now home to 1.7 million people.
That corresponds to almost a fifth of the less than 10 million Hungarians. In addition, there is a steadily increasing number of tourists and visitors from all over the world who are attracted by the city’s sights, but also by its extensive cultural offerings.
In the following we present you the most exciting tours, the most beautiful attractions and the best sights in Budapest.
1. Parliament of Hungary
The Hungarian Parliament is now one of the largest government buildings in the world. In 1987 it was declared part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Directly on the east bank of the Danube between Margaret and Chain Bridge, the imposing building with a red roof dome that can be seen from afar was completed in 1904 as a new home for the Hungarian Parliament. The dome has a height of 96 meters. The neo-Gothic facade impresses with a total of 365 towers and large windows.
The interior of the Parliament, which is well worth seeing, can only be viewed as part of a guided tour. The participants get to see two Hungarian treasures. The crown of St. Stephen and the imperial insignia in the domed hall. For the Hungarian people, the crown is a symbol of their country and their historically most valuable possession. However, an exhibition on the history of Hungarian democracy is accessible unaccompanied.
2. Chain Bridge
The Chain Bridge is the symbol of the city and is featured on countless travel guides, postcards and souvenirs. And for good reason, because without the Chain Bridge there would be no Budapest. It was not until 1849 that the first permanent connection between the two still independent cities of Buda and Pest was established. It is officially named after Count István Széchenyi, at whose suggestion construction began in 1839.
There are a number of legends surrounding Szechenyi’s inspiration. Some say he found his love on the other side of the Danube, others claim that he had missed his father’s funeral by crossing the Danube too long and was therefore looking for a simpler way of crossing the river. The chain bridge is particularly impressive in the evening when the splendid lighting is switched on.
3. Budapest Castle District
The oldest foundations of Buda Castle date back to the 13th century. The building that stands today on the site of the historic castle is largely a reconstruction of the 18th century Baroque palace built by Empress Maria Theresa, but it also houses three museums that are worth a visit: the Hungarian National Gallery and the Budapest Historical Museum and the National Széchényi Library.
Adam Clark Platz is located directly on the Chain Bridge on the Buda side. From here one of the oldest funiculars in Europe takes visitors up to the forecourt of the castle. The view over the Danube, its many bridges and the opposite bank with the parliament complex is impressive both during the ascent and from Burgplatz.
4. Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthias Church
An almost as fantastic all-round view of the east bank of the Danube as from the castle complex is also available on the 140m long white wall of the Fisherman’s Bastion. The facility was built at the end of the 19th century on the site of the former Budapest fish market for the fishermen’s guild, which was responsible for defending the city walls in this area as early as the Middle Ages.
One of the most famous sights in Budapest lies within its walls: Matthias Church. Among other things, the coronation ceremonies of Emperor Franz and Empress Sisi took place there. The most striking elements of the exterior of the church are the typical colorful roof tiles made from Zsolnay ceramics and the Matthias Tower, which can also be climbed.
5. Gellert bath
In the urban area of Budapest there are 120 hot springs and therefore a corresponding thermal bath culture. The city has been officially a seaside resort since the early 1930s, making it the only European metropolis that is also a health resort.
One of the most beautiful and popular baths is the Gellert Heilbad.
It was opened in 1918 as part of the Hotel Gellért at the foot of Gellert Hill. After the hotel and with it the bathroom had been largely destroyed in the Second World War, it was finally rebuilt in 2008 in its old splendor. The Gellert bath consists of three outdoor and ten indoor pools. The highlight is an open-air wave pool surrounded by mosaic walls.
6. Synagogue and Jewish Quarter
In the middle of Budapest an old quarter has come to life in the last few years. Somewhat neglected in the post-war period during the reconstruction of the city, the Jewish quarter now makes use of the rustic charm of its hidden courtyards and dilapidated houses. During the day you can find interesting studios and cozy cafes here. In the evening, the young scene finds its way into the hip ruin bars of the party district.
Here is one of the most important sights of Budapest: the second largest synagogue in the world. From the outside, its design is reminiscent of the Moorish architecture of the Alhambra; inside, its Torah shrine is particularly worth seeing. A popular motif for souvenir photos is the weeping silver willow by the sculptor Imre Varga, which is reminiscent of the Holocaust.
7. St. Stephen’s Basilica
In the middle of the city center on Szent István tér, paved with ornamental stones, which invites you to linger with its bars and cafes around the fountain in summer, is the St. Stephen’s Basilica. It is named after King Stefan the Holy. The right hand of this Hungarian founder is kept as a relic in one of its chapels.
If you want, you can climb its tower via a spiral staircase and enjoy the wonderful view over the city center. The Kitchturm, like the dome of the Parliament, is exactly 96 meters. This symbolically reminds of the Hungarian conquest of the year 896. Inside the church are some footballers of the “Golden Team” from 1954, among them the legendary Ferenc Puskás.
8. Margaret Island
If you have enough time in Budapest to long for some relaxation and recreation, you should visit the green heart of the city on Margaret Island. Although this can also be reached by tram over the bridge of the same name, it is particularly suitable as a destination for a leisurely boat trip on the Danube.
The 2800 meter long Danube Island is often referred to as “Budapest Central Park” because it literally attracts athletes and walkers among the capital city. In the former royal hunting area, there are plane trees, avenues and statues as well as the casino designed by Miklós Ybl, the old water tower and a Japanese garden, as well as the popular Palatinus lido.
9. Great market hall
Another interesting sight of the city, the great market hall of Budapest, extends over three levels. Fruit, vegetables and meat, but also souvenirs and typical Hungarian handicrafts are offered. While many Hungarians buy their groceries on the ground floor, the upper floor is more touristy with its diverse range of souvenirs and culinary delights. If you want to try a typical goulash soup or the langosz, you have a large selection here.
In the basement there is a supermarket and evidence of a previously important fish market. The market hall is here directly connected to the Danube. The outer facade of the hall, completed in 1897, with the side towers and the traditional brick facade, but above all with the typical colorful roof tiles from the Zsolnay factory is an eye-catcher.
10. Heroes’ Square
Seen from the center, at the end of the long and beautiful shopping street Andrassy Ut, is Heroes’ Square. In the middle is the 36 meter high column with the statue of the Archangel Gabriel. Around them the statues of the heroes are arranged in two semi-arches. These are statues of deserving personalities in Hungarian history created by the sculptor György Zala.
Heroes’ Square and Andrássy út are both UNESCO World Heritage Sites. There are two museums worth mentioning on the edge of the square. On the right the art gallery and on the left the Museum of Fine Arts. In them works by Dürer, Rembrandt, Goya, Monet and Rodin are exhibited.